Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

29 January 2016

Oscar Nominees 2016: Part 3 of 11

4 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Lenny Abrahamson
  • Actress: Brie Larson
  • Adapted Screenplay: Emma Donoghue
Director: Abrahamson
Cast: Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Tom McCamus, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson, William H. Macy

I was telling two colleagues about this movie last night and they both started to get tears in their eyes and said that they didn't know if they'd be able to handle it. I liked Room and it's well made. The way the film works, however, is (especially considering its subject matter) a kind of sentimental business, and so I think I liked it less than I might have had the director taken a more hard-hitting approach. Because the film is partially about seeing the world for the first time and the sort of wonders that the material world holds, Room also works in a through-the-eyes-of-a-child Steven-Spielberg kind of way. This perspective is something the Academy (and most everyone, actually) really loves. The world is magical and beautiful, even though sometimes really horrific things happen. This is not my view of the world, and I guess this is what I mean by sentimental vs. hard-hitting. In any case, the acting in Room is superb. Larson (who had her breakout three years ago with a film called Short Term 12), Tremblay, and Allen are aces, and the film is very moving.
Will Win: Actress
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #29 out of 62

The Danish Girl
4 Nominations
  • Actor: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
  • Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander
  • Production Design: Eve Stewart (Les Misérables, The King's Speech, Topsy-Turvy) & Michael Standish
  • Costume Design: Paco Delgado (Les Misérables)
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Redmayne, Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch

I surprised myself by really liking The Danish Girl. I think mostly because as much as the film is about gender, it is about confusion and mystery surrounding gender. The acting in this film, too, is quite excellent, and I (who was very skeptical of his showy performance in the tepid Theory of Everything) thought Eddie Redmayne was just wonderful in The Danish Girl. The film still has many problems – it is too long, too weepy, the cinematography almost never makes any sense, and the film (rather conspicuously) seems to ignore sex – but the acting is great, Alicia Vikander is lovable in the extreme, the costumes are exquisite, and the score is lovely. Vikander's nomination in the supporting category is a total fraud – she might even have more screentime than Redmayne, and you come away from the film almost feeling like she might be the eponymous Danish girl – but I'd say that that makes her win more likely, not less. This is especially true because she was memorably stunning in another of this year's nominated movies: Ex Machina.
Will Win: Supporting Actress
Could Win: Production Design, Costume Design
My Rating: #28 out of 62

3 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Actress: Saoirse Ronan (Atonement)
  • Adapted Screenplay: Nick Hornby (An Education)
Director: John Crowley
Cast: Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Emma Lowe, Maeve McGrath, Fiona Glascott, Eileen O'Higgins, Emily Bett Rickards, Eve Macklin, Nora-Jane Noone, Samantha Munro, Jessica Paré, Emma Lowe

This is a beautiful film. When I recommend it to anyone, I keep reminding people that it is a small film. This is a romantic drama, a story of immigration and coming of age, and it isn't a deep film about the soul or about politics or about world affairs. That is to say, Brooklyn is not at all self important. It knows what it is and simply goes about being itself. Because of this, I fell in love with Brooklyn and fell deeply in love with its characters and their performers. Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleeson are so wonderful in this film, and they are a joy to watch. This kind of simple, beautiful character portrayal doesn't often get as much awards press as this film is getting, and I find Brooklyn to be a delightful anomaly. Julie Walters, I should add, is completely charming. Prepare to fall in love. Side note on Domhnall Gleeson: Is he having the best 2015 of anyone? My friend Tom mentioned this to me a day or two ago and I feel like he is exactly correct. With plum roles in Brooklyn, Ex Machina, The Force Awakens, and what I suspect will be eventual Best-Picture-winner The Revenant, Bill Weasley has surely arrived in Hollywood as a dependable and excellent character actor.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Actress, Adapted Screenplay
My Rating: #21 out of 62

The Hateful Eight
3 Nominations
  • Supporting Actress: Jennifer Jason Leigh
  • Cinematography: Robert Richardson (Django Unchained, Hugo, Inglorious Basterds, The Aviator, Snow Falling on Cedars, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon)
  • Original Score: Ennio Morricone (Malèna, Bugsy, The Untouchables, The Mission, Days of Heaven)
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Brice Dern, Michael Madsen, Channing Tatum, Dana Gourrier

Ennio Morricone has never won an Oscar, and I say that it is time. So does Harvey Weinstein – in fact, he was saying that back when Morricone was nominated for Malèna fifteen years ago. But let's talk about Tarantino's movie. It is a very Tarantino movie, perhaps the most Tarantino of all Tarantino movies, in the sense that it is distilled. Nine people stuck in a cabin  threatening one another and eventually killing each other. The Hateful Eight is, of course, too long – all of his movies are too long – and this is because The Hateful Eight is also in love with its own cleverness. In truth, all of this is sort of fine. I rather enjoyed the movie. I like all the actors and I had a fairly good time. (Walton Goggins, by the way, is the standout performer here.) But one does have the feeling that Tarantino sort of missed a couple of boats with this movie. At one point, Hateful Eight feels like it might become a mystery film, akin to And Then There Were None, but Tarantino consistently abandons generic conventions, opting instead for his own generic brand. But what is that? What is the Tarantino genre? I know what the style looks like – bloody, pitiless, comic, witty, clever – but what kinds of stories are these? I guess they're Westerns; The Hateful Eight is obviously set in the "west". But I can't help feeling that if Tarantino had been clearer himself about the conventions of the story he was telling, the film would've been better. A last note on black actors and #oscarssowhite: how come no one has brought up Samuel L. Jackson's name as one of the black actors that got snubbed by the Academy? He is the star of this film, but literally no one has mentioned him in this context as far as I can tell. Isn't that a little odd?
Will Win: Original Score
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #26 out of 62