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

29 January 2017

Oscar Noms 2017: 2 of 13

Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival

Part 2:
Manchester by the Sea
6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Kenneth Lonergan
  • Actor: Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)
  • Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan (Gangs of New York, You Can Count on Me)
  • Supporting Actor: Lucas Hedges
  • Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine, Brokeback Mountain)
Director: Lonergan
Cast: Affleck, Hedges, Williams, Kyle Chandler, C.J. Wilson, Gretchen Mol, Tate Donovan, Matthew Broderick

This is my favorite of the Best Picture nominees. Manchester by the Sea is a tragic film about a man whose brother dies at the beginning of the film. This brother, who is working as a building superintendent in Boston, is forced to move back to his hometown to take care of his brother's effects for a while and to take care of his teenage nephew, who is also, of course, dealing with the death of his father. We know that the main character, Lee, is harboring some real demons at the beginning of Manchester, and we learn those details slowly over the course of the film. Manchester is about those demons, about the weight of enormous errors in our lives, and about trying to carry those weights. In this sense, Manchester by the Sea is a tragedy in the way Aristotle describes it in the Poetics when he says that tragedy happens to "a man who is neither a paragon of virtue and justice nor undergoes the change to misfortune through any real badness or wickedness but because of some mistake". Lee doesn't have anything essentially wrong with him, he is just carrying something very, very heavy. The film asks us to carry that too, for a bit. The performances are superb – Affleck should win the Oscar, and in a year where Viola Davis wasn't running a lead performance in supporting, Williams would win one too. (I've never been totally sold on Williams, if I'm honest, but in this she is so, so excellent.) The film, in general, is assured and steady and does what it is attempting to do perfectly. This is great, sad storytelling, that doesn't opt for the "heartwarming" bullshit to which we have all become so accustomed.
Will Win: Actor, Original Screenplay
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #6 out of 85

Hacksaw Ridge
6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Mel Gibson (Braveheart)
  • Actor: Andrew Garfield
  • Film Editing: John Gilbert (The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring)
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
Director: Gibson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Luke Pegler

I've already written about what a surprise it was for me to have loved Hacksaw Ridge as much as I did, and I am so happy that it did so well with nominations. Six is a lot! More than anything, I am excited for the real stars of this film, Gilbert, Garfield, and the sound guys who were nominated. You'll notice that the Academy did not nominate Robert Shenkkan for his screenplay – it is an uneven mess – and that unevenness will surely hurt the film when people get down to voting. Let's talk about Garfield, though, who is a superb actor (go back to his first big role in Boy A and prepare to be blown away) and who was great in both Hacksaw and Silence this year. He has earned a well-deserved first nomination. As for Hollywood's apparent forgiveness of Mel Gibson, don't be so sure. You can be sure that everyone still thinks he's crazy. But he is a very good director, and he has a very clear point of view that you can see recurring in his work. A nomination here is not forgiveness, just an acknowledgment of his work. You won't see him winning an Oscar any time soon.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Film Editing, Sound Editing
My Rating: #12 out of 85

6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Adapted Screenplay: Luke Davies
  • Supporting Actor: Dev Patel
  • Supporting Actress: Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole, The Hours, Moulin Rouge!)
  • Cinematography: Greig Fraser
  • Score: Hauschka & Dustin O'Halloran
Director: Garth Davis
Cast: Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Priyanka Bose, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui

So, I thought Lion was going to be a sentimental mess, and I was expecting to dislike it. I was also imagining that Dev Patel was pulling category fraud by campaigning in the Supporting Actor category. I was wrong on both counts. Lion is a lovely, moving film, and the lead actor in the film is a little boy named Sunny Pawar, with whom you will fall instantly in love. Lion is the story of an Indian boy named Saroo who gets very, very lost and cannot find his mother and brother. He finds himself in Calcutta, and, having spoken Hindi all his life, can communicate with no one in the Bengali-speaking metropolis. Because the movie spends so much time with the young boy and Sunny Pawar, the film establishes itself as an adventure story first and foremost, so that when we switch, near the middle of the movie, to the more psychologically inflected story of the adult Saroo looking for his family, this too functions like an adventure story. Kidman, Patel, and Wenham are all excellent, and this movie simply works. Lion is an Australian film, too, but it is also about our world in the twenty-first century, in which people in many different places are connected in so many myriad ways with one another. Lion is in Bengali, Hindi, and English, and it spends no time apologizing for its linguistic shifts – in fact they become part of the fabric of the world Lion is attempting to describe.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #48 out of 85

Back to:
Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival