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

31 January 2017

Oscar Noms 2017: 3 of 13

Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival
Part 2 - Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion

Part 3:
Fences
4 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Actor: Denzel Washington (Flight, Training Day, The Hurricane, Malcolm X, Glory, Cry Freedom)
  • Adapted Screenplay: August Wilson
  • Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (The Help, Doubt)
Director: Washington
Cast: Washington, Davis, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney

You can read my review of this movie here. I loved it, incidentally. Word on the street is that Washington really wanted a Best Director nomination for this movie; it didn't happen, but he may end up taking home another Oscar for acting (it would be his third) if the SAG award is any indication. It is important that I say again that Viola Davis should not be campaigning in this category, but, hey, what can you do? I think if I had to vote, I would still vote for her. She is great in the movie. The screenplay nomination is actually sort of baffling to me; I have no idea what these writers were thinking. I mean, Wilson has been dead for years, and that nomination could have meant something to a screenwriter like Jeff Nichols (Loving) or a team like Park Chan-wook & Chung Seo-kyung (The Handmaiden). It is weird to me that they did not think of this.
Will Win: Supporting Actress
Could Win: Actor
My Rating: #16 out of 86

Hell or High Water
4 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Original Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan
  • Supporting Actor: Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Crazy Heart, The Contender, Starman, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Last Picture Show)
  • Film Editing
Director: David Mackenzie
Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey, Joe Berryman

I really liked this movie too. Have I noted yet how surprised I have been to have liked everything so much this year? It really is sort of strange. It is worth noting that this is a screenplay nomination that will really make a difference. Taylor Sheridan is primarily known as an actor, and so this will certainly have an appreciable effect on his career. I don't expect Hell or High Water to win anything on February 26th, but I think that's just fine. This movie surprised everyone by continually appearing on awards lists and top-ten lists. It is a strange movie for people to have noticed, I think, but I don't mind. It's an exciting movie, with a pretty great stick-it-to-the-man attitude and a really lovely fraternal relationship at its center.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #18 out of 86

Hidden Figures
3 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Adapted Screenplay: Theodore Melfi & Allison Schroeder
  • Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Director: Melfi
Cast:Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Jim Parsons, Glenn Powell, Aldis Hodge, Olek Krupa, Donna Biscoe, Kimberly Quinn

This movie is fine, but I sort of don't get the hype. I have gotten tired of this candy-coated version of the early 1960s that we are all somehow supposed to believe happened. This is actually one of the reasons why Ava DuVernay's Selma was such an extraordinary achievement: the version of the 1960s we are usually fed these days pretends that most white folks weren't actually racist, they were actually nice, welcoming white people who were just waiting for a black woman with a little gumption to challenge the status quo. This is a bunch of nonsense – and also not how racism actually works. Still, the actresses at the center of Hidden Figures are a pleasure to watch (especially Taraji Henson), and the movie has a lot of fun in the candy store it builds. It is a delight to watch Henson show up a racist Jim Parsons by doing really complicated math in front of him, and it is fun to see Monáe bring a court order into her all-white engineering class and tell everyone in the class to go fuck themselves (it's actually PG; no one tells anyone to go fuck himself). I love seeing representations of black folks in fabulous clothes doing awesome things on my movie screens. But all of this comes at a price. We cannot start to believe that Jim Crow wasn't that bad; if we do, we deny the violence and daily humiliation that black folks in the U.S. had to put up with constantly. To my mind, even the phrases "first black woman to..." and "first woman to..." hide within them a kind of denial of the racism on which this country was built – they make it seem like it was some power inside the individual that allowed him or her to achieve something others could not. That isn't really how it worked, of course. Think of the many, many people who came before (Troy Maxson from Fences is precisely this type of character) who were prevented from achieving their dreams, not because they didn't have the gumption of Dorothy Vaughan or the talent of Jackie Robinson, but because the racist laws in Virginia and South Carolina and Florida and Louisiana – and the racist "gentleman's agreements" in Arizona and California and Illinois and New York – demanded that they be kept from exercising their capabilities. So, call me a curmudgeon, but although I thought Hidden Figures was fun in a bubble gum kind of way, I found myself frequently annoyed.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #46 out of 86

Jackie
3 Nominations
  • Actress: Natalie Portman (Black Swan, Closer)
  • Costume Design: Madeline Fontaine
  • Score: Mica Levi
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Portman, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Beth Grant, John Carroll Lynch, Max Casella

These three nominations for Pablo Larraín's movie make perfect sense; they are essentially what this movie is. Jackie can be boiled down to its costumes, its central performance, and its haunting horror-film score. I appreciated Jackie, but as I said in my notes on it, I didn't really enjoy the movie, even though I sort of got what it was trying to do. I am really pleased for Mica Levi and her nomination, too, even though I was not really a big fan of her score for this movie. I was obsessed with her score for the strange sci-fi/horror movie Under the Skin, my favorite film for 2014, and so I am glad she is getting some recognition. I only predicted a lone nomination for Portman for this movie (with the possibility of a costume nod), so I am honestly surprised by the three nominations Jackie picked up. This means that it connected with audiences way more than I thought it would – and clearly more than it connected with me. Still, don't expect it to take anything home on the 26th. Jackie's just happy to be invited to the party. She'll be wearing black.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A