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

02 February 2017

Oscar Noms 2017: 4 of 13

Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival
Part 2 - Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion
Part 3 - Fences, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Jackie

Part 4:
Florence Foster Jenkins
2 Nominations
  • Actress: Meryl Streep (Into the Woods, August: Osage County, The Iron Lady, Julie & Julia, Doubt, The Devil Wears Prada, Adaptation., Music of the Heart, One True Thing, The Bridges of Madison County, Postcards from the Edge, A Cry in the Dark, Ironweed, Out of Africa, Silkwood, Sophie's Choice, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Kramer vs. Kramer, The Deer Hunter)
  • Costume Design: Consolata Boyle (The Queen)
Director: Stephen Frears
Cast: Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Stanley Townsend, John Kavanagh

I've already trashed this movie plenty on this blog – and this was easy to do because there were two movies about Florence Foster Jenkins out this year, and the one nominated for 2 Oscars was the one that wasn't any good. But I am going to keep trashing it, because now it has been nominated for two Oscars, and Meryl Streep, who has already been nominated more times than any actor in Academy history, keeps actively campaigning for these nominations for reasons (apparently related to ego) that I simply cannot understand. What is fascinating to me is that people actually quite enjoyed this movie. I was trashing it in front of some of my colleagues in the School of Performing Arts where I teach and a lot of them were quick to jump in and defend the film – "Oh! You didn't like it? I thought it was great". I was sort of shocked. Consolata Boyle's nomination here is well deserved, but Streep's decidedly is not. And that she was nominated over Amy Adams in Arrival or Annette Bening in 20th Century Women is a legitimate travesty. The Academy had an opportunity to award a brilliant actress at the top of her game in Bening or a young work-horse of an actress who consistently delivers great performances, and instead they nominated Streep yet again. Don't get me wrong; I think Streep is great, but she isn't great in FFJ and she could afford to sit a few Oscar ceremonies out. If you want to see a good movie about FFJ, watch Marguerite and see Catherine Frot give a superb performance as the singer.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #74 out of 87

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
2 Nominations
  • Production Design: Stuart Craig (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The English Patient, Chaplin, Dangerous Liaisons, The Mission, Gandhi, The Elephant Man) & Anna Pinnock (Into the Woods, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Life of Pi, The Golden Compass, Gosford Park)
  • Costume Design: Colleen Atwood (Snow White and the Huntsman, Into the Woods, Alice in Wonderland, Nine, Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Memoirs of a Geisha, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Chicago, Sleepy Hollow, Beloved, Little Women)
Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Carmen Ejogo, Faith Wood-Balgrove, Kevin Guthrie, Jon Voight, Zoë Kravitz, Johnny Depp

This was cute. It was mostly a movie preparing us for twenty sequels, I thought, but I was very fond of the performances, except for Eddie Redmayne's (did he mumble through the whole thing or was it just me?), and I thought the art direction, the imagery of the fantastic beasts, and the story were fun. The storyline, of course, circulates around a metaphor for queerness and the closet, and that is fine if a little tired (like, that is the whole point of the X-men, already), but Ezra Miller (!) and Colin Farrell and an insane Samantha Morton made all of that worth watching. I also adored Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler in the movie. It is a real shame that the sequel(s) will trade Johnny Depp for Farrell; I'll miss him.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #60 out of 87

Passengers
2 Nominations
  • Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas (Inception) & Gene Serdena (Her)
  • Score: Thomas Newman (Bridge of Spies, Saving Mr. Banks, Skyfall, WALL·E, The Good German, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Unstrung Heroes, Little Women, The Shawshank Redemption)
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Sheen, Julee Cerda

This was not as terrible as I was led to believe it would be. Passengers is a completely absurd melodrama, with big set pieces, lots of action, and tons of cool visual effects. It's much more interesting than any Marvel movie I saw this year, for instance, and much of that – to give this Oscar nomination its proper due – is to the credit of Guy Hendrix Dyas. The problem with Passengers is that it is completely, totally untethered from reality. Nothing that happens in the film is remotely related to anything that might happen in real life. No one in the film makes any decisions even vaguely connected to decisions a real human might make. It's a total fantasy – a kind of perverse Sleeping Beauty in which Aurora actually wants to sleep for another 90 years but is instead awakened by a prince she doesn't want but then falls in love with him anyway. (The character's name, incidentally, is actually Aurora, in case you thought the screenwriter was penning realistic science fiction.) But honestly, as insane and unrealistic as that all is, I wasn't really expecting reality anyway, and the movie drew me in – like any good melodrama should. There were cool effects, the two stars are fun and sexy (and this comes from someone who thinks Jennifer Lawrence is a mostly bad actress), and I rather enjoyed myself. Also, Passengers honestly deserved both of these nominations. It is hard to begrudge this team its recognition. In regard to Thomas Newman, of course, he is a great composer but he will (again) not be going home with an Oscar. This is his thirteenth nomination in this category and fourteenth overall. He will win eventually, but it's gotta be frustrating the hell out of him at this point.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #54 out of 87

Rogue One
2 Nominations
  • Visual Effects
  • Sound Mixing
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Genevieve O'Reilly, Guy Henry, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits

I really liked this. It was exciting and fun... and just dark enough that I didn't get bored by the sort of standard Disney Star Wars cheese that usually accompanies one of these movies. The ending (when Lord Vader arrives) is a surprise of pure pleasure, certainly, and this is the highlight of the film, but the journey itself is also quite enjoyable, and I love Diego Luna (he doesn't get enough press these days; I do wonder why his friend Gael García Bernal got so much more popular than he did) and especially Riz Ahmed, who gives such a touching performance as the pilot. Also, we should note just how cool it is that Disney made this sort of one-off Star Wars movie. It would be interesting to get to watch more films taking place in the Star Wars universe that are only slightly related to the central storyline arc, preferably by different directors experimenting with different things. I have high hopes. We should also have high hopes for Rogue One to win an Oscar: the first for a Star Wars movie since Jedi's single win (also for Visual Effects) in 1984.
Will Win: Visual Effects
Could Win: Sound Mixing