Hey, as long as the Academy keeps delivering these melanin-challenged rosters of acting nominees, I’m going to keep drawing from “A Whiter Shade of Pale” to headline my reaction posts. I’ll concede that this is something of a case of industry opportunity limiting the viable contenders, but Idris Elba’s performance in Beasts of No Nation had a place in nearly every set of precursor nominations and Michael B. Jordan deserves at least as much consideration for his work in Creed as Sylvester Stallone. It turns out Academy voters were as forgetful about the black artists’ contributions to the film as Stallone was in his Golden Globes acceptance speech. At least he feels bad about it. Beyond the acting categories, weird slights abound. To many, it appeared Straight Outta Compton was heading toward a Best Picture nomination, taking advantage of the expanded field to earn a place among the year’s finest that never would have been available to it in the years of five entrants. It was well-regarded enough film to factor in the Best Original Screenplay category, but that’s it. The Academy has been making earnest attempts to diversify in recent years. On the evidence of the last two sets of Oscar nominations, they’ve got a lot more work to do.
Onto other thoughts:
–Closely following Golden Globes wins in major categories, the pack-leading The Revenant now looks like the likely Best Picture victor, which would mean Alejandro González Iñárritu directed the claimant of the Academy’s top prize two years in a row. This is the eighty-eighth presentation of the Academy Awards and, unless I flubbed my research, that’s never happened before, not even in the days when guys like John Ford cranked out two or three films every year. Iñárritu is also presumably the front-runner in the directing category. That’s happened twice before, with John Ford (in 1940 and 1941) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (in 1949 and 1950). I don’t think it’s simply my aversion to Iñárritu’s film that makes it seem unlikely that he’ll join that company. Oscar voters tend to want to spread the accolades around, at least a little bit. I’m hoping my gut instinct on this front is right, which just might open the door to a George Miller win for Mad Max: Fury Road. Of the five films nominated in the category, his seems like the clearest directorial feat, and the bevy of nominations the film picked up should give it some added credibility among the more skeptical voters. Hence, my annual Oscar wishful thinking begins.
–Not that there was much doubt anyway, but Leonard DiCaprio surely gets his long-delayed acting Oscar, on his fifth try. Brie Larson seems to be nearly as sure a bet to win in Best Actress for Room, especially since the film was strong enough to match its Best Picture nomination with a somewhat surprising nod for director Lenny Abrahamson. The supporting categories are trickier, with Stallone looking likely enough to repeat his Golden Globes win, except for the problematic fact that he was entirely omitted from the corresponding category in this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, compromising the narrative of inevitability (and potentially indicating soft support among the actors, the largest branch of Academy voters). If either Mark Rylance or Christian Bale wins the SAG Award (they’re the only two nominees the two award-giving bodies have in common in the category), there’s a race.
–Speaking of the SAG Awards, this is 140-character analysis I offered when those nominations were announced:
Turns out thirteen of the twenty carried over, so I was close anyway. In my defense, who knew that ridiculous nomination for Rachel McAdams would be repeated (and I like Rachel McAdams).
–In general, the Best Supporting Actress category is kind of nuts. Two performances are really leads that were pushed in the space where they had an easier route to a nomination (Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander, the latter compromising the very real likelihood that she would’ve have gotten a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her far stronger performance in Ex Machina) and one is literally such a bloody mess that it’s best seen as an apology for ignoring a great actress for so many years (Jennifer Jason Leigh). McAdams and Kate Winslet seem to just be filling out the category. Winslet is very good in Steve Jobs, but the film was enough of a non-factor in general that it couldn’t even snag the writing nomination for Aaron Sorkin that once seemed automatic. My current bet is on Mara, but I’d give as much credence to the prognostication powers of a drunkenly hurled dart at this point.
–I’m pleased that Tom Hardy, amazingly absent from awards consideration besides major roles in two of the biggest films of the year, received his first Academy Award nomination. I’m disgruntled about the nomination coming for The Revenant. It’s dreadful overacting, easily the worst in a film packed with misguided choices. His grotesque mumbling reminded of something as I watched, but I couldn’t quite place it. Then, in the final moments, it hit me.
—The Revenant gets twelve Oscar nominations, but can’t muster up a place among the screenplay contenders. Somewhere Jim Cameron raises a glass in sympathy.
–And Quentin Tarantino is denied an expected, but hardly certain, screenplay nomination for The Hateful Eight. I’d like to think his rampaging ego is finally inflicting some damage to his standing in the community. He’d make better films if he brought a touch of humility into the process.
–It’s easy to miss, but Joel and Ethan Coen have made it to twelve career nominations apiece (fourteen, counting their two shared acknowledgments under their editing pseudonym, Roderick Jaymes), thanks to their efforts on the screenplay for Bridge of Spies. Cate Blanchett is on her seventh (win two wins, of course), as is Kate Winslet. Jennifer Lawrence, age twenty-five, is already up to four acting nominations. Cinematographer Roger Deakins in on his thirteenth in his category. He will surely lose for the thirteenth time, probably to The Revenant‘s Emmanuel Lubezki, who will nab the trophy in three consecutive years, an unprecedented feat.
–Circling back to my first point, I’m now grateful Chris Rock is the Oscars host for this year’s ceremony. I wasn’t a particular fan of his first outing in the role, but I felt he took a major intellectual turn around the time he was making and promoting his film Top Five, finally lacing his pointed criticism with real insight. If we get the version of Rock who showed up in his justly touted Hollywood Reporter essay or the even more fascinating New York interview with Frank Rich, it could be a helluva night, no matter who wins.