Oscar nominations 2017: Initial Thoughts

It’s that exciting time in the film calendar again; the Oscar nominations have been announced (in a new, interesting way), and a select group of people can now add the permanent prefix of ‘Academy-Award Nominee’ to their name.

As expected, La La Land leads the pack with a whopping 14 nominations; tying with Titanic and All About Eve for the most nominations ever received by a film. It is followed by Arrival and Moonlight with eight apiece, then Hacksaw Ridge, Lion and Manchester by the Sea with six.

There are often strong reactions to the nominations. Even if you feel like you agree with most of them, there will almost always be that one glaring omission (WHERE IS AM-we’ll get onto that later). Let’s take a look at this year’s nominees…

 

Best Picture

La La Landoscars-pic

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Lion

Hidden Figures

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

With La La Land sweeping seemingly every award going, it seems like the frontrunner in this group so its nomination is no surprise. Its nice to see Hell or High Water getting recognised as an smaller indie; it was definitely one of my top films of last year. With the Academy nominating nine films there is plenty of room for variety. A range of stories in a range of genres is presented; from musicals to sci-fi to war to domestic drama, a wide range of human experiences is represented (not to mention a great show in diversity). Unfortunately, (from the films I’ve seen) the Academy seems to have shut out some of the more unconventional, yet brilliant, films of last year (such as Tom Ford’s intoxicating Nocturnal Animals), favouring some more traditional tellings of, on the whole, ‘tamer’ stories. As a whole though, there are a set of very worthy films.

 

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve ~ Arrival

Mel Gibson ~ Hacksaw Ridge 

Damien Chazelle ~ La La Land

Kenneth Lonergan ~ Manchester by the Sea

Barry Jenkins ~ Moonlight

A great list, all of which correspond with a Best Picture nom. His nomination seems to confirm Mel Gibson’s return from Hollywood exile, giving Hacksaw Ridge an extra push into the conversation. I’m really glad that Villeneuve is finally getting the recognition he deserves for his English-language works after a string of excellent (and nomination worthy) films. It is also fantastic, and unsurprising, to see Lonergan get nominated for his brilliant work. Unfortunately, Moonlight isn’t out here yet, but it sounds like the unsurprising nod for Jenkins too is well deserved. Sadly for them, this is sure to be Chazelle’s statuette. This should also be his SECOND directing nomination – he should have got one for Whiplash, but I’ll get over that at some point.

Yet again, no women * sigh *.

 

Best Actor

Casey Affleck ~ Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield ~ Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling ~ La La Land

Viggo Mortensen ~ Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington ~ Fences

This seems like Affleck’s statue, but there is now some competition coming up from Gosling and Washington, sure to make this an interesting race. Unfortunately I haven’t seen it, but it is nice to see a smaller film such as Captain Fantastic even getting a sole nomination among some Hollywood giants. Its great to see Garfield, who is really coming into his own as an actor, get his first nomination after a fantastic performance in Hacksaw Ridge, but he seems a long shot to win.

 

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert ~ Elle

Ruth Negga ~ Loving

Natalie Portman ~ Jackie

Emma Stone ~ La La Land

Meryl Streep ~ Florence Foster Jenkins

WHERE IS AMY ADAMS?! After two phenomenal performances this year (in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals), the five-time nominee was completely shut out. This seems especially odd, not just because she was so deserving, but was a major part of Arrival, a film which garnered 8 other nominations – including Best Picture. The complex, fully dimensional character she crafted was the beating heart of the film and what made it so engaging, and its twist so believable. At the other end of the spectrum, Meryl Streep has extended her lead as the most nominated actress in history. As much as I love her, she seems to get an obligatory nod for everything she does, roles which others wouldn’t get into the Oscar race for. Now, I’ve not seen Florence Foster Jenkins, and I am not saying she did not deserve this nomination; she is the incredible powerhouse that is Meryl Streep after all. It’s a surprise to see Negga nominated, after being shut out elsewhere, but this seems to be a race between the other three nominees, but with Stone storming far ahead.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali ~ Moonlight

Jeff Bridges ~ Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges ~ Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel ~ Lion

Michael Shannon ~ Nocturnal Animals

It’s a surprise to see Shannon nominated, especially because it looked like his co-star, Aaron Taylor-Johnson would take the nom after his Golden Globes win. I’m a big fan of Shannon though so it’s always great to see him recognized. Bridges seems to have broken away from an overall great ensemble in Hell or High Water for his fantastic performance, though it would have been nice to see his co-star Ben Foster there too. It’s great to see first nominations for Patel and fantastic to see Hedges in the list after such a brilliantly real performance – definitely a talent to watch out for in the future. It seems like this will likely be Ali’s category though (again, Moonlight hasn’t be released where I am yet).

 

Best Supporting Actress 

Viola Davis ~ Fences

Naomie Harris ~ Moonlight

Nicole Kidman ~ Lion

Octavia Spencer ~ Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams ~ Manchester by the Sea 

After consistently providing solid performances its great to see Harris getting recognised for her work. Williams, despite only having 11 minutes screentime, is also entirely deserving to be on this list for her short, but very effective part. Davis seems to be a lock for this category (it’s about time), potentially beating out The Help co-star Spencer as a flipped rerun of their Oscar situation in 2011. Spencer, and Kidman, both previous winners are always solid and its nice to see them included.

 

Writing

Of the 10 writing nominees, 8 match up with the Best Picture films, with only Hacksaw Ridge lacking in this category. The sheer majority of Best Picture nominees present in this category really shows how vital good writing is to the creation of a good film. The other two spots were filled by The Lobster and 20th Century Women, allowing some acknowledgement for the smaller, or less traditional films of the past year.

 

Technical Categories

La La Land has appeared across many of the technical categories (and dominated the music ones with two best song noms and an almost locked score), with other Best Picture noms like Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge making multiple appearances in the sound categories. As usual, this is also where the bigger blockbusters and action films get their recognition with films like Rogue One and Deepwater Horizon earning well-deserved nods. It’s also proved here that recognition of good work isnot deterred by it being in bad films (even if it does pain you that you can now say the Oscar nominated Suicide Squad).

 

The Snubs

Unfortunately for Scorsese, after years of work towards his passion project, Silence garnered only one sole (yet extremely deserving) nomination for cinematography. It seemed to have run out of traction in awards season or simply not something the Academy wanted to see. On paper it appears to have potential to be an Oscar-sweeping religious epic (and the Academy usually love Scorsese), but sadly seems not meant to be.

It’s also sad that Nocturnal Animals didn’t get more love. It was one of the most distinguished films of last year, using a different way of storytelling to make an interesting and effective film.

I’m not really surprised about the Deadpool omission. Whilst it was a great film, it wasn’t Oscar-fare, but not necessarily Oscar-level filmmaking regardless. At least for a film like this, audience reaction seems to be the more important measure of success.

Pixar was also shut out of the animated film category for Finding Dory – unusual as it was a good film, and Pixar is normally loved by the Academy. Perhaps it just didn’t quite grab them with enough magic as the winning first one.

Lastly, it was expected, but unfortunately there was no love for I, Daniel Blake, proving, once again, that winning at Cannes, doesn’t always translate over to the Oscars.

 

As a whole, it’s a pretty good batch of nominees. This year there will be no #Oscarssowhite, a good step forward for more diversity. Some categories look almost wide open, but it’s likely La La Land will sweep the board. The question now is, can it continue to make history and join or beat out Ben Hur, Titanic and The Return of the King for the most Oscar wins?

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