Thursday, January 14, 2016

Welcome Back for Another Oscar Blog Year!

Welcome back to the blog!  This year, we have a little more time between today and the day the winners will be announced, so we have a little more time to play.  By my count, there are 57 nominated films this year (down from 60 last year), but since I group into one blog for each of the short subject categories, that gives us exactly the number of days we need, plus one to release my predictions.

As always, here's my general observations about this year's list.

1. I'm still not a fan of more than 5 nominated best picture films.  It's usually pretty easy to pick out the top 5 from the list, and though I'd include six of the eight nominees pretty easily, I believe we should go back to the old system.  I could easily pick out 3 additional male leads who deserve acting nominations, but we don't do that.  We pick five and we go with them.

2. There are a couple of snubs about which I am deeply disappointed.

  • Will Smith played possibly his most engaging and difficult role in the film Concussion, which didn't receive a single nomination.
  • Jacob Tremblay (the child who was the lead actor in the film Room), gave one of the best and most difficult performances in a film this year.  He has not been on anyone's list, the studio doesn't seem to have been promoting him, and he could have taken down the whole list of lead actor nominees with any scene from that film.  His age only reinforces the quality of the work.
  • Idris Elba was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the film Beasts of No Nation (on Netflix).  I suspect that the difficulty of getting academy voters to watch a film about child soldiers combined with the ruthless nature of his character stood in the way.
  • The Good Dinosaur was one of my favorite films this year and it didn't get nominated in the Animated Feature category.  (As a friend pointed out to me, only the second Pixar film ever not to be nominated.)
  • Finally, I'd have to check the eligibility for Best Original Score, but I thought the score for the film The 33 was one of the best this year.  That category has some tricky rules (which I'll explain in a future blog), but if it met the criteria, it was a shame not to have been nominated.
3. There are a couple of nominations about which I am incredulous.
  • At some point, the Academy is going to have to deal with category shenanigans.  Rooney Mara was the lead in the film Carol and Cate Blanchett was the Supporting Lead.  But each of the actress' stature in their careers and in Hollywood has them switched so that the former is nominated for Best Supporting Actress and the latter is nominated for Best Actress in a Lead. Ridiculous.  See the movie and you'll see what I mean.  Between the fact the Mara had more screen time and the fact that the film is about her, this makes no sense.
  • Not to give away what I'm going to say in my review, but Mad Max: Fury Road is a spectacular movie about a car chase.  It has some cool makeup, sets, and special effects, but it is one long car chase.  Does that make it Best Picture?  No it doesn't.  If they wanted a populist film, Straight Outta Compton is the clear choice, and being a nerd, I would also take Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
4. #OscarsSoWhite
I've been thinking about this quite a lot over the last several months and at the risk of being internet threatened, I'd like to say that the problem does not lie with the Oscars.  It's like breaking a nail and blaming the nail polish.  The real hashtag should be #HollywoodSoWhite.  If you look at the Best Actor category, four of them are biopics or are based on true stories.  But did The Martian require a white male lead? Nope. Do all Directors need to be white (exluding Innaritu, of course)? Nope.  Guess what, people of color can direct stories that have nothing to do with ethnicity, but are they given the opportunities at the same rate?  I suspect not.

I do believe this is a serious issue, but I think the problem with blaming the Oscars is that when you review the 20 acting nominations, 12 of them are from biopics (you can't change the race of the actual people whose stories are being told), and one is about an Irish girl who would likely have been white in the context of the story.  We need to focus our attention on why opportunities for more diverse stories aren't presenting themselves in the Hollywood studio system, and solve the problem where it lies.  The fish rots at the head, so to speak.  You can't nominate what hasn't appeared on the screen, and the solution lies in more diversity appearing on the screen and behind the camera.  

So, those are my initial impressions, and stay tuned for reviews of the 57 films over the next 46 days. It can't help but be so much fun.  See you at the movies!

1 comment:

  1. I just saw Mad Max: Fury Road, and was completely underwhelmed. And totally agree about Hollywood whiteness. Straight Outta Compton was incredible and that it was only nominated for best screenplay is crazy to me.