' ' Cinema Romantico: Some Drivel On...the Oscar Nominations

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Some Drivel On...the Oscar Nominations


(You can find a full list of Oscar nominations here.)

Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced in Los Angeles Tuesday morning by Andy Serkis and Tiffany Haddish, star of “Girls Trip”, whose forceful comic turn teased thoughts of a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Perhaps that is why she was enlisted as a presenter, to capture her reaction in real time, especially since her NYFCC victory speech was so social media-y infamous, except that in the end, no, Ms. Haddish was not nominated. Maybe this was just miscalculated overconfidence by the powers-that-be, or maybe just the powers-that-be realizing they needed a person of color up there announcing nominations too, but a couple years out from #OscarsSoWhite it could have been a bad look had the Best Supporting Actress category not wound up populated by two black women anyway – Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water” and Mary J. Blige in “Mudbound.” Of course, those are more traditional sort of roles than Haddish’s, suggesting that Oscars progress still has something like a traditionalist bent. I mean, didn’t Melissa McCarthy get a nod for “Bridesmaids”? Maybe McCarthy’s painful pooping is just more Day Lewis-y than Haddish’s ecstatic urinating, who’s to say? Anyway.

Two years out now from the #OscarsSoWhite fiasco, the 2018 nominations appear a trend in the right direction, not just with Spencer and Blige but with African-American Jordan Peele earning both Best Directing and Best Screenplay nominations for “Get Out” while the film itself landed a Best Picture nomination to go along with Daniel Kaluuya’s Best Actor nod. What a haul. Dee Rees & Virgil Williams earned a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Mudbound” while the Netflix documentary “Strong Island” – which made this blog’s Top 10 – found itself as one of the five nominees for Best Documentary which damn right. (The director, Yance Ford, may also be, as Mark Harris noted via Twitter, the first Transgender director ever recognized.)

Time’s Up made itself heard too. Rachel Morrison became the first woman nominated for Best Cinematography, which hopefully starts a new trend for film photography, though I half-suspect even Morrison would be the first to tell you that the nomination is enough and, hey, how about we give that Oscar to Roger Deakins (i.e. “Blade Runner 2049”) now? Anyway. James Franco was nowhere to be found in the Best Actor category, which even those who don’t believe in snubs would have to find pointedly curious, while giving a Best Supporting actor nod to Christopher Plummer for “All the Money in the World” might well have knocked Armie Hammer out for “Call Me By Your Name” but also functions as another middle finger to Kevin Spacey which isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened with the Oscars.

Then again, Gary Oldman landed a Best Actor nod for “Darkest Hour”, and while he is a tremendous actor and past due for this award, his past where women are concerned is, uh, less than savory and with a long time between now and envelope opening that past could still be his foil. I wouldn’t necessarily bet on it since the old guard of the Academy taking self-satisfaction in wagging its finger at Franco while clapping Oldman on the back seems about right. But then, Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring and might be owed a royal send-off for his superb work in “Phantom Thread”. Or maybe, just maybe, if you will allow me to dream, Daniel Kaluuya sneaks in there for “Get Out” and shouts out fellow nominee Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”) from the stage who points back and everyone has all the feels.

And for all the worries after the as-ever suspect Hollywood Foreign Press Association went all-male with its Golden Globes Best Director category, look who picked up a Best Director nomination – that is, Greta Gerwig for “Lady Bird.” If I had a vote in that category it’d probably go to Paul Thomas Anderson for “Phantom Thread”, and I suspect its Guillermo del Toro’s to lose for “The Shape of Water”, but whatever. Her presence is joy enough. (*Puts On Rose-Colored Glasses* This blog has loved Greta since she was making movies with Swanberg on the floor of her friend’s apartments, and watching her star rise has been a decade-plus of jubilee. She’s one of a kind. We love her. Long may she run.) And anyway, I’d rather she won for Best Original Screenplay, which I fear is Martin McDonagh’s to lose for “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” which is why he was not nominated as Best Director, because they believe that movie to be a product of its script, which, all biases accounted for, would be a monumental travesty of justice considering McDonagh’s script exudes obvious moral chicanery, nowhere near Gerwig’s thought-through naturalism.

“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” was one of nine nominees for Best Picture and might be the front-runner but also might not be because of the perceived backlash, though the awards cognoscenti can drone on about that in more detail for you. What most interests me about Best Picture is how the nominees are a mix of conventional and fresh, and how the fresh nominees actually seem more poised for glory. Indeed, the traditional awards season “narrative”, as quaint as it is laughable as it is real as it is semi-enjoyable, truly has some relish this year considering the foremost Best Picture contenders are all so, shall we say, of the moment. “Get Out” reckons with America’s racist past (present) while “The Shape of Water” puts that time when Make America Was Great under the microscope to sort of say, nah, it wasn’t so great, while “Lady Bird” offers a testament to female empowerment while “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”, for however much this blog might not have liked it, is certainly trying to push all manner of timely buttons.

Still, the Academy Awards have always been more about the movie industry itself and how the films it chooses to award is how it wants its industry to be perceived. And if all these nominations suggest the Academy wants to be perceived as an industry that favors diversity and inclusivity, well, perception, naturally, is not enough. The awards season “narrative” should not end there. The industry’s feet should still be held to the fire for the next month. Nominations are one thing, but equal opportunities at the point of entry are another, and the point of entry is where real change has to occur.

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A few other observations:

We here at Cinema Romantico like to make fun of The Courtesy Meryl Streep Nomination (she earned her 21st for “The Post”!) but you know what? She was really, really, really, really, really good in “The Post.” I don’t think she’ll win, but if she did, well, I’d doff my cap.

The Supporting Actress category was so stacked going in that I suppose it doesn’t really surprise me that not only Haddish but Holly Hunter for “The Big Sick” got bumped. Still, it’s enough to make one wish they had just clipped one Best Actor nod and one Best Supporting Actor nod and given Best Supporting Actress seven nominees. Why not?

“Phantom Thread” being shut out of the sound categories is lunacy on par with Bj√∂rk never winning a Grammy.

Sam Rockwell for “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”, per all the awards cognoscenti, shapes up as front-runner for Best Supporting Actor and fair enough, but God help me…I so desperately wanted this to be Willem Dafoe’s “time” for “The Florida Project.” Maybe his “time” is still to come.

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