Tuesday, January 24, 2017

'La La Land' leads the Oscar pack

Let's get the details out of the way. If you're looking for a full list of Oscar nominees for the 89th edition of the Academy Awards, click here.

This year's nominations -- 14 for the likable but, in my view, overrated La La Land -- provide an antidote to last year's much maligned #OscarsSoWhite.

In the acting category alone, seven actors of color were nominated.

In the documentary feature category, four of the five nominated films were directed by black Americans.

Barry Jenkins, who directed Moonlight, was nominated in the best director category and his movie made Oscar's best-picture list.

Equally important, African-American Bradford Young received a best cinematography nomination for Arrival. He's the first African American ever nominated in that category.

Otherwise, the Oscars were notable for what's being hailed as Mel Gibson's re-acceptance by Hollywood. Gibson was nominated in the best director category for Hacksaw Ridge, which also received a best picture nod. The movie's lead, Andrew Garfield, made the best actor list. I'm not quite ready to cheer yet.

Notable snubs included Amy Adams, ignored for her work in Arrival, and Annette Bening, who seemed a shoo-in for playing a harried mother in 20th Century Women.

Some people thought the always reliable Tom Hanks would receive a best-actor nomination for his work in Sully. I would have given Hugh Grant a supporting actor nomination for his work in Florence Foster Jenkins, a movie that earned another Oscar nomination for Meryl Streep.

Speaking of Streep, I wouldn't have been the least bit upset if Taraji P. Henson took Streep's place on the list. Henson was overlooked for her performance as a math whiz in Hidden Figures.

I'm a respectful detractor when it comes to Martin Scorsese's Silence, so I wasn't disappointed to see it nominated only in the best cinematography category.

I'm also no fan of Nocturnal Animals, but was happy to see Michael Shannon nominated for best supporting actor for his work as a dying lawman in that movie.

Denzel Washington received a best actor nomination for Fences, but not for directing the picture, which wound up on the best-picture list, a fairly typical anomaly when it comes to Oscar. Nine pictures were nominated for best picture; only five slots are available for best director. Someone is bound to be screwed.

Dev Patel received a best supporting actor nomination for Lion. Is it me or was the performance of Sunny Pawar, who played the younger version of Patel's character, better? If Pawar's performance doesn't work, the whole movie is down the drain.

Other things to celebrate:

-- Naomie Harris's terrifying performance as a crack-addicted mom in Moonlight. She's nominated for best supporting actress.

-- Isabelle Huppert's best actress nomination for her unusual portrayal of a woman who's raped in Elle.
-- Ruth Negga's best actress nod for her work in Loving should be cheered.

-- Viggo Mortensen turned up on the best actor list for playing an eccentric dad in Captain Fantastic. Not his best work, but he's a fine actor.

So should we just give La La Land the best picture Oscar now or will the movie clean-up in other categories while losing best picture to either Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea?

Let's face it, though. This year, more people will watch Oscar because of the expected political tilt to many speeches than for any suspense about who takes home a statue.

More year-end honors

And while we're on the subject of honors, here are the winner's of this year's Denver Film Critics Society awards:
Best Picture: Moonlight
Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Jackie
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
Best Animated Film: Zootopia
Best Science Fiction/Horror Film: Arrival
Best Comedy: Deadpool
Best Original Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Best Documentary: O.J.: Made in America
Best Visual Effects: Doctor Strange
Best Original Song: Drive It Like You Stole It from Sing Street
Best Score: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Best Foreign Language Film: Toni Erdmann

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