Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Some reactions to the Oscar nominations

With 13 nominations, The Shape of Water emerges as the front-runner in this year's Oscar race for best picture.
The 2018 Oscar nominations finally have arrived, beginning the march toward the merciful conclusion of what has become an annual ritual: the interminable awards season.

Many profess shock at Denzel Washington’s best actor nomination for his work in Roman J. Israel, Esq. Not me. Washington gave a great performance as a lawyer whose consciousness was stuck in the rebellious turmoil of the 1960s. Washington's Roman J. Israel lived a near-monastic life. Sadly, his unwavering moral commitments had lost their urgency. Unfortunately, Dan Gilroy’s screenplay ultimately let Washington down, but, at for a while at least, Roman J. Israel, Esq. threatened to be one of the most radically provocative movies of the year.

Of course, there were the usual snubs — if you want to see the elimination of James Franco from the best actor category as a snub. Some will argue that stories about sexual harassment undermined Franco’s chances to bid for Oscar gold, but the Academy never has been kind to comic performances. What else was Franco’s turn as failed filmmaker Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist?

Early betting tagged Armie Hammer for a supporting actor nod for his work in Call Me By Your Name, but I wouldn’t call that a harsh snub. Supporting actor traditionally (and this year is no exception) qualifies as one of the strongest categories.

And while we’re on the subject of supporting actors. Sam Rockwell may win in this category, but Woody Harrelson’s performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was better. Both actors are nominated. To my way of thinking, it’s a lot more difficult to play a level-headed, decent man (Harrelson) than a dopey but bona fide racist (Rockwell’s character). And I say this as a long-time Rockwell fan.

Christopher Plummer showed up in the best supporting actor category for playing J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World. Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey in well-publicized re-shoots that took place after a torrential wave of negative sexual harassment criticism broke over Spacey. Plummer may have been a last-minute addition, but he was the most memorable thing about director Ridley Scott’s thriller.

I was happy to see that Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green were nominated for best adapted screenplay for their work on Logan, one of the darkest and best of last year’s comic-book crop.

Amid all the talk about women, minorities (black and Latino) in Hollywood, I hope that the nomination of Rachel Morrison (Mudbound) for best cinematography receives big-time notice and sets a trend. No woman ever has been nominated in this category. Alas, Morrison probably lose to Dan Laustsen in a Shape of Water sweep.

I wonder how director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) is adjusting to being a frontrunner. Shape of Water led the pack with 13 Oscar nominations and probably stands as the favorite to win the best picture award with del Toro taking best director. I'm one of those people who think that del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth was a much better and far more challenging film.

I found Martin McDonagh’s screenplay for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, to be a bit tin-eared, especially when it came to race, but he was nominated for best original screenplay. McDonagh also found himself caught in a typical Oscar situation: Three Billboards received a best-picture nod, but McDonagh was not nominated for best director.

Same thing happened to Steven Spielberg, whose The Post was nominated for best picture. No best-director nomination for Spielberg.

I’ve had friends and readers tell me that they found Dunkirk, which received eight nominations including Best Picture, confusing. Should we be surprised then that the movie was nominated for best editing? Maybe.

Will I have rooting interests on Oscar night?

I’ll certainly cross my fingers for Allison Janney in the best-supporting-actress category. She played Tonya Harding’s acid burn of a mother and made her work both biting and funny. I hope that Jordan Peele wins best original screenplay for Get Out and would be shocked, surprised and happy if Get Out managed to win best picture. It’s one of the nine nominees in that category.

I doubt whether Daniel Kaluuya, nominated for best actor for Get Out can beat Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, but wouldn’t that be something?

I'll also be rooting that whoever gets to read the winner in the best-picture category names the right movie on the first go-round.

Oh well, it’s on to March 4 when all will be revealed and we promptly can put Oscar in the rearview mirror and get on with the more interesting business of immersing ourselves in movies.

And, yes, The Florida Project -- recognized only for Willem Dafoe's performance in the best supporting actor category -- remains my movie of the year, regardless of what the Academy chooses. My advice: Never let Oscar interfere with your own preferences.

For those of you who need one, here's the full list of nominees:

Best Picture
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

Best Actress
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margo, Robbie, I, Tonya
Meryl Streep, The Post
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Best Director
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Best Original Screenplay
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

Best Adapted Screenplay
Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory
Logan, Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Molly's Game, Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound, Dee Rees, Virgil Williams
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber

Best Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk, Hoyte Van Hoytema
Mudbound, Rachel Morrison
The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

Best Costume Design
Beauty and the Beast, Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira
Victoria & Abdul, Consolata Boyle

Best Sound Mixing
Baby Driver, Tim Cavagin, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater
Blade Runner 2049, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill, Mac Ruth
Dunkirk, Gregg Landaker, Gary Rizzo, Mark Weingarten
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Michael Semanick, David Parker, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce
The Shape of Water, Christian T. Cooke, Glen Gauthier, Brad Zoern

Best Editing
Baby Driver, Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos
Dunkirk, Lee Smith
I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, John Gregory

Best Sound Editing
Baby Driver, Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos
Dunkirk, Lee Smith
I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, John Gregory

Best Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049, John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Daniel Sudick
Kong: Skull Island, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Michael Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ben Morris, Michael Mulholland, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould
War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon, Joel Whist

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
Victoria & Abdul, Daniel Phillips, Loulia Sheppard
Wonder, Arjen Tuiten

Best Original Song
The Mystery of Love, Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens
Stand Up for Something, Marshall, Common, Diane Warren
This is Me, The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Remember Me, Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
Mighty River, Mudbound, Raphael Saadiq, Mary J. Blige, Taura Stinson

Best Score
Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams
The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell

Best Animated Short Film
Dear Basketball, Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
Garden Party, Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
LOU, Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
Negative Space, Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
Revolting Rhymes Part One, Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

Best Live-Action Short
DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk
My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson Jr.
The Eleven O'Clock, Derin Seale, Josh Lawson
The Silent Child, Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton
Watu Wote: All of us, Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

Best Documentary Short Subject
Edith+Eddie, Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright
Heaven is a traffic jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel
Heroin(e), Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon
Knife Skills, Thomas Lennon
Traffic Stop, Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

Best Documentary
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman
Faces Places, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda, JR
Icarus, Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan
Last Men in Aleppo, Kareem Abeed, Soeren Steen Jespersen, Firas Fayyad
Strong Island, Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes

Best Foreign Language Film
A Fantastic Woman
On Body and Soul
The Insult
The Square

Best Animated Feature
Loving Vincent
The Breadwinner,
The Boss Baby

Best Production Design
Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeffrey A. Melvin

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