COLUMN: Five snubs and five surprises from the 89th Academy Award nominations
In an odd and belaboring change from tradition, the Academy Award nominations were announced by what sounded like the voice of Siri or Google Maps this morning in a pre-recorded video package. Previous nominees and winners joined Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs in a string of vignettes between announcements. “La La Land” tied the record for the most nominations with 14. The musical film is riding quite the high and is in line to win half or better of those 14 nominations. “Moonlight” followed with 8 nominations and stands the best contender to the “La La Land” dominance.
Yesterday, I threw down the gauntlet for the fourth year in a row to predict the eventual nominees in the "Big 8" categories (Best Picture, Best Director, the four acting categories, and the two screenplay awards) and, boy, did I nail it. In total, I predicted 38-of-44 correctly for 86% accuracy, with two perfect categories of 5-out-of-5 and all the Best Picture nominees. That’s my best year yet.
My assured confidence in predicting the nominees will be easily carried over to guessing the eventual winners. I'll save my reasoning and full analysis for my annual Oscar prediction articles coming next month. Please follow my 2017 Awards Tracker page for all of the latest award winners and data between now and big show.
As with any year, there are hot topics being debated immediately stemming from snubs and surprises. Here are my takeaways consisting of five snubs and five surprises, coming out of this morning's nominations.
1. Martin Scorsese and “Silence”-- How’s this for irony? The frighteningly devout and conservative Catholic who was ostracized from liberal Hollywood for anti-Semitic hate got himself and his gaudy, violent, and cheesy war film nominated over the most respected legend in the game who completed a passion project expressing, get this, frighteningly devout Christian beliefs. That’s what’s going on when Mel Gibson and “Hacksaw Ridge” are recognized ahead of Martin Scorsese and “Silence.” Martin’s film only received one total nomination (Best Cinematography). Break out the SMH memes.
2. Amy Adams-- The biggest acting name to miss a field was, without question, Amy Adams, a five-time Oscar nominee who has never won. Her victory for the first reputable prize of the awards season, Best Actress from the National Board of Review, feels like a lifetime ago. “Arrival” earned high profile nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay, but it couldn’t carry Adams with it. Did the film peak too early?
3. Annette Bening-- Staying in the Best Actress field, no offense to Meryl Streep (look later in Surprises), but if you wanted to honor a veteran actress bucking the Hollywood trend of the young, Annette Bening deserved a nod for Best Actress more than one more Meryl Streep nomination. You know, there are other actresses over 50 in town, right?
4. Aaron Taylor-Johnson-- I called this snub (and his replacement) yesterday. Aaron Taylor-Johnson becomes the first Golden Globe acting winner in 40 years (Richard Benjamin for “The Sunshine Boys” in 1976) not to follow with an Oscar nomination. His “Nocturnal Animals” co-star Michael Shannon (subsequently the only nomination of any kind for Tom Ford’s film) and young Lucas Hedges from “Manchester by the Sea” stole the bottom two spots for the right to lose graciously to Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight.”
5. “Elle” and “The Handmaiden” in Best Foreign Language Film-- In a smaller category, the exclusion of Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” for Best Foreign Language film stands as a large omission. His film has won the second most lead-up awards in this category. In an even more glaring error before any vote was taken, the film with the most wins here, “The Handmaiden,” wasn’t even submitted by its home country of South Korea for consideration. “The Handmaiden” was also shut out in the artistic categories like production design and costumes. Their absences pave the way for an uncontested slam dunk win for “Toni Erdmann,” the tallest and best contender left standing.
1. What was with that announcement simulcast show?!-- Fluffy and overproduced, the Oscars were clearly trying to sell a little personality and tease of the future telecast. In my opinion, there’s more mystery and sizzle when those names are read (and mispronounced) live in a quick cadence complete with the press gasps, cheers, and reactions. Plain and simple, I think they overdid it.
2. Seven minority acting nominees stomps out #OscarSoWhite (at least for one year)-- It’s wonderful to see 35% of the acting nominees go to people of diversity, including two of the four most likely winners (Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis). I hope that becomes more of a normal trend than a knee-jerk overcorrection from last year’s fiasco. Time will tell.
3. Meryl Streep continues to be Meryl Streep-- This probably doesn’t rank as much of a surprise, but it’s more of the fact that she keeps getting blanket nominations. To her credit, much like the argument of diversity, she continues to break the ceiling for aging actresses in Hollywood. Still, that could have been Bening’s turn.
4. No love at the big table for “Deadpool”-- It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but 20th Century Fox’s comic book smash made recent big splashes with Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture nominations from the Writers Guild and Producers Guild. That surge did not translate any Oscar nominations, not even one for makeup and hairstyling. As far
5. The trend of foreign and obscure films that sneak into artistic and technical fields-- Last year it was the mouthful of “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” up for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. This year it’s “The Red Turtle” and “My Life as a Zucchini” standing shoulder-to-shoulder with animation giants and “A Man Called Ove” besting blockbusters and period films a plenty for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Those quirky nominations are always fun surprises.