On Wednesday morning (Australian time), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science announced who would by vying for victory at this year’s Oscars. As with every year, there have been snubs and surprises, and critics have been VERY keen to make their predictions on who will win. Though the temptation is there for me to do the same, I think it wiser to wait until Awards season nears its end to reveal my predictions.
Instead, I’ll be utilising this space to dissect the nominees – who has been nominated, the most deserving, those that missed out and what could change in the month before the ceremony takes place. And to keep things simple, I’ve broken my thoughts into three separate categories, beginning with…
Firstly, it’s good to see some diversity among the nominees after the controversy surrounding last year’s ceremony, which host Chris Rock christened the “White People’s Choice Awards”. In the acting categories, the number of non-whites has jumped from zero to seven, including THREE African-American nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category – Viola Davis, Naomie Harris, and Octavia Spencer.
Additionally, African-American films were well-represented elsewhere, with three such films being nominated for Best Picture – Denzel Washington’s Fences, Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures, and Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. Of the three, the latter received the most nominations with eight – behind La La Land with its record-equalling 14 – including Best Director for Jenkins.
Australian films also received a lot of love from the Academy. Lion, a story about a Hobart man seeking his biological family in India, scored a Best Picture nomination, as did war drama Hacksaw Ridge, which was filmed and produced by an Australian crew. Furthermore, history was made when Tanna, a low-budget drama filmed in Vanuatu, became Australia’s first ever nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
When the Academy revealed the Best Actress nominees, eyebrows were raised in unison at the exclusion of Amy Adams. Despite universal praise for her performances in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals, Adams did not receive a nomination in either role. One actress who did receive a nomination was Meryl Streep for the tepidly-received Florence Foster Jenkins – perhaps as a reaction to President Trump’s comments about her being “over-rated”.
For me, the greatest snub was Your Name which, you may recall, was named as my favourite film of 2016. As displeasing as its omission is, its lack of nomination in the Best Animated Feature category is understandable – the movie was adored by critics, but didn’t make an impact at the United States box-office.
Even so, financial success isn’t necessarily a guarantee of a nomination – two of 2016’s biggest box-office successes, Deadpool and Finding Dory, also missed the cut, despite both having a positive response from critics. Other critical darlings that missed out on nominations include Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sing Street, The Nice Guys and I, Daniel Blake.
At this current point in time, the favourite to win Best Picture is La La Land. It has everything that the Academy loves – romance, the revival an old genre, and metaphorical discussions about the state of Hollywood. But with the #OscarsSoWhite controversy from the last two years, and the addition of 600 new voters from various backgrounds, the Academy might be leaning towards Moonlight.
Watch out for the Best Actor category too, since front-runner and recent Golden Globe-winner Casey Affleck might be hurt by the assault allegations that have recently resurfaced. This would mean that both Denzel Washington (Fences) and Ryan Gosling (La La Land) would be in with a chance to claim the Oscar.
Finally, not so much an underdog battle as it is a tight race, but there’s a very interesting competition between three films discussing race relations in the Best Feature-Length Documentary category. The anticipated winner is the eight-hour O.J.: Made in America, which has already collected a number of awards elsewhere, but it contests the award with Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro and Ava DuVernay’s 13th, both of which discuss similar themes.
That summarises my thoughts on the 89th Academy Awards for now. There will be more Oscar-related articles in the days to come, as well as a recap of the ceremony once it airs, so please stay tuned!