La La Land, one of the biggest (and, might I add, best) pieces of Oscar bait in recent memory is now tied with Titanic and All About Eve for most nominations all time with 14. Titanic converted 11 of those nominations into wins and All About Eve converted 6. Backlash or not, La La Land now seems destined to enjoy a big night come the actual Oscars telecast.
Its chief competition will be Arrival and Moonlight (eight nominations apiece), Hacksaw Ridge, Lion and Manchester By the Sea (six) and Fences and Hell or High Water (four). Remember, Spotlight won Best Picture last year with just six total nominations (and only one other win, for Best Original Screenplay), beating out the more highly nominated like Revenant (12).
So, you’re telling me there’s a chance for Fences and Hell or High Water?
No. Oh, no. This year it’s coming down to La La, Manchester and Moonlight.
Here are my reactions to the major categories:
- Hacksaw Ridge
- Hell or High Water
- Hidden Figures
- La La Land
- Manchester By the Sea
Reaction: No real surprises here. An Oscar nomination for Deadpool, which was nominated for Best Picture by the Producers Guild, was a pipe dream born out of a failure to remember those times when the Academy has disagreed with the Producers Guild. For example, the PGA nominated Sicario, Ex Machina and Straight Outta Compton last year; the Academy ignored all three and instead picked Room. This year the difference isn’t quite as extreme since outside of Deadpool the PGA and Oscar Best Picture nominees are identical.
If not Deadpool then what else could the Academy have chosen to nominate? The snubs technically include Nocturnal Animals, 20th Century Women, Florence Foster Jenkins, I, Daniel Blake, Sully and Silence, but none of them are really snubs because not a single one was really expected to be nominated, not with the way things have been going with other awards bodies. Nocturnal Animals did at least do very well at the BAFTAs, but so did Carol last year and that didn’t translate to a Best Picture nomination.
- Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
- Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
- Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
- Denis Villeneueve (Arrival)
- Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Reaction: This matches the DGA nominations exactly with one key difference: the DGA nominated Garth Davis for Lion over Mel Gibson. As for who will actually win, probably Damien Chazelle if he can weather the La La Land backlash. Still, though, talk about the career turnaround for Gibson, who was a practical leper in Hollywood as recently as two or three years ago.
- Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
- Denzel Washington (Fences)
- Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
- Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
- Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Reaction: Exactly as most had predicted. It’s Affleck’s category to lose.
- Emma Stone (La La Land)
- Natalie Portman (Jackie)
- Ruth Negga (Loving)
- Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
- Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Reaction: Oh, wow. I am not stunned to see Negga nominated, but I am stunned at who her nomination displaced, namely Amy Adams for Arrival. This is a real coup for Negga and Loving seeing as how Adams has been denied the Oscar nod despite already racking up nominations from just about everywhere (e.g., BAFTAs, Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes, National Board of Review, Screen Actors Guild) whereas Negga had been comparatively snubbed, with just Critics Choice and Golden Globe nominations to her name (as well as a litany of critics association nominations). This was thought to be a three-woman race between Adams, Portman and Stone, and whoever else was nominated was just along for the ride, with Streep particularly rubber-stamped as a nominee after her Golden Globes speech (which took place while Oscar voting was still open). Now, it’s arguably Portman or Stone’s category to lose with Huppert lurking as an upset pick.
Poor Amy Adams, though. At one point, she was a potential Oscar nominee for both Arrival and Nocturnal Animals. Now she goes away empty handed as the Academy saw fit to nominate Arrival for 8 awards but none for acting.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
- Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
- Dev Patel (Lion)
- Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
- Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
Reaction: And Michael Shannon sneaks in for the big surprise of the category, seeing as how his own co-star, the Golden Globe-winning and BAFTA-nominated Aaron Taylor-Johnson, had begun to overshadow him. Similar to Ruth Negga, Shannon’s nomination is a surprise not due to the quality of his performance (which is undoubtedly Oscar-worthy) but instead the almost complete lack of nominations from other notable awards bodies. Shannon has a Critics Choice nomination to go along with this Oscar nomination, and that’s it (outside of the usual critics association nominations). He displaces SAG nominee Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins) as well as Taylor-Johnson and Ben Foster (Hell or High Water).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Viola Davis (Fences)
- Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
- Nicole Kidman (Lion)
- Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
- Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Reaction: Matches SAG exactly. Suck it, #OscarsSoWhite. That’s three black women nominated in this category. Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women) had been expected by some (myself included) to be nominated over Spencer, but, um, we were wrong. Our bad.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- Arrival (Eric Heisserer)
- Fences (August Wilson)
- Hidden Figures (Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi)
- Lion (Luke Davies)
- Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
Reaction: You can’t really look to either the Golden Globes or Writers Guild for guidance here because the Globes lump Adapted and Original Screenplay into one category and the definitions used by the WGA to decide Adapted vs. Original often differ from the Academy’s. For example, Moonlight was a WGA nominee for Original Screenplay, but has been forced into the Adapted category by the Academy. As such, it’s hard to really react to this group of nominees in terms of surprises/snubs. Hacksaw Ridge and Nocturnal Animals (a WGA nominee) both had a shot here, which is why I had predicted Nocturnal over Fences.
I personally view Fences as having a particularly weak screenplay because what, really, did August Wilson, adapting his own play from the 80s, do to make the story in any way cinematic? However, Wilson died in 2005 (which kind of makes me a total ass for criticizing him just now), and nominating him for Fences is as much a tribute to his life and career as it is an actual commentary on his specific work on the script.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
- Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
- La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
- Hell or High Water (Taylor Sheridan)
- 20th Century Women (Mike Mills)
- The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou)
Reaction: See everything I said above about the complete crapshoot this all is if you try to base your predictions on the Globes or WGA. The WGA liked Loving and Moonlight in this category, but the Academy deemed both of them to be adapted works, not original. Moonlight survived that change; Loving did not. Either way, that created two openings since Manchester, La La and Hell or High Water were all locks. That The Lobster filled one of those open slots is not a surprise because it’s exactly the type of slightly Euro-leaning, more avante-garde piece of work the Academy likes to award in the screenplay category. Mike Mills for 20th Century Women, though, is a genuine surprise as films like Captain Fantastic, I, Daniel Blake, Zootopia and Toni Erdmann were thought to have more buzz.
Most importantly, this now gives us one of the biggest things to look forward to at the awards show: will the presenters actually know how to pronounce the names Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou?
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
- Kubo and the Two Strings
- My Life as a Zucchini
- The Red Turtle
Reaction: Exactly as I had predicted. For whatever reason, the Best Animated Feature category almost always contains three well-known, usually financially successful mainstream movies (in this case Zootopia, Kubo and Moana) and two left-of-center, often foreign “we swear they’re amazing, but we know you will probably never – ever! – see them unless you are a hardcore animation fan” picks (this year, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle). As such, that meant films like Finding Dory, Sing, Trolls, Sausage Party and The Secret Life of Pets never had a chance, not when the critical support so clearly rallied most behind Zootopia, Kubo and Moana.
- OJ: Made in America
- Fire at Sea
- I Am Not Your Negro
- Life, Animated
Reaction: Is it time to expand the number of potential nominees to 10? We are in a golden age for documentaries right now, and you could not only name 5 but probably 10 more documentaries that are just as worthy as these 5 films recognized by the Academy (not O.J.: Made in America, though; nothing can fairly compete with that nearly 8-hour-long TV mini-series parading as a movie). So, sorry Cameraperson, Weiner, Zero Days, Tower, Tickled, The Ivory Game, Gleason, The Witness, The Eagle Huntress and Kate Plays Christine.
Head here for the list of full nominees.