MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar: Nomination Morning

It was the best of times… it was the most expectedly unexpected of times… it was Chinatown, Jake… it is nominations morning.

Actually, this morning is what has been missing from this season so far… this was, in an instant, The Great Settling… which usually occurs in mid-December or so. Or as a director once said (it’s been attributed to so many), they didn’t finish Oscar nominations, they took them away. Another week or two and they could have changed again (by 10% – 20%… not completely).

Everything I wished might happen didn’t happen. Everything I expected to happen didn’t happen. But with everything that did happen, it is nearly impossible to feign shock or even serious surprise about any of these nominations.

I am terribly unhappy that Sir Ridley Scott didn’t get a nomination. (Todd Haynes, too.) But I am thrilled that Lenny Abrahamson did.

I wish Creed had run a more aggressive campaign. But I also wish The Martian had… and it got 7 nominations, including Best Picture.

I am thrilled (and not too surprised) that Ex Machina got a screenplay nod. But had they chased it, Alicia Vikander would be lock to win Supporting Actress. Instead, she and Rooney Mara will have to wrestle for it… as much as either actress will wrestle (not too much). (And I hate to get into personal stuff, but what must this morning be like for Fassbender & Vikander… giddy days.)

There weren’t any freaky-deaky nominations. With due respect to Jacob Tremblay, the right person got the nomination for that amazing child performance… Lenny Abrahamson. It would have been a travesty to take any adult actor off that list for a kid performance that was lovely, but clearly created by many artisans (including Brie Larson) in a dance with young Tremblay.

The pitchforks and torches were ready to burn down these white male Oscars, but then 4 of 10 screenplay nods went to women (wildly disproportionate to Hollywood’s track record) and Room got its 4 nods and Brooklyn its 3 and and Carol got 6, even if it didn’t get a Picture nod and The Danish Girl didn’t get dumped and while it’s not equality, 9 of the 16 films that got 2 nominations or more had lead or undeniably dominant supporting female characters.

So that left complaints of color. And there was something to complain about. The only two films with much color to them, Creed and Straight Outta Compton each got a single nomination… for white people. Both are legit commercial hits.

But let’s be realistic. The Academy was never going to give nominations to a movie about rappers. The group is over 50. The audience for the film was 25-50. Maybe “Hamilton: The Motion Picture” will get something.

Creed is a classic missed opportunity. It should be a 7-nomination film instead of a one-nomination film. There is little question. But… WB didn’t get excited until too late. There are rumblings about how it played out and why it played out the way it did. But the bottom line is, there was a big opportunity in Lead Actor, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, and Director and the movie just never had a real sniff of any of it. And I don’t know why… except that I do know that it was not treated like a film that had all that going for it from the start, so much so that I, as one of those who saw it as a legit awards possibility since the second great trailer, withdrew interest until I finally saw the thing. And by then, it was already too late, really. The Big Short shows that you can have a late push and get there, but it isn’t easy.

Also, Idris Elba… great actor… but a tough movie that would have been a remarkable feat to get him in for, even if the pundit class somehow anointed him as “in” after he rolled through NY and LA for a week. That wasn’t reality.

Still… the real issue is that there were only three films that were dominated by faces of color that were even in the discussion. That is Hollywood. The Academy is a reflection of Hollywood. That isn’t going to change… ever.

And The Academy is The Academy. It is meant to be what it is. it is not a hip, new culture, cutting edge place. It is a place with a lot of room, but fairly average taste.

If you want to see real change, that doesn’t mean “make-up on a pig” change, there are adjustments that can be made. And they wouldn’t be that painful… for The Academy. As noted in the column earlier this week, I think it centers on de-emphasizing the Phase I race and focusing more energy and shared experience in Phase II.

But that’s another conversation…

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27 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: Nomination Morning”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    no, they were never going to honor a film about rappers.

  2. theschu says:

    Big surprises for me were the exclusion of Ridley Scott for Best Director (kind of reminiscent of excluding Affleck), Aaron Sorkin not getting nominated for the Steve Jobs screenplay, the inclusion of the screenplay for Straight Outta Compton and Star Wars for Best Editing. I also think the Academy missed a huge opportunity for viewership by not nominating Star Wars for Best Picture.

    On the other hand, we now live in a world where the director of Anchorman is nominated for Best Director.

  3. theschu says:

    I would also say that despite the Academy’s tradition of ignoring Marvel movies, Ant-Man had some terrific visual effects and deserved a nomination more than The Martian (as much as I love The Martian).

  4. PJ says:

    Feign shock? So now ya’ll gonna pretend like you predicted Hardy when he had 1 vote in last Gurus of Gold or pretend that ya’ll predicted McKay when he had 4?

  5. chris says:

    Wait. So you can’t be an actual actor if you’re a kid? Strongly disagree. And EVERY performance is created in a dance with the director and fellow performers.

  6. JBritt says:

    I had no idea that Tom Hardy was in The Revenant and I saw it. I understand why he was nominated. That was a completely immersive performance.

  7. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Who was it who was on these threads scoffing at the mere idea that the Academy might nominate more than just, maybe, ONE female centered movie for best picture this year. We have three, and as sad as I am that CAROL didn’t make it four, I take that as a good sign.

  8. Ben K says:

    Dano getting passed over in Best Supp was the one awful mistake.

  9. Glamourboy says:

    And on the queer front…the one gay/lesbian film in major contention, failed to get a Best Picture nod….and no openly gay and lesbian directors…

  10. John says:

    I don’t think that Warner Bros did any mistake for “Creed”.

    Warner Bros is one of the best Oscar campaigners in Hollywood; the nominations of “Mad Max : Fury Road” prove that all. They know what they are doing.

    For “Creed”, Warner Bros knows that its best Oscar chance is Sylvester Stallone…. and they get it. But the movie itself just isn’t Oscar’s cups of tea.

  11. Chris L. says:

    “On the other hand, we now live in a world where the director of Anchorman is nominated for Best Director.”

    Can’t think of a more succinct summing-up, as we wonder whom in this branch Todd Haynes has offended, and why. (Of course, Theschu seems to be indicating this is an awesome development, but it was still well-put.)

  12. Ian Mantgani says:

    Why is Jacob Tremblay’s performance creditable to everyone except Jacob Tremblay? A “kid performance” is by definition a stunt, or a creation without the kid, is it? I have no particularly strong feelings about Room, but Poland’s assertion is neither due respect nor logical.

  13. movielocke says:

    If they had kept ten nominees, I imagine it would have been Carol, Star Wars and Inside Out fighting for those final two slots. I figure Inside Out missed because of top ballot support (it can’t get over the hump of required number ones as the animation branch isn’t large enough), while Star Wars and Carol both missed for down ballot reasons (they likely had sufficient top ballot support to survive to the second round, but both suffered down ballot by primarily receiving additional votes only from Surplus distributions from the films ahead of them. In a year without Mad Max or Martian, Star Wars is in, in a year without Brooklyn or Room, Carol is in. But every ballot with Brooklyn or Room probably had Carol on it as well, just likely lower down. Likewise, I’d imagine almost every ballot that had Mad Max on it, probably had Star Wars as well, just lower down.

    It’s incredible that two sci fi films made it in alongside a western and most rarest of rare at the best picture nominations: a straight comedy nominee. Alongside that you have three traditional style oscar bait films and the annual indy-of-the-year littlemisssunshine/winter’sbone/beastofthesouthernwild nominee.

    There just wasn’t room for a third sci fi film this year. There just wasn’t room for a fourth traditional oscar bait film this year (Carol).

    Them’s the breaks.

  14. Glamourboy says:

    A small film, shot in 16mm, based on a decades-old lesbian novel about two women falling in love. Yeah, obvious Oscarbit there, movielocke.

  15. Movielocke says:

    Yes, melodrama with that high profile of a cast and filmmaker (lots of baity firepower) and that outstanding is ALWAYS Oscar bait. The content and story make it bait as well. Every year has baity melodramas such as Carol in the running. They get the high profile actors because it’s baity. Harvey backs it because it’s baity.

    It’s not a bad thing to be Oscar bait, oy. I like the film it’s not like I’m calling it “Brokeback Roadtrip” or some such dismissive appellation

  16. Movielocke says:

    Also in this day and age shooting a novel film format is baity.

    It’s baity to shoot in 16mm

    It’s baity to shoot in 70mm

    Just part of the narrative about the film.

  17. Glamourboy says:

    Movielocke, NOTHING about Carol is Oscar-baity. Name how many overtly gay themed love stories have been nominated for Best Picture? A gay love story is pretty much the kiss of death for an oscar film. Sure, dying of diseases wins Oscars and Emmys, but falling in love isn’t big box office or awards bait.

    Show me the overt gay love stories (overt…don’t give me Thelma and Louise or things were the gayness is oh so under the surface ) that get Best Picture nominations

    Add a director who started out by making a movie with Barbie Dolls, and continues to make arty, edgy, uncommercial projects..who has NEVER been nominated for Best Director….and you have the farthest thing from Oscar Bait there is.

  18. Monco says:

    The Force Awakens doesn’t make best picture in any year. For a sci fi film to get nominated it needs to be the work of a visonary not a remake of a visonary film by hack.

  19. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Although, at first look, CAROL seems like “Oscarbait”, it’s actually much better than that. (I seriously doubt Todd Haynes said to himself when he read the script “this is my ticket to Oscar!” That’s not the way he thinks, which is exactly why the voters are so cool toward his work.) Though the prognosticators thought it would be nominated, once the voters really looked at it, it’s as if they said: “nah. Too good, too subtle. Too cold (code for it’s not begging for a nomination).” Same thing happened to REVOLUTIONARY ROAD in 1988 and LITTLE CHILDREN before that.

  20. Patryk says:

    Theschu — we also live in a world in which the star of “Rhinestone,” and “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot,” is Oscar nominated again. And in a category that didn’t have room for Paul Dano, Michael Shannon, Idris Elba, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Harvey Keitel, Sam Elliot, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, etc.

  21. Movielocke says:

    Except revolutionary road and little children are mediocre at best while carol is actually great. It’s also Oscar bait it’s why it gets stars to sign on, gets financed, gets distribution at the end of the year. Same thing is true of spotlight which is also Oscar bait.

  22. Daniella Isaacs says:

    REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and LITTLE CHILDREN are “mediocre at best,” Movielocke? I love CAROL as much as anyone could, but that’s crazy talk.

  23. Glamourboy says:

    Movielocke…you keep writing about Carol being Oscar bait without even acknowledging any of the points….

    When Carol got financed, do you really think it was put together as Oscar bait? (again, my challenge, name ALL of the movies that have been nominated for Best Picture that are about a gay/lesbian love story)

    You don’t get a director that the Oscars always overlook.

    You don’t shoot the movie in 16mm (again, name all the other 16mm films nominated for Oscars)

    It is a great film, which is why it is getting all this attention. But Oscar bait, it is not. The fact that EVEN WITH ALL OF THESE GREAT REVIEWS, IT STILL DIDN’T GET NOMINATED FOR BEST PICTURE, should show you….not Oscar bait.

  24. Daniella Isaacs says:

    The odd thing is that Moivelock seems to think “Oscarbait” = “great film.” Almost by definition, a film designed as Oscarbait is bad art. It’s bait, put it an trap, to win a trophy.

    Do we think Leonard Bernstein woke up each morning thinking he should sit down and write music so he could win a Grammy? Did Proust write IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME as Nobel Prize bait? Did Ingmar Bergman make PERSONA thinking “I’m really gonna lock up a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for this!”?

    You know what’s Oscarbait? THE KING’S SPEECH… CRASH. I rest my case.

  25. Movielocke says:

    Because your objection doesn’t make sense. Not every baity film gets a best picture nomination, Oscar bait isn’t limited to best picture. And you obviously have ready retorts for the obvious best picture nominees, so why indulge you? The holocaust is Oscar bait but not every holocaust movie gets nominated.

    Small movies get finances after an actor is attached. Cate blanchett attaches herself because she thinks it’s a great role that’s good for her career, her agent sends her the script in the first place because he thinks it will get her an Oscar nomination to do a role as an oppressed gay. And if she gets another nomination her rate goes up and her agent makes more money on every future film. Without investigating, I would not be surprised to discover that going gay results in more acting nominations than picture nominations as a general rule, Christopher Plummer springs to mind for winning an Oscar for doing a gay role at eighty. The financiers invest because they think Carol will be prestigious and therefore successful as an investment, that word prestigious is a euphemism for Oscar bait, btw.

  26. Movielocke says:

    Romantic melodramas at best picture

    Theory of everything
    Silver linings playbook
    Midnight in Paris
    The descendants
    The kids are alright
    A serious man
    An education
    The reader
    Broke back mountain
    Lost in translation
    In the bedroom

    Almost every year has this genre of Oscar bait hit at the oscars, sometimes two do but that is fairly atypical–which is exactly the outcome one would expect given the balloting rules, most of the time ballots with Brooklyn are also going to include carol and ballots with mad max are not. Romantic melodrama is a solid bait genre for best picture but it’s not a guarantee and it’s fairly rare to earn two slots, often there are two when one is a hybrid with comedy or atypical such as descendants (fallout) and capote (unrequited) or arty, (amour).

  27. Daniella Isaacs says:

    CAPOTE, IN THE BEDROOM and THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT are “romantic melodramas?” Don’t think so. Romantic melodramas are a SUBgenre within “Oscarbait? !! Oscarbait means simply this: films made in order to win Oscars. Romantic melodramas predate the existence of Oscar (in the theater and then silent film by 100 years.) Give it up, buddy.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon