The 89th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 26, 64 days from today.
On December 12, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (a totally bogus group) released their Golden Globe nominations. Nothing was that surprising; Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Lion, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight were nominated for “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” while the “Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy” nominations went to 20th Century Women, Deadpool, Florence Foster Jenkins, La La Land and Sing Street. Notably, Silence and Sully were left out of all categories, and some individuals looking for a lift (like Kate Beckinsale in Love and Friendship, Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures and Warren Beatty in Rules Don’t Apply) were disappointed. Nocturnal Animals did surprisingly well, but that definitely has nothing to do with the fact that director Tom Ford sent everyone expensive cologne.
(OK, brief Golden Globes aside: According to my uncle, in 1968, the HFPA nominated “If Ever I Should Leave You” from Camelot as Best Original Song despite the fact that it was the main song in the 1960 Broadway musical the movie was based on, ugh.)
Two days later, the Screen Actor’s Guild released its nominations. Rather than a Best Picture category, SAG has “Best Ensemble,” which rewards the “above the line” actors of a movie but is generally a Best Picture equivalent. The nominees for Best Ensemble were Captain Fantastic, Fences, Hidden Figures, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. No La La Land. This was a surprise to many Oscar bloggers, since La La Land was assumed to be a sure thing. When the news came out, some people (like me) were not overly concerned, since the movie basically only has two people in it and is not much of an “ensemble.” To others, this was a Big Deal: the last film to win Best Picture without a nomination here was Braveheart. This means that even Million Dollar Baby, a movie with basically three people in it, scored recognition for its cast. The main reason to take this seriously is that the actors branch is the largest within the Academy, and SAG is often a pretty good indicator for what they will support. The main reasons to ignore it is that (1) this was determined by a randomly selected nominating committee rather than the full membership, (2) SAG recently merged with AFTRA, with an “R” that stands for radio, so “every easy-listening DJ and wacky AM jock across America is a voting member” and (3) three of the five ensemble nominees last year missed out on a Best Picture nomination (Beasts of No Nation, Straight Outta Compton and Trumbo).
Where all this gets interesting is looking at the actors and actresses nominated by both groups:
– Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
– Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
– Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
– Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
– Denzel Washington (Fences)
– Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
– Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins)
– Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
– Nicole Kidman (Lion)
– Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
– Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
The list above is going to be pretty close to the list announced by the Academy on January 24. However, it’s not a guarantee. The Hollywood Reporter ran an interesting look at the history of Golden Globe/SAG correlation with the Oscars. Since 2001, 29 performances that received both Globe and SAG noms were not subsequently nominated for an Oscar.
Looking at the last five years, there have been 14:
– Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar, 2011) for best actor
– Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin, 2011) for best actress
– John Hawkes (The Sessions, 2012) for best actor
– Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone, 2012) for best actress
– Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy, 2012) for best supporting actress
– Helen Mirren (Hitchcock, 2012) for best supporting actress
– Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, 2013) for best actor
– Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, 2013) for best actress
– Daniel Bruhl (Rush, 2013) for best supporting actor
– Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, 2014) for best actor
– Jennifer Aniston (Cake, 2014) for best actress
– Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, 2015) for best supporting actor
– Michael Shannon (99 Homes, 2015) for best supporting actor
– Helen Mirren (Trumbo, 2015) for best supporting actress
They were replaced by the following 12 actors and actresses that scored an Oscar nomination without either a Globe or SAG nom:
– Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011) for best actor
– Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, 2011) for best supporting actor
– Emmanuelle Riva (Amour, 2012) for best actress
– Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012) for best actress
– Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, 2012) for best supporting actress
– Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013) for best supporting actor
– Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, 2014) for best actor
– Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night, 2014) for best actress
– Laura Dern (Wild, 2014) for best supporting actress
– Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, 2015) for best actress
– Tom Hardy (The Revenant, 2015) for best supporting actor
– Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, 2015) for best supporting actor
What seems to be the trend? Mainly that those most vulnerable are those without a corresponding Best Picture nomination. Of the 14 snubbed actors and actresses above, only one (Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips) missed out on a movie that ended up scoring a nomination for Best Picture. Alternately, eight of the 12 unsnubbed actors and actresses were in Best Picture nominees. Two others were foreign (Charlotte Rampling and Marion Cotillard), which SAG doesn’t like for some reason.
Where does that leave us? Most vulnerable are probably Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) and Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins). Most likely to replace them are Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) and possibly one of the supporting actors from Fences (Stephen McKinley Henderson and Mykelti Williamson). It all depends on what you think is going to get nominated for Best Picture.
Every so often, Hollywood decides that a certain actor or filmmaker has crossed an ethical red line and deserves to be punished. This is not applied consistently and is not necessarily permanent. As the Hollywood Reporter writes, “Russell Crowe’s assault of a BAFTA producer is said to have cost him an Oscar for 2001’s A Beautiful Mind, but in 2003, Roman Polanski won best director for The Pianist even though he couldn’t accept his award in person because he is a fugitive from justice after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, then 13, in 1977.” People feel icky about films by Woody Allen but still nominate him and his actors/actresses anyway.
Ten years ago, Mel Gibson made some anti-Semitic and misogynistic comments (“The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world”) and was blackballed for it. This is the year of his comeback. Hacksaw Ridge is wracking up award nominations and generating serious Best Picture heat. Why is Mel Gibson OK to like now? Here’s an anecdote:
The men’s restroom of the Landmark Theatres in West L.A. is as good a place as any to gauge the true sentiments of Oscar voters. Following a showing of Hacksaw Ridge a few Saturdays ago, I found myself washing my hands next to two gentlemen — both appeared to be about 63, the average age of Academy members, with one wearing a Kung Fu Panda 2 cap (the kind of hat a grown man doesn’t wear unless he worked on the movie) discussing what they had just seen. “Didn’t want to like that one but … ,” the first man said, trailing off. “But Mel can direct,” the friend finished.
So, you are OK as long as you are good enough? That doesn’t always seem to apply. The Birth of a Nation, which I’ve written about at length, was a sure thing for Oscar recognition until reports came out that its writer-director-star Nate Parker was accused of raping a woman in college who ended up committing suicide. Alternately, Casey Affleck, a favorite for Best Actor, was sued for sexual harassment six years ago. Reportedly, Affleck ordered a male crew member to show one woman his penis while another woke up to find Affleck in her bed in a T-shirt and underwear, caressing her back.
“Surely, there’s a racial element that lets white men off the hook more easily than black men—and Affleck has the additional force field of a famous name and a famous brother. But the accusations against Parker were far more serious, the consequences more tragic. And, while Parker was the unavoidable selling point of his movie, in which he cast himself as the hero, Affleck is part of an expertly calibrated ensemble; he plays a jerky, damaged, socially stunted loser. In other words, his personal morality isn’t baked into the movie’s premise.”
“This time of year, it’s all about getting voters to actually see the contenders. And while one Oscar-nominated producer recently told me he felt an “ickiness” when deciding to pop in his Hacksaw screener, he did it anyway and liked the film. This same producer didn’t think twice about watching Manchester. But, like many, he hasn’t even bothered to open his Birth of a Nation screener.”
- Ways to improve the Oscars: Scott Feinberg recommends releasing the list of Academy members, removing the shorts categories from the telecast and limiting voting to categories that members are familiar with.
- Crikey! Australia is feeling pretty proud of itself and its chances in the Oscar race: “Mel Gibson and Garth Davis are both options for Best Director, Nicole Kidman for Best Supporting Actress and Joel Edgerton for Best Actor, while Lion or Hacksaw Ridge could take out Best Film.”
- Not-so rotten tomatoes: Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has a record number of “fresh” ratings this year, implying that either movies are particularly good or, more likely, critics are less picky.
- Sully is flying: Metaphorically speaking, at the box office. Of the top contenders, Sully may be doing the best; the movie cost $60 million and has made $125 million. Arrival is also doing well, with a budget of $47 million and a return of almost double that.
- Movies pitched by four year olds: The Guardian enlisted a number of children for Christmas movie ideas. The top pick was The Christmas Mountain with the following plot: “There’s a mountain and it’s really cold, so he has a jumper on. He has a lily pad on his eye. He’s a nice monster, because he lets frogs go in his eyes. He grows when it’s Christmas and now he’s as big as anything. He doesn’t do much, bu