Sunday night is Oscar night. Pop culture junkies, get your fix on.
It’s no surprise I find no sense choosing who should or who will win. There’s just talent. Oodles of it. Creative imaginations squeezed into tiny dresses and tuxedo jackets. Swag bags or not, all of these nominees have already won in the sexy showbiz salute. Many have been awarded some kind of trophy or other before this, as one critics’ group after another has named their favourites before Sunday’s ceremony.
Note to winners: PLEASE WRITE A SPEECH. We here down on earth require you to be witty and winsome. I will throw my popcorn bag at you if you show up to grab the trophy without something hinting at talent in your acceptance speech. This is not the time to pretend surprise. OWN THE MOMENT.
Here’s my random list of things I loved in this year’s nominations, in no order whatsoever.
- Emma Stone’s audition scene (heard in the trailer above) in La La Land, the most divisive movie of all the nominees, despite all the trophies picked up so far. I’m with the love-it camp, but I concede it’s not perfect. Not like Manchester by the Sea (masterfully executed). Inconsistent in tone, and a few pages too long, La La Land wins points for sincerity. I didn’t care a hoot that Emma and Ryan are mediocre singers and actors-I believed in them. And that’s all I needed to be onside.
- The score in Jackie and hell, let’s go with it, the direction too. Director Pablo Larraín didn’t get nominated but his luminous star Natalie Portman did, as did the film’s costume designer and the composer Mica Levi, who wrote the score without seeing any of the visuals. The British musician is one of four women nominated ever in this category. Her harrowing score is very much a character in this excellent look at a moment in time. Here’s a peek at the opening. You have to love a film that gets you at go.
And while we’re at it, let’s pause to bitch slap the entire film community for woeful inattention to women behind the camera. When women direct, they hire more women as crew and that goes for writers too. Just watch Toni Erdmann for the best evidence of what we’re missing in a far too frequent male gaze.
- The naked party scene in Toni Erdmann, nominated in the foreign film category. This scene was my favourite comedic scene of 2016 and reason enough to watch this intelligent study of a corporate climber and her eccentric father. German director, screenwriter, and producer Maren Ade runs her own production company and has been hailed the saviour of German cinema.
- Kenneth Lonergan’s script for Manchester by the Sea is so so good that you don’t even notice the mastery behind it. A celebrated playwright who hates “warm fuzzy life lessons”, Lonergan has already received an Oscar nomination for his debut screenplay, You Can Count On Me (2001). This script—commissioned by his friend, actor Matt Damon— is a symphony of language. No other nomination in the Original Screenplay is as elegant.
- The cast of Hidden Figures. Here’s a movie to stand up and cheer at the conclusion, and not just because the narrative is stirring and abundantly empowering (let’s get the film seen in every school-come on, teachers!), but thanks to the buoyant trio of Octavia Spencer (nominated in best supporting category), Taraji P Henson, and Janelle Monáe. Others help out too ( Kirsten Dunst, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali etc), but it is these three women that carry the film throughout and lend it charm and intelligence.
- The stunning restraint of Loving and the chemistry between the stars, Ruth Negga (nominated for best actress) and Joel Edgerton. I loved this movie which is beautifully shot and directed, and suffers, only by a hair, in the editing. (How important is editing? Check out the most effective editing of all time for that answer). Nothing is more satisfying to watch then two actors who refuse to be showy. This is one of under the radar films that would benefit from an Oscar win for Negga. She’s fantastic here.
- Meryl Streep singing badly on purpose is the hardest trick to do on film. Guess what. She pulls it off in Florence Foster Jenkins. Here again is another gem of a film and Hugh Grant is no slouch as her husband either. Does she deserve her umpteenth Oscar nomination? ARE YOU NUTS? She’s a wizard and this is just another of her magic acts. Should she win over the others in her category? I only know this. She shouldn’t lose because of her wealth of wins.
- Viggo Mortensen. In anything, says fangirl here. But in Captain Fantastic, he makes you want to give it all up and head to the hills with him and that ragtag posse of kids.
- The little boy in Lion. If Sunny Pawar doesn’t make it to the Oscars, it will be a big miss for producers who should know better. His was the most charming face on film in 2016 and it’s a shame he didn’t score a nomination. Dev Patel’s beefed up bod was the next best thing about the film. Just kidding. The story, the story, the story-a killer for those who don’t want to cry at the movies. This one requires the whole Kleenex box.
- The aliens and their pods in Arrival. What they look and sound like is truly wondrous to behold. Kudos to the Canadians— director Denis Villeneuve, sound editor Sylvain Bellemare, sound mixers Gariepy Strobl and Claude La Haye, production designer Patrice Vermette, set decorator Paul Hotte, and producer Shawn Levy— eight nominations for Arrival-all of them worthy and then some. This is a movie that has it all-awesome direction, editing, cast-and the story? I loved the focus on language (no kidding) but it fell a little for me in the last chapter.
- The visual effects and sound editing of Deepwater Horizon, a film I didn’t run to see but glad I caught weeks after it was released. This is a tense and well-directed film about a massive oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico. Not once did that blazing rig look or sound false.
- The entire production design team of Nocturnal Animals. Oh wait-no nominations. The Academy is just jealous of you, Tom Ford. You don’t need Oscar. And I want to look like Amy Adams in this movie in my next life.
- Moonlight. The whole film. Just a tiny slip of a story that is as big as all of us. What makes a perfect film (see below)? It helps to have a scene that you can never forget.
More film nerd stuff:
One year ago: Oscar 2016
Two years ago: Oscar highs
Three years ago: What makes a perfect film?
Four years ago: Get over yourself pundits. Nobody got robbed.