The 2017 Academy Award nominations take place two weeks from now, and here are my reactions to a few of the nominees.
While it’s good to let these nominations marinate on the brain for a month as it wages war with the cinematic heart over what is good or bad, there’s always a good quick reactionary dose to provide. A few thoughts on the picks, via the bullet point.
- Ruth Negga for Best Actress in Loving is great. Here is a performance that decided to wait a little while before he knocked you over the head. Negga is a slow building hurricane in this film, playing a woman who simply wanted to raise a family with a man in a state where interracial marriage was outlawed. Her scenes with Joel Edgerton are fantastic.
- Lucas Hedges for Manchester by the Sea is a pleasant surprise, and well deserved. The movie hinged on the scenes between Casey Affleck and Hedges, and the young thespian didn’t overdo the troubled teen role. Restraint is a tough tool to teach young actors, but Hedges showed a good portion of it in this film.
- Casey Affleck should win for Manchester by the Sea. If not him, then Viggo Mortenson for Captain Fantastic. Both actors delivered performances that didn’t require a ton of dialogue or overpowering monologues. You felt every bit of pain in Affleck’s Lee Chandler. He could have hammed it up, and instead he went with the less is more approach. I love a loud Denzel Washington, but Affleck was superb in a role that didn’t have the aplomb of his peers.
- Mel Gibson getting a Best Director nod is proof that the man is a genuine talent, and should be allowed to make more big budget mainstream features in Hollywood. He said terrible things a while back, and apologized until the cows came home. What is so wrong about giving a guy a second chance? So he doesn’t believe what others believe and he’s somewhat vile and blunt about his beliefs. We don’t award these actors for being great people. We award them for being great at their job, and at their craft. Creating fine films. Hacksaw Ridge wasn’t just a loud war flick. Gibson gave it a heart. Let him back into the party.
- Unpopular opinion: La La Land doesn’t deserve 14 nods. It wasn’t that great of a film. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone could charm the pants off a cynic, but I didn’t leave the film thinking it was top 10 worthy. I felt that I went to a “make it in Hollywood commercial” with good looking people. Well done, but not so Oscar worthy. The film was a promo for Hollywood. Seriously.
- Jeff Bridges for Best Supporting Actor is well deserved. The aging talent gave something extra to a lawman chasing down his last case across Texas. Bridges installed the man with humor, and you were so interested in what he did that a prequel about his character would be desirable.
- Hell or High Water is a solid Best Picture candidate. It was powerful without being showy. A moralistic tale about bank robbers doing something incredibly wrong to make something right came out of nowhere.
- Taylor Sheridan’s script for Hell or High Water could really contend with Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester script.
- While Viola Davis was overwhelmingly good in Fences, Octavia Spencer was just lovely in Hidden Figures. She carried parts of the underrated Fruitvale Station and dominated The Help, but Spencer could find some heat with the box office darling true story.
- Arrival is my best picture pick. It told a blockbuster type tale with more heart than required, and redefined what an alien story has to contain in order to be entertaining and thought provoking. It’s not a single performance. It’s the entire flick.
- Gleason deserved a documentary nod, because Steve Gleason’s battle with ALS touched on the non-flashier moments of a terrible disease.
- It landed on my list for Top Films of the year, but Deepwater Horizon should take home the visual effects and sound editing awards. That film stepped out of the screen and sat next to you for the final hour. Breathtaking.
- Go ahead and hand all the musically related awards to La La Land. There’s no sense in making folks dress up for the other contenders.
- Watch out for Natalie Portman in the Best Actress race. Her take on Jackie Kennedy is gathering steam.
- Moonlight is a quiet upset candidate for Best Picture. Timely tale.
I’ll have more reaction as the show gets closer. Please don’t brush these awards off as publicity stunts. The Oscars are the World Series for performers. They are it.
The 2017 Academy Awards take place on February 26th.