7 huge talking points from the 2017 Oscar nominations

Today, early-rising Americans and Brits treating themselves to a late lunch were able to enjoy the announcement of the nominations for the Oscars 2017.

There were few surprises in this year’s crop, with a dominant performance from Damien Chazelle‘s nostalgic musical La La Land. The technicolor song and dance netted a record 14 nominations across the board, followed by coming of age drama Moonlight and thoughtful sci-fi Arrival, with eight nods each. The list of major contenders was rounded off by grief drama Manchester by the Sea, gruelling war movie Hacksaw Ridge and adoption weepie Lion, all of whom scored six nominations.

In amongst the noise and flashbulbs, though, there were a few interesting things worth discussing ahead of the Oscars 2017 ceremony at the end of February.

 

La La Land tap dances into the record books

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling show off their moves in La La Land
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling show off their moves in La La Land

It was inevitable that La La Land was going to be today’s big winner. However, what wasn’t quite so predictable was the scale of La La Land‘s triumph. The film secured 14 Oscar nominations in total, equalling the all-time record jointly set by Titanic and All About Eve. It was an enormous haul for the film, which is currently the clear frontrunner to take home the Best Picture prize when the gongs are handed out.

The film will face stiff competition from the likes of Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea but, with all of the buzz currently in its favour, there seems to be nothing that can stop the musical nostalgia of La La Land helping it to glory. If there’s one thing we know about the Academy, it’s that they love being able to reward a film about themselves. If there’s another thing we know about them, it’s that they will nominate Meryl Streep at all costs. But more on that later…

 

#OscarsALittleLessWhite

Mahershala Ali is receiving awards buzz for his work in Moonlight
Mahershala Ali is receiving awards buzz for his work in Moonlight

Over the last few years, Oscar season has been dominated by the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, decrying the lack of room for people of colour, particularly on the acting shortlists. This year did plenty to suggest that times are changing, though, with at least one person of colour nominated in each of the four acting categories. There’s also a strong chance that we will have black winners at Oscars 2017, with Viola Davis the clear favourite in Best Supporting Actress for her work in Fences and Mahershala Ali a frontrunner to scoop the Best Supporting Actor gong.

It is unclear whether the deliberate move to expand the diversity of the Academy last year had an impact on the presence of so many diverse names in the Oscars 2017 shortlist. This is certainly a step forward and it’s impressive to see films such as Hidden Figures and Fences also making their presence felt in the Best Picture race alongside Moonlight, which is one of only a few films that stands a chance against the behemoth of La La Land. It remains to be seen whether this change will continue in future years but, for now at least, the Oscars are a little less white.

 

Chasing for Amy

Amy Adams plays the linguist protagonist of sci-fi drama Arrival
Amy Adams plays the linguist protagonist of sci-fi drama Arrival

One day, Amy Adams is definitely going to win an Oscar. However, that will not be in 2017 as she was shut out of the Best Actress race. Neither Nocturnal Animals or Arrival yielded nominations for Adams, who was completely ignored in favour of a record 20th nomination for Meryl Streep. Florence Foster Jenkins is a film that is well loved, but it didn’t immediately scream awards favourite. Arrival, meanwhile, managed to achieve eight nominations whilst its lead performer was snubbed.

A huge narrative was made out of Leonardo DiCaprio‘s quest to win an Oscar prior to The Revenant, but it’s far more infuriating that Adams has not been rewarded for her remarkable portfolio of work. She has been nominated five times, but never won. The fact that she was pushed aside for Streep is unforgivable, if only because it proves that, even if only in this case, Donald Trump was right – she is a little overrated.

 

Shannon beats Aaron in Academy swerve

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the loathsome central villain in Nocturnal Animals
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the loathsome central villain in Nocturnal Animals

One of the surprises of awards season until today had been the momentum of Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the Best Supporting Actor race. Many assumed that it would be Michael Shannon who nabbed the plaudits for supporting work in Nocturnal Animals, but Taylor-Johnson managed to actually win the category at the Golden Globes, beating runaway favourite Mahershala Ali. Today’s Oscar nominations, however, flipped the script back around and gave Shannon the nod.

It’s still rather unlikely that Shannon will beat Ali, who remains favourite to win the category. What is interesting, though, is that there will be a battle of the gruff southern sheriffs between Shannon and Jeff Bridges, who portrayed a similar role in Hell or High Water.

 

Pixar loses Dory on animated shortlist

Ellen DeGeneres returns in Pixar sequel Finding Dory
Ellen DeGeneres returns in Pixar sequel Finding Dory

One of the most intriguing categories at the Oscars 2017 is Best Animated Feature. It’s as strong as it has ever been this year, headlined by a heavyweight Disney clash between Zootropolis and Moana. There were also the usual slightly offbeat choices and the potential giant killer represented by Laika’s excellent Kubo and the Two Strings. Striking by its absence, however, was Pixar.

The godfather of the animation world, Pixar has won more than half of the awards in the history of the prize. However, they were missed off the list this year for Finding Dory, which was unmemorable despite being solid fun in the moment. It’s intriguing to see the undisputed champions step aside to give someone else a try. I’d have liked a nod for Your Name though.

 

The Lobster nabs weirdo screenplay slot

Colin Farrell in bizarre comedy The Lobster
Colin Farrell in bizarre comedy The Lobster

Every year, it seems that there’s a bit of a wildcard choice thrown into the Best Original Screenplay category. Many of the Academy’s favourite dramas are adapted from books or plays, leaving this category free for odder fare like Spike Jonze‘s Her, which won in 2013. This year, the weirdo slot in the screenplay category goes to The Lobster. It’s an odd movie that came out in the UK way back in 2015, but is eligible for the Oscars 2017 by virtue of its stateside release date.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ film faces very stiff competition in the category, so seems unlikely to repeat Jonze’s feat, but it’s great to see such a strange film getting awards attention. My pick, incidentally, for the category would be Taylor Sheridan’s excellent script for Hell or High Water, which is the perfect follow-up to Sheridan’s previous masterpiece – Sicario.

 

Passengers is nominated… for some reason

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star in sci-fi romance Passengers
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star in sci-fi romance Passengers

Passengers was my least favourite film of 2016. Despite being utterly hateful and poor by just about every filmmaking criterion, Passengers has found itself nominated for Best Original Score and Best Production Design. Many have complained about the fact Suicide Squad is now an Oscar-nominated movie, but the appearance of Passengers is far more depressing for me.

The only consolation is that it’s a near certainty that the film won’t win in either of its categories. It faces the beauty of both La La Land and Hail, Caesar! in Production Design and battles La La Land once again in the fight for Best Original Score. In that category, it also faces stiff competition from Mica Levi’s bizarre, brilliant work in historical biopic Jackie. Frankly, as long as Passengers doesn’t win, I’d be happy with anyone else holding the statuette.

 

What did you think of the Oscar nominations? Who do you think will pick up the awards at Oscars 2017? Let me know in the comment section.

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