Monday, January 13, 2020

Oscars nominations and Critics Choice reaction

My first reaction is that I don't really have a strong one. There aren't really any huge surprises with this morning's Oscar nominations, given how the awards cycle has gone so far.

In general this seems like a pretty solid list, a good representation of the best in 2019 cinema but perhaps lacking in any notable bold choices.

Coupled with the Critics Choice awards last night given out by the broadcast critics association, of which I'm a voting number, we've gone from an Academy Awards outlook that seemed very hazy to one that has quickly come into focus with some clear frontrunners.

Renee Zellweger and Joaquin Phoenix are now strong favorites for Best Actress and Actor, respectively, after securing wins at both the Golden Globes and Critics Choice. Ditto for Laura Dern and Brad Pitt in the supporting categories.

If these four also sweep the Screen Actors Guild Awards this Sunday, I think we can go ahead and pencil them in as locks for the Oscars.

Cynthia Erivo getting a Best Actress nod for "Harriet" puts me over the moon. I still can't understand why others haven't embraced that film, which I put number two on my Top 10 list. Hopefully this will be a big boost to her career.

Antonio Banderas snuck into Best Actor for "Pain and Glory," which also pleases. A very layered, sensitive performance for an actor known for broadcasting maximum machismo.

I guess the big "snub" everyone will be talking about is Greta Gerwig not getting a director nod, mostly in the context of once again having an all-male lineup. My thoughts on the good-not-great "Little Women" are well known, so I'll not belabor them.

I find it interesting that Jordan Peele also did not receive a directing nod, after both he and Gerwig did for their debut films in 2017, and no one seems to be complaining about that. Personally I thought Peele made a better and bolder film the second time around with "Us," while Gerwig fell back on a very safe and conventional choice to make the 8th film iteration of a 150-year-old novel.

Interesting to see the tie for director at the Critics Choice Award. So it appears to be a two-way race for the Oscar, with Bong Joon Ho having a slight edge over Sam Mendes. (The CCs did nominate Gerwig in this category, since we don't stick to a hard cap of five nominees.)

The Academy stuck with nine nominees for Best Picture, with "Uncut Gems" being the likely shut-out. Adam Sandler was shut out, as was the entire film with zero nods. I'm fine with that, as I found the movie interminable.

Both Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins made the cut for Best Actor and supporting, respectively, which likely startled a lot of people. Both wonderful performances in the sort of movie about religious faith that Hollywood usually eschews. Also got a surprise screenwriting nod in the Adapted category.

So Tom Hanks is officially a supporting actor for "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." I believe it's the first time he's been nominated for a non-lead role. It's the right call, of course, especially given all the rampant category-hopping in recent years.

But I'm still gobsmacked by the idea that someone would make a Fred Rogers movie in which he's a supporting character. I think others felt this way too, reflected in the lack of any other nominations and the film's relatively lackluster box office.

A very good year for Netflix, though it doesn't appear either "Marriage Story" or "The Irishman" will be serious contenders to rack up a lot of wins. It'll be another year for Adam Driver. Would've liked to see "Dolemite Is My Name" get some love, if not for Eddie Murphy then at least in costumes or other "tech" categories.

"Parasite" appears to have the International Feature Film category, as it's now called, all wrapped up. Doesn't seem to have a shot at being the first foreign language film to win Best Picture, as many people were hyping just a couple of weeks ago. Though I'd say Ho has a very good shot to win.

As I've previously noted, nine out of the last 10 Oscar winners for director have either been women, POC or non-American. Despite not racking up as many nominations as they're due, this has been a great category for diversity with the Academy Awards.

My favorite foreign film, "Portrait of a Lady on Fire," was shut out due to arcane Academy rules about each country only having one "official" submission. Silly.

Another weak year for animated feature, with the virtually unseen "Klaus" being this year's sneak-in. Given the weakness of the Disney/Pixar lineup for 2019, it might be time for the "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise to finally notch an Oscar.

After trading Best Picture wins at the Globes and Critics Choice, "1917" and "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" appear to be in a two-way contest for the Oscars. In addition to the SAG awards, the Producers Guild of America awards next weekend, and the Director's Guild of America the following weekend, things should solidify very soon.

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