Mon. Sep 16th, 2019

2016 Oscar Nominations: Who Soared, Who Sunk; Why Are Race, Sexuality and Gender Still An Issue?

The Revenant hit big but race, sexuality and gender issues still prevail
The Revenant hits big but race, sexuality and gender issues still intact as Straight Outta Compton and Carol falter

 

The nominations are in and The Revenant mauled the competition with an astonishing 12 nominations today. The survival epic dominated, earning nominations in Best Picture, Best Director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu), Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Best Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy). It’s only major miss was in Adapted Screenplay (more on that later) and it was ineligible for Original Score (because the music branch of the Academy are idiots). Coming off its surprise wins at The Golden Globes and it’s enormous first week of wide release at the box office, the film is prepared to stomp out the expected frontrunners Spotlight and The Big Short. Both of those films earned multiple nominations in top categories as well. Spotlight grabbed six, The Big Short came in with five.

After much worry, Mad Max: Fury Road laid quite a bit of waste to the nominations as well, racking up 10, the second highest total of the day. It hit in Best Picture and Best Director after being snubbed in both categories at BAFTA. It’s been a long journey to today for the film as it shocked everyone this fall and winter by dominating critics awards (George Miller has won more than any other director) and setting itself up for either great success or great failure as a film too ‘genre’ for the Oscars. It competes directly against The Revenant category to category across the board, save the two acting nominations received by The Revenant. This will be a particularly epic battle. If The Revenant is the new Best Picture frontrunner it would make sense that it shores up a healthy amount of those technical wins. If it’s not and Spotlight or The Big Short are still ahead of it then Mad Max: Fury Road becomes a force to be reckoned with there.

This year saw The Screen Actors Guild nominations in Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture only go 2/5 in Oscar’s Best Picture, its worst crossover ever. Two of the three that missed out, Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton, highlighted yet another year of a shocking lack of diversity in the Oscar race. There are zero people of color or ethnicity other than white and Caucasian in the acting categories when there were lauded and awarded performances by Idris Elba and Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation), Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Mya Taylor (Tangerine) and Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina). Elba actually becomes this year’s ‘Who earned all major precursors (SAG+GG+BAFTA) and got snubbed by Oscar?’ award. The only nominations Creed and Straight Outta Compton received were for white actors and writers. It’s actually a worse year than last year for diversity in Best Picture where Selma was nominated; there are no stories of non-white people nominated for Best Picture this year. This has to stop. This isn’t a call for affirmative action or racial quotas. It’s about not even being given the opportunity to play. Creed made over $100M at the box office, Straight Outta Compton over $160M. On top of that, Compton came in with SAG, WGA and PGA. It doesn’t get much more locked than that. They’re both also critical hits yet The Academy is only letting them in through the servant’s entrance. What is it going to take to break that wall because giving 12 Years a Slave or Crash Best Picture doesn’t cut it.

This extends to gay films and films about women. This year did see three female-led films in the Best Picture Oscar race: Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road and Room. Room was given an extra boost by also snagging a surprise Best Director nomination for Lenny Abrahamson. But what happened to Carol? The film earned six nominations, including two for acting and for adapted screenplay yet its gay director Todd Haynes was snubbed and the film was shut of Best Picture. It’s an ugly, horrific snub to the highest rated film of 2015. The top 3 rated films on Metacritic are all female-led films: Carol (96), 45 Years (94) and Inside Out (94). The latter two films were given one and two measly nominations apiece (one of the worst showings for such a hugely successful Pixar film) and relegated to their single categories. Granted, the nomination for Charlotte Rampling (45 Years) in Best Actress after zero precursor support is a truly wondrous thing. But when male-led Pixar films like WALL-E, Up and Ratatouille find more success here, it forces one to focus on why. We know the Academy’s breakdown is largely old, straight, white men. It’s been that way since the beginning of time but we’re 88 years into the Oscars and we’re still seeing artificial walls put up keeping anyone outside of the demographic out. We haven’t had a female-led film win Best Picture since 2005’s Million Dollar Baby but one can even argue that 2002’s Chicago is actually a more of a female-led film than that one.  Last year, Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) used her speech to champion pay equality for women, much to the agreement and support of nearly everyone watching. This year, Jennifer Lawrence penned a superb essay about the same issue. Now I’m not saying that pay equality in the movie industry is the same as the glass ceiling of nominations and wins at the Oscars but, I kind of am. The two are not mutually exclusive because it’s a cycle of behavior of nearly a century and 2nd class citizening anyone that isn’t an old, white male. It may seem silly to argue or be made about rich people not getting Oscar nominations but that’s not really what the issue is. It’s merely and example (one of many) that is the same as society at large.  employment, schooling and opportunity in this country has a faction of people in control that can and do keep women, gays and people of color down. It’s going to take some drastic measure by the Board of Governors of The Academy to make the membership more reflective of the work and society it claims to represent. You can start with removing the lifetime membership element. As new blood enters the group of nearly 7,000 there should be some that are dropped. Why should an actor in his 80s who hasn’t worked in 30 years have security to vote for his cronies and snub stories that he doesn’t get or understand or care about?

But, for a moment, let’s look at some good things like three women nominated for Film Editing. Like Emma Donoghue (Room) becoming the first woman to earn a screenplay Oscar nomination for adapted her own work. Firsts are always great even if they come across as shocking that they haven’t happened yet. In a year of little diversity it can be hard to celebrate the things like this that deserve attention but it doesn’t make them any less worthy of an accomplishment.

After all the hemming and hawing over category fraud this season the Academy did absolutely nothing and nominated Rooney Mara (Carol) and Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) in supporting. Golden Globe winner Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) as well as her fellow SAG nominee Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) made the cut and Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) finally earned her first Oscar nomination is a career of lauded performances that’s lasted over 30 years.

By far the most contentious race of the season, Best Supporting Actor, came with shocks and surprises. Tom Hardy (The Revenant), coming in with zero precursors, showed up. He follows Jonah Hill as the second supporting actor to Leonardo DiCaprio to make the cut right at the finish line. As mentioned above, SAG/GG/BAFTA nominee Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) was snubbed while two-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right, Foxcatcher) was nominated with just a BAFTA mention. Someone who did come in will all precursors was Mark Rylance from Bridge of Spies. Despite the success of Room, SAG nominee Jacob Tremblay was left off the list. He could have suffered from his votes being split between lead and supporting but it’s hard to call. Golden Globe winner Sylvester Stallone (Creed) crossed that obstacle of the nomination and is now the far out in front leader of this category. I’m predicting him to win, as I have for some time.

Directing saw a huge snub in the form of The Martian‘s Ridley Scott today. The film also underperformed in other categories, missing out on Film Editing and Cinematography. The Oscar went 4/5 with the DGA this year, with Room’s Lenny Abrahamson replacing Scott in a very Benh Zeitlin kind of way. Those snubs eliminate any chance The Martian had of being a contender this year.

Best Picture went with 8 nominees again this year, despite some pundits saying it would end up being 5-7. I don’t believe we will ever see 5, 6, 7 or 10 nominees under the current system. Along with The Revenant, Spotlight, The Big Short and Mad Max: Fury Road we have Room, Brooklyn, The Martian and Bridge of Spies. For Spies director Spielberg, this marks the 128th nomination for his canon of films, breaking the record held by William Wyler, a stat that’s held for 50 years. For more fun facts and stats check out the Trivia and Stats and Fun Facts page for the 2016 Oscars.

So, how did The Gold Rush Gang do with their predictions? Not bad, overall.  No one called the Ridley Scott snub or the Lenny Abrahamson nomination and everyone had Carol in their top 8. In Supporting Actor Tom Hardy was predicted by Nicole, Chris, Long, Kenneth, Jacqui and myself and James, Adam and Long correctly got Mark Ruffalo. Long is the only person to correctly predict this category, bravo to that! Interestingly though, every Gold Rush Gang member except Long predicted the final Best Actress five. In Supporting Actress, Nicole, Kenneth and myself went 5/5. In Original Screenplay only James predicted the snub for The Hateful Eight but not the correct replacement. In Adapted Screenplay, four people choice the final 5: Evan, Nicole, Jason and Chris. Take a peak at the rest of the predictions posted this week and see.

Now it’s time to hunker down for winner predictions and as we all know, it’s the guilds that will guide us there. Will October continue to be the favorite month for a Best Picture winner (Spotlight) or will the December curse finally be broken by The Revenant?

Stay tuned.

 

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