Saturday, January 16, 2016


Well, at least they didn't nominate Meryl Streep for anything this year. Thank goodness for small favors.

I have to say, dear readers, that this year Oscar nominations have snuck up on me as I didn't realize that they were going to be announced this week until perhaps the day before. Now that the nominations have been revealed, I almost would have preferred that they had completely passed me by altogether.

The nominations for the 2016 Academy Awards were revealed this part Thursday morning and I have to express to you that I have not been this disappointed in the nominations in an extremely long time. I fairness, I did feel that 2015 was kind of a strange year for the movies. If you randomly scroll through my reviews, you will see that I awarded quite a number of films my highest rating. That being said, there were so many films that I either completely avoided throughout the year or there were some films that major critics completely fawned over that left me feeling less than celebratory. So, I figured that some of the nominees were more than predictable from "The Big Short," "The Martian" and "Spotlight." Yet, I was surprised that Steven Spielberg's Bridge Of Spies" received top honors by being nominated in the Best Picture category--something that felt to be more of a legacy nomination as for me, that film is good Spielberg, not GREAT Spielberg. Perhaps that is a reason for not including him in the eternally problematic Best Director category (more on that later...)

I was also very surprised to see Bryan Cranston nominated for "Trumbo," a film that was not showered with critical praise or box office but of course, Hollywood loved to celebrate itself and since this is a film about the famed blacklisted screenwriter, then why not, I suppose. But to insert Cranston over...well, I'm getting to that.

I think the thing that I found to be terribly upsetting this year were the omissions, and I mean some very obvious omissions. First, and for all of the extremely deserved nominations that George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road" received, I find it wholly inexcusable that Charlize Theron was not nominated for Best Actress for her thunderous performance, and honestly, the entire reason that film even exists as far as the film's storyline is concerned. Theron is the greatest engine driving that film and to leave her out is well...beyond stupid.

Additionally, where were both Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino in the Best Adapted and Original Screenplay categories as these two figures did indeed write two of the very best scripts of the year with both "Steve Jobs" and "The Hateful Eight," respectively??? And especially with Tarantino, who redefines "original" every time he releases a new film. In fact, as far as I'm concerned both "Steve Jobs" and "The Hateful Eight" more than deserve to be placed within the Best Picture category, as they were each so incredibly, bold, brazen works that demanded the fullest of attention...but hey, what do I know?

And again there is that terrible Best Director category which always has the knack of omitting Directors of films nominated within the Best Picture category. Since we have eight Best Picture nominees and five Best Director nominees, that means someone is bound to get left out, also inexcusable and beyond stupid. So, Ridley Scott, for his universally praised and box office smash "The Martian," you're out of luck. Spielberg, you as well. And for John Crowley who directed "Brooklyn," I guess your film directed itself.  Look Oscar, this is an easy fix. If you nominate 5 films or 8 or 10, just re-adjust the Best Director category accordingly. This isn't brain surgery.

It just broke my heart to see Director Bill Pohlad "Love And Mercy," his beautiful, stunning, impressionistic musical biopic of The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson completely ignored, as I felt that it could have been nominated in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original  Screenplay and even Best Sound Design. Most notably, where were both John Cusack, who delivered the performance of his career as 1980's Brian Wilson, as well as the completely transformative work of Paul Dano as 1960's Brian Wilson? The omission of this film is nothing less than a cinematic crime to me.

And now, for the elephant in the room...

Last year, Oscar received some vehement and rightful criticism of the fact that no actors of color were nominated in any of the acting categories. Now, last year, I felt that the criticism should not be laid at the feet of Oscar necessarily but moreso at the feet of the Hollywood studio system that does not have any studio heads of color in the position to greenlight projects made by and starring filmmakers and actors of color. I still think that the blame should be laid at Hollywood's feet but this year, I am piling it on at Oscar's feet as well. Talk about being inexcusable and beyond stupid.

2015 was the year of the universally praised "Beasts Of No Nation" starring Idris Elba. Where was he in the Best Actor category? Nowhere to be found. No Will Smith for "Concussion"? What of "Creed"? Yes, Sylvester Stallone was rightfully nominated for his wonderful performance but dear readers, he would not have had that performance to deliver without the film's Co-Writer/Director Ryan Coogler and leading actors Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson--all of whom are Black. Their omissions were insulting to say the least.

What of "Straight Outta Compton," also universally praised and incidentally the highest grossing musical biopic of all time plus being the highest grossing film made by a Black Director, was fully shut out save for one sole nod in the Best Original Screenplay category. There is just no conceivable way to justify how the film itself, plus Director F.  Gary Gray and actors Corey Hawkins (as Dr. Dre) and especially, the wonderful Jason Mitchell (as Eazy-E) were left out entirely. Hollywood essentially said "Bye, Felicia!" to the entire enterprise, which was indeed one of 2015's finest films by a mile.

What of the sharp, sly and hugely entertaining indie satire "Dope" from Writer/Director Rick Famuyiwa and starring Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons and Zoe Kravitz? Not even one mention.

And while Spike Lee's "Chi-Raq" would never have stood a chance in Oscar's eyes, that film did make it's arrival in 2015 and aside from being Lee's best film in 15 years, it was an audacious, pulverizing feature loaded end to end with Black talent in front of and behind the camera and again, to ignore absolutely ALL of that talent just makes me angry. Like the old joke about how films concerning the Holocaust will automatically receive nominations, I am wondering if films about Black people--but ones that are relegated to the past and involving our subjugation and enslavement rather than our present, which involves tales of empowerment--will be the only ones that Oscar will take notice of. People may complain about Hollywood's supposed liberalism. But trust me, they ain't that liberal.

This batch of nominations and omissions almost makes me not want to watch the show this year...almost....

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