Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Let the full coronation of "La La Land" begin.

Just as I predicted within my review of the film, "La La Land" completely swept the Oscar nominations, which were announced on the morning of Tuesday, January 24th, with a record tying amount of 14 nods, the equal of only two other films,  Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "All About Eve" (1950) and James Cameron's "Titanic" (1997).

With that in mind, regardless of whether you or I feel those nominations were deserved or not for Writer/Director Damien Chazelle's lavish throwback yet modern movie musical (I'm certain that you do--for me, not quite so much), what this signified to me about the full list of nominations overall was that a certain and unfortunate predictability was in place...all the way to having Meryl Streep nominated once again and apparently just for arriving upon the film set.

Dear readers, the movie year of 2016 in its entirety was not a particularly good one and I will delve into my opinions about this subject once I get my annual Savage Scorecard series underway. But, in short, it was a year that displayed an enormous lack of originality, surprise and the types of personal visions that make going to the movies such a treasured and even transcendent experience for me. To that end, even the big budget crowd pleasers were mostly underwhelming with too many sequels, prequels, reboots, re-imaginings and so forth running the day and truth be told, even the ones that I did like are even beginning to find neutral safe-grounds that do not do anything to advance what has been started, potentially stagnating films that initially showed such promise.

Furthermore, there were too many films that I either did not see or even chose not to see this year, either out of complete disinterest or more often than not, I inadvertently did not see certain films because the window to screen typically smaller, independent films theatrically has grown that much tighter, making it impossible for me to see all that I would normally wish.

With regards to this year's Oscar nominations, the films chosen for the top nine Best Picture contestants were (mostly) unsurprising to me even though I have only seen four of the films. Yes, I was surprised to see Theodore Melfi's unexpected hit "Hidden Figures" (which I have not yet seen) relegated to the top tier of the year's films, mostly because it was just released widely this month. But aside from that, as well as Garth Davis' "Lion" and for goodness sakes, Mel  Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge" (more on that later) it would not have been hard pressed for anyone to predict that films such as Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight," Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival," Denzel Washington's "Fences," Kenneth Lonergan's "Manchester By The Sea" and David Mackenzie's "Hell Or High Water" would have been part of the pack to sit alongside "La La Land" as they were all some of the best reviewed films of the year.

Regardless of any sense of predictability, I am always thrilled to see great work find deserving recognition and for my money, all of the nominations bestowed upon the extraordinary "Moonlight" (Writer/Director Barry Jenkins, actors Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali, Composer Nicholas Breitell and Cinematographer James Laxton) made me the happiest by far. Additionally, to see Denzel Washington and Viola Davis' work in "Fences," Natalie Portman's stellar performance plus Composer Mica Levi's innovative, disturbing score in "Jackie," and Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges' respectively heartbreakingly honest work in "Manchester By The Sea" all represented with nominations made me smile. Perhaps the nod that gave my my highest shout of joy was within the Best Original Screenplay category which found Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou nominated for writing "The Lobster," easily the most ORIGINAL screenplay of the year without question.

But then, of course there were the inevitable head scratchers including Meryl Streep's 20th nomination for "Florence Foster Jenkins," a film that was not widely seen by audiences and not nearly that well embraced by critics, giving further proof of the Academy's insistence on continuing to keeping her status as Hollywood royalty alive and vibrantly kicking at the expense of other actresses who really did deliver award worthy work. Most notably, I am thinking of Amy Adams, who was shockingly not nominated for her starring work in "Arrival" (yet, another film that I have not yet seen). Also, with the love shown to "Hidden Figures," why was that film's star Taraji P. Henson not nominated either?

And then, there was Mel Gibson.

Everyone knows that Hollywood loves a comeback story, a tale of redemption and after landing himself in Hollywood jail and exile ever since he made a barrage of  drunken anti-Semitic and sexist remarks not even ten years ago, Gibson returned with "Hacksaw Ridge," his first directorial feature in 10 years (which I have not and do not plan on seeing--I don't forgive as easily as Hollywood regarding these matters). With the nominations for his film, including one specifically for him in the Best Director category, shutting out the likes of Denzel Washington and even Martin Scorsese, whose "Silence" was completely snubbed save for cinematography, it appears that all has been inexplicably forgiven.

And yet, with Gibson's nomination, there appears to be a certain double standard at work, especially considering this Casey Affleck's Best Actor nomination despite his alleged sexual harassment charges and the complete box office failure and Academy snub of Writer/Director/Producer/Actor Nate Parker's Nat Turner slave rebellion passion project "The Birth Of A Nation," most likely due to the alleged rape charges made against him years ago. I'll let you ruminate ver that one for a spell...

Regarding the #OscarSoWhite controversy of the past couple of years, at first look at the new nominations for this year, I guess we can say...#OscarsLessWhite. Look, I am more than happy that several actors, writers and directors of color were nominated this year but to really see if the Academy is truly going to cast its nomination net more truthfully, we need to keep focused upon the nominations over the next few years to see if this year was a one time occurrence as eyes are fixated upon them or not. We shall see but this is indeed a start.

And with that, I am feeling that it will ultimately be an evening devoted to "La La Land," which unfortunately doesn't make for that exciting of a broadcast, especially if you happened to be as soft upon the film as I was. But, who knows, maybe there will be some sense of surprise and besides, I wouldn't miss the show for the world.

I'll see you to the 89th annual Academy Awards telecast on Sunday February 26th!!!!! 

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