Saturday, February 17, 2018

Delayed Reaction: Gentleman's Agreement

The Pitch: Jew like me.

This film seems pretty quaint these days. It's a cleaned-up, Hays Code-friendly portrayal of discrimination. I can see how it would be important back in 1947. I've listened to a couple You Must Remember This episodes that give this a little more context which helped. Antisemitism was much more rampant back then. It certainly still exists today, but it ranks a lot lower on the current American discrimination chart, so to speak. I supposed the film today would be about a trans-person maybe. That seems like the next barrier. Simply put, the specifics of the film don't hold up because it was never meant to. It was a reaction to the day's circumstances. The broader points it makes hold up, but are pretty obvious.

That's what I'm really curious about. How was this seen back in 1947? My first instinct was to talk about how discrimination is much more nuanced these days and a film as thematically blunt as Gentleman's Agreement wouldn't work because those who are still openly antisemitic have already learned how to tune something like this out and those who are more subtlety antisemitic will agree with the film without confronting their own prejudice. I'm starting to wonder though, in 1947, did Gentleman's Agreement run into the same problem? Were the "gold star" anti semites just immediately dismissive and did everyone else already get the point? Was this movie really controversial or was the controversy hyped up?

Regardless, Gregory Peck is good in it, and that's enough to make it watchable.

Verdict (?): Weakly Don't Recommend

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Top 10 Movies with One Oscar Nomination


I've spent several days talking about Single Nominee Oscar movies. I've made my opinion plenty known for what I think was and wasn't under or mis-nominated. Now it's time for my overall thoughts on the movies.

Out of the 2012 single Oscar Nominees, I've seen 323 or about 1/6 of the movies. That's more than I expected and makes for the largest top 10 list I've done yet. There are a lot of great movies to choose from.

This whole time, I've been looking for some overarching principle for single nominee movies. The short answer is that with a sample size this large there isn't one rule. Movies get a single nomination for a lot of reasons. Their genre may be ghettoized. The category may have been thin that year. A bunch of the movies expected they'd get more nominations and fell from favor at the wrong time in the voting process. The closest overall theme I found is that these are almost all movies with one thing that was too great to ignore. They are films that are either too populist, too experimental, or too small to be on the Oscar radar but put together a targeted campaign good enough to make sure this one thing couldn't be ignored. That means this list has a great deal more variety than the multiple Oscar nominee list. All types of movies are represented: silly comedies, big action movies, intimate character studies, micro-budget productions. I'm pretty sure all the movies in my top 10 will make it into my Top 100 of All Time list, whenever I get around to updating it. That's the first top 10 I can say that about.

1st Cut- The Easy One
Just because a movie got an Oscar nomination, doesn't mean it's good. This first set of 57 movies are from bad movies or at least ones that I emphatically didn't not consider for the top 10.

Captain Fantastic (Lead Actor - 2016)
Nocturnal Animals (Supporting Actor - 2016)
Roman J. Israel Esq. (Lead Actor - 2017)
The Bridges of Madison County (Lead Actress - 1995)
Something's Gotta Give (Lead Actress - 2003)
Married to the Mob (Supporting Actor - 1988)
The Judge (Supporting Actor - 2014)
Blue Velvet (Director - 1986)
Nell (Lead Actress - 1994)
A Man Called Peter (Cinematography - Color - 1955)
Excalibur (Cinematography - 1981)
Tequila Sunrise (Cinematography - 1988)
The New World (Cinematography - 2005)
102 Dalmatians (Costume Design - 2000)
Across the Universe (Costume Design - 2007)
Mask (Makeup - 1985)
Dad (Makeup - 1989)
The Nutty Professor (Makeup - 1996)
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Makeup - 1999)
The Cell (Makeup - 2000)
The Time Machine (Makeup - 2002)
Click (Makeup - 2006)
Norbit (Makeup - 2007)
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Makeup - 2013)
Innerspace (Visual Effects - 1987)
The Mask (Visual Effects - 1994)
Starship Troopers (Visual Effects - 1997)
Hollow Man (Visual Effects - 2000)
Crocodile Dundee (Original Screenplay - 1986)
Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Original Screenplay - 1989)
Grand Canyon (Original Screenplay - 1991)
Bulworth (Original Screenplay - 1998)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Original Screenplay - 2001)
The Squid and the Whale (Original Screenplay - 2005)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Adapted Screenplay - 2006)
The Lobster (Original Screenplay - 2016)
Rocky III (Song - 1982)
The Karate Kid Part II (Song - 1986)
Junior (Song - 1994)
Up Close & Personal (Song - 1996)
Babe: Pig in the City (Song - 1998)
Fifty Shades of Grey (Song - 2015)
Trolls (Song - 2016)
The Ghost and the Darkness (Sound Editing - 1996)
Face/Off (Sound Editing - 1997)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Sound Mixing - 2009)
Patch Adams (Score - Comedy - 1998)
Dogtooth (Foreign Film - 2010)
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (Animated Feature - 2001)
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (Animated Feature - 2002)
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Animated Feature - 2005)
Shark Tale (Animated Feature - 2004)
Happy Feet (Animated Feature - 2006)
Surf's Up (Animated Feature - 2007)
Coraline (Animated Feature - 2009)
Rango (Animated Feature - 2011)
The Croods (Animated Feature - 2013)

2nd Cut - Obviously No in Consideration
That got me down to 266 movies. That's still a lot of movies with no hope of getting to the top 10. Most of this movies I kind of like. I'm sure a few of them I haven't seen in so long that I'm not fairly considering them. Regardless, I didn't have much trouble wiping out these 166 movies to get me down to an even 100.

The Last Temptation of Christ (Director - 1988)
Mulholland Dr. (Director - 2001)
Wall Street (Lead Actor - 1987)
The Accused (Lead Actress - 1988)
The Client (Lead Actress - 1994)
Mr. Holland's Opus (Lead Actor - 1995)
Casino (Lead Actress - 1995)
The Hurricane (Lead Actor - 1999)
Unfaithful (Lead Actress - 2002)
Monster (Lead Actress - 2003)
Julie & Julia (Lead Actress - 2009)
Still Alice (Lead Actress - 2014)
Joy (Lead Actress - 2015)
Throw Momma from the Train (Supporting Actress - 1987)
Steel Magnolias (Supporting Actress - 1989)
City Slickers (Supporting Actor - 1991)
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (Supporting Actor - 1993)
Primal Fear (Supporting Actor - 1996)
Thirteen (Supporting Actress - 2003)
Charlie Wilson's War (Supporting Actor - 2007)
Gone Baby Gone (Supporting Actress - 2007)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Supporting Actress - 2008)
The Lovely Bones (Supporting Actor - 2009)
The Town (Supporting Actor - 2010)
Beginners (Supporting Actor - 2011)
All the Money in the World (Supporting Actor - 2017)
Beaches (Art Direction - 1988)
William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (Art Direction - 1996)
The Good Shepherd (Art Direction - 2006)
Fly Away Home (Cinematography - 1996)
The Black Dahlia (Cinematography - 2006)
Silence (Cinematography - 2016)
Harlem Nights (Costume Design - 1989)
The Addams Family (Costume Design - 1991)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Costume Design - 2005)
Mirror Mirror (Costume Design - 2012)
Maleficent (Costume Design - 2014)
Allied (Costume Design - 2016)
An American Werewolf in London (Makeup - 1981)
Harry and the Hendersons (Makeup - 1987)
Beetlejuice (Makeup - 1988)
Edward Scissorhands (Makeup - 1990)
Bicentennial Man (Makeup - 1999)
Life (Makeup - 1999)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Makeup - 2008)
Suicide Squad (Makeup - 2016)
Star Trek Beyond (Makeup - 2016)
Predator (Visual Effects - 1987)
Alien³ (Visual Effects - 1992)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Visual Effects - 1997)
Mighty Joe Young (Visual Effects - 1998)
Stuart Little (Visual Effects - 1999)
Poseidon (Visual Effects - 2006)
Superman Returns (Visual Effects - 2006)
Iron Man 2 (Visual Effects - 2010)
Real Steel (Visual Effects - 2011)
Prometheus (Visual Effects - 2012)
Iron Man 3 (Visual Effects - 2013)
Star Trek Into Darkness (Visual Effects - 2013)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (Visual Effects - 2014)
Doctor Strange (Visual Effects - 2016)
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (Visual Effects - 2017)
Kong: Skill Island (Visual Effects - 2017)
The Public Enemy (Original Story - 1930/31)
The Red Balloon (Original Screenplay - 1956)
The 400 Blows (Original Screenplay - 1959)
Full Metal Jacket (Adapted Screenplay - 1987)
Bull Durham (Original Screenplay - 1988)
Green Card (Original Screenplay - 1990)
Dave (Original Screenplay - 1993)
Heavenly Creatures (Original Screenplay - 1994)
Trainspotting (Adapted Screenplay - 1996)
Ghost World (Adapted Screenplay - 2001)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Original Screenplay - 2002)
American Splendor (Adapted Screenplay - 2003)
In the Loop (Adapted Screenplay - 2009)
The Ides of March (Adapted Screenplay - 2011)
Moonrise Kingdom (Original Screenplay - 2012)
Straight Outta Compton (Original Screenplay - 2015)
20th Century Women (Original Screenplay - 2016)
Molly's Game (Adapted Picture - 2017)
The Jungle Book (Original Song - 1967)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Original Song - 1968)
The Rescuers (Song - 1977)
Grease (Song - 1978)
An American Tail (Song - 1986)
Dirty Dancing (Song - 1987)
Mannequin (Song - 1987)
Beverly Hills Cop II (Song - 1987)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Song - 1991)
Beethoven's 2nd (Song - 1993)
The Paper (Song - 1994)
One Fine Day (Song - 1996)
That Thing You Do! (Song - 1996)
Tarzan (Song - 1999)
The Emperor's New Groove (Song - 2000)
Vanilla Sky (Song - 2001)
8 Mile (Song - 2002)
Rio (Song - 2011)
Ted (Song - 2012)
Beyond the Lights (Song - 2014)
Spectre (Song - 2015)
The Hunting Ground (Song - 2015)
The Greatest Showman (Song - 2017)
Goldfinger (Sound Effects - 1964)
Rambo: First Blood Part II (Sound Editing - 1985)
Lethal Weapon 2 (Sound Editing - 1989)
Days Of Thunder (Sound - 1990)
Flatliners (Sound Editing - 1990)
The Last of the Mohicans (Sound - 1992)
Waterworld (Sound - 1995)
The Rock (Sound - 1996)
Daylight (Sound Editing - 1996)
Eraser (Sound Editing - 1996)
Contact (Sound - 1997)
The Fifth Element (Sound Editing - 1997)
The Mummy (Sound - 1999)
Space Cowboys (Sound Editing - 2000)
Tron: Legacy (Sound Editing - 2010)
Unstoppable (Sound Editing - 2010)
Salt (Sound Mixing - 2010)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Sound Editing - 2014)
Sully (Sound Editing - 2016)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Score - 1937)
Victory Through Air Power (Score - 1943)
Alice in Wonderland (Score - 1951)
Sleeping Beauty (Score - 1959)
The Sword in the Stone (Score - 1963)
Jesus Christ Superstar (Score - 1973)
Trading Places (Score - 1983)
Sleepers (Score - Drama - 1996)
The First Wives Club (Score - Comedy - 1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Score - Comedy - 1996)
The Preacher's Wife (Score - Comedy - 1996)
My Best Friend's Wedding (Score - Comedy - 1997)
A Bug's Life (Score - Comedy - 1998)
The Red Violin (Original Score - 1999)
The Village (Original Score - 2004)
Defiance (Original Score - 2008)
The Adventures of Tintin (Original Score - 2011)
Saving Mr. Banks (Original Score - 2013)
Downfall (Foreign Film - 2004)
The Lives of Others 
(Foreign Film - 2006)
The Salesman (Foreign Film - 2016)
Bowling for Columbine (Documentary - 2002)
March of the Penguins (Documentary - 2005)
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Documentary - 2005)
Amy (Documentary - 2015)
Cartel Land (Documentary - 2015)
I Am Not Your Negro (Documentary - 2016)
13th (Documentary - 2016)
Icarus (Documentary - 2017)
Spirited Away (Animated Feature - 2002)
Ice Age (Animated Feature - 2002)
Lilo & Stitch (Animated Feature - 2002)
Treasure Planet (Animated Feature - 2002)
Brother Bear (Animated Feature - 2003)
Howl's Moving Castle (Animated Feature - 2005)
Monster House (Animated Feature - 2006)
Bolt (Animated Feature - 2008)
Kung Fu Panda (Animated Feature - 2008)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Animated Feature - 2011)
Puss in Boots (Animated Feature - 2011)
Brave (Animated Feature - 2012)
Big Hero 6 (Animated Feature - 2014)
Anomalisa (Animated Feature - 2015)

3rd - I Like But Not Enough
With 100 left, I'm already forced to cut some movies I really like. There are a lot of 4-star Netflix movies here. I want to point out that the O.J.: Made in America documentary I cut because I really do consider it a series masquerading as a feature. Otherwise, it would've been a real threat to the top 10. As much as I love many of these movies, I'll admit that it was pretty easy to get the list down to 50.

O.J.: Made in America (Documentary - 2016)
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (Visual Effects - 2002)
Minority Report (Sound Editing - 2002)
Blue Valentine (Lead Actress - 2010)
Rabbit Hole (Lead Actress - 2010)
Lars and the Real Girl (Original Screenplay - 2007)
In Bruges (Original Screenplay - 2008)
The Impossible (Lead Actress - 2012)
Election (Adapted Screenplay - 1999)
Mulan (Score - Comedy - 1998)
I, Robot (Visual Effects - 2004)
Scrooged (Makeup - 1988)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Score - 1971)
Searching for Bobby Fischer (Cinematography - 1993)
Marvel's The Avengers (Visual Effects - 2012)
Wreck-It Ralph (Animated Feature - 2012)
Meet the Parents (Song - 2000)
Misery (Lead Actress - 1990)
A Single Man (Lead Actor - 2009)
Pretty Woman (Lead Actress - 1990)
Bridget Jones's Diary (Lead Actress - 2001)
Zootopia (Animated Feature - 2016)
Prisoners (Cinematography - 2013)
Star Trek: First Contact (Makeup - 1996)
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (Makeup - 2005)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Cinematography - 2009)
The Muppets (Song - 2011)
The Jungle Book (Visual Effects - 2016)
Requiem for a Dream (Lead Actress - 2000)
The Pursuit of Happyness (Lead Actor - 2006)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Costume Design - Black and White - 1962)
Good Morning, Vietnam (Lead Actor - 1987)
Logan (Adapted Picture - 2017)
Addams Family Values (Art Direction - 1993)
Begin Again (Song - 2014)
The Bicycle Thief (Screenplay - 1949)
The War Room (Documentary - 1993)
Back to the Future Part II (Visual Effects - 1989)
Rachel Getting Married (Lead Actress - 2008)
In & Out (Supporting Actress - 1997)
Lethal Weapon (Sound - 1987)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Art Direction - 2005)
American History X (Lead Actor - 1998)
Cinderella (Costume Design - 2015)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (Visual Effects - 1993)
Batman (Art Direction - 1989)
About a Boy (Adapted Screenplay - 2002)
Beverly Hills Cop (Original Screenplay - 1984)
Hercules (Song - 1997)
Kinsey (Supporting Actress - 2004)

3rd Cut - The First Hard Cut
Now it's getting difficult. Part of the fun of my top 10 lists is finding the dark horse movies that people may not otherwise be aware of or have forgotten about. There's only so much room at the top though, so as much as I wanted to remind people that True Lies is a hell of a lot of fun or that Hoop Dreams is a pantheon-level documentary for a good reason, I just didn't have the space.

Big Fish (Original Score - 2003)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Animated Feature - 2014)
Hoop Dreams (Film Editing - 1994)
Once (Song - 2007)
Glengarry Glen Ross (Supporting Actor - 1992)
Cinema Paradiso (Foreign Film - 1989)
Troy (Costume Design - 2004)
Tangled (Song - 2010)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Visual Effects - 2014)
Death Becomes Her (Visual Effects - 1992)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Visual Effects - 2011)
Batman Begins (Cinematography - 2005)
The Birdcage (Art Direction - 1996)
Drive (Sound Editing - 2011)
True Lies (Visual Effects - 1994)
The Karate Kid (Supporting Actor - 1984)
Fight Club (Sound Editing - 1999)
Mrs. Doubtfire (Makeup - 1993)
Seven (Film Editing - 1995)
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Song - 1999)
4th Cut - Severe Consideration
It's down to 30 and it's coming down to what mood I was in on the day I decided on the list. Alas, I found 20 movies I liked more.

ParaNorman (Animated Feature - 2012)
Hail, Caesar! (Production Design - 2016)
Toy Story 2 (Song - 1999)
Maverick (Costume Design - 1994)
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (Documentary - 2011)
Loving (Lead Actress - 2016)
The American President (Score - Comedy - 1995)
The Look of Silence (Documentary - 2015)
When Harry Met Sally... (Original Screenplay - 1989)
War for the Planet of the Apes (Visual Effects - 2017)


Honorable Mention
The 10 before the 10. Unlike the top 10, I'm not putting them in a ranked order. Just know that these are collectively my picks 11-20.

The Bear (Film Editing - 1989)
I may be overreaching a bit by putting The Bear this high. It's staying because 1) I don't think enough people know about it and 2) I can't say enough about how much it deserved that Film Editing nomination. This is a simple movie about an orphaned bear who befriends a full grown male grizzly bear. This is a mostly silent live-action film that tells the story with actual bears. I can't imagine how difficult it was to get usable footage and put it all together. It's a movie I still think about a lot.

Before Midnight (Adapted Screenplay - 2013)
It's very hard picking which Before film is on the outside looking in. They are all (including Before Sunrise, which didn't get any Oscar nominations!) so tied to one another, that it's difficult to distinguish between them. I'm a little less of a fan of the abrasiveness of Midnight. Still, a movie about two people talking and walking for 90 minutes shouldn't be this great. 18 years and 2 films of history gives it so much depth though. Thankfully, I can rely on the screenwriting branch of the Academy to look where other branches won't.

Creed (Supporting Actor - 2015)
The real miracle is that this film got any nominations at all. It's an excellent film that, in a just world, would've received attention for Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, film editing, and sound as well. Simply put, the 7th film in the Rocky franchise has no business being this good.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Visual Effects - 2014)
It's kind of shameful that Andy Serkis couldn't even get a special achievement Oscar for his incredible motion capture work in the Planet of the Apes revival movies. I suppose the visual effects (which it somehow managed to lose!) nomination is the closest thing. I'm still surprised by how good this movie was compared to my expectations.

The Disaster Artist (Adapted Picture - 2017)
James Franco (recent, not at all surprising, reports aside) is terrific in this role and made a highly enjoyable movie. This is the first of three 2017 films in my top 20. I'm not sure how the movie will rate long-term, but I'm still coming off a high from it right now.

The Florida Project (Supporting Actor - 2017)
This is the hardest one to keep out of my top 10. If it's getting only one Oscar nomination, Willem Dafoe is the correct choice. It deserved a lot more love than that though.

Gone Girl (Lead Actress - 2014)
This movie is probably too fun to have ever been a serious Oscar contender. Despite an excellent screenplay and David Fincher's superb direction, Rosamund Pike's nomination was all they could ask for from the Academy. While it isn't quite as thrilling with each rewatch, it gets even funnier each time.

The Lego Movie (Song - 2014)
Seriously, what was wrong with Oscar voters in 2014? Original Song but not Animated Feature? This piece of animated anarchy is a treat. Phil Lord and Chris Miller are masters at taking a bad idea, keeping all the things about it that make it a bad idea, and somehow turning it into something great.

Margin Call (Original Screenplay - 2011)
I love this screenplay. It takes something as dull as the mechanics of the market crash in 2008 and makes it legitimately thrilling. I also award bonus points for not taking the easy way out by turning all these Wall Street guys into lazy black-and-white villains and heroes. The film is filled with shades of grey.

Rashomon (Art Direction - Black and White - 1952)
Kurosawa is a master and this is one of his two or three most influential films. It also holds up well. I had to include it. I must say, I'm impressed that voters in 1952 were aware of this at all. Like a lot of these single nominees though, I am troubled by the thought that the nomination proves that Academy voters were are of it, so how did it not get other nominations?

Top 10


10. Before Sunset (Adapted Screenplay - 2004)
"Baby, you're gonna miss that plane."
I'm not sure there's a more cathartic moment in any movie. The 80 minutes before that are spent dancing around that one thought. I don't know if it was always Richard Linklater's intent to follow up Before Sunrise, but Before Sunset sure as hell plays out like that was the plan. It's the rare sequel that builds on and adds depth to the first film, making the whole endeavor even better.

9. Man on Wire (Documentary - 2008)
I think this might be the perfect documentary. Everything about it is executed at a high level. It plays like a caper better than most fiction. It's thematically resonant. It has indelible characters. I can't find a thing to fault about it, which is pretty remarkable, given how indifferent I was to the event it was based on going in.

8. Tropic Thunder (Supporting Actor - 2008)
This is probably the only film in my top 10 I'd have a hard time finding critical support for. It's over-the-top and silly. The screenplay is kind of all over the place. You know what though? It's hilarious. It's also incredible that Robert Downey Jr. pulled off an Oscar nomination for it. That's up there with Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean as one of the most delightfully unexpected Oscar nominations in recent memory.

7. The Act of Killing (Documentary - 2013)
Man on Wire may be a better documentary, but The Act of Killing hits a hell of a lot harder. It's hard to recommend this because it's pretty brutal. It's an enlightening and sobering film.

6. Stand by Me (Adapted Screenplay - 1986)
For some reason, it makes me really happy to know that this screenplay got an Oscar nomination. This is one of the great coming of age stories and has one of the better young casts you'll find.

5. The Big Sick (Original Screenplay - 2017)
Perhaps this is a little high since it's such a recent film. It is my favorite movie of 2017 though and combines a lot of my favorite things: RomComs, comedies about comedy, deeply personal screenplays, Ray Romano doing dramatic work, Holly Hunter being awesome, etc.

4. The Princess Bride (Song - 1987)
An all-time classic and an oddity that still doesn't feel like any other movie you'll see. The Original Song Oscar nomination is a little strange. This movie is so beyond classification that I didn't expect it would have a nomination at all. I'm not sure I want to interact with someone who doesn't appreciate this movie.

3. Nightcrawler (Original Screenplay - 2014)
Jake Gyllenhaal's performance and the way the film shoots Los Angeles at night grabbed a hold of me and didn't let go for two hours. I'm not sure that it says anything good about my worldview that I like this film so much, but I really do love it.

2. My Cousin Vinny (Supporting Actress - 1992)
OK, maybe this one doesn't have a ton of critical backing either. I don't care. Marissa Tomei is terrific. Joe Pesci is perfectly cast. The jokes hold up really damn well. Best of all is how smart it is about actual legal proceedings. It's not perfect, but it actually feels like someone researched for this.

1. Warrior (Supporting Actor - 2011)
I regret that I didn't start this blog in earnest until 2012, when I wrote my first Reaction. 2011 is one of my favorite movie years and there's so many films that I need to write up and praise that were released that year. Warrior is chief among them. I love the hell out of this movie. I don't care about MMA fighting. The movie telegraphs where it's going virtually from the first scene. None of this matters to me. It sucks me in and wins me over every time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Single Oscar Nominee Report: 2017

Now that I've looked back on all the years of Oscar single nominees, it's time to start a new annual piece. I'm going to go through this year's single nominee class and decide what I think of it.

Nomination: Lead Actor
Verdict: Too Much.
Denzel Washington is the correct part of this lackluster movie to highlight if anything at all. The performance was too based on the ticks and quirks though. Washington is more twitchy than eccentric. It's not his best work.

Nomination: Supporting Actor
Verdict: Too Little.
Normally, I'd call this nomination "Just Right" because Dafoe is the single best thing in a film so small that I wouldn't normally expect Oscar voters to notice it. But A24 has proven with Room and Moonlight the last couple years that they know how to get small films nominated. Given that, The Florida Project should've been in the hunt for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, and Best Direction.

Nomination: Supporting Actor
Verdict: Just Right
The narrative for this was written as soon as Christopher Plummer was hired to replace Kevin Spacey, who was in the early stages of an Oscar campaign himself before that. I'm not actually convinced that Plummer had one of the five best supporting performances of the year by an actor, but he's good enough in a movie that didn't really deserve any other nominations.

Movies: All the Foreign Film nominees (A Fantastic Woman, The Insult, Loveless, On Body and Soul, The Square)
Nomination: Foreign Film
Verdict: Just Right
The Academy cut out all the movies with any buzz this year. Diane Kruger was a dark horse Lead Actress contender for In the Fade, which didn't get nominated. BPM was the critical favorite and it didn't get nominated. In a world where it's hard for any foreign films to get additional nominations in the first place, none of the nominees this year carried enough buzz for me to be surprised they didn't get more.

Movies: All the Documentary Feature nominees (Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Faces Places, Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, Strong Island)
Nomination: Documentary Feature
Verdict: Just Right
It's hard for any documentary feature to make an additional splash. None of the critical favorites (Jane, City of Ghosts) made the cut this year and none of the actual nominees I've seen make much of a case for additional love.

Movies: The Boss Baby & Ferdinand
Nomination: Animated Feature
Verdict: Too Much
The field is somewhat thin, so maybe one of these two make sense. My big question is "where's The Lego Batman Movie"? What does the Academy have against Warner Brothers' LEGO franchise? 2014's The LEGO Movie also got snubbed.

Movies: The Breadwinnner & Loving Vincent
Nomination: Animated Feature
Verdict: Just Right
Asking for more than the animated feature nomination, historically, is a little much. Neither reach the point of cultural touchstone or critical darling that would justify griping about a lack of additional nominations.

Movie: Wonder
Nomination: Makeup & Hair-styling
Verdict: Just Right
This is simple enough. The movie is good but not Oscar-good except for the makeup.

Nomination: Visual Effects
Verdict: Just Right
Visual Effects is a category where normally money does matter. I haven't looked back on all the potential nominees, but these two movies have good enough cases for a nomination. I can't say that much else feels required for them.

Nomination: Visual Effects
Verdict: Too Little
Even as token nominations, Sound Mixing and/or Editing would've been nice for separating this from your run of the mill blockbuster nominee. This trilogy was far better than anyone had any reason to expect. The dream of an acting nomination for Andy Serkis' work is a pipe dream. Something else would've been nice though.

Nomination: Adapted Screenplay
Verdict: Right number, wrong category
I get why things played out like this. The James Franco news, perhaps rightly, scared voters away from recognizing him. The screenplay isn't tied to him, so that isn't off limits. However, the singular strength of the movie is Franco's performance, not the screenplay. Nominate Franco's performance or nominate nothing.

Movie: Logan
Nomination: Adapted Screenplay
Verdict: Just Right
I'll take the win. This is the first Marvel screenplay to ever be recognized by the Academy, which is a considerable feat. Trying to get any more, like a Supporting Actor nomination for Patrick Stewart is too much to hope for. It could've snuck a Visual Effects nomination too, I suppose, but Logan's effects certainly look more practical than digital, which is where the Academy voters have trended historically with the award.

Movie: Molly's Game
Nomination: Adapted Screenplay
Verdict: Too Little
It is impossible for me to separate Jessica Chastain's performance from that screenplay, so one without the other doesn't feel right. It's hard to think of a Lead Actress nominee to kick out though, so this may just come down to a numbers game.

Movie: The Big Sick
Nomination: Original Screenplay
Verdict: Too Little
Like many of the single nominees this year, if it had to be one, the one it got, Original Screenplay, is the correct one. That said, it easily could've, and probably should've, gotten so much more. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano give Oscar caliber performances. You could even talk me into believing Kumail Nanjiani belongs in the Lead Actor discussion. It works on every level well enough that Best Picture should've been a realistic possibility. And if they wanted to throw in a Film Editing nomination for how the four stories (Kumail and Emily, Kumail and his family, Kumail and Emily's family, Kumail's stand-up career) were cut together, I wouldn't complain.

Movie: Marshall
Nomination: Original Song
Verdict: Just Right
It wasn't getting nominations anywhere else, and I never argue about an Original Song nominee being too random*.

*Note: I will complain about a nominee being a bad song or a film deserving more than one nomination in the category. Neither of those apply to Marshall.

Nomination: Original Song
Verdict: Too Little
Frankly, there should be a Song Mixing nomination set aside every year for whatever the most prominent musical at the time is. I wouldn't be against a Production Design nomination either. Or how about another Original Song nomination?


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Biggest Single Oscar Nominee Misses of the 2000s

Day three of this Single-Nominee project of mine. I chose a few select single nominees to complain about yesterday. Since "Recency Bias" is basically the surname of this blog, for the 2000s, I'm going to go through each year and pick what I consider the most egregious single nomination of the year.
Requiem for a Dream
Year: 2000
What Was Nominated: Lead Actress
What Could've Been Nominated: Director
Yeah, Ellen Burstyn was getting an Oscar nomination no matter what. This might be her best role in a storied career. It sure is telling that both Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly have won Oscars since this film was released though. Maybe you could say that Darren Aronofsky's direction was too unfocused when compared to his later films. I wouldn't agree. And did Steven Soderberg really need two Oscar nominations that year?

Mulholland Dr.
Year: 2001
What Was Nominated: Director
What Could've Been Nominated: Actor/Actress
I'm not actually sold on this movie. If it's good enough for a Directing nomination, it must be good enough for something else. Naomi Watts is pretty damn good.

Spirited Away
Year: 2002
What Was Nominated: Animated Feature
What Could've Been Nominated: Production Design
A single nomination in the Animated Feature ghetto isn't enough for something this imaginative. I'm not sure how Production Design works in an animated feature, but how can this be denied?

Big Fish
Year: 2003
What Was Nominated: Original Score
What Could've Been Nominated: Production Design, Costume Design
Perhaps we'd all grown too accustomed to Tim Burton's shtick by then or everything about the look of the film is attributed only to him. It's a visually striking film though that could've gotten more. I suppose there just wasn't any room for any technical nominations with Return of the King filling up so many categories.

Before Sunset
Year: 2004
What Was Nominated: Adapted Screenplay
What Could've Been Nominated: Lead Actress or Actor
I'm literally rewatching this film as I'm typing this. All this movie is is Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke walking around and talking. And it's terrific. All three parts of that, screenplay and the two actors, should be nominated.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Year: 2005
What Was Nominated: Makeup
What Could've Been Nominated: Visual Effect, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
C'mon. Where are the technical awards? Visual Effects should've been a given. Maybe if the Visual Effects and Sound Editing awards were five nominees instead of three at the time there would've been room for Revenge of the Sith

The Lives of Others
Year: 2006
What Was Nominated: Foreign Film
What Could've Been Nominated: Lead Actor
Ulrich Muhe gives a masterclass in subtle performance. He plays it so small and that pays off so much by the end. Marion Cotillard won a year later for La Vie en Rose, so don't tell me foreign actors can't break through.

Gone Baby Gone
Year: 2007
What Was Nominated: Supporting Actress
What Could've Been Nominated: Director
I had a hard time coming up with one for 2007. This is the best one I could find. Given Ben Affleck's 2012 Argo snub, maybe he could've been nominated here, for his debut, instead.

Man on Wire
Year: 2008
What Was Nominated: Documentary Feature
What Could've Been Nominated: Picture
Man on Wire might be the best film of 2008. Top 5 is almost inarguable. Too bad documentaries never make the cut.

A Single Man
Year: 2009
What Was Nominated: Lead Actor
What Could've Been Nominated: Costume Design
Sorry to be lazy about this one. A Tom Ford movie getting a Costume Design award is obvious. It's obvious for a reason: because it's right. 

Tangled
Year: 2010
What Was Nominated: Original Song
What Could've Been Nominated: Animated Feature
I guess Animated Feature only had three nominees that year. I wouldn't take Toy Story 3 or How to Train Your Dragon out. I haven't seen The Illusionist. So, maybe Tangled wouldn't make the cut. It seems wrong for a movie as good as Tangled to not get an Oscar nomination for Animated Feature though.

Warrior
Year: 2011
What Was Nominated: Supporting Actor
What Could've Been Nominated: Film Editing, Director
I'm fairly biased on this one. Warrior is a top 10 All-Time movie for me. I adore it. Part of what I adore is that no matter how many times I watch it, I'm fully into the fights (even though I have no interest in Mixed Martial Arts). That's thanks to the editing and direction. I don't think those nominations would be too much to ask for. In my ideal world, of course, there'd be nominations for Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, the cinematography, the screenplay (as convoluted as it is), and Best Picture. 

Wreck-It Ralph
Year: 2012
What Was Nominated: Animated Feature
What Could've Been Nominated: Original Screenplay
Pixar shouldn't been the only animation studio getting other nominations. The Wreck-It Ralph screenplay is so damn clever that it deserves some recognition.

Saving Mr. Banks
Year: 2013
What Was Nominated: Original Score
What Could've Been Nominated: Lead Actress, Supporting Actress
It's hard to believe that Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks were both snubbed.

Nightcrawler
Year: 2014
What Was Nominated: Original Screenplay
What Could've Been Nominated: Lead Actor
2014 was lousy with single nominees that should've received more love. The Lego Movie didn't get an Animated Feature nomination. Gone Girl somehow didn't have an Adapted Screenplay nomination. The one that I find the craziest though is no Lead Actor nomination for Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. He made that movie work. Riz Ahmed should've gotten a Supporting Actor nomination too. Gyllenhaal is the minimum required though.

Creed
Year: 2015
What Was Nominated: Supporting Actor
What Could've Been Nominated: Director, Picture
The lazy assessment is that only the white guy got nominated for this great film. I think there's more to it than that, but he really shouldn't've been the only person recognized for this film that was far better than it had any right to be. Michael B. Jordan should have an Oscar nomination by now. Ryan Coogler's direction is stupendous. The editing too. As strong as 2015 was overall, there should've been more room for Creed.

Zootopia
Year: 2016
What Was Nominated: Animated Feature
What Could've Been Nominated: Original Screenplay
It was a tough year for Original Screenplay. Still, there should've been room for Zootopia.