After two disappointing years of #OscarsSoWhite the Academy have gone some way to improving the diversity of their nominations, with nods for the likes of Denzel Washington, Bradford Young and Barry Jenkins.
The runaway winner so far though is La La Land, with a record-equaling 14 nominations. Four of our writers – Kambole, Jack, Calum and Tom – have come together to discuss today’s nominations in all their glory. Who missed out? Who’s going to win? And who’s forgiven Mel Gibson?
Here’s a full list of nominations for your reference.
Tom: Let’s kick off with the joint-record nominations haul for La La Land. Anyone surprised? How do you think it will do come the night itself?
Calum: It’s one of only three films to ever receive 14 nominations.
Calum: Or as they’re more commonly known, Titanic and All About Eve.
Kambole: It deserved every nomination it got. I think Emma Stone has a good chance at Best Actress though.
Calum: The best chance, surely?
Jack: It’s her or Natalie Portman.
Tom: I’m very glad it’s got so many nominations but it does come up against a strong field. In most other years Stone and Gosling would be nailed on for wins but they’re facing the likes of Portman in Jackie and Affleck in Manchester by the Sea.
Jack: And Manchester is surely on track for the Original Screenplay win.
Tom: I think Lonergan’s got it in the bag, and deservedly so. His script is incredible.
Kambole: Lonergan just has a handle on natural dialogue like no one else.
Calum: Yeah, for his third writing nod it feels due. Seamless comedy-drama blend too; the frozen chicken scene for example.
Kambole: I’d agree with that. Was overjoyed at the nod for The Lobster as well.
Jack: I am resenting the lack of Nice Guys in Original. Straight comedy is horribly shut out.
Tom: Normally I’d agree but I was quite underwhelmed by The Nice Guys. Some fun ideas, but a bit of a muddled plot. Still, comedy is never going to get much love at the Oscars.
Kambole: Because the kind of comedies that would do well in the Oscars don’t really do well in the box office.
Tom: If any comedy had a shout for something this year I’d have thought it would be Love and Friendship. Superficially a period drama, but with one of the sharpest scripts around and some hilarious performances from Kate Beckinsale and Tom Bennett.
Jack: I doubt that played particularly well in the States. Same for I, Daniel Blake. Both distinctly BAFTA-only films.
Tom: I don’t know… we’ve all seen the Americans’ fetish for Brit period films.
Tom: What do we all think will win Original Score? It’s a straight fight between Jackie and La La Land for me. Two very different styles of music but both brilliant for their films.
Calum: Never, EVER discount Thomas Newman – a surprise nod for Passengers, breaking his own record I believe. And, as always, this won’t be his year!
Jack: Pouring one out for Cliff Martinez’s Neon Demon score. Though I can understand Academy voters hating the film.
Calum: Arrival‘s lack wasn’t a huge surprise but a major shame. Better than Jóhann Jóhannsson’s last nominated score, for Sicario.
Kambole: I didn’t expect to love Jackie‘s score as much as I did, but I wouldn’t rule Moonlight out either. It’s very simple, but the chopped and screwed effect on the main theme was inspired.
Tom: I loved Jackie‘s score but I think it has to be La La Land, considering how crucial the music is to its appeal.
Jack: Yeah, I think voters will just lump Score in with songs and give it all to La La Land. Not that I’d mind that.
Tom: Let’s move onto one of the bigger issues now. The last two years have seen a lot of outrage about the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations. Has that been remedied this year?
Kambole: If we’re talking solely in regards to African American actors then yeah, there’s been a significant improvement. Otherwise, all the same problems are still there.
No female directors (if you can spare a vote for Meryl Streep, why not Andrea Arnold?) and as usual no Asian Americans either. That problem extends to Hollywood itself though, so I don’t know if I can blame the Oscars for that right now
Tom: There’s Dev Patel for Supporting Actor as well, which is a small step in the right direction. And Lin-Manuel Miranda for ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from Moana – though worth noting Original Song tends to do alright in terms of diversity.
Kambole: That’s true. I guess with the Academy being as homogeneous as it is, small steps are all we can hope for
Jack: Would have loved to see one of the Chiron actors from Moonlight in Supporting alongside Mahershala Ali. Trevante Rhodes is the most obvious choice.
Kambole: Agreed on Chiron; it’s spooky how they never met or saw each other’s performances when the film was being made.
Jack: Really? That’s incredible casting and directing.
Kambole: They just came in and did their thing, according to Barry Jenkins. I mean there’s obviously his direction to help, but it kind of blows me away rewatching the film with that in mind.
Tom: So it was a great year for black filmmakers, with Hidden Figures, Fences and Moonlight all picking up various nominations; Bradford Young getting a Cinematography nod; and 13th, I Am Not Your Negro and OJ: Made in America all getting Doc nominations. Do we think they were deserved nominations or was it a bit of a knee-jerk reaction after recent years’ controversies?
Jack: Those are all more than worthwhile picks. Bouncy Oscar-season biopics are generally pretty meh for me but I liked Hidden Figures a lot more than I expected.
Kambole: I’m on the same page. It skirted way too close to convention for me to absolutely love it, but it was better than most Oscar Season biopics. The scene in which Taraji P. Henson’s character gets to yell at Kevin Costner is immensely satisfying.
And 13th utterly deserved that nomination. My favourite film of 2016.
Tom: I know it’s a bit of a fool’s errand comparing nominations across years but I am a little perturbed that this was the year the Oscars stopped being so white when Creed and Straight Outta Compton missed out last year. I haven’t seen Fences or Hidden Figures yet, but I was pretty underwhelmed by Moonlight. I’m aware I’m in the minority there.
I suspect the sudden increase in nominations is more down to having more Oscar-friendly films on offer than the more blockbuster-skewed Creed and Straight Outta Compton.
Jack: That’s baffling to me. I just can’t see how Moonlight can be anything less than absolutely fantastic
Tom: I wanted to love it, but it was a big disappointment. Chiron was mute and withdrawn to the point of frustration and the script felt stereotypical and anticlimactic. Visually it was great, and deserves its nominations in Director and Cinematography.
Kambole: I thought Chiron’s muteness made sense – it was like the opposite of the defence mechanism you see from Kevin, being loud, brash and capital-M Masculine to avoid being picked on. I agree that the visuals are more essential than the script though, even if I’m as baffled as Jack about your view of the film!
Tom: So although there’s still progress to be made – as always – I think we can all agree it’s been a year of deservedly improved diversity in the nominations?
Kambole: Yeah, I’d say so. I feel like the increased nominations for black creatives was inevitable after everything that went down with the last two ceremonies.
Calum: I would suggest it’s more an increase in hiring/subsequent prominence of black Americans over the last three years or so, perhaps. With obviously the Oscars fuss helping to make it feel like Priority Number 1 among voters who perhaps wouldn’t have bothered thinking about it otherwise.
Kambole: I’m happy regardless. Now to kick up a fuss about Asian Americans. And also Amy Adams.
Jack: Where the hell is Amy Adams?!
Calum: I really don’t know what she has to do at this point. Maybe they got bored of her after the first five nominations, and she’ll never get in again?
Tom: Streep though. She must be fucking divine in person because the number of mediocre performances she gets nominated for…
Kambole: Either that or she makes an annual blood sacrifice to the Academy overlords.
Tom: The only issue quite as contentious as Adams’ snub is the return of Mel. He nabbed a directing nom and Hacksaw Ridge picked up many other nominations including Best Picture. Deserved?
Jack: He does direct the hell out of that film. Some of the most effective war scenes ever filmed.
Kambole: I haven’t seen Hacksaw Ridge yet, but I will say it’s kind of bizarre to have him return at the same time as having a clear push for more diversity. Guess it speaks to the power of Hacksaw Ridge.
Jack: The nomination does feel like tangible forgiveness for him, that’s inescapable. But I think the film deserves the recognition.
Kambole: True – but he did get nominated for Best Director, not just Best Picture. I mean, it’s not the ‘best guy’ award but seeing as the Oscars are this political already, wouldn’t hurt to leave him out this time.
Tom: If we’re looking at it on the merits of his direction, he 100% deserves to be there. The Hacksaw Ridge battle scenes are some of the most visceral and powerful I’ve ever seen.
So then it’s a question of if he’s ‘served his time’. He did and said some pretty awful things, but I feel like he’s tried to move beyond that as a person. He’s been basically blacklisted for nearly a decade (and I personally view The Beaver as some kind of masochistic self-flagellation). I reckon you’re allowed to think someone is a terrible person while recognising they’ve created something great, though Constance Wu has made some great points on that this afternoon.
Jack: And we’re likely to see Casey Affleck get the win this year while the sexual misconduct allegations swirl around him. Which is nasty, but, again, it’s the best acting this year, in my view, and deserves its place as such. The art/artist split has been pretty big this year.
Kambole: God, it really has.
Jack: Do we think we’d be seeing The Birth of a Nation on the ballots this year if not for Nate Parker?
Tom: I think the Sundance hype had died away of its own accord, but his rape allegations resurfacing certainly didn’t help.
Tom: So I think we’ve covered all the major talking points. To close out, can I first get one omission you’re particularly annoyed by and one nomination you’re delighted about.
Calum: Amazed they couldn’t give the brilliant, hard-working Kirsten Johnson an expected nomination for Cameraperson. She was one of the new influx this year and everything. Delighted by The Lobster!
Jack: I’m delighted by Lucas Hedges making it into Supporting Actor. And most annoyed by Amy Adams missing out.
Kambole: Agreed on Adams. I’d say Bradford Young’s nomination was the thing that brought me the most happiness.
Tom: I’m delighted Zootopia made it in. It was always likely to, but as one of my favourite films full stop from last year it’s good to see it get recognition. As for snubs, something from Sing Street really deserved an Original Song nom. Either ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ or ‘Riddle of the Model’. I suspect that simply no one in Hollywood saw it.
Calum: Maybe John Carney’s Keira comments put most off, the same way Weiner‘s eventual influence on real-life politics ended up improbably hobbling it.
Tom: I think I’ve taken enough of your time, so to finish up, a simple question. What will win Best Picture?
Calum: La La Land.
Kambole: In my dreams, Moonlight. In reality, La La Land.
Jack: La La Land. But I do believe that Moonlight has a real chance.
Tom: And I think La La Land too. What else could it be in that city of stars…