The nominees for the 2017 Academy Awards were announced on January 16th (see the entire list here), and the ceremony will take place on February 26th. We’ll have to wait until then to see who wins, but based on the potential nominees that were left out we DO know who WON’T be winning. After having a few weeks to think it over, here are my thoughts on the biggest mistakes that the Academy voters made this year.
I’ll start by saying that the nominees this year aren’t really that surprising. Despite a few big snubs (discussed below) everything else pretty much fell into place as expected. I don’t care how much buzz Deadpool was getting a few weeks ago for Oscar contention, it wasn’t going to get nominated. The best picture nominees ended up pretty much being the 9 films we thought would be there a month ago. Just like last year, the Academy decided to not fill up all 10 slots, and this year it was Silence that got the short straw. The big acting categories had some surprises, but the names that came to mind first are all included.
As always, Oscar contention is all about timing. Films that are popular at the end of the year and have a good combination of audience word of mouth and sufficient critic appraisal will have a good shot at getting a nomination. Movies that “peaked” too early or failed to captivate audiences were left out (including The Girl on the Train, Everybody Wants Some, and Paterson) despite good performances and execution. And although the Academy has improved the diversity of their nominations this year, there is still a noted lack of small independent films by up-and-coming filmmakers which audiences loved (The Witch, Green Room, Sing Street). Alternately, we also saw new films by Oscar-winning directors and actors fail to find much love among this year’s Oscar voters (Everybody Wants Some, Hail! Caesar, Eye in the Sky).
Amy Adams in Arrival, for Best Actress
What happened here? Amy Adams seemed like a shoe-in for a best actress nom, and it even seemed like this could be her year to finally win the big award. Did the voters assume that she was going to get a nomination anyway so too many of them voted for someone else? This is definitely the biggest snub of this year, and I think it has to be one of the biggest snubs of all time. Her performance in Arrival made the film great. The Academy has been afraid of science fiction films in the past, but this one was different. This one had a very emotional performance at its center. Hell, Sandra Bullock got a nomination for Gravity where she was basically having a panic attack the entire film. Adams is featured in Arrival just as heavily as Bullock was featured in Gravity, and it was a heavier, more nuanced performance that demanded more from the actress.
Annette Bening in 20th Century Women, for Best Actress
Bening seemed like another shoe-in, as she provided a performance which many critics considered among the best of her career. The film itself was well-enough received, but didn’t really find much success at the box office, despite a good amount of advertising for an independent film. I think the fact that 20th Century Women only ended up with one Oscar nomination is proof that the film largely fell to to the wayside in voter’s minds. Bening’s role in this film was also one that avoided stereotypes, which is always a bit tricky for awards season. On one hand, some voters may appreciate the originality, but to others it may not stick out in their mind enough because there is nothing to compare it with.
Martin Scorsese for Silence, for Best Director
Scorsese seemed like as good a candidate as anyone for a best director nomination this year, but it didn’t happen. Say what you will about Silence (see below), but you can’t argue that Scorsese phoned this one in. It had been a passion project for him, and he certainly put in a lot of work to see it happen. I feel like Mel Gibson got the nod instead of Scorsese, which is a surprise since Scorsese feels like the safe pick and Gibson the more controversial one. However, after last years’ nomination debacle, I think the Academy is trying to get away from convention. In that case, Scorsese’s film may not have been impactful enough (it was a flop in theaters) to convince voters that he deserved another nomination.
Silence for Best Picture
Honestly, I’m one of those that didn’t think that Silence deserved a best picture nomination. I just didn’t think it was as impactful or exciting as some of the other films that ended up with nominations, let alone being on par with some of Scorsese’s best work which was nominated. However, not seeing Silence on the list of Best Picture nominations did come as a surprise. It seemed like one of those films that could have been nominated for best picture to make up for lack of nominations in other areas. Furthermore, the Oscars are about acknowledging impressive accomplishments in film. Even if I didn’t think it was as great as some other people have, I still respect the accomplishment of the film and would have been OK with it being nominated in that regard.
Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic, for Best Actor
I love Viggo Mortensen as an actor. He always seems so composed and thoughtful. He can be funny, charming, and also tough, and demanding. I also don’t have a problem with this nomination, he deserved it. However, this nomination is at least a bit surprising simply because Captain Fantastic didn’t otherwise get much attention. This nomination was always mentioned as a possibility (and indeed Mortensen picked up a nomination from all the other main awards circuits), but due to the low buzz about the film, it seemed like more of a long shot than those actors which didn’t get nominated this year. Other options that seemed possible include Tom Hanks from Sully, Adam Driver from Paterson, or maybe even Joel Edgerton in Loving since Ruth Negga was nominated from the same film.
Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins, for Best Actress
Does Meryl Streep really need another nomination? She’s among the greatest actresses of her generation, but did she deserve this nomination more than Amy Adams or Annette Bening? I’m going with a big fat no. A lot of the picks this year showed the Academy voters moving away from the types of choices they would have made in the past. Meryl Streep is the definition of a conventional Academy Award pick from the past. I’m not sure what happened. Can we get a re-count?
Passengers for Original Score
Passengers was an OK movie. Not great, not terrible. It had great visuals. I get the nomination for best production design – the film is about two people stranded on a huge spaceship – so yes, the costumes, sets, and general movie design is important. The ship is almost like one of the characters. If it was boring, the movie would have not been as interesting to watch. But to be nominated for Original Score? That’s a curious one. I’m not saying the music was bad, or didn’t have a positive impact on the film, just that I think there are other films from this last year which were more deserving. IMO MIchael Giacchino did some tremendous work this year as composer, yet none of the films he worked on got a nomination (Zootopia, Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond).
Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals, for Best Supporting Actor
Let me say first of all that I am a huge fan of Michael Shannon. I think he’s a fantastic actor and he has been great in a variety of roles, including in Nocturnal Animals. However, this was one of the first films where he wasn’t the most interesting person on screen. I’m less of a fan of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Taylor-Johnson is the most impressive part of Nocturnal Animals. He transforms into a character that takes over the scenes he is in and you can’t take your eyes off of him. His performance even earned him a Golden Globe. Michael Shannon is pretty solid as well in this film, and I’m happy he got an Oscar nomination, but the Academy nominated the wrong actor from Tom Ford’s latest.