During the lead up to this year’s Oscars on February 28th I will be covering a lot of the nominees for the upcoming Academy Awards. This will not be your usual Oscar primer, but in fact more of a “catching up to speed” series. Once a week I will be dissecting a few films in each instalment. I will be going over what the nominees are, and what chances it stands to win. I am very excited to be doing this series for the third year in a row now. Along with the weekly articles, I will also be posting a mini episode of Contra Zoom every Thursday going over the Best Picture nominees two at a time. For my inaugural post I will be talking about The Hateful Eight, Inside Out and Joy.
The Hateful Eight was directed by Quintin Tarantino and was released on December 30th. The film has 3 nominations.
- Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Jason Leigh
- Best Cinematography – Robert Richardson
- Best Original Score – Ennio Morricone
This is Tarantino’s eighth film and at this point if you don’t know what to expect with his work, you should probably just stay out of the theatre all together. That said he managed to actually change up his style a little bit. Normally famous for his non-stop dialogue this film actually uses a lot of silence to let the film breath. Suspicious glances are used instead of ten page monologues littered with pop culture references. While a lot of people pegged the film to get a bunch of nominations like Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay (not to mention one of the male actors like Kurt Russel, Samuel L Jackson or Walton Googins getting recognized) the film ended up only with three to its name. Jennifer Jason Leigh proved to be the performer who not only separated herself from all the men around her but made herself the most memorable part of the film. She is constantly reminded that she is not a lady but just another hateful character like the rest of the group and she lives up to reputation. She gets knocked around, spits a mouthful of blood on someone’s face and has her share of foul language tirades. She also has some sweet moments when playing a guitar and singing a tune and a tender moment when a secret is revealed. It’s a shame that the Supporting Actress field is stacked as she looks to be 4th in a 5 horse race. At the moment Rooney Mara seems to be linked to eventual Best Actress winner Cate Blanchett too closely to allow anyone else to come up. If Carol isn’t as loved as I think it is expect Meryl Streep Jr aka Kate Winslet to steal the award, with a possibility that Rachel McAdams might ride The Spotlight train to Golden Town.
Continuing Tarantino’s recent trend of making his movies as visually stunning as they are acerbic, The Hateful Eight might actually be his best shot film yet and one of the best in a long time. This partially has to do with Robert Richardson and QT using glorious 70mm film to shoot it, giving the movie a scope that is unprecedented since films like Ben-Hur, an apt comparison since Richardson literally used the same camera lenses that William Wyler and Robert Surtees used on the biblical epic. The snowy mountains look as sharp and frigid as if we were there in person and the deep seated focus inside of the haberdashery are a stunning set of work. The clarity and depth of what is going on in every frame will be talked about for a long time, so it stands reason to believe that The Hateful Eight has to be considered the front runner right up against two time defending winner Emmanuel Lubezki’s work in The Revenant.
Legendary composer Ennio Morricone was once again lured back to Hollywood for work on what he does best, thrilling spaghetti westerns. Morricone partially repurposed his work from The Thing, a major inspiration thematically to Tarantino, to add a new element that is just as stunning and breathtaking as anything he has done in his past. Never one for using obvious music cues, you can never tell what to expect or feel in The Hateful Eight based on how the music might be directing your emotions. Morricone has his work cut out for him to win his first Oscar going up against John Williams’ iconic Star Wars music being in the same category.
Inside Out was directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen and was released on June 19th. The film has two nominations.
- Best Animated Feature
- Best Original Screenplay- Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley and Ronnie Del Carmen
Back in the spring people were wondering if Pixar still had any creative juices left in them to match the highs of their previous films. They hadn’t made a truly great original film since 2010’s Up and they seemed to go full Disney by cranking out a lot of sequels. Then everyone was blown away by the depth and raw emotional power of Inside Out, a true heart breaker in a way we haven’t felt in an animated film since the opening sequence of Up. The story of how humans process emotions told from the perspective of actual emotions will be a case study for years on great film making. The nuanced and terrific voice acting by the entire ensemble will be heralded as top notch. The script was very funny, but it still tugged at all the right heartstrings and while the characters like Joy, Sadness and Anger were meant to appear to be two dimensional are actually fully fleshed out with layers that can be uncovered in multiple viewings. For children watching the film there are some funny moments like the characters changing into different shapes, for adults they can realize the surrealist, cubist and other forms the characters take are a reflection of art and life. For Best Animated Feature the film is most likely to win in part of the Academy’s love of Pixar and that it has a nomination in a second category a key indicator that it has a broad system of support. Only Anomalisa, the very adult animated film can take away the crown at this point. Then again foreign animated films like Boy and the World and When Marnie Was There could sneak in like films of their ilk have done so in the past. As for Best Original Screenplay, only Best Picture frontrunner Spotlight has a better chance of winning the award as neither Ex Machina nor Straight Outta Compton have any momentum and Bridge of Spies succeeded more so to its direction rather than its script.
Joy was directed by David O. Russell and was released on December 25th. The film has one nomination.
- Best Actress- Jennifer Lawrence
Well isn’t this a shocker? Has the Academy finally grown tired of David O. Russell films? After notching 10, 8 and 7 nominations for his last three films all of which got both Best Director and Best Picture, he only has one nomination for his latest film for the surprisingly now four-time nominee Jennifer Lawrence. I thought while parts of American Hustle were funny and there was a pretty interesting aesthetic, Joy was miles ahead of it in almost every regard. Lawrence took a decent enough script and turned in what is now expected to be a routine powerhouse performance from her. With her performance and the editing you can’t help but be as stressed as her character was throughout the film, with the very satisfying revenge filled ending that proves the little person can win. Her scenes with her ex-husband played by Édgar Ramírez are the highlight of the film and show what range she has. This is a particularly tough year for the ladies as Cate Blanchett is top dog no matter how you spin it with Brie Larson nipping at her heels in case the Academy remembers they don’t actually like Todd Haynes films. If Lawrence hadn’t of won for Silver Linings Playbook I think she would be considered so much more likely to win, but with her age and amount of nominations she might suffer from Meryl Streep syndrome as the Academy nominates her so many times they forget Streep has only won twice in the last 34 years, so they pass her up assuming they can just honour her again some other time. Now will Lawrence please take a break from doing O. Russell films and co-starring with Bradley Cooper? People now despise the thought of a Burton/Depp collaboration when they used to be the highlight of the movie year.