Oscar Primer 2017: The Opera of Kubo and the Two Lobsters

As promised in my last Contra Zoom episode, every Tuesday there will be an Oscar Primer going over the chances of nominated films have of winning their respective categories. Best Picture nominated films will be dissected on Contra Zoom, while the remaining ones will be discussed here. Today I will be talking about Florence Foster Jenkins, Kubo and the Two Strings and The Lobster.

Florence Foster Jenkins was directed by Stephen Frears and was released on August 12th 2016. The film has two nominations.

  • Best Actress- Meryl Streep
  • Best Costume Design- Consolata Boyle

This is a movie that seems pretty standard comedic fare with a heavy dose of drama that is tailor made for older crowds, but looking more into it you notice a few things. First anything with Meryl Streep is worth your time, given that she always is on her A-game. Second is director Frears is a legend in British cinema having helmed The Queen, High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons and Philomena. Sure at the end of the day, it is your standard funny mellow drama, but it was quite fun. Shockingly (not really) Meryl Streep has received another nomination making her now the most nominated actor of all time, a feat never likely to be broken. The Academy goes through phases where they nominate her for literally anything, and sometimes will go several years completely ignoring her (if only every actor only had to be worried about being ignored for ONLY a few years). In the last ten years alone she has received seven nominations, the Academy will certainly not award her with another win coming just five years after her Iron Lady victory. In fact, it is a shame that Amy Adams split her own votes for Arrival and Nocturnal Animals as she surely would be a better pick in this category than Streep was. Streep will likely finish in 5th place and if she attends the ceremony will just be an excuse to get free drinks.

The film is also nominated for Best Costumes because it is a fun period piece where costumes are integral to the plot and the setting. The film takes place in the 1940’s so all the women wear lovely dresses and the men are never not seen in suits. There are a wide variety of classes of people here so you see plenty of variations of dress and suits to get a fuller picture. Then you also have multiple opera scenes where the performers are all dressed up, especially some of the more elaborate outfits Streep’s character wears. FFJ looks like it might be a contender, but it faces some stiff competition from the Harry Potter-verse Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Jackie with La La Land having the potential to go full on LOTR: Return of the King making frontrunners change very quickly. 

Kubo and the Two Strings was directed by Travis Knight and was released on August 19th 2016. The film has two nominations.

  • Best Animated Film
  • Best Visual Effects- Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, Brad Schiff

Traditionally animated films are only ever nominated in their own category, music categories (like Moana this year) or if they are really lucky Best Picture. This year the Laika Studio film is flexing its muscles showing that they are a contender. The studio has made only four films so far, Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls and now Kubo, all of which have been nominated for Best Animated Feature, a very strong track record so far. Could this be the year that Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks and Studio Ghibli stronghold? There is some very stiff competition in Moana and Zootopia, both films proving that the big studios still have the ability to make statement films and The Red Turtle and My Life as a Zucchini show that foreign language animated films are still very popular with the Academy. Kubo might be the biggest competition to Zootopia this year and if the voters are conflicted between Zootopia and Moana, Kubo could very well sneak in with a win.

The second award the film is nominated for is Best Visual Effects, an odd nomination since you don’t equate animation with VFX. At the end of Laika’s films they usually show a brief montage of the film being made. Their style is stop motion animation, consisting mostly of Claymation but with paper (and green screen) backgrounds too. This short montage shows what is likely an entire day’s work of setting up a single shot is translated into only a few seconds shown afterwards. The sheer work involved in stop motion is breath taking and it is easily forgotten when you are watching something as beautiful as Kubo and the Two Strings. The Jungle Book, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Doctor Strange are all more likely winners in this category, but having this second nomination bodes well for the Best Animation category for Kubo.

The Lobster was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and was released on March 25th 2016. The film has one nomination.

  • Best Original Screenplay- Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou

Seven years after Dogtooth, Lanthimos’ Best Foreign Language nominated film came out, we see his return to the Oscars with his English language debut starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. Much like Dogtooth the film is hilarious at times but also as dark and unsettling as any horror movie could hope to be. The story is so perfectly simple it is impossible not to love, assuming you can handle hard to watch imagery at times (like a dog bleeding out in a bathroom). The screenplay nominations are usually referred to as the consolation prize category, because while The Academy doesn’t want to look like perverts for nominating some out there films in the Best Picture category (or just awarding them) they almost always get nominated and win the screenplay prizes. Lanthimos’ exploration on the conventions of marriage and love are bitterly taken down in the film so much that it makes you question the idea of “marriage” and “societal norms”. I would hope this film would win but it will be up against thee juggernaut La La Land (possibly it’s least deserving nomination), Hell or High Water (possibly one of the best Western’s since No Country for Old Men/There Will Be Blood) and the absolute tearjerker Manchester By the Sea. It would be a stunning upset victory for The Lobster, one it is capable of but isn’t very likely to in the end.

About author

Music Editor at Live in Limbo and Host of Contra Zoom podcast. Dakota is a graduate of Humber College's Acting for Film and Television. He now specializes in knowing all random trivia. He writes about music, sports and film. Dakota's life goal is visit all baseball stadiums, he's at 7.