Thursday, January 5, 2017

FYC: My Nomination Wish List as Oscar Polls Open

Ballots were mailed today to the Academy's 7000-some-odd voting members,
so now is the natural time for me and Oscar bloggers everywhere to deliver our impassioned last-minute "For Your Consideration" pleas on behalf of the underrated and overlooked of the awards season thus far.

Mind you, I don't circulate in any circles of influence on such matters, but that shouldn't stop any of us from professing what potential goodies we'd luuuuuv to unwrap on nomination morning (our Christmas, y'know). AMPAS could do a lot worse than to at least give these longshots an honest chance:

Actors
While the depiction of Chiron in Moonlight is undoubtedly a cumulative piece between three actors, it's Trevante Rhodes' iteration that has critics most frustrated for being unable to gain any attention outside a bevy of Best Ensemble citations. True, there doesn't seem to be much room for Rhodes in a Best Supporting Actor conversation that's been utterly dominated by costar Mahershala Ali, but why not take advantage of a thin year and place him the category where he belongs: Best Actor. The same logic should be extended to Dev Patel in Lion, screen time be damned. Who's going to argue that the characters these men play aren't the leads of their respective films?

As for Supporting Actor, I have to sound off for Alden Ehrenreich's hilarious fish-out-water cowboy in Hail Caesar, David Oyelowo's earnest chess coach in Queen of Katwe, Tom Bennett's giddy social ineptitude in Love & Friendship and Ralph Fiennes' man without an 'off' switch in A Bigger Splash.

Actresses
There's no dearth of impressive leading ladies this year. A few great performances are going to be left out of the running. Thems the breaks. But oh, what elation it'd bring me to see Hailee Steinfeld snag a surprise nomination for her sweet-and-salty turn in Kelly Freemon Craig's promising debut The Edge of Seventeen. The teen dramedy was probably always too young for the Academy's detection, but the fresh shades of emotional complexity and humour that Steinfeld finds inside a familiar archetype elevates the entire project above the limitations of its well-worn genre.

As for the supporting players, I could join the small but booming chorus of fans stumping for Kate McKinnon's live-wire comic presence in Ghostbusters (she's having a helluva year), but instead I'll throw most of my weight behind the second of Queen of Katwe's empathetic adult figures in Lupita Nyong'o, as earthy and magnetic here as in her celebrated 12 Years a Slave performance.

Screenplays
Look, WGA, I know it's tough to scrape together five nominees for Adapted Screenplay when so many good ones are ineligible for whatever inane reasons you may have, but Deadpool in lieu of Love & Friendship? Gimme a break. Whit Stillman's miraculous transformation of Jane Austen's Lady Susan -- originally written as a collection of correspondence and diary entries -- is perhaps the niftiest specimen of adaptive writing we were treated to all year.

And while it may not measure up to the unpolished honesty of Once, John Carney's Sing Street is an incorrigible crowd-pleaser that owes as much to his witty dialogue and tight structure as it does to the songs. A nomination for the man (whether in Original Screenplay or Original Song) is overdue.

Visual Effects
I said it back in August without any real hope for it, but with Kubo and the Two Strings having advanced to the ten-wide bakeoff list, I've been emboldened to repeat: This is a nomination that needs to happen. Not only because the caliber of the visuals deserve it on merit alone, but because the Academy really needs to get over itself when it comes to ghettoizing animated fare. And let's not stop at the visual effects contest -- the design elements and score are equally worthy.

Cinematography
I liked Derek Cianfrance's The Light Between Oceans more than most, but even if you're among its detractors, how could you respond with anything besides a dropped jaw to Adam Arkapaw's gorgeous compositions?
I mean, COME ON!

Score and Sound
Nocturnal Animals has not aged well since I caught it back in November (its problematic elements linger longer than its assets), but one thing I still admire is Abel Korzeniowski's strings-driven music, from the soap operatic overture to its tension-raising rhythms. One also has to give credit to Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka's emotive, quietly powerful orchestrations in Lion.

While we're on about Lion, let's not forget the efforts of sound designer/mixer Robert Mackenzie, who first blends the chaotic ambience of India to put us in the headspace of a panicked child, before turning to a more artistic collage of aural memories that haunt a guilt-ridden adult.

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