By Eleanor Ringel Cater
Oscar announcements are fun. And frustrating. Maybe that’s why ruminating on who got snubbed and who got lucky can be even more fun.
Soooo, let’s take a look.
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES: “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Room,” “Spotlight.”
It’s a respectable group, though I would’ve left out “Brooklyn” (yawn) and “The Revenant” (I have no idea why it got so many nominations; it’s just man-in-the-wilderness porn).
What would I have put in their place? “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for one. Why the Academy turned its back on the most successful movie of all time, I have no idea. Plus, it’s a pretty good movie – certainly as good as a couple of the nominees that made the cut.
And what about the business side? The re-booted “Star Wars” franchise floated everyone’s boat over the holidays. When movie-lovers went to see “Force” and found it sold out, they’d go to another movie, thus helping out pictures that they might not have sought out otherwise.
I would’ve preferred to see “Phoenix” – an extraordinary movie set in post-war Berlin – on the list even more. But its eligibility was compromised by when it opened. Germany couldn’t make it the country’s official nominee, but the U.S. might’ve worked out something in the Best Picture category. Maybe to be considered.
And I know there’s been a lot of fuss – as in, front page of The New York Times fuss – about the failure to nominate “Straight Outta Compton.” The movie is a lot better than I expected. In fact, I’d recommend it, certainly over “Brooklyn” or “The Revenant.”
However, if people want to talk about worthy pictures with African-American themes that were overlooked, try 2013’s “Belle” and “Mandela” (also 2013), two very good films that got smothered by “12 Years a Slave.”
Finally, “Inside Out” is as good or better than most of the nominees. But it’s been a long time since an animated film was nominated for Best Picture (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Up,” Toy Story 3”). But at least “Inside Out” should win the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett (“Carol”), Brie Larson (“Room”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”), Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”), Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”)
Hey, I’m as smitten with Jennifer Lawrence and her blockbuster talent as much as anyone. But “Joy” is stupid and sloppy and she wasn’t able to rise above it (unlike, say, Ronan, who did give a sterling performance in the midst of Brooklyn’s” clichés and retro script.)
Besides, Lawrence already has an Oscar.
In her place? No question: Charlize Theron, who was the heart and fiery soul of “Mad Max.” The movie is inconceivable without her.
BEST ACTOR: Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”), Matt Damon (“The Martian”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”), Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”), Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”).
Again, I’m not sure why there’s so much buzz about “The Revenant,” but I’m not against DiCaprio being nominated. Or even winning. There are about five performances that are more deserving (check out “Revolutionary Road” and “The Quick and the Dead”), but remember, Paul Newman won for “The Color of Money,” not exactly his career best.
And Damon? Nice performance, committed performance. But he, too, has done more impressive work. Right now, he’s like the stalking horse for DiCaprio … the two young Turks of the ‘90s and the early 21st century squaring off.
Eddie Redmayne is a “we’re so tolerant” nomination. He … again …has done better work. And he … too … already has an Oscar (come to think of it, so does Damon: for writing “Good Will Hunting.”)
Who was snubbed?
Well, for starters, the actor who gave one of the best performances – if not the best – of the year: Michael Keaton in “Spotlight.” Keaton also gave the best performance last year in “Birdman,” but was beaten out by Redmayne – who was, I grant you, brilliant in “the Theory of Everything.” So, what is it? Has Keaton been blackballed? Has he done something to offend the 63-year-old white males who, apparently, are the average age/gender/race of Oscar voters?
Less obnoxious, but also questionable: Why not Will Smith for “Concussion”? Finally, the Academy has already shown its what-the ??? contempt for Tom Hanks by denying him a nomination for either “Captain Phillips” or “Saving Mr. Banks.” However, he’s the one who held “Bridge of Spies” together. If it was worth a Best Picture nomination (and it is), that’s due as much to its star as its director, Steven Spielberg. In fact, I think Spielberg would agree.
Soooo, there you have it. Some rants about that most elusive – and political? – of honors, the Academy Award.
Next week – maybe – thoughts about the supporting categories and best director.
The ceremony itself isn’t until Feb. 28, so there’s plenty of time to argue.