Sun, May 26, 2024

Dishing Out on Oscar Noms + A Tribute to Norman Jewison

Tuesday morning saw the Motion Picture Academy’s annual awards nomination announcement. We know it as the Oscars, and as previously published, when the gold season comes, people watch. The nomination rollout saw lots of surprises, lots of confirmations, and a handful of disappointments.

Last summer’s “Barbenheimer” campaign paid off, with a total of twenty-one nominations for both films. Oppenheimer, as expected, led the way, with nods in thirteen categories – everything from costumes and sound effects to star Cillian Murphy, who earned his first-ever nomination for Best Actor. Whoever the marketing person was who hijacked the internet last summer to give us this cultural milestone will be getting a summer home.

Barbie racked up eight nominations overall, with two glaring omissions: Best Actress for Barbie herself, Margot Robbie, and Best Director for the woman responsible for bringing the phenomenon to life, Greta Gerwig. This could’ve been a bit of déjà vu for Gerwig, who was shut out of the same category in 2020 for Little Women, causing some controversy. In something of an upset, actress America Ferrera made the cut for Supporting Actress in the film, causing nearly every avatar on social media to scratch its head. Two songs from Barbie are nominated for Best Original Song, including fan favorite “I’m Just Ken” and Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?”

Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon had a good day, minus (strangely) failing to secure a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Scorsese and Eric Roth’s script, a move that practically kills any chances that the film could win Best Picture, as the past twenty Best Picture winners have been at least nominated for a writing award. Lily Gladstone made history as the first Indigenous woman to be recognized for Best Actress. Fanny took the load off Oscar by way of recognizing composer Robbie Robertson; the late ‘Band’ singer-songwriter was finally nominated for Best Original Score, posthumously, for his final installment of a nearly 50-year musical collaboration with the director.

A rather infuriating set of nominations, in the opinion of the author, were the seven that were given to Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, a vehicle tailored for awards that has clearly made it halfway.

The Paul Giamatti-led holiday comedy-drama Holdovers became the first out-and-out Christmas movie since It’s a Wonderful Life to be nominated for Best Picture. Giamatti nabbed his second nomination and first for Best Actor. The film was also nominated for its screenplay, written by David Hemingson.

Other films that scored notices include the outrageously funny fantasy-comedy Poor Things, and the audience-overlooked WWII drama Zone of Interest, which illustrates the career of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Huss.

Half of the 20 actors up for gold are first-time nominees, offering some new blood to Oscar’s repertoire.

Now for the big-time snubs: Savannah, Georgia-set May December lost out in every category except Original Screenplay. Actor Charles Melton, the quiet, manipulated husband to Julianne Moore in the film, is perhaps the saddest overlook of all. There was a small, late push to nominate Dominic Sessa, the mischievous and troubled Angus Tully in the Holdovers, for Supporting Actor for his first film, which failed (though not for naught, as he will likely get great and bountiful work after delivering that performance). The raunchy and devious Saltburn received zero nominations, as did Ava DuVernay’s Origin and Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, the latter a critical response to the unrequited love of 2022’s Elvis…the Academy sided with Elvis.

There are many more statistics, snubs, and successes to dissect, and surely the Academy has already received its usual number of complaints from movie fans across the globe. Yet, the nominated films and creative efforts are a charcuterie of range and scope. Once again, the Academy has offered something for everybody.

The stage has now been set for a race to the top of 23 different categories – a race that will be covered modestly in this column as time rolls on.

The Oscars will air on ABC on Sunday, March 10, 2024.

It is fitting that on the launch of Oscar week, a prolific director and seven-time Oscar nominee should be remembered; Norman Jewison, who died this weekend at 97 years old. Jewison directed five films in his storied career that were up for the Best Picture prize: The Russians are Coming (1966), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), A Soldier’s Story (1984), and Moonstruck (1987).

A member of the first slate of filmmakers who got their start in television in the 1950’s, Jewison went on to tackle social and political themes throughout his film work. His films earned a whopping 41 Oscar nominations in total, with Jewison earning 7 for producing and directing. However, he never took the stage to accept a competitive golden statue. It wasn’t until 1999 that Jewison was given an honor by the Academy, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a producer.

 In 1968, his film, In the Heat of the Night, a neo-noir about a Black detective (played by Sidney Poitier) from Philadelphia who is falsely arrested and eventually tasked with helping solve a small-town murder in racist Mississippi, won the Oscar for Best Picture two days after the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The film’s producer, Walter Mirisch, dedicated the award to the memory of King.  The film also inspired the Television series of the same name, which aired on NBC and CBS from 1988 to 1995.

On Monday, Cher remembered her Moonstruck director on Twitter, “Thank [you] for one of the greatest, happiest, most fun experiences of my life.”

Dylan James graduated from the Savannah College of Art & Design with a BFA in Dramatic Writing. He has studied both the ‘show’ and ‘business’ aspects of show business since childhood, and writes through sociological analysis, seeking relevance in the art and commerce for the moment.

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