Bro-Reviews: Academy Award Nominations and Snubs

While you were sleeping, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominees for the best in film 2017. The most notable awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actress, and Best Actor, are always hotly debated every year. This discussion only gets more heated once we learn those who were snubbed from the list of nominations. The nominees, along with the snubs, are:

Best Picture:

The Shape of Water”

“Call Me by Your Name”

“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”

“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Post”

“The Shape of Water”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Snubs: “Wonder Woman”, “I, Tonya”

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman.”

For the most part, the academy got the nominations here right. All of the films listed above opened to rave reviews, and have had relatively healthy box office longevity. It is curious, however, in the wake of the #MeeToo and Time’s Up movements that Wonder Woman, the 3rd highest grossing film of the year, wasn’t nominated. Maybe it’s more proof the Academy isn’t ready to acknowledge super-hero movies as the best films (*see The Dark Knight and The Avengers), but considering the current times, acknowledging Wonder Woman as one of the best films of 2017 should’ve been a no-brainer. On top of that, I, Tonya has received critical acclaim due to its performances, yet didn’t crack the “Best Picture” list.

Best Actress:

Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Snubs: Michelle Williams, “All the Money in the World”, Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”

Jessica Chastain in “Molly’s Game.

All of the nominees are deserving of a nomination here, and maybe there just weren’t enough slots to go around. Michelle Williams has been a force throughout the years during awards season, but her exclusion from this category is questionable considering her great performance in All the Money in the World. Jessica Chastain has also received accolades for her powerhouse performance in Molly’s Game, but also got left off the list due to the number of great performances this year.

Best Actor:

Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.”

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”

Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel Esquire”

Snubs: Tom Hanks, “The Post”, James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

James Franco in “The Disaster Artist.”

The biggest surprise here is Washington’s nomination for a so-so movie. He’s the best thing in it, but it’s the only nomination Roman J. Israel Esquire received. Maybe it was a toss-up between Washington and Hanks, who while doesn’t give a memorable performance, has now not been nominated since 2000’s Cast Away. More egregious was the snubbing of James Franco, who won the Golden Globe for his role as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. Maybe his recent sexual assault allegations had something to do with it, but Franco was most certainly overlooked for some reason.

Best Director:

Guillermo del Toro, director of “The Shape of Water.”

Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”

Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”

Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

Snub: Steven Spielberg, “The Post”

Merly Streep, director Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks on the set of “The Post.”

Once again, not many surprises in this category.  The biggest omission, however, is Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is a stalwart in Hollywood, and his film about the importance of the news media is quite topical. Personally, I didn’t find The Post to be extraordinary, but there had to have been some way to include him in this list.

Best Supporting Actor

Sam Rockwell in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”

Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Snub: Armie Hammer, “Call Me by Your Name”

Armie Hammer in “Call Me by Your Name.”

The biggest surprise in this list is the inclusion of Woody Harrelson. His Three Billboards co-star, Sam Rockwell, is considered the favorite, and it’s a curious decision as to why both men were included in the list of nominees. This led to the exclusion of Armie Hammer, who received universal acclaim for his role as an older, same-sex lover in Call Me by Your Name. Maybe he’s still paying for the sins of The Lone Ranger, but leaving Hammer off this list seems like an error.

Best Supporting Actress:

Allsion Janney in “I, Tonya.”

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Snubs: Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”, Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

Tiffany Haddish in “Girl’s Trip.”

Most of the nominees here were expected, but you’d have to believe the nomination of Lesley Manville, who hadn’t received much attention until now, cost Holly Hunter a nomination for her career renaissance role in indie darling The Big Sick. And while she was a presenter of the nominees and comedies typically don’t get love from the Academy, one could make an argument for Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip. In a year in which diversity is at the forefront, why not recognize one of the funniest performances from a predominantly African-American film?

 

 

 

 

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Bro-Reviews: Dunkirk

Dud-kirk.

Christopher Nolan is undoubtedly one of the most masterful directors working today, but the case could also be made he’s one of the greatest directors of all time. From small budgeted independent films like Memento, to original triumphs like Inception, all the way to the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan has proven himself to be a true auteur. However, many would agree Nolan may have lost a step with the release of the bloated and cheesy Interstellar in 2014, a major disappointment in the eyes of many. Three years later, Nolan has created another epic film being hailed as a masterpiece based on the true story of the Battle of Dunkirk during the half of World War II America always ignores, Dunkirk.

In Dunkirk, the Nazi Germany army has surrounded the British and French armies, forcing them to retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk. It is there where the soldiers await and pray for the arrival of help whilst being under constant attack by the Nazis. We follow a couple of foot soldiers attempting to escape Dunkirk within a span of a week, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles), a father (Mark Rylance) and son (Tom Glynn-Carney) sailing to Dunkirk to rescue the stranded soldiers in a span of a day, and Royal Air Force Pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) fighting off Nazi bomber planes in the span of an hour.

As I stated earlier, Nolan has full control of the films he makes at this point in his career. Dunkirk is another example of Nolan’s stranglehold on his projects, as the film is beautifully shot while retaining an apocalyptic, doomed atmosphere much like the battle itself. On top of that, the battle sequences put you in the middle of the action, making you jump at every sound of a gun shot to the point that you too want to spring from your seat in the theater and run for cover. From a technical standpoint, Dunkirk might be Christopher Nolan’s most masterful work yet.

However, what prevents Dunkirk from rising to being a great film and one of the most powerful war films ever is the utter lack of characterization in the film. To put it bluntly, Dunkirk doesn’t have characters, it has people. Even though I listed the characters’ names in the synopsis, you cannot recall their names without looking at a cast of “characters” list, that’s how expendable and unmemorable they are. Sure, the whole feeling of dread and wanting to escape is present, but other than wanting to survive/ make it home, we don’t empathize with these people. As an audience member, I wanted to know what specifically these people would miss out on should they perish. Are they trying to escape because they have families back home? Are they sailing to danger because they have an overwhelming feeling of nationalism and want to serve their country? Heck, we don’t even get the cliche’ of a solider pulling out a picture of his girlfriend and saying he can’t wait to see her again.

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“Dunkirk.”

As I stated earlier, Nolan more than likely has final cut and other overreaching decision making powers whenever he wants to make a project. It’s important to point this out, as Nolan not only directed this film, he also wrote it. This is nothing new as it pertains to Nolan, as he has a writing credit for every single film he’s made with the exception of being uncredited as a writer for 2002’s Insomnia. One of the major criticisms of Interstellar was the writing in the film, and Dunkirk marks Nolan’s second straight misfire in the writing department. A writer’s job is to make the audience empathize and feel for the protagonists, to make them want to get up and cheer once they have accomplished their goal. To make the people that appear on screen human. That feeling never arises in Dunkirk. Sure, there are moments when the performers on screen are in peril or dire circumstances, but the only investment you have in these situations is the uncertainty of what is going to happen. You couldn’t care less whether or not these “characters” survive, and that fault should be placed squarely on the shoulders of Nolan.

With such underwritten characters present and lack of dialogue in the film, it’s hard to judge the performances in Dunkirk. Every teenybopper’s dream boat of the moment and One Direction member Harry Styles makes his much anticipated acting debut in the film, but one can hardly judge his acting capabilities since he gets lost in the shuffle of all of the indispensable soldiers in the film. At this point, it seems like Christopher Nolan is determined to turn Tom Hardy into Batman supervillain Bane, as he is muffled by a plane mask throughout the film, a total waste of Mr. Hardy’s many talents. Veteran actors Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance (who might as well be wearing a tee shirt with the inscription I AM THE SPIRIT OF THE FILM) come across as the best performers, but with such minimal dialogue, Dunkirk might have been the easiest acting job they’ve had in their lengthy careers.

With all of the power Nolan has over his projects now, it’s as if no one bothers to give him notes, or as if he believes he is above them. Someone should’ve met with Nolan and said while his behind the camera craftsmanship is tremendous, the people in his movie are lifeless, inconsequential pawns lacking humanity. Had this occurred, there’s the possibility Nolan would’ve gone back to the drawing board and fleshed these people out further other than bunching them all into the theme of survival. However, maybe Nolan rules with an iron fist and no longer listens to such constructive criticism, opting to instead make his films his way. One can hardly blame him due to his impeccable resume, but one can only live off of their reputation for so long.

Do not make the mistake of thinking Dunkirk is a bad movie. From a technical standpoint, Dunkirk is nothing short of masterful. From a writing and emotional investment perspective, Dunkirk is one of the most underwritten films in a long time. While I’m sure everyone will ridicule me and say “You just don’t get it.”, and maybe I truly don’t, I will not allow a great filmmaker such as Nolan off the hook for woefully underwriting the people in this film. Someone needs to stand up to him and tell him his writing abilities have woefully diminished over his last two films, but maybe I’ll be the only one to do so. Dunkirk is nothing to marvel at and laud, if anything, don’t believe the hype.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.