A column chronicling conversations and events on the awards circuit
This was the week with Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globe and SAG nominations, winnowing down of Oscar’s foreign language film finalists and other signposts offering further clarification in an Oscar season that so far seems to giveth and then taketh away momentum on all sides. La La Land wins eight Critics’ Choice awards including Best Picture and then gets a leading seven Golden Globe nominations the next morning — only to see headlines two days later that it was “snubbed” by SAG only because it didn’t land an Outstanding Cast nomination in addition to its two for lead actor and actress Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Pundits are playing the old statistics game by pointing out the last film to win the Best Picture Oscar without at least a Cast (or ensemble) SAG nomination was Braveheart in 1995. Twenty-one years later, will La La pull that off? Basically the film is focused on Stone and Gosling, so a Cast nomination seems like a stretch. But stats are stats.
On the opposite end of things in the SAG nominations was the Outstanding Cast nod given to Hidden Figures, which until then had only scattered awards love here and there but was given a big boost for its revived Best Picture hopes. It also got a big White House screening Thursday hosted by Michelle Obama. And, being a little self-serving here, Hidden Figures scored a commanding victory over runner-ups Lion and La La Land in voting for favorite film of the KCET Cinema Series I host. However, in the “giveth” rather than “taketh” category, the Las Vegas Film Critics Society showered seven awards, including Best Picture, on La La, which has the film’s distributor hoping “what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas” — at least in this instance.
But let’s get back to “taketh” again. I just can’t understand how Tom Hanks keeps getting overlooked this week for his great work in Sully, with complete snubs for him and his movie at both the Golden Globes and SAG. I trust that won’t be repeated at the Oscars, because even the Academy — where Hanks, a two-time Best Actor winner, serves on the Board of Governors — has overlooked him repeatedly in recent seasons for some of his finest, if understated, work ever in Saving Mr. Banks, Captain Phillips and Bridge of Spies. It’s especially galling considering the latter two films were Best Picture nominees and supporting actors Mark Rylance in Bridge and Barkhad Abdi in Phillips were nominated, and Rylance even won. Hanks was at least nominated at the Critics’ Choice Awards last Sunday and brought the real Sully Sullenberger along with him to the show at Barkar Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. I went over, as did many, to talk to the great pilot hero and suggested to Sully that it was ironic he was attending his first-ever show business awards show, and it was at an airport. What are the odds? “Hey, if things don’t go well tonight, you are the one guy in the room who can just fly straight out of here,” I told him. He smiled.
But back to the “giveth.” Moonlight star Mahershala Ali is really cleaning up and becoming a strong favorite to win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. He has NY and LA, Boston and San Francisco Critics Awards (to name a few) in the category, plus a Critics’ Choice award and SAG and Globe nominations. Now he has been named today to receive the Breakthrough Performance Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala on January 2.
WILL VIOLA DAVIS MAKE OSCAR AND TONY HISTORY?
The Vegas Critics gave their Supporting Actress award to Viola Davis for Fences, plus she already won at Critics’ Choice and got Globe and SAG nominations. Deadline reader Ron Fassler, author of the upcoming Broadway memoir Up in the Cheap Seats, passes along an interesting tidbit about Davis and Oscar history. Should she win on February 26 (and at this point, who doesn’t think that is a foregone conclusion?), she will be the first person to have won a Tony and an Oscar for playing the same role on Broadway since Joel Grey did it in Cabaret in 1972. And if Denzel Washington wins later in the show, he will be the first person to have won an Oscar and Tony for playing the same role on Broadway since, well, Viola Davis about an hour earlier.
The select club includes Jose Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac), Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba), Yul Brynner (The King and I ), Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker), Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady), Paul Scofield (A Man for All Seasons) and Jack Albertson (The Subject Was Roses). Davis and Brynner would share another distinction, but in reverse: Brynner’s Tony was for supporting, but his Oscar was for lead in the same role. Davis won the Tony in lead but is likely to be nominated in Supporting, where she is being campaigned. Mary Alice, who originated Davis’ role of Rose in the 1987 first production of Fences, won the Tony for that part in Featured Actress, the Tony’s version of supporting. Confused enough?
LOST IN TRANSLATION
There was lots of head scratching about the Academy’s Foreign Language Film shortlist, which had just nine movies moving on in the contest but no Elle, Neruda, Julieta, Fire at Sea, etc. among the bigger names in contention this year. Instead, in addition to deserving movies like Sweden’s A Man Called Ove, Denmark’s riveting Land of Mine and Germany’s hilarious Toni Erdmann — which is a movie worthy of Billy Wilder, if you ask me — there is the inexplicable case of Canada’s dreary Xavier Dolan dirge It’s Only the End of the World, which even had me tempted to join the chorus of booers at its Cannes press screening in May. It was roundly hated but then somehow nearly won the Palme d’Or by taking Grand Prize, and now Oscar has spoken. In both cases you probably can attribute the starry cast and actor-y style of this to have appealed to the actor-heavy Cannes Jury, and similar demo of Academy members voting.
Switzerland’s delightful animated My Life as a Zucchini also surprised me, because I think it is a near-certainty to land an Animated Feature nom from Oscar. A double Foreign Language and toon nomination would be an Oscar first.
Six of the nine films were chosen by the larger volunteer committee, while the Academy’s Executive Committee on the Foreign Language contest then chose the other three, usually referred to as “saves.” Last year, even though the Academy never acknowledges these things officially, it was well known that 2015’s eventual winner Son of Saul was actually a “save.” This year, as usual, there already is speculation about which three films had to be saved, but no one is talking on — or off — the record quite yet.
Interesting to see Russia land Paradise from Andrei Konchalovsky in the final nine. If it gets a nomination I would have the Academy make sure their online voting system isn’t hacked by you-know-who!
MUSICAL NOTES ON THE SEASON
This week the Academy also released the official lists of those films that have qualified for both the Best Original Song and Best Original Score categories. These are not finalists or shortlisted movies, just films that qualify to be considered. It is interesting to note that among those movies that didn’t qualify for Best Score was Silence. Some pundits seemed to wonder why, but anyone who attended the December 3 screening of the movie in Westwood probably would have the answer. In the post-screening Q&A, moderator James Gray asked Silence director Martin Scorsese about the movie’s score — or lack of it. “It’s very strange to me because I saw the film and thought, ‘Well, there’s really no music in it’ and then all of a sudden the end credits come up and there is like 50,000 cues of music,” he said, only to have Scorsese quickly interrupt him. “I don’t know what they are. I don’t remember any of them. I was just as surprised as you. Seriously. I said, ‘What the hell? We didn’t put any music in this'” Scorsese cracked before explaining about various Gregorian chants and some bits of original music here and there. But what do you expect from a movie called Silence?
As for the Best Song lineup, there are seemingly more big musical superstars competing than ever with possible nominations going to Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Lin Manuel Miranda, Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, Common, John Legend and on and on, not to mention Critics’ Choice winner for Song and Score La La Land. But I never cease to be baffled by the some of the movies that make these lists that I have never even heard of, much less their songs. How about that memorable tune “Sixty Charisma Scented Blackbirds” from How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change? Or “Torch Pt.2” from Citizen Soldier? Or “New Dogs, Old Tricks,” one of four songs qualifying from What Happened Last Night? Never heard of any of them. But I really, really hope Academy music branch members listen to Melissa Rauch singing the end song called “F That” from The Bronze, a 2015 Sundance sensation that died in theaters. It would make a memorable production number on the Oscars to be sure, and she doesn’t abbreviate the word — which she sings what seems about 100 times in the rap tune.