Monday, January 11, 2016

The First Annual "Perfect World" Awards

The Oscar nominations are this week and much grumbling will surely ensue. This was a pretty great year and there will be many deserving movies and performers left out regardless of how the nominees look. I thought I would try something new this year and stack the Oscar categories not with what I think will win but what I think deserves the recognition. The difference between the two will be very clear by the end of the week, I'm sure. I've chosen to call this the Perfect World Awards, although I'm still going to try and adhere by what I know of the Oscar rules. Take a look and feel free to add your own in the comments if you're so inclined.

Best Picture
Inside Out
It Follows
The Look of Silence

Plausibility: Since the rules change in 2011, the amount of Best Picture nominees can be anywhere from 5 to 10 depending on the enthusiasm for the individual films. With that in mind, it's tempting to just stack this one with all the films from my Top 10 list. But thinking it over, a few of them just didn't really seem like a good match even though I love them. One of them (White God) actually isn't eligible because although its US release was this year, it came out in Hungary last year and was submitted for the Foreign Language category (didn't make it).

So how realistic is this? Well, Room and Spotlight have a very good chance of making the list this year. Pixar movies have been nominated since the rules changed and Inside Out could very well show up. Creed is a long shot but it could happen. Advantageous had far too small of a release to even get on the Academy's radar. It Follows is a horror film so it will get no respect. As for The Look of Silence, there's no rule against a documentary making the Best Picture nominee list but it's never happened before so it's not likely to start now.

Best Director
Ryan Coogler for Creed
George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road
David Robert Mitchell for It Follows
Joshua Oppenheimer for The Look of Silence
Jennifer Phang for Advantageous

Plausibility: We are way into wishlist territory here. Believe it or not, the only one here with a decent shot at getting nominated is George Miller depending on how well Mad Max does. Ryan Coogler would only show up if Creed had an unexpectedly huge showing. Mitchell has no chance, which is a real shame since It Follows was one of the year's most visually striking movies in any genre. It takes a much bigger film than Advantageous to get a female director a nomination. As for Oppenheimer, this is another category where documentaries just don't show up but if his body of work continues to be as astonishing as the two Indonesia movies, maybe he'll be the first someday. Maybe.

Best Actor
John Ashton in Uncle John
Bryan Cranston in Trumbo
Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight
Michael B. Jordan in Creed
Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight

Umm...somewhat plausible, if unlikely. Bryan Cranston probably has the best chance for his performance as the screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. In addition to doing great work, Hollywood just loves movies about itself. Jordan needs Creed to perform big to have a chance. Jackson is a long shot, but could be a potential surprise. Even though John Ashton's performance is my favorite on this list, Uncle John was seen by very few people. As for Mark Ruffalo, this is a little unorthodox because the studio is pushing him for Supporting Actor, likely because they see Best Actor as too competitive. But watching Spotlight, you can see that he's got the most screen time and is present for most of the big moments.

Best Actress
Juliana Harkavy in Last Shift
Thora Helga in Metalhead
Nina Hoss in Phoenix
Jacqueline Kim in Advantageous
Brie Larson in Room

Plausibility: It was tough to limit this one to five, I could have easily expanded it to ten and added Rooney Mara, Maika Monroe, Charlize Theron, Taissa Farmiga and Kitana Rodriguez. The only one here with any chance of an actual nomination is Brie Larson. Critics loved Phoenix, but that seems to be where the love ends. Last Shift is a horror film that was elevated a great deal by Juliana Harkavy's sincere performance, but it's still a horror film. A movie about metal is probably just as unlikely to get any respect so Thora Helga and her demonic makeup won't be showing up.

Then there's Jacqueline Kim, who also has no chance. It's funny - for all the talk last year about the lack of recognition for black actors, it's far more rare to see Asian actors nominated. Once again the under the radar nature of Advantageous works against it. It might be nice if the Academy members made an effort to see more movies, but more on that in a bit.

Best Supporting Actor
Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation
Michael Keaton in Spotlight
Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight
Sylvester Stallone in Creed
Ray Wise in Digging Up the Marrow

Plausibility: Not bad! Elba and Stallone are very likely to show up and Keaton also has a good shot. Kurt Russell would need a Hateful Eight sweep to get in, which is too bad because he was arguably the highlight of the film. The most unlikely is Ray Wise, an underrated actor best known for playing Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks. He really dug deep as the father of a missing child in Digging Up the Marrow, adding serious gravitas to a movie that was otherwise kind of silly.

Best Supporting Actress
Malin Akerman in The Final Girls
Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight
Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria
Mya Taylor in Tangerine
Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina

Plausibility: A little bit, but not much. Leigh is a likely nominee and Vikander may make it in, although not necessarily for that movie since she's been in several acclaimed films this year. Kristen Stewart is considered unlikely by most of the pundits, but her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria has won many other awards so I wouldn't necessarily count her out. Mya Taylor could get in if the Academy is feeling extremely progressive, which is rare despite Fox News always insisting that they're communists out to turn everyone gay or whatever. Malin Akerman has absolutely no chance, which is a shame because she was one half of the mother-daughter relationship that made The Final Girls surprisingly heartfelt and moving for a goofy meta-comedy.

I could do more categories, but I think that's enough. It's safe to say the nominations won't look much like this. Still, what I find sadder is that people might look at this and be like "Oh, you're just trying to be politically correct." But I'm not. All I'm doing is looking at the last year in film beyond the typical Oscar bait. Once you do that, the nominees do start to look a little more diverse. Rather than trying to find one or two performances by minorities to coalesce around each year, the way to truly start to fix the Academy's diversity problem is to expand the definition of what an "Oscar movie" is. Why does it always need to be formulaic biographies of famous disabled people or stories about just how spectacular the life of an artist is? Until that changes, the nominations won't.

Hope you guys enjoyed this new activity. Before long, I'll be back with the more familiar ritual of trying to guess the winners. See you then!

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