Let me just preface this article by praising the Academy for the diversity of this year’s nominations. Films like Fences, Moonlight and Hidden Figures are stories centred around race and people of colour, so recognition in the Best Picture and Screenplay categories on its own is a good sign. The fact that several actors and actresses from these films have also been nominated, is a big step towards making up for their white washing of the last two years. So in this regard, bravo Academy!
Anyway, onto the bashing…
So the slate of nominees at the Academy Awards is becoming increasingly similar and more predictable every year; crowd pleaser, methodical and understated drama, biopics, melodramas, the nice charming little film (usually British), and, of course, the #’Murica movie. Admittedly these films are usually all of a high quality, just look at the nominees in 2014 when Birdman won Best Picture; any one of Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash or Selma could have feasibly taken home the top prize without much backlash. But there is one thing that seems to tie all of these movies together, one umbrella that they all fall under, and it simply is not inclusive enough for genre films. Nine times out of ten, these movies are predominantly classed as “dramas”. Yes, yes… some are comedic, some have thriller aspects, there are a few sci-fi’s every now and then. There is some diversity and expansion among these “dramas”, but nowhere near enough.
This is where the Golden Globes do a good job, splitting the Best Picture and Acting categories into “Drama” and “Musical or Comedy”. This year their nominees were on point and featured several films which would never, and as is turns out didn’t, feature among the Academy Awards nominees; Sing Street, Deadpool, War Dogs, The Edge of Seventeen and 20th Century Women all had a moment in the spotlight before their awards credentials were put to bed.
When comedy is done right, oh boy, is it done right! I’m still personally annoyed that Sing Street and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, two of the year’s best, have been pushed out of the Academy Awards entirely; no Best Original Screenplay nominations, no Best Lead/Supporting Actor nominations, no Best Picture nominations. Let’s look at the last decade and the best and most unanimously critically acclaimed comedy movies. The Hangover; no Best Original Screenplay nomination or Best Supporting Actor nomination for the made man Zach Galifianakis. Borat; admittedly did receive a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, but there was no Best Lead Actor nod for Sacha Baron Cohen. What We Do in the Shadows; no Original Screenplay nod. 21 & 22 Jump Street; no Adapted Screenplay Nomination and no love for either Jonah Hill or Channing Tatum. The LEGO Movie; no Screenplay, Animated Feature or Best Picture. The Nice Guys; where was its Best Original Screenplay nomination?! Me and Earl and the Dying Girl; probably should have swept the board with nominations. So admittedly it is nearly all screenplay snubs, but the lack of recognition is a problem for these films which are so damn hard to get right and to pull off. Their success deserves to be celebrated.
Sci-Fi has managed to be perhaps the main trend busting genre, but it can still be overlooked unfortunately. Moon never got any love, neither did the screenplay for Guardians of the Galaxy. Inception probably should have won Best Picture and Nolan should have gotten a Best Director nomination (probably a win for that matter), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind… nowhere near enough love, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – how did Andy Serkis not receive a Best Supporting (or even Lead) Actor nomination? Intelligent, visually stunning and powerful films which did not get the true love they deserved because the old white men of the Academy liked Crash. And the same happens to action films. Mad Max: Fury Road last year bucked the trend and has been considered a potential break through, but there is never any top-tier love for action movies. A lot of them are just good and not great, but when a truly great action movie comes along and doesn’t get nominated, it is disheartening. To put this into context, Die Hard and Terminator 2: Judgement Day were not nominated for Best Picture.
And then there’s the Academy cop-out of Best Animated Feature, I mean c’mon… a good movie is a good movie. Of all the films I’ve seen this year Zootopia and Moana are two of the ten best and neither of them has a Best Picture nomination to their name, they’ve been shepherded away into the Best Animated Feature category. Seemingly gone are the days when Up and Toy Story 3 would sneak their way into the Best Picture category; if Inside Out can’t make it into the Best Picture frame then perhaps no animated film can. They’ll be shepherded into the Best Animated Feature category to make way for the American Sniper’s and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close‘s of the world.
The old white men may never learn to appreciate, or even see, these genre films, but when there are films like La La Land and Hell or High Water fighting strong in the Academy Awards scene, there is always hope…