35% of the acting nominees this year are non-white, including three of the five women up for Best Supporting Actress. In fact, for the first time ever, at least one person of color is nominated in each of the four acting categories. There’s also an African-American nominee for Best Director (Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins).
While that’s unquestionably good news and absolutely a step in the right direction, minority groups other than African-Americans continue to struggle to get recognition from the Academy. Only one person of Asian descent (Lion’s Dev Patel) is up for an acting role, and Latinos aren’t represented at all in the acting and directing categories, although Lin-Manuel Miranda is up for Best Original Song.
While Moonlight features a gay main character, none of the nominees in the major categories are from the LGBTQ+ community.
Yes, Meryl Streep was nominated again, picking up her 20th nomination and extending her nomination streak. However, she’s only won three times, most recently in 2012.
But the more interesting streak, and the one lots more people should be talking about, was extended with the two nominations picked up this year by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. With those nominations, the Star Wars franchise continued its very unique streak–all eight movies have received at least one Oscar nomination. (Yes, even The Revenge of the Sith got nominated for, of all things, Best Achievement in Makeup.) Only Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth franchise, with six films, and the Toy Story movies, with 3 titles, can make the same claim.
It’s a La La Year
I fully expected La La Land to do well, since Hollywood loves musicals, but even more importantly, Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood. Still, it was a bit shocking that it picked up 14 nominations. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is; La La Land is now tied for the record for most nominations of all time, with 1950’s All About Eve and 1997’s Titanic. Both of which went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture, something to consider that when you’re filling out your office Oscar pool ballots. Titanic, by the way, won 11 awards (a whopping 78.7%), while All About Eve won only 6 (a more modest but still impressive 42.8%). With Best Picture always announced last we now might have a pretty good idea how the night will end, but all the stuff before that isn’t quite as solid a lock.
La La Land was nominated in almost all of the categories for which it was eligible, missing out only on Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, Makeup, and Visual Effects categories.
Spreading the Wealth?
A total of 68 movies picked up nominations this year, which is pretty average. But, as is also usually true, the nominations aren’t spread evenly across those movies. As mentioned above, La La Land picked up 14, while Arrival and Moonlight got 8 each. Hacksaw Ridge, Lion, and Manchester by the Sea got 6 nominations each, and Fences and Hell or High Water got 4 each. Hidden Figures–which a lot of folks (myself included) thought might be the film to challenge La La Land–brought in only 3, doing as well as the highly overrated Jackie.
Eight movies got 2 nominations: Florence Foster Jenkins, Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, A Man Called Ove, Passengers, Deepwater Horizon, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
That leaves 42 movies that got only a single nomination. To be fair, 10 of those are in the Short Film (Animated) and Short Film (Live Action) categories. I don’t know whether or not those films are specifically blocked from receiving nominations in other categories, but I’m pretty sure none ever have.
Speaking of wealth: the nine Best Picture nominees have, as of this writing, brought in a combined $570,057,178 in US domestic box office returns. However, close to half of that total–$336,358,444–is from Hidden Figures ($119,491,683), La La Land ($118,228,990) and Arrival ($98,637,771).
Those numbers will change, though. Only Hell or High Water and Hacksaw Ridge are not currently in theaters, so the box office returns on all of the others will continue to rise. In fact, since the nominations were announced, Hidden Figures has surpassed La La Land as the top-grossing Best Picture nominee.
This is the lowest grossing set of Best Picture nominees since 2008, when winner Slumdog Millionaire and nominees The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, Milk, and Frost/Nixon combined for $353,486,991.
None of this year’s Best Picture nominees cracked the top 10 (or even top 20) highest grossing domestic films for 2016. Several nominees are on the list, including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the highest-grossing film of 2016. Other top-grossing films with no nominations are Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets, Deadpool, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first Best Picture nominee is Hidden Figures at 23, La La Land at 24, and Arrival at 29.
The source for these and other box office figures, by the way, is Box Office Mojo.
Despite being the only category with more than five nominations, Best Picture isn’t the highest grossing category. Not even close, in fact: that distinction belongs to the five films nominated for Best Visual Effects, which to date have grossed $1.23 billion. The nominees there? Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Jungle Book, and Doctor Strange, each of which grossed more than any of the Best Picture nominees, along with Deepwater Horizon and Kubo and the Two Strings.
Several folks through the years have won all of the major entertainment awards–the Emmy, the Grammy, the Tony and the Oscar. Lin-Manuel Miranda has already picked up three of the four, with the added bonus of also having won a Pulitzer Prize. With his nomination this year for Best Original Song (Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go”), he stands to complete the cycle and add that one last trophy to his shelf. If he wins, the Oscar will be a bit unique in that it’ll be the only major award he won for something other than Hamilton. But he has an uphill battle, since he needs to beat not just one, but two songs from La La Land, a song by a guy named Timberlake, and another by a guy named Sting.
Do Animated Films Have Visual Effects?
It isn’t unusual for a nominee for Best Animated Film to receive other nominations, but Kubo and the Two Strings is the first to receive a nomination for Best Visual Effects. Of course, one could argue that many, in fact, most films are at least semi-animated these days, thanks to the rise (some would say overuse) of CGI in almost every film. There is, after all, only a slight difference between Laika, that studio behind Kubo, shooting tiny models against a green screen and adding other effects later, and Lucasfilm shooting actors in front of a green screen and then using effects–and animation–to resurrect an actor who has been dead for 20 years in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The average Rotten Tomatoes score of all of the nominees (well, all of the nominees that have RT scores, anyway) is 85.6%. That’s pretty good, and basically what you’d expect. Except if you remove only two nominees, the score jumps all the way up to 88%. Those two movies? Production Design nominee Passengers, which is at 31% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Makeup and Hairstyling nominee Suicide Squad, sitting at a dismal 26%. (It’s actually a lot worse than that score implies.)
By comparison, the average score of the nine Best Picture nominees is 93.2%.
One other nominee has a “rotten” score: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, which is right on the edge at 50%. After that, the next lowest score is Nocturnal Animals at 72%.
The top 10 highest-rated films of 2016 by Rotten Tomatoes includes Best Picture nominees Moonlight (99%), Hell or High Water (98%), Manchester By The Sea (96%), Arrival (94%), and La La Land (93%). Also making the list are Best Animated Features Zootopia (98%) and Kubo and the Two Strings (97%). But two other Top 10 films–Love and Friendship and Finding Dory–didn’t get any Oscar love this year. For what it’s worth, I agree with the Academy over Rotten Tomatoes on this one. I hated Love and Friendship, and I would rank Dory among the weakest of Pixar’s films.
Sometimes, Oscar nominees can feel really, really long, but this year’s Documentary Feature nominee O.J.: Made in America actually is long: 7 hours and 47 minutes, to be exact. Yes, you read that right: it’s just shy of 8 hours long. The movie, produced by ESPN (remember, the “E” stands for “entertainment”), is, in fact, the longest film ever nominated for an Oscar. Unlike O.J.’s NFL records, that’s one that is unlikely to ever be beaten. Or so we can hope.
In case you’re wondering, it would only take 10 hours and 13 minutes to watch all of the other Best Documentary features, and you could watch the four shortest Best Picture nominees–Hell or High Water, Moonlight, Arrival, and Lion–in less time than it would take you to watch the O.J. movie.
18 Hours, 17 Minutes
Speaking of length, it would take you 18 hours, 17 minutes to watch all nine Best Picture nominees in one sitting. (Only two of them are currently available on disc, though, so this is really just a hypothetical.) The longest are Hacksaw Ridge and Fences, both at 2 hours, 19 minutes. The shortest is Hell or High Water, at 1 hour, 42 minutes.
A Brave New World
Manchester by the Sea was produced by Amazon, making it the first movie made by an online streaming service to pick up a nomination.
Meanwhile, two nominees–Documentary Short Joe’s Violin and Animated Short Pear Cider and Cigarettes–both received their initial funding via Kickstarter.
It will be interesting to see how other online companies break into mainstream Hollywood, and how mainstream Hollywood reacts.