Every year on Oscar nomination day the focus always turns to the snubs (this year it’s Amy Adams, though I think she’ll find her way back to the Oscars soon enough), so here are seven facts I find relevant and interesting pertaining to this year’s Oscars, set for Feb. 26.
“La La Land” was nominated 14 times, tied for most all time
You’ve probably heard this one already, but 14 nominations is a lot for one movie (most years the most nominated film has 11). Only two other films have done it: “All About Eve” and “Titanic.” As a musical, this isn’t surprising when you consider the music and sound categories. “All About Eve,” for example, didn’t have two Best Original Song nominations to bolster its total (it got five acting nominations instead). The film with the most nominations doesn’t always win Best Picture (especially of late), but “Eve” and “Titanic” did, so to call “La La Land” the favorite would be an understatement.
A record-breaking six black actors received Oscar nominations
Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis, Ruth Negga, Naomie Harris, Octavia Spencer and Denzel Washington (the most decorated black actor in Oscar history with seven nominations and two wins). The Academy must be incredibly pleased with this result after announcing changes to the nominating process to improve diversity in the face of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. That said, these were all great, deserving performances on many predictors’ radars. “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” were expected Best Picture nominees. It was a good year for movies about black lives. Even the documentaries (“I Am Not Your Negro,” “13th” and “O.J.: Made in America”) focused on black stories and issues. Honorable mention to Dev Patel for adding more diversity with his nod for “Lion.”
Bradford Young is the first black cinematographer to be nominated for an Oscar
If the six acting nominations and the Best Picture and Best Documentary Feature nominations weren’t enough, the 2017 Oscars will be historic in that Bradford Young has broken the color barrier in cinematography. And for his work on “Arrival,” not one of the films about black experiences. If you want to talk about ways that race really matters in Hollywood, this is the real achievement. Diversity behind the camera, because it isn’t visible, is more important than in front of it.
Mel Gibson received his first and only other Oscar nomination since “Braveheart”
Even though he was on the bubble, especially when you consider the Academy’s knack for nominating big-name directors, Mel Gibson was far and away the most surprising nominee in the Best Director category. Even though “Hacksaw Ridge” is a Best Picture nominee and received four other nominations in addition to Gibson’s, the film was not a unanimous favorite, especially among critics. He didn’t have to be there, so this says something about the Academy’s willingness to forgive, even though it’s sure to be a contentious storyline heading into this year’s ceremony.
Meryl Streep’s nomination total is now 20 and she’s doing it entirely on her own
The Academy’s love affair with Meryl Streep continues. She now has 20 nominations along with her three wins. What’s impressive (or all the more biased, depending how you look at it) is how many of her nominations came for her performances in films that were otherwise unremarkable. She was the only nominee for four of the films for which she was nominated and one of two nominees for seven of the films for which she was nominated. Of her last 14 nominations, only one was for a film that also received a Best Picture nod (“Doubt”). They’re looking for her, and it’s bound to result in a few more before she calls it an unprecedented career.
“La La Land” director Damien Chazelle is poised to become the youngest Best Director winner of all time
After turning 32 last week, Damien Chazelle could become the youngest director to ever win the Best Director Oscar — and the youngest in 86 years (Norman Taurog won for “Skippy” in 1931. He was also 32, but was three months from turning 33 when he won the Oscar). Given all the production awards the film is sure to win and its leading status for Best Picture, a whole lot of Millennials will be inspired to see someone who looks remotely like them winning the most prestigious award a filmmaker can receive.
“Kubo and the Two Strings” is the first animated feature to receive a Best Visual Effects nomination in 23 years
“Kubo” is one of two 100-percent animated films to ever be nominated in the category, the last being “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which pioneered the stop-motion technique used in “Kubo.” It’s an important achievement, because it has not happened since the Best Animated Feature category was introduced in 2001. Despite the incredible digital effects work that has been done on animated films in that time, the Academy has confined the production achievements of these films to Best Animated Feature and this is an important validation of animators’ work.