After last years #OscarsSoWhite I was really excited to see not one but four films that featured and celebrated a diversity of stories. I haven’t seen them all yet (Moonlight, Lion and Fences are on my list) but I have to say it’s incredibly refreshing how inclusive this years Oscars will be. That said… Someone needs to explain to me all the fuss over La La Land.
I get it. I mean I really GET. IT. I’m a musical theater kid. I was practically born in a trunk at the Princess Theater. I GET IT. But I don’t get it. There is nothing uniquely ground breaking about the story, the characters or the film production. Nothing new is introduced in this movie. In fact, La La Land feels like Hollywood giving itself a big pat on the back for being clever. I've lived the story of La La Land and I didn't care. So maybe we can recognize something... different?
I have recently been on “for your consideration” film binge for the past month. So far, I have watched Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, Jackie, La La Land, and last night, Queen of Katwe. With all that talent in the running, La La Land racks up 14 nominations but movies like Queen of Katwe aren’t even in the running.
So rather than talk about the movies that are nominated (I’m rooting for you Hidden Figures), I’m going to highlight some films that I feel were woefully overlooked this year. Most of which tick off all the right boxes to deserve a nomination but fail to secure any.
Queen of Katwe: Watch the trailer here.
Story: Queen of Kate is the true story of a young girl in Uganda who lifts herself and her family out of poverty by learning to play chess.
Star Power: Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo (The Butler, Selma, ) and Academy Award Winner Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) star in this film and knock it out of the park.
Studio Backing: This is the Disney movie you probably didn’t know was a Disney movie.
Director: Mira Nair is an incredibly talented director. She directed the American biopic about Amelia Earhardt in 2009 with an all-star talent roster that included Academy Award Winner Hilary Swank. I really look forward to seeing what’s next for this director as she has an eye for cinema and beautiful craft to her story telling.
What it should be Nominated for: Best Picture. But it’s hard to justify when the Academy can’t even recognize the obvious talent of the director to give her a nod. They least the Academy could have done was give it a Best Foreign Language Nomination.
Eddie the Eagle: Watch the trailer here.
Story: The true story of Olympic hopeful Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, the British underdog for Ski-jumping in 1988. Fun Fact, that’s the same year the Jamaican Bobsled Team competed.
Star Power: Taron Egerton (Kingsmen, Sing) stars as Eddie, the doggedly determined young man who dreams of competing in the Olympics no matter what it takes. His coach is played by none other than Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Prestige). Even screen legend Christopher Walken (Catch Me if You Can, Pulp Fiction) makes an appearance.
Studio Backing: While the film is produced by lesser known companies Marv Films, Saville Productions and Studio Babelsberg, it is distributed world wide by non other than 20th Century Fox. There is no good reason you haven’t heard of this movie. I HIGHLY recommend you rent or buy it. You won’t regret it.
Director: Ok, Dexter Fletcher is relatively new to the director’s chair, having only directed two other films (that you’ve never heard of). But I’d bet you know the producers attached including Matthew Vaughn who produced & directed Kick-Ass and indie favorite Layer Cake. This team was a safe bet for the studio, and the director really had the support he needed to stretch his wings.
What it should be nominated for: Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role. While I absolutely love this movie, and my family loved enough to buy it, I think where it truly shines is in the original story it’s telling. We’ve heard Olympic stories before but this one was new and different. How different? Well you'll have to watch wont you? As for Taron Egerton, he was a one-note wonder for me when I saw him in Kingsmen. Then I rented Eddie the Eagle and holy-mother that man can act. He nailed the nuanced nervousness coupled with dogged determination of the real life figure he was playing. The ability of an actor to really disappear into a role so that the audience forgets the actor and only sees the character is how we tell the difference between the quality of talents.
Speaking of Olympics….
RACE:Watch the trailer here.
Story: I see a theme this year with true stories. RACE is the story of Jesse Owens and his quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history. He competed in the 1936 Olympics and stood in the face of Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. A timely piece, in more ways than one.
Star Power: Stephen James stars as Jesse Owens. You might remember his work in When the Game Stands Tall. Jason Sudeikis (SNL, Horrible Bosses) and Jeremy Irons (Batman vs Superman, The Lion King) also lend their supporting star power to this epic.
Studio Backing: Most of the companies that made this film possible are from Europe, so you may or may not know about them. JoBro Productions is growing in notoriety, as is Solofilms. Focus Features picked it up for US Distribution though, and they have a track record of winning films.
Director: Stephen Hopkins is best known for his work in television, but he has an equally impressive slate of films including The Ghost and the Darkness, Lost in Space, and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.
What is should be nominated for: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role. Really this film should have REALLY been looked at for all the same reasons that Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures and Jackie were included in the line up. Historical context, a story we haven't really covered before, fresh talent, quality cinema. But somehow…
Some honorable mentions for movies I wish were nominated: Miss Sloane (screenplay, actress), Deadpool (adapted screenplay, visual FX), Mountains May Depart (screenplay, best picture)The Huntsmen: Winters War (Costume Design), The Accountant (actor in a leading role, screenplay), The Handmaiden (screenplay, director, costume design).
Each of these films did something special, something new or unique. Colleen Atwood is already nominated for costume design for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but honestly her work in Huntsman is far superior. I know haters out there will say Ben Affleck should just stop acting, but I found him uniquely refreshing in The Accountant. Asian cinema is almost always relegated to Foreign Language nominations but that excuse is getting old in my book. If American movies are considered in foreign markets for Best Of, then those markets deserve a fair shake in our awards ceremonies too. Deadpool broke box-office records and stayed in the top ten for the year- on top of a unique screenplay that really delivered. A long standing pet peeve of mine is that action (where are the stunt awards), comedy and horror are ALWAYS overlooked in Awards season. I don't know why, because the big bucks that come in from tent-pole films like Deadpool. They are the reason the studios can make the smaller films and they take exactly the same amount of craft to make. Just listen to Gore Verbinski talk about the reasons behind a scene in A Cure for Wellness.
So I say again, what is the big fuss with La La Land?