Speaking of Mark Hamill’s performance in this year’s December release Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams said this past week, “I think we are all going to be very upset if he does not win an Oscar.” It’s a great thought, and certainly hits on what must be a significant role in this year’s eagerly awaited Episode XIII. But it’s pretty unlikely if the ghost of Oscars past has anything to say about it. This year is like most years when it comes to Academy Award nominations. Dramas monopolize the nominee categories yet again. When a genre is represented–also as usual–the representations are dramas in genre dress (like Passengers). The usual representation of biopics (like Jackie), movies about Hollywood (like La La Land) and historical dramas (like Hacksaw Ridge) are back as well, sure to take home some of the coveted trophies tonight. But nine nominees for best picture and no Midnight Special?
The best animated film category provides a little relief, with Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, and Zootopia as nominees. Oscar winner Colleen Atwood is back as a costume design nominee with one of the year’s fantasy releases, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which also garnered a nod for production design. But why Fantastic Beasts? Compare Atwood’s reserved designs for Fantastic Beasts with her elaborate designs for The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Alas, Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon’s landmark costume designs for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story were completely ignored, as were the hundreds of new, stunning, alien wardrobe designs and Starfleet retro-design uniforms created by Sanja Milkovic Hays for Star Trek Beyond.
As usual you need to look for the technical categories for the genre works. Star Trek Beyond and Suicide Squad, along with A Man Called Ove are the makeup and hairstyling contenders. Considering the fifty unique makeups designed for Star Trek Beyond in the franchise’s fiftieth year, this would be a triumph for the franchise. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story landed multiple nominations this year, including a deserved nod for sound mixing.
As is typical, for genre fans it’s the visual effects category that offers up some fun, featuring a broad look at some of the year’s favorite films. The nominees include Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The challenge is in the comparison. How do you rate visual effects in a truly animated film against the CGI work of The Jungle Book, or the special effects of Doctor Strange, or the full-scale battles and completely CGI characters of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?
Last year was undeniably Michael Giacchino’s year for soundtrack composition. He produced scores for Doctor Strange, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Trek Beyond, and Zootopia. Yet he received no nominations for this year’s award.
What we really want to see each year is a full show dedicated to the details of the year’s technical awards, awarded off-screen earlier this month and listed here. How about a program honoring those deserving, groundbreaking filmmakers who go unnoticed each year?
Find out the results of this year’s presentation by watching the ceremony tonight. Or if you can’t bear the likely extra-innings-esque show, just wait until the end and check the winners at the Oscar website here.