The Biggest Snubs from this Year’s Oscar Nominations

One of the fun things to discuss, debate, argue, or silently complain about on social media is Oscar snubs. Luckily this year, the ship has been righted and I think we can put the #Oscarssowhite controversy to rest because of how diverse the nominees were this year. Although to be fair, the Academy set the bar pretty low the past two years in terms of cultural variety. But there’s one thing the Academy can never escape and that’s snubs. While I certainly don’t believe some of my snubs ever had a chance, they are deserving of some gold.

Best Picture Snub
Swiss Army Man

I knew this was a longshot. I know the Academy isn’t about to publicly acknowledge a farting boner corpse movie. But a little part of me had hoped that its indie cred, combined with its existential storytelling, would have made it a respectable dark horse in a field of 10. It’s unique, fascinating, moving, well-acted and wonderfully shot. Its only flaw is that it’s too off putting for general audiences and slightly juvenile for the snobby voters in Hollywood. I swear this is the last time you’ll hear or see me cheerleading for this movie.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: 20th Century Women

Best Director Snub
Robert Eggers, The Witch

Eggers immersed himself in 1630’s New England to deliver a historically accurate portrayal of terror in the unknown wilderness of early America. Everything from the film’s dialogue to the farmstead were meticulously groomed and crafted by the director. He managed to wrangle four (including one teenager) child actors, keeping them from being annoying, as they traditionally are in horror movies. This production designer turned director crafted an atmospheric horror masterpiece. Eggers is one to watch out for.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, Swiss Army Man

Best Actor Snub
Tom Hanks, Sully

Let’s clear up this presumed notion I’ve seen on social media. Tom Hanks doesn’t get nominated every year. He hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since 2001 and hasn’t won a golden statute since 1995. I’m not asking the Academy to throw him a bone, he doesn’t need one. But don’t overlook the fact that “Sully” is a sub par movie-going experience without Hanks’ hefty talents in the pilot seat. Hanks’ navigates Clint Eastwood’s so-so work into a memorable tale of average Joe heroism and the bureaucratic blame game.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nocturnal Animals

Best Actress Snub
Sasha Lane, American Honey

I wouldn’t blame you for not watching “American Honey.” Three hours of wanderlust is too much for the average audience. But first time actress, Sasha Lane, is a treasure to watch. She was up for every challenge of portraying an impoverished young adult. Lane portrays an innocent, if not naive, teenager looking for her purpose and a slice of the American dream. Her character, without speaking usually, represents youthful aspirations and good intentions, despite the thieving people around her. Lane keeps the flame of hope in her character lit throughout the movie, making her character one to root for her and admire.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Amy Adams, Arrival

Best Supporting Actor Snub
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

The story within a story is the strongest part about “Nocturnal Animals,” mainly due to its wonderful performances. Leading the way is Jake Gyllenhaal, but his emotionally distressed character would be nothing without the terrifying Texas psychopath played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. While visually disgusting, Taylor-Johnson’s grimy character radiates off the screen. He’s calculating, but relaxed. He’s vicious, but calm. The dynamic extremes of his character are balanced by Taylor-Johnson who’s “ablicious” and repugnant.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Ben Foster, Hell or High Water

Best Supporting Actress Snub
Haley Bennett, Girl on the Train

I know. I know. This is a bad movie. But the Academy has not been above nominating a bad movie or rewarding the components of a bad movie. Let’s not forget that “50 Shades of Grey” is an Oscar nominated movie with five Razzie wins under its belt. While Emily Blunt should certainly be commended for her performance, it’s Haley Bennett’s performance as the tragically flawed suburban floozy that becomes the center of the movie’s suffering. Her character lives life emotionally empty, only to be killed when finding new life. In the rear view mirror of 2016, Bennett’s performance is brave and engaging, but trapped in a lifeless cliché movie.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

Best Animated Feature
Finding Dory

Is “Finding Dory” that average? I thoroughly enjoyed the Pixar movie and was surprised it didn’t, at the very least, get a nod. It’s not the best of the year, but it can certainly be mentioned in the same breath as the other candidates. I haven’t seen “The Red Turtle” or “My Life as a Zucchini” so I can’t comment on their quality since they certainly secured the final two spots. I’m sure they’re good. Maybe this is a sign that Pixar should just avoid sequels for a while. At least “Sausage Party” didn’t steal one of the nomination seats or else there’d be hell to pay.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: None. This was a year that saw Angry Birds, so we need to do better in 2017.

Best Original Screenplay
Zootopia

It’s been mentioned before, and not just by me, that “Zootopia” benefited from coming out at the right time. The script, while being generously relatable to kids and adults alike, has a wonderful message about acceptance. A city populated with cute, furry animals taught everyone that sexism, racism, classism and xenophobia are still very real and can divide us in a heartbeat. Disney could have easily settled for a buddy cop movies with animals, but instead allowed the script to naturally evolve and survive the rewriting process. Despite nine credited writers, “Zootopia” never became diluted or a jumbled mess. Instead it ran smoothly with a clear message of tolerance.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: The Invitation

Best Adapted Screenplay
Silence

Martin Scorsese’s decades long passion project is based on a work of historical fiction. While having never read the novel myself, the folks who have read the book have left nothing, but glowing reviews of it online. If the purpose of the 20th century novel is to make us reflect and question spirituality and our religious beliefs as a whole, Scorsese captured that wonderfully in a movie that, while drawn out, is beautifully retold on the silver screen. Scorsese painted a beautiful picture just like the book certainly transported readers back to post-Feudal Japan.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: High-Rise

Best Music
Cliff Martinez, Neon Demon

While I’m not completely sold on “Neon Demon” being a good movie, I found myself listening to the soundtrack of “Neon Demon” multiple times. While adding another layer to the movie, the soundtrack on its own accord is a wonderful synth album inducing feelings of hope and despair. “Neon Demon” is a visual experience, complimented by a wonderful score that spurs dread and bouncy optimism, sometimes within a single song. “Neon Demon” is the only movie this year where the music feels like an unseen narrator for how we’re supposed to feel.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Johann Johannson, Arrival

Best Music, Original Song
Drive it Like You Stole It, Sing Street

The coming-of-age love letter to the 80’s, “Sing Street,” should have been more popular. Not only did the Clash, A-Ha, and the Cure get some much deserved love on the screen, but the movie featured some dynamic original music. Most of the original content, like “Riddle of the Model,” was short nods to music by Duran Duran or other iconic bands. However, the movie reaches its crescendo with its most poppy rock hit, “Drive It Like You Stole It.” The song is a big metaphor for the final act and growing up in general. Just listen to it and tell me that’s not the best original song of the year.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Montage, Swiss Army Man

Best Foreign Language
Elle

I’m finding it difficult, once again, to put into words why I like this movie so much. Just read my review.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: I’m not sure. I should be more cultured.

 

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“Manchester by the Sea” Dominates 4th Annual MediaMikes.com Awards

Writer/Director Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” led all films in the 4th Annual Media Mikes Awards, which are voted on by both readers and staff of the web site.

Besides being named the Best Film of 2016, “Manchester by the Sea” took home the awards for Best Actor, Casey Affleck, as well as Best Original Screenplay for Lonergan. It was also the only film to win multiple awards.

Best Actress went to Natalie Portman for her performance as former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in “Jackie.” Best Supporting Actor was Dev Patel for “Lion” while Viola Davis was selected as the year’s Best Supporting Actress for “Fences.”

Damien Chazelle was named the year’s Best Director for “La La Land” while “Zootopia” was chosen as the Best Animated Feature.

As in past years, over 3,000 entries were submitted by readers in seven categories, with the staff of Media Mikes choosing the winners in the Original and Adapted Screenplay, Original Musical Score and Documentary categories.

Below is a complete list of winners:

BEST FILM: Manchester by the Sea

BEST ACTOR: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman – Jackie

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Dev Patel – Lion

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Viola Davis – Fences

BEST DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle – La La Land

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Zootopia

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Jay Cocks and Martin Scorcese – Silence

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: OJ: Made in America

BEST ORIGINAL MUSICAL SCORE: Mark Mancina – Moana

Our Critics Pick the Best (and Worst) Films of 2016

As the year 2016 finally comes to an end it’s time for the film guys (and gals) here at Media Mikes to share our thoughts on the best and worse films that the year had to offer. Since I’ve got the by-line, I’ll go first:

Mike Smith’s Best Films of 2016

1. “Birth of a Nation”
I can’t understand how fickle Hollywood is. It was just a little under a year ago, when the Academy Award nominations were announced, that everyone was up in arms due to the lack of minority representation among the major nominees. When “Birth of a Nation” first opened, it drew raves – including from me – and seemed to be on a collision course with Oscar. Then it was reported that the films co-writer, director and star, Nate Parker, had been accused of rape 20 years ago while in college. I will admit right here that when I did my “Fall Movie Preview” I mentioned the alleged event, even questioning if it will have any effect on the film’s popularity. Obviously the answer is a resounding yes. Sometime ago I read a magazine article about possible Best Picture nominees and the very first line stated that the alleged incident pretty much knocked the film out of the race. Too bad. “Birth of a Nation” is one of the most original and powerful films of this or any year.

2. “Hacksaw Ridge”
Apparently Hollywood found a film that is bulletproof from negative publicity. Directed by everyone’s favorite crazy uncle – you know who he is, the one that really shouldn’t drink and then make phone calls – Mel Gibson, this is the true story of how a soldier can refuse to pick up a weapon but still become a hero.

3. “Weiner”
My father used to tell this joke: A man and his wife have a baby but it’s only a head. Ashamed, the father puts it in a coffee can and puts it on the back porch. 21 years later he picks up the can and takes it with him to the local bar. He orders two beers, drinks one and pours the other into the head’s mouth. Suddenly the head spins around, drops to the floor and begins to grow – arms, legs, body. After a few minutes where once sat a head now stands a beautiful specimen of a man. “Holy shit,” the father exclaims and orders two more beers. He and his son clink glasses and drink. Suddenly the boy falls over, dead. The bartender looks over the bar at the body on the ground and says, “Poor kid. He should have quit while he was ahead!” That is the same advice Anthony Weiner should have taken. Once a growing force in politics, Weiner had to resign his seat in congress after it was discovered that he had texted nude photos of himself to women not his wife. Years later he decides to run for Mayor of New York City. He’s doing well in the polls when – you guessed it – he took that second glass of beer! Caught once again sharing shots of his penis, he withdraws from the race. I just realized that I used the words “growing” and “withdraws” in a story about a guy named Weiner. See what I did there?

4. “Manchester by the Sea”
Normally when I see Casey Affleck on screen I immediately see him in the back of Chuckie’s car in “Goodwill Hunting,” waiting for his lunch and singing out, “I wish I had a double-burger!” He’s always been good in pretty much everything I’ve seen him in since but he NAILS IT with his performance here. With a constant level of sadness just peeking out no matter the situation, he may not be the only Affleck with an Oscar come this February.

5. “Moana”
Dwayne Johnson sings! That is one of the great surprises in this sure-to-be next animated Disney classic. Great songs, fun performances and a strong female character add up to an amazing night at the movies.

Mike Smith’s Worst Film of 2016

No contest here. Say hello to “The 5th Wave.” Allow me to share some of my review:

“A film only in the sense that it’s being shown in theatres, “The 5th Wave” tells the story about what can happen when you reveal the BIG ending 20 minutes into the film and apparently forget what the words “continuity” and “believable” mean.”

Need I say more? But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some more suggestions from the rest of the gang:

Mike Gencarelli’s Best and Worst of 2016

Best:
“A Monster Calls”
“Deadpool”
“Doctor Strange”
“Finding Dory”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“The Neon Demon”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“The Secret Life of Pets”
“Trolls”

Worst:
“The BFG”
“The Legend of Tarzan”
“Nocturnal Animals”
“Snowden”
“Zoolander 2”

Lauren Damon’s Best Films of 2016

1. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”
Taika Waititi on my list again! This movie managed to be funny, sweet, original and not to mention shot gorgeously. The main boy (Julian Dennison) was so well cast opposite Sam Neill. Also fell in love with Rachel House who then also turned out to be my favorite crazy grandma in Disney’s Moana (not on my list here, but did enjoy.)

2. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Ho. Lee. Shit. This movie has Death-Star sized balls in the darkness territory and I felt so proud of Disney for actually letting it be that way. I enjoyed it way more than The Force Awakens because it felt so fresh for the franchise. The third act battle was astounding and their usage of Darth Vader put the biggest grin on my face.

3. “Don’t Think Twice”
Mike Birbiglia’s film about a tight-knit improv troupe that’s split when one of its members ascends to an SNL-type show was full of top comedians (Birbiglia, Chris Gethard, Tammy Sagher, Keegan Michael Key, Kate Micucci and Gillian Jacobs make up the group) doing hysterical improv, but more impressively bringing so much heart and smart observation to this very specific scene and age group. It was equal parts hilarious and heart-breaking.

4. “Deadpool”
I’m so glad this movie exists. Knowing that Ryan Reynolds fought for years to get a Deadpool movie made that gets the character right and to have it turn out this funny and bad-ass just made my nerd heart happy.

5. “Captain America: Civil War”
The Russo brothers here continue to make me excited for their upcoming work on Avengers: Infinity War because Civil War proved that these guys know how to handle a massive cast. This film arguably had the most baggage (i.e. number of movies in the MCU you should be up to speed with going in) but it never felt that way and they managed to seamlessly introduce both Black Panther and a new Spider-man (who I loved! Great job by Tom Holland). The heroic showdown in the German airport is one of my favorite sequences of the year.

Lauren Damon’s Worst Film of 2016

“Jason Bourne”
Most disappointing. I was so incredibly bored, I couldn’t believe it. Muddled action sequences, may-as-well be stock footage of nefarious control rooms, and a backstory that added exactly one sentence of history to the Bourne mythos. Tommy Lee Jones could have been asleep in his role while title character reportedly had only 25 lines of dialogue, just a lazy effort in a franchise I’ve previously loved.

Jeremy Werner’s Best Films of 2016

1. “Swiss Army Man”
Very few movies have the honor or distinction of being wholly unique, but “Swiss Army Man” grabs that honor within minutes of beginning. Surely, it’ll also be the only movie ever that’ll ever explore existentialism through a farting boner corpse.

2. “Zootopia”
After a rough 2016, where some of the ugliest sides of people were brought to the forefront, it’s refreshing to see a sharply written animated movie film highlight tolerance and acceptance. This movie will resonate for years and decades.

3. “Arrival”
A poignant sci-fi flick that simply teaches communication is the main ingredient to understanding one another. But on a deeper level, “Arrival” reveals that we’re not alone in the universe, on a galactic and emotional level.

4. “Manchester by the Sea”
Despite all the emotional gut punches that this movie delivers, it’s final moments offer hope, forgiveness, and that well-deserved light at the end of the tunnel for those who’ve had tragedy and depression consume them.

5. “Hell or High Water”
The neo-western feels trapped in an economic hangover, saying more about it’s themes than any of it’s characters. It’s a bank heist movie with realistic grit and a sour message.

6. “O.J.: Made in America”
Despite being nearly eight hours, this documentary never gets boring in it’s unflinching look at racism in America. The trial of the 20th century has never felt more prevalent as police involved shootings and racial tensions are on the rise in America.

Jeremy Werner’s Worst Films of 2016

1. “Nine Lives”
I’d rather eat an uncleaned box of kitty litter than watch this movie again. Actually, no. I wouldn’t. That’s dangerously unhealthy and potentially life-ending. But I think you get the point. This movie is awful, beyond human words can comprehend.

2. “The Divergent Series: Allegiant”
Back in 2014, I made a journalistic plea to moviegoers to not see “Divergent” so I could be spared anymore suffering. Those cries went unheard and two years later I endured another two-hour cinematic abortion.

3. “Passengers”
Many have noted “Passengers” is Stockholm syndrome in space, but I’d like to point out that “Passengers” is also a sign that victim blaming and rampant sexism is still a concern in the future.

4. “Warcraft”
Somehow “Warcraft” has a 7/10 on IMDB. Somehow this made back twice it’s budget. Somehow the “Ghostbusters” remake was a box office bomb and has a lower IMDB rating. This world sucks. Let’s go to Mars.

5. “Mother’s Day”
“Mother’s Day” is the film equivalent of a hard slap to the face for hard working moms in the world. Moms deserve a movie that loves and supports them, and doesn’t belittle them, like “Mother’s Day” did.

Loey Lockerby’s Best Films of 2016

1. “Hell or High Water”
A near-perfect blend of family drama, heist movie, absurdist comedy & neo-Western.

2. “Moonlight”
Thoughtful, sensitive & beautiful. It tells a long story without dragging it out or pacing it badly. No small feat.

3. “Manchester by the Sea”
I loved every flawed, struggling character. How many tragedies can actually make you feel better by the end?

4. “Arrival”
Tackles serious emotional issues while offering an intelligent sci-fi story & relatable characters. Exactly what this genre does best.

5. “The Witch”
It’s not horror-movie scary, but it’s terrifying in the realistic way it portrays madness & early American religious fanaticism.

Loey says they were spared having to watch anything horrible this past year. You can read Loey’s full reviews here.

Blu-ray Review “Zootopia”

Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Alan Tudyk, J.K. Simmons, Nate Torrence
Rated: PG
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Run Time: 108 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Zootopia” is the latest smash hit from Walt Disney Animation Studios! They have been nailing it one hit after another. The story is not only fun but also sets a good picture of the world and gives real lessons (for those that can see them). I really enjoyed this from beginning to end and in fact better with repeat viewings. I have a four year old and we watch one A LOT!!! The voice cast is phenomenal starring Ginnifer Goodwin from “Once Upon a Time”, Jason Bateman from “Arrested Development”, Idris Elba from “Prometheus”, Alan Tudyk from “Wreck-It Ralph” and also Oscar winner J.K. Simmons from “Whiplash”. Keep the hits coming Disney! Can’t wait for “Moana” this fall!

Official Premise: The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like r itzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when rookie Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery.

As expected, like the film, the Blu-ray is gorgeous. The 1080p transfer is yet another winner from Disney. The colors are so amazing and vibrant in this film alone and it just pops out so well. Haven’t seen this in 3D but I can’t imagine it gets much better that this. The level of detail is also notable. I remember when “Monsters Inc.” came out and we saw the hairs moving on Sully and thought “Wow!” This movie improves on that 10x and just looks outstanding. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track also nails it completely. The score is amazing and the track is full and works great with the pop songs, thanks Shakira!

In terms of special features, there are some decent but short extras included here. First up, Research: A True-Life Adventure, which features the filmmakers playing in the real world in order to create this film’s characters and world. The Origin of an Animal Tale takes us through the film’s development from story to themes etc. Zoology: The Roundtables is a three-parter available with an introduction from the film’s star Ginnifer Goodwin aka Judy Hops. There are four short featurettes focusing on the film’s characters, the world created, the animation and the score as well as few Easter eggs. Lastly there is a music video for “Try Everything” by Shakira as well as a few deleted scenes and characters to check out wit intros from Rich Moore (the director).

 

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Film Review “Zootopia”

Starring the Voices of: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Idris Elba
Directed By: Bryan Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush
Rated: PG
Running Time: 108 minutes
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

I doubt that Disney had plans to release “Zootopia” in the thick of the 2016 election season. I’m sure they also couldn’t predict the uneasy distrust and fear of culturally different people that’s currently permeating throughout our society. “Zootopia”, obviously by coincidence, has a beautiful message about not judging books by a cover, petty bullying to get one’s way, and stereotyping. It also discusses that no matter how far we think we’ve come and all the things we claim to know, a lot of us, including the best of us, are sometimes still primitive with our feelings and attitudes.

The anthropomorphic animals in “Zootopia” seemingly live in harmony. Every animal is broken down into prey or predator, but cheetahs and other carnivores live peacefully alongside giraffes and other herbivores (which makes you wonder what’s on the dinner plates of all these meat-eaters). It seems like the world’s focal point is a massive city known as Zootopia, which itself is divided in different climates to suit the creatures living there.

The movie itself starts out in the vast lands and countryside surrounding Zootopia. In Bunnyburrow, we meet Judy Hopps (Goodwin), a hopeful bunny that hammers in another theme of the movie, never give up on your dreams. Despite her size, and the stigmas surrounding her breed, she wants to become a cop in Zootopia. Despite her childhood trauma involving a boy fox who claws her, and everyone telling her to give up on her aspirations (even her parents), she does join the law enforcement after enduring a tense trial and error process.

Once she arrives to Zootopia, she doesn’t get any respect from her superiors or co-workers and is relegated to meter maid duty. The insults by angry motorists clutching their tickets and being relegated to menial tasks don’t ever kill her chipper demeanor. But a mocking career con-man fox, Nick Wilde (Bateman), who enters the picture, certainly changes her optimistic outlook into a much sourer one. So when 14 animals go missing from Zootopia and she’s tasked with finding one of the animals, an otter, she tries to make the most of it, and even finds out that Nick may know where the otter went.

In a world where studios continue to franchise building, Disney may have crafted one of the most deep, rich, and visually thrilling worlds. “Zootopia” could easily have a couple of sequels, its own TV show, and spin-offs because of how well planned out and distinct everything is. Everything, from the mice scurrying about in their own community, to sloths operating the DMV, and polar bears as mafia boss underlings, feels so well thought out, organized, and fluid. Lesser writers, directors, and studios, would have fumbled everything or not even tried something this enterprising.

“Zootopia” is populated with more rich visual sight gags than it does animals. Some of the jokes require you to keep your eyes on the screen, your ears fixed on dialogue, and a decent understanding of American pop-culture (think contemporary top 40 music, AMC award-winning TV shows and AFI’s third greatest movie of all time). There are an even proportion of jokes for kids and adults and for kids with a mature side and adults who never grew up. Even those who don’t warm up to Judy’s vivacious personality and Goodwin’s bubbly line delivery will still admit this is the cutest movie of the year.

There’s a lot to unpack with “Zootopia”, because it fires on all cylinders. The voice acting is spot-on, the visuals are crisp and engaging, and the three directors, two scriptwriters, and seven story writers never lost sight of what they wanted to do. They came together and layered every little bit instead of crowding our senses with it. A week after the 88th Academy Awards, we’re already looking at next year’s contender for Best Animated Feature.

 

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