How Many Have You Seen? The New Annual Pylon Oscar Nomination Rundown...

I've made attacks on the Academy Awards before. Yes, I have watched the Oscars every single year since I was a kid, and I have always made a big deal about being sure to watch it whenever it rolled around again. Especially back in my home state of Alaska, where we would hold parties each year and my friend Matt and I would write up stupid jokes for every single one of the nominations and have our pals fill out a ballot. 

But I also recognize that the Oscars are, in many ways, a joke. They can build or destroy careers, and in that way, they can be deadly serious, if only to the ones whose careers are at stake. But if you are just an average person on the street, the Oscars really don't mean all that much. It's a thing that many of us watch without thinking, like the Super Bowl or a Thanksgiving Day Parade. We do it because that is what everybody does. I fully stopped watching the Super Bowl three years ago because, really, why should I when I don't actually watch football anymore, or even really like the game at all? (I suppose if the Packers get into it, then I would again.)

And in the past, thinking that I was cool or above it all and should really just grow up and be concerned with more important affairs, I have ripped the Oscars vocally and online to whoever would listen (or pretend to listen). The Oscars really don't matter in the grand scheme of things, I suppose -- not that I believe there is an actual "grand scheme" to anything -- but come on. I am such a phony. I am too big of a movie nut not to seem the Academy Awards each year. I have to admit it... I really do love the Oscars. Always have, always will.

I will probably never miss them for the rest of my life. And this is taking the more grandiose and pretentious term cinema out of the equation and just focusing on movies. The Academy Award ceremony is movie love on the biggest platform there can possibly be. Even when you don't agree with many (or any, some years) of the nominations or winners, there is no bigger stage for fans of cinema than the Academy Awards ceremony each year. And since I rarely fully agree with many of the nominations, I just need to learn to lump it and acknowledge that I will still watch the Oscars even if they only select Michael Bay films for the rest of eternity.

That said, I will still raise a fuss if I wish, purely on the grounds of free speech. When the Academy performs a perceived injustice, and I agree that they have, I will speak my mind. This year, and last year, the lack of African-American nominations when there are clearly legitimate contenders for such honors is a huge red flag. And especially in a year in which the Academy has chosen Spike Lee to receive an Honorary Oscar for his career achievements in film and a socially conscious voice, the lack of such nominations is astounding. Lee took the Academy to task on the issue of race when he received his honorary Oscar late last year. I doubt he gets to do a speech at the full ceremony in February, but if he should get the chance... watch out! 

In 2015, there were several viable African-American contenders for Oscar gold, they practically got shut out, with only Straight Outta Compton getting a screenplay nod (the screenwriters are white) and Creed getting a nomination for Sly Stallone (also white you may have noticed). Idris Elba, monumental in Beasts of No Nation, and thought to be a shoo in was totally snubbed. And many thought Will Smith was also a no-brainer for Concussion (though I have yet to see that one).

Look, I'm white and this crap is getting embarrassing. We are not talking some Tyler Perry or Martin Lawrence-level garbage here. I'm not getting riled up about Madea not getting her due. And I definitely do not believe in some recreational soccer bullshit where everybody that competes (I'm sorry... recreates) gets a medal for participation. I don't think that there should be a nomination for every slice of racial group there is. If they did, the already too long Oscar broadcast -- and I am saying this as someone who can't wait to see it and loves it immensely -- would take even longer than it already seems.

But it does become pretty transparent that when there are two straight years (let alone many years, but the last two in particular) where there are high-profile projects featuring black actors that have been both successful at the box office (not necessarily a thing for Oscar choosing) and also highly critically acclaimed, but then there are zero to very few black actors, actresses, directors, and screenwriters nominated, something is broken in the Academy. And it is probably the old white guy membership.

Let's go over the Oscar categories one by one and tabulate what I have seen thus far...

[Titles in bold black are nominations that I had seen at the time that I published this article.] [Titles in bold red are nominations I've seen after initial publication but before the Oscars. Updated through 2/13/16.]

Best Actor in a Lead Role:
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

OK, right from the start, I am in trouble. I have only seen 2 out of 5 performances (Damon and DiCaprio). Steve Jobs came and went out where we are back in October, and doesn't come out on DVD until Feb. 16, inside two weeks from the ceremony. Trumbo has been in what they call limited release forever around our area, so it will probably never come to our small-time, 14-screen theatre (ha!). The Danish Girl probably won't play here either, so it looks I will have to rely on Amazon or iTunes to see these things in time. (Don't even get me started on Samuel L. Jackson and Idris Elba not being on this list.)

Best Actress in a Lead Role:
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Ooohh, it gets even worse. Yeah, I'm a guy, so many of you would not be surprised that I haven't seen any of the lead role actress performances. But it's not that I don't want to. In our household, I'm the one that has been flapping my gums about seeing Room (I loved Brie Larson in Short Term 12) and Carol (Cate and Rooney as lesbians? Hell to the yeah...), and I am way more likely to go see Joy and Brooklyn than my spouse. The worst part is that Joy was playing here until the day after the nominations were announced on Thursday. On a side note, I thought for sure Emily Blunt would be on here for Sicario. So I guessed wrong, though not in seeing it, because that movie was one of my favorites of the year (more on this coming up in a bit). A big fat zero out of 5.

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

I was counting on a couple more nods for The Big Short in this category, and the one that I was least impressed by got chosen. (More sound and fury from Bale as far as I am concerned.) But I just got to see Stallone in Creed, and I like that he has been selected. As I mentioned both Spotlight and Spies have passed through already, so I am going to be dependent on video. I am disappointed that Harrison Ford didn't get noticed for bringing Han Solo back to us (briefly) and doing it in a way that made some of us fall in love with him all over again. A solid 3 out of 5.

Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

You've heard my tale on the other four films here, and Leigh's crazy role is the only one I have seen. That's good enough for me -- she is one of my longtime fave actresses -- but still, only 1 out of 5 so far. (Can I count Alicia Wikander because I drooled over her in both Ex Machina and The Man from UNCLE last year?)

Best Directing:
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Pretty good... 3 out of 5, with McKay, generally a comedy director of much more raucous material getting a surprise nod as far as I am concerned (and many others, I am seeing now). A little peeved about Ryan Coogler not getting picked for his excellent work in Creed, though I wouldn't put the film up for Best Picture (just a notch below), and F. Gary Gray probably should have been in here for Compton. I didn't expect Tarantino to get picked this time, but I will take Miller in his stead.

Best Film Editing:
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It's the more technical categories where I get to shine in showing what I have seen already, since blockbusters and sci-fi movies tend to get nominated a lot. And that is exactly how it goes in the Film Editing category, where I have already seen 4 out of 5 nominees. Good job, me.

Best Foreign Language Film:
Colombia, Embrace of the Serpent
France, Mustang
Hungary, Son of Saul
Jordan, Theeb
Denmark, A War

Every year, I try to pay attention and catch whatever foreign films are getting some buzz. This category is actually fairly easy sometimes since foreign films often don't get nominated in the year in which they were released. It is not unusual if I have seen two or three of the nominees by the time they are announced. Not this year though. A big fat zero.

Best Original Score:
Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies
Carter Burwell, Carol
Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I thought Morricone might not get selected since some of the most memorable bits from the score are reused bits from other films he scored in the past (The Thing, The Exorcist: The Heretic). I am glad Sicario got chosen as well, but it deserved Best Picture, Best Director , and Best Actress nods, at least, if not also for Benicio del Toro for Supporting Actor, in what I think was one of the more memorable performances of the year. Oh, well... On the "seen it" front for this category, 3 out of 5 once again.

Best Production Design:
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Another 3 out of 5 tally. Luckily, just seeing either of the remaining films in this category knocks down several nominations at once. Can't wait to see them.

Best Visual Effects:
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Finally, a sweep! And it's no surprise either, really, given my usual taste in big screen fare.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Big Short, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Brooklyn, Nick Hornby
Carol, Phyllis Nagy
The Martian, Drew Goddard
Room, Emma Donoghue

The usual suspects (this year) that I haven't seen here, giving me only 2 out of 5. 

Best Original Screenplay:
Bridge of Spies, Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Ex Machina, Alex Garland
Inside Out, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
Spotlight, Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy
Straight Outta Compton, Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

Goddammit, Compton finally got some love. Should have been at least an acting nod or two, if not more. My wife was very excited about the nod for Inside Out as well, given that it is an animated film, which often get overlooked in most categories outside of their two exclusive categories. I especially like the pick of Ex Machina, certainly one of the more original sci-fi tales to come along on the big screen for a good while. Another 3 out of 5 tally.

Best Animated Feature Film:
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

Big, big surprise with only one film seen out of the five for me. I like that the Oscars are being more adventurous in selected foreign animation relatively often in this category, but that also means that I have go seek them out more as well. It also means that I get to skip a lot of mainstream animated sequels that might otherwise get nominated. So at least they are doing one thing right.

Best Cinematography:
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Hoo hoo! A camerawork nod for Sicario, which deserves it, and one for The Hateful Eight, which frankly seems like it was expecting it. (Seriously, it was exactly what I thought when I was watching it.) A big 4 out of 5 movies seen this time.

Best Costume Design:
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Ugh, just sat through the exceedingly dull Cinderella two weeks ago. Nice costume work, yes... I will agree. And not a bad film, just not more than an average film. Another 3 out of 5 seen.

Best Documentary – Feature:
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

At last! I have seen one of the documentaries before the nominations were announced! And another film (Amy) is at the top of my Netflix queue even though I don't get a crap about its subject. Only 1 out of 5 right now, but with one other on Netflix streaming right now and another one about to be, I am fairly certain this short list will get knocked down in time for the Oscars.

Best Documentary – Short Subject:
Body Team 12
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

Another zero non-effort. That's usually the case with short films in any category. No surprise. I guess that I will have to see if some service like Vimeo or Amazon does a group showing of short films that have been nominated.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

I thought for sure that I would sweep this category in advance -- I usually do -- but some Swedish version of Forrest Gump snuck into it in a way that is usually reserved for the Original Song category. Oh, well... 2 out of 3 wasn't bad, to clean up Meat Loaf's grammar at tad, until I found 100-Year-Old Man on Amazon Prime the other night and watched it (I'd say "for free!" but I did pay up front for that service. So, no...) And now that I have seen it, it's another category sweep! (Just a slightly smaller one...)

Best Original Song:
"Earned It," Fifty Shades of Grey
"Manta Ray," Racing Extinction
"Simple Song #3," Youth
"'Til It Happens to You," The Hunting Ground
"Writings on the Wall," Spectre

Another category where I am surprised if I see any of the films since this is the one category where really, really crappy films can sneak into the Oscar race just because Diane Warren is still breathing and producing shitty music. The worst part is that now I have to watch Fifty Shades of Grey because it has been nominated. (I don't have to actually watch it, but it does go on my watchlist automatically.) Such bad selection this year that they had to go to the documentary category to swipe a couple of films, and one of them was produced by Discovery Channel. Another 1 out of 5, but I should knock out most of this by the time of the broadcast.

Best Animated Short Film:
Bear Story
Sanjay's Super Team
We Can't Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Best Live Action Short Film:
Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)

Two more categories featuring short films with which I must catch up en masse or not at all. Two more 0 out of 5 tallies. Not really holding my breath on these ten films, though at least the Don Hertzfeldt short (World of Tomorrow) is available on demand. And since I watch everything he does, I will at least be 1 out of 10 by the time the Oscars roll around.

Best Sound Editing:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Yes! Another sweep! At least I got a couple of those.

Best Sound Mixing:
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

One more 4 out of 5 tally, before we hit the biggie...

Best Picture of the Year:
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Not too bad... halfway there. Whether I get to see the other four will depend on what our theatre ends up getting in the next month. Bridge of Spies and Spotlight have already played here, Brooklyn never got here, but I'm holding out hope for Room. And this list is about two films too short, though I can think of about five that should be on here. Why not select ten films when you have the opportunity to select ten films? I don't get it. Why not just set it, and not make it ambiguous as to how many might get selected in a given year? And now, they are going to get a rash of shit about a couple of their omissions. And they rather deserve it. Not that they care.

All told, out of 121 nominations, I have seen (as of 1/16/2016) 55 of them. That is right at 45% (repeating) of the nominated films and performances, and this is from a guy that watches movies constantly. Just not, apparently, many of the ones nominated for Oscars this year. The upside is that seeing any combination of the films that were nominated the most makes me jump right up the ranks pretty quickly: Carol, Bridge of Spies, and Spotlight (6 noms each), The Danish Girl and Room (4 each), and Brooklyn (3 noms). 

Pre-guessing and second-guessing the Oscars noms and winners is what makes this game so fun. It's stupid, meaningless, and mindless entertainment, just like many of the far more popular movies that the Oscars usually skip over each year. I will get to my Oscar picks next month in the week before the broadcast, which will give me time to hopefully see many more of these films.


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