The 89th annual Academy Award nominations are in — and they’re about what you’d expect: some good nominations here, some surprise snubs there, two random nominations for the truly awful Passengers way over there. (Granted, both of those Passengers nominations — Production Design and Original Score — are for the film’s technical elements, but still. That movie should be jettisoned into space.)
Overall, though, it’s a good list, one that showcases the breadth and diversity of films made in 2016. It directly addresses the #OscarsSoWhite controversy over the lack of acting nominees of color from the past two years, then throws in nominees of color in several other major categories. And it both tied and broke some longstanding Oscar records.
Here are the winners and losers from Oscar nomination morning 2017.
Winner: La La Land ties the biggest record of them all
With 14 nominations, the musical La La Land joins a very elite group. Only 1950’s All About Eve and 1997’s Titanic have attained the same number of nominations, and both went on to win Best Picture, along with several other awards. (Titanic, in fact, is one of just three movies to win 11 Oscars.)
La La Land was nominated for its actors. For its screenplay. For every technical category other than Visual Effects (which wouldn’t have made sense anyway). For its direction. And, of course, for Best Picture.
This is pretty much the best-case scenario for La La Land, which wasn’t really a contender in any other categories, like the supporting actor races. Achieving this kind of Oscar success depends on a variety of factors, from a year without a lot of big, flashy contenders to a film that checks every box on the list of things the Oscars love. Fortunately for La La Land, 2016 was just such a year, and there’s nothing the Oscars love more than bittersweet paeans to Hollywood magic.
Winner: Actually, every Best Picture nominee did pretty well for itself
Sure, there were some weird snubs here and there, nominations that various Best Picture nominees could have snagged but missed out on. But for the most part, the nine-strong Best Picture lineup boasts a healthy number of nominations across the board.
The least nominated of the nine is Hidden Figures, which picked up three in total, but all in big-name categories. From there, both Fences and Hell or High Water received four nominations each, mostly in the top eight categories. Lion, Hacksaw Ridge, and Manchester by the Sea all received six apiece. And both Arrival and Moonlight managed eight nominations each, which was close to their ceiling.
Occasionally, a Best Picture nominee will sneak in seemingly because one branch of the Academy (usually the actors) really, really loved the movie. But every nominee this year boasts wide-ranging support from various groups throughout the Academy. These are movies Hollywood really loves — for better or worse.
Loser: Silence never takes off
For much of the prestige movie season, Martin Scorsese’s religious drama Silence was the 800-pound gorilla waiting in the wings. The director is an Oscar favorite, the film was his passion project, and when critics finally saw it, their reviews were kind to glowing. Sure, the movie was a box office disappointment, but that doesn’t always matter with more cerebral films like this one, as far as the Oscars are concerned.
But the film struggled to land key nominations at various industry awards, missing out on nods from the Directors Guild, the Screen Actors Guild, and many others. Its best hope was that its late release date — Christmas Day — meant that Oscar voters would catch up to it a little later on and justly reward it.
But … nah. Silence received one nomination for its cinematography. And while its cinematography is gorgeous, the movie surely deserved better.
Winner: #OscarsSoWhite isn’t nearly as vital in 2017
In 2015 and 2016, zero actors of color were nominated for Oscars. Zero directors of color were nominated. Of the two years’ Best Picture lineups, only the Martin Luther King Jr. drama Selma was driven by the stories of people of color, and that film received just two nominations. In response, activist April Reign created a quickly viral hashtag: #OscarsSoWhite. The Academy, fumbling toward damage control, instituted a variety of sweeping rule changes and attempted to diversify its membership.
In 2017, the hashtag is less vital. To be sure, most of the Oscar nominees are still white, including 13 of the acting nominees. But the other seven include six black actors and one actor of Indian descent. Barry Jenkins is nominated for Best Director, and the technical categories include numerous nominees of color (including Arrival’s Bradford Young, only the second black cinematographer to ever be nominated).
And fully four of the nine Best Picture nominees — Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, and Moonlight — are about people of color.
Was #OscarsSoWhite responsible for the sudden diversity of this list of nominees? In the sense that it spurred change at the Academy, yes. But what’s most important here is that Hollywood made these films. They’re all in Oscar-friendly genres — Moonlight is a coming-of-age story, Hidden Figures is a historical drama, Fences is a stage adaptation, and Lion is a feel-good tearjerker — but they’re also all about people of color. As recently as last year, that just wasn’t happening.
The push for better diversity and representation in Hollywood continues to move more slowly than it should, but in 2017, it appears to have borne some fruit.
Loser: Pixar misses out on the Animated Feature category
To be fair, Pixar has missed out on the Animated Feature category before. Cars 2 wasn’t nominated in 2012, but it was also the studio’s worst-reviewed film. Monsters University wasn’t nominated in 2014, a competitive year. And when The Good Dinosaur wasn’t nominated in 2016, it was because Pixar’s own Inside Out was taking up a spot.
But Finding Dory was a huge hit with terrific reviews. Yes, it was a sequel to Finding Nemo (and if nothing else, Pixar’s misses illustrate that the Academy is a bit reticent toward the studio’s sequels, having nominated only Toy Story 3 in 2011), but Pixar is still a major heavyweight in this category, and Finding Dory had been nominated at most precursor awards.
At the same time, Dory was fine, sure, but was it better than the competition? In a brutally competitive year in this category, one in which fellow snubbed films like Your Name and April and the Extraordinary World could well have been nominated, it was just too much. Pixar will have to be content with its Animated Short nomination for Piper.
Loser: Amy Adams somehow misses Best Actress
Yes, this is an ultra-competitive year for Best Actress. And, yes, Amy Adams missed because of the surprise strength of Loving’s Ruth Negga, who gave a lovely, understated performance in a movie that received no other nominations.
But still! Adams gave one of the best performances of the year as a linguist trying to connect with aliens in Arrival. She was nominated at most major precursor awards. Her film received eight nominations total. The movie became a significant hit, largely on her shoulders.
It’s really, really strange she wasn’t nominated, is all I’m saying. Too bad, Amy Adams.
Winner: Meryl Streep receives her 20th nomination
The record Streep set by being nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins (but really for giving an anti-Donald Trump speech at the Golden Globes, let’s be honest here) seems unlikely to be broken for many, many years — if ever.
(Amy Adams should have been nominated instead, though. You know it’s true.)
Loser: Big studio films flame out
The Best Picture list has a decidedly independent hue for yet another year — a descriptor that’s really true heading all the way back to the 1990s. Sure, Arrival was distributed by Paramount, but it was entirely independently funded, with Paramount picking it up at the last minute. Hidden Figures was a 20th Century Fox film. And Fences, like Arrival, saw some of its bill footed by Paramount, but far from all of it.
Beyond that, though, the top eight categories are full of movies made by mini majors (like Lionsgate, which is behind La La Land and Hacksaw Ridge) and up-and-coming indie studios like A24 (Moonlight) and Amazon Studios (Manchester by the Sea). Hell, the studio behind Hell or High Water — CBS Films — is better associated with television.
As mentioned, this is where the industry has been trending for a very, very long time. But there’s usually one or two major big studio competitors among the Best Picture lineup. Just last year, Mad Max: Fury Road (from Warner Bros.) won the most Oscars of any film nominated, and The Revenant (from Fox) was close behind.
That simply can’t happen this year, since Hidden Figures, the only unambiguous big-studio film in the bunch, is nominated for just three awards. The delineation between “big studios make big dumb franchise movies” and “other studios make artistically interesting films” has rarely seemed so stark.
Winner: This is a pretty good year at the Best Picture box office
There were more big hits last year — The Revenant, The Martian, and Mad Max all surpassed $150 million domestic in the end. But what’s impressive this year is the number of films that have made solid money for their weight class.
Start at the top. Both Hidden Figures and La La Land look like bona fide hits (both have earned more than $80 million domestically so far, with plenty of time left in their respective runs), and it will be surprising if both don’t find a way to make it to $150 million domestic. Then look at Arrival, which hasn’t quite made it to $100 million (it’s in the $95 million range) but should get there with this extra attention. And Hacksaw Ridge had a healthy run, bringing in more than $65 million domestically.
But even the smaller films beat expectations. Fences is very nearly at $50 million — impressive for a stage adaptation. Manchester by the Sea could get to $50 million as well, while Moonlight should get to $20 million, which is great for such an artistic movie that’s also light on story. Really, only Lion, which is just over $16 million, feels like an underperformer; it’s the kind of feel-good film that should be able to pull in double that amount, if not far more.
Winner: Red-state dramas find a warm Oscar embrace
Alongside the usual urban-set tales, the Oscars found room for a handful of films set right in the middle of rural America — which isn’t always the case.
Hacksaw Ridge, for instance, is about a dutiful Christian man who considers it against his religion to kill anyone but also considers it his patriotic duty to sign up for World War II. His attempts to serve both country and religion create an intriguing central conflict between two very different kinds of duty. And Hell or High Water is set in the middle of economically devastated Texas, with two brothers desperate to save the family farm, who turn to bank robbery, and the ranger who wants to bring them in, and harks back to the days of cowboys.
Couple those two Best Picture nominees with a host of other films set away from the country’s largest urban centers (Hidden Figures, Fences, and Loving for instance), and you have an Oscar lineup with a surprising level of geographic and economic diversity. Here’s hoping the usual loudmouths don’t start trying to argue the Oscars are out of touch with “real” America this year.
Loser: Kevin O’Connell continues his lonely march
Kevin O’Connell’s sound mixing nomination for Hacksaw Ridge is his 21st nomination in that category, stretching back to 1984, when he was nominated for Terms of Endearment. And in all that time, he hasn’t won once. No other human has as many Oscar nominations without a win as Kevin O’Connell.
Now, you might think this is finally O’Connell’s year. After all, war films usually perform well in the sound categories.
But you know what tends to perform just as well in the sound categories? Musicals. And you know what’s also nominated here? La La Land. See you in 2018, Kevin!