Qosja: Oscar nominations surpass expectations, more diverse

Kevin Qosja, Columnist

It’s that time of year again. The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards have been released. The general public is disappointed that their favorite mainstream movies did not get any recognition outside of technical categories. Many film lovers roll their eyes at how obvious the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’s choices are, as we wonder why we keep watching such a self-aggrandizing and predictable event.

At the lead was “La La Land” with an astonishing 14 nominations. As a story about young actors finding themselves in Los Angeles with two Academy loved stars and a nostalgic throwback to old Hollywood musicals, “La La Land” was practically genetically engineered to win awards. It appeals to those who vote for the winners simply because it is a reflection of their lives.

Already, there seems to be some negative pushback against “La La Land,” with many cinephiles claiming it to be merely passable entertainment that is a pale imitation of the classic musicals it was based on. I personally enjoyed the film, but it wasn’t the best film of the year, and it was definitely not a film to receive a record number of awards. Nevertheless, I expect it to win at least Best Picture.

There were more diverse turnouts in the other award categories. Six actors of color were nominated this year, showing that the Academy noticed the increasing diversity in modern filmmaking. I am sure the social pressure after the embarrassment of the last two years played a role in these nominations.

However, this year there were also many more successful films made by African Americans like “Hidden Figures” and “Fences,” but “Moonlight” stood out to audiences, garnering a 99 percent on Metacritic. It topped many critics’ movies of the year lists, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama. In a more fair world, it would win Best Picture (though I would also accept “Manchester by the Sea”).

The rest of the nominations were no surprise to most people. Amy Adams was absolutely robbed. A favorite to win best actress, Adams was shockingly excluded from the line-up despite her excellent and universally acclaimed role in “Arrival.”  Some conspiracy theorists have said that perhaps Adams was pushed off the list by Meryl Streep for her role in a very small film after a surge in votes after her anti-Trump speech at the Golden Globes. I find this unlikely, but I did call the Academy self-aggrandizing earlier, so anything is possible.

Pixar’s “Finding Dory” did not secure a nomination for Best Animated Picture this year. It was not one of Pixar’s strongest efforts, but not even a nomination still just seems wrong. Lin-Manuel Miranda was nominated for Best Original Song for “Moana.” If he wins, he would be part of the very elite EGOT club (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). He probably won’t, because “La La Land” was nominated for two songs, but Miranda has never been the one to throw away his shot.

Lastly, Mel Gibson is nominated for Best Director, which means that his exile might be at an end, so we can expect more movies from him. Despite his troubled and controversial past, he has an eye for film.

Like many others, I’m not horribly excited for this year’s Oscars. The award ceremony will probably again be too long and boring. The Academy just seems continuously antiquated at a time when the general public is getting tired of old, rich people proclaiming they know more than us. There are signs that things are improving:

The diversity of the actors nominated is increasing and more unique films are being nominated for Best Picture.

I do hope that eventually the Oscars will have nominations that seem more based on quality of filmmaking than on Hollywood politics. We have enough politics to deal with right now.

Kevin Qosja is a third-year student majoring in biochemistry.