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And so the race for the 89th Academy Awards begins.

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The nominees for Best Picture are…

Arrival (8 nominations)
Fences (4 nominations)
Hacksaw Ridge (6 nominations)
Hell or High Water (4 nominations)
Hidden Figures (3 nominations)
La La Land (14 nominations)
Lion (6 nominations)
Manchester by the Sea (6 nominations)
Moonlight (8 nominations)

You can see a full ballot list for printing here. My own round-up of 2016 films is here (where you’ll also find links to my film quarterly round-ups).

My first thoughts on this list? Fairly predictable.

The Good
Overall, this is a solid Best Picture list. Of course I’m happy to see Arrival and Hell or High Water here, since both of them made my own personal 2016 top ten, and I’m delighted to see Hidden Figures sneak in, since I worried it might have hit the ground running too late to make it.

The other major categories held very few surprises for me. Many choices are not what I would have personally nominated, but are certainly legitimate selections. And I’m happy to see somewhat more diversity in the nominations than in previous years.

In the acting categories, I’m most pleasantly surprised to see Isabelle Huppert in the mix. Foreign-language performances are always touch and go with the Academy, but this nod is well deserved, even if I have issues with Elle overall.

Of course, I was very happy to see some of my own “Year in Film” picks on the nominees list, notably Arrival for Directing, Hell or High Water for Editing, and The Lobster for Original Screenplay.

I was also pleased to see both 13th and O.J.: Made in America in the Documentary Feature category. When I wasn’t marching, I spent much of this past weekend with the Math Greek watching the new Frontline (“Divided States of America”) and O.J.: Made in America. If you are seeking to better understand the intersection of race and politics in this country, I can’t recommend these two miniseries (and 13th) enough. O.J.: Made in America is quite simply stellar documentary filmmaking and everyone should watch it.

The Bad
Where to begin? In my opinion, there are a number of serious omissions in various categories. I’m just going to mention a few here as I will be discussing most major categories in separate Oscar Blitz posts once I’ve seen a few more of these films.

First off, while La La Land is a perfectly fine film, does it really deserve to lead the pack with fourteen nominations and tie the record held by All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997)? No, it does not.

In the acting categories, I’m mostly fine with the men (I think I am, that is, I haven’t seen most of the films in question) although I would have loved to see Ryan Gosling nominated for The Nice Guys over La La Land and Tom Bennett for his comedic supporting turn in Love & Friendship. I’m stunned to not see Amy Adams in the lead actress category as I think she delivered one of the performances of the year in Arrival, a film that absolutely required a strong, but subtle, performance. I would have traded her for either Meryl Streep or Emma Stone in a heartbeat.

Costume and Production Design are particularly baffling to me this year and I look forward to looking at those categories in closer detail in my Oscar Blitz posts. I felt sure Love & Friendship would get something for Costume, and maybe even The Dressmaker if there was any justice in this world. Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden) also deserved to be in one or both of these categories. I have to assume some of these nods are guild members rewarding their own.

Finally, I’d love to hear from someone who cares about animation as to why Kubo and the Two Strings is nominated for Visual Effects. That just seems odd for an animated feature.

The Ugly
The fact that Arrival‘s score was apparently not eligible for Best Score is simply a crime, especially in a year after Morricone just won for a score with elements heavily borrowed from his own prior work.

Six nominations for Hacksaw Ridge including one for Mel Gibson as director. Nope, not gonna see it. No way no how.

Oscar Blitz Plans
So, what will I be running out to see? Well, as I predicted in my 2016 round-up, I’ve actually already seen many of these films, including five of the Best Picture nominees. Of those I haven’t yet seen, Lion and Jackie (3 nominations) top the list of films I want to see, and, since they are still in theaters here, those two are likely to be next up, along with Toni Erdmann (which, although it violates my under-two-hour rule in a major way, is directed by a woman and supposed to be hilarious). Also up soon are Loving (Lead Actress), 20th Century Women (Original Screenplay), and Captain Fantastic (Lead Actor), mostly because the Math Greek brought me all his Indie Spirit screeners. After that, who knows? I’m not super interested in Fences or Manchester by the Sea, but if I can get to them in theaters I might see them anyway.

Finally, I’m eager to see how Jimmy Kimmel does hosting on the big night (February 26). It’s nice to have someone with such an obvious love of the awards in the mix and he should be able to come up with some good material.

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What are your thoughts on this morning’s announcement? Add your thoughts below and stay tuned over the next month for my Oscar Blitz series with more details on all the major categories.

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