Hidden Figures and Best Picture

With less than a week to go before the Oscar nominations are announced, I’ve continued to put together the first puzzle. The nominations. I should be able to see a couple of things in the next few days that I missed as part of my 12 Days of Christmas Catch Up Series. Today, I’m going to watch “Batman v Superman” (cause, why not? It’s going to get really serious over the next four weeks and it’s always good to have a palate cleanser, and “Bye Bye Man” just isn’t going to happen) and “Deadpool.” I need to know if this Best Picture/screenplay talk is something real or just end of phase 1 boredom talk.

One major piece in the most contentious of categories, Best Actress, is “20th Century Women.” I had hoped it would come to Memphis on the 20th, but it appears not to be the case. I just reached out to A24 to see if they would be kind enough to send me a screener, and it seems they can get me one before Tuesday. Otherwise, a proper prediction for Best Actress will be impossible. Right now I’m leaning toward Annette just missing out, but who knows!? I also haven’t seen “Florence Foster Jenkins” yet either. Definitely going to make that happen before the weekend as well.

I did manage to see “Hidden Figures,” and I am certain that it will land a nomination for Best Picture. It certainly has all the buzz right now. Had it been released a week earlier the nomination would be even more certain. The news that it had taken the top spot from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” broke as nominations were happening. And as ballots were due it was continuing its box office success story.

“Hidden Figures” tells the untold story of three brilliant African American women working for NASA, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and their contribution to John Glenn’s orbit into space.

“Hidden Figures “ is a very solid film, directed by Theodore Melfi, and acted superbly by all.  That being said, it somehow doesn’t dig quite deep enough.  The film is its strongest in scenes with Octavia Spencer and Kirsten Dunst, taking the film beyond the feel good premise of untold story made “right” after 50 years, delving into territory of Dunst’s Vivian Mithcell’s subtle racism/prejudice to Spencer’s Dorothy Vaughan.

In terms of a payoff, “Hidden Figures” seems to be missing something. I’m not one to shy away from a good cry during a manipulative moment, and Melfi’s light hand (welcome to some) might actually be a hindrance to the film, denying the audience an emotional trigger to go along with its remarkable story.

In terms of Oscar, it reminds me of both “The Help” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”  It’s the feel good, entertaining box office success with a lukewarm/positive critical response that is mistakenly labeled as “surprising” in terms of its box office and, potentially, it’s Best Picture nomination.

It wouldn’t have made my top 10 had I seen it before the end of the year, but I think it is in for Best Picture. Strongly so. I also believe that we only have 2 frontrunners now. Not 3.

Here’s where I see the standings right now:

La La Land
Moonlight
Arrival
Hidden Figures
Manchester By the Sea
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Lion

I feel that this is an 8 nomination year. I could be wrong. And if so, it’s probably going to be “Fences” “Nocturnal Animals” or “Sully” in the 9th slot.


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