Weekend Roundtable: Most Undeserving 2016 Oscar Nominees

The Oscars are just a week away. As happens most years, some of the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards are less deserving of awards and praise than others. Like some of these, for example.

Mike Attebery

I had high hopes for ‘Steve Jobs‘. Even after its somewhat tortured production, I thought the film stood a chance of topping ‘The Social Network’. But once it arrived, phew, it was a lifeless mess. Michael Fassbender is pretty good as the lead, but really, nothing about this movie is stellar. One element I found especially strange when I first saw the film was the fact that in the second segment, Kate Winslet suddenly had a strong and unconvincing accent. It was either absent in the first part of the film or completely missing, but suddenly, in the second of three (plodding) segments, her lifeless performance also featured an out of the blue accent. Anyway, the accent is bad, and she’s entirely unremarkable. So that’s my pick for the least deserving nomination this year.

Shannon Nutt

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Christian Bale (‘The Big Short’) not being deserving of a Best Supporting Actor nod, or even the movie itself (which is now one of the three or four top contenders) not being worthy of its Best Picture nomination. However, I’ve yet to see the movie, so it felt dishonest to call it out here.

Instead, I’ll go with John Williams’ umpteenth nomination for Original Score, this time for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the film and think it’s about the best ‘Star Wars’ movie we could have hoped for, but Williams’ score is his laziest effort since ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’. The movie has no memorable new themes and the only good pieces of the score are new takes on themes Williams created for previous ‘Star Wars’ movies. Even as bad as the prequels were, Williams delivered some great new tracks for that trilogy (“Dual of the Fates,” “Anakin and Padme’s Theme” and “Anakin vs. Obi-Wan” being among my favorites). There’s nothing in ‘The Force Awakens’ noteworthy and certainly nothing worth an Oscar nomination.

Brian Hoss

Once more, the Oscars are devoid of surprises with the bulk of categories dominated by perfunctory nominations. Still, when looking over the short list, the nomination of ‘Inside Out‘ in the Original Screenplay category seems completely off. The second and third acts of that movie waste a fun and potent premise and opening. All of the talent was there, but the story stumbled in more ways than one. The nomination of ‘Inside Out’ makes the category seem like an afterthought, which isn’t helped by a lack of high-profile original scripts.

Aaron Peck

There are too many safe picks in the Best Actor category. Michael B. Jordan delivers a better and more layered performance in ‘Creed’ than Bryan Cranston (‘Trumbo‘) or Eddie Redmayne (‘The Danish Girl’) did. Either of those nominations could be thrown out for Jordan. If I had to pick one, I’d drop Cranston. His performance feels too much like an imitation to be convincing or engaging. Cranston is a great actor, but ‘Trumbo’ is only a so-so movie. The same goes for his performance.

Luke Hickman

I’m going against popular opinion here, but the most undeserving nomination this year is ‘The Martian‘ as Best Picture. Don’t get me wrong, ‘The Martian’ is a fun popcorn movie, but it’s total fluff. Aside from the visual and sound effects, there’s nothing special about it. It’s a ’70s disaster movie that takes place on Mars and Earth and in space. It’s filled with bad science talk and far too many characters that have to work together, wherever they are, in ‘Apollo 13’ fashion. The too-cool-for-school script, which feels like it was written by Marvel (including a geeky ‘Iron Man’ reference), definitely isn’t worthy of the screenplay nomination either. ‘The Martian’ is worth watching on TBS on a lazy Saturday afternoon, but that’s about it.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Since I hardly ever seem to step into a movie theater these days, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage. Many of these films haven’t found their way to Blu-ray quite yet, and I’ve really enjoyed those few I’ve seen that have. Until I’ve caught up the way I should, the one nomination that baffles me is Sam Smith’s ‘Spectre‘ theme song “Writing’s on the Wall” getting the nod for Best Original Song. Smith’s approach is understandable following the colossal success of Adele’s ‘Skyfall’ theme. Still, that tepid orchestral number devoid of any real hook threatens to put me to sleep, only to jolt me awake with a falsetto that sends me screaming out of the room.

Josh Zyber

Adam stole my first choice here. That Sam Smith song is horrid, easily the worst James Bond theme and simply unlistenable by any criteria. I have to assume that some money changed hands for it to get nominated for “Best” anything.

I know that this will draw the ire of its many fanboys and fangirls, but I’m also utterly perplexed at how ‘Mad Max: Fury Road‘ scored a Best Picture nomination. I just don’t get the love for this movie at all. I found it aggressively obnoxious and unpleasant, like going to a bad punk concert and sitting directly in front of the loudspeaker for two hours until your brains are pummeled into unconsciousness. It’s not just that the plot (what little of it there is beyond CAR CHASE CAR CHASE CAR CHASE CAR CHASE) is thin or that I have some aversion to the franchise. I’m a fan of ‘The Road Warrior’, which has a genuine elegant simplicity. ‘Fury Road’, however, is just loud and cartoonish and very, very dumb. While it may not be among the worst movies I’ve ever seen, it has no business on a Best Picture list.

I expect that the Comments section to this post will get flooded by people yelling at me for not loving ‘Fury Road’. So be it. Let’s see if we can also get you to tell us which of this year’s Oscar nominees you find most unworthy.

27 comments

  1. The Room and Brooklyn both up for best picture seems insane to me. Both are Lifetime Movie Of The Week-level films anchored by solid lead performances. For those to get nods and Straight Outta Compton to be overlooked is a travesty.
    Also, that Sam Smith song is the WORST Bond tune ever. Obviously nominated just so he’d show up and get the pop music kids to watch the broadcast.

  2. Also didn’t care for Fury Road, but I get why people like it and it IS a very well-crafted movie. Just lacks a decent story or characters that I could care about.

  3. Cobretti72

    Josh! Totally with you on Mad Max. I enjoyed the hell out of it and I do have a sense of geeky pride to see a Mad Max movie nominated for Best Picture..but it’s exactly as you described it. Enjoyable, loud, brash but it’s just one big ass car chase. Michael B. Jordan not getting a nod for “Creed” was dissapointing. And Steve Jobs was rather banal…but so is most of the crap Hollywierd pushes out these days. Everything is a “message” film or a practical love letter to someone like Bernie Sanders (and for the record, I don’t like EITHER SIDE!)…devoid of just having a good movie. We have to get a message about something. Blech.

    In fact, bring on more Mad Max’s..at least it knew not to try to be a treatise on Black Lives Matter (yuck) or saving the spider monkeys.

    • Elizabeth

      Um, hate to break it to you but Fury Road was very much a “message” movie. The reason message movies keep getting made is that people aren’t getting the message. Or are just too selfish to care.

      As someone about to finish a Biology degree, Fury Road had a very strong environmental message. The world it depicts doesn’t really seem that far fetched to me but it won’t take a nuclear bomb to get there. Just continued apathy and scientific denial. Who killed the world?

      • Mad Max may be a “message” movie, but I can almost guarantee the vast majority of people who love it aren’t concerned with the particualar measage it’s trying to convey, they just love action movies and it obviously happens to be a great one.

      • Cobretti72

        Right…it’s a message movie. Only someone can watch a movie like Mad Max and derive a “message” from it. You obviously are too young to have seen the originals when they came out. Those were message movies about the power of nuclear war.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with Josh Zyber on Mad Max. I too thought it was “aggressively obnoxious and unpleasant”, and I love the concert analogy. Nice to finally see somebody who agrees with me.

    I also think that Sam Smith song is garbage.

    I totally disagree with Shannon on John Williams. I mean, it’s not as good as some of JW’s other scores, but man, I absolutely love Rey’s theme. To say “the movie has no memorable new themes” and “there’s nothing in ‘The Force Awakens’ noteworthy”…man, that’s harsh.

  5. StaksOnStaks

    Don’t they have to have like 10 films for Best Picture? I think it is a range of 5-10, but I bet that’s why Fury Road got on there.

    What’s with all the hate towards Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall? I know Josh Zyber has mentioned many times over that he doesn’t care for it, but I don’t get why. Sounds good to me. It has a good melody, REALLY good instrumentation (very Bond sounding), and Sam has a great voice. Is it the falsetto?

    • They don’t have to have 10, but they can. I would have liked to have seen The Force Awakens, Ex Machina and/or Creed in there if they wanted to get a few more in. People sure do love that Mad Max film, though. But yeah, I don’t get it.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      The current Oscar rules allow for between 5-10 Best Picture nominees. The exact number will depend on the percentage of the vote that each film gets. (A movie needs at least 5% of the votes to score a nomination.)

      Taste in music is of course subjective, but “Writing’s On the Wall” sounds to me like a feral cat being slowly tortured with electric shocks. Even Sam Smith has called his own song “horrible.”

      • Shannon Nutt

        I actually LIKE the song – but I don’t like Sam Smith’s rendition/arangement of it. Get Adele or Lady Gaga to sing that, and it’s a hit.

  6. Josh!

    Another in agreement…

    Non-stop rat-a-tat action all blended together in a fun and exhausting visual fun fest, but no plot, no reach, other than visual and sound…a shallow yet captivating popcorn movie…

  7. Al

    And Josh provides concrete evidence of what I’ve said in other blog posts: He only says that he dislikes ‘Fury Road’ to stoke the fire and rile people up.

    I now firmly believe that he actually loves the film, but loves the reaction that he gets from bashing it, even more. His comments are just way too self-aware to be taken at face value.

  8. Csm101

    A while back we had this conversation and I said I loved Fury Road, but I still don’t see it as a best picture Oscar contender. The visual effects for Star Wars didn’t do much for me. It’s a big budget movie with mostly good effects, but I didn’t see anything groundbreaking. Snoke looked downright awful. My buddies and I at work joked about how they probably ran out of their visual effects money before the movie was completed and had some interns from the DAVE school render Snoke.

  9. Bolo

    Like Mr. Luke Hickman, I will also go with ‘The Martian’. I share his feelings that it is an entertaining popcorn movie, but not even an outstanding one. Even more surprising than the movie getting a Best Picture nomination is Matt Damon getting a nomination for Lead Actor. Damon does exactly what the role requires, which is to smartass his way through a series of dire situations, but I don’t consider that any tall order.

    • C.C.

      The Martian is ‘deceptively’ simple. Ridley Made it look easy. The amount of information he packs into each frame for economy is staggering.

  10. Ryan

    I just wanted to comment on the William’s nomination and the lack of his usual quality.

    While I agree that he should not have been nominated this time around, the lack of his usual bravado was likely caused by an illness he was battling at the time. He was becoming progressively more sick while working on the score and was forced to rush to finish while he could. Mr. Williams did not compose for Bridge of Spies which is the first time he did not work with Spielberg in well, virtually ever.

  11. photogdave

    Well, I was on board with the whole “Mad Max was a great movie but not Best Picture material” sentiment but I just re-watched it on Blu-ray.
    Now I’m thinking “why can’t it be Best Picture?” What makes a Best Picture? Does it have to be ultra-serious? Does it have to be maudlin? Uplifting? Does it need to convey a message?
    Mad Max does all this plus it’s super exciting. It has great performances, unbelievable design, cinematography and editing. It has strong themes about the environment, social oppression and the roles of the sexes in society.
    So now I’m all for Mad Max for best picture!

    …I wonder if Josh has re-watched it since the theatrical release?

  12. Joao Lima

    Rachel McAdams – Spotlight – an ordinary performance, nothing more.

    In fact, there is something that pisses me off: every year there are some nominations for supporting role that take place only because the movie was nominated for Best Picture. Every single year we see this. One of the greatest examples was Queen Latifah’s nomination for Chicago.

  13. Ryan Smith

    I also have to agree with Josh’s take on both Mad Max: Fury Road, and Sam Smith’s song.

    Josh — did you by chance hear Radiohead’s “Spectre” that the band released recently? I don’t know how you feel about Radiohead, but I love the song and can’t believe it was rejected in favor of Smith’s.

  14. Clark

    I really liked Sam Smith’s song. It is the only good thing about Spectre.
    I don’t understand the John Williams nomination, as the new Star Wars soundtrack has nothing new about it, only recycled old themes. Also, why is Rachel McAdams nominated?

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