In a film year as terrible as 2016 it is only natural that its Oscar representatives would be just as lacking and when I heard this year's nominees the first words to come to mind were unimpressive, overpraised, undeserving, etc etc. Here's a brief rundown:
While the Academy will certainly pat itself on the back and reward the uninspired La La Land, Manchester by the Sea is really the only film of considerable substance of the nine nominated. Lion fell apart in its second act as did Moonlight in its third, Arrival and Hidden Figures are overrated liberal fantasies, Fences was a worthwhile adaptation but only really for its source material, and the nominations for the familiar Hell or High Water and Hackneyed Ridge sorry Hacksaw Ridge left me scratching my head. And with all of their phony political correctness, the Academy showed their true prejudice by failing to nominate Silence and Scorsese, their greatest living practitioner.
As for the actors, thankfully we should see a winner for a great performance in Casey Affleck. Denzel Washington got nominated for playing himself, Ryan Gosling for being a worse singer than Russell Crowe, Andrew Garfield for failing at playing a hillbilly (he should have been up for Silence) and Viggo Mortensen was a welcomed surprise.
Another unexpected nod was Isabelle Huppert's for her sly turn in Elle. Natalie Portman's was expected but still blah, Emma Stone, who was just as unimpressive as Gosling, Meryl Streep because they had to, and Ruth Negga may as well have been part of the wallpaper in Loving because she was put to so little use in Jeff Nichols' bland movie. I was pleased, however, that Amy Adams was overlooked for Arrival.
In a category that is usually the most lively, the male supporting actors couldn't be more dull: Lucas Hedges in a disappointing performance in a great movie, Jeff Bridges for impersonating a Jeff Bridges caricature, Michael Shannon in a performance bordering on parody in one of the worst movies of the year. Dev Patel was strong however and Mahershala Ali was excellent in a role he was written out of far too quickly.
On the girls' side, I think I'm rooting for Viola Davis but Michelle Williams was great too. Nicole Kidman's performance was in earnest but Octavia Spenser's was obnoxious and Naomie Harris was nothing to write home about.
For the directors, it bears mentioning Scorsese's snub again in what could have been a celebration of a great career and movie. Any sane Academy would vote for Kenneth Lonergan and Manchester but right now I would say it is too close to call between Barry Jenkins and Damian Chazelle. Denis Villeneuve and Mel Gibson (in an inexplicable reversal of fortune) were given make up nominations.