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Persall: Oscar nominations, complete with Mel Gibson, reflect changing world

BY STEVE PERSALL

Times Movie Critic

Academy Awards voters took an important step with Tuesday's nominations to bridge our nation's cultural divide.

Mel Gibson is back in the red carpet sweepstakes.

Never mind that Damien Chazelle's neo-musical La La Land tied the all-time record for nominations (14), shared with Titanic and All About Eve. We'll get back to Oscars' explosion of color among nominees, including a record six African-American actors.

Mel Gibson, the mug shot poster boy for Hollywood pariahs, will be persona with lots of grata on Feb. 26 when the 89th Academy Awards are presented. Gibson is nominated for directing Hacksaw Ridge, also a best picture nominee. Twenty years ago, Gibson swept those Oscar categories with Braveheart before well-documented scandals involving driving under the influence, anti-Semitic and sexist remarks, addiction and domestic battery burned many of his bridges in the industry.

At the dawn of the Donald Trump era, Gibson's open-arms welcome back to the Oscars is bound to be interpreted different ways. If nothing else, the 2016 election proved political correctness or simply watching what one says in public to be obsolete, its violations now easier to brush off. Hollywood's reputation as a liberal hornet's nest has its exception now, maybe even a sign of surrender. Besides, nothing says America First louder than a World War II movie.

On the other hand, the filmmaker's inclusion may be viewed as Hollywood going high after they — or in this case, Gibson alone — went low, very low. Nothing is more liberal-minded than compassion and forgiveness. Rehabilitated jerks deserve a seat at the Governor's Ball table, too.

This makes Mel Gibson our best chance on Oscar Night to bring Americans together in front of their television sets. ABC can't count on La La Land and Moonlight to inspire tuning in, or that "overrated" Meryl Streep with her 20th nomination. But the slim chance that Mad Mel goes off on stage is worth taking.

OSCARS NOT SO WHITE

Bravo to the academy for placing seven actors of color among 20 nomination slots. Some observers call it a response to the #OscarsSoWhite movement inspired by two consecutive years of all-white nominees.

That isn't entirely true.

Certainly the academy's increasing diversity among voting members contributed to the results. But the sheer coincidence of so many quality films by and about people of color released in 2016 shouldn't be overlooked, or accepted as status quo.

Movies don't just materialize. They're cultivated through rewrites and financing for years until a few weeks or months of filming begins. Barry Jenkins began writing Moonlight in 2013, the same year Garth Davis announced Lion. August Wilson adapted his play Fences for the screen before dying in 2005; Denzel Washington started preparing the film in 2010. Hidden Figures was a rush job by comparison, getting underway in mid 2015.

That said, the bounty of diverse quality in 2016 cinema shouldn't cause Hollywood to relax. If anything, the industry must be more vigilant than ever. The critical and commercial success of these movies can accumulate if the industry truly realizes there are more stories to be told about blacks than slavery, about Indians than slumdog life, about Muslims than terrorism.

If Hollywood makes it, the Oscars will come.

SNUBS AND SURPRISES

• I'm pretty sure Tom Hanks took his lack of a best actor nomination for Sully in stride. It's Annette Bening who may be hurting after 20th Century Women failed to earn her another chance to lose an Oscar to a rising young star.

Bening seemed like a sure thing among best actress finalists, and a sentimental co-favorite with Emma Stone (La La Land) and Natalie Portman (Jackie). Bening already finished behind Portman once, and Hilary Swank earlier. Another casualty is Amy Adams (Arrival) whose expected slot went to Ruth Negga (Loving) instead.

• Talk about mixed feelings. I loved Michael Shannon in a movie (Nocturnal Animals) I despise. At least his nomination knocked out co-star and Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

• Sorry, Deadpool fans. Ryan Reynolds' raunchy superhero blockbuster was completely shut out by academy voters. Even that dumb sci-fi flick Passengers got more love with two nominations. Heck, even Suicide Squad got a makeup nod.

• Pixar failing to land a best animated feature nomination for Finding Dory was mildly surprising, after Finding Nemo became the studio's first Oscar winner in 2005.

• While Streep extended her record for career nominations, her Florence Foster Jenkins co-star Hugh Grant was left off a formidable supporting actor ballot.

 

Here's the full list of nominees:

BEST PICTURE

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

 

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

 

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

 

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

 

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Viola Davis, Fences

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

 

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Kubo and theTwo Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

 

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Arrival

La la land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

 

COSTUME DESIGN

Allied

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

 

DIRECTING

Arrival, Denis Villeneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

 

VISUAL EFFECTS

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

WRITING ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Arrival, Eric Heisserer

Fences, screenplay by August Wilson

Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

Lion, Luke Davies

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins; Tarell Alvin McCraney

 

WRITING ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Hell Or High Water, Taylor Sheridan

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou

Manchester By The Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

20th Century Women, Mike Mills

 

MUSIC ORIGINAL SCORE

Jackie, Mica Levi

La La Land, Justin Hurwitz

Lion, Dustin O'halloran and Hauschka

Moonlight, Nicholas Britell

Passengers, Thomas Newman

 

MUSIC ORIGINAL SONG

Audition (The Fools Who Dream)from La La Land, Justin Hurwitz, Benji Pasek, Justin Paul

Can't Stop the Feeling, from Trolls, Justin Timberlake, Max Martin Karl Johan Schuster

City of Stars, from La La Land, Justin Hurwitz, Benji Pasek, Justin Paul

The Empty Chair, from Jim: the James Foley Story, J. Ralph and Sting

How Far I'll Go, from Moana, Lin-Manuel Miranda

 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Fire At Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made In America

13th

 

DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe's Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets

 

FILM EDITING

Arival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Tanna

Toni Erdmann

 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad

 

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Passengers

 

SHORT FILM ANIMATED

Blind Vaysha, Theodore Ushev

Borrowed Time, Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj

Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Robert Valley and Cara Speller

Pearl, Patrick Osborne

Piper, Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer

 

SHORT FILM LIVE ACTION

Ennemis Intérieurs, Sélim Azzazi

La Femme Et Le Tgv, Timo Von Gunten and Giacun Caduff

Silent Nights, Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson

Sing, Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy

Timecode, Juanjo Giménez

 

SOUND EDITING

Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Sully

 

SOUND MIXING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

 

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

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