Oscar Nominations: Shockers, snubs and finally not “So White”

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Academy Awards host Jimmy Kimmel

To me, the biggest surprise of the 2017 Academy Awards nominations this morning was the way the nominations were announced on “Good Morning America.” There was a filmed presentation of past nominees giving advice with the usual important-sounding Oscar-y score behind it, rather than an awkward press conference with reporters “Whoo!”-ing for the nominees they approved of and giving “Who dat?” silence for the ones they didn’t.

This was prettier, but I kind of miss the live feeling of it, because the nervous weirdness gives it more drama. Having said that, the nominees themselves were interesting because some were expected, some weren’t, and there was enough diversity to put that “Oscars So White” protest from the past two years at least temporarily behind us. I’m thrilled, not because I’m a writer who happens to be a black woman, but as a film fan who wants to see more than the same stories told over and over again.

And let me say that the people nominated here are not tokens placed there so Will and Jada and them will shut up about it. There are seven actors of color nominated, including several African-Americans and Indian actor Dev Patel. This feels fresh, not just in terms of race and culture but of new names. One of those new names is Justin Timberlake, and I think he stole Pharrell’s “Best Song” nomination, but that’s how it goes, I guess.

So what didn’t make me happy? I wish Tarjai P. Henson had been honored for carrying “Hidden Figures” with a Best Actress nomination, and that Janelle Monae had gotten one for Best Supporting, although Octavia Spencer, who was nominated, made me cry, although I was even more struck by the other two actresses.

Here’s something else interesting – in a year that seems to be celebrating diversity in an organic way, we’re also seeing the comeback of Mel Gibson, who seemed to have torpedoed his career years back for saying bigoted and misogynist things. But there he is with a nomination for Best Director for “Hacksaw Ridge,” which got several other nods including Best Picture.

“Moonlight” has done so well in nominations, and it’s amazing that it’s diverse in every way, about a black man exploring his sexuality. We don’t get to see those stories much, and I’m so pleased that it’s been received so well. I still think Viola Davis should have been in the Best Actress category for “Fences,” because she’s clearly the other star besides Denzel Washington, but if she needs to do Supporting Actress to win, that’s a strategy. I’m sad that Hugh Grant didn’t get a peep for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” but at least that unknown upstart Meryl Streep did. Love her. It’s her 20th nomination!

And in shallow news, I just want to see what Best Actress nominee Natalie Portman wears, because she’s nominated for playing Jackie Kennedy, so she’s got to slay.

 

“Celebrity Apprentice” replaces swaps The Donald for Ah-nuld: Our take on the new season

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Before former California governor/action legend/human catchphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger even began his tenure Monday as the boss on NBC’s “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” there was much discussion about what his kiss-off line was going to be. He obviously couldn’t use previous host/current President-elect Donald Trump‘s “You’re fired.” Conventional wisdom had been that he might go with “Hasta la vista, Baby,” from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” because that’s literally a farewell. I was hoping he’d go with “Hit the bricks” or “Get to stepping,” because neither have anything to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger but that’s part of the charm.

Sadly, the Governator decided to go with the expected but all-together appropriate “You’re terminated,” followed up by the fabulously droll “Get to the choppa” from “Terminator,” because SYNERGY. It was ridiculous and over-the-top and I loved it, because Arnold’s famously reserved Austrian-ness doesn’t necessary make for the most personality-laden hosting job. Trump was all alpha New York energy, with an impatient “Time is money” attitude and a caffeinated jittery air that fit his rabid-fire “You’re fired” and whatever that mongoose finger-pointy thing he used to do. That hair-trigger thing made him fun to watch but utterly terrifying to the contestants because his firing decisions often seemed to make no sense to anyone but him. He’d ignore the absolute incompetency of a project manager and go after some quiet girl in the corner just because she was trying to hide. Then there was the time he fired someone because her mean girl teammates decided to tell him she was crazy. (He brought her back on to apologize, but the damage was done.)

Ahnuld, on the other hand, seemed to base his firing decisions on actual job performance – YouTube celebrity Carrie Keagan got the heave-ho because she couldn’t defend not speaking up over legitimate issues she saw with the project, and project manager Carnie Wilson (who I loved but deserved to go) refused to accept blame and therefore could not “Hold On” for one more day. (Yes, it’s a dumb reference. What of it?) That logic might make him more boring, but it’s less stressful as a viewer. Also, I like the parts of the formula that he and creator Mark Burnett kept – the boardroom, a familial adviser (in this case, nephew and attorney Patrick) and making the booted contestant be publicly and immediately dismissed – and what they’ve added – the L.A. location and Tyra Banks. When she went after the female team in the first episode for failing to use any of their famous lady faces to showcase her makeup in their challenge, she had some of that “America’s Next Top Model” ferocity. I thought they might cry.

Our verdict? The new boss is not yet as memorable as the old one. But he’s got time. And Tyra can always start yelling at people. I’d watch that.

Former rival on why “everybody loves” new “The Bachelor” star Nick Viall now

Nick Viall, the new "Bachelor" on ABC
Nick Viall, the new “Bachelor” on ABC

When Palm Beach County real estate agent Ryan Beckett first met Nick Viall, who starts handing out roses Monday night as “The Bachelor,” he wasn’t super impressed. After all, they were trying to date the same woman.

“I didn’t give him a chance,” says Beckett, who like Viall was vying for the heart of Kaitlyn Bristowe, quirky star of the 2015 season of ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” Beckett, of West Palm Beach’s Bit Realty, was one of the original cast, who was surprised when Viall, who’d tried and failed to win the heart of previous “Bachelorette” Andi Dorfman, basically crashed the middle of the season because he’d met Kaitlyn and some or other “Bachelor” event and said he liked her. Viewers like me and contestants like Beckett, who was sent home the same episode that Nick showed up, didn’t buy it – “I’d known all the other guys from Day One, and this guy shows up. I didn’t know who he was,” Beckett says. “By the time I went home, it was episode 5 and I was actually ready to go home. I was like a beaten puppy.”

Like he had with Andi, Nick made it to the “Close but no engagement” spot with Kaitlyn, and got a full-blown weasel edit. But two years later, Viall’s now being pitched as the nice guy you’re all rooting for in his fourth franchise appearance. ┬áHe either has an unflagging commitment to finding love or just really, really enjoys getting dumped on TV. Beckett, who recently relocated from Wellington to West Palm, has gotten to know his former rival through various “Bachelor” appearances and on last summer’s “Bachelor” alum bikini-fest “Bachelor in Paradise.” And now he’s rooting for him, too.

“He’s like Mitt Romney. Everybody loves him now,” Beckett says of Viall. “People like him because he’s good at articulating his feelings.”

And for what it’s worth, Beckett says he’s forgiven Viall for showing up mid-season and being the man who, as he jokingly Tweeted to me, “#stolemyrose.” All’s fair in love, war and televised rose ceremonies – “In retrospect, I realize he didn’t owe anything” to the other suitors, “and now I think ‘Why was I so upset?'”

Beckett says he’s made a lot of friends from the Bachelor universe, but doesn’t plan to return, “although I didn’t think I would have gone on ‘Bachelor In Paradise, either. I was at a wedding in the Bahamas when a producer (reached out) to me, and I was waffling about doing it. My friend said ‘Let me get this straight. They’re going to pay you to go to a beautiful resort, date beautiful women and drink tequila. Why aren’t you going?”says Beckett, whose salt-and-pepper beard on “Paradise” earned him the nickname “Silver Fox.”

He’s still out here dating, but in reality, rather than on reality TV. But Beckett’s agreed to watch “The Bachelor” and tell us what he thinks of Nick’s picks every week. He refuses to give spoilers but is pulling for his former rival.

“He’s good at expressing himself and being vulnerable,” Beckett says. As the promos say, “Fourth time’s the charm.” Lord, we hope so.

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