And the Award goes to…
It’s the most magical time of the year, when film nerds continue to complain that they’re favorite movie didn’t get nominated and that overrated films are about to take home Hollywood’s most coveted prize. Does it matter in the long run? No, but it’s still fun to talk about and speculate who is the best of the best in years to come.
Anyways, after last year’s controversy with the “Oscars so white” campaign, the Academy took great pains to diversify the nominee pool this year with some pretty solid choices. As with 2016’s Academy Awards, I’ll let you know who I think is going to win and who I wanted to win the award, even if the person or film wasn’t nominated at all. With that said, let’s take a look at the contenders:
This is a very difficult category to predict this year as there’s too much competition with lots of critical favorites. Hell, Aaron Taylor Johnson won the Golden Globe in this category and didn’t even get nominated, but his co-star did. Still, I think it’s safe to rule out Dev Patel though; he wasn’t bad but he’s still a young actor in a film that was late on the bandwagon in grabbing critical or audience attention. Same analysis goes to Lucas Hedges who did a very good job in Manchester by the Sea (to the point I thought he was doing a better job with the script than Affleck was). But since Jeff Bridges already has his own Oscar already and based on the SAG awards though, I’m going to say the award will go to Mahershala Ali as the award for Best Supporting Actor is voted primarily by thespians alone (and the SAG membership is a much larger version of the Academy voting pool).
For me, Ali more than earned this award. His turn in Moonlight was one of the film’s many highlights, and I adored his adoptive father routine with his very young costar. It was touching, tender, and most importantly, believable. Sincerely hope he can pull an upset.
Another category with lots of great performances (save for Michelle Williams who’s barely in Manchester by the Sea), but the winds are all pointing to Viola Davis taking the award thanks to her double wammy win in the Golden Globes and the SAG awards. While Kidman and Harris both very memorable maternal roles, and Octavia Spencer is always a treat to see, Davis freaking owned in Fences. And I can’t think of a more deserving actress in 2016 as Davis has not only been nominated three times but easily gave one of the strongest performances of the year period. Was initially hoping she’d get nominated for Best Lead Actress, but for the sake of her walking home with Oscar gold, I’ll wish her the best all the same.
While I did like Hidden Figures quite a bit, it’s script was pretty much safest thing I’ve heard in a while. Meanwhile, Fences is a straight up port of the original stage play, and the scene transitions as well as pacing just felt awkward. And my issues with Lion‘s screenplay is pretty well documented. So, because of all that and based on the rumblings I’ve heard through the WGA awards, I think Arrival will take the award.
Which is all well and good for me, as I did believe Arrival to be the better script. While I do believe Moonlight is the better film, I fell in love with Arrival‘s script of speculative science fiction and unique narrative twists. Also, Moonlight‘s strength was in the acting and directorial attributes, so I got show a little bit more scrutiny towards other writers.
Lot of good choices on this list, I mean this is the one category I don’t mind seeing Manchester by the Sea on as the screenplay was its greatest strength. And as I pointed out in my review, The Lobster‘s absurdist premise and follow through was enough to earn a place at the nominees’ table. However, as Moonlight won the WGA award for Best Original Script (oddly), it’s going to be difficult to predict exactly who will take it. Given the Academy’s love for this film though, I think La La Land will take it.
But there’s one choice on this list that my regular readers will know I love best, and that’s Hell or High Water. Not only was it a smart, tense thriller but it took great pains to make you give a damn about its various characters, even as some of them were working against each other. Fully fleshed out characters that can be developed in just a mere two hours is an incredibly difficult task to accomplish, so I’m giving all the love in the world to the writers behind this movie.
We had a damn great year in animation in 2016, so picking the best of the best is a tall order. Hell, four movies (Kubo, Moana, Zootopia, and Sausage Party) either made my Top 10 or my runners up. Kubo, in particular, was an amazing achievement in special effects (which I’ll get to later) and Moana boasted it’s own magnificent visuals with an even stronger story as well as great songs to boot. But only one movie on this list made my Top 10 of the year, and the Academy does love its political messages (as full of shit as they are), so Zootopia is both my predicted winner and favored to win by me. Out of all these movies, only Disney’s anthropomorphic adventure and treatise against racism got the emotions swelled up in me to love it.
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
Oh this is some BULLSHIT, Elle and The Handmaiden didn’t get nominated?! I know South Korea didn’t submit The Handmaiden for consideration, but France had a lock in with Paul Verhoven’s latest and greatest. Screw it, based on the aforementioned love of trying to make faux-political statements, my guess is that this award will go the Iranian-French film, The Salesman, if only to make a weak ass speech against the recent Muslim Ban.
The Handmaiden is obviously my pick for best foreign film, I mean it was in my Top 5 after all. It’s also beautiful, stylish, relentlessly intriguing, and has numerous twists and turns to warrant multiple viewings.
Best Documentary Feature
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
O.J.: Made in America
Lot of popular documentaries this year more so than other nominations list. While I haven’t seen any of this year’s entries, I was going to guess 13th will take home the grand prize as the Academy might be on a roll to try to make up for the #OscarsSoWhite fiasco from last year, plus it did take home the BAFTA for Best Documentary. However, due to the win in the Producer’s Guild Awards (American voter pool), I’m going to guess O.J.: Made in America will claim the award for itself.
Based on the subject matter of the rescue workers in Aleppo, Syria, I think The White Helmets will be favored to win. Aside from the faux-political statement, it’s also a harrowing tale of the people who risk their lives to save others from the Syrian genocide. And hey, it’s available on Netflix right now for you to check out.
Best Live Action Short Film
La Femme et le TGV
Going to consult Dr. Spectra on this one, who actually did see all of the contestants. While she said that all of them have in some way a connection to dealing with the concepts of the “other” and “outsider”, she did feel that La Femme et le TGV was the best of the batch. In this we have a woman who is stuck in the ways of the past, resistant to the changing world. The short adeptly follows her as she struggles to embrace the modern world in a creative, heart-wrenching way, but provides a wholly unexpected outcome. The acting and and the cinematography were fantastic. Ultimately, it was hard to choose, though — equally well done, both in terms of acting and story, were Ennemis Intérieurs and Sing.
Best Animated Short Film
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Beautiful looking choices this year, but Piper was the one that blew me and several animators away. While light on story or character, there is an impressive amount of detail rendered in each feather and grain of sand to deliver what is an honest to God photorealistic experience. My money is on Disney’s darling to take home the gold.
This award might as well be FedExed to La La Land at this point. Aside from being the favorite to win in the big major categories, it truly had the most memorable score out of the other entries on this list. I mean seriously, I couldn’t pay attention to Passengers‘ score with all the freaking rape on screen, and when there wasn’t it was just a boring action film with a ho-hum score. Moonlight‘s and Lion’s score didn’t even register with me to be honest.
Ironically, the score I loved best this year came from a movie that I wasn’t even fond of at all: The Neon Demon. I’ve said my piece about the film itself, but that score was just drop dead stunning. Utilizing synthesizers and oppressive melodies, the score did in fact help quite a bit in several scenes just how surreal everything is and it’s the one score that I remember off the top of my head more than any other.
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original song)
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls
“City Of Stars” from La La Land
“The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana
Wow, just gonna make sure La La Land earns both music awards, eh Academy? Like I said in my review, I only found the first and last songs to be the best in the entire film, while the middle was carried by solid dancing and acting. So, while I expected to see “City of Stars” there, the “Audition” song would be the better choice if only for having a more resonant melody and message. Of the choices though, I prefer Moana‘s theme song the best if I’m being honest.
But there’s one glaring omission from this list that genuinely ticked me off: no “Drive It Like You Stole It” from Sing Street. According to Google Music, I’ve played this song over 200 times on my phone and when you listen to it, you’ll understand why. It’s catchy as hell, filled with energy while combining an old style of music. But I guess it’s not nostalgic enough for the Academy’s voting pool, so I’ll keep up the good fight in telling people how amazing it is.
A little primer: “sound editing” is the art of creating sounds besides music. This might not sound like a big deal, but check out this video on the art of “foley,” that is to create the sound effects so it “feels” right when you watch a movie. Most cameras and microphones can’t capture the sounds of waves, wind, and rain the way certain foley artists can make them sound, so this is an important category to honor as you’re effectively rewarding someone on being able to not appear obvious.
With that distinction in mind, I’m going to say Arrival or Hacksaw Ridge will take this one as both require quite a bit of artistry to make things sound “right.” I’m going to edge on Arrival more for the science fiction element involved though, and the aliens in that movie truly sounded like something I never heard before.
So “sound mixing” is the art of mixing the aforementioned sound effects into the film so that the cues sync with what you’re witnessing on screen. Given that, I believe La La Land should take this one thanks to the incredible work it must have taken to sync the music, sounds with each dance step.
Now production design refers to everything you see in the background of films, such as the sets, the props, and the overall aesthetics that help convey the world you’re watching. And while I had many a problem with the story, I still think Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them communicated the Wizarding World in ways the Harry Potter films dreamed of becoming. I think Hail, Casesar! gives it some stiff competition, but I’ll let the fanboy in me edge something in Rowling’s favor (God knows I’ve taken a dump all over the rest of the movie).
Though having said that, my favorite background and set design really came from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Adding a new grungy feel to the Star Wars universe wasn’t merely limited to the script and direction, but also to the war-torn a sprawling landscapes where the action took place.
I know y’all are just loving me geek out all over these technical awards, as God knows I’ve given certain films a pass if stuff like clever camerawork can save a movie from lower ratings. But here, it’s time to honor the true technical masters. And given La La Land’s collection of various technical awards, I once again think that La La Land will take another award.
Out of all the entries, I think Arrival, La La Land, and Silence are the most solid contenders; but I’ll award Silence for some truly breathtaking cinematography that communicated even more details about the story that a lesser filmmaker would have faltered on.
Good God, Suicide Squad has been nominated for an Academy Award. The rivers are now running red with blood and dogs are falling from the sky. Yeah I know it’s a technical award, but this just seems like a sign of the End Times. Regardless, while I haven’t seen A Man Called Ove, I have seen stills from the production to communicate the effects done on some of the actors, so…unfortunately, I’m going to award the Oscar to Suicide Squad here, if only because it’s the only one on this list with heavy amounts of makeup and hairstyling.
But screw giving Warner Brothers and DC Films an easy pass, I’m going to say that High-Rise had a much more impressive set of makeup and hairstyling as you saw characters change from suave 1970s yuppies to post-apocalyptic survivors.
Okay, I don’t know what the hell La La Land is doing here. I mean yeah the clothes were all very stylish, but out of the rest of the nominees on this list? It’s pretty tame in comparison. I’m thinking Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will take home this award for blending 1920s America with the unique Wizarding World.
Alright, Arrival should have no contest here. Compared to every entry on this list, the reason the film works as well as it does from a narrative point is entirely thanks to how the editing worked. I’ll be surprised if La La Land takes this too, but I can’t put it past the Academy.
Tough, tough call here as all the entries on this category had some pretty dazzling effects as mentioned in my reviews. But if pressed, I’m rooting for and predicting Kubo and the Two Strings will win this thanks to its rarity as an animated film being nominated in this category and for that killer giant skeleton puppet.
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling in La La Land
Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington in Fences
Things are very interesting here, Casey Affleck thought he had his Oscar in the bag ever since the Golden Globes, but Denzel Washington has won every successive award show in this category, including the ever important Screen Actors Guild Awards. So with that said, I think the Academy’s voting base will end up choosing Uncle Denzel as their choice for Best Lead Actor of the year. And quite frankly, I couldn’t think of a more deserving male thespian to claim the award. Fences truly demonstrated Washington’s range from comedy to tragedy, and his act with Viola Davis cemented that film as one of my favorites of the year.
Really? Freaking Emma Stone as Best LEAD Actress? And she won the freaking SAG award?! Bah, this is such another sacrifice that Hollywood has made to its altar of worship that is La La Land. Look, Stone wasn’t bad at all, but as I mentioned in my review, I did feel that the songs were altered to match her own vocal range rather than the other way around. And also, compared to Negga in Loving and Portman in Jackie, Stone seemed to be very outclassed. But I guess the Academy just isn’t willing to award Gosling an Oscar just yet, so Stone will have to do in their pursuit to adore La La Land.
But long time readers should know that one actress truly mesmerized me this year: Isabelle Huppert in Elle. This was a go-for-broke performance that Huppert owned and dominated. This should have been an easy win for her, but alas, Hollywood’s predilection for brown nosing had to have won out.
Shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Damien Chazelle take home the Oscar gold. Actually, it’ll be more surprising if he didn’t. He’s won the Director’s Guild Award and Producer’s Guild Award, so the voting pools all seem to be converging on him. Like I said, I will be truly shocked if he doesn’t take home the award. And I won’t lie, if there’s anything that La La Land truly did well was how it was put together. For me, the best directorial award should go to someone that fashioned together a risky project with multiple complex elements, from script to set design to actors to camera. And while I had my critiques over certain decisions, honestly Chazelle did an incredible job all on his lonesome.
It’s La La Land. I know, you are in shock as well. Now, you may have noticed that some of my words have been dismissive towards La La Land, to the point you may think I don’t like this film at all. Actually, I quite enjoyed it and thought it was truly a fine film. But that’s all it will be to me, fine. As seen in my Top 10 list, I identified ten whole other films that really got to me in a way that La La Land did not. And that’s okay. Film criticism is hardly an objective study, it comes from analyzing what works well in certain areas or as a whole. La La Land has some great moments, but it didn’t quite click together as a perfect whole to me.
The films I definitely thought were perfect from beginning to end would be Hell or Highwater, Moonlight, and A Monster Calls. And while you know which one took my Best of the Year, honestly these three keep interchanging themselves as my all time favorite of 2016. Of the trio, I think Moonlight might have the best chance to pull an upset over La La Land, but I’ll be content that either takes home the gold.
I mean as long as Manchester by the Sea doesn’t wind anything, I’ll be pleased as punch.