Category Archives: Awards Season

Oscars Watch 2018: Playing the Fiddle While Rome Burns: Best Picture

Boy, there is a lot of…news out there today. Everything is generally awful and terrible and brutish and nasty.

So, we’re going to go to something that doesn’t matter at all in the hopes of distracting you, me, and everyone else.

That’s right, it’s OSCAR SEASON!!!

Now, I’m gonna preface all this with the reason for the subtitle. To some degree, I’m acknowledging that I’m playing into a lot of the power games that created a lot of the current situation in Hollywood. Weinstein made his name, his money, and his influence off this game.

This is not some grand statement. On the contrary, I’m a F-list blogger with no influence, no reach, and no real ultimate meaning. It’s simply my own personal way of knowing what I’m doing and hoping to wrest some personal control of these narratives from people like that.

I’m looking at the Oscars this year as a post-Moonlight thing. An avenue to now boost smaller and more important movies that may not have gotten the chance. This is a way to celebrate films on a scale that there are few chances to and we deserve to make our own narrative. Yes, there is and always will be needs to be right and there are certain caveats I must always make with these articles. I’m looking to be technically correct, not morally, whether I like it or not.

But there’s narratives to create and I’m going to create them.

So, without further adieu, let’s give last year’s disclaimer:

We’re talking, of course, about the Academy Awards here. The Oscars, if you’re nasty. It may not be for a few months, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it now.

“But Brandon,” you don’t say but I pretend you do, “how can you have a discussion about these movies? Not only have you only seen two, but most of them haven’t even been officially released?”

You sweet summer child.

Fun fact about the Academy Awards: They’re rarely about the actual movies. They’re about how movies are perceived and make the voters feel. As long as the movie has a reasonably strong critical reception (unless you’re Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), the appearance of quality and importance is enough. Plus, thanks to the Festival circuit, we can already see the conversations that are being had around it, so waiting for them to come out isn’t necessary. This is shot-calling, not criticism.

The Awards are also about the quality of the campaign! Did the studio put the movie in front of enough people with a clear enough case?  Does the studio have the connections and the infrastructure to really get their case out there? Being good means nothing if nobody knows it.

And let’s give our categories. Sure Things, Incredibly Likely, Possibly, and No-Go. I also keep the general rule that there has to be something from it out there for me to include it. Reviews or trailers, something to make it possible to keep an eye on things.

The rumors around The Post are enough to make sure I do that.

The big story this year is the lack of any frontrunner and the absolute wealth of possible runners. It’s a year that the Festivals and Studios are producing a lot of very good movies, a lot of stuff that people are really liking even if a good chunk of it is somewhat divisive. But that divisiveness is meaning that there’s nothing universally agreeable.

Remember that by this point last year Moonlight was already out and La La Land was tearing it up over in festival land. The tea leaves were there for those two to read, but nothing is so big right now. Nothing is tearing up festivals the same way something usually does and it’s likely going to come down to the compromise candidate that everyone is reasonably positive about.

Sure Things

Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri
Darkest Hour
Get Out

Dunkirk and Darkest Hour may hold the rare distinction of being the first pair of movies about the same event ever nominated in the same year. There’s a few years with pairs of WW2 movies or pairs of movies set in the same era (1998 had a pair of each) but Dunkirk and Darkest Hour are both set during the Battle of Dunkirk, just from different ends.

Nolan is with the soldiers in a film that is heart-stoppingly realistic and jaw-droppingly shot. Wright takes the fight back to Parliament with Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill battling for his place of power and the rallying of his nation. Darkest Hour is classic Oscar material, a chamber piece about a great man, and Dunkirk is functionally a Robert Bresson film by way of Nolan’s tech-wizardry, by no means an Oscar piece. But the sheer scale and skill at play here makes both a lock with Nolan’s Dunkirk more seizing of the imagination than anyone expected.

The Shape of Water is honestly an unexpected success. Del Toro’s recent adoption of his Spanish language style into his English language output yielded the great Crimson Peak but seemed doomed to alienate all but the critical audience. But The Shape of Water is apparently a warm, romantic/sexy story that seems to be connecting with every audience that sees it as an impressive American fairytale. As a longtime fan, I’m thrilled.

Call Me By Your Name was always kind of destined to look like this year’s Moonlight, a story of queer desire and longing with lush and gorgeous filmmaking. But that’s a flattening that doesn’t quite go into Moonlight and apparently doesn’t quite go into Call Me By Your Name with its parental dynamics and the Armie Hammer factor (the most underrated actor working). This film has had its praises sung since January and there seems to be no stopping on this train. And hey, any film with a Sufjan Stevens soundtrack is worthy of an Oscar in my opinion.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri joins Call Me By Your Name and The Shape of Water in making this year the year of finally recognizing people who’ve done great work and have had no Awards success until now. Martin McDonagh’s foul-mouthed and darkly hilarious films have been an underseen delight for years and Three Billboards seems to be the film that’ll finally get him some attention. His dynamite actors, his profanely brilliant dialogue, and his steady portrayal of place seems to all come to the forefront here and have gotten this movie the attention he’s always deserved.

Get Out is perhaps the film of the year. No film passed into popular refrain quicker, no film became a bigger hit culturally (and few financially), and no film feels more desperately of its moment. No film has felt like it so tapped into the conversation around race, class, and culture so quickly. Peele’s Get Out is a vital and visceral piece of filmmaking that absolutely can and should be in the awards conversation. Best Picture must include movies like this.

Incredibly Likely

Lady Bird
The Florida Project
Phantom Thread
Battle of the Sexes
The Big Sick

A24 is riding hot after winning for Moonlight last year. A young studio turning the little movie that could into the little movie that did. They’re now an official player and they’ve come out 2017 with a few runners now that they’ve got the connections to run an actual field this time around.

Their two best players are Lady Bird and The Florida Project. Lady Bird is the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, a somewhat autobiographical picture about a teen girl in the early 90s. The film is one of the big darlings of the critical set right now and Gerwig is a Hollywood favorite that could definitely get this film the early attention. The Florida Project is from Sean Baker, director of the wonderful Tangerine, about the lives of the poor and displaced in a Florida hotel. Willem Dafoe’s against-type performance and the great leading performance of child actress Brooklynn Prince got this thing the attention, but Baker’s very humanistic eye got this thing the love. I didn’t necessarily fall head-over-heels for it, but this is certainly the kind of movie that deserves the Awards talk.

Phantom Thread has a lot going for it. It’s Paul Thomas Anderson, in the conversation for our best living director. It’s Daniel Day-Lewis, in the conversation for our best living actor. It’s a surprisingly respectable looking period piece about high-fashion and passion in 50’s London, which could help people make a connection with PTA’s increasingly difficult films. The only reason it’s not assured is a late release date and a lot of secrecy around it (combined with a dynamo filmmaker and a difficult potential subject makes me think Silence) and the rumors that this may be a real high-class 50 Shades. This is a surprisingly sex-heavy year, but still not sure how that goes over.

Battle of the Sexes is the kind of big-swing crowd pleaser that could absolutely find a way to wriggle in easily, especially with its stars and its performances and its 2016-election parallels that can and will be played up. I don’t really care for this one overall, but it’s easy to understand how this one will move into the race.

The Big Sick is another big-swing crowd pleaser that could make it in for all the reasons that Battle of the Sexes could, minus its direct political relevance and adding the true story behind it. This one I’ll admit that I have much more attachment to, given my admiration for Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, and the sweetness and skill with which this story is told means it should absolutely get a shot at the Oscars.

Possibly

I, Tonya
Mudbound
The Disaster Artist
Logan/Wonder Woman
Molly’s Game

I, Tonya is definitely a late-game and somewhat surprising addition to this race. It really exploded out of TIFF and landed in the lap of young distributor NEON. While it’s going to remain to be seen how NEON gets a handle on Oscar campaigns, a big and flashy movie like this with starpower and star performances certainly holds the chance of giving some hooks in.

Mudbound certainly stacks up as the prime sort of Oscar contender. A film about race in post-war America from Dee Rees, whose film Pariah you should absolutely see, that should end up having some resonance, especially after raves out of Sundance. But Netflix is a biq q-mark. Hollywood is no fan of the upstart challenger and there’s a lot of legitimate issues with the way Netflix promotes and throws up the middle finger to theaters. Will the business side overcome the movie?

The Disaster Artist is my personal pick for this year’s dark horse. A Hollywood tale about the love of filmmaking running a surprisingly smart campaign (that billboard) with apparently a career-best performance out of James Franco. I could see this one doing surprisingly well if A24 plays their cards right.

Every year we have the conversation about when/if one of these big superhero blockbusters is going to make it into the Best Picture race. This year has maybe presented the two best shots at it with Logan and Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is the one that feels of its moment and of its time and its critical success has been a surprise for the otherwise-reviled DC Film universe. Logan is a much darker/weightier film than Wonder Woman which may give it the edge in the “respectability” race, though it certainly wasn’t the smash hit that a superhero film is going to need to be to break in here.

Molly’s Game is just here because with a Best Actress/Supporting Actor/Screenplay line-up possible, it certainly needs to be in the conversation. The Academy loves Sorkin.

No-Go

Wind River
Wonder Wheel
All The Money in the World

Weinstein. Allen. (as of today) Spacey. These names are gonna poison these movies.

mother!/The Killing of A Sacred Deer
Breathe
The Greatest Showman

I adored mother! and am fairly certain I have positive feelings about The Killing of A Sacred Deer, but these are two movies for which the word “divisive” was made. mother! got an F Cinemascore for a reason. I can’t see enough people wanting to vote for these.

Breathe is the kind of tear-jerker that tried for the attention but it pretty much fell flat on its face. No box office, no critical love, nothin’.

The Greatest Showman is trying for a little of that La La Land but my god it looks and sounds embarrassing for everyone involved. I hope I’m wrong, but…

Current Category Guess:

Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Florida Project
Phantom Thread
The Big Sick

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Oscars Watch 2018 (Preview): What To Keep An Eye On This Year

Yes, this is probably too early.

But to be fair, this isn’t really a set of predictions. We don’t even begin to know what’s for sure getting released this year, much less what’s getting pushed and what will be successful outside of the festivals where these things live and even less what the political atmosphere will be surrounding this.

Think of this more as a trend piece. What should you be keeping an eye out for? If you want to keep up on what’s hot in the film world, what should you be grabbing tickets for? Basically, it’s a Fall preview, but only for the “respectable stuff.” You already know about Blade Runner 2049 (which actually does stand a good chance of getting technical nominations), Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Justice League. What else?

This is also by NO means a comprehensive list. This’ll be missing stuff like Wonderstruck, Logan, The Greatest Showman, Molly’s Game, Wonder, Last Flag Flying, Professor Marston & The Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman, A Ghost Story, and all the potential nominees for Foreign/Animated/Documentary.

So, right now, we’ll divide the fall festival films/Oscar hopefuls (insofar as they have a good chance, not all prestige bait necessarily) into three categories: Great Guesses, Don’t Count Them Out, and Count Them Out.

Also, I’m gonna use my standard rule for previews that I’m only gonna talk about movies we actually have seen something from, anywhere from a release to reviews out of a film festival. So sorry Phantom Thread and The Post, you’ll have to wait until later. The films here are the ones that are gonna play big roles. Best Picture is kind of the assumption, but there may be other awards I’m expecting, which I’ll note below.

Great Guesses

Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name seems to be the most direct response to last year’s surprise victory in Moonlight. A queer story, though one that seems to revolve much more around its romance, Call Me By Your Name is walking the path that Moonlight really blazed for it, a space that seemed unfriendly to a previously much more conservative Academy.

But even beyond that, Call Me By Your Name has received almost universal raves since its debut at Sundance. Luca Guadagnino (a long time critical favorite) has been called a beautifully written, gorgeously shot, and masterfully acted story that’s specific and universally relatable. With an apparent breakout performance for Armie Hammer as young star Timothee Chalamet and a score from Sufjan Stevens, there’s a lot to get excited about here and a lot for voters to latch onto.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score/Best Original Song

Dunkirk/Darkest Hour

Is there another year we’ve had two films functionally about the same event that have both attracted as much attention as these two have? Two films about the Evacuation of Dunkirk, one on the ground and one back in London making the decisions, both attracting huge Oscar attention. Dunkirk for Nolan’s visceral, “You Are There” filmmaking and sheer towering technical achievement, Darkest Hour as a more traditional chamber prestige drama rotating around its dialogue and the huge, flashy lead performance from Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.

Maybe (Both)?: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score
Maybe (Dunkirk)?: Just name a technical award
Maybe (Darkest Hour)?: Best Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Original Screenplay

The Shape of Water

With its Golden Lion win at Venice Film Festival, The Shape of Water technically becomes the first “Oscar season” picture to put some points on the board. Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War fairy tale of the love between a mute woman and a fish man has been getting gushing love throughout the critical spectrum. So far, the film has been praised for its sensuality and sensitivity as well as performances from lead Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones as well as supporting work from Richard Jenkins. That the design and directorial work is also extremely strong should surprise no one.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Sally Hawkins), Best Supporting Actor (Richard Jenkins), Best Original Screenplay, All Technical Awards

Battle of the Sexes

The kind of film that will play like gangbusters for Hollywood and the critical audience (given every piece was “This is the election, but not the election”), it will be no surprise when Battle of the Sexes gets to be a huge crowd-pleaser coasting on that love to plenty of safe nominations. The sitting Best Actress winner apparently turns out another exceptional performance, so it’ll be interesting to see if she can pull it off again.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Actor (Steve Carrell), Best Original Screenplay

Mudbound

Netflix’s attempt to get Oscar prestige has been, at least for me, the most quietly fascinating story in Hollywood. Not content being at this point synonymous with watching things on streaming and not content with being a player in just the TV awards, Netflix has been buying up prestige pics and projects right and left. Dee Rees’ post-WWII story of race and family has attracted a lot of attention and seems well up the Academy’s alley as one of the few Black films this year getting any attention.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jason Mitchell), Best Supporting Actor (Garret Hedlund), Best Supporting Actress (Carey Mulligan), Best Original Screenplay

Don’t Count Them Out

The Films of A24

A24, having won last year’s Best Picture in one of the most dramatic Oscar moments ever, shows no intention on slowing down. While none of the three below are sure things, A24 has a really solid marketing and schmoozing department and the attention and love these have been getting mean that you absolutely shouldn’t count any out. Plus, the fact that these are three of the films that are getting very little division in a divisive year should be worth paying attention to.

Greta Gerwig making a story about women by women that apparently features an incredibly strong performance from lead Saiorse Ronan (already an Oscar darling). Melting everyone’s hearts.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Saiorse Ronan)

Director of Tangerine makes a working class comedy with a confident directorial style. Amazing Willem Dafoe, great child performances, tapping into stories about the poor and working class.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Willem Dafoe), Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Cinematography

And here’s my “Dark Horse” pick. Almost universally well-reviewed right now, a film about the passion and love of filmmaking from a director and star who can apparently surprise with a story that has a huge amount of appeal to the newly young Academy. A story about Hollywood anchored by a performance digging into the heart of someone that seems larger than life. I think we should prepare for a lot from The Disaster Artist.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Actor (James Franco), Best Adapted Screenplay

Get Out

One of this year’s bonafide cultural phenomenons, Get Out is the kind of populist blockbuster hit that also has a serious brain, its ideas quickly passing into the cultural aether. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut tapped a vein that a smart studio could easily turn into legitimate Oscar gold. And, given how great this movie is, it really does deserve it and the recognition that we need more stories like this could be good for the industry.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Actor (Daniel Kaluuya), Best Supporting Actress (Lil Rel Howery), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay

The Big Sick

Another romantic and bonafide crowd pleaser, the success of The Big Sick seems primed to wedge its way into the Oscar race. Amazon showed off its Oscar prowess with Manchester by The Sea last year and the industry seems to have absolutely fallen for the story of how writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, already cult favorites, fell in love.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay

I, Tonya

itonya_02-useforannouncement

A very recent entry into the consideration category, this one really just comes down to whether it’s released this year or not. Just picked up by NEON, they could choose to hold it for a 2018 release. If they don’t, the true story of one of the most bizarre stories in sports, apparently told with a 4th-wall breaking Coen-esque flair. Plus, Margot Robbie is just about at the point in her career where it’s time for her to win an Oscar and Allison Janney is apparently stealing the show at every turn.

Maybe?: Best Picture, Best Actress (Margot Robbie), Best Supporting Actress (Allison Janney), Best Original Screenplay

3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh has never exactly been one for a lot of prestige success, his seriously sweary scripts attract a lot of niche and critical love but are rarely going past recognition for screenplays. But between Frances McDormand’s tornado performance and an incredibly stacked cast in a film that seems to have a little heart alongside its caustic nature might go well for this film.

Maybe?: Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell)

Count Them Out

Suburbicon

Boy, George Clooney sure can whiff ’em. Reactions seem to be generally negative on this one, a film too divided between a dark comedy and an attempt at a social issues picture to work at either. If no one likes it, nothing is gonna stick.

mother!

What’s the opposite of a crowd pleaser? Darren Aronofsky’s psycho-horror mother! is getting a lot of great reviews and I’m dying to see it, but even the most positive word has cautioned that this movie will absolutely not be for everyone with one of the most verifiably insane third acts. The kind of movie that promises to “Mess. You. Up.” is gonna have a really difficult time getting its claws into an Academy Award.

Roman J. Israel, Esq

A chance for Denzel to win another award, but early word seems way too divided on this movie, mostly saying that it just doesn’t ever end up coming together, a lot of raw material that doesn’t quite work. Denzel could rise above, but if no one likes the movie, that’ll be hard. Nightcrawler didn’t exactly light up the Academy either.

Downsizing

While early word out of Venice was positive, this mostly seems to be getting slammed once it gets to American shores. A premise that mostly feels wasted and Payne maybe over-extending his reach a little bit. The word about the Vietnamese refugee character really doesn’t seem to help.

The Current War

The honorary winner of the trailer with the SINGLE LOUDEST CAMERA I’VE EVER SEEN, the constant bag of tricks apparently didn’t mean anything for this film. Reviews say that this is the same bland prestige biopic that always stars Benedict Cumberbatch…just with the camera spinning basically everywhere.

Oscars Watch 2017: The Far Less-Depressing Campaign: What Did That All Mean?

So…wow guys.

Look, I know I’d been talking predictable for the Oscars this year, and I realize now that I’m sorely wrong about that. Trust me, my ballot shows it. For better and for worse, this year knew how to keep us on the toes.

There’s enough recaps of the whole night out there (including one elsewhere from me), so I won’t bore you by going over the clips you’ve seen a hundred times, praising and jeering what’s already been plenty praised and plenty jeered. Instead, I want to try to dive a little deeper here, and get into some of the political and industrial shifts and moral questions raised by the winners that we’ll have to deal with.

First things first, Moonlight won Best Picture. That’s huge for a lot of reasons. It’s a 1.6 million dollar film from a first-time production company (though long-time Distribution company) that was made by a majority Black production crew with an all Black cast that told the story of a young Black gay man.

It’s an almost direct repudiation to the idea that Black films simply don’t have an audience. Moonlight is not a slavery narrative nor a Civil Rights narrative. It’s a contemporary one about the Black experience as it exists in the modern day. It does those same things with its queer themes, telling the story of a gay man coming into his own with fullness, even ending on a romantic and joyful note. It’s unabashed about that, it presents the world with thought and deep deep empathy. And it won. That’s major, and it’s likely the clearest signal to Hollywood that these contemporary stories do have a prestige audience, even if they should have had that signal YEARS AGO.

It’s also a signal of a shift in the industrial necessity of filmmaking. It’s no secret that the film industry is staring at a bit of a precipice and it’s absolutely trying to figure out where to go right now. The mid-budget picture is all but gone as filmmaking increasingly splinters into massive budget and low budget. This puts the major studios over a barrel in how to keep up on both ends, and that leaves a vacuum for new groups to move in.

Last night was pretty much the confirmation that A24 and Amazon Studios would likely be those, with A24 functioning as the millennial Miramax. Amazon Studios seems to simply be the benefit of a great cash stream, picking up great films and giving them strong campaigns. A24 is a bit bigger.

Moonlight was the first film fully financed by A24, making it their first film as Production company rather than just as Distributor. Which means, yes, the first film from A24 won Best Picture. For a company that went from a dotted few wins to Best Picture in a year after being founded 5 years ago, that’s a huge deal. Expect to hear their name again, A24 has all eyes on it now more than ever. The A24 style is gonna get hot, as is their penchant for allowing directors a lot of room to tell unique, singular, visually stylish stories on low budgets. Putting 1.6 million (the kind of money a young first-timer could finance) into a film and getting a Best Picture out of it is the model everyone is going to try to follow.

The second big thing we need to talk is the Best Actor win. Casey Affleck won out over Denzel Washington. Casey is, of course, mired in controversy for 2010 sexual harassment allegations. This is the art and the artist conversation we’ve had for years, but it reflects an interesting wrinkle to the way we do awards.

With awards, we usually ask two separate questions. Does the performance merit it and does the performer merit it? This is how we get narratives like “It’s DiCaprio’s time” where he wins for a performance that is impressive but not necessarily good or what he’s good at. We think through what’s deserved for the performer based on who they are and their history.

In other words, separating art from the artist doesn’t just mean excusing the artist for the art. It means understanding how the artist and the art really are separate, and that we must look at them separately. That also means that both must factor in when we ask questions about rewarding any singular piece of art. Because though we separate them, we view an award as a validation of the art and the artist.

I bring this up here because the question of whether Casey Affleck deserves the award for this performance and whether we should give it to him are two entirely different questions. Does his performance deserve the award? Despite what the revisionism may tell you, of course he does. Casey’s performance in Manchester by the Sea is EXTRAORDINARY. A truly all-timer, jaw-dropping cinematic performance that wears years of history and pain and grief effortlessly, that carves out a character that you truly do feel for.

Does he deserve it though? Does Casey himself deserve it? With that sin hanging over his head, no. It’s a reward for bad behavior, a proof that he really could just get away with being an absolute scumbag to the women he had power over. Remember, this was on a film that he was directing, he had power over those people. The art may be worthy, the artist is not. We validated the artist by validating the art, and we have to wrestle with the fact that a harasser was validated by that.

It’s important to understand too that good art can come from bad people. Every time we pretend that only good people make good art, we create the environment where people get away with all manner of misdeed. We refuse to believe the people we like and that we look up to can be evil. Hell, that’s the message of the Best Documentary winner from this year. OJ Simpson was OJ, he could never murder anyone no matter what.

We have to understand art in its fullness and wrestle with what it means to see deep empathy come from people who don’t seem to feel it themselves. It’s how we begin to actually break down the power structures where when you’re a celebrity, you can apparently get away with anything.

Finally, I just want to say that I’m again incredibly thrilled for Moonlight. I love La La Land, but I think Moonlight is the first film in decades that can bear the weight of being a Best Picture nominee, and certainly the best film that’s won since 2007 or possibly 1993. I’m looking forward to the hopeful shift in storytelling possibilities that Moonlight winning will allow for the industry, and I’m looking forward to La La Land being a movie that I’m allowed to just enjoy and no longer being the avatar of film industry evil.

So yeah, that was a hell of a thing. I’ll see you all next year.

Oscars Watch 2017: The Less-Depressing Campaign: Final Prediction

Today is the day. The day the hot takes and the speculation and the weird Oscar narratives and the gladhanding comes to an end as the 89th Academy Awards will hand out the trophies to a largely deserving group of nominees.

Before I make my final call, I just want to make a quick statement. I’ll admit that this sort of column doesn’t help, but every year, we get a little too tied up in what the Oscars mean for these films and their future. Fun fact: Winning an Oscar rarely means much in the long run. In fact, history tends to look kinder on the losers of Best Picture than its winners.

The Oscars, for anyone outside of the industry and anyone who isn’t winning one, are ultimately about exposure. About putting what the industry sees as its best face forward. Nominations are as important as anything else because it shows people the films that we should pay attention to.

Ultimately, what that means is that yes, only a handful of these films are gonna win. Likely not your favorite or the one that you think matters. But those wins and losses will pass into aether of film history. Trivia for cinephiles and pub quizzes.

What ultimately matters for these films is that you see them. That you go out and support them. Rent them on iTunes, buy the DVDs, see the ones in theaters that you still can, go see the next movie each of these filmmakers make. Talk about them, discuss them, internalize their messages. The power of filmmaking is that it lives with us, in our daily lives, as a part of our experiences. Engaging and loving these films is what’s going to give them power and keep other films like them getting made.

Tonight won’t determine which of these become classics. You, the viewer, will. Use your power.

With no further adieu, my predictions.

Best Picture:
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

  • This is a low-confidence pick. Casey Affleck could also take this award.

Best Actress:
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

  • Potential spoiler: Dev Patel.

Best Supporting Actress:
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

Best Original Screenplay:
20th Century Women
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
The Lobster

  • This is a low-confidence pick. La La Land could take this award.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

Best Original Score:
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Best Original Song:
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – La La Land
City of Stars” – La La Land
Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

Best Cinematography:
Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

Best Costume Design:
Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

  • Potential spoiler: La La Land

Best Editing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

Best Production Design:
Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

 Best Sound Editing:
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Best Sound Mixing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Best Visual Effects:
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Best Animated Feature Film:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Documentary:
13th
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
OJ Made in America

  • This is a low-confidence pick. Documentary often stands to surprise.

Best Foreign Language Film:
Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
Tanna
Toni Erdmann
The Salesman

  • This is a low-confidence pick. Foreign Language often stands to surprise.

Best Documentary Short
Extremis
4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Best Animated Short
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Best Live Action Short
Ennemis Interieurs

La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

 

Oscars Watch 2017: The Less-Depressing Campaign: What Should Win?

Hi folks. We’re just 5 days away from the Oscars, so while you’re getting your predictin’ hats on, let’s have a little talks about preferences.

As much an annual tradition as the gowns and the jokes and the speeches, the Oscars bring about a whole lot of talk about what should “actually” be winning. Whether it’s for political reasons, simple preference, or the fact that you tend to love stuff that would never make it into competition, everyone has their Oscar also-rans and things to get up in arms over. Hell, I haven’t agreed with a Best Picture winner since 2006 (The Departed). 

So, why not give some of mine? After all, I’m some jerk with a blog. That makes me perfect to shout about what should be winning in these categories (instead of what will win) and shout about what should have made it in. To keep this from going too long? I’m gonna write about the big categories and just give my preferences on the Below-The-Line, minus a few notes.

Best Picture (Ranked in order of preference):
Moonlight/La La Land

Arrival
Manchester by the Sea
Lion
Hell or High Water
Fences
Hidden Figures

A severe and vicious beating around the genitals.

Hacksaw Ridge

  • Should Win: So, actually choosing between the two frontrunners this year is probably about as hard as it gets for me. I love both dearly for entirely different reasons (well, I absolutely marvel at the craft of both), and I think both absolutely, in a perfect world, should win. I understand what’s at stake here, and for those reasons, my preference would be that Moonlight wins on Sunday night. That being said, this is my own article, so both are gonna tie for right now.
  • Should Be Here: Silence over Hacksaw Ridge. Silence is everything Hacksaw Ridge isn’t.

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

  • Should Win: As fraught as it is, Casey Affleck is giving a truly next-level performance. Manchester by the Sea almost wholly rests on him and what he’s capable of as an actor, and I can’t deny how great he is in this role.
  • Should Be Here: Adam Driver in Paterson over Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge. Driver gives a truly powerful performance in Paterson with the most subtle tools possible.

Best Actress:
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

  • Should Win: Yeah, I’m not particularly taken with Streep here, and I have serious reservations about Elle as a film. Negga and Portman are great, but I don’t think I love them quite as much as the simplistic performance of Stone and the way she pulls the rhythms of La La Land along.
  • Should Be Here: Amy Adams in Arrival over Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins. You’re telling me the woman around which a film that has received 8 nominations revolves doesn’t deserve a nomination? Amy Adams does not get the respect she deserves.

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

  • Should Win: Really, if I could give an award to everyone here? I totally would. If you could name a list of people who deserves Oscars, it would be everyone on this list. Especially Michael Shannon, who is the best. Let’s remember how great he is for a second.
    gettyimages-602226388That being said, the final scene that Ali has in Moonlight has him on rightful top here. Ali is doing work that any other actor would dream of, and it’s time to recognize him for it.
  • Should Be Here: Let’s just go ahead and say Trevante Rhodes, who plays the adult Chiron. The best performance of the year and the fact that it’s not here is a failure of campaigning and imagination.

Best Supporting Actress:
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

  • Should Win: Viola Davis is incredible in Fences, a reconfiguring of the role that she won a Tony for in a really powerful way. She’s the object around which the gravity of this film orbits, yet she never feels like she’s overpowering the screen.
  • Should Be Here: Janelle Monae in Hidden Figures for Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures. That entire ensemble is great, but Monae is the true star there, an almost impossible to look away from talent.

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

  • Should Win: Again, an almost impossible competition (minus one), but Jenkins does extraordinary work in Moonlight, telling a story of raw artifice, something that few filmmakers in America can try and even fewer can pull off. Calling to mind directors like Wong Kar-Wai or European masters, Moonlight is imbued with a rare sensuality and remarkable care and sweetness.
  • Should Be Here: Realistically? Let’s say David Mackenzie from Hell or High Water who elevated what could have been a standard pissed-off drama into the artful and heat-drenched mediation it was. Unrealistically? The Daniels from Swiss Army Man for the sheer audacity of what they pulled off. Either way, they should be here over Mel Gibson, who I can’t believe I might have to see make Suicide Squad 2. 

Best Original Screenplay:
20th Century Women
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
The Lobster

  • Should Win: Manchester by the Sea is just a staggering piece of writing, the kind of thing that just awes you every time you realize how universal and relatable a story Kenneth Lonergan composed in such a specific space.
  • Should Be Here: Paterson. It’s just such a perfect piece of form-meets-function writing and such a lovely world that it crafts and lives in.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

  • Should Win: Honestly, just read Moonlight and tell me that isn’t the best script read you’ve ever had. Shout out to Arrival too, which would absolutely be my choice any other year, and would have been if Moonlight hadn’t moved to Adapted.
  • Should Be Here: The Handmaiden. That mid-movie twist alone is a feat of screenwriting magic.

Best Animated Feature Film:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

  • Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings is a really impressive piece of animated filmmaking and scripting, thematically interesting and ambiguous in a way films like this often aren’t. Plus just a total visual masterwork. It’s time for Laika to get a win dammit!
  • Should Be Here: Sausage PartyDon’t @ me.

 Best Documentary:
13th
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
OJ Made in America

  • Should Win: I’m gonna be honest, I think I Am Not Your Negro would make top 10 if I had seen it before my deadline for last year. An incredible piece of filmmaking that absolutely deserves to be seen by everyone and everybody. Baldwin has never looked better than in cinema.
  • Should Be Here: Weiner over Life, Animated. Weiner is a hilarious and incredibly relevant piece of filmmaking, where Life, Animated is sweet and kind of a total puff in terms of what it pulls off.

Best Foreign Language Film:
Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
Tanna
Toni Erdmann
The Salesman

  • Haven’t had the chance to see any of these yet. Hope to rectify that by Sunday.

Best Original Score:
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

  • Should Be Here: Arrival. Its disqualification was total bullshit.  

Best Original Song:
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – La La Land
City of Stars” – La La Land
Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

  • Should Be Here: So much. Honestly, let’s just give an alternate category.
    Another Day of Sun” – La La Land
    Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street
    “I’m So Humble” – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
    “Try Everything” – Zootopia
    “How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

Best Cinematography:
Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

Best Costume Design:
Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

Best Editing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land

Moonlight

Best Production Design:
Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

Should Be Here: Nocturnal Animals. On every level, I don’t think there was a better designed movie this year, but that should be no surprise from Tom Ford.

 Best Sound Editing:
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Best Sound Mixing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Best Visual Effects:
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Oscar Season Catch-Up Part 1

It’s that magical time of year, where I scramble to watch anything and everything to get one day close to my goal of having actually seen everything nominated for an Oscar. While I’m a little too late to really want to do full reviews of anything, I’d like to share a few thoughts about these films, as these are going to be the sort of movie that absolutely inspire conversation.

Elle

…hoo boy.

Okay, look, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about all of what’s going on here, this is a movie I’ve wrestled with pretty much from minute 2 inside the theater where I sat alone on a Thursday night.

For those of you unfamiliar, Elle is the first French language production from legendary director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Starship Troopers, Showgirls) starring the “European Meryl Streep” Isabelle Huppert. Huppert stars as Michelle Leblanc, a video game developer who is raped in her home by an unknown home invader. This starts the film, as from there she attempts to grapple with family issues, relationships, work, and taking revenge on her perpetually unknown assailant.

No matter what, there are two things worthy of recognition about this film. The first is Verhoeven’s directorial hand. Steady and unblinking as ever, Elle is a film that absolutely sells the world it’s creating and is absolutely confident in whatever bizarre twists and comedic turns (yes, comedic, we’ll return to that in a second).

The other is Isabelle Huppert’s lead performance. It’s a masterclass of acting with restraint, of how to wear everything in an almost imperceptible way, and how to bounce off the people around you rather than driving it all yourself. It’s how to make a film orbit around you, rather than drive it.

Now, where my pause comes is largely personal. From moment one, something felt wrong here. Not wrong in the provocative way that Verhoeven is clearly going for, trying to make what could be lightly tinged as a rape revenge comedy. Wrong in the way that perhaps this was ultimately a misguided project, an attempt to tell a story that requires a certain amount of nuance from a perspective that ultimately has none.

In other words, a story about an explicitly female perspective from an exclusively male perspective. There’s a psychological wrongness here, an attempt to shove patriarchal ideals into a supposedly feminist text. There’s a lessening of sympathy, deliberately, for Leblanc, so that perhaps rape does not impact her as hard, that its effect sloughs off you. It goes further by revealing and playing with a dark past, an almost unforgivable possible sin. Perhaps introducing an idea that she in some way is being punished.

It’s undoubtedly provocative, but provocation is delicate as is, and it’s difficult to find in Elle the necessary driving home, the point of all this provocation. Provocation should raise necessary question and lay out its possible answers, not simply raise the questions for the sake of raising them.

In other words, Elle feels to a large degree exploitative. As thought Verhoeven can’t get past the subject to get to the point. Combined with glacial pacing, I left Elle with an extraordinarily bad taste in my mouth, beyond my own issues with seeing a rape reenacted again and again.

I Am Not Your Negro

This is as essential as I ever think viewing gets.

I Am Not Your Negro pulses with absolute and utter vitality, a revolutionary fervor that belies the calm acceptance of what has to be done to change the system. Based on the notes of the final unfinished manuscript by American author and Civil Rights activist James Baldwin, the manuscript and the structure is the story of three murdered men: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers.

But through this, Baldwin is telling the story of America. And as Baldwin puts it “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.” Peck is juxtaposing what Baldwin saw in his day and the contemporary struggles of Black Lives Matter, the stories of Ferguson and country-wide police brutality, and the progress that still is to be made and what has been done.

But that juxtaposition is so that Peck can facilitate allowing Baldwin to tell one final story. Everything, from the Samuel L. Jackson narration to the structure of the film, is to let Baldwin’s voice speak. This is a film by James Baldwin, dictated to Raoul Peck. Baldwin’s vitality and revolutionary fire show through at every moment, this is his story to tell, cinema a uniquely powerful medium for him.

There’s a confrontation to this film, one that legitimately forced me to question myself and what I did and thought. For that alone, this film is worth it, for the thoughts you’ve never had, the feelings you’ve never quite felt. It’s cinema at its most direct, cinema as the machine that generates empathy and something yet still further, generates action.

OJ: Made In America

2016 was the year of OJ Simpson. As we saw the intersections of race, prejudice, power, and celebrity collide in front of our faces, both American Crime Story and this sprawling epic of a documentary commissioned by ESPN out of its 30 for 30 series seemed to go back to show us that we’ve had this debate for, letting us know what lessons we apparently still have to learn.

Made in America differs from American Crime Story in how far back it pulls from the larger story. If American Crime Story is a drill-down, examining every aspect of the trial from every angle and digging deep down into the relationships, Made in America is a contextual view, providing all the context for why every decision was made, examining it in the broader scope of race in L.A.

It takes a deft hand to make a talking head documentary into something cinematically compelling, so hats off to director Ezra Edelman for doing it. The editing is key here, weaving together source after source of footage into a tightly wound and even tense narrative. The White Bronco chase has so passed into American lore that it still ranks as impressive if you can make that feel fresh or new or exciting.

As for the TV vs. Film debate (which is it?), the answer is that it’s whatever the hell you want it to be, honestly. It aired in multiple episodes on ESPN and that’s how most people consumed it, but it was also put out as a single 8 hour piece in cinemas. If the Oscars are evaluating the 8 hour piece, then that’s a film in my book. If you’re looking at the episodic experience? That’s TV. Why limit if it’s designed, crafted, and released as two separate mediums.

Oscars Watch 2017: The Less-Depressing Campaign: The Real Race Begins

Well, one of the major competitions of February ended only in heartbreak for me, so let’s not dwell there. Instead, it’s time for the Oscars! The nominations have given way to the actual race, where things have narrowed down significantly. The dark horses are out of the way, and now it’s time for the big boys to duke it out.

Not gonna lie. Way back when, I would have called this for a tighter race, more fiercely fought competitions. But as the Guilds begin to hand out their individual awards, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that there’s one juggernaut named La La Land in this game and everything else is picking up whatever’s left in the wake.

Unless you’re Ryan Gosling.

But yeah, let’s get into it.

Best Picture:
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

  • Like I said, we’re pretty much seeing no real challenge to La La Land here. It’s running ramshod over every competitor, and the love the industry has for this movie pretty much points to nothing being able to find another foothold. Moonlight hasn’t managed to find its angle yet and that’s the only real possibility here.
  • By the way, when La La Land wins, can we all agree to a moratorium on the “What Does This Particular Win Mean in TRUMP’S AMERICA” takes? They’re exhausting already and it’s been less than a month. They’re happening after basically every major cultural event, and they’ve never found a single new angle or interesting insight. This way of engaging with art as solely indicative of political utility is deleterious, not to add on with the danger of placing the Awards Season context onto the film itself.

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

  • So, here’s your nailbiter this year. There’s a crazy amount of momentum on both Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington’s side. Affleck has the super wide critical acclaim and the momentum on his film’s side as well as a host of critics and other organizational awards. He’s also got sexual harassment allegations that seem to pop back into the public consciousness from time to time. Washington has super wide critical acclaim without momentum on Fences‘ side, but he has the SAG Award, which is one of the better predictors. But SAG has differed from the Oscars before. In other words, no one has the clear path, we’ll see how people are feeling closer to.

Best Actress:
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

  • As much as everyone talks Portman, I really don’t see ANY momentum for her performance anywhere, and losing the SAG was a coup de grace. That’s where Portman could have won and I think that wrecked any momnetum. And Huppert is never gonna find the wide support. So this is Stone’s to coast into.

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

  • God, what a great category. But yeah, Mahershala Ali (minus a few weird diversions) has this one on lock. Good, he should.

Best Supporting Actress:
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

  • Same as Supporting Actor. Davis probably would have ran away with Actress, but she’s especially gonna run away with Supporting Actress. Great category, but she’s got this one on lock.

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

  • Yeah, I’m willing to believe there’s gonna be a surprise here, but between Moonlight moving to Screenplay (giving Jenkins a clear award for recognition) and the DGA win for Chazelle, it’s becoming pretty clear that all momentum is shifting to him.

Best Original Screenplay:
20th Century Women
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
The Lobster

  • Still holding the line here for now. We’ll wait for the WGA Award, but I really think Manchester‘s script is gonna end up being the ultimate sign of its recognition.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

  • Yeah, this was a clear lock once Moonlight moved in.

Best Original Score:
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

  • If you think there’s a chance for anything else…

Best Original Song:
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – La La Land
City of Stars” – La La Land
Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

  • Again, if you think there’s a chance for anything else…you’re not totally wrong. Lin-Manuel’s EGOT is a powerful narrative and if La La Land‘s two songs split the vote, that would be the one to sneak in. But I think they’re gonna end up totally pushing “City of Stars” given that it’s become the movie’s theme song,

Best Cinematography:
Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

  • I’ll see how things are being felt closer to, which is why my prediction is holding where it is, but Lion won the ASC, which makes this race kind of interesting. Granted, the ASC is a small part of the Academy, but that’s where the passion for this category is.

Best Costume Design:
Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

  • It’s that canary-yellow dress. It’s pretty much one of the iconic film looks this year, La La Land‘s general love will get it this one.

Best Editing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

  • Yeah, technical sweep, same deal, no surprises. It’s how Titanic and Lord of the Rings and Ben-Hur got the awards they did. Movies people love that are really technically well put-together.

Best Production Design:
Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

  • Drinking game idea. Make primary colored Jello shots. Take one every time La La Land wins. Your liver will hate you.

 Best Sound Editing:
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Best Sound Mixing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

  • Just a quick review. Sound Editing is the creation of the sounds, Mixing is the way they’re put together. Editing almost always goes to Action flicks of some kind due to what you have to produce. Mixing is usually a toss-up but if a film is on a tech sweep, it’s got a pretty good shot. La La Land being a musical means the Mix is probably going to be at the forefront and people may just vote for the musical because why not. Hacksaw Ridge is the most prestigey action flick here, so my guess is it takes Editing.

Best Visual Effects:
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • There’s some seriously great challengers here, but no one is going to be able to touch the photorealism of The Jungle Book and its mo-capped animals.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

  • Tons of seamless prosthetics? Yeah, Star Trek Beyond is the right sort of impressive for this makeup work.

Best Animated Feature Film:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

  • Zootopia has sooooo much momentum here. Kubo is the only possible challenger (and one I would love to see win) but I have a feeling Laika can’t match Disney’s awards campaign cash.

Best Documentary:
13th
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
OJ Made in America

  • OJ: Made in America is about as buzzy as any of these have got. 13th is your challenger here thanks to Netflix DYING to get something a win to legitimize themselves here, but I think the sheer density of love for OJ: Made in America keeps this in the competition.
  • Fun fact. If OJ: Made in America wins, it will be the longest winner in Oscars history.

Best Foreign Language Film:
Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
Tanna
Toni Erdmann
The Salesman

  • Prediction here. The Salesman is from currently-banned (sort of, it’s complicated) from the United States filmmaker Asghar Farhadi. The Foreign Language competition so tends to get overlooked that I get the feeling anything to get the name in front of people will help. The Salesman just got a name in front of a whole bunch of people and I’m sure Hollywood would love to make a political statement as a big “SCREW YOU TRUMP.” The Salesman has a WAY better shot than it did before,  so much so that I think it’s the quiet frontrunner even with the love for Toni Erdmann. 

Best Documentary Short
Extremis
4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Best Animated Short
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Best Live Action Short
Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

  • *shrugs* Shorts are hard.