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Oscars Watch 2017: The Less-Depressing Campaign: Final Calls Before The Nominations

Well, guys, we’re finally here. Tomorrow, the nominations come out, and you all discover me for the guessing fraud that I am. But before I’m exposed, why don’t I make one last call for what the nominations are gonna look like? Forged out of Guild Awards, other predictions, and stubborn gut feelings, this is my official prediction for the 85th Academy Awards.

Commentary comes where anything has been added or changed. I’m not calling Shorts because…who could?

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

  • Officially calling 9 nominees for Best Picture this year, there’s a lot that’s getting enough attention to make over the usual 8.
  • Silence, sadly, is gone. Paramount completely screwed up this release by being scared of it. No early watching, no attempt to sell it to the faith community, no wide guild support, no angle. Silence could have been, but I think it’s going to have a longer life than this award season. Alas, this is not the article for that.

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

  • Officially taking the writing on the wall. Captain Fantastic apparently ran a smart and quiet campaign and got Viggo Mortensen some attention. Good for him.

Best Actress:
Amy Adams, Arrival
Annette Benning, 20th Century Women
Isabelle Huppert, Elle 
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land

  • I’ll get into it a little later, but Arrival got seriously major attention from the guilds and early awards love. So I think Amy Adams’ central performance is going to make it in over the surprisingly inert Loving.

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion

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

  • I really think it’s weird that Octavia Spencer is the one with awards momentum here. She’s kind of barely in the movie, and not really doing anything we’ve not seen her do before. Janelle Monae is way more interesting, but whatever, anyone from that cast getting recognized is a good thing.

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Garth Davis, Lion
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

  • The first story here is the way that the Guilds pretty much anointed Arrival. The main frontrunners have played really well, but Arrival managed to get WGA/DGA/PGA, which means that at least in terms of nominations this is gonna be a force to be reckoned with. Which is why (deservingly) Villeneuve is sitting in this category for putting it all together.
  • So that leaves the final slot. I’m going to go along with the DGA sweep and give it to Lion given that the film got nominated in both the main category and the first-timer category.

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

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals

  • Going along with how Silence seems to be getting totally ignored for creative awards seems right here. Nocturnal Animals has been getting some surprise love, so seems right to throw it in here, especially given the WGA and Golden Globes admiration.

Best Original Score:
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
The BFG

  • Yeah…so this is La La Land‘s category. Everything else is just to fill it out, Hurwitz’s score is delightful and powerful, and a musical this popular isn’t going to lose the Score award.
  • Why the rest? I think the way Mica Levi’s score pulls Jackie along is going to get attention as the film gets a lot of technical and below-the-line attention. Lion and Moonlight both have pretty essential scores in the way that they play in the film and have been noted in a lot of critic work. The BFG is John Williams. Never count him out.

Best Original Song:
“Runnin’” – Hidden Figures
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – La La Land
City of Stars” – La La Land
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana
Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls

Best Cinematography:
Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

  • A really solid list here recognizing a pretty gorgeous bunch of films. This is pretty much just the Guild Awards, which I think are a pretty good measuring stick of where things are in this category.

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

  • I think this is gonna be a mostly period-flick heavy year minus the technical tear La La Land is gonna go on. That was my guiding principle, taking guesses from the Guild Awards and other guesses. Hidden Figures is honestly a gut call.

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

  • This is pretty much the Dramatic Editor’s Guild Awards with La La Land subbed in because Tom Cross won on Whiplash. I don’t think we’re gonna find too many surprises here.

Best Production Design:
Arrival
Hail, Caesar!
Jackie
La La Land
Silence

  • This is an award that really favors period-picture work as well, so I’m going with the biggest works from that with an indulgence pick for Hail, Caesar! Then La La Land because you should know the score by now.

Best Sound Editing:
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Silence

Best Sound Mixing:
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • Totally honest here? I took wild guesses based on other predictions. I will learn to call Sound awards one day!

 

Best Visual Effects:
Arrival
Doctor Strange
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
The Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • Since I put Arrival ALL over the place for technical awards, I’m just gonna go ahead and stay consistent and put Arrival in Visual Effects as well.

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

Best Animated Feature Film:
Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Documentary:
13th
Cameraperson
I Am Not Your Negro
OJ Made in America
Weiner

  • Cameraperson is one that’s had enough buzz and collecting more and more awards that I think it’s going to lock in its place here over Fire at Sea. 

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

Final (Predicted) Stats:
Most Nominations:
La La Land – 13 nominations
Arrival – 10 nominations
Moonlight – 8 nominations
Manchester by the Sea and Lion – 6 nominations
Hidden Figures and Hacksaw Ridge – 5 nominations
43 total films nominated.

 

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Hidden Figures is the story of three brilliant women and how they saved a movie

Summary: Hidden Figures is the story of three Black women working at NASA during the 1960s Space Race. Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson) is a mathematics expert assigned to the group charged with doing the calculations that help keep Americans in space as she struggles with the prejudices of her fellow Engineers and the institutions around her with her boss Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) is attempting to take her rightful place as Supervisor of the Computers (the women who run the math for NASA) and keep ahead of the curve. Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) seeks to be allowed to take classes and earn the title of Engineer.

Ahh, what are you to do when you love basically everything about a film except the actual filmmaking?

Hidden Figures, which tells the stories of the many Black women who contributed to the eventual American success in space, is telling an important story that encourages an audience that doesn’t get those sort of stories told. Space travel is the kind of challenge for the greater good that we’re sorely missing these days, which means I’ve got a total soft spot for it. The cast is amazing, wringing every bit of charm they can out of every moment, even if they’re not surprising.

It’s a shame that they all this had to be pulled together by human sledgehammer Theodore Melfi.

Look, it’s absolutely not bad. On the contrary, this is a major crowd pleaser that’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch. I’ve gotta admire a prestige picture with a line 30 minutes in advance and something like six applause breaks. This movie works very much in spite of the instincts that are involved in putting it together.

And by “works very much in spite of the instincts that are involved in putting it together,” I really mean “stars Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Mahershala Ali, and Taraji Henson.” This is the kind of cast that dreams are made of, a cast that’s completely able to sell the material with charm and talent pretty much regardless of what’s happening.

Let’s get the lowest and the highest out of the way up front. Taraji Henson is good here, but she never seems to be able to really find a naturalistic way into the character. It’s a quiet overacting, a lot of ticks and repeated big moments that add up to an incredibly charming if not overly complex performance.

On the other hand, Janelle Monae is a bonafide movie star. You believe basically everything she does. You can’t take your eyes off her on screen. She’s complex and compelling at every step. Just the kind of person you want to see on the silver screen.

And everyone else therein ranges from good to great. Mahershala Ali continues having the best year of his career. Octavia Spencer is a national treasure and the kind of person you just naturally root for. Then there’s the rest of the cast who all get the job done better than anyone could expect. A few obvious characters, like Racist Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Kevin Costner’s “White Guy Who Discovers Racism And Will Have No Part Of That, THANK YOU” character that he’s going to surprisingly often these days.

Sigh, I hope someone loves me one day as much as Kevin Costner loves a script where he gets to be on the right side of history.

The only interesting figure among the supporting cast is Kirsten Dunst’s Vivian Mitchell, who’s sort of the avatar of how institutional racism works in this movie. She’s never openly horrible, no slurs or denials. Just not going to stick her neck out and try to change a biased system, even when people ask her for the smallest favors. The system is what it is, she’s just following rules.

Which the film makes clear when she says “I’m just following the rules here.” And as every character outlines their specific thoughts and motivations and the historical meaning of what they’re doing.

Look, Hidden Figures is not a movie of subtlety. Which is absolutely fine, it’s not designed for that, it’s a big crowd pleaser of a movie. But it also means this movie tends to underline its point to excess, there’s nothing that can’t be done two or three times and really pushed in on to make sure. It’s written so that you can’t miss a thing and so that every point it’s making is crystal clear.

It’s just an unfortunately obvious film. I’m not asking that this be a subtle or difficult picture, that’s not its purpose. But with a cast this talented and a story this interesting, why not try for a little extra, why not try to go past the prestige biopic conventions? Why not trust your audience and why not really go for something thoughtful or different? We’re up for it, we can handle it. I think Melfi just ends up handling this material without any grace, and leaves it all up to the cast to save it.

And save it they do. The cast takes this from a potential whiff to something engaging and worth your time. But I can’t help but see where this could have been better and where it could have gone wrong.

Grade: B

Oscars Watch 2017: The Less-Depressing Campaign: Best Original Song

This was supposed to be Best Screenplay this week, but I kinda feel like getting ranty today.

The Best Original Song category is mostly crap.

Let me qualify that. The Best Original Song category is WAY too often not actually about the Best Original Song as it’s used in a movie. Rather, it’s often about the production values and the prestige, this is one of those categories that more often ends up being about who’s willing to pump money into selling things more than actual artistic achievement.

Best Original Song is a category that makes a whole lot of sense when you remember that the Musical used to be one of the dominant modes of Hollywood filmmaking when this category first started being awarded in 1934. When so many films actually had original songs written for them, it made sense to reward the best of them.

But as the musical has slowly faded out of the public love, the category has stuck around. Not for no reason. In the 80s, we had winners and nominees from the “Original Soundtrack” that accompanied every film. You know, that thing when you hired Kenny Loggins to write a few songs for your movie that we really don’t do much of anymore. In the 90s, this was the Honorary Disney Musical award, as they won 6 out of 10 in the years from 1989-1999.

These days though, it’s pretty rare to have either an original soundtrack or a major musical, so where do these nominations go? Well, the rules state that the song either needs to play during the film or be the first song during the end credits.

It’s that latter rule that pretty much seals up the majority of the nominations here. A lot of films (especially documentaries) get a famous performer to put a song together that plays over the end credits. No real thematic work integrating it into the film, just playing over the theater speaking as everyone is thinking about leaving.

It annoys the living hell out of me because it’s one of the laziest ways to get Award Prestige. Pay enough for a decent song connected to the movie and plaster it over the credits then call it done. Even when the song is great (“Glory” from Selma), it’s still a reward for the least well-put artistic part of a movie.

This year is looking a little different, but there’s plenty of potential slap-ons to get awarded this year.

SURE THINGS: 

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – La La Land
City of Stars” – La La Land
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

The fortunate thing about all my ranting is that first and foremost, the Academy is almost universally willing to award the songs of actual musicals. The Academy will always be a sucker for musicals and rewarding the songs of actual musicals comes first.

This year, the musical showdown is between La La Land and Moana.

La La Land‘s jazz-influenced numbers are already getting raves from the people who love the film and the worst the few detractors can say is that they aren’t total earworms. Set up largely as either individually sung or duets between Gosling and Stone, who don’t have traditional musical voices, we can already count on some love for the idea of getting Gosling and Stone to perform these live. If this one is a total darling as the expectations are, we can actually probably count on two nominations. My guess is the catchy “City of Stars” that is the forward push of this film and “Audition” because it’s apparently the emotional climax.

Moana has a bit different weight. Besides the fact that everyone loves the Disney musical, this actually could be a big deal. With this win, Lin-Manuel Miranda would become the youngest person to ever EGOT (the winning of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, signifying success in pretty much every area of entertainment) which would cap off his ascendancy into one of our great modern artists. “How Far I’ll Go” is the “Let It Go” of Moana (without the mind-numbing ear-burrowing of “Let It Go”) and something is gonna get nominated given the current love for Miranda and the general love for Disney. This one wouldn’t surprise me.

MAYBE THINGS: 

Runnin'” – Hidden Figures
We Know the Way” – Moana
Faith” – Sing
“I’m Still Here” – Miss Sharon Jones
A Letter to the Free” – Selma

So, from here on, a few groups of songs that get nominated.

First, let’s address two more from actual musicals. “We Know The Way” depends on how much love the voting body is looking to heap on Moana. I wouldn’t put it as likely to get nominated over “How Far I’ll Go,” but the potential of actually having Miranda performing this one is an undeniable attraction, plus the more unique Polynesian flavor of this track. Then “Faith” is one of the few original tracks from jukebox animal musical Sing, so if that thing is a crowd pleaser, I see no reason it might not make the journey on that goodwill. Think “Happy” from Despicable Me 2.

Which, speaking of, we have another category: Well-known people making songs for issues pictures. Pharrell is now a mogul of the songwriting world and his work on Hidden Figures marks his first major soundtrack. The love for him and for the film could coalesce, especially if he gets to perform at the Ceremony. Common is a thinking man’s favorite and already has his first Oscar for “Glory.” A second nomination for him wouldn’t seem out of place.

Finally, we have the memorial songs. These are rare, but we have one in “I’m Still Here.” Sharon Jones’ unfortunate recent passing may motivate a second and harder look at the documentary and the song she wrote for it.

DREAM THINGS: 

Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street
“Finest Girl (Bin Laden)” – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Now, for two that won’t ever actually get nominated, and that’s part of why this category sucks.

This really is a “Pay to Play” category, where it’s all about the weight of the name and the money anyone is willing to throw. Songs from non-Oscar pictures tend to have a harder time, and songs that aren’t from big names tend to be up the creek. Even if they work better in the actual movie or are just more enjoyable to listen to.

These two are case in point. Both are thematically better and more enjoyable as part of a movie than most of the ones I’ve listed that I’ve heard. Because they’re actually part of the movie. But no major names and no prestige or category navigation or money means they won’t be thought about.

So, rather than complain, I’m just going to leave you on those two. Have fun.

Next Week: Best Screenplay, Original and Adapted

Oscars Watch 2017: The Less-Depressing Campaign: Best Supporting Actor and Actress

In recent years, if you’ve heard about the Supporting Categories, you’re most likely hearing about them in the context of Category Fraud.

So, a little history. Supporting Categories have extraordinarily flexible rules because of the difficulty of actually pinning down what it means to be a “Supporting Actor.” There are no screentime/page count limitations, so being in the category comes down to what the company running the campaign decides to submit the actor as. So, if an actor or actress is submitted as Supporting, then that’s where they go. The Academy could in theory contest it, they never have.

While a long-running part of the Awards (Sigourney Weaver was submitted for Supporting for Alien), it became a particular focus last year in the Supporting Actress category. Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara competed in that category in 2015. Anyone who saw Carol or The Danish Girl knows how wrong that is. Both characters had the main emotional arcs and journeys of the film, both were arguably from their point-of-view, and both ultimately had more screentime than those submitted as leads from those films (Eddie Redmayne and Cate Blanchett). But they were submitted as Supporting, so it goes.

Why do that exactly? It’s mostly just strategy. Always remember that the Oscars aren’t necessarily about the artistry, but are a game like any other election. Moving a lead performance to supporting makes it a more attractive prospect, that actor had a lot more time to shine and may be a bigger name. Name recognition plus enough time for plenty of actorly moments makes them far more competitive.

So, let’s get into it. Due to the sheer number of possibilities, we’re gonna eschew the normal format and just go with what I think the category is gonna look like.

Best Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Kevin Costner, Hidden Figures
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Liam Neeson, Silence

The theme here is older actors. Supporting Actor does tend to be where the actors not in their 30s-50s come out to play. Almost all these guys have been in Oscar conversations before (or have won Oscars before), which is actually more indicative of a weak field. These are all (the ones that I’ve seen) strong performances, but it’s a lot of name recognition over anyone who can necessarily dominate.

Mahershala Ali is the odd-man out here, being the freshest face here. A TV darling (House of Cards, The 4400, Luke Cage) who’s just now starting his break into film, Moonlight was a seriously impressive show for him. Juan was a layered and impressive performance with plenty to wow, and he may be able to ride the grassroots support. He may be just a little…too supporting for the Academy’s tastes.

Bridges was the undeniable darling of the underseen, but incredibly popular among those who did see it, Hell or High Water. Bridges is an actor who’s now gained a lot of his gravitas through age and his actor type now (gruff grandfatherly types), and Hell or High Water is a particularly good show of that for those who had seen it.

Costner is a recent addition to the race, but his apparently pivotal and sympathetic role in what’s looking like a crowd-pleasing Oscar darling Hidden Figures puts him far deeper in the conversation here than anyone was expecting. If the film is as popular as it appears, he could ride that wave into this race.

Grant is one of those actors who never got respect as a younger actor, even if people liked him. One of the more surprisingly complex characters of a not terribly complex film, Grant’s performance was a clear standout and the older demographics in the Academy could seek to reward him for sticking around and becoming an older actor with a little more weight.

Neeson is just a total feeling out that Silence will be as immense as it appears. The potential groundbreaker Scorsese passion project will likely spread a little more love around if it’s so good. It also feels like it’s been a while since Neeson has gone really respectable, so if he does, it’ll reward him for going away from the Dad action thrillers.

Best Supporting Actress:

Viola Davis, Fences
Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

So, this is a much different category than Supporting Actor, a remarkable group of actresses who’ve not gotten near the recognition they deserve up until now.

Of course, those people don’t matter because this is Viola Davis’ category to lose.

The choice to put Davis in the category pretty much locked it up for her. Fences is getting raves out of its small screenings so far and Davis is only expanding on a role she’s already won a Tony for. She’s just beginning the campaign and things are looking solidly in her favor. Of course, it’s also a bit of category fraud as her character is definitely a lead given that that is the category she won the Tony for. But nothing we can do about that.

The only potential upset here is Michelle Williams. Williams is apparently in a true supporting role, showing up only a few times in the course of the whole film, but one of her scenes is apparently the film’s emotional lynchpin and the scene that puts Casey Affleck and her in such powerful contention. If that one scene is enough of a wow, and overall reception on Fences ends up somehow being lukewarm, Williams could be the alternative.

Janelle Monae has made a case for moving from the world of music into character acting, she’s a strong supporting presence and I think appearance into Oscar-potential pictures will be important for her this year. She seems to get a strong and enjoyable role in a crowd pleaser with Hidden Figures and I’m guessing the surprise will take her further than someone like Octavia Spencer, who we have a little less surprise with at this point.

Naomie Harris gets one of those “mother in poverty” roles that the Academy loves, and hell, that might end up being enough. But she also goes really hard and deep into the role and gives it a hell of a lot of nuance, it’s just a really impressive role. I have no doubts that she will get recognized here, because she sure as hell won’t be for Collateral Beauty. 

Finally, Greta Gerwig. This is just kind of a personal pick as I think she’s still desperately under-recognized from Frances Ha and Mistress America. But she apparently does great work in 20th Century Women and her popularity among the newer, younger demographics in the Academy should work out really for her.

NEXT WEEK: Best Screenplay, Original and Adapted

Oscars Watch 2017: The Less-Depressing Campaign: Best Picture

Editor’s Note: Yes, there was originally a different article here. Yes, it was super dumb. No, I’m not going to subject you to it all again.

Do you love political campaigns. Is the current nationwide “Zack Snyder directing a multi-car pileup”-esque Presidential election really getting you down?

Then come join me for Awards Season! It’s all the fun of pitched ideological combat with complete disregard for actual substance without any of the depressing stakes or increasing sense of existential dread at the future. Plus, you get to watch a whole bunch of movies!

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.

That’s why we’re actually gonna start with the big kahuna. The Best Picture race. The prestige from which all other prestige flows and cases are ultimately made.

I’m gonna break it down into Sure Thing, Maybe Thing, and No-Go. If you need an explanation…you shouldn’t need an explanation. I’m also going to remind you that things can change. Remember how few of these have come out and remember that at one point The Birth of a Nation was the front-runner to win.


SURE THINGS: 

La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Fences

Loving
Silence

La La Land and Manchester by the Sea are both riding almost universal festival acclaim into the Oscars. While La La Land‘s throwback nature and popular leads make it the clear frontrunner, never underestimate something that really knows how to pull the heartstrings as much as Manchester seems to be able to. Plus, both are headlined with what are apparently all-timer performances. Keep in mind that Actors are the biggest part of the Academy.

With Denzel Washington writing, directing, and starring and Viola Davis starring in the same role she won a Tony for, Fences is blessed with star power in every pore. But its focus on a black story told by black storytellers may be much more important to its success as an answer to #OscarsSoWhite.

Loving is pitched right at the Oscar sweet spot. Simple and historical with a performance focus. A film you can get and agree with and a filmmaker who’s been earning recognition for a while.

As for Silence, it’s Marty. Come on now. Let’s be real.

MAYBE THINGS:

Hidden Figures
Lion
Live by Night
Moonlight
Sully
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge

There’s a few different reasons I put these in the Maybe pile.

Moonlight, Lion, and Arrival are all films that have played well at multiple festivals, which would put them in the same category as La La Land and Manchester. But those films have a universality of praise that made them obvious frontrunners, as well as less complicating factors.

Moonlight is from a young distributor and has an abnormal narrative structure, which means it’s anyone’s guess how it plays large. Arrival fits in with the “1 Sci-Fi Film” norm and Amy Adams is a perpetual Oscars bridesmaid, but I wonder how the mix of super-heady and super-emotional will play with people, especially with Villeneuve’s icy style. Lion is still a largely unknown, the kind of picture that a lot of critics are still feeling out their reaction to. It is from the Weinsteins, but the Weinsteins don’t have the clout they once did.

Sometimes, it also comes down to the decisions studios make. What are they gonna push?

Warner Brothers, I think, figured out the benefits of going all-in for one movie with Fury Road. To replicate that, they’re gonna be ultimately choosing between Sully and Live by Night. Sully is the clearly respectable picture, and is right up Middle America’s alley. But Live by Night, though a complete unknown, has the newfound Ben Affleck prestige, and great gangster epics have always done well. Sully‘s narrative slightness may be damaging, but if Live by Night doesn’t deliver, it may be their best option.

Paramount on the other hand has a few different options between Silence, Arrival, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Hacksaw Ridge. Hacksaw Ridge is one of the most intriguing possibilities, a potential comeback narrative for Mel Gibson and a film that did get as much really positive buzz as it did criticism, which gets controversy in there. That being said, has Mel Gibson quite earned his redemption yet? We’ll see.

And then we have Hidden Figures, which has all the markings of a potential Oscar superstar. Most notably as a tale of forgotten history and a strong cast that also stands as an answer to #OscarsSoWhite (along with marking a potential character actress groove for Janelle Monae). But we’ve seen very little from it since it just entered the race, and the pedigree behind the camera doesn’t quite match that in front, which gives me pause.


NO-GO:

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
The Birth of a Nation
Allied
Rules Don’t Apply
20th Century Women

Not to be dismissive, but let’s be dismissive.

I’m as shocked as you are, but unless the Academy screenings of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk aren’t in 120 FPS, I think Ang Lee is gonna miss the Oscars this year. Powerful story, but no one can get over the tech.

Never hinge your whole campaign on one person. The Birth of a Nation learned that the hard way.

The Brangelina Divorce and the rumors may be good for Allied‘s profile, but unless it’s a home run, that’s all people are gonna see.

Rules Don’t Apply looks lame, the return of Warren Beatty aside.

A24 is still figuring out the Oscar campaigns. Don’t expect to see multiples in the Best Picture race, 20th Century Women has acting awards to focus on.


Overall, this isn’t gonna be a year of any single film dominating, nor is it going to be a horse race. Barring a complete swooning over La La Land (which is very possible), it’s going to be a series of smaller works scrapping for victory. Should be fun.

Next Week: Best Actor