By Daniel Reif
The morning of January 24th has went, and the players for 2017’s Oscars have been set! We still wait on the eve of February 26th, when the western movie industry’s youngest gold will, once again, join its eldest diamonds in a classic ceremony for artistic and cultural legend. For now, we know the jewelry.
I have to say, the ever-evolving purpose of introducing new members to the mainstream alongside commemorating the titans of mainstream, sees the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in one of their finest selections in recent years. Whether it was an awakened reaction to past criticism, a positive turn in commercial movies, the simple reality talent lives in all races (and all creeds), or all three, something amazing allowed for the first ever representation of black actors in all four acting categories. Something even allowed for one of those categories to be majority black (that something may be Viola Davis represented in the wrong category. I have a repeal to that argument. I’ll get to it.).
Of course, to call any Oscar selection “fine”, is not to praise credibility. Meryl Streep’s 20th and nth underwhelming nomination, La La Land’s overreaching and Titanic-tying record nods, and the typical exclusion of any movies made on a dime, continue the obvious face of the ceremony’s gatekeeper tradition.
The mixed bag is at least mixed. With the nominations for the 2017 Academy Awards revealed, here are my predictions, snubs, and favorites.
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester By The Sea
The race is La La Land and Barry Jenkins’ boyhood odyssey. The two films have predominantly split the “Best Picture” accolades among critic circles and industry guilds. Momentum goes to the former’s hometown setting and nostalgic craft, but I believe the latter will take the heart of the Academy. Moonlight is my favorite film on this list, but this year’s nominations also entice me to ask for some self-awareness from the Academy, and I predict they reward the right film, and to celebrate that film’s unfamiliar setting and heavy content.
Snub (Note: for my context here- movies widely released enough in the U.S. to warrant Oscar attention):
The stylized, thrilling aesthetic of Tom Ford saw multiple snubs in the announced nominations.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences
Winner: Casey Affleck
Washington has my vote, but Affleck has the foreshadowing Golden Globe and tragic character study to back an Oscar-winning performance.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Prediction: Emma Stone
Elle is my favorite film of 2016; no doubt my fave is Huppert, but there is no real frontrunner. I was entranced by four of these performances (Huppert, Negga, Portman, Stone), and all of them have received fair honors already. My guess comes with a grain of salt, so I will pick the best bait- the young star in a headlining movie.
Snub: Three not Meryl Streep
Amy Adams gave the Academy two opportunities to recognize. I have yet to see Hidden Figures or 20th Century Women, but Tarajii P. Henson and Annette Benning were sure nudged from evident red carpet paths.
Streep is a legend. Legend is not enough this time.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Prediction: Mahershala Ali
Quite pleased to see Ali pull the awards momentum for my favorite supporting performance of the year.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea
Prediction: Viola Davis
Criticism has followed Davis’ awards season. She has justly dominated the Supporting Actress category from a harrowing performance in Fences, but her importance in August Wilson’s material has many calling for Best Actress nods. I would not object to such recognition (the awards season historically casts large nets for how all of the filmmaking elements qualify), but in text, she is not a protagonist.
Fences is technically about the journey/life of one man; each character, whether or not the character has screen time separate from the man, only serve the journey of him. “Rose’s” long conversations with her husband are driven by his interests and ideology, and the time not spent with him, is a result of his actions. The reactions are all the more a compliment to Wilson and Davis’ devoted, transcendent empathy to one character.
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Prediction: Damien Chazelle
Jenkins has my lock for Best Picture, but Chazelle will find spotlight here.
Snub: Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Arrival ends up slipping in its mythology, and I feel the piece has to be anchored by Amy Adams’ emotional performance and Bradford Young’s spectacular cinematography. For directing, I would take the man behind Adams’ other great detour this year.
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Luke Davies, Lion
Eric Heisserer, Arrival
Barry Jenkins, Story By Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
Allison Shroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
August Wilson, Fences
Prediction: Eric Heisserer, Arrival
A previous “Blacklist” holder, Heisserer’s script finally became the toast of his town last year. Arrival’s intelligence, wit, atmosphere, suspense, interpersonal emotion and large stakes awed thousands of audiences. The film was not an exact favorite of mine (messy 3rd act), but beholds all the ingredients for rewards to story.
My Favorite: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, The Lobster
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
Prediction: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
This category simply stumps me. You have the sensation in Chazelle, the under-radar thriller from Sicario’s Sheridan, and the seasoned character studier in Lonergan. The Academy can commonly find variety without upset around this territory, so I lean towards Lonergan joining his star (Casey Affleck) for glory.
My Favorite: Lanthimos and Fillipou, The Lobster
You have to hand it to The Academy to always have that one, kick-ass, off-the-cuff shout-out in their Original Screenplay list.
Greg Frasier, Lion
James Laxton, Moonlight
Rodrigo Prieto, Silence
Linus Sandgren, La La Land
Bradford Young, Arrival
Prediction: Linus Sandgren, La La Land
The most consistently nominated picture should clean up many of the visual and musical categories.
My Favorite: James Laxton, Bradford Young, Rodrigo Prieto
Three profound pieces of vision.
Tom Cross, La La Land
John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water
Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, Moonlight
Joe Walker, Arrival
Prediction: Tom Cross, La La Land
My Favorite: Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water
Snub: Joan Sobel, Nocturnal Animals
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Mica Levi, Jackie
Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, Lion
Thomas Newman, Passengers
Prediction: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
The year’s musical hit is destined for score and song honors.
My Favorite: Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
Contains a melody you will never forget and a dreamy mirage of notes you will misunderstand as the physical world of the film.
Snub: Lesley Barber, Manchester By The Sea
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
“The Empty Chair”, Music and Lyric by J.Ralph and Sting; Jim: The James Foley Story
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, Music by Justin Hurwitz, Lyric by Beni Pasek and Justin Paul; La La Land
“City of Stars”, Music by Justin Hurwitz, Lyric by Beni Pasek and Justin Paul; La La Land
“Can’t Stop The Feeling”, Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster; Trolls
“How Far I’ll Go”, Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda; Moana
Prediction: “City of Stars“, La La Land
Stuart Craig, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Guy Hendrix Dyas, Passengers
Jess Gonchor, Hail Caesar!
David Wasco, La La Land
Patrice Vermette, Arrival
Prediction: David Wasco, La La Land
My Favorite: Jess Gonchor, Hail Caesar!
Gonchor’s re-imagination of 50’s studio productions is a bountiful feast in the Coen Brothers film.
Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins
Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
Joanna Johnston, Allied
Mary Zophres, La La Land
Prediction: Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
Jackie is “Costume and Make-Up: The Movie”. That is no slight, because the period work is tremendous in Pablo Larrain’s aggressive relationship with actor and camera.
MAKE UP and HAIRSTYLING
Eva von Bahr and Love Larson, A Man Called Ove
Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo, Star Trek Beyond
Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson, Suicide Squad
Prediction: Harlow and Alonzo, Star Trek Beyond
Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould, Doctor Strange
Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff, Kubo and the Two Strings
Craig Hammock, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton, Deepwater Horizon
John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon, The Jungle Book
Prediction: Legato, Valdez, Jones, and Lemmon, The Jungle Book
Another stumper. Visual effects define and impress the beauty in each of these films. I must choose the entry most reliant on effects to realize its world.
Sylvain Bellmore, Arrival
Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred latrou Morgan, La La Land
Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright, Hacksaw Ridge
Alan Robert Murray and Bob Asman, Sully
Wylie Stateman and Renee Tondelli, Deepwater Horizon
Prediction: Sylvain Bellmore, Arrival
I can only imagine the amount of man hours it took to construct the sound scape of this precisely detailed piece.
Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow, La La Land
Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace, Hacksaw Ridge
David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Bernard Gariepy Strobl and Claude La Haye, Arrival
Prediction: Bernard Gariepy Strobl and Claude La Haye, Arrival
13th, Dir. Ava Duvernay
Fire At Sea, Dir. Gianfranco Rosi
I Am Not Your Negro, Dir. Raoul Peck
Life, Animated, Dir. Roger Ross Williams
O.J.: Made in America, Dir. Ezra Edelman
Prediction: O.J.: Made in America
It’s tough. 13th is my second favorite film of 2016, and has the surefire, political immediacy to earn documentary honors. Edelman’s “O.J.” doc sinks its teeth into the same surface, but that surface is L.A.; hometown honors.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Land of Mine, Dir. Martin Zandvliet; Denmark
A Man Called Ove, Dir. Hannes Holm; Sweden
The Salesman, Dir. Asghar Farhadi; Iran
Tanna, Dir. Bentley Dean and Martin Butler; Australia
Toni Erdmann, Dir. Maren Ade; Germany
Prediction: Toni Erdmann
Maren Ade’s Palme D’or-winning, daughter-father drama is assumed by consensus. Of course, we may all want to root for Farhadi’s film to symbolically shit on our nation’s bigoted presidential administration in front of millions.
Snub: Elle (France) and Aquarius (Brazil)
I’ve consumed furious, rapturing anger since learning Isabelle Huppert’s masterful performance in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle didn’t even qualify the film for Foreign Language recognition. Sonia Braga’s powerhouse entry suffered equal ignore.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Kubo and The Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de Courgette, France/Switzerland)
The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rogue, France/Belgium/Japan)
Fantastic variety of nods in a dull year for animation.
Favorite: Kubo and the Two Strings
For the selections in Documentary (Short Subject), Short (Live-Action), and Short (Animated), you can view the full nominees at oscar.go.com
January 31st, 2017
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