Sunday, February 26, 2017

Countdown to Oscar Night Grand Finale

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

Yet another great year for movies. I'm not sure if I am becoming more like the Academy as I get older or the Academy is getting it right now more often. Either way, this group of nine films includes my four favorite films of 2016, Another one that makes my top 10, and two more that would find a spot in my top 20. For the first time since I have been diligently following these awards (around 20 years), my favorite film of the year is the favorite to win Best Picture. I'd still say there is an outside chance of Moonlight getting swept up in an ultra-political year, but there is simply not enough La La Land detraction for me to see that as anything other than a long shot.

None of the movies here are bad (which is new of late since the expansion beyond five nominees), but here are my personal rankings and how I would vote if given the oppurtuinity.  See you tonight!!! Be prepared for plenty of singing and dancing!

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

My Pick to Win:
La La Land

Shamefully Snubbed:
Captain Fantastic

My Full Oscar Predictions (for those keeping score at home):
Best Picture: La La Land
Actor in a Leading Role: Denzel Washington, Fences
Actor in a Supporting Role: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Actress in a Leading Role: Emma Stone, La La Land
Actress in a Supporting Role: Viola Davis, Fences
Film Editing: La La Land
Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
Music (Original Score): La La Land
Music (Original Song): "City of Stars", La La Land
Production Design: La La Land
Animated Short Film: Piper
Animated Feature Film: Zootopia
Cinematography: La La Land
Costume Design: Jackie
Directing: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Documentary (Feature): O.J.: Made in America
Documentary (Short Subject): The White Helmets
Live Action Short Film: Silent Nights
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Sound Mixing: La La Land
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Moonlight
Writing (Original Screenplay): Manchester by the Sea

...whew.... with 4.5 hours to spare!!!

Countdown to Oscar Night: Best Actor

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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 one seemed like a slam dunk for Casey Affleck back in January. He was steamrolling all of the smaller award shows, but then two things happened. As with nearly every modern awards season, it seems that somebody's old dirt comes back to haunt them. Mr. Affleck was on this year's unfortunate casualty of such charges. I'm not really interested in digging into the accusations here, but it definitely began to crash his Oscar stock. Then, Fences began to hit its stride at the box office. The more people saw Denzel in his best performance since The Hurricane, the more people loved it. I'm pretty sure this (coupled with the #oscarsowhite backlash) will win Mr. Washington his third Academy Award. All of the other nominees are deserving, which is shown by my ballot below. Captain Fantastic is one of my favorite movies of the year and it is driven by Viggo Mortensen's delicate, pitch perfect performance, and yet the other nominees simply rank higher.

My Ballot:
Denzel Washington - Fences
Andrew Garfield - Hacksaw Ridge
Casey Affleck - Manchester by the Sea
Ryan Gosling - La La Land
Viggo Mortensen - Captain Fantastic

My Pick to Win:
Denzel Washington - Fences

Shamefully Snubbed:
Nate Parker - The Birth of a Nation

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Countdown to Oscar Night: Best Supporting Actress

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

I'd really like to sit down and talk to an average Academy voter when they submit their nominations because my image of them in my mind isn't very pretty. It goes something like this:

Hmmm... Best supporting actress.... let's see here....  Oooooohhhh Viola Davis! She isn't on the poster for Fences so she must be supporting, we can make up for snubbing her for The Help. She's so nice, she'll give a great acceptance speech. She may even cry. Okay, who's next? Octavia Spencer's in a movie about strong black women! Yaaaasssss. I know her, she's so well-spoken. I still don't think that's enough to make up for having 20 white acting nominees last year, wasn't there a crackhead mother in Moonlight? What was her name? [checks IMDB.com] Naomie Harris. Okay... two more... Were Michelle Williams, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams, or Cate Blanchett in anything this year? No Cate Blanchett? Darn. All three of the others were! Woohoo! And Amy Adams was the lead? Excellent, I'll have to remember that for later [spoiler alert - doesn't remember]. All done! Now don't I feel great about myself!

Yeah, it probably goes something like that...  PS: Janelle Monae was the best thing about Hidden Figures. Just sayin'.

My Ballot:
Viola Davis - Fences
Michelle Williams - Manchester by the Sea
Octavia Spencer - Hidden Figures
Nicole Kidman - Lion
Naomie Harris - Moonlight

My Pick to Win:
Viola Davis - Fences

Shamefully Snubbed:
Janelle Monae - Hidden Figures

Countdown to Oscar Night: Best Supporting Actor

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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

One of the easiest locks of the night. Mr. Ali has had his name on this award for a few months now. That isn't to say its the best performance (he wasn't even nominated for a Spirit award where I believe Moonlight will win best picture). I'd even say it isn't Mahershala Ali's best performance of 2016 (in my opinion he did more with his roles in both Hidden Figures and Free State of Jones). Even with that in mind, this award is an inevitability. The Academy is desperate to fling off the #oscarsowhite stereotype and I am pretty confident that three of the four acting awards will go to people of color. It still doesn't excuse last years snubbing of Beasts of No Nation and Tangerine or this years complete ignorance of The Birth of a Nation, but that's how the Academy rolls.... They did the same thing in 2001 when Denzel Washington won for Training Day (after being snubbed for The Hurricane) and Halle Berry won for Monster's Ball (after every woman of color had been snubbed for nearly 80 years).

As for the other nominees, Jeff Bridges was a powerhouse, and deserves every accolade he receives, Dev Patel was the lead actor of Lion and I don't understand his nomination, and Lucas Hedges gave a solid if completely forgettable performance in what will go down as another completely forgettable Kenneth Lonergan movie.

My Ballot:
Jeff Bridges - Hell or High Water
Mahershala Ali - Moonlight
Dev Patel - Lion
Lucas Hedges - Manchester by the Sea

My Pick to Win: 
Mahershala Ali - Moonlight

Shamefully Snubbed:
Jovan Adepo - Fences

Countdown to Oscar Night: Best Cinematography

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Best Cinematography:
Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

Yet another category that I think will fold to the La La Land tsunami tomorrow night. Another movie wouldn't surprise me as much in this category, but the second most buzzworthy movie, Moonlight, has the type of muted beautiful camerawork that usually doesn't get much love from the Academy. As you can see below, even a musical nerd like myself has to concede that this was a stellar year for gorgeous film making (and what I have seen of Silence is breathtaking as well).

My Ballot:
Arrival
Lion
La La Land
Moonlight

My Pick to Win:
La La Land

Shamefully Snubbed:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Friday, February 24, 2017

Countdown to Oscar Night: Best Film Editing

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

This will be the most predictive early award of the night. If La La Land wins, the rout is on.... but... if Moonlight is able to sneak in an upset here then the night becomes much more interesting. Unfortunately that's about the extent of what makes this category interesting. Plenty of slick, well-made movies, but no new ground was broken at the editing station this year.

My Ballot:
La La Land
Arrival
Moonlight
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water

My Pick to Win:
La La Land

Shamefully Snubbed:
Kubo and the Two Strings

Countdown to Oscar Night: Spirit Awards Bonus!

The Academy Awards may be the big prize of this weekend, but the Film Independent Spirit Awards will always hold a special place for me. Showing no regard for popularity, box office, studio support, or media frenzy, the Spirit Awards usually pick the best films rather than the most buzzworthy. I wasn't able to find as many of these as usual, but here is my 2016 Spirit Award ballot ranking the movies I have seen in each category.

Best Editing:
Hell or High Water
Swiss Army Man
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Cinematography:
Moonlight
American Honey
The Childhood of a Leader

Best Supporting Female:
Molly Shannon - Other People
Riley Keough - American Honey
Paulina Garcia - Little Men

Best Supporting Male:
Shia LeBeouf - American Honey
Ben Foster - Hell or High Water
Ralph Fiennes - A Bigger Splash
Lucas Hedges - Manchester by the Sea
Craig Robinson - Morris From America

Best Female Lead:
Sasha Lane - American Honey
Ruth Negga - Loving

Best Male Lead:
Viggo Mortensen - Captain Fantastic
Jesse Plemons - Other People
Casey Affleck - Manchester by the Sea

Best First Screenplay:
Other People
The Witch

Best Screenplay:
Hell or High Water
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Little Men

Best Director:
Andrea Arnold - American Honey
Jeff Nichols - Loving
Barry Jenkins - Moonlight

Best First Feature:
Other People
Swiss Army Man
The Witch
The Fits
The Childhood of a Leader

Best Feature:
American Honey
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

The "Hipster" Oscars show is tomorrow!  See you there!