Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mike's Musings: The 2016 Oscar Predictions

As bad as the state of movies these days is (and it's pretty bad), it's nice to know that Hollywood is still able to make good movies.  So while movies like "Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice" and whatever Marvel movie was released last year are cynical cash grabs, movies like the criminally overlooked "Eye in the Sky" or "Manchester by the Sea" are still getting made.  And that's a good thing for people like me, who view movies as something other than amusement park rides or porn for Joss Whedon.

This year's Oscar line-up is surprisingly strong.  There are some great movies nominated and some strong performers too.  There are few, if any, categories where I'm hoping against hope that a nominated movie doesn't win (I suppose it helps that Wes Anderson didn't release anything this year and that the Academy apparently sees Seth Rogen for who he is).

As usual, I'll list the nominees, then go ahead with my predictions and my own choices.

Best Picture:

"Arrival"
"Fences"
"Manchester by the Sea"
"La La Land"
"Hacksaw Ridge"
"Hell or High Water"
"Moonlight"
"Hidden Figures"

Will Win: "La La Land"

Should Win: "Manchester by the Sea"

If I'm wrong about this one, I'll be very surprised.  Receiving almost universal acclaim from audiences and critics, "La La Land" has dominated just about every awards show.  It has only increased momentum, and by now it's virtually unstoppable.  I liked it, but didn't think it was all that great.  My vote would go to the painful and honest "Manchester by the Sea."  But it's a downer, and few people actually saw it.  Plus, it's such a small, character-driven film that is usually a bigger success in the acting and writing categories.  The Academy usually hands out the top prize for spectacle.

Best Actor:

Casey Affleck, "Manchester by the Sea"
Andrew Garfield, "Hacksaw Ridge"
Viggo Mortenson, "Captain Fantastic"
Denzel Washington, "Fences"
Ryan Gosling, "La La Land"

Will Win: Affleck

Should Win: Affleck

This is one of the few times where the Academy is likely going to give the prize to the one who deserves it.  While nothing legendary, Affleck's penetrating and heartbreaking turn as a tortured man who is thrust into a situation he is unable to cope with (and knows it) is riveting stuff.  He's playing the realistic flip-side of Seth Rogen's man-child persona.  Although a past controversy provoked a hiccup in his momentum, lasting damage appears to be non-existent.  Affleck can reserve a spot on his shelf for Oscar.

Best Actress:

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

Will Win: Stone

Should Win: Streep

This one was a toss up.  At least for my opinion.  Like the film itself, Emma Stone has been winning awards left and right, and I don't see that changing.  But the only other film in this category that I have seen is "Florence Foster Jenkins," which I didn't think worked, but it has Meryl Streep in it.  And she can essentially do no wrong.

Best Supporting Actor:

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

Will Win: Ali

Should Win: Patel

I haven't seen "Moonlight," but the buzz is rapturous for Mahershala Ali.  But I would give it to Dev Patel.  I was late to a screening so I didn't review it, but Patel's sensitive and deep portrayal made it impossible not to sympathize with him in his quest to find his family.  It was a difficult role, playing a man who has everything and realizes his luck, but also wanting to know where he came from.  And Patel, who gets far too few roles, nailed it.

Best Supporting Actress:

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

Will Win: Davis

Should Win: Harris

I haven't seen either of these films.  Check that, I haven't seen either of these films in its entirety.  I went to "Fences," but left early because the audience was annoying.  In all honesty, I'm not against Davis winning an Oscar.  I love the actress and thoroughly enjoy seeing her on screen doing, well, anything.  And she has a lot of buzz and momentum, so that's why I think she'll win.  But my choice would be Naomie Harris, who is also someone I enjoy watching.  Be it in something like "Ninja Assassin" or "The First Grader," she is a huge talent that brings a fierce spunk to her roles that's so appealing.  She should have been nominated, and won, for her performance in "The First Grader," but no one saw it.  That's why my vote goes to her.

Best Director:

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

Will Win: Chazelle

Should Win: Gibson

In my opinion, the line up in this category is pretty weak.  Chazelle has trouble with the lighter moments in "La La Land," the flashbacks in "Manchester by the Sea" were awkwardly placed, "Hacksaw Ridge" had an awkward start and "Arrival" was both dull and had that self-important intensity that is unfortunately a trademark of Denis Villeneuve.  So I have to give it to Gibson because "Hacksaw Ridge" was consistently captivating and the war scenes were as thrilling as they were brutal.

Best Original Screenplay:

"Hell or High Water"
"La La Land"
"Manchester by the Sea"
"20th Century Women"
"The Lobster"

Will Win: "Manchestery by the Sea"

Should Win: "Manchester by the Sea"

"Manchester by the Sea" is the kind of movie where the dialogue makes or breaks the movie.  It's a small, character-centered piece that gave its actors a chance to shine while revealing painful truths about its characters.  "La La Land" is a fairy tale, but since Chazelle will likely take the Best Director honor and his film will take the top prize, I'm guessing that the Academy will give this one to Lonergan.  As well they should.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

"Arrival"
"Lion"
"Moonlight"
"Fences"
"Hidden Figures"

Will Win: "Hidden Figures"

Should Win: "Lion"

"Hidden Figures" was not a good movie, but it was a huge hit with audiences.  The underdog story had a limp narrative and bland performances, and honestly shouldn't have been nominated for anything.  There were plenty of other film far more deserving.  That said, I think it will win because it was such a huge success.  It will be a sort of kowtow to the multiplex audience, who doesn't always get a lot of respect from the Academy, since they prize more artistic films.  But "Lion" was more complex and daring.  It didn't always work; director Garth Davis bit off more than he could chew, but it mostly did.

Best Animated Film:

"Zootopia"
"Kubo and the Two Strings"
"My Life as a Zucchini"
"Moana"
"The Red Turtle"

Will Win: "Zootopia"

Should Win: "Zootopia"

"Zootopia" was this year's surprise hit.  Everyone expected "Finding Dory" to by the animated wonder of the year.  While "Finding Dory" was well received, it failed to match the original.  It's "Zootopia" that everyone remembers, and for good reason: the movie was awesome.

Best Cinematography:

"Arrival"
"La La Land"
"Moonlight"
"Silence"
"Lion"

Will Win: "La La Land"

Should Win: "La La Land"

Whatever dislike I had with this Hollywood musical, it has nothing to do with the film's look.  The camerawork by Linus Sandgren was gorgeous, and while "Silence" holds a special place in my heart, Rodrigo Prieto did a better job 10 years ago with "Brokeback Mountain."  If he wins, which he won't, it will be because of that.

All right!  That's it folks!  Let's see how I do tonight!

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