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Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Picks for the 2017 Academy Awards

            **for my Top 10 favorites of 2016, click here**

            It’s that time of year again!  With the final gaudy celebration of film just around the corner, I’ve done my usual prep and am now presenting my picks for the 2016 Academy Awards. 

            I don’t have much to add in terms of commentary.  It’s a wonderful relief that a lot of minority artists and minority-centered works have been nominated, but that is tempered somewhat by me knowing that the whitest film of the bunch, La La Land, is quite likely to waltz away with the most awards, including the big ones.  Not that that’s surprising, but since I already went off at length about this topic in lastyear’s picks, there’s not much new I have to say about that a year later, so this time around I’ll lay off the heavy politicking, and instead go straight to the goods! 

Writing (Original Screenplay): Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, 20th Century Women

My Pick: Manchester by the Sea

            Not a hard pick this year at all, with Manchester by the Sea far and away my favorite film on this list. 

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Moonlight, Lion

My Pick: Moonlight

            Much in the vein of Linklater’s Boyhood, Moonlight masterfully weaves together the connecting threads of three very separate events in a man’s life to show what brought him to become the man he eventually became. 

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

My Pick: Kubo and the Two Strings

            Damnit, Kubo was amazing, and deserves all the awards (I will elaborate on this later). 

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

My Pick: Arrival

            Arrival had the best overall use of sound and music of any film I saw this year, utilizing its shifts and cues perfectly to alter the tone or feel of a scene.  This was especially potent in the “contact” scenes of the film, easily some of the best first interaction moments I’ve ever seen in this kind of movie. 

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

My Pick:  Arrival

            Same reasons as above. 

Short Film (Live Action): Ennemis Interieurs, La Femme et la TGV, Silent Nights, Sing, Timecode

My Pick: N/A

            As always, none of these works got a wide release, and the only people with full access to them are insulated Academy members who don’t even bother to watchthem all, so as always, I can’t pick a winner. 

Short Film (Animated): Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl, Piper

My Pick: N/A

            See above. 

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

My Pick: Hail, Caesar! 

            It has been way, way too long since a Coen Brothers movie won an Oscar, and Inside Llewyn Davis was irresponsibly snubbed, so I’ll take what I can get.  My close second is Arrival, and it will probably win. 

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

My Pick: “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

            Lin-Manuel Miranda needs an Oscar.  Right now. 

Music (Original Score): Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Passengers

My Pick: Moonlight
            I’m not that blown away by this year’s nominees, to be honest (where the hell is Arrival??), but out of all of them Moonight made the most out of its use of music, and it’s one of the nominees that most deserves some good award love over more overrated fare like La La Land

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

My Pick: Star Trek Beyond

            This and Original Song are always the weakest categories, since they often allow tripe like Trolls and Fifty Shades of Grey to sneak in and forever-after get to refer to themselves as “Oscar-nominated,” while legions of vastly more worthy films are denied.  Last year at least had Mad Max and The Revenant leading the pack, but this year isn’t quite as strong.  That said, having a Star Trek film take a trophy would be a nice change of pace for once. 

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

My Pick: Toni Erdmann

            At long last, a German film is nominated, and I am pulling for it all the way.  German cinema has been on a solid upswing recently, something I might look at more closely in a future post. 

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

My Pick: La La Land

            There, I picked La La Land for something, just to ward off the Bad Juju.  And the editing was really good. 

Documentary (Short Subject): Extremis, 4.1 Miles, Joe’s Violin, Watani: My Homeland, The White Helmets

My Pick: The White Helmets

            The White Helmets are volunteers who for years now have been risking their lives to save the lives of victims of the fighting in war-torn Aleppo, Syria.  They are true heroes representing the best of humanity, and deserve every bit of recognition and aid we can provide them with, and them winning an Oscar might prompt more people to go out and materially support them as well. 

Documentary (Feature): 13th, OJ: Made in America, Life, Animated, I Am Not Your Negro, Fire At Sea

My Pick: 13th

            I love the fact that 3 of the nominees this year are works centered around widely-ignored/misunderstood parts of the racial history of the US, and that another deals with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.  It’s one of the best-possible middle fingers the Academy could have given The Orangutan.  While I have heard nothing but good things about all of these films, 13th is still my film of the year, so it’s my pick here. 

Directing: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

My Pick: Moonlight

            Barry Jenkins really draws out the best of everyone in his cast, bringing us up close and personal to experience their pains and trials with them, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. 

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

My Pick: La La Land

            There, I picked La La Land for something, just to ward off the Bad Juju. 

Cinematography: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence

My Pick: Arrival

            Arrival was, overall, one of the year’s best just in terms of creating a consistent mood, and its camerawork was every bit as integral to that as its Sound Design, which I’ve already lauded to the skies here. 

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

My Pick: Kubo and the Two Strings

            I know Zootopia will win in reality, but by God, it’s about time Laika won one of these, and Kubo really was the best animated work of 2016. 

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

My Pick: Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

            This is a hard one for me.  Naomie Harris does a powerful job as the mother in Moonlight, and my sense is that she’s likely to win, but Hidden Figures is criminally underrepresented in the acting categories, and I want to see it win at least one trophy as well, so I’ll take a hard knock here. 

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

My Pick: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

            My favorite part of Ali’s character is how seamlessly he transitions from the street-tough dealer we see him as first (in many ways seeming to confirm the hardened stereotypes people have of such people) to the kind, fatherly softie who takes the main character under his wing.  Also, as far as I can tell, he would be the first Muslim to win an Oscar in an acting category, and in these times?  Hoo boy, would that be important. 

Actress (Leading Role): Isabelle Hupert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins), Emma Stone (La La Land), Natalie Portman (Jackie)

My Pick: Ruth Negga (Loving)

            I have to be brutally honest; due purely to time constraints, I have so far only seen one of the movies nominated here (La La Land), and I may not be able to see any of the others by next Sunday (I refuse to see Florence), and to be frank, Emma Stone just didn’t impress me much.  It STAGGERS me that Taraji Henson from Hidden Figures was ignored here, because if she were, she would be my pick.  This is the price of determinedly nominated Meryl Streep for literally everything, all the time. 

            So here, I take out my Importance Hat again, and give my vote to the only woman of color here, who also happens to be nominated for a film about a part of American racial that a lot of people don’t think about much anymore, but that remains as necessary as ever. 

Actor (Leading Role): Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortenssen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)

My Pick: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

            Another fairly easy pick for me, since part of what made Manchester such an emotional experience for me was seeing how much pathos Affleck managed to bring to his role despite rarely, if ever, altering his facial expressions. 

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

My Pick: Arrival

            Manchester by the Sea and Arrival are my two favorites out of this bunch, but while Manchester came in higher in my personal Top 10 list, I am flipping them here and to give Arrival Best Picture.  It may end up being more influential within its genre than Manchester, and its themes of broader communication and the need for human unity is something we will really, really need more of in the years to come. 

            And finally, a tally of which films gets what in my book, for those of you who are like me and obsessively keep score. 

Arrival- Best Picture, Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing (4)
Moonlight- Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Directing, Supporting Actor (4)
Manchester by the Sea- Best Actor, Original Screenplay (2)
Kubo and the Two Strings- Visual Effects, Animated Feature (2)
La La Land- Film Editing, Costume Design (2)
Hidden Figures- Best Supporting Actress
Loving- Best Actress
Star Trek Beyond- Makeup/Hairstyling
Hail, Caesar!- Production Design
Moana- Original Song
Toni Erdmann- Foreign Language Film
The White Helmets- Documentary Short
13th- Documentary Feature

-Noah Franc 

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