Adam's Thoughts on the 2017 Oscar Nominations

January 24, 2017

 

The list of the 2017 Oscar Nominations is out! La La Land ties Titanic with a record 14 nominations (and it should, because it's a great movie - look for our review soon!) Here is a complete list and a few of my thoughts. I'll put in my predictions as well so you can hold me to them.

 

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

 

Full disclosure: I have not seen Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, and Lion.  This is a solid list of films. I am surprised to see Hacksaw Ridge on the list, based on the reviews I read, and disappointed to see Elle and Nocturnal Animals left off the list.

 

My Prediction - La La Land

 

Lead actor:
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land,”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

 

Very happy to see Viggo Mortensen get some love for Captain Fantastic. I'd like to see Denzel Washington get his 3rd Academy Award but I think it's going to go to Casey Affleck for his excellent and understated performance in Manchester by the Sea. He manages to capture a deeply broken person and give a performance that isn't just staring off into the distance or sudden fits of anger.

 

My Prediction - Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

 

Lead actress:
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

 

Where's Amy Adams? Between Arrival and Nocturnal Animals, I figured she would be a guaranteed nominee. This might be my toughest category to pick as I think Natalie Portman, Isabelle Huppert, and Emma Stone were all great. I'm going to give the edge to Natalie Portman as I think her performance was the most nuanced.  We see her portrayal of Jackie in a few different lights - talking privately with a priest, having an on and off the record conversation with a journalist, acting as the first lady in the public eye, and being a wife and mother behind the closed doors of the white house.

 

My Prediction - Natalie Portman, Jackie

 

 

Supporting actor:
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

 

So this is a tough one for me, but I'm not picking Michael Shannon. If you know me, you should know I'm a huge fan of his and I really enjoyed his performance in Nocturnal Animals. Out of this list, I'm going to go with Mahershala Ali from Moonlight. He plays a drug dealer like we've never seen before and while he's only in the first act, his presence looms large over the rest of the film. He's the drug dealer with the heart of gold and the surrogate father and destiny shaper of Chiron.

 

My Prediction - Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

 

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

 

Michelle Williams only has 2 or 3 scenes in Manchester by the Sea, but she brings a depth and soul to a normally one-note character who is pushed to the background for the majority of the film.  I've only seen 2 of the 4 nominated films in this category, so I can't offer any real comparisons to the rest of the nominees.

 

My Prediction - Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

 

Best director:
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”

 

Another really tough category this year. Denis Vileneuve, Damien Chazelle, Barry Jenkins, and Kenneth Lonergan all delivered truly terrific films. I'm going to give the edge to Damien Chazelle because I think La La Land could have gone really wrong in a number of ways and it was his guiding hand that made sure it didn't.  It was also the riskiest film out of this bunch to transition from page to screen.

 

My Prediction - Damien Chazelle, La La Land

 

Animated feature:
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“Zootopia”

 

I think this is Laika's year to finally bring an academy award home to their studio.  Kubo and the Two Strings is unique, visually stunning, and is a real heartfelt tale about family. I don't believe there was a better animated film this year than Kubo.

 

My Prediction - Kubo and the Two Strings

 

Animated short:
“Blind Vaysha”
“Borrowed Time”
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
“Pearl”
“Piper”

 

I've only seen one of this nominees but it was a good one. Pixar was shut out of the animated feature category, but they did deliver one of their traditionally great shorts in Piper.

 

My Prediction - Piper

 

Adapted screenplay:
“Arrival”
“Fences”
“Hidden Figures”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”

 

Arrival is a great film.  You should check out the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang and you will be impressed by how much screenwriter Eric Heisserer added to the story.  He was able to take a story without any real conflict and transform it into one of the most engrossing films of the year.

 

My Prediction - Arrival

 

Original screenplay:
“20th Century Women”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“The Lobster”
“Manchester by the Sea”

 

I've repeatedly said that I think Hell or High Water is one of the best screenplays of the year, so I am sticking to my guns.  I have the feeling that La La Land or Manchester by the Sea will win this category, but I believe that Hell or High Water truly was the best original screenplay.

 

My Prediction - Hell or High Water

 

Cinematography:
“Arrival”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Silence”

 

La La Land is a visual treat.  I think this is the clear winner out of this category. It is a career best for cinematographer Linus Sandgren and I look forward to whatever else he has in the pipe.

 

My Prediction - La La Land

 

Best documentary feature:
“13th”
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America”

 

I've only seen one documentary on this list and that was 13th by Ava DuVernay. It's a powerful film that takes a hard look at the 13th amendment and the mass incarceration of African Americans.  It's on Netflix and if you haven't checked it out yet, there's no excuse for any more delay.

 

My Prediction - 13th

 

Best documentary short subject:
“4.1 Miles”
“Extremis”
“Joe’s Violin”
“Watani: My Homeland”
“The White Helmets”

 

These next two categories are going to be blind picks for me.  Joe's Violin sounds intriguing, so I will go with that.

 

My Prediction - Joe's Violin

 

Best live-action short film:
“Ennemis Interieurs”
“La Femme et le TGV”
“Silent Nights”
“Sing”
“Timecode”

 

As I've already mentioned, this will be a blind pick for me. If I happen to see any of these prior to the actual ceremony, I will come back and adjust my pick.

 

My Prediction - Timecode

 

Best foreign language film:
“A Man Called Ove”
“Land of Mine”
“Tanna”
“The Salesman”
“Toni Erdmann”

 

So, I was really surprised to not see Elle on this list. We'll never know if the voters were turned off by the subject matter or maybe they just weren't fans of the film. While I am sad to see Elle missing from the list, I am equally glad to see Toni Erdmann make the list.  One of my favorite surprises from last year's Fantastic Fest, Toni Erdmann is a 3 hour German comedy about an estranged father and daughter.  It doesn't really get funny until the last 30 or 40 minutes, but then it becomes one of the funniest movies of the year.  

 

My Prediction - Toni Erdmann

 

Film editing:
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Moonlight”

 

La La Land is a very well put together film and I think it's going to take home most of these technical awards.

 

My Prediction - La La Land

 

Sound editing:
“Arrival”
“Deep Water Horizon”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Sully”

 

A lot of people have questions about the difference between sound editing and sound mixing. The sound editor creates the designed sounds of the film and also enhances the existing sounds. The sound mixer acts like a composer and balances all of the sound levels so that you can hear the actor's dialogue during the explosions, alarms, and other noises.  With this in mind, I'm going to give my nod to Arrival as I believe it had the most unique sound design out of all of these nominees.

 

My Prediction - Arrival

 

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

 

See my last paragraph if you have questions about the difference between sound editing and sound mixing. I think La La Land will get the win here. It transitions pretty effortlessly between its musical numbers and dramatic scenes.

 

My Prediction - La La Land

 

Production design:
“Arrival”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Hail, Caesar!”
“La La Land”
“Passengers”

 

I don't think any  movie had a more complex production design than the old Hollywood depicted in Hail, Caesar!. Between the aquatic mermaid number, dancing sailors, and biblical epic, Hail Caesar! did an amazing job recreating the grandeur (and grind) of a major studio churning out films of all kinds in the 1950's.

 

My Prediction - Hail, Caesar!

 

Original score:
“Jackie”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Passengers”

 

Hands down, this category belongs to La La Land. One of the best and most original scores in a long time that certainly pays homage to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, with a haunting and repeating theme.

 

My Prediction - La La Land

 

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

 

"City of Stars" from La La Land is my personal favorite from this list, but I can't short change "How Far I'll Go" from Moana. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a force of nature right now and "How Far I'll Go" serves both as an anthem for the heroine and sets up the coming adventure.

 

My Prediction - "How Far I'll Go," Moana

 

Makeup and hair:
“A Man Called Ove”
“Star Trek Beyond”
“Suicide Squad”

 

Going to go with A Man Called Ove because I can't in good conscience pick Suicide Squad.

 

My Prediction - A Man Called Ove

 

Costume design:
“Allied”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“Jackie”
“La La Land”

 

Part of the visual appeal of La La Land comes from the costumes and use of bright colors.  I think it's going to take home yet another award here.

 

My Prediction - La La Land

 

Visual effects:
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Doctor Strange”
“Jungle Book”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

 

Jungle Book was shot in a warehouse.  It's amazing to watch it and keep that in the back of your mind. I think it's yet another important step forward in special effects. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow instilled in me a deep suspicion of actors working entirely against a green screen. Jungle Book has lifted my doubts.

 

My Prediction - Jungle Book

 

So those are my picks.  Looks like I have 7 awards going to La La Land and Arrival and Manchester by the Sea each getting 2.  Think I'm wrong or way off base, let me know your own picks!

 

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