My Dad and I do this little game every year, a sort of “side pot” before the Oscar nominations are announced. We gather our Intel and try to guess what the nominations will be for the ‘major’ categories. This year, I guessed more correct than he did, so there’s a small victory for me.
There is a recent trend with the Oscars, especially with hard campaigning on behalf of studios and production companies who go for the gold, that expectations are set early in the season and the wind is sucked out of the show in general. Not a lot of “big budget” studio films ended up nominated this year, here, but instead we’re seeing a lot of indie or “prestige” films, big on ideas and introspection and studies of character and emotional breakthroughs, small on high-concept stories.
Not that it’s a bad thing. I personally thought last year (and 2015) was a darn good year for movie-watchers. Lots of entertaining stories, lots of thoughtful, introspective art pieces, and a variety for all ages. Just because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story didn’t get a picture nod doesn’t make it any less valid than La La Land or Hell or High Water.
That said, there’s a bit of a casual aspect about the awards this year, and the past decade. A sense of “The results have already been written about, ad nauseum” and going through the motions. This is due, in part, to the plethora of awards given out already. If I was able to predict this many nominees, there are people smarter than I, who do this for a living, who were likely able to call all of them, and likewise won’t have a problem predicting the winners.
I’ll admit, that makes the whole show a little less fun, a little less endearing (but more on that in another post). That said, I don’t want this particular write-up to be about the “snubs”, or the forgotten performers and artists. Let’s talk about the nominees.
I’m only going to point out some select categories, so if you wanna jam about some more, feel free to comment below, on Facebook, or wherever you can find me (look to the right of this page for links). I’m not trying to diminish any category — making a film, long or short, documentary or animated, is a difficult mountain to climb and all artists should be proud — but in the interest of time and space and my general limited viewings, this is what I’ve got:
For Best Song, as much as I want to rant about how Sing Street was unfathomably left out, I’ll simply say that while you may think La La Land has this locked, Lin-Manuel Miranda has a lot of steam coming off of “Hamilton”, and an Oscar here for Moana would give him the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony), making him the youngest artist to achieve this feat. Never underestimate the Academy’s ability to reward an artist’s story as much as the artwork.
The Screenplay nominations are interesting. For Original Screenplay, the inclusion of The Lobster feels like a nod to the oddball of the group (think: Grand Budapest Hotel, or Her in years past), but all of these listed are worthy of this award. I think La La Land will come away with the trophy, but Kenneth Lonergan has a lot of support in the film-making community as a respected and well-regarded storyteller, and Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) wrote the beloved script for Sicario as well, so he’s got a lot of steam pushing him to the foreground. That, and La La Land‘s visuals are the more impressive parts of the movie.
For Adapted Screenplay, what’s interesting is that Moonlight is here even though WGA put it under Original Screenplay (the opposite occurred with Whiplash a few years ago). Moonlight is based on an unpublished, un-produced play, so it’s interesting that it’s even in this category. Hidden Figures was a great movie, and a bit of a surprise here — a good one. Arrival, for me, is tops, but Moonlight was subtle and every word had so much meaning. I don’t see any other script winning here, however I do think all of them would be much, much deserved.
For Best Score, it’ll likely go to La La Land, but the music from Jackie was almost stunning in how it was at times overwhelming and other times subtly reflective. Moonlight‘s score is notable, but the acting and photography are what speaks to me more out of that film.
Moonlight is also nominated for Best Cinematography, and between Moonlight and Arrival this may be another category that slips through La La Land‘s fingers.
Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor are both categories too close to call– in any other year, at least. Viola Davis is a strong, strong front runner, and not only is she so deserving, but her role is more of a lead even though she campaigned for supporting. It’s strong and powerful and she will win.
Supporting Actor is tougher. Michael Shannon is suddenly on the radar, and every actor here was strong in their films. Mahershala Ali is powerful, and, in my opinion, should win here. Jeff Bridges has a trophy already, and Dev Patel and Lucas Hedges are young, will likely be considered on this stage at some point later in their careers. But this category is always a crap shoot, so if we get a surprise on Oscar night, it might be here. Not to mention that Lion is very well liked, highly praised, and Dev Patel is almost more of a lead than supporting role.
Actress is another that should be a runaway win for Emma Stone, but Amy Adams, who is not nominated, won a lot of pre-Oscar awards, as has Isabelle Huppert. Streep is there as a traditional nomination, I’m thinking, and Ruth Negga is standout in Loving, which is as much her film as writer-director Jeff Nichols. Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy is great, but the film is a little too bizarre for most viewers and might be a turn off. Emma and Isabelle are the top choices here.
Best Actor nominations match the SAG nominations exactly, so keep an eye on that ceremony this weekend. Gosling is front runner, especially with the La La Land love-fest that gave it 14 overall nominations. Casey Affleck has a whole lot of steam and if he wins at the SAG, expect him to come away with the Oscar. I’d love to see Denzel get the win, I think he deserves it for his dedication to the role and the project and his powerful presence on screen in Fences.
For Best Director, again, it’s a crap shoot. While it’s interesting to see Mel Gibson here, I don’t think he’ll come away with the win. There’s too much heat around him as a controversial person…but that hasn’t necessarily stopped the Academy before (see: Roman Polanski). Still, I do think Damien Chazelle will win this. La La Land was his passion project for many, many years, it’s a story about Hollywood, filmed in Hollywood, and was well-executed with a singular vision.
Best Picture is, in all likelihood, to go to the film with most nominations — La La Land but bear in mind that last year the award went to Spotlight, which had been nominated for six and won two (the other being for Best Screenplay), so anything can happen. If any flick will swipe this out from La La Land‘s feet, it’ll be Moonlight.
Them’s my thoughts for now, I’m sure you’re going to read more insightful articles, but thanks for stopping by!