I love movies as you probably know from one of my previous articles and today, January 24, 2016, the nominees for the 89th Academy Awards were announced. This is my fourth favorite day that has to do with movies. the first three, the Oscars themselves, the Golden Globes, any first showing of a movie I am excited to see and then the Oscar nominations. So since I love these awards so much I figured I would share with you, my thoughts and predictions for the 89th Academy Awards. Enjoy!
Since most of you reading this article probably don't care to hear about best set design or best foreign film short we'll stick to the bigger categories.
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
To be nominated for Best Picture your film has to be voted number one by at least five percent of the ballots that are cast by the voter in the Academy. There were speculations that "Deadpool" might have enough to secure a nod but thank goodness that didn't happen. That is for sure a "Golden Globe" type of film. The nominees this year are not insane blockbuster like there has been in the past. In most recent memory with regards to "The Martian". If you exclude "Arrival" and "Hacksaw Ridge" the nominees this year are kind of old fashioned movies. No gimmicks but just insane acting ability coupled with great work by the crew and amazing direction from the very best. All films are truly exceptional and a case could be made for each one as to why they should be the winner. My hot take is this, had "Hell or High Water" been released in December instead of its early release date of August I believe that it would be the dark horse to possibly upset either "Moonlight" or "La La Land" for best picture. With tremendous writing and acting to compliment it, "Hell or High Water" is my second favorite movie of the year. It has Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges, the immensely underrated Ben Foster and also... CAPTAIN FREAKING KIRK, also known as Chris Pine. Sorry guys, not this year. Moonlight is the last movie out of all the nominees that I saw. I was made on a budget of $5 million and it uses every dime of it. Split up into three chapters, following the same character, Chiron, it is a beautiful coming of age story and is more than likely the most important film that came out this past year. Sitting in the theater you could just feel the actors pouring every ounce of their soul into this movie and it ending up creating a beautiful film. Any other year and this would be a sure thing for a winner. So that just leaves.
Winner: "La La Land"
I tried so incredibly hard not to be biased in the selection and I think I did a good job. Set aside the fact that this a movie that I have gone and seen a total of four times. Listen to the soundtrack. Now know almost the entire movie by heart, as when I listen to a song from the film I can instantly picture what would be going on on screen. After seeing this movie I told people that a movie had not made me feel so good walking out the door in a long time. Honestly, I can't even remember if there is a better one. From the music to the acting, the colors, the presentation and just the pure joy the actors seem to be having on camera have a certain effect on you while you're watching. You CANNOT stop your foot from tapping and going along with the music while you are watching. At times I wanted to get up and applaud after a musical number but I didn't want my hollering to be distracting. It is a flawed film, there are moments where you go, huh, but those are outweighed by the moments of pure cinematic joy this movie brings while watching it. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone need to just do movies with each other for the rest of their career because whenever they are on screen together it is literal magic. That's not too much to ask, is it? Thank you "La La Land' for providing me with the best time I have ever spent in a movie theater.
Nominees:Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land,”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, "Fences"
This year's Lead Actor category is filled with previous nominees except for Andrew Garfield who is receiving his first nomination this year for "Hacksaw Ridge". This is undoubtedly a two-man race between Affleck and Washington but if you want to make the case that it could possibly be three we can do that if we add Gosling. So for the sake of this, we will just be going over those three performances. Though if you have not seen Captain Fantastic go to your local Best Buy, Target or wherever and check it out now and you'll see why he was nominated. Brilliant work by him this year. Gosling gave a memorable performance this year in La La Land and the chemistry he shares with fellow nominee Emma Stone really shows itself on screen. In the film he really makes you feel almost every kind of emotion you possibly can. There are bits when he is snappy and it's hilarious but also parts where he doesn't have to say a word and just by using facial expressions you can see a thousand words. Where he may get done in is his singing. It's not the best. Maybe I'm not the one to comment on someone's singing ability, but anytime he sung it did sound like his nose was congested and he had been sick for a few days before filming. But hey, he put himself out there, played a kick ass piano and danced his butt off. Props to him. Just won't be enough to take home the statue. Denzel Washington... Oh, Denzel, you are no stranger to the Oscars, aren't you? Washington has been nominated including this year, for seven Academy Awards and has won twice. His first is for his role in "Glory" and his second came for his most famous role, other than his portrayal of Malcolm X, in "Training Day." In "Fences he gives his most memorable to me since "Training Day" and for good reason. He gets to direct himself! You know that there are going to be those memorable Denzel monologues that he is famous for and boy is there ever. With amazing scenes between him and fellow nominee Viola Davis and Jovan Adepo he certainly stakes his claim at having a shot at taking home the Oscar. However...
Winner: Casey Affleck, "Manchester by the Sea"
Affleck delivers one of the most emotional performances of the year in "Manchester by the Sea." From the moment you see him on camera you can tell that he is about to put you in an emotional blender. From sharing moments on screen with fellow nominee Lucas Hedges that are heartwarming all the way to the other end of the spectrum to sharing the most heartbreaking scene in recent memory with another fellow nominee Michelle Williams. The ability to just rip your audience's heart out is so overwhelmingly impressive that him crying should be enough to give him the Oscar. Though, the emotional roller coaster he brings you along on for an hour and a half is what does it. Affleck will no longer be the "the other Affleck".
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Before we can go any further we need to address the elephant in the room and that is Meryl Streep. In this spot could have been an incredible performance by Amy Adams for "Arrival". Nope... Meryl did a movie so Meryl has to get a nod. Look, I love Meryl and I think that she is one of the greatest actors of her generation if not the greatest. Lately, though, it seems that we are giving her nominations because SHE IS MERYL. Her performance was good in "Florence Foster Jenkins" but most certainly not Oscar worthy. Especially when Amy Adams is sitting in the wings with a much more complex performance. I think it's time to start treating Meryl like the rest of Hollywood. Now to the rest of the group! The only real competition I see to the eventual winner is Natalie Portman for her role in "Jackie." Natalie is one of my five favorite actors/actresses of all time and with good reason. Any movie she does you can bet that it is going to be fantastic. If I'm being totally honest my favorite roles of hers are in "No Strings Attached" and either of the Thor movies. In "Jackie" she takes on her most challenging role most likely since "Black Swan" for which she won the Oscar for Best Lead Actress. In this performance, she tackles one of the most iconic figures in history. She gives a raw emotional performance and you can tell that she probably at one point thought that she was indeed Jacqueline Kennedy. However fantastic her performance may have been it just won't be enough to top the winner this year.
Winner: Emma Stone, "La La Land"
I am a firm believer in that Emma Stone should be locked up and put into the National Archives because is quite literally a national treasure. Everything she does in this film is so fantastic. She makes you laugh, she has the ability to make you cry and when she ends up kicking butt in her audition towards the end of "La La Land" you are overcome with emotion and you find yourself saying, "YES YES YES" because you know she just made it. Her winning this award is just making her one step closer to the next big thing. Think about when Jennifer Lawrence won her Oscar for "Silver Linings Playbook" except better because Emma Stone is insanely funnier than J-Law. From her humble beginning in "Superbad" going out on her own and carrying a movie comedically in "Easy A" then beginning to turn the page and grow up as an actor with performances in "The Help" and being quite possibly the only good thing about "The Amazing Spider-Man" movies and then two years ago getting her first Oscar nod for "Birdman." Ladies and gentlemen Emma Stone has finally arrived and she isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”
I see this category breaking down in two ways. One, the Academy rewards an exceptional performance in a small amount of screen time but really sets the mood for what is going to come later in the film. Or two, the Academy is going to reward a lifelong Hollywood icon who played an eerily similar character to one in which he already won an award for. I'm going to go with the first. In the latter, Jeff Bridges securing a nomination for playing a Texas Ranger on the hunt for two bank robbers. It's a very revealing performance for Bridges. However, he played a kind of similar character in "Crazy Heart" when he won for Best Lead Actor. I feel like Jeff Bridges is beginning to become a lot like Meryl Streep in that if he even has a decent role there is a good chance he will get looked at for an Oscar nod. As for the other nominees, Dev Patel takes you on an
Winner: Mahershala Ali, "Moonlight"
Ali has been going back and forth between movies and television for over a decade now and it seems that all the hard work has finally paid off. You may know him as Remy Danton from "House of Cards", more recently as Cornell 'Cottonmouth' Stokes from "Luke Cage", Kofi in "The Place Beyond the Pines" as well as Best Picture nominee this year Hidden Figures. Leading up to the Golden Globes Ali had been raking in awards left and right for his performance, however, the Hollywood Foreign Press decided to award Aaron-Taylor Johnson for his work in "Nocturnal Animals." The Academy will make sure that another loss doesn't happen again. While we only get to enjoy Ali's presence on screen for just the first out of three chapters in "Moonlight" his character looms over our main character from the rest of the movie. You can feel the kindness and comfort radiate off the screen whenever he is interacting with little Chiron. This is what Best Supporting Actor/Actress should be all about. Having a little bit of screen time but doing the most amazing possible things you could do while on screen. Mahreshala Ali gives you everything you need from this kind of character and then some.
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
When it was announced that Viola Davis would be put into the category of Supporting Actress you could just feel everyone in Hollywood go, "WHELP... There goes Michelle Williams Oscar." Let's get this straight, both had flawless performances in their respective films and were on screen for some of the best moments of each film. However, Viola Davis was on screen FAR MORE than Williams who was only in about maybe six scenes tops? I believe this was done because the Academy was dead set on giving Stone the Oscar for Best Actress BUT ALSO wanted to reward Davis for her performance. So, they just slid her down one category and boom. All the ladies in this category did exceptional work, ESPECIALLY an INTENSE performance from Harris. Anytime she was on screen she just stole the scene. Though we know what is coming...
Winner: Viola Davis, "Fences"
VIOLA DAVIS VIOLA DAVIS VIOLA DAVIS VIOLA DAVIS VIOLA DAVIS!!! Probably the only women in Hollywood that can toe to toe with Denzel Washington AND come out on top. So good so good so good. If she get's played off the stage during her speech that producer should be fired on the spot. There is only so much that I can say about Viola so I'll leave with this... VIOLA FREAKING DAVIS. I hate to bring up Meryl Streep again but how she beat out Viola Davis for her work in "The Help" I will never understand. Viola introduced Meryl before she accepted her lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes this year... I see that as "You're getting this award because you're finished. You're done and I am taking your spot upon the throne." Viola Davis is going to become the new Meryl Streep and that is perfectly fine.
“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Mel Gibson
“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins
“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan
“Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve
In the category of Best Director, we have some first time nominees, those being Barry Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan, and Denis Villeneuve. I'm sure most of have never heard the name Barry Jenkins until now. Well, get to know the name because he delivers a beautiful coming of age story and with such a low budget and from an independent movie studio he is at the helm of one of the most important films this year and just maybe the most important film. Kenneth Lonergan is another not as well know name in the world of directing, however, his talent as a screenwriter is what he is really known for. He has written for films such as, "Gangs of New York" and "Analyze This". In "Manchester by the Sea" Lonergan is in complete control as he not only directed the film but also wrote the screenplay. He creates such a raw emotional movie that rips your heart out any chance it can get, with powerful dialogue and the ability to make us feel for the characters Lonergan provides us with a truly beautiful emotional film. Denis Villeneuve, not so much a newcomer as much as he is a director on the rise. In 2013 he directed a hit called "Prisoners" which starred Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. In 2015 he directed my second favorite movie of the year "Sicario" which starred Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro ad Josh Brolin. It would go on to be nominated for the 88th Oscars for only three awards and take home none. This year Villeneuve brought us a mind-bending sci-fi film. Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forrest Whittaker and with none of the performances really sticking out as award worthy except for Adams. He brings his talents out as a director to keep you guessing at every turn and in the end, you don't know exactly what happened until five minutes after you leave the theater and go, "OH CRAP THATS WHAT HAPPENED?!?!" If you want to get really excited, Villeneuve just recently finished filming the sequel to "Blade Runner" and it will have Harrison Ford as well as Best Actor Nominee this year Ryan Gosling. Mel Gibson is making a comeback? I guess that is what the Academy is trying to tell us with his nomination either that or they just really wanted the star power to be there Sunday night and they know people might watch to see if Mel explodes. I know I'll be watching for some kind of outburst if he wins. Anyways to his film we go! Gibson brought us an incredible war film this year. What I have sure garnered him a nomination this year was how well he directed any battle scenes. ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!
Winner: "La La Land," Damien Chazelle
You may remember Chazelle from his jazz and profanity laced but also seemingly enjoyable Oscar-nominated film from 2015, "Whiplash." While he was not nominated for an award for Best Director that year, he was nominated for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay. This year he leads the way to getting "La La Land" nominated for a record-tying 14 NOMINATIONS! While the movie has it's flawed and it does, he also makes us fall in love with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and how he orchestrates directing, assisting with the score, choreography while being able to help us fall in love with not only the characters but the setting of Los Angeles as well. Well done Damien. Well done.