Friday, February 24, 2017

If We Picked the Oscars 2016


Borrowing a page from Siskel and Ebert from back in the day, we here at Movie Dearest are presenting our own version of "If We Picked the Oscars". These aren't predictions, but what movies, actors, directors, et al that we would vote for if we were members of the Academy. We also chime in with our picks for the "egregiously overlooked" non-nominees as well as the "Worst Nominations of the Year". So without further ado, the envelope please...

The nominees for Best Picture are: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight
And our winners would be:
CC: It was #1 on my top 10 so I would be compelled to vote for Kenneth Lonergan's gut-wrenching yet ultimately hopeful Manchester by the Sea.
KH: I usually chose the nominee that touches me the most, and for 2016 that would be Lion, a film that sneaked in a grabbed my heart and still hasn't let go.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I'm tempted to say Hail, Caesar!, the Coen Brothers' latest that I loved but left a lot of people scratching their heads.  Silence, Martin Scorsese's challenging exploration of faith, would be another contender for the #10 spot in my mind.
KH: If any animated film of late deserved to break into the Best Picture lineup, it was this year's Zootopia.

For their final voting, Academy members are asked to rank the Best Picture nominees from #1 to #9, so here are our rankings:
CC: 1) Manchester by the Sea 2) Moonlight 3) Arrival 4) Hacksaw Ridge 5) Lion 6) Hell or High Water 7) La La Land and 8) Hidden Figures (Fences is the one major nominee I haven't seen yet).
KH: 1) Lion 2) La La Land 3) Moonlight 4) Hidden Figures 5) Arrival 6) Hell or High Water 7) Hacksaw Ridge 8) Manchester by the Sea and 9) Fences

Arrival by David Mahoney

The nominees for Best Actor are: Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea, Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge, Ryan Gosling in La La Land, Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic and Denzel Washington in Fences
And our winners would be:
CC: I loved Viggo and was very impressed by Garfield but my vote would go to Casey Affleck's sincere, heart-breaking performance in Manchester by the Sea.
KH: This is probably my toughest category, none of the performances jumped out for me as they did in the other acting races, and the bulk of them are from movies I didn't care for. I'll have to settle on my favorite movie of the five, so La La Land's Ryan Gosling gets my vote (even though it didn't feel like much of a stretch for him).
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: How was Trevante Rhodes, the beating heart of Moonlight and recipient of our GALECA Rising Star award, not nominated? I would have subbed him for Gosling's overrated turn.
KH: Tom Hanks in Sully. Isn't it about time the Academy stopped taking him for granted?

The nominees for Best Actress are: Isabelle Hupert in Elle, Ruth Negga in Loving, Natalie Portman in Jackie, Emma Stone in La La Land and Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins
And our winners would be:
CC: I love Emma Stone in general and in La La Land but I would go with Isabelle Hupert, if more for her entire, impressive career than just her sublime work in Elle.  Emma will have plenty of future opportunities.
KH: There really wouldn't be a La La Land without Emma Stone, the heart of the movie to Gosling's soul.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Everyone was justifiably surprised when Amy Adams was snubbed for her lovely, understated role as Arrival's time-traveling linguist.
KH: So many fine actresses were left out of the finals this year thanks to politics of one sort or the other, the most egregious being Annette Bening from 20th Century Women.

Fences by Kate Copeland

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are: Mahershala Ali in Moonlight, Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water, Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea, Dev Patel in Lion and Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals
And our winners would be:
CC: This is a toss-up for me between Mahershala Ali and Lucas Hedges, both very impressive relative newcomers.  With a gun to my head I would probably vote for Ali.
KH: Dev Patel was a revelation in Lion; who knew that dorky guy from Slumdog Millionaire and those Marigold Hotel movies could bring it as well as he did here.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Hugh Grant gave what I consider his best performance ever in Florence Foster Jenkins.
KH: Ben Foster, who has been on our radar since Six Feet Under, should have been Oscar recognized by now, especially for his loose cannon bank robber in Hell or High Water

The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are: Viola Davis in Fences, Naomie Harris in Moonlight, Nicole Kidman in Lion, Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures and Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea
And our winners would be:
CC: I love me some Viola Davis and I'm sure she is deserving even though I haven't seen Fences.  I was most surprised though by British actress Naomie Harris' raw turn in Moonlight, an unrecognizable far cry from her role as Miss Moneypenny in the last two James Bond epics.
KH: Out of this year's batch of movie moms, Nicole Kidman most impressed me as the main character's adoptive mother in Lion.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures.  Technically, she should have probably been nominated in the Best Actress category but should have been included here as part of the film's stellar ensemble à la Octavia Spencer.
KH: Molly Shannon (yes, of SNL fame) showed previously unseen dramatic range as a cancer stricken (you guessed it) mom in Other People.

Hacksaw Ridge by Bill Bragg

The nominees for Best Director are: Damien Chazelle for La La Land, Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge, Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea and Denis Villeneuve for Arrival
And our winners would be:
CC: Damien Chazelle proves himself not just a Hollywood boy wonder at the age of 32 but also a worthy custodian of Hollywood's classic movie musical tradition.
KH: Damien Chazelle brought his unique vision of Hollywood dreaming to memorable life with La La Land.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Martin Scorsese for his 20-year effort to bring Silence to the big screen.
KH: Garth Davis for Lion, but you knew I'd say that.

The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are: Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion and Moonlight
And our winners would be:
CC: My vote goes to the lyrical, semi-autobiographical Moonlight, by Berry Jenkins from Tarell Alvin McCraney's play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.
KH: Based on Saroo Brierley's autobiography A Long Way Home, Luke Davies' script for Lion hit all the right notes for me.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Silence, a tough nut to crack as a novel (by Shūsaku Endō), became a respectful, thought-provoking film as written by Martin Scorsese and Jay Cocks.
KH: Park Chan-wook and Chung Seo-kyung's skillful reworking of Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith into The Handmaiden deserved recognition.
Hell or High Water by Stuart Patience

The nominees for Best Original Screenplay are: Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea and 20th Century Women
And our winners would be:
CC: Manchester by the Sea, hands down.
KH: You can't get more original than Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou's mesmerizing oddity, The Lobster.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The Coen Brothers' smart and funny Hail, Caesar!
KH: Another wholly original work, Anna Rose Holmer's The Fits.

The nominees for Best Cinematography are: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight and Silence
And our winners would be:
CC: Though its tempting to award Silence for the one category in which it is nominated, I would vote for the similarly stunning La La Land.
KH: I found the acclaimed lensing of La La Land and Moonlight distracting at times; I'll go with Bradford Young's ominous, soft-focused camerawork in Arrival instead.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Disney produced two of the best-looking films of the year in this regard: The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon.  I especially appreciated the latter's more realistic depiction of the Pacific Northwest's lush greenery.
KH: The Eyes of My Mother wouldn't have been half as chillingly disturbing were it not for the black and white photography of Zach Kuperstein.

Hidden Figures by Gravillis Inc.

The nominees for Best Production Design are: Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail, Caesar!, La La Land and Passengers
And our winners would be:
CC: Not unlike the previous category, I'm tempted to vote for Hail, Caesar! for its sole nomination, but would go with La La Land.
KH: Out of the two takes on Tinseltown, I'll take the Old Hollywood look of Hail, Caesar! over the contemporary style of La La Land.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Park Chan-Wook's deliriously lavish, twisted The Handmaiden.
KH: Subtler, yes, but The Witch was exponentially enhanced by its moody atmosphere.

The nominees for Best Costume Design are: Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster Jenkins, Jackie and La La Land
And our winners would be:
CC: La La Land has made LA fashion bright and colorful once again, for which I'm personally grateful.  Its been looking like a funeral around here.
KH: For her meticulous recreations for the title character alone, Jackie's Madeline Fontaine gets my vote.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The Handmaiden, along with production design.
KH: One can take comfort in knowing that Mary Zophres was nominated here for here work on La La Land while at the same time wondering why it wasn't for her for more impressive period designs for Hail, Caesar! instead.

Jackie by Lynnie Zulu

The nominees for Best Original Score are: Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight and Passengers
And our winners would be:
CC: The jazzy, snazzy La La Land.
KH: Although I'm not sure why it got by the "no predominate use of songs" rule that has blocked other potential nominees here in the past, Justin Hurwitz's score for La La Land is by far the most memorable (even without the songs).
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The first (but still effective) non-John Williams score for a Star Wars movie, Michael Giacchino's for Rogue One.
KH: I guess the Academy's music branch just picks and chooses which rules to follow, as they disqualified Jóhann Jóhannsson's deserving score for Arrival because of its "preexisting music" rule.

The nominees for Best Original Song are: "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 and "How Far I'll Go" from Moana
And our winners would be:
CC: "How Far I'll Go," primarily so Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda can have an Oscar to complete his EGOT.
KH: La La Land's "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" is everything a great movie musical song should be.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: How is it that "Another Day of Sun," La La Land's exhilarating opening number, wasn't nominated?  I'd also nominate "You're Welcome" from Moana in the hope that Dwayne Johnson would perform it live on the Oscars telecast (preferably in his Maui costume).
KH: I can't limit myself to just one here: both Sing Street's "Drive It Like You Stole It" and Moana's "You're Welcome" were showstoppers on the big screen, and would have been again on the Kodak stage. Instead, we'll get Sting rattling off every word that rhymes with "chair"...

La La Land by The Project Twins

The nominees for Best Film Editing are: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land and Moonlight
And our winners would be:
CC: La La Land for making musicals snappy and cool again.
KH: Watch the "epilogue" of La La Land for a masterclass in fine film editing.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Manchester by the Sea benefits from knowing exactly when to cut away from a character or scene for full emotional resonance.
KH: It must have been a gargantuan task to pare down all the footage for the epic documentary O.J.: Made in America.

The nominees for Best Sound Mixing are: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and 13 Hours
And our winners would be:
CC: I most noticed and admired Arrival's otherworldly sounds and alien noises.
KH: I can't get past the muddled mixing of La La Land's opening number (understanding all the lyrics would've been nice, guys); I'll go with Rogue One, surely the most challenging of the lot.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC/KH: With all its lions and tigers and bears (oh my), where's The Jungle Book?

Lion by PlanetFab Studio

The nominees for Best Sound Editing are: Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land and Sully
And our winners would be:
CC: My pick would be La La Land.
KH: Considering they created the sound of a whole alien species, how could it be anything other than Arrival?
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (I'm not quite sure how a movie can be nominated for sound mixing but not sound editing).
KH: This is the one category that could have squeezed in Deadpool without much of a fuss.

The nominees for Best Visual Effects are: Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
And our winners would be:
CC: The Jungle Book's photo-realistic menagerie was impressive indeed.
KH: No contest: the whole of The Jungle Book was mostly one big visual effect.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: They were fairly minimal but Arrival's special effects are certainly memorable.
KH: It's really kind of bizarre not to see Best Picture nominee Arrival here.

Manchester by the Sea by Jon McNaught

The nominees for Best Makeup & Hairstyling are: A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond and Suicide Squad
And our winners would be:
CC: I know plenty of people didn't but I liked the Joker's and other characters' styling in Suicide Squad.
KH: Say what you will about Suicide Squad, but from the reptilian skin of Killer Croc to Harley Quinn's two-toned pigtails, the villain makeup was super.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Nocturnal Animals, if primarily for Laura Linney's severe 'do.
KH: Why-why-why haven't they expanded this category to five nominees already?? There's always at least two worthy contenders they could easily add, and this year it should have been The Dressmaker and Jackie.

The nominees for Best Animated Feature are: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle and Zootopia
And our winners would be:
CC: I've always been a sucker for stop-motion animation and Kubo and the Two Strings uses it beautifully to tell a stirring story.
KH: A tough choice for me between the two Disney hits, but in the end Zootopia edges out Moana by a (rabbit's) hair.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I appreciated the unexpectedly moving Finding Dory more than its Oscar-winning predecessor as well as Zootopia.
KH: Story issues aside, The Little Prince did craft a unique hybrid of stop motion and computer animation.

Moonlight by Marcin Wolski

The nominees for Best Foreign Language Film are: Land of Mine (Denmark), A Man Called Ove (Sweden), The Salesman (Iran), Tanna (Australia) and Toni Erdmann (Germany)
And our winners would be:
CC: These are all worthy of the top award but I favor A Man Called Ove... and will be serving Swedish meatballs in its honor at our Oscar party!
KH: Like my Best Picture choice, A Man Called Ove got to me good.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC/KH: No question that South Korea's The Handmaiden should be here.

The nominees for Best Documentary Feature are: Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life, Animated, O.J.: Made in America and 13th
And our winners would be:
CC: Life, Animated was the best Disney movie of the year not made by Disney.  Lovable and inspiring.
KH: Questions of whether or not it truly was a theatrical film or not aside, I was surprised to find O.J.: Made in America to be as engrossing and compelling as it was for practically its entire running time of nearly eight hours.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, a timely overview of the provocative artist's life.
KH: I found the well-crafted The Witness to be the 2016 non-fiction film that stuck with me the most long after watching it.

Nocturnal Animals by Dani Montesinos

The nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject are: Extremis, 4.1 Miles, Joe’s Violin, Watani: My Homeland and The White Helmets
And our winners would be:
KH: It's a close call between two intense looks at modern day global tragedies, 4.1 Miles and The White Helmets. In the end, the latter gets my vote for managing to find the hope amid all the hopelessness.

The nominees for Best Animated Short Film are: Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl and Piper
And our winners would be:
CC: Piper is the only one I've seen but certainly worthy as well as sweet.
KH: Pear Cider and Cigarettes is the most daring, visually and dramatically.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Matt Murphy

The nominees for Best Live Action Short Film are: Ennemis Intérieurs, La Femme et le TGV, Silent Nights, Sing and Timecode
And our winners would be:
KH: Once again, well-earned sentiment rules out for me: La Femme et le TGV.

And now for our own special category of dishonorable mention, the Worst Nomination of the Year:
KH: With so many possibilities (Fences in Adapted Screenplay, "The Empty Chair" in Original Song, Deepwater Horizon for anything), I'm aiming high this year: Best Actress nominee Meryl Streep. Seemingly nominated not so much for her clownish characterization of the title character in the slight biopic Florence Foster Jenkins as for her "stick it to the man" speech while accepting her Cecil B. DeMille Award at last month's Golden Globe Awards, this semi-annual re-anointing of Streep as "Oscar Goddess" has got to stop. And that this happened in a year where the Best Actress field was uncharacteristically but awesomely overcrowded makes it especially frustrating. Perhaps now that she has reached the solid number 20 in her total career nominations the members of the Academy's actors branch will take a pause before ticking her name off yet again on any future ballots, at least until she gives us a performance truly worthy of such recognition.

Toni Erdmann by Reece Wykes

And so the final march to Oscar glory begins. Tune in to the Big Show, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, on ABC this Sunday to see who wins, as well as which nominees are rocking the best (and worst) gowns, most attractive escorts and most heartfelt acceptance speeches.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator, editor and head writer of Movie Dearest.

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