Oscar Rant 2017

Oscars 2017

Oscar Rant 2017

(Honoring the films of 2016)

Rant by Paul Preston

Don’t be fooled by the phrase “2016 was not a good year for movies”. Chances are that’s on you. Last year, did you see Suicide Squad, but miss The Nice Guys? On you. Did you see Independence Day: Resurgence but forgot to go see the much more unique and clever Hardcore Henry? You. In 2017, consider taking that risk on the lesser-known film with good buzz. It has good buzz for a reason. But right now you’re in a little bit of luck! This year, many of the best films were also big earners at the box office, like Oscar-nominees Hidden Figures, La La Land and Arrival. So you can get away with a little laziness and still get your eyes on some quality films.

My Top Ten films of 2016:

PopstarPOPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING: I always make room for the funniest movie of the year on my list. Achieving that accolade is just as impressive as hitting a drama out of the park, and Popstar is balls-out hilarious and a grossly overlooked comedy that audiences would love if they would just GO. For some reason, people didn’t, but good news – that means you have this to look forward to! Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, also known as comedy troupe The Lonely Island, skewer that which has it coming, and has for five or six years now – the perpetually shallow and overall stupid state of the music industry, as seen through the rise and fall of Connor4Real, a singer/rapper/R&B doofus whose arc follows that of Spinal Tap’s. This movie is jam-packed with jokes. If they have thirty seconds where there isn’t a joke, I need that pointed out to me. Also, the supporting cast is loaded with some of today’s best comics and funny cameos that don’t wear out their welcome. See this. Soon.

SilenceSILENCE: At first sight, Silence didn’t do it for me. As I was watching it, the story of 17th century monks searching for their mentor in Christian-intolerant Japan unfolded so slowly I would find my captivation wavering. But, Martin Scorsese casts such a haunting spell over the whole film, it’s been working on me ever since. Andrew Garfield shows up-to-now unseen depth as one of the monks whose faith is brutally and relentlessly tested. As ever with Mahty, technical achievements are cruising on high with Rodrigo Pietro’s Oscar-nominated cinematography and overwhelming, mountainous locations that overwhelm the persecuted believers. The final twenty or so minutes packs a powerful closing statement, down to the last shot.
Read full review HERE.
Elvis & NixonELVIS AND NIXON: A potentially somber political story takes a turn for the weird with all the best results. You’ve probably seen the legendary photo of Elvis Presley’s visit to The White House to see President Richard Nixon. Presley fancied himself a law enforcement officer and wanted the badge to prove it. Elvis and Nixon gives us a best guess as to how that meeting went and thankfully, they have no intention of chronicling the event as if we’re watching C-SPAN, and the achievement is spearheaded by the two leads. Michael Shannon’s Elvis is like no other portrayal of The King before him – soft-spoken, determined and eccentric who right-turn delivers two shattering monologues about Presley’s loneliness and wanting. In the meantime, they gave Kevin Spacey the Big Book On How To Play Nixon and let him go to town – frowning, growling, cursing and brimming over with frustration that the man in the highest seat in the country has to satisfy a rock star. Colin Hanks and Evan Peters are also entertaining as hell as the White House staffers run ragged to placate the Commander-in-Chief. I just giggled beginning to end at this film, another tragically neglected winner.
Read full review HERE.

Nocturnal AnimalsNOCTURNAL ANIMALS: Tom Ford loves movies and that’s apparent in every frame of Nocturnal Animals. His first feature, A Single Man was a meditative sad account of a lonely man, and he has switched up that tone with Animals, delivering a visceral and tense story of loss and anger. After two films, it’s clear one characteristic will run through all of his movies – like his clothing line, they’ll be stylish. Amy Adams is an art gallery owner lost in a joyless marriage in an elite rich L.A. lifestyle that also affords her no pleasure. Piling on these feelings is the arrival to her doorstep of a book written by her ex-husband. It’s a violent and unflinchingly caustic story of murder and rage…and the book is dedicated to her. The story within the story of Nocturnal Animals is searing, can’t-look-away cinema and it’s coupled with Adams doing another fine turn in a year which already brought us her soulful work in Arrival. Jake Gyllenhaal continues to explore unpleasant and/or pain-riddled characters and he’s unforgettable here. And the supporting cast is so good, Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe and Michael Shannon is nominated for an Oscar. This is a straight-up ugly story with a kick-in-the-balls ending, but that area of the nature of humanity deserves a good once-over as much as any other.
Read full review HERE.

ArrivalARRIVAL: Oh…this movie. I have a love/hate relationship with this film. When I first saw it, I proclaimed it the best of the year, no question. Hands down. On second viewing, people started posing questions about it that gnawed at me and made me angry that the luster could be dulled on this story of an alien arrival on Earth in any way. My problems with the film, sadly, involve spoilers, so I can’t mention them here, but if you want to hear them, shout-out for them on the comments below. I saw Arrival the day after The Movie Guys hosted an outdoor screening of E.T. Watching that film, I was impressed, as I am every time, with how Spielberg used every aspect of filmmaking to tell his story. That, quite frankly, is why I love movies more than TV. TV has great scripts and is now garnering great actors, but with the amount of episodes they have to churn out, that cinematic feel of mastering everything at the medium’s disposal is rare. Unfortunately, since E.T., it’s rare in the movies, too. The next day, I plopped into a seat in front of Arrival and got and eye and earful of a director taking every part of the whale and turning it to eleven – acting, music, cinematography, locations, script, it’s all at soaringly high heights under Denis Villeneuve’s direction, with the year’s best lead performance in Amy Adams. Easily the movie I’ve talked about the most this year.
Read full review HERE.

Everybody Wants Some!!EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!: I saw this movie in October and I wish I was still watching it. There seemed to be no length for this movie that would be too long. Richard Linklater has coughed up great characters, great dialogue and no shortage of hilarious situations in his early-‘80s tale of a college student baseball team in that no-responsibilities period between arriving at college and when classes start. Jake, Beuter, Finn, Willoughby and the boys quickly became my best friends and I swear, it didn’t matter what they were doing (often something of little consequence like trying to get into a bar or driving around lip-syncing to “Rapper’s Delight”), I could watch it for hours. Linklater has once again pulled together a who-the-hell-is-that? list of actors who are magnetic. Now that I reflect on it, this might be the funniest movie of the year. You should have seen this, but good news, movies last forever, so it’s not too late.
Hell or High WaterHELL OR HIGH WATER: Director David Mackenzie’s modern-day western is as authentic a film as you’re going to get about post-bailout American frustration. Two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) set out to rob the bank that’s foreclosing on their family. On their trail (not exactly “hot” on their trail) is a Texas Ranger and his partner (Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham). That could be the setup for a chase movie, but Hell or High Water gets more mileage out of character and the anticipation of violence. Pine is so fantastic as Captain Kirk, but this is career work for him, and Jeff Bridges delivers another iconic American character. His relationship with Birmingham is entertaining as hell. Steeped in realism and directed as if somebody cared, this is a great film.
Read full review HERE.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA: My heart goes out to Lee Chandler. And Patrick. And Randi. And Joe. And pretty much everyone in Kenneth Lonergan’s New England story of love and loss. Expert writing is routine from Lonergan, and he’s matched it here with expert direction. Casey Affleck is my pick for Best Actor as Lee, a lonely janitor saddled with having to care for his tempestuous nephew, played with unpredictable volatility by Lucas Hedges. There’s a level of honestly on display here rarely seen in the movies, as if most movies have a way they think they want you to feel, so they act accordingly. Manchester By The Sea plays the truth, and the chips fall where they may. It’s a bold, reward-filled move for Lonergan, and his characters’ benefit. So does the viewer.
Read full review HERE.
Captain America: Civil WarCAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR: How good is your franchise when the THIRTEENTH movie in the lexicon is the best. Unheard of. Yet, that’s what Marvel has done with this unprecedented coming-together of superheroes. In the aftermath of Ultron, the debate rages amongst The Avengers as to how they should protect the world – as a unit kept in check by world governments or a stand-alone peacekeeping force. This splits the heroes into two camps – Captain America’s belief that they know best, and Tony Stark, riddled with guilt over The Avengers’ collateral damage, wanting to submit to government control. This debate is handled intelligently and complicating matters is Cap’s friend Bucky, now a Manchurian Candidate-style assassin who’s seemingly on a murderous rampage. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have taken the superhero variety film and melded it with the best in spy films and espionage thrillers, and their juggling of so many characters is effortless. It plays out like a drinking game where every time a character shows up who you may have forgotten was in this – DRINK. “Holy shit, Hawkeye is in this!” DRINK. Much like the Russos-directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this definitely stands as one of Marvel’s more adult offerings, lifting the whole franchise to the highest artistic heights. Excellence in this genre is just as impressive as excellence in drama and worth praising just as much, too. This was so satisfying on so many levels, it’s an easy choice for one of the year’s best films.
Read full review HERE.

La La LandLA LA LAND: I love Pixar so much, and last year with Inside Out, Pixar finally made the top of my list. After a long love affair with Marvel, I thought they might top my list this year with Civil War, but there’s no denying the cinematic ecstasy that is La La Land. Damien Chazelle’s dream Los Angeles is the kind of town that makes movies magical (and they must be magical, ‘cause you keep going to them). From the opening number, which pries joy out of the most frustrating of places (a log-jammed L.A. freeway) to the free-wheeling dream montage at the end, this is a movie that celebrates joy, artists and dreams and the struggle to cling to these things. There is something to be said about the timing of a movie about hope (and something to equally be said about the thunderstorm of cynical naysayers who’ve come down upon it), but there’s no denying Chazelle’s skillful use color, shot composition, cinematography, locations, visual effects and more, it just all works here. This isn’t Hollywood congratulating itself, this is the celebration of risk by a movie that’s risking as it does so.
Read full review HERE.

MOONLIGHT – More lush and skilled than most independent films of its size and budget with great performances.
PATRIOTS DAY/DEEPWATER HORIZON – Fantastic one/two punch from director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg. Nail-biting real-life dramas with exceptional production value.
SULLY – Tom Hanks continues to be genuine in any role you put him in. Any. I actually invite challenge at this point, I don’t think you can stump him. Plus, Clint Eastwood continues of streak of excellence in his EIGHTIES.
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL – This movie is just cool to the core while telling a unique sci-fi parable with great acting.

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE – No question the year’s worst film, perhaps the worst superhero movie of all time (and I’m including Halle Berry’s Catwoman, Corman’s Fantastic Four and Batman & Robin). This movie got EVERYTHING wrong. Superman still hasn’t been Superman in a DCU movie yet. Everyone hates him, then they’re said when he’s dead. Lex Luthor as a Millenial is bad as an idea and execution. All that Martha crap instead of truly debating the vigilante vs. world superpower dynamic (that Civil War handled so gracefully) made this movie look childish. An all-round misfire that sets up the DC universe for disaster.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE – If you watch this movie, and you shouldn’t, take note of how fast it moves. Everyone in this really is in a hurry, as if they wanted to get to the end credits as quickly as I did.
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK – As you may know from listening to The Movie Showcast, we are big Tom Cruise fans, but Tom’s “putting on the Cruise” here, when he’s best just BEING Tom Cruise instead.
THE BFG – Joyless mess from the first Spielberg/Disney collaboration. I’m willing to forget it if Ready Player One is as badass as I hope.
ASSASSIN’S CREED/WARCRAFT – Two signs the video game adaptation is in no hurry to evolve. These are both confusing heaps of whatever-the-hell, poorly made and nonsensical.
I SAW THE LIGHT – Hank Williams is an asshole. That’s something I got out of this. And that’s all I got out of this.

(Haven’t seen – Love & Friendship, Elle, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Paterson, Little Men, The Edge of Seventeen, Queen of Katwe, The Lobster and more, as noted.)

Before we get too far into The Academy Awards, I want to give out The 2016 SNUBBIES! I could make a list of Oscar winners that I’d have no problem with seeing, except for the fact that none of them were nominated. Imagine if you woke up Monday, and here were your Oscar winners:
PICTURE: Silence
ACTOR: Tom Hanks, Sully
ACTRESS: Amy Adams, Arrival
SUPP. ACTOR: Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
SUPP. ACTRESS: Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures
DIRECTOR: David McKenzie, Hell or High Water
ORIGINAL SCRIPT: Elvis and Nixon
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Nocturnal Animals
COSTUME DESIGN: Everybody Wants Some!!

Etc., etc., I could go on, and I STILL left off Annette Bening, Sing Street, Kyle Chandler, Tickled, Divines, Joel Edgerton and more. Yet the above Snubbie Award winners – not nominated. But it goes to show you 2016, even though a crap-ton of film legends DIED…was a great year for the art. GO TO THE MOVIES.

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Glaring Omission: Not entirely glaring, but I thought there’d be some love for Silence. Paramount Pictures ran the same campaign for Silence they did for Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s a risky one – show up late and count on the prestige of the project, the reviews and Scorsese to carry the day. After bypassing the SAG Awards altogether, Wolf garnered five Oscar nominations. I predicted similar for Silence, but it didn’t take. With no awards talk and a very late-in-the-awards-season public release date, this time the reward was only one much-deserved nomination for Rodrigo Pietro’s cinematography. I thought the Academy was in love with Marty, regardless of the project, but this time it didn’t pan out. I also thought 20th Century Women had a long shot into the nominee pool. Two outside shots that weren’t really, but the reviews were there and wouldn’t it have been fun? – The Jungle Book and Deadpool.
Runners-Up: This is a pretty solid nominee group. I wasn’t thrilled with Lion, I thought it was a very predictable story of a thing that happened – NOT MUCH ELSE. Just looking at my top ten, I think you’d see that I’d add Captain America: Civil War here, or even swap it out for Lion. For success in their genre, Cap and Co. do more, better. But otherwise, there’s an accessible crowd-pleaser (Hidden Figures), an acting showcase (Fences), a risk-taker (La La Land), a burgeoning indie (Moonlight) and more. Quite diverse, and again, a great year for movies.
Great Inclusion: Hell or High Water. Not necessarily an important movie. The theme of revenge and desperation in poor America is there, but Oscar’s checklist of more “important” issues isn’t (disease, prejudice, etc.). Happy to see it nominated anyway.
Should Win: La La Land. Here’s to the fools who dream.
Will Win: La La Land. Given the road to the Oscars it’s taken, anything else would be a major, major upset.

Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Glaring Omission: AMY ADAMS. As I mentioned in my Top Ten of 2106, her performance in Arrival may be the best performance by anyone in any movie, and it’s not nominated. Adams has done this before, I thought her performance in Junebug was one for the ages. She didn’t win. But to not be nominated here is criminal. Also, Annette Bening in 20th Century Women. I thought the film meandered, but whenever Bening was on-screen, she owned it. She was also highly represented in other awards’ nominations, getting referred to as “career-best work” – not being on the list here is a shock. Also omitted here is Viola Davis, who I think is in the wrong category.
Runners-Up: Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals. Great year for her. The wonder and brains she brought to Arrival were matched in intensity by her loss and blindsided pain in Animals. Just…she’s good.
Great Inclusion: Meryl Streep. Some people are getting a little Meryl fatigue, but you can’t deny the you’ll-never-see-it-again consistency Streep brings, from project to project. She’s near flawless as Florence Jenkins.
Should Win: Emma Stone. When she finally blasts full-voice in “Audition: The Fools Who Dream”, she seals it.
Will Win: Emma Stone. Natalie Portman is looking like a clear second, but it’s not all that close.

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences
Glaring Omission: Much like I thought Oscar favorites Scorsese and Bening would be nominated, I thought there’s always room for Tom Hanks. Yet, after the embarrassing omission of his performance in Captain Phillips, maybe the sure-thing isn’t so sure anymore. So no Sully nod this year, although he’s quite good. Maybe too subtle? Also subtle and ignored here was Joel Edgerton in Loving. Both he and Ruth Negga were damn-near passive participants in their own civil rights battle – simple people who just wanted to love and be left alone. Neither part called for bombastic, attention-getting performances, but Negga got a nod and Edgerton did not. I think and hope he’ll be back in this category at some point, though.
Runners-Up: There are tons of great performances worthy, although I don’t know who you’d omit to make room – Chris Pine (or Ben Foster) in Hell or High Water, Andrew Garfield in Silence (probably nullified himself by having a good year), and Michael Shannon’s Elvis was one of my favorite meetings of role and actor of the year. But the actor with most upsetting lack of buzz this awards season is Neel Sethi who played Mowgli in The Jungle Book. This film ranked incredibly high on the critic aggregate sites, yet recognizing his ability at such a young age to act and react in an environment that was 95% digitally created, and to pull it off with great emotion, was disappointingly overlooked across all awards.
Great Inclusion: I know he’s the front-runner, but I’m going to say Casey Affleck. There’s been a scandal resurfacing about some salacious behavior with Affleck on the set of I’m Still Here, I thought that might derail his nomination. It could still derail his win.
Should Win: Casey Affleck. It’s almost harder to play bottled-up on the verge of meltdown than to be showy for two hours.
Will Win: Speaking of Academy favorites, Denzel is making a run, having won the SAG Award, but I think Casey Affleck hangs on and gets the votes.

Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by The Sea
Glaring Omission: Taraji P. Henson. I assume you put her in the supporting category. I think her character in Hidden Figures takes up the majority of the story, so it’s probably considered an ensemble where the three leads would all be supporting. But who are they supporting? Kevin Costner? Perhaps all three leads of that film should’ve been considered for the Best Actress category. Other than that, no real surprises here, these are the exact same nominees as the Golden Globes and SAG Awards.
Runners-Up: Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women.
Great Inclusion: Naomie Harris. That Miss Moneypenny’s got the goods.
Should Win: Michelle Williams. She and Davis are both excellent, I just like Williams’ movie better.
Will Win: Viola Davis. A few nominations in a general sense of industry cred – she’s due (although also in the wrong category).

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Glaring Omission: Hugh Grant, perhaps? Here’s another case where Dev Patel is on the poster for Lion, it’s his story, so maybe he’s in the wrong category. Then a true supporting performance like Grant’s could slide in there. Grant plays his line of lothario and lover very delicately. Not sure how others would fare in that part.
Runners-Up: The supporting actor category is always jam-packed, and I’m going to lead with the fierce and can’t-stop-watching-it acting of John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane. We rooted for Mary Elizabeth Winstead, but it was Goodman that drove that film. Joel Edgerton in Midnight Special (or maybe even for the film that was released without fanfare but was actually good – Jane Got a Gun. Edgerton had a great year). A stand-out amongst the winning ensemble of Everybody Wants Some!! Is Glen Powell as Finn, a leader of sorts for his freak show of college friends. Also had a good year, playing John Glenn in Hidden Figures. But again, Everybody Wants Some!! can be unfairly dismissed as “unimportant”. Less quirky and more emotional (intensely emotional) than Shannon in Nocturnal Animals was Jake Gyllenhaal. His pain, anger, frustration – he wore it all out front in a chance-taking performance. Longshot nominee would be Jonah Hill in War Dogs, a very underrated movie.
Great Inclusion: Michael Shannon. This movie needed more nominations, I’m excited for any it received.
Should Win: I like Jeff Bridges’ lived-in sheriff. Laconic the whole movie, but the emotion that piles on top of him at the end is palpable.
Will Win: Mahershala Ali (between this, Hidden Figures and Luke Cage, another guy having a great year!).

Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Glaring Omission: I repeat myself with this every year – of course there are glaring omissions when every film nominated for Best Picture fails to have its director nominated as well. So this category should also include David McKenzie, Theodore Melfi, Denzel Washington and Garth Davis.
Runners-Up: Joe and Anthony Russo for making a masterpiece out of Captain America: Civil War. Not just for nailing it, but for helping Kevin Feige make Batman v. Superman look like amateur hour. Other great runners up – the patience of Martin Scorsese, the style of Tom Ford and the casual observer method of Clint Eastwood in Sully.
Great Inclusion: Kenneth Lonergan. This nomination is a welcome surprise since it didn’t have to manage musical numbers or sweeping war scenes.
Should Win: Damien Chazelle – La La Land is a masterpiece, firing on all artistic cylinders.
Will Win: …and I think the DGA win wrapped it up for him. This is Chazelle’s second movie, his first was brilliant, and I can’t wait for the rest of his career.

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle

Glaring Omission: Finding Dory. Not as great as Toy Story 3 or Ratatouille, but the jokes and action are in line with Pixar’s best and the finale is a heartstring-tugger.
Runners-Up: Can you nominate The Jungle Book here? If you could, I think it’d have a great chance of winning.
Great Inclusion: Kubo and the Two Strings. Like most Laika movies, it’s impressive as hell, but colder than I’d like. They’re pushing the heart of the movie in their Oscar ads, but I never get over-involved, emotionally. But I can’t deny the technical achievement is mind-boggling.
Should Win: Zootopia
Will Win: Zootopia – more proof of the excellence on display since John Lasseter took the reins of Disney’s animation department.

Hell of High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

Glaring Omission: Loving, it landed a WGA nom.
Runners-Up: Straight up villainy for The Academy to exclude Nocturnal Animals here. That movie is all manner of original. Elvis and Nixon, for taking that movie and making it much more than expected. And the Everybody Wants Some!! script is awesome!! Maybe some love for The Nice Guys?
Great Inclusion: Manchester By the Sea. Kenneth Lonergan doesn’t write enough for film. I’d say these nominations are the encouragement we need to get more films out of him, but I’m sure he wonderfully doesn’t give a shit.
Should Win: La La Land
Will Win: La La Land, in what will be a big night for the film.

Hacksaw Ridge
Hidden Figures

Glaring Omission: There are six nominees in this category, where every other year, there are only five. So, they knocked it up on slot, and still couldn’t make room for the WGA-nominated Deadpool script? For everything Captain America: Civil War did to elevate the superhero movie, Deadpool successfully and gleefully subverts it.
Runners-Up: A Monster Calls, for adapting very challenging material.
Great Inclusion: Arrival, few scripts have shot so high and pulled it off.
Should Win: I like Arrival so much, but my problems with it are all in the script. AAUGH! Moonlight, then.
Will Win: Moonlight. The second place film in the Best Picture race usually wins this. If it’s to be La La Land’s night, expect Moonlight here.

Land of Mine, Denmark
A Man Called Ove, Sweden
The Salesman, Iran
Tanna, Australia
Toni Erdmann, Germany

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America

I haven’t seen any of these (although I would still say Divines from France and the doc Tickled were snubbed). Leave your scorn in the comments below.

La La Land

Glaring Omission: Arrival! Johann Johannsson’s score is distinct, haunting and often acts as a warning siren for the characters in the movie. It’s bold and unique. I honestly can’t believe it wasn’t included. Gonna bag on Lion again – that score is tedious. When the action of the story becomes tedious, it’s a double-whammy of tedium.
Runners-Up: Patriots Day (a criminally underseen movies) – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross continue electrifying work together. And not for nothing, but the score for Midnight Special is great.
Great Inclusion: La La Land, ‘cause it’s the best score of the year, finding joy in the routine and being playful or melancholy when necessary, but never overbearingly so. With that…
Should Win: La La Land
Will Win: La La Land

“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
Glaring Omission: Where are the songs from Sing Street? “Drive It Like You Stole It” from the brilliant fantasy school dance sequence was outstanding, both in reflecting the ‘80s and laying the foundation for all the characters to swing for the fences. Unfortunate omission. Unfortunate, I say. As you can probably tell by now, I’m in love with La La Land, but I’d be willing to give up “City of Stars” in this category (the least interesting of the film’s songs) to make room for Sing Street.
Runners-Up: “I’m so Humble” from Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Every song in this movie is a riot. Side note, I’d have nominated “Thank You” from Moana, and while we’re at it, here’s a special WORST ORIGINAL SONG award – whatever that noise is at the end of Passengers. The bad song that totally wrecks the mood once the end credits fire up is a plague at the movies.
Great Inclusion: “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” I couldn’t bring myself to actually see Trolls, but man this is a great song all ‘round. Justin Timberlake is better now than ever.
Should Win: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – a story about the risk of simple people sang to full voice by someone risking her heart.
Will Win: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. “City of Stars” isn’t as special as “Audition”, although it won The Golden Globe (“Audition” wasn’t nominated), and I think the Oscar voters will see that.

La La Land

Glaring Omission: Nothing glaring, but if the action movie were to show up here, there’s always Captain American: Civil War and Deadpool waiting for more nominations.
Runners-Up: Midnight Special – this movie is shot exceptionally well. Jackie for bold shot choices, including many close-ups demanding an intimate examination of Jackie O. And if I haven’t mentioned already that Nocturnal Animals looks gorgeous, the photography is part of the reason!
Great Inclusion: Silence – towering work, good to see this film get at least one nomination.
Should Win: This is TOUGH. What a great category. Lion didn’t do much for me, but any of the other nominees I could give it to. I’ll go with La La Land just ‘cause it’s my favorite film of the bunch.
Will Win: La La Land, just edging out Moonlight on their way to an all-night rout.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemBEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land

Glaring Omission: Not really glaring, but Hacksaw Ridge could’ve seen a nomination here. The usual historical film isn’t represented outside of the more quirkier Hail, Caesar!.
Runners-Up: Hidden Figures, Hell or High Water.
Great Inclusion: Hail, Caesar!. Not my favorite Coen Brothers effort, but one thing they’re consistent on is making their films look awesome.
Should Win: La La Land. Screw it, I’m in love.
Will Win: I think the fantasy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them wins out.

Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours

Glaring Omission: Patriots Day – the re-creation not only of the marathon events and pulsating explosions, but the raw sound of the suburb showdown between the Tsarnaev brothers and the police gave those scenes bracing immediacy. But I suppose three action films was enough nominees.
Runners-Up: Captain America: Civil War, A Monster Calls, blending the natural and supernatural effectively. Deepwater Horizon.
Great Inclusion: Arrival. So much of this movie relies on audio, it’s about communication. Mixing the familiar with the alien, audibly, went a long way to making that story more accessible.
Should Win: Arrival
Will Win: Arrival, although don’t count out La La Land…again.

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

Glaring Omission: Arrival! Screwed again. It’s tougher here to be subtle than to show off. Also pretty shocked Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them isn’t nominated here, too…but I can’t fault anything included.
Runners-Up: Oh, so many – Sully scared the crap out of me with the authentic plane crash scenarios, real and imagined. Deadpool, for pulling off incredible action visuals with only a $50 Million budget and Midnight Special for doing so much with only $18 Million, including development of alternate universes and a damn METEOR SHOWER! I know it probably shouldn’t be taken into account, but I think what you get based on what you’re handed to work with is admirable. When the pockets are bottomless, of course you make Rogue One, but Midnight Special is pretty impressive, considering.
Great Inclusion: Kubo and the Two Strings – sure it’s an animated film, but watch just one of the behind-the-scenes making-of videos for Kubo and you’ll see a massive undertaking to pull of complex visual effects.
Should Win: The Jungle Book – when the credits roll and you learn that none of this movie was shot on location – mind. Blown.
Will Win: …and I think it’s got a chance. The Jungle Book.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land

Glaring Omission: Hidden Figures. There’s only one Best Picture nominee represented here. There are opportunities for more.
Runners-Up: Doctor Strange – This is another movie where the entire outfit of the hero could be goofy. The right costume team paired with the perfect actor proves otherwise. Also The Nice Guys, Elvis and Nixon, Sing Street and Captain Fantastic, for those authentic hippie duds. Lots of good work out there. And lastly, Nocturnal Animals – Tom Ford overseeing how to dress the Los Angeles elite? Sign me up.
Great Inclusion: La La Land, for representing modern day (albeit a heightened one). So much emphasis is always on fantasy and history in this category, it’s good to see the modern dress represent.
Should Win: La La Land
Will Win: La La Land, beating Jackie by a pillbox hat.

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Glaring Omission: As ever with this category – two more nominees. Throw in some blood and guts, maybe? Hacksaw Ridge?
Runners-Up: Deadpool, for f-ing up Ryan Reynolds’ face.
Great Inclusion: Star Trek! (see below)
Should Win: The great work on Star Trek Beyond – Jaylah and Krall both looked badass and leagues ahead of the simple makeup used to distinguish an alien race on the television series.
Will Win: I don’t know A Man Called Ove, never met A Man Called Ove, but I’ve looked at some stills from the film and it looks like subtle old age makeup. I hope they reward Star Trek instead.

Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

Glaring Omission: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, even more so than sound mixing, it’s the design and creation of all the foreign-to-our-world audio that might get the nomination…or so I thought.
Runners-Up: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, for bringing magical creatures to life through their sounds.
Great Inclusion: Deepwater Horizon. Half of that movie’s effectiveness is the you-are-there intensity, and much of that is accomplished with the sound editing.
Should Win: I’m gonna go deep with this pick, no pun intended – Deepwater Horizon.
Will Win: La La Land – get the broom.

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land

Glaring Omission: Manchester By The Sea – seems simple, but screw up the pace of that movie and you sink the whole thing.
Runners-Up: Comedies never, ever show up here (and timing is KEY in comedy), so let me nominate Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a feature which has to launch into a number of different tones throughout the movie, flying from a mockumentary feel right into a fast-cutting music video.
Great Inclusion: Hell of High Water, full of so many great editing moves that are mostly great ‘cause you don’t see them.
Should Win: La La Land
Will Win: La La Land

4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Ennemis Intérieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights

I haven’t seen any of these, either (except Piper, which was excellent and I expect it to win). Continue to leave your scorn in the comments below.

That’s it! (and that’s plenty) Argue with me below if you will. The Oscars are Sunday night, Feb. 27th!

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