Oscar Weekend

Oscar Statues on display at the Time War

The Oscars are this Sunday, February 26 at 7:30 CST. I’ve had the chance to see more of the films since the nominees were announced and, for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the categories where I have thoughts worth sharing:

Note: Starred items * mark the ones I have watched.

 

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated *
OJ: Made in America *
13th *

Fire at Sea, about desperate migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa, looks interesting and Life, Animated about a fun-loving Autistic young man, was very nice, but I think this award is going to go to one of the three docs dealing with race in America. I wish I had seen I Am Not Your Negro, which looks at American History through the words of writer James Baldwin. In some ways it seems similar to 13th, which looks at the continued oppression of African Americans since the end of slavery. I think 13th is well done and something everyone should see but, judging just from my impression of the trailer, I feel like I Am Not Your Negro looks more personal and heartfelt.

OJ: Made in America is a very interesting look at the life of OJ Simpson and the wider context of the times in which he rose and fell in the public’s eye. Personally, however, I don’t feel like a five part, “film,” that is more than seven and a half hours in total running time, constitutes a, “feature.” I think it’s a TV series that was played in a few theaters to meet the technical qualifications for the Oscars but it should not be in the running here. That said, I would also encourage people to watch it.

BEST PICTURE

Arrival *
Hacksaw Ridge
Hidden Figures *
Fences
Hell or High Water
La La Land *
Lion *
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight *

I’m betting on Hidden Figures and I think it deserves to win. It’s a feel good movie that highlights an overlooked part of our history and makes you think about racism and sexism. Personally, however, I also think that it looks a lot like other feel good movies I have seen. Not that this is a bad thing, I’m just saying that part of me would like to see a more outside the box winner and the one that felt the most original to me was Moonlight. This story, of a young gay black man with a drug-addicted mother, and the way in which it is told seem very fresh to me; though not very happy.

My fear (or “worry” might be a better word?) is that La La Land will have a wide appear to the Hollywood crowd and revive the hashtag #oscarsowhite. It’s a movie about the movie business and a throwback to classic musicals, which is bound to check a lot of boxes for many members of the Academy, but there are certainly far better films about the film business and far better musicals out there that never got fourteen nominations.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land *
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

From what I have read and heard, I’m guessing this one will go to Denzel, with Casey Affleck as a possible alternative. I certainly don’t see why Ryan Gosling is on this list. Not that he did a bad job in La La Land – he was good – I just don’t see it as award worthy or particularly special in any way. I’d say take Gosling off and add in Joel Edgerton for Loving.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving *
Natalie Portman, Jackie *
Emma Stone, La La Land *
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

I have the same feeling about Emma Stone’s La La Land performance as Gosling’s; it’s fine but it’s not all that. Loving was an good, interesting and touching story about the end of miscegenation laws in America but Ruth Negga’s part almost felt like a supporting role to me. By far, I think Natalie Portman deserves to be recognized for her very believable impression of Jackie-O. Overall the film is a reasonable portrait of that tragic weekend in which President Kennedy was murdered and buried, and the way in which his widow helped to solidify his legacy, but Portman’s efforts to imitate Jackie’s distinctive manner without crossing the line into comedy was the best thing about it.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Arrival *
La La Land *
Lion *
Moonlight *
Silence *

I don’t have any strong feelings about the editing or cinematography for any of this year’s films but I would like to see Silence win something and this is the only category it is nominated in. This passion project from Martin Scorsese follows two 17th century Jesuit priests on a mission to Japan to spread the Gospel and find their old mentor, a priest who has apparently renounced his faith after Japanese authorities cracked down on Christianity and tried to stump it out completely from their empire. The film is a very interesting study in faith that raises questions about why people believe and how far they should go to spread, propagate, or defend their vision of what is true.

 

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

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

Zootopia and Moana were good but standard fare, while The Red Turtle, with its lack of dialogue was nice but too Arthouse. My Life as a Zucchini looks good in terms of the visuals and the story – I hope to see it sometime – but Kubo and the Two Strings was so different from anything I have seen before and I really enjoyed it. It’s a must see and I hope it wins.

VISUAL EFFECTS

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

Just to reinforce that fact that Kubo and the Two Strings is unlike anything I have seen before, I’d like to see it take home this award as well. It’s one of those rare animated features that I wish would be considered for Best Picture, overall, and not just as a work of animation.

 

 

 

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