OSCAR NOMINEE BREAKDOWN 2017: Who Will & Who Should Win + Snubs!

COMMENTARY ON ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEES 

oscars2017

2017 was a fantastic year for character pieces. There are more than 10 films deserving of Best Picture nominees at the Oscars. Let’s dig into the categories and talk a bit about what will win and what should win, as well as who was snubbed.

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Hungry for more? Check out my TOP 10.

To learn more about the Oscar Voting process check out this amazing article about the nominees from the good folks over at ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES.


BEST PICTURE

ARRIVAL / FENCES / HACKSAW RIDGE / HELL OR HIGH WATER / HIDDEN FIGURES / LA LA LAND / LION / MANCHESTER BY THE SEA / MOONLIGHT

Who Will Win: LA LA LAND

Everyone loves it. No shock there. The movie homages classic Hollywood to many a cinephile’s delight. This is a tight race though with MANCHESTER BY THE SEA and MOONLIGHT biting at the heels.

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Who Should Win: ARRIVAL

A complex narrative comes to life with Amy Adam’s incredible performance. An important movie with a strong message, balanced with nuance and avoiding all melodrama. This is an alien invasion movie without every firing a shot. Absolutely loved it. Check my Top 10 to see how much. 

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Snubbed: BIRTH OF A NATION

Ignored by controversy (unlike Affleck and Gibson), this film deserves more recognition. A true story about a slave rebellion. Impressive filmmaking and provocative story telling. Worth the watch!

With 10 films ‘allowed’ to be nominated, a couple of other movies could have squeaked their way in, like fan fav DEADPOOL, indie hidden gem SING STREET, or Scorsese’s cinematic SILENCE.

Swap Out: HACKSAW RIDGE

The first 1/2 hour of this film was melodramatic and on-the-nose. I was worried. While it got better, and the battle scenes were amazing, the overall themes could have been better embellished. The story should have began after Vince Vaughn’s intro in the barracks. Imagine meeting our hero on the obstacle course, out-performing everyone, until he gets to weapon training and refuses to participate. I think this would have condensed the story into a more powerful moment. As is, characters just said exactly how they felt. It’s not a terrible film, it’s just not in the Top 10 for me.


Best Actor

CASEY AFFLECK – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA / ANDREW GARFIELD – HACKSAW RIDGE / RYAN GOSLING – LA LA LAND / VIGGO MORTENSEN – CAPTAIN FANTASTIC / DENZEL WASHINGTON – FENCES

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Who Will Win: Casey Affleck

Deservedly so. His subtle reactions invite us to participate. His character’s arc could have easily verged into melodrama, but Affleck’s restrained approach only deepens our tragic connection with him.

Who Should Win: Casey Affleck

The biggest competition here is Denzel Washington with his powerful, dialogue heavy, and nuanced emotional performance (while balancing directing duties on top of it). While Gosling is the next best bet to win, my favourite performance of his was in THE NICE GUYS.

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Snubbed: Ben Foster – HELL OR HIGH WATER

Foster’s role may be considered a supporting role, but I feel like he could be considered the leading character alongside Chris Pine. His contrast to Pine kept me on the edge of my seat, unsure of what he would do next. Foster balances this feral side with a truly heartfelt bond with his brother (Pine).  * Thinking of Supporting Roles, with Dev Patel apparently the star of LION he could also be substituted in here as a lead (or left out of the nominations).

As mentioned above, BIRTH OF A NATION was snubbed for Best Picture along with Best Actor for Nate Parker (also writer, director, producer) who deserves further consideration for his emotional leading role in this compelling true story.

Swap Out: Andrew Garfield

See above comments about melodrama in HACKSAW RIDGE.


Best Actress

ISABELLE HUPPERT – ELLE / RUTH NEGGA – LOVING / NATALIE PORTMAN – JACKIE / EMMA STONE – LA LA LAND / MERYL STREEP – FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS

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Who Will Win: Emma Stone

For the one take scene. For singing and dancing. For being vulnerable. For dreaming alongside us. Stone combined several talents to deliver a memorable performance that holds the familiar story together.

However… Never discount Streep. Also, Huppert won the Golden Globe in this category for her controversial hard-hitting foreign film ELLE (from Paul Verhoven director of the criminally underrated BLACK BOOK).

Who Should Win: Ruth Negga

If it’s not Stone, it’s Negga – a dark horse candidate for winning. While Portman may have more traction to steal the award away from Stone, Negga’s slowly becoming a force to reckon with in a variety of roles.

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Snubbed: Amy Adams – ARRIVAL

Adams is the linchpin. Without her performance, the whole movie falls apart. Without giving anything away, the complex narrative relies on her internal reactions.

Swap Out: Meryl Streep

Although, apparently deserving and a strong performance, I feel like Adams held together her story and was essential to her movie. All actresses are deserving, but to address the snub someone’s got to go. I don’t think Meryl would mind by now.


 

Supporting Actor

MAHERSHALA ALI – MOONLIGHT / JEFF BRIDGES – HELL OR HIGH WATER / LUCAS HEDGES – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA / DEV PATEL – LION / MICHAEL SHANNON – NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

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Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali

The SUPPORTING ACTOR & ACTRESS categories are the toughest competition in this year’s Oscars. With little screentime, Ali nearly steals the show. He makes an incredible impact in the first act of this intriguing narrative. He is unexpectedly delicate and nurturing. His performance simply feels real with authentic emotions.

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Who Should Win: Lucas Hedges

Since MANCHESTER relies so much on what we think as part of the audience, Hedges’ character is our portal. The film is about how men can’t communicate their emotions. Watching it, I wanted Hedges to sit down and talk with Affleck. I wanted their relationship to work out. Part of why I was so invested, is how well Hedges portrays his character. He invites us to root for him without telling us to. A natural performance from a new talent. Hedges is worth keeping our eyes on.

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Snubbed: Ryan Gosling – THE NICE GUYS

Gosling delivers one of the best comedic performances of the decade. He is absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious, with more than a few moments to shine in the spotlight. The only detraction could be technicalities – is he the star of NICE GUYS along with Russell Crowe or is he a ‘supporting’ character?

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Also, a special observation must be made for an amazing Japanese actor from SILENCE, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, portraying a devote Christian in an era (and area) where he shouldn’t be. His devotion to faith and his journey in this story was incredible. I was absolutely riveted by his performance. While he’s not on-screen for much of the runtime, he is undeniably unforgettable. If you’ve seen Scorsese’s historical epic, you know the actor I’m talking about. Outstanding!

Swap Out: Dev Patel

Someone’s got to go and Patel seems more like the star of LION than a supporting character.


Supporting Actress

VIOLA DAVIS – FENCES / NAOMIE HARRIS – MOONLIGHT / NICOLE KIDMAN – LION / OCTAVIA SPENCER – HIDDEN FIGURES / MICHELLE WILLIAMS – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

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Who Will Win: Michelle Williams

This is another tight race for the Oscar. Williams has a phenomenal scene in MANCHESTER. It’s incredibly moving. That said, I feel like she’s in the movie for a brief time and prefer another actress who had an equally important effect on the story, but had more screentime.

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Who Should Win: Viola Davis

I was really impressed by FENCES overall. I wasn’t expecting to be so enthralled. A lot of that has to do with the screenplay and its focus on characters, and a lot of it has to do with fantastic dialogue, but a whole lot of it also has to do with the sublime level of performances to enjoy. Davis has several moments (vs Williams’ one) that deserve recognition.

Snubbed: Janelle Monae – HIDDEN FIGURES / MOONLIGHT

While Octavia Spencer earned the nomination for HIDDEN FIGURES, Monae is the better co-star in a movie filled with great acting. Double-dark-horse-points to Monae for MOONLIGHT, which also deserves acclaim.

Swap Out: Octavia Spencer

I know Taraji P. Henson was snubbed, and this swap out might sting a bit, but Monae from HIDDEN FIGURES (vs MOONLIGHT) should soften the blow.


Original Screenplay

DAMIEN CHAZELLE – LA LA LAND / YORGOS LANTHIMOS & EFTHIMIS FILIPPOU – THE LOBSTER / KENNETH LONERGAN – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  / MIKE MILLS – 20th CENTURY WOMEN / TAYLOR SHERIDAN – HELL OR HIGH WATER

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Who Will Win: LA LA LAND

‘Cuz 14 nominations. It’s going to clean up a lot of the peripherary categories like this – even if it’s actually one of my favourite awards. For me, this is a familiar story with familiar characters. What makes LA LA LAND standout is its direction not writing.

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Who Should Win: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Character is king. This year had so many astounding character studies. While the story is light, the characters keep us totally absorbed. The dialogue feels so natural with purposeful pauses, “Um’s” and “Ah’s”, and with characters talking over one another. The script is simply at the pinnacle of the craft – not for a high concept or twists and turns, rather due to realism. The pacing was so tight that the film felt like an hour, and I could have enjoyed another hour.

Special Kudos to HELL OR HIGH WATER with super tasty dialogue: “What don’cha want?”

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Snubbed: Shane Black – NICE GUYS

Filled with laughs, mixing film noir with comedic hijinx, and playing on genre tropes in the most unexpected of ways, NICE GUYS deserves a nomination. Hilarious situations arise from unlikely sources. The dialogue crackles and character shines. There’s slapstick that’s actually funny, and heart that isn’t cheesy. A supremely underrated cult classic in the making.

Swap Out: 20th CENTURY WOMEN

Say whaaaa’?


Adapted Screenplay

LUKE DAVIES – LION / ERIC HEISSERER – ARRIVAL / BARRY JENKINS – MOONLIGHT / ALLISON SCHROEDER & THEODORE MELFI – HIDDEN FIGURES / AUGUST WILSON – FENCES

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Who Will Win: MOONLIGHT

The unique storytelling is champion right alongside a focus on character. This film doesn’t try to please a universal audience or set its sight on raking in millions of dollars. This is the little movie that could. It just keeps gaining momentum. While I really liked the characters and dialogue as much as the structure, I feel like there is a better script out there.

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Who Should Win: ARRIVAL

Turning a super-short story into a feature deserves some recognition. Bonus marks go to the brilliant idea of bringing the aliens to Earth. The complex narrative deserves acclaim for successfully pulling off the juggling act. Extra super cool bonus marks for making the audience think after the film is over… and not just about the movie, but about our own lives and how we understand the world.

Snubbed: BIRTH OF A NATION

Nate Parker turned to history for inspiration and condensed a captivating, controversial, ruthless story into an emotional character study we could understand. On the surface, it may be challenging to root for someone who goes to extremes; however, Parker roots the movie in faith and struggle rather than violent vengeance. While I would have liked to see more of the rebellion on-screen, I understand the controversy of focusing on this subject matter. I think todays’s audience could handle it though. For covering a lot of ground, working in visual themes, and not flinching, I think NATION deserves a nomination.

Swap Out: HIDDEN FIGURES

An important history lesson swerves into safe territory and could have been harder hitting. That said, it’s not like it doesn’t deserve acclaim, I just feel like NATION imagined history in a way that will stay with me longer. There were some troubling issues brought up in both, but NATION showed it too, beyond just telling us.


Best Director

DENIS VILLENEUVE – ARRIVAL / MEL GIBSON – HACKSAW RIDGE / DAMIEN CHAZELLE – LA LA LAND / KENNETH LONERGAN – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA / BARRY JENKINS – MOONLIGHT

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Who Will Win: LA LA LAND

For its homage to classic cinema and romanticizing musicals. Also, creative long takes with complicated choreography. Mostly, for always focusing on the right thing at the right moment.

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Who Should Win: ARRIVAL

For maneuvering around the narrative and creating such an impact. Also, for diverting expectations and rewarding those that participate in storytelling. Discovering the twist before it actually drops was part of the enjoyment. Perfectly placed hints are carefully sprinkled throughout to provoke participation. Without spoiling anything, this effect was awe-inspiring. Villeneuve balanced powerful imagery with introspective elements to create an entirely exciting kind of science-fiction we haven’t seen in a long time.

Snubbed: BIRTH OF A NATION

  • see above

Swap Out: HACKSAW RIDGE

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Foreign Language Film

LAND OF MINE / A MAN CALLED OVE / THE SALESMAN / TANNA / TONI ERDMANN

Snubbed: YOUR NAME

I haven’t seen the nominated features, but am shocked that both ELLE and YOUR NAME aren’t nominated. The latter is a phenomenal story that blew me away. I heard nerd grumblings in the proverbial underground. The whispers were right. The less you know about this special animated feature the better. It is mind-blowingly good. It grabs you with comedy, sneaks into drama mode, and bleeds with sci-fi cool.

If you aren’t familiar with anime some of the style choices may seem a little jarring; however, the emphasis on Japanese culture and history makes this movie the perfect introduction to the genre. Plus, how long has it been since you’ve enjoyed hand-drawn animation or watched a cartoon that is thoroughly entertaining for adults?

With rich themes and strong emotion, this unlikely film is an extremely dark-horse candidate for your new favourite film of the year. Find it!


Animated Film

KUBO & THE TWO STRINGS / MOANA / MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI / THE RED TURTLE / ZOOTOPIA

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Who Will Win: ZOOTOPIA

This was your average kids movie for me. While I laughed at a few parts, and appreciated the themes, there wasn’t enough new and exciting for me here.

From what I hear, MOANA is worth consideration as well.

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Who Should Win: KUBO & THE TWO STRINGS

For championing the art form, embellishing the magic of cinema, and telling a good story. Mixing myth with the supernatural in all the best ways, KUBO was the best animated film nominated for an Oscar.

Snubbed: YOUR NAME

This is an especially big snub for Animated. While I can understand no Foreign Film nom, YOUR NAME should have been a shoe-in for Best Animated. Chalk this up to awareness. Years later, if the audience finds this special cinematic experience, they will look back and shake their heads at something that was simply ‘fun’ like ZOOTOPIA winning over a true piece of art like this. I can’t speak highly enough for this Japanese box office record breaker.

Swap Out: MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI

I haven’t heard much about it – and big ups for stop-motion – however, something has to go to make room for the ultra-important YOUR NAME. Sorry, ZUCCHINI, but THE RED TURTLE looks more intriguing.


What do you think?

Check my TOP 10 Movies of 2016.


8 thoughts on “OSCAR NOMINEE BREAKDOWN 2017: Who Will & Who Should Win + Snubs!

  1. Happy to see all the love for Birth of a Nation, a very underrated film. I think it was a case of people not being able to separate the art from the artist. I also agree Amy Adams was snubbed. As far as I’m concerned, it’s her best performance to date. Arrival, as a whole, is fantastic. I agree that’s in large thanks to her. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Thanks for chiming in, Dell. Unfortunately, Birth kind of faded into the controversy. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who liked it. Definitely underrated. As for Adams, she held together that narrative. Big snub. I hope you enjoy some other articles like the special feature Rewind & Rank which breaks down each year since the 80s.

      Like

  2. Spectacular post! I’m not too keen on La La Land, but it’s the greatest blowjob every given to Hollywood, so it’ll undoubtedly win. I’m still mulling over best actress; I don’t think Stone deserves it, honestly. I’m starting to believe that Huppert is going to shell-shock us all and win. Birth of a Nation was absolute garbage filmmaking…I wrote a scathing review of it. I don’t think it got snubbed for a single thing. Viola Davis is 100% win over Michelle Williams. And, the lack of love for Arrival from the Academy hurts my heart 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha. That is one way to put it (re: all the La La Land love). Hilarious! Thanks for checking out the article, Courtney. I agree with your Huppert dark horse. I haven’t seen Elle yet, but I’m looking forward to it. As for, Nation, fair enough. I think it could have been structured differently, and may seem overly-artsie with some of its compositions and overly-written with some of the dialogue, but a few stand-out moments connected with me. I’m rooting for Viola Davis too. Fences was way more captivating than I expected. Amazing character piece. And the total non-blowjob for Arrival hurts me too 😉 Thanks for chiming in, Courtney.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for chiming in. This year there are several amazing dramas released, with most of the noms worth tracking down eventually. If you like character pieces, you can take your pick and be satisfied. I definitely recommend Manchester and Moonlight from the hyped flicks. I imagine loving musicals and classic movies will help enjoy La La Land. For me, it was really good, but not Top 5 material.

      Liked by 1 person

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