Academy Awards 2017

“The idea was to redefine a 467-minute documentary as a cinematic experience and to be eligible for the end-of-year awards circuit.”

When the Academy Awards nominations were announced on January 24, I noted what I’d seen, and what I liked the most, and also who/what I thought would win. Link (only the first time) to any movie I saw and reviewed.


“Arrival” – I thought it was a nice meditation. It may have peaked too soon, and with no acting nominations, I don’t expect it to win.
“Fences” – I liked it a lot, with bravado performances. But perhaps it was too stagy.
“Hacksaw Ridge” – I had no real interest in seeing this. It was, per the R rating, “for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images.”
“Hell or High Water” – I had considered seeing it, but reviews such as “The violence has speed, impact and follow-through — it’s a magnificent rebuke to all the hundreds of cute killings on screen in summer movies” made me wary
“Hidden Figures” -it is my favorite film of the ones nominated. Maybe not the best, but the one that made me the happiest when I left the theater
“La La Land” – I do like this movie too, and have defended it
“Lion” – great first part, OK second part
“Manchester by the Sea” – fine film, depressing as hell
*“Moonlight” – the best picture nominated
All the Best Picture noms in the first half of the alphabet!


Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival” – I love the way the story is put together in a nonlinear way, which I should credit to the editor, I suppose
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge” – I had forgotten that Gibson was directing it; he’s come out of Hollywood purgatory, it would seem
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land” – paced well, I thought, though some I’ve talked with would disagree
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” – my rooting interest
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea” – fine job

Actor in a leading role

Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea” – I was distracted that a comic character he played in a Saturday Night Live piece is not dissimilar to this character
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge” – he’s in “Silence” too; haven’t seen that either
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land” – I think he might win because he learned to play piano for the role
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic” – I would like to see this, suddenly
*Denzel Washington, “Fences” – I wonder if the limited venues chosen by the director (who was NOT nominated) will affect the actor’s chances; maybe not, as it was a tremendous performance

Actor in a supporting role

Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight” – not only is he great in this role, he’s fine in Hidden Figures; my rooting interest
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water” – he’s well-liked, well-regarded
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea” – really glad he was nominated
*Dev Patel, “Lion” – I thought it was a bit overwrought for a time, and it bugged me
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals” – I steered away from this film, so can’t say

Actress in a leading role:

I’m not much for “slights” but I thought Amy Adams would be here for Arrival, steadied by her performance in Nocturnal Animals. And I thought Taraji P. Henson had a real shot at a nomination for Hidden Figures.
Emma Stone, “La La Land” – more than with Gosling, she was criticized for not being able to sing. I don’t think she’ll win
Natalie Portman, “Jackie” – people loved or hated the movie; the weekend it left town, I had decided to see it. She may win
Ruth Negga, “Loving” – great performance, but quiet. I don’t think she wins
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins” – an honor to be nominated, again
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle” – I thought about seeing this, but a film of that’s “a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her” just didn’t quite make the cut. Still, I wouldn’t bet against her winning

Actress in a supporting role

Viola Davis, “Fences” – this is not a supporting actress role. She won Best Actress for the same role on Broadway. Still, she’s as close to a lock as anyone.
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight” – after watching her interviewed by Charlie Rose, she’s become my favorite in a year without Viola Davis
Nicole Kidman, “Lion” – she’s good, had a really fine scene or two, but not blown away
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures” – she was solid and dependable, and nothing wrong with that
*Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea” – she’s very good, and in another year, she might win

Adapted Screenplay

“Lion,” by Luke Davis – the first part is great
“Arrival,” by Eric Heisserer – I enjoyed it, but it seemed to confuse more than a few
“Moonlight,” by Barry Jenkins – my rooting interest, the most important story being told
“Hidden Figures,” by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder – this is quite a good synthesis of fact and near fact
*“Fences,” by August Wilson – August Wilson died in October 2005; how does he even get nominated in this category?

Original Screenplay

“Manchester by the Sea,” by Kenneth Lonergan – I think this will be the consolation prize for a fine film
“Hell or High Water,” by Taylor Sheridan – I heard good things
“La La Land,” by Damien Chazelle – maybe, but I’m not feeling it
*“20th Century Women,” Mike Mills – its only nomination; won’t win
“The Lobster,” by Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos – I heard all sorts of things about this movie, which I never had a chance to see. It sounds weird, which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have liked it. But it won’t win here either.


“Arrival” – as an unconventional story, it pulls off the look of its elements convincingly
“La La Land” – bright and shiny when it’s positive; I suspect it could win
“Lion” – great contrast between the India and Australia sections
“Moonlight” – has the appropriate bleak look
“Silence” – looks good in the ads

Documentary feature

“Fire at Sea”
“I am Not Your Negro” – a story about James Baldwin that’s has appeared in trailers but hasn’t made it to town yet
“Life, Animated” – I liked it, but it’s a personal/family story, and will have trouble competing
“OJ: Made in America” – as the Boston Globe story explains: “Before putting it into heavy rotation on ESPN in June and July [where I saw it], ESPN Films released the documentary in two theaters in May: the small New York City indie stalwart Cinema Village and the similar Laemmle Monica Film Center in Los Angeles. Drawing crowds wasn’t the point. The idea was to redefine a 467-minute documentary as a cinematic experience and to be eligible for the end-of-year awards circuit.” This clever tactic is allowed. It is VERY good, but this feels like a bit of a cheat
“13th” – Ava DuVernay’s piece on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and mass incarceration I would very much want to see; watch the trailer.

Documentary short:

*“4.1 miles” There are 4.1 miles from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, and thousands of people in recent years have made the perilous journey – as of this writing, you can see the film here.
“Joe’s Violins” – this was a Kickstarter project
“Watani: My Homeland”
“The White Helmets”

Foreign language film:

“Toni Erdmann,” Germany
“The Salesman,” Iran
“A Man Called Ove,” Sweden – this film played for weeks in Albany, and jut at the point we finally were going to see it, it left. Bummer.
“Tanna,” Australia
“Land of Mine,” Denmark

Sound editing – now we get to the technical categories where I have no idea

“Deepwater Horizon”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”

Sound mixing

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

Original song

“City of Stars” (“La La Land”)
“How Far I’ll Go” (“Moana”) – Lin-Manuel Miranda could get an EGOT (Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony). In fact, since he won a Pulitzer, he could win a PEGOT, like Richard Rogers and Marvin Hamlisch. And with two songs from La La Land, he’s not throwing away his shot
*“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” (“La La Land”) – this is the song that made me cry, so it’s my pick
“The Empty Chair” (“Jim: The James Foley Story”)
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (“Trolls”)

Visual effects:

“Deepwater Horizon”
“Doctor Strange”
*“The Jungle Book” – it did look good
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Makeup and hairstyling

*“A Man Called Ove”
“Star Trek Beyond”
“Suicide Squad”

Costume design

*Mary Zophres, “La La Land”
Madeline Fontaine, “Jackie”
Consolata Boyle, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Colleen Atwood, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
Joanna Johnston, “Allied”

Film Editing

“Hell or High Water”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”

Animated Feature Film

“Kubo and the Two Strings” – here’s the soundtrack
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“Zootopia” – clearly my favorite of the two I’ve seen.

The Academy Awards will air on February 26.

Movie review: Moonlight, from Barry Jenkins

The adult THINKS he’s figured out his path.

I didn’t notice until after The Wife and I saw the movie Moonlight at the Spectrum. The poster for the film is a triptych, as was the movie itself. Moonlight is billed as a “coming-of-age story,” with three distinct, but related, tales.

In the first portion, Little, the black youth (Alex Hibbert) is living in a down-and-out section of Miami. He’s constantly running from the bullies, who pick on him, though he really doesn’t understand why. Little is living with his single mom, Paula (Naomie Harris), a drug addict. He has but one friend, Kevin (Jaden Piner), and falls under the influence of a neighborhood drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) and Juan’s girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe).

The second segment is Chiron, where the 16-year-old (Ashton Sanders) continues to deal with his difficult life. The third part is Black, the adult (Trevante Rhodes) who thinks he’s figured out his path. The movie also stars Duan Sanderson, Jharrel Jerome, and André Holland in these segments. Despite the three lead actors over time, the narrative does NOT feel episodic.

The movie is adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by screenwriter and director Barry Jenkins. It was filmed in the Liberty City section of Miami, where Jenkins grew up.

As Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, “‘Moonlight’ is and isn’t a story of Jenkins’ life. Like Chiron’s mother in the film, Jenkins’ mother was an addict. Like Chiron’s father in the film, Jenkins’ father was nowhere to be seen. But it is McCraney, the Miami-born and -raised playwright, whose sexuality is reflected in Chiron.”

Moonlight is a well-regarded film. Brian Tallerico writes in, “‘Moonlight’ is a film that is both lyrical and deeply grounded in its character work, a balancing act that’s breathtaking to behold.” While you may have seen elements of this story in other films, in its totality, it’s unlike any movie I’ve seen.

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