So it’s that time of year again; Oscar Season. With September comes a trio of film festivals that mark the starting pistol for another year of awards prognosticating. Starting with the Venice film festival and continuing on with Telluride and Toronto, hopeful awards contenders debut their films here to much success every year. Of the last nine best picture winners, eight debuted or played at the Toronto film festival. Since it’s just ended, it’s a perfect time to start looking at this year’s stock.
Last year I went 18 for 24. Respectable, but not impressive. I look to improve upon that track record this year.
1. La La Land
At the end of the first three major festivals of the season, one movie stands far and away above all the others. That movie is Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, a modern musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in their third onscreen pairing. Debuting at Venice and playing to increasing praise in Telluride and Toronto, La La Land capped off its run by winning Best Actress for Stone at Venice and the Audience Award at Toronto. That Audience Award is the best precursor a film can win at this point in the race. Of the last ten winners, seven have been nominated for Best Picture and three have gone on to win it (Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, and 12 Years a Slave). La La Land is in great company and is in the best possible position it could be. The question is, does it have the steam to last all season or will one of the following surge past it?
This, like The Revenant last year, is the big mystery of the season currently. There’s no trailer. The late December release date was just announced. All we really know is the plot and that it’s being directed by Martin Scorsese. If there’s one movie that can come out of nowhere and knock La La Land out of the top spot, it’s this passion project from one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live. It’s based on the book Silence by Shusaku Endo about a 17th century Portuguese priest in Japan. It stars Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, and Adam Driver. It will likely be magnificent.
Based on an acclaimed August Wilson play that recently won Tony’s for both of its leads, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, Fences is one of the biggest contenders of the year. Also directed by Denzel, he and Viola could easily repeat their wins at the Oscars. Denzel is directing the film as well so if he knocked this one out of the park the way the trailer suggests, he could easily pull an Affleck and win big with his third directorial effort.
4. Manchester By the Sea
This critical darling debuted way back in January at the Sundance film festival but played at the fall festivals strengthening its already formidable buzz. This film comes from Kenneth Longeran who directed his first film, You Can Count on Me, to two oscar nominations. His latest, a drama about a man who steps in to raise his nephew after his brother unexpectedly dies, is getting raves from all who see it. It’s looking like a strong contender in many categories: Best Picture, Director, Actor for Casey Affleck (the other one), and Supporting Actress for Michelle Williams.
The latest film by Jeff Nichols also debuted earlier this year where it earned raves at the Cannes film festival in May. Like Manchester by the Sea, it solidified its spot in the race playing to a rapturous reception at recent festivals. The true story about the overcoming power of love features knockout performances by the two leads, Joel Egerton and Ruth Negga. It’s expected to be a major player for its actors as well as securing itself as a frontrunner in this race.
6. The Birth of a Nation
No film has experienced the almost rollercoaster-esque rise and fall of the awards season more than The Birth of a Nation. It debuted at Sundance to near ear-shattering praise and was swiftly picked up by Fox Searchlight (the company behind 12 Years a Slave and Birdman) for a record $17 million price tag. Then, a couple weeks ago, an old news story about the writer/director/lead actor Nate Parker’s involvement in a rape case resurfaced. The case was nearly two decades ago and Parker was acquitted, but it immediately halted Birth‘s momentum, potentially stifling it completely. Then, in spite of all this, Parker and his team brought The Birth of a Nation to Toronto where it was passionately received. Many people are still very critical of Parker himself but as of right now, Birth is one of the most lauded films seen so far this year and should find itself among the nominees.
Like Room last year, this tiny film is capitalizing on its terrific reception at the festivals to launch itself into the race in a big way. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, adapting from Terell McCraney’s unproduced play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. It’s getting major buzz in the acting categories as well as for writer/director, Jenkins.
On of the most interesting and exciting film makers coming up today is Canada’s Denis Villeneuve. He was nominated for an Oscar for his foreign language masterpiece Incendies, before making his English language debut a few years later with the one-two punch of Prisoners and Enemy. Last year his film Sicario was a perennial contender, eventually landing three nominations. With Arrival it seems he may finally be brought back to the Oscars in a big way. Well-made genre films have been a mainstay at the awards the last couple years. The glass ceiling was almost definitely broken by Lord of the Rings, but in recent years we’ve seen great films like Gravity, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Life of Pi up for the biggest awards. No film looks like it has a better shot of filling that slot this year than Arrival. Also the reviews are kind of stellar.
One of the runners up to the Toronto Audience Award was this multicultural story directed by Garth Davis. This is the true story of a boy who was separated from his family when he was young, adopted by a family of Australians and then, in adulthood, hunted his family back down using Google maps. It’s said to be quite the emotional ride– something many are saying will take it far this awards season. It has one other thing going for it, however, that may take it further; Harvey Weinstein. No single person has had as much an effect on the Academy Awards in the last two decades as Harvey Weinstein. Lion is his champion this year and its become unwise to bet against him. Also Dev Patel is supposed to be pretty terrific in the lead role.
One of the biggest surprises to come from the festivals this year was how well Chilean director, Pablo Lorraín’s Jackie was received. Natalie Portman steps into the iconic shoes of the former first lady and apparently delivers a difficult and astounding performance. While many could have predicted her ending up in this position just looking at the material involved, it’s the acclaim surrounding the rest of the film that’s such a big surprise. The film is being pretty universally praised in many categories including Best Picture. It’s scheduled for release in early December. Lets see if it can stay in talks until then.
Clint Eastwood is at it again. After tremendous success with American Sniper, the 86-year-old icon turned his lens to another true story of heroism. Sully was a hit at the festivals where it debuted and has gone on to become a major box office success too, already grossing nearly $100 million. Much of that is due to Tom Hank’s subtle, powerful work. Watching Sully, I was personally unimpressed. It was a decent film but not awards worthy. Of course, I felt the same way about The Martian last year and it got nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor. Perhaps Eastwood and Hanks will surprise in the same way.
12. Nocturnal Animals
Fashion designer Tom Ford first took to directing in 2009 where he delivered a rather remarkable debut picture. A Single Man snagged Colin Firth an Oscar nomination and, some could say, an entire career revitalization. Now, seven years later, Ford has returned with the taut thriller Nocturnal Animals. Featuring fierce performances from Amy Adams (her second nomination worthy lead performance to debut at the festivals this year), Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Linney, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals could make the splash that A Single Man fell short on by being up for the big award of the night.
13. Live by Night
Ben Affleck is back in the director chair for this prohibition era drama. The trailer and the content don’t scream Oscar, but neither did Argo and look how that worked out. Recent bat-suit missteps aside, Affleck has always been a fantastic director. All of his films are in the 90’s on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s see if he can hit four for four.
14. Hell or High Water
No film would I be more pleased to pop up on the Academy’s list this year than Hell or High Water. It’s the best film of the first half of the year and if a couple of the films above fail to impress, it could just be deservedly remembered. David Mackenzie’s consummate direction fuels this smart crime modern western with three stellar performances at its core. If there is a deserving underdog this season, it’s this. Here’s to hoping the industry feels the same way.
15. A Monster Calls
A couple years ago, J.A. Bayona directed the powerful and moving disaster film, The Impossible. It announced a talented film maker who is making good on that promise with this Pan’s Labyrinth-esque fantasy story. Said to be occasionally scary and incredibly moving, A Monster Calls doesn’t have a terrific shot making this line up, but it’s holding on for the time being.
Also in Contention: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Hidden Figures, The Lobster, Queen of Katwe, Rules Don’t Apply
Many may critique me for putting Ang Lee’s newest this low, but a friend of mine saw it and claimed it was quite the misfire. Either it won’t factor in, or I don’t trust my friends taste anymore and I’ll eat crow. Either way we’ll find out when the New York Film Festival begins tomorrow where it will have its debut. With the right push Hidden Figures could end up here if it’s as good as people seem to think it might be. Warren Beatty may have found something in Rules Don’t Apply, but based on the trailer I’ll hold off moving it up. The Lobster and Queen may find marginal success in the acting or screenplay categories, but I doubt they’ll make much of a play here.
1. Damien Chazelle – La La Land
With the Best Picture frontrunner status comes almost immediate Best Director frontrunner status as well. Though based on the number of picture/director splits the last couple of years, that doesn’t necessarily mean as much anymore. However, people seem really taken with La La Land and what Chazelle has done with it. It’s his passion project after all, and if none of the men below surpass him, it could win him a Directing Oscar.
2. Martin Scorsese – Silence
It’s been nearly a decade since Scorsese finally won the Oscar which is more than enough time to make a case for a second win. Ang Lee won his second directing Oscar seven years after his first, Spielberg did it in five years and, as we’re freshly aware, it only took Alejandro G. Iñárritu two. It’s time Scorsese join their ranks. Will Silence resonate in a way most of his previous films haven’t? It’s all a question mark until December.
3. Denzel Washington – Fences
Adapting material from the stage to the screen is always tricky as the director. Many have failed working with truly terrific material. Can Denzel navigate these pitfalls to craft one of the best pictures of the year? Based on the trailer, I would venture a yes. This could be a big breakthrough as Denzel, if he won, would become the first African-American person to win Best Director. It’s long past time that’s happened and there may be no one better to break that glass ceiling than Denzel himself. The only question that remains? Is the film good enough. We will know in time.
4. Kenneth Longeran – Manchester by the Sea
Longeran missed out on picture and director nominations with his first film. Will this quiet family drama get him back in the race? Support for the film but it has a tough road to weather ahead. And due to the simplistic nature of the story, Longeran could be left out all together for flashier contenders ala Todd Haynes last year.
5. Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
One of the flashier options is this smart sci fi trip directed by one of the best up and coming directors in the business. Villeneuve has yet to be recognized in this category, but its truly only a matter of time. Will this be his year?
6. Jeff Nichols – Loving
Nichols directed one of the best films of the last couple years with Mud. Reviews are saying that he may finally get some well deserved credit for this timely tale about a biracial marriage. Reviews for the film are very positive, but like Longeran, Nichols work could be overshadowed by something flashier.
7. Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
If Moonlight really is the Room of this year than Barry Jenkins may shortly find himself an Oscar nominee for the beautiful and moving film about a black man coming to terms with his homosexuality. Like with Longeran and Nichols, Jenkins biggest hurdle is the seeming simplicity of his story. But with the right narrative and especially with the #oscarssowhite controversy still stinking the last two years, Moonlight and Jenkins could find themselves the recipients of some much deserved recognition.
8. Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Tom Ford’s directorial debut was beautiful and haunting and powerful, and everything I’ve heard about his newest film says it’s the same. Can an odd art film directed by a fashion director break through as one of the top films of the year? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.
9. Nate Parker – The Birth of a Nation
Oh Nate Parker. This is going to be an interesting campaign to watch. Two months ago he would have topped anyone’s list of potential nominees, but with these allegations, he could find himself totally empty handed when nominations are announced. We should know more as we see the film continue to roll out this fall. Who knows, it wouldn’t be the first time a Best Director winner has been accused of rape and still won. It may not even be the second time…
10. Clint Eastwood – Sully
Eastwood is one of the most dependable and consistent directors in Hollywood. They love him and with good reason. If Sully follows the path of The Martian, he could find himself in contention once again.
Also in Contention: J.A. Bayona – A Monster Calls, Warren Beatty – Rules Don’t Apply, Ang Lee – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Pablo Lorraín – Jackie, David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water
1. Denzel Washington – Fences
Washington already has two Oscars and I’m sure there are many people who wouldn’t mind giving him a third. Can he direct himself to an acting win? It’s a feat few have ever accomplished. Based on the trailer, I’d say he’s the frontrunner. A perfect remedy to #oscarssowhite is rewarding the very deserving work of those who are #notwhite. The fact that he’s an adored icon doesn’t hurt either.
2. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
When Manchester by the Sea debuted at Sundance, Affleck’s performance was hailed as a sure fire contender. Now that most of the other anticipated leading performances have been seen, his performance is being hailed as a frontrunner. Affleck is after all a previous nominee for his eerie and affecting work in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Is it finally “the other Affleck’s” time?
3. Joel Edgerton – Loving
Edgerton has been doing solid character work for years now. He was the talk of a lot of prognosticating last year for his role opposite Johnny Depp in Black Mass. He missed out for that one, but with this one he seems to have a much better shot. If the film does well commercially and critically when it’s released, he could likely find himself in come nomination morning.
4. Ryan Gosling – La La Land
While the film has been universally praised, it’s mainly been for its direction and lead actress. Gosling’s name has come up among those who have seen the film but seemingly less effusively. Gosling has been extremely close to his second nomination for some time now. There’s a good likelihood he will receive it for this, but it would take a lot more for him to claim the win.
5. Tom Hanks – Sully
Tom Hanks is one of the best actors alive. He also hasn’t been nominated in over a decade an a half despite fantastic turns in Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks. This could be the year that breaks that streak with Hank’s nuanced work in Sully. Or he could be overlooked again. I personally didn’t think this performance as strong as his previous two I listed, but the Best Actor slate is so weak this year I would be happy to see his named called.
6. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nocturnal Animals
I’m calling it right now; Jake Gyllenhaal is the new Leonardo DiCaprio when it comes to overdue Oscar recognition. Over the last couple years, Gyllenhaal has transformed himself time and time again turning in powerful performances in Enemy, Prisoners, Southpaw and most impressively Nightcrawler. A couple more performances like that and people are going to start wondering when he’ll get his Oscar. I personally think we can’t be far away from it. Will it be this year? Maybe not. But nomination number two isn’t out of the question.
7. Michael Keaton – The Founder
Keaton nearly won an Oscar two years ago for Birdman and also was on the verge of receiving a nomination last year for Spotlight. There are a lot of people clamoring that it’s time to reward Keaton. Will The Founder be the vehicle to do that with? It is being championed by Harvey Weinstein so it’s certainly possible. We won’t know until we see the movie.
8. Dev Patel – Lion
Patel found himself a SAG nominee for his performance in the multiple Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire, but that did not translate to Oscar. He is getting even better reviews for his performance here. Perhaps he can finally break into the club. Or perhaps Harvey can break in for him.
9. Andrew Garfield – Silence (or Hacksaw Ridge)
Andrew Garfield is a very exciting and respected young actor with two lauded performances in films by two great directors. Could one of them translate into an overdue nom? His Hacksaw Ridge performance was mentioned in initial reactions but not enough. Perhaps Silence can bring him the material he needs to make a real mark.
10. Nate Parker – The Birth of a Nation
(Sigh) Oh Nate. You had so much promise this season. Maybe you still do. I hope that the movie can be viewed separate from Parker’s charges. That is only fair to the story and the hundreds of people who worked on the film. But even if the film is embraced, Parker could be left without any recognition.
Also in Contention: Oscar Isaac – The Promise, Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic, David Oyelowo – A United Kingdom, Chris Pine – Hell or High Water, Miles Teller – Bleed for This
1. Emma Stone – La La Land
Emma Stone was an nominee two years ago for her performance in Birdman and she is now one of the leading contenders to win for her electrifying performance in La La Land. She’s already won Best Actress at the Venice award. Can she make it all the way to the Oscar podium? It would continue the recent trend of Oscar validating its most promising young ingenues with a Best Actress win. Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lawrence and most recently Brie Larson have all won in recent years, alighting their careers. Is Stone next?
2. Viola Davis – Fences
There is a very good likelihood of Viola Davis surging past Stone once Fences is seen. Her moments in the trailer were incredible and exactly what we’ve come to expect when you give that woman something to chew on. She already won a Tony for her performance in the staged version, however rumors are swirling that she may go supporting for the Oscar. In the original staging of the play that role was nominated for the equivalent of Supporting Actress, but when Viola played her it was considered lead. Will she get enough material to make the cut for Best Actress? Or do we already know the winner for Supporting Actress? Either way, expect Davis to be a huge player this season.
3. Natalie Portman – Jackie
Speaking of Portman, she’s making good on that validation by coming back to the dance with another powerful, layered performance. Jackie got tremendous reviews out of the festivals and I feel like we’re just beginning to see how far this one can go. Maybe Portman is about to get validated again.
4. Amy Adams – Arrival (or Nocturnal Animals)
For the second year in a row, the Best Actress category has been much stronger than its male counterpart. No more is this readily apparent than with Amy Adams, who has two powerful lauded lead performances this year. It’s somewhat reminiscent of when Kate Winslet had The Reader and Revolutionary Road in the same year. That was the year she ended up finally winning after six nominations. Another coincidence, if Adams gets in for either of these performances, it would also mark her sixth nomination. Could her overdue status push her to the top? Is her work powerful enough for a win or will Adams be the bridesmaid once again?
5. Ruth Negga – Loving
This Irish newcomer is making quite a splash since Loving‘s premiere at Cannes in May. She is said to be the heart beneath this story and if the film gets the kind of attention most are thinking it will, expect her to be pulled in with that.
6. Annette Benning – 21st Century Woman
After arguably being runner up to two of Hilary Swank’s Oscars, perhaps no one in this race, including Amy Adams, is more overdue for Oscar recognition than Annette Benning. With the lead role in Mike Mills newest as well as a supporting role in husband Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply, this could be the year Benning finally gets her due. If she can navigate her way past a flurry of impressive females.
7. Emily Blunt – The Girl on the Train
Blunt has been on the verge of her first Oscar nomination for years. She’s got the talent, she just needs the right role. Perhaps she’s found that in Tate Taylor’s adaptation of the popular novel. She would have to be pretty stellar to take the spot of any of the above.
8. Jessica Chastain – Miss Sloan
Jessica Chastian shot onto the screen a couple a years ago in a huge way and hasn’t looked back since. She nearly won an Oscar for Zero Dark Thirty, losing at the last moment to the Jennifer Lawrence train. Now she’s back in another lead role where she plays another strong female character in a job that is usually done by a man. No one has seen this film yet, so we can’t say how good she is, but she’s the kind of talent that is always the right performance away from a win.
9. Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Meryl is always in contention. She got unsurprisingly terrific reviews for her latest turn. That is all that needs to be said.
10. Taraji P. Henson – Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures is still quite the question mark in the awards season. Some footage has been shown, but besides that we don’t know if it’s going to be awards worthy or not. Many are predicting it will, and saying that Henson is the most likely to benefit from that. She’s really big right now with Empire and she’s a previous nominee for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Also in Contention: Sally Field – Hello My Name is Doris, Rebecca Hall – Christine, Holly Hunter – Strange Weather, Isabelle Huppert – Elle (or Things to Come), Jennifer Lawrence – Passengers
Best Supporting Actor
1. Liam Neeson – Silence
Nothing is really known here except its Liam Neeson in a Martin Scorsese movie. That alone is enough to claim the top of the list.
2. Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals (or Loving)
Shannon is one of the most interesting and charismatic performers working today. He was nominated for his role in Revolutionary Road in 2007 and very nearly nominated last year for 99 Homes. He’s quite respected at this point and is getting best in show mentions for Nocturnal Animals. Expect him to get his second nomination this year. His first win is even in the realm of possibility.
3. Aaron Eckhart – Sully (or Bleed for This)
Aaron Eckhart is a great actor who’s been around for decades and has yet to receive an Oscar nom. Interestingly, his most deserving role so far may have been that of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, but he was overseadowed by the comic book genre of the movie as well as his own Oscar winning co-star Heath Ledger. Eckhart has two films this year where he could get in. While his performance in Sully didn’t particularly wow me, I’ve like him for a while and wouldn’t mind if some recognition came his way.
4. Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
I was as surprised as anyone when I found that one of the best parts of Meryl Streep’s movie was Hugh Grant’s performance. Grant very purposefully took himself out of the public eye recently, but came back for this odd, charming story. Unless other contenders pick up some steam, Grant could be looking at his first nomination.
5. Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
There are a number of impressive supporting performances in Moonlight but the one that is getting the most attention is that of Mahershala Ali who plays a mentor of sorts to the young protagonist of the film. Ali has been doing solid work in film and tv for years. It would be fantastic to see him recognized here.
6. Armie Hammer – The Birth of a Nation
If The Birth of a Nation hits hard at the Oscars, many could be pulled in, including Armie Hammer who was nearly in contention for his double duty work in The Social Network. But he could be forgotten just as easily as the film is.
7. Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
If there was any justice to the race this year, Bridges and his co-star Ben Foster would both find themselves with nominations for their work in this film. They give two of the best performances of the year and that’s not likely to change. It’s a smaller film though so it may not have the reach to get in where it deserves.
8. Ralph Fiennes – A Bigger Splash
Despite delightful turns in several films a year, Ralph Fiennes hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since Schindler’s List over two decades ago. Despite The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s surprise (but totally deserving) success two years ago, Fiennes still didn’t find himself a nominee. Perhaps his wild turn in this dark comedy can do the trick.
9. Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Coincidentally, Lucas Hedges was also in The Grand Budapest Hotel, but it’s his much more mature work in Manchester by the Sea that would garner him recognition. He’s said to be incredible in the role of the young man who’s father dies after he’s left in the care of his uncle. If Manchester by the Sea becomes a major player, Hedges could benefit with a nomination.
10. Ben Foster – Hell or High Water
As stated above, the finest work I’ve seen this year has come from Bridges and Ben Foster here in Hell or High Water. Foster has been solid in several projects for years. He’s one of those actors that I guarantee will be an Oscar nominee one of these days. Maybe even a winner before too long. His work here will almost definitely be overlooked, but it begins a narrative for him that he can ride to his eventual victory.
Also in Contention: Billy Crudup – Jackie, Adam Driver – Silence, Alden Ehrenreich – Hail Caesar, John Goodman – 10 Cloverfield Lane, Steve Martin – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Best Supporting Actress
1. Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
One of the biggest reactions out of Sundance this year was Manchester by the Sea and namely Michelle Williams’ heartbreaking supporting performance. Williams is of the quality of actors who are really only one great role away from winning. From what I’ve heard, this is her great role.
2. Naomi Harris – Moonlight
If Moonlight were going to get any acting accolades at all, it will be bestowed on Naomi Harris for her complex performance as the lead character’s drug addicted mother. Moonlight may not get the momentum it needs to be a player in this race, but if it does watch out for Naomi Harris.
3. Laura Linney – Nocturnal Animals
Laura Linney is yet another astounding actress who is one role away from winning the gold. She is said to be very good in Nocturnal Animals but in a very limited role. It’s yet to be seen how potent that role is, but at first impression I don’t believe it’s enough to topple Michelle.
4. Nicole Kidman – Lion
Aside from Dev Patel, the most lauded part of Lion was Nicole Kidman’s supporting turn. It’s been a couple years since she was in contention, so it would be nice to her return for this uplifting tale.
5. Aja Naomi King – The Birth of a Nation
This, like all the categories, depends on how The Birth of a Nation is received by the Academy. If it’s the hit that many think it’s still going to be, King is one of the most likely people to benefit.
6. Felicity Jones – When a Monster Calls
Jones has been one of the most consistently praised portions of this movie, with several saying she is a shoe in for her second nomination. She plays a very sympathetic character in a very emotional movie. If the film can ignite some passion, she could easily find herself benefitting.
7. Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Oscar winner for The Help who has done some very impressive work since then. She was almost nominated again for her work in Fruitvale Station and if the rumors are true, she has yet another contender here.
8. Laura Dern – The Founder (or Certain Women)
No one was more pleased than I when Dern snuck in to the Best Supporting Actress race for her performance in Wild. She is a powerhouse actress who deserves recognition. Will she have the material in either of these films to get any this year? We shall see.
9. Gabrielle Union – The Birth of a Nation
With all of the allegations and condemnations circling around Nate Parker, Union turned the spotlight on herself, bravely sharing her thoughts and discussing her own sexual assault. She plays a character in the film that is sexually assaulted as well. From what I understand her role is very small and almost entirely nonspeaking, but if she experiences a groundswell of support, she could find herself with a nomination reward her bravery.
10. Lupita Nyong’o – Queen of Katwe
Since her Oscar winning work in 12 Years a Slave Nyong’o has been very busy. She has ably voiced characters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book. She received a Tony nomination for her performance in Eclipsed on Broadway. And now she plays the strong mother of a chess prodigy in Disney’s Queen of Katwe. The film itself may be a player in other categories, but it’s best shot is here with Nyong’o.
Also in Contention: Margo Martingale – The Hollars, Helen Mirren – Eye in the Sky, Janelle Monae – Hidden Figures, Kristen Stewart – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Rachel Weisz – The Light Between Oceans
Best Animated Film
1. Kubo and the Two Strings
While it doesn’t have as good a shot of winning as its Disney competition with their endless pockets and new golden age, Laika studios Kubo and the Two Strings is absolutely the best animated film of the year and deserving of this prize. The story is moving and surprising. The animation is breathtakingly beautiful. It is everything a great animated film should be and a great example of how far Laika has come as animators and storytellers. They deserve the Oscar for this film.
It’s unlikely such a small, beautiful tale will be able to overcome the juggernaut that became Zootopia. It made over a billion dollars worldwide and will be playing on Netflix for everyone to see for the next several months. And besides all of that, it’s also an incredible movie. It is nearly as deserving as the prize as Kubo and when it likely wins, I’ll still be cheering.
This is my worry; Moana comes out this fall and though it’s incredibly unlikely to have the same kind of craft as the two above entries, it will likely excite the cultural zeitgeist. It could surpass both great films and claim the prize on popularity alone like Frozen did a couple of years ago. I hope not. But I expect it fully.
4. Finding Dory
While Finding Dory didn’t quite live up to the original, I would put it firmly in the same quality bracket as Brave which won the Oscar that year, beating a much more deserving film in Wreck-It Ralph. Will Dory‘s familiarity and popularity propel it to similar undeserving heights? I hope not. But it’s certainly possible.
5. The Red Turtle
There is usually at least one foreign language film among the nominees each year. This year expect it to be Studio Ghibli’s gorgeous The Red Turtle. I’ve yet to see the film, but Studio Ghibli are some of the best animated film makers in the world and I don’t need to see it to know it’s in contention.
Also in Contention: Kung Fu Panda 3, The Little Prince, Miss Hokusai, Sausage Party, The Secret Life of Pets
Phew! Well that’s it: the current state of the Oscar race. Stay tuned for further updates and feel free to get back with your thoughts!
Author: Radcliff Weir, @radcliffweir
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