Best Films of 2017: Part 2 – Individual Achievement

Best Films Individual Achievement Collage Header

Best Director

Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Honourable Mentions: Jordan Peele – Get Out; Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

Best Actress

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water

Honourable Mentions: Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird; Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Best Actor

Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick

Honourable Mentions: Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out; Alexander Skaarsgard – IT

Best Supporting Actress

Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird

Honourable Mentions: Holly Hunter – The Big Sick; Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Best Supporting Actor

Michael Shannon – The Shape of Water

Honourable Mentions: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri; Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project

Best Ensemble Cast

The Post

Honourable Mentions: The Shape of Water; The Big Sick

Best Original Screenplay

Jordan Peele – Get Out

Honourable Mentions: Guillermo Del Toro – The Shape of Water; Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird; Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon – The Big Sick; Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri;

Best Adapted Screenplay

James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green – Logan

Honourable Mentions: James Gray – The Lost City of Z; Molly Bloom, Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game

Best Cinematography

Dan Laustsen – The Shape of Water

Honourable Mentions: Roger Deakens – Blade Runner 2049; Hoyte Van Hoytema – Dunkirk

Best Production Design

Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin – The Shape of Water

Honourable Mentions: Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola – Blade Runner 2049; Aline Bonetto – Wonder Woman

Best Visual Effects

Dennis Berardi, Mike Hill, Shane Mahan – The Shape of Water

Honourable Mentions: John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer – Blade Runner 2049; Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon, Joe Letteri, Joel Whist – War For The Planet of the Apes

Best Sound

Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill, Mac Ruth – Blade Runner 2049

Honourable Mentions: Christian T. Cooke, Filip Hosek, Brad Zoern – The Shape of Water; Gregg Landaker, Gary Rizzo, Mark Weingarten – Dunkirk

Best Stunts

Jeremy Fry, Robert Nagel, Chris O’Hara, Darren Prescott – Stunt Coordinators – Baby Driver

Honourable Mentions: Damon Caro, Tim Rigby, Marcus Shakesheff, Lee Sheward – Stunt Coordinators – Wonder Woman; Lauro Chartrand, Isaac Hamon, Terry Notary, John Stoneham, Jr., Danny Virtue, Rhys Williams – Stunt Coordinators – War For the Planet of the Apes 

Best Score

Alexander Desplate – The Shape of Water

NOTE: In my Best Of Music post three weeks ago, I originally had Wonder Woman in as Best Score. It’s still a damn good score, but I had not seen The Shape of Water at that point, only listened to the music. Hearing the music “in action,” so to speak, hearing how it paired with the film, enhanced my love of Desplate’s score.

Honourable Mentions: Hans Zimmer – Blade Runner 2049; Rupert Gregson-Williams – Wonder Woman

Best Song

‘Remember Me’ from Coco

Honourable Mentions: ‘Stand Up For Something’ from Marshall

Advertisements

Best of 2017 – Film: Part 1 – Films

Best Films Collage Header

10 Best Films of the Year

  1. The Shape of Water

    It’s no contest. It’s not even a debate that Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is the best film of 2017. It represents, top to bottom, the very best of cinema. Guillermo’s vision is a technical and visual marvel that fully pulls you into this world he’s created, the lives of these characters. To the characters, The Shape of Water boasts a supremely impressive cast who make the world pop. Michael Shannon’s Strickland becomes one of cinema’s all time great villains, Doug Jones is at his monster best, and the true star Sally Hawkins effortlessly carries so much of the film with so little done. A silent performance, she pours every thought, every emotion, into every nod, every gesture, every look. Hawkins is perfect.
  2. Blade Runner 2049

    Not to dismiss the rest of the film, because it’s all definitely top 10 material, but the spectacle of Blade Runner 2049 is the headline of the film. The spectacle wouldn’t be near as impressive without the great script and subdued performances, to be fair. But Denis Villeneuve builds upon this world created by Phillip K. Dick and Ridley Scott, and really picks at the over arcing narrative of humanity and what it means to be human, and a lot of that relies on the stunning visual cues, both obvious and subtle. And it’s all built around this really tight mystery the enhanced by the less showy performances from Ryan Gosling, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Ana de Armas and Harrison Ford, turning in probably his finest performance of his long storied career.
  3. Get Out

    There’s a lot to unpack with this film, but all credit where it’s due, this film would have failed in lesser hands. I don’t think anyone other than Jordan Peele could have made Get OutIt’s a sharp, biting film that will be lost on a lot of audiences. And to be honest, as a white male, a lot of it was lost on me, on my first viewing. Peele’s film speaks to issues and experiences, both large and small scale, that I don’t experience, that I don’t see. It was only after hearing interviews with him where he talks about the deeper meanings behind what he was saying, that the real fear behind the film starts to take shape. Normally a film that requires a study guide doesn’t really do it’s job, but this is a case of it doing its job to an exceedingly high level. It works because it makes us take a long look at what it’s saying. It would have failed without Peele. It would have failed without Daniel Kaluuya’s knowing performance.
  4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Martin McDonagh’s  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is perhaps the most un-Coen Coen Brothers film that exists. It keeps the big characters and dark humour, but strips away that very particular Coen cadance. All of this is of course very high praise. It doesn’t come off as a knock-off Coen film, that’s just an easy analogy for people who are unfamiliar with McDonagh’s work, and considering the blank stares I get when I reference In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths, that’s still a lot of people. But for Three Billboards, it’s sold on the power of the two leads, of Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. They just crush it every step of the way.
  5. The Big Sick

    I don’t want to pin an entire movie on one scene… but there’s a scene in The Big Sick with Kumail Nanjiani, playing himself essentially, that just brings it all down. If you’ve seen the film, you know it, if you haven’t, you’ll know it when you see it. But it really brought the whole thing home for me. That’s what makes this romantic comedy work in all the ways most others don’t. That human element from Kumail and Zoe Kazan and Holly Hunter. You can relate to their story, whether it directly applies wholesale or not, there are elements that pluck the right strings. It’s perfectly written and very well acted.
  6. Dunkirk

    In Dunkirk, we get Christopher Nolan’s most minimalist film, but certainly one of his more intense.
  7. Logan

    Logan gives us a double rarity in the world of superhero movies: a mature and frank look at them aging, and a character finale. And it does so beautifully.
  8. Wonder Woman

    What sets Wonder Woman (and also Spider-Man: Homecoming) apart from the rest of the superhero pack, is that they celebrate the joy of being hero experienced by people who want to be heroes. She doesn’t see her duty as a burden. She wants to be a hero. And that’s a refreshing take on heroes.
  9. Baby Driver

    Edgar Wright’s action/music/comedy Baby Driver is just pure, unadulterated cinematic fun. Is it a popcorn flick trying to be prestige? Is it a prestige flick trying to be popcorn? It’s both. It’s popcorn and prestige.
  10. Okja

    The fantasy of Okja was wildly fun, with bordering on the cusp of a post-apocalypse. It almost feels like Joon-ho Bong wrote this as a sort of prequel to his 2013 hit Snowpiercer

Continue reading

Best of 2017 – The Music

Here’s what moved me, or got me moving, in 2017. I made a concerted effort to be a better music listener this year, and I think I succeeded? I don’t know. Probably not. I was reading lists from friends and realized I didn’t listen to as much as I thought I did. Then again, I think that every year. But here’s what I dug this year. As in recent years, instead of a top 10, I’m dubbing a Best Overall, followed by Best In Genre, of the four primary genres (I don’t have time to parse it out by sub-genre and sub-sub-genre and sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub genre) and then Honourable Mentions.

Best Albums Header 2

Favourite Album: Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator

I will never claim to catch all the music that comes out. Every year we do these and I’m reading through friends’ lists, and even though I’ve got about 20 on mine, I feel dwarfed by how much I DIDN’T listen to that year. But I’m honestly kicking myself for not getting into Hurray for the Riff Raff sooner. No… that’s not the right word. For not even hearing her. There’s nothing about her that I wouldn’t like. I think Helen shared her cover of Be My Baby with me, and that put me onto her album, and sent me down the rabbit hole of her earlier work. And that’s what makes a great album. You need to devour the album again. You need to devour more of that artist’s work. The Navigator is as rich and flavourful an album can get, culling sounds and stylings from across the musical spectrum, steeped in different eras, but never feels like a walking tour of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She effortlessly pours the tracks out as if to say “I’m just gonna make music. Whatever happens, happens.” It’s lyrical stories of the downtrodden and displaced people is the perfect album long anthem for 2017.

Favourite Country: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

This was actually a very close one for me. I was constantly going back and forth between Isbell and Nikki Lane’s Highway Queen. Both are raw, powerful, pure country, yet completely different. I just connected with the energy of The Nashville Sound more than I did with the subtler Highway Queen (not that it’s a particularly subtle album). The rousing guitars, the beautiful harmonies, the strained emotions poured through the lyrics. It’s a beautiful record to spin while sunk into a chair, glass of rum in hand.
Honourable Mentions: Nikki Lane – Highway Queen; Chris Stapleton – From A Room Vol. 1 & 2; Midland – On the Rocks; Margo Price – All American Made

Favourite Rock: The National – Sleep Well Beast

The National is on the verge of qualifying for the Legacy category, a category I introduced to keep me from stuffing the ballot with artists I’ve long been a fan of, blocking my exploration of new music. But for now… All four years of love and care Berninger, the Dessner brothers and Devendorf brother put into this album while balancing a busy tour schedule and various side projects are showcased by how grand and big it feels. Not big like arena rock big, but there’s some heft to this album. If that makes sense.
Honourable Mentions: HAIM – Something To Talk About; Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life; U2 – Songs of Experience

Favourite Hip Hop: Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Lamar deftly maneuvers from rapid fire aggressive raps to slower, smoother R&B tracks, yet never missteps in his razor sharp lyricism. As a genre, by its very nature, hip-hop is very personal, and few are as a self-aware and conscious of that as Lamar. He knows exactly who he his, and what he can do, and is in control every step of the way. That skill, of being both a craftsman and an artist, is on full display in DAMN.
Honourable Mentions: Migos – Culture; Jidenna – The Chief; Wu Tang Clan – The Saga Continues

Favourite Pop: Kesha – Rainbows

You can’t talk about this album without talking about everything that led to it, specifically Dr. Luke being a garbage human being and the justice system failing her. But from the soaring empowerment ballad “Praying” to the anger infused pop-funk track “Woman” with the Dap Kings, this feels like a statement that this is the artist she always wanted to be, and is now allowed to be. She crushes it every step of the way, and if you wrote her off based on Right Round or Tik Tok, you weren’t entirely wrong, but this is not an album to miss, and I do recommend heading back and re-checking out her earlier work. It’s not entirely bad. It’s solid pop.
Honourable Mentions: Lorde – Melodrama; Harry Styles – Harry Styles; St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

Favourite Score: Rupert Gregson-Williams – Wonder Woman

Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score for Wonder Woman is fascinating on two levels. He conjures the heroic emotions reminiscent of his super-hero predecessors like John Williams, Danny Elfman & Hans Zimmer. He continues that grand tradition. But he also fuses this ancient world sound with modern sensibilities to give this grandois, bombastic, rousing theme throughout his score.
Honourable Mentions: Hans Zimmer – Blade Runner 2049; Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water; Hans Zimmer – Dunkirk

Favourite Debut: SZA – CTRL

I can’t remember the last time an R&B album, a modern R&B album hit me like this. Sure you had Leon Bridges a few years back, but he was old school R&B throwback. With SZA, there’s a raw power to her songs. It just hit me. I really dug what she did on this album, and it makes me really excited for her future output. Which is true for any of my favourite debuts, but certainly SZA.
Honourable Mentions: Harry Styles – Harry Styles; Jade Jackson – Gilded; Jidenna – The Chief

Favourite Legacy: Gorillaz – Humanz

Gorillaz are just one of those acts I will always enjoy the sheer artistry of. Top to bottom artistry. And Humanz is a joy to experience.
Honourable Mentions: Jamiroquai – Automaton; Wu-Tang Clan – The Saga Continues; Public Enemy – Nothing Is Quick In The Desert; Robert Plant – Carry Fire

Favourite Discovery: Harry Styles – Harry Styles

I’ve made mention that I’ve found my way to various artists by way of Saturday Night Live. Bruno Mars, Sia, HAIM. I had encountered One Direction via Studio 8H before, but generally just ignored them. But for some reason I gave Harry Styles a shot during his first solo appearance earlier this year, and just sat in awe of how great he was. I picked up his album when it came out, and just really dug it. He shows great reverence for some great British acts throughout modern history, from The Beatles to Elton John to Queen to Pink Floyd to Duran Duran to Robbie Williams, but never feels like a walking tour of a Brit-Pop/Rock Museum. He culls these influences to explore himself as an artist, and in doing so setting himself apart as the presumptive Justin Timberlake of One Direction (sorry, Niall Horan).
Honourable Mentions: Hurray for the Riff Raff; SZA

Special Mention: Baby Driver Soundtrack

This was just a fucking amazing soundtrack and it should be highlighted. But I didn’t know where else to put it.

Obligatory Foo Fighters Mention

I don’t give a shit if I come across as a gods damn fanboy in this, but Foo Fighters are a gods damn treasure. Like, the way Baby Boomers idolize the Beatles and the Stones, and put them on a pedestal, that how I am with Foo Fighters. They aren’t just first ballot Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, they are first round Knighthood. Sainthood.

Where A Tarantino Star Trek Could Go

The rumor that Quentin Tarantino is developing a Star Trek film is gaining traction again, now with reports that he’s met with J.J. Abrams and Paramount to work on a script, but It’s all still in super early stages. I have some ideas on what it could lead to, and also a few misgivings on Tarantino taking on a Star Trek film. And do note that I’m a massive fan of both Tarantino and Star Trek.

Tarantino Trek

Tarantino has expressed interest in doing a Trek film before, mostly as a fully fleshed out 2 hour plus version of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” (I’ll go into that later) which he went into on his Nerdist Podcast episode (relevant conversation starts about the one hour, eight minute mark). Earlier in that episode, he talked about how earlier in his career (I think it was just after Pulp Fiction) he toyed with the idea of doing a Luke Cage film, but he wasn’t confident in his ability to manage fan expectation, as he just wants to make HIS Luke Cage movie. And he’d want to make HIS Star Trek movie. I don’t think Tarantino could make HIS Trek movie while balancing studio notes and fan demands, both of whom are trying to “protect the brand.” So, much like last year’s Tarantino/Deadpool petition, as much as I’d love to see a Tarantino Trek film, two things I love, I don’t think we’d get a Tarantino Trek film, we’d get a Trek film with Tarantino’s name on it. Tarantino and franchises just aren’t a good fit. He’s got too defined a style and vision, that doesn’t jive with the studio goals for franchising films and creating cinematic universes.

That said: A fully fleshed out “Yesterday’s Enterprise” would be fantastic to fill in the holes only vaguely alluded to in the episode/franchise. And if I thought for one second that Tarantino would be allowed to make HIS Trek, I’ll be the first on board and in line to watch it. I think Paramount would do well to maybe do…. I guess an anthology franchise would be the best way to put it. They’ve got this big enormous sandbox of potential stories that have only ever been mentioned in the shows, in addition to a wide range of possibilities for Trek post-Voyager. Give some filmmakers carte blanche to make a Trek film. They don’t even need massive budgets to make it work. Tarantino could probably make a damn good one for $30million. Give the filmmakers a handful of guidelines to stick to so it’s still TREK, but otherwise, be bold.

Maybe test the waters with rebooting or remaking old stories (like “Yesterday’s Enterprise”) so you’re still kind of playing it safe, but going kinda wild with it. And the anthology comes in with “First movie is about this thing, second is about another thing with different characters, third is yet another story with still more different characters.” It’s kinda sorta what Disney/Lucasfilm is doing with Star Wars, kinda sorta what Disney/Marvel is doing with the MCU, but if they approach it right, as in, “Yeah, they’re all connected, it’s a big universe, but no one thing explicitly relies on or feeds into the other. They’re all their own thing.” Don’t make it an event. Just make it exist.

IF, and BIG IF, Tarantino’s talks with Abrams and Paramount do lead somewhere, I would actually love a full “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” movie. Full back story, Yesterday’s Enterprise is about Captain Picard’s Enterprise D encountering a temporal anomaly, with the Enterprise C breaking through from its own time 20 years in the past to join Picard in the present. The Enterprise C scored a decisive, yet sacrificial victory at the Battle of Narendra III, which saved the Klingons from a Romulan double cross. What’s important to note is that at the time of this battle, The Klingons and Romulans were allies against the Federation, but were in the middle of peace talks at Khitomer. The Federation’s sacrifice to save the Klingons, coupled with the Romulan betrayal, led to the Khitomer Accords being signed, aided by Captain Spock and Curzon Dax representing the Federation, and a longstanding peace treaty with the Klingons. But with the Enterprise C removed from that battle due to the aforementioned temporal anomaly, that battle ends differently, the treaty is never signed, and the Federation is in a longstanding war with the Klingons and Romulans.

“Yesterday’s Enterprise” stands as one of the best of that entire series, if not the entire 50 year history of the franchise, and I would love to see it bulked out and expanded on. There is a lot to that story that Tarantino could dive into. Tarantino’s ability to deftly maneuver between multiple story lines, in a fractured timeline, would make this a perfect marriage of art and artist.

Ultimately, I’m skeptical, but optimistically so.

There’s Still Time To Fix the Dark Universe

The Mummy is a very problematic film. It’s trying to be way too many things, and none of those things are what the film needs to be or should be. I get that Universal is trying to set up a Cinematic Universe, so they’re building a world, and using this film to do it. But the one thing they don’t get is that these Monsters aren’t superheroes.

When it was first announced that they were working on resurrecting their stable of classic monster films, with big names attached no less, I was excited. I grew up on the classics. Then trailers started rolling out and they looked exactly like the big budget action films they’re patterning the cinematic universe after. That’s not a knock on the MCU or the DCEU or Fox’s X-MenCU. They’re great, and they usually work for what they are. But that’s because the films fit the genre. The topics fit the genre. But we don’t need another big, loud, action-packed franchise/cinematic universe. We’ve got Avengers, Justice League, Star Wars, Transformers, Fast & Furious, and a handful of others.

What the audiance needs, what The Mummy needed to be, what the Dark Universe needs to be… is a horror franchise. A horror universe. These are monster/horror films. They don’t need to be action blockbuster tentpoles. They can be high budget horror films (which in that genre is really anything north of $5 million). These monsters, The Mummy, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, Creature From The Black Lagoon… they are the genesis for horror cinema. Don’t remove them from horror, and don’t remove horror from them.

What could Universal do with that? Dominate the fall. Just own October. Disney’s releasing a Star War every Christmas. Marvel & DC are duking it out in the summer. Just release a monster movie every Halloween. That could be THEIR thing.

Hell… follow in the Marvel/Lucasfilm footsteps of bringing in an indie/auteur director who made some waves to bring a unique eye to your films. Indie horror is huge right now. Get a horror filmmaker, one who’s had a hit over the past few years, have them conceive your film. Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Robert Eggers (The Witch), Trey Edward Shults (It Comes At Night), David Robert Mitchell (It Follows), Mike Flanagan (Hush), Fede Alvaraz (Don’t Breathe), Adam Winegard (You’re Next, The Guest), Anne Billar (The Love Witch), or go foreign for some added flare, like Julia Ducournau (Raw) from France or Sang-Ho Yeon (Train to Busan) from South Korea. All of them could bring something to the table to make these insanely good films that people would want to watch. Get them all together, say “This is our grand design for the franchise, drive your films toward it, but how you get there is up to you.” Then let the artists work.

Treat it like a horror franchise. Not an action franchise. Universal already has one in Fast & Furious. Horror is notoriously low risk/high reward (for studios, anyway). They could easily spend a modest $50 million (modest for studios), get a good cast and crew together, make some bank at the box office. And have themselves a nice tidy franchise on your hands.

Back to The Mummy, I felt like Sofia Boutella was the only one who understood that it was a horror film. She was operating and performing at a different level. She got it. It’s just too bad no one else did. Everyone was making a boring action movie with no discernable sense of direction. She made a monster-horror film. So Universal… please, I beg you… take a cue from Boutella. Make these as horror films. You’ll make some money, and the audience will dig it.

First Trailer for Star Trek: Discovery- I’m Excited & Nervous

Star Trek: Discovery, starring Sonequa Martin Green, Michelle Yeoh, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones, Shazad Latif & Anthony Rapp.

Right up top, it’s getting a 15 episode order instead of 13. That’s good. That cast. Also very good.

The thing that’s bugged me since they first announced we’re going to barely pre-Kirk era Starfleet, is that we haven’t had a Trek take place in the in-universe future since 2002, when Nemesis came out. Everything since, from Enterprise, to Kelvin-verse (official name for the Abrams films), and now back to Trek-prime with Discovery is all prequel based. For a series, a franchise, that was so forward focused, so progressive, it’s a difficult pill to swallow seeing it so regressive. DS9 and Voyager handed the franchise the Gamma and Delta quadrants to explore, Voyager gave us the 29th century’s Temporal Integrity Commission to to explore, basically handing us 400 years worth of space exploration left untouched. Think about everything that’s happened since 1617. All the discoveries and exploration that was done. And we keep getting, “Yeah, Ferdinand Magellan was awesome, so was this other guy who was Magellan adjacent. By the way, we eventually go to the moon, but how ’bout that Magellan guy, huh?! HUH?! Sailing and shit.”

There was another announcement that came with the “Slightly Before Kirk” decision was that it was to be anthologized. Bryan Fuller shot that down, but now he’s gone, so who knows? But they won’t anthologize it because that’s not how Trek works. That screws up the human element of Trek. I don’t mean humans as a species, but human as in connecting with the characters. They also won’t because they didn’t with Heroes, like they were supposed to, because “Oh, Character A is popular, so let’s keep them around forever.”

The other thing that gives me pause is how much of an influence the Kelvin-verse films will have on the series. Not the stories told, obviously, but the storytelling. They were decidedly more aggressive, more militaristic. Lots of space battles, destruction, death, and violent ends. Not that I have a problem with that, but will that do away with the core of Trek, the aims at peace and understanding and utopia? Klingons were the villains in OTS, and were allies by TNG. TNG had the Ferengi, who joined the Federation by the end of DS9. The Borg were huge villains across 3 shows and a movie, but both TNG and VOY had episodes where they were trying to understand and come to terms with the Borg. The Romulans, the Cardassians… they were hinted at becoming friendlies at some point in the future. Of the prime-verse, not just some weird Mirror-verse. That’s not to say the path to peace wasn’t littered with conflicts, battles or wars. But there was still that path. And Kelvin-verse sort of ignored that.

I’m excited to have Trek back on TV. That’s where it belongs. That’s where it thrives. I’m just more than a little nervous for what they may do with it (knowing studio people) and this trailer does little to ease those apprehensions. But it does look pretty cool. And as a lifelong Trek fan, I’ll watch every episode as it “airs,” so to speak.

But my point still stands: Let’s explore more of the unknown, and less of what we mostly know. I’d probably be OK not having those gaps filled.

Brodie’s 89th Annual Oscar Picks

For the record, it’s the Oscars that are the 89th Annual, not my picks. I’m only 31, and have only been making picks since 1999. Will Win is my official pick. Should Win is what I would vote for were I a voting member.

Best Picture

Should Win: Arrival
Will Win: La La Land
la_la_land_-_official_stills_-_courtesy_of_28c29_lionsgate_-_005

Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone in La La Land

I have seen all 9 nominees. This is a bite-the-bullet vote for La La Land. It’s not a bad film. It’s not as good as award season has made it out to be (the script is problematic, and that kind of spreads out to everything else). But it has the momentum, the same momentum that propelled The Artist five years ago. Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood. And they don’t particularly care for genre films
Also Nominated: Fences; Hacksaw Ridge; Hell or High Water; Hidden Figures; Lion; Manchester by the Sea; Moonlight

Best Director

Should Win: Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Will Win: Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Director Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone on the set of LA LA LAND.

Damien Chazelle & Emma Stone on the set of La La Land.

I have seen all 5 nominees. To be honest, Denis Villeneuve’s work on Arrival could and should be talked about with as much fervor as Damien Chazelle’s on La La Land. Despite all of La La Land’s problems, which can pinned on Chazelle, it still actually is a beautifully executed film, and a lot of what works about La La Land can just as readily be pinned on Chazelle. It’s not worth nearly as much love as it’s getting, but Chazelle’s conducting of the cinematic orchestra that is La La Land is noteworthy. It’s a film that worked in spite of itself.
Also Nominated: Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge; Barry Jenkins – Moonlight; Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea; Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Best Actor

Should Win: Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Will WinRyan Gosling – La La Land
ryan-gosling-in-la-la-land

Ryan Gosling in La La Land

I have seen all 5 nominees. I think Casey Affleck was great, but there has been some negative personal life press around him that could have hurt him in voting. Denzel was great in Fences, but there’s the specter of the stage play hanging over it, and he plays it as stage work being filmed. Viggo was fantastic in an interesting role which gets him the Should Win slot. But the hype train behind La La Land is strong, and knowing Oscar history… I think Ryan Gosling could walk home with this.
Also Nominated: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea; Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge; Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Actress

Should Win: Viola Davis – Fences (not nominated in this category)
Will WinEmma Stone – La La Land
emma-stone-in-la-la-land

Emma Stone in La La Land

I have seen 4 of the 5 nominees. Really, Viola Davis should be nominated for, and win, Best Actress, but some politicking on the studios part got her into the less competitive Supporting Actress category. The Best Actress category is a mess this year. No Taraji P. Henson, no Amy Adams. While I haven’t seen Meryl Streep’s Florence Foster Jenkins, there’s a large part of me that just assumes she got it on the strength of being Meryl Streep, and not on the strength of the actual performance. But ultimately the La La Land hype train will carry Emma Stone to the win. And for the record, she was good. Better than Adams? Henson? Portman? Davis? Nope.
Also Nominated: Isabelle Huppert – Elle; Ruth Negga – Loving; Natalie Portman – Jackie; Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Supporting Actor

Should Win: Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Will Win:Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Moonlight

Mahershala Ali in Moonlight

I have seen all 5 nominees. The same studio politicking that kept Viola Davis out of the Lead Actress category also kept Dev Patel out of Lead Actor for Lion. He wouldn’t have won in either category, but at least this got him the nomination, which I understand is an honour in and of itself. But this one’s a no-brainer. Mahershala Ali deserves it. He deserves it for Moonlight. He deserves it for his great TV work over on Netflix’s House of Cards and Netflix’s Luke Cage. He deserves it for his entire 2016. Walter Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea could be a spoiler if the Academy plays it safe. I should point out that Michael Shannon and his Golden Globe winning co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson were both great in Nocturnal Animals
Also Nominated: Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water; Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea; Dev Patel – Lion; Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress

Should Win: Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Will WinViola Davis – Fences
viola-davis-in-fences

Viola Davis in Fences

I have seen all 5 nominees. Again… Viola Davis is in the wrong category, and in a just world, she wouldn’t be here and Naomie Harris would be the easy pick. But Viola Davis was able to transition her stage portrayal to film better than Denzel was. Nicole Kidman and Octavia Spencer are good seat filler, but it’s a two person race between Harris & Davis, with Davis having the advantage. I don’t even know what Michelle Williams is doing here.
Also Nominated: Nicole Kidman – Lion; Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures; Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Best Original Screenplay

Should Win: Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou – The Lobster
Will WinKenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
MBTS_3869.CR2

Michelle Williams & Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea

I have seen all 5 nominees. For all the great work Damien Chazelle did as a director, for all the other awards La La Land will most likely win tonight… the one it is least qualified for is Screenplay, as that is the biggest problem with the film. 20th Century Women was interesting and engaging, Hell or High Water was easily the most thrilling and entertaining. But for a truly original, bizarre, unique screenplay that just draws you in, that’s The Lobster (which overall is largely missing from the awards season chatter). And despite how morose it is, the script for Manchester by the Sea is quite good, and actually quite deserving of the love it has received.
Also Nominated: Hell or High Water; La La Land; 20th Century Women

Best Adapted Screenplay

Should Win: Eric Heisserer – Arrival
Will WinBarry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney – Moonlight
moonlight

Andre Holland & Revante Rhodes in Moonlight

I have seen all 5 nominees. Arrival was one of the most interesting films of the year, and I’d hate for it to be shut out, but we all know the Academy’s recent track record with genre films. That said… It was a very fine line that got Arrival into the Should Win category, as Moonlight is an  amazing character piece. The supporting players are given little time to do get in and do their work, but they’re given so much and said short amount of time. Jenkins and McCraney paint a glorious backdrop for the stunning primary arc. Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi could be a spoiler, if the Academy wants to recognize the great work on Hidden Figures.
Also Nominated: Fences; Hiden Figures; Lion

Best Animated Feature

Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings
Will Win: Moana
moana

Moana

I have seen 3 of the 5 nominees. I have little faith in the Oscars to not go Disney. Of the 15 Animated features to win the award since its creation, only 4 have NOT gone to Disney/Pixar. And now Disney has two nominees. Kubo & The Two Strings should win, but I think the win will go to Moana.
Also Nominated: My Life as a Zucchini; The Red Turtle; Zootopia

Best Documentary Feature

Will Win: 13th
I haven’t seen any of these. But 13th is trending positively. OJ: Made In America could be a spoiler, as it appeared on several Year End lists. It’s a toss up, sure.
Also Nominated: Fire at Sea; I Am Not Your Negro; Life, Animated; O.J.: Made in America

Best Cinematography

Should Win: Linus Sandgren – La La Land
Will Win: Linus Sandgren – La La Land
Also Nominated: Greg Fraser – LionJames Laxton – MoonlightRodrigo Prieto – Silence; Bradford Young – Arrival

Best Film Editing

Should Win: Arrival
Will Win: La La Land
Also Nominated: Hell or High Water; Hacksaw RidgeMoonlight

Best Visual Effects

Should Win: The Jungle Book
Will Win: The Jungle Book
Also Nominated: Deepwater Horizon; Doctor Strange; Kubo and the Two Strings; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Production Design

Should WinLa La Land
Will WinLa La Land
Also Nominated: Arrival; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Hail, Caesar!; La La Land; Passengers

Best Original Score

Should WinLa La Land
Will Win: La La Land
Also Nominated: Jackie; Lion; Moonlight; Passengers

Best Foreign Language Film

Will Win: The Salesman (Iran)
Also Nominated: Land of Mine (Denmark); A Man Called Ove (Sweden); Tanna (Australia); 
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Best Costume Design

Should Win: Jackie
Will Win: Jackie
Also Nominated: Allied; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Florence Foster Jenkins; La La Land

Best Makeup/Hairstyling

Will Win: Star Trek Beyond
Also Nominated: A Man Called Ove; Suicide Squad

Best Original Song

Should Win: “Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street (not nominated)
Will Win“City of Stars” – La La Land (though I would love to see Moana get it so Lin-Manuel Miranda can go full EGOT)
Also Nominated: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – La La Land“Can’t Stop This Feeling!” – Trolls“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: La La Land
Also NominatedArrival; Deepwater Horizon; Hacksaw Ridge; Sully

Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: La La Land
Also Nominated: Arrival; Hacksaw Ridge; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Best Documentary Short

Will Win: Joe’s Violin
Also Nominated: Extremis; 4.1 Miles; Watani: My Homeland; The White Helmets

Best Live-Action Short

Will Win: Ennemis Interieurs
Also Nominated: La Femme et le TGV; Silent Nights; Sing; Timecode

Best Animated Short

Will WinPearl
Also Nominated: Blind Vaysha; Borrowed Time; Pear Cider and Cigarettes; Piper