Oscar Watch 2017: Part One


Here we are! The Nominations for the Academy Awards have been announced and now we begin reviewing the films! I have acquired tickets for a 2 Saturday marathon, starting next week, where I will see ALL of the Best picture nominees in a movie theater- A first! This leaves me free to chase down as many of the nominees in the other categories that I can! Last year I would cover 2-3 movies per post, but I thought I would start with everything I’ve seen up to this point:

Captain Fantastic, Kubo and the Two Strings, Zootopia, O.J.: Made in America, The 13th, Florence Foster Jenkins, The Lobster, Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and where to find them, Arrival, and Hidden Figures.

Captain Fantastic – This is the story of a family that has left behind the trappings of modern civilization and have settled in the Pacific Northwest, living off the land. Their society is insulated, but well educated, and athletic. When the mother returns to our world for treatment of mental illness, her suicide leads the family back into the “real” world, causing the father to reevaluate his choices in raising his family in isolation. It has 1 nomination.

  • Best Actor: Viggo Mortensen returns to the Oscar stage for his role as the father. As always, Mortensen delivers a powerful performance of a radical man who is himself on the edge of losing it. There are some good nominees this year, but I think Viggo has a real shot. He bares his penis in the film, and for some reason classy nudity earns Oscar awards. I’ve not seen Hacksaw Ridge or La La Land. If there is wang present Viggo might be in danger.

Kubo and the Two Strings – The tale of a young boy in Feudal Japan who travels on a magical adventure, with his enchanted guitar-thing, to fight against the evil Moon King. A surprisingly moving tale, with some true emotional weight, this one is a contender. It has 2 nominations.

  • Best Animated Feature: This has got a real shot at beating Zootopia for the gold. This is the first Laika film I have seen, but I will be checking out their other work. This was that good.
  • Best achievement in visual effects: This stop-motion/CGI combo was some of the slickest I ever seen. These people are very good at what they do. I don’t know if its up to the level of CGI Tarkin, but this has a chance.

Zootopia– This movie is about a young bunny that is the first of her kind to graduate from the Police Academy in a world of intelligent animals ( We have presumably gone extinct). Once on the force, she uncovers a plot to destabilize the precious society they have in place and makes friends with a fiendish Fox to solve the crime. It has 1 nomination.

  • Best Animated Feature: This is the clear favorite. Made by Disney Animation, Zootopia is a fun family film that contains great laughs as well as a message of tolerance. In the current political climate of Hollywood, I would say these elements would give it the statue.

O.J.: Made in America: I sat down one Saturday morning to knock down a few Oscar films from this year’s list. Little did I realize that O.J. was almost 8 HOURS LONG. By the time I was finished, it was dinner time and I had lost the will to watch anything else that day. The one thing this has going for it is that it is very good. The first 3 hours cover O.J.’s life leading up to the murder of his wife and Goldman. It covers all of his achievements, as well as the numerous domestic violence incidents leading up to the deaths. It also spends a significant portion of those 3 hours going through the backstory of Los Angeles race relations, the riots, the controversies, which led to the kettle blowing up during the trial. Said trial is the next 3 hours, followed by 2 hour aftermath ending in O.J.’s current imprisonment. It has 1 nomination.

  • Best Documentary: This was incredibly well crafted, and gripping for all 8 of those hours. I don’t think it will win though.

The 13th – Like O.J., this is a powerful documentary on race relations in the United States. An often bleak portrait, it resonates strongly in the Post-Trayvon world. The style, editing, music, interviews, and stock footage all come together to present a truly impressive look at one of the darkest problems in America, one that won’t go away- The Prison Industry and how it has ballooned over the course of my life. It has 1 nomination.

  • Best Documentary: I have a few more to attempt to see, but my money is on this winning the Oscar. A very well made film.

Rogue One – A stunning Star Wars film, I’ve already spoken about it at length. It has 2 nominations. My Review: here

  • Sound Mixing: These categories are always tough for me to figure out. I need to see more of the films nominated to make a determination.
  • Visual Effects: If Kubo doesn’t steal it, CGI Grand Moff Tarkin wins them the Oscar.

Florence Foster Jenkins – A 1940’s socialite thinks she is a great opera singer. She is in fact a terrible singer- a fact hidden from her by her husband and their employees. She arranges a concert in NYC and passes into film legend. I was surprised at how much it engaged me. A big part of that is Streep and Hugh Grant. It has 2 nominations.

  • Lead Actress– I have learned to never bet against Meryl Streep, especially after she stood up to Trump and got lots of academy sympathy during voting. I need to see more films to be sure, but Natalie Portman is generating a lot of buzz.
  • Costume Design – Oscar voters like period pieces, so this has a shot.

Doctor Strange – Marvel’s psychedelic sorcerer film. It has 1 nomination. My Review: Here

  • Visual Effects: This might be the dark horse. Some of these sequences were incredible to conceptualize, let alone execute.

Fantastic Beasts and where to find them – The Wizarding World returns! It has 2 nominations. My Review: Here

  • Production Design: The more I think about it, the more chance there is for this film to win this category. I took the style of the original films and transported it back to the 20’s. A believable world no less.
  • Costume Design– A period piece= Oscar bait. It’s got a chance.

Arrival– One of the smartest Sci-Fi films in a long time. Incredibly good. I am tending to underestimate it’s chances in the 8 categories it is nominated in, but then again- it has EIGHT nominations. That speaks to it’s power. My Review: Here

  • Best Picture– with the tremendous talent on display this year, Arrival will be lost in the pack. This does not make it any less deserving.
  • Best Director – If Chazelle doesn’t take it for La La, Villenueve might walk away with it.
  • Adapted Screenplay– I cannot imagine how disjointed the source material was. Like the best picture field, this may be lost in the shuffle.
  • Cinematography– Some heavy hitters here, I don’t think Arrival will win.
  • Film Editing– The editing made this movie. It should be a top contender.
  • Sound Editing/Mixing – No idea where this one stands. Sound/Language was a big part of it, not sure if it was essential enough for an Oscar.
  • Production Design– They made the aliens feel incredibly alien. Iconic spaceships. It has a shot.
  • Actress(NOT)– That Amy Adams was snubbed in unforgivable. This might be her best performance to date.

Hidden Figures- This is a fantastic “feel-good” movie that deals with some serious history. We need more films like this. It has 3 nominations. My Review: Here

  • Best Picture – I love this movie, but it doesn’t have a shot. I am happy to see it nominated though.
  • Supporting Actress – I think this is Viola Davis’ year, but Octavia Spencer might win for this. Her IBM sub-plot was one of the best parts of the film.
  • Adapted Screenplay – This category is packed with all of the heavy hitters this year. I think it will not win.

The Lobster – A friggin bizarre tale of a future society where it is illegal to be single. Those without mates are forced to live in a hotel where they have 45 days to find a mate. If they do not, they are surgically transformed in an animal. Our lead character, played by Colin Farrel, wishes to be a Lobster. This was a true absurdist exercise that showed a lot of promise, but fizzled out in the middle. The ending did not help things. It has 1 nomination.

  • Original Screenplay: Well, it was certainly original. I can see enough brilliance to justify it’s includion here, and it might even win.

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