Once again it is time to celebrate a year of film watching. Here are my choices for the following awards along with thoughts about the selections and non-selections the Academy made.
- Best Actor - Nominees are: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), and Denzel Washington (Fences). There are strong performances in this group of actors. For me the obvious missing actor is Tom Hanks in Sully because it was so well made and gave me a real sense of a man who saved 155 lives. Given the Academy's choices, Affleck was sublime. You felt him and what he was going through from beginning to end. I loved this performance. I thought Garfield was very strong in this career defining role for him. He brought heart to this role. Gosling was amazing. His charm, piano playing, and dancing brought life to this dream like film. I loved the film Captain Fantastic and Mortensen was the key. His wide eyed brilliance made this film work. Lastly, Washington was simply a nuclear charged bit of energy bottled up and ready to pounce. Great performance, however it felt too much like a play like for me to like it in film. My choice is Affleck.
- Best Actress - Nominees are: Isabelle Hubert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins). Granted I did not see Florence Foster Jenkins because I saw a film about the same story a year earlier and didn't want to see the same story again. Missing from this nominee list is Amy Adams. She gave two powerful performances this past year; Arrival which is a film I adored (see below) and Nocturnal Animals where her cool intelligent nature amazingly unfolded on the screen. Given the choices, Hubert was absolutely fantastic in this role. Her ability to be both vulnerable and strong in the same breath expressed her greatness. Negga was very strong and I loved her role as she grows from a timid somewhat subservient person to a woman of strength and grit. I loved this story. Portman is an interesting choice. I found the character to be so different than my perception of Jackie that I was taken aback. This performance made me wonder about the real person and that's important in filmmaking. Stone was so fun and divine in this role. Her chemistry with Gosling is noticeable and helps her to elevate this role to amazing and grace like. Loved her in this film. My selection is Hubert as because she really brought a fully bodied and interesting character to life.
- Best Supporting Actress - Nominees are: Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), and Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea). One of the amazing things about these choices is that a couple of these actors had very limited screen time to make an impact. The most striking was Williams. Davis gave an amazing performance as Washington's wife in Fences. It takes a lot to hold your own against Washington and here Davis shows everyone how. Watching Harris in Moonlight is like taking a very long road to forgiveness. I was amazed at this performance. Kidman in Lion was very strong. There is one scene when she's talking about how she came to adopt her Indian son, that was so deep and heartfelt I cried. Spencer was great in Hidden Figures. As a strong black woman wanting her due, she was fantastic. Williams, as I have said, had a small role but the scene where she is asking for forgiveness from Affleck was the most powerful 2 minute scene on film this year. I've got a close tie, with Williams and Davis, but in the end, I'll go with Davis.
- Best Supporting Actor - Nominees are: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Dev Patel (Lion), and Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals). I was a little taken back by the inclusion of Patel as a supporting actor. It felt more like a lead actor role to me. Ali in Moonlight is such a powerful integral character and he made it work so well. Loved his compassion. Bridges was wonderful in Hell or High Water. He made this character heart filled as well as having an distinct edge of sarcasm. Hedges in Manchester by the Sea was good. However, it wasn't enough for me to give him a good chance. Patel, as I previously stated, seemed nominated in the wrong category. Although he was really good, it just doesn't fit here. Shannon in Nocturnal Animals is beyond great. I loved his intensity and persistence of character. I was entranced when he was on the screen. I've got two front runners, Shannon and Ali. Upon reflection as to how they impacted the story, I'll go with Ali.
- Best Cinematography - Nominees are: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, and Silence. I will admit I did not see Silence as I just couldn't get motivated to see this film. Given this, Arrival was amazing with the visualizations of the ships, the anti-gravity sections of inside the ship and how they displayed and handled the aliens. La La Land was gorgeous. Whether is was in or outside the Observatory, on the streets of LA, or in an apartment. There was care in how the colors and sets looked on the screen. Lion had wonderful accurate feeling scenes of India, especially the railway stations. I didn't quite buy the butterfly scenes as they seemed slightly over the top. However, the rest of the sets were amazingly done. Moonlight reflected just this, moonlight on the ocean. The shifts from scenes in school, on the beach, and cities in South Florida were luxurious. As I previously said I've no information about Silence because I didn't see it. From what I saw, I would have to select Arrival as my favorite with La La Land and Moonlight a very close second.
- Best Adapted Screenplay - Nominees are: Eric Heisserer (Arrival), August Wilson (Fences), Allison Schroder and Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), Luke Davies (Lion), and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight). All of them are wonderful stories. I loved the story and meaning behind Moonlight, Arrival, and Hidden Figures. Each of these stories were very impactful. Moonlight because it shared the somewhat hidden story of a black gay community. Arrival because it was one of the most amazing ways to share the concept of non-linear time. Hidden Figures was so powerful as to how the segregation of blacks almost hurt our chances to be successful in the space race with Russia. It is difficult to choose from such diverse stories, however in the end I'll select Moonlight.
- Best Original Screenplay - Nominees are: Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou (The Lobster), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Mike Mills (20th Century Women). Great list. The depth of friendship as expressed in Hell or High Water, the stories of love and growth as expressed in La La Land, The Lobster, and 20th Century Women, and humbling forgiveness as expressed in Manchester by the Sea - all were amazing. As an original story I am tossed between Manchester by the Sea and La La Land. Either winning would be accepted.
- Best Director - Nominees are: Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight). Interesting that Lonergan, Jenkins, and Chazelle wrote the films they directed and it shows the importance of knowing what it is you want to portray/express. What is missing? For me the missing directors are Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals) and Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), both of these films had great vision and execution. Choosing from this strong list is difficult. However, for the impact it had on me I'm down to two: Villeneuve and Chazelle because of how they eloquently told their stories. However, if Gibson, Lonergan, or Jenkins were to win, I wouldn't be upset.
- Best Picture - Nominees are: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight. This is a full and dynamic list. I liked all these films. However, if I had to start separating these nominees, I'd pull out these three as my top contenders: Arrival, La La Land, and Manchester by the Sea. Each tells a story and tells their story very well. Each film was fully engaging and opens the heart in a new and different way. I cannot pick a winner because I loved watching these three films.
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