Final Oscar Nomination Predictions!


The Oscar nominations are on Tuesday! I’ve not kept up on updated predictions this season, but here is my best attempt in the final stretch.

I’m currently predicting a lineup of eight Best Picture nominees – a safe number considering the likeliest players. Best Actress and Best Original Score (so many new names?) have me the most uneasy. Actress has been exceptionally tough this year (excitingly so!), with lots of conflicting narratives happening in the voting period. Will Meryl Streep’s Globes speech affect her chances (I struggle to imagine people who weren’t already voting for her suddenly changing their mind)? Have enough people seen 20th Century Women for Bening to get in such a competitive? I wouldn’t be surprised if Huppert does ultimately miss in favor for either of them, but my fifth Actress spot went to the one I think will garner the most top votes.

Random thought: what documentary could be our surprise left-field Best Original Song nominee?

Final Oscar Predictions

In Review!: “20th Century Women”

Like Beginners was inspired by Mike Mills’s relationship with his elderly gay father, his new film 20th Century Women focuses his relationship on his mother. While Beginners similarly played with editing to embody the intangibility of memory, Women exists in a beautiful haze of shapshots threaded together like we might remember a period that defined us: linear but maybe not, burdened by the perspective of the future, perhaps even a little better (or worse) than it actually was. The film is a memory play of sorts but moreso interested in the unknowability of any one person in your life, no matter how they reveal or define themselves. With omniscient details of the inner lives of the ensemble delivered in shared voice over, Mike Mills makes a film that is deeply personal for all of its inhabitants, a work about growing up from a filmmaker who has done just that with his third film.


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Best Actor of 2016

I’m getting my Year In Review work started earlier than last year – and before the Oscar nominations arrive on Tuesday! Last year, my Best Actor choice was Michael Fassbender in the already forgotten Steve Jobs, but my choice this year will likely have much more staying power. What nearly made my lineup: a career-best Chris Pine in the underwhelming Hell or High Water, Andrew Garfield’s broken idealism in Silence, Viggo Mortensen’s Captain Fantastic watchability, Logan Lerman’s enervated and paranoid Indignation performance, and Jesse Plemons’s uncomfortable queerness in Other People.


Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
You could easily be wowed by Affleck’s immersion into profound grief and guilt, but it’s the cracks in his resolve that are most impressive. His evasion is by turns infuriating, devastating, and hilarious as Affleck finds unexpected tones throughout unremarkable moments. On the page, Lee is battling the expectations of others, but Affleck makes him at odds with himself.

Colin Farrell – The Lobster
Farrell’s minimalism goes a long way to balance out the film’s more misanthropic moments and absurdities. His plainfaced acceptance and dejection is consistently hilarious and helps the audience submit to the film’s concept. Just like the film, the stifled sincerity and compassion beneath the surface of his performance is both surprising and a crucial piece to the satire.

Ralph Fiennes – A Bigger Splash
An exclamation point of a performance, Fiennes is all drunken and self-justified id. With sultry chemistry for every friend, foe, and in-between (not to mention the damn camera), he’s sleezily schmoozing everyone – foremost, the audience. His questionable morals should be our first hint at the film’s intention, but like the film, he’s able to deceive us – those dance moves help.

Ethan Hawke – Born to Be Blue
Chances are you probably missed this Chuck Baker biopic during it’s quick and quiet release, but catch up to it soon: Hawke’s portrait of dying hope in the face of addiction and artistic submission is one of his most passionate and surprising performances. A rare performance that illuminates a real person beyond their persona and greatest hits highlights.

Denzel Washington – Fences
A massive performance defined more by its intense intimacy. Washington reveals a compulsive component to his wrongdoing, an unaware self-destructive streak and the powerlessness to prevent it. So lost in his own despair that he’s blind to the pain he inflicts, Troy all but begs for adoration, dominance, and reverance; Washington, however, commands it.

And the Winner is…

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In Review!: “Manchester By The Sea”

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea is another intuitive film from the writer/director, a blend of the intellectual character/grief study of his You Can Count On Me and the inquisitiveness of Margaret. This film may lack the organic highs of his two previous efforts, but key to its sturdiness is a sharp screenplay and a bone-deep performance by Casey Affleck. The film and Affleck are raw like the bitter cold of winter, but lifted by the burning soul underneath.


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If 2016’s Worst Films Were Drag Race Competitors

2016 has proven to be a terrible year for life in general but a great one at the movies – even if we have had an abundance of true clunkers. But how can I bring myself to make a worst of the year list? Look, it’s not always fun to talk about bad movies especially when, like me, you just want everything to be great. So: since dwelling on the worst can be a real drag, let’s imagine the movies I hate as something I truly love: the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Because if you can’t love the worst films of the year, how in the hell are you gonna love the best films of the year? And because, for the movies killing the positive vibes, in the words of Detox…


So what queens embody the year’s worst films?


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In Review!: “La La Land”

Bursting with chutzpah and a near relentless drive to leave you breathless, La La Land is something special. With artfully uplifting highs and bold cinematic gestures, it’s as audacious as anything at the movies in recent memory. Director Damien Chazelle has created a musical that exists with one foot in the real world and the one in the stylized, swaying its body back and forth between the two to divine effect. Its musical numbers are like if those late-90s Gap commercials also thrived on thematic context and narrative perspective – the smile on your face may be stupid, but the film isn’t.


Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star as showbiz dreamers and Los Angeles transplants that fall in love before becoming disillusioned with both. As their career compromises don’t match the ideal, the honeymoon of young love naturally also becomes strained. For all of the film’s exclamation point positivity, it does exist in a world that tells us we can have love or career, but getting neither is even more likely. For La La Land, optimism can be both naive and necessary sustaining force.

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In Review!: “Miss Sloane”

John Madden’s Miss Sloane is a ferocious star vehicle for Jessica Chastain, both richly enjoyable for the opportunity it affords Chastain and as an antidote to the end of our political year. The actress stars as a cutthroat lobbyist in Washington going up against the gun lobby in one of the most entertaining films of the year, a chicken soup for the angry soul with more nutrition than its soapier moments suggest. As Chastain’s Sloane collects crossed boundaries like trading cards and finds little that isn’t expendable for the sake of the win, the film satisfies in the ways all those current political television dramas are supposed to and rarely do.


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In Review!: “Nocturnal Animals”

For his 2009 debut A Single Man, fashion designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford had his share of detractors with a film labeled as “style over substance”. While that’s an unfair complaint in my estimation considering how it hums to the rhythms of Colin Firth’s soulful performance and its moments of sharp (yes, stylized) insight, his follow-up Nocturnal Animals doesn’t meet that superficial low bar. This time, the glossy veneer can’t distract from the blank experience of the film of dual narratives: frosty art maven Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) receiving a manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), and the grimy, violent novel itself (with Gyllenhaal playing its lead).


The two stories are tied together in clunky ways, but the separate parts themselves are vacuously rendered enough to make Animals rarely more than tedious. Flipping back and forth between Morrow’s reflections on her marriage and the subpar book she reads, the film aimlessly flirts with genre and mood without goals or singular vision – the potboiler portion feeling particularly disengaged. The film throws (or rolls, or shrugs) quite a bit at the audience without any foresight on how to make it stick.

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In Review!: “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

Ang Lee’s ambitions disconnect from the results of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, an all too undercooked study on PTSD and our proprietary culture back home feeding off of American veterans. Centering on the titular war hero Lynn (Joe Alwyn), his beleagured Army battalion is used for entertainment factor during a Thanksgiving football halftime show before being shipped back for their next tour of duty. Shot at 120 frames per second (well above the standard 24), Lee also utilizes a flashback structure to present a young soldier lost in time and space with all of his senses firing off faster than he can absorb them.


The struggle isn’t just in the fledgling technology but also in the broad flatness that pervades the film, the thematics and stylization much more interesting than the film brings them to be. Without the narrative groundwork done to make the film resonate, Billy Lynn isn’t much more than concept.

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In Review!: “Christine”

This year brings two widely dissimilar studies on Christine Chubbuck, the local Florida television journalist that committed suicide on live television – the documentary Kate Plays Christine and Antonio Campos’s considerably more traditional Christine. In the narrative version, Rebecca Hall plays the disturbed Chubbuck in the weeks leading up to the mythologized event and her news station cohorts (played by Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, and Maria Dizzia plus others) take a deeper part in her story. The two films create interesting dynamic in contrast unlike similar competing films close in release (think Capote and the less successful Infamous), illuminating both the subject and the larger societal implications of her case when seen in close proximity.



This Christine belongs mostly to Rebecca Hall’s stunning and alive performance, with challenges unlike anything the actress has ever been granted. Hall possesses a gallows humor underneath her pain that is unexpected and quite effective in helping portray Chubbuck as a flesh and blood human being as the film doubles down on her enveloping psychosis. Equally impressive is her ability to play the woman’s nuance and more unhinged moments with a cohesiveness that the script doesn’t always achieve. As heartbreaking as it is terrifying, Hall just delivered a career high performance that will rattle you.

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