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!: “Moonlight”

Set in a Miami of demanding exclamation points, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight presents identity as a question mark. Not only is self-actualization the victim of social norms and expectations, but one’s identity is often out of reach thanks to that very circumstance. As if that weren’t insurmountable enough, there is also trauma grabbing us by the neck to define us. And is our chosen persona something we chase or run from? In Jenkins’s hand, identity is tough to define as we’re always in a state of transition as well.


Let’s not be so tacky as to call Moonlight universal. The story of young African American Chiron’s developing awareness of his homosexuality within the drug-riddled Miami inner-city may have various points of entry over its triptych for all audiences to relate, but Jenkins never chases anything but the hyper specific. His open-hearted (or bursting hearted) approach to a very exact story is certainly for everybody, but it is not of everybody. The magic of the film’s glorious specificity is how much room it allows for those profound questions of identity politics. How much of who we are is decided for us and what do we get to decide for ourselves?

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In Review!: “The Handmaiden”

In a masterful feat of adaptation and reinvention, South Korean provocateur Park Chan-Wook transports Sarah Waters’s Victorian-era novel Fingersmith to colonial Korea under the Japanese occupation with The Handmaiden. The resulting alterations make for a divine pairing between opulent period piece and twisted kinkfest. Chan-Wook loses nothing of his provocateur status in such a stately framework, the film being one of the most audacious and entertaining films of the year and the most beguiling of his career (apologies to all Oldboy fans out there). One of our modern masters has something of a new calling card.


One of the many triptychs seen this year, the film unfolds over three chapters that shift perspectives between petty thief Sook-hee (Tae-ri Kim) and her would-be con Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim, in a masterfully modulated performance). What follows is a thrilling guessing game of lust and deception where the rug is constantly pulled out from under the audience as to who is deceiving who. Throw in a crooked Count leading the deceit (Jung-Woo Ha) and a mysterious Uncle (Jin-Woong Jo) looming over Lady Hideko and you’ve got a real party. The film doesn’t miss a beat while expertly juggling more components than the audience can perceive at once. It’s part potboiler, part harlequin romance, and part gothic horror – but even playing in familiar tropes, the film feels entirely unique.

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