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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Oscar Predictions-Film Awards (i)-2017

  • Best Picture
Most likely winner : La La Land. A heavy favourite and much has been written about the race between La La Land and Moonlight for the best Picture prize as representative of the two types of movies that pick up Oscars. La La Land is a backward looking film in the sense that it draws heavily on the history of film and is influenced by the past. It is a good film and despite having a bit of a backlash recently on its treatment of jazz and its female protagonist, it is a spectacle in every sense of the word.

Backup Pick : Moonlight. The best odds on this right now are 9/2 which is enough for second favourite but not really close (La La Land is at 1/9). While La La Land is backward looking and a film about the movies and making movies, Moonlight is a far more unique film. It isn't an original story or even an uncommon one; but it is a rarely portrayed one. Films in African-American communities that have a heavy drug component are common but too often cliche. Coming of age films in African American communities with any gay references are rare. This is a film that transcends stereotypes.

Most deserving : Arrival. A total longshot at 100/1 and definitely underrated. I think it's the best movie of the year and Denis Villeneuve is one of the best directors working today. It's not expected to make a good film out of the intricacies of communication methods but it's been done here. The film is a slow-burn thriller from start to finish and while many other films are good in the list, there's not others as original and entertaining as this.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay
Most likely winner : Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney for Moonlight. This is a film that tells a story that is familiar. Drug problems in African American communities, problematic and distant parent figures; these are not new themes and can become dull quite quickly. It is the strength of the script that these familiar themes are never boring or cliched but always portrayed to give the viewer the ability to make their own decisions on what is being shown. It is difficult to show and not impart a skewed view. This takes trust of the viewer and this script trusts the viewer.

Backup Pick : Luke Davies for Lion. Second favourite at 8/1 but this one I don't agree with. The film starts strongly and after the frantic opening half it's inevitable that the second part would lag, but I think it drags too much. The closing scenes also seem a bit rushed and perhaps slightly overdone in the attempt to get the viewer to really feel the emotions. Solid enough but the strength of the film is in the acting and not the screenplay.

Most deserving :Eric Heisserer for Arrival. The novella is highly scientific with a lot devoted to mathematical methods and Fermant's least time principle. It is a great read but it doesn't set up well for a film because it's very much a stop-and-think kind of book. Hence it's a great achievement not just to adapt the novella but to catch the essence of the novella into the screenplay keeping the nuances of mathematical logic on the storyline but also making a movie that is essentially about linguistics a compelling one.

  • Best Original Screenplay
Most likely winner : Damien Chazelle for La La Land. A front runner but I think the strength of the film lies in the acting (mostly by Emma Stone) and the music (composed by Justin Hurwitz, lyrics by Pasek and Paul). This means that the script's storyline, with its flaws about the saving of jazz (though there is a discussion about jazz evolving, so it's not as ignored as many articles make it out to be) and the female lead having a mostly passive role (when she was clearly the best person in the film) fall on Chazelle. The film is strong and the script is not a bad one, but it has more flaws in it than others nominated (such as The Lobster, Hell or High Water and Manchester by the Sea).

Backup Pick : Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea. The strength of the film is in the acting and the strong emotional performances shown by the actors. But an actor can only flesh out a performance so far without a quality script. Everything in this script set the actors up with what they needed for a captivating performance. In this sense it is the type of screenplay that becomes a foundation for the film rather than the driver, and it is a strong foundation indeed.

Most deserving: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou for The Lobster. As far as original goes this is one of the most original screenplays of all time. A wholly bizarre black comedy that seems more like a Theatre of Absurd play than a 21st centre movie. Mostly straight-faced satire on the silly obsessions modern society has with modern relationships of the "you complete me" kind. The best movie about relationships in a long time is a dystopian one where single people get turned into animals if single too long. This is as original as it gets.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Oscar Predictions -2017-Acting Awards

Oscar Predictions -2017-Acting Awards

  • Best Actor

Most Likely Winner: Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea. This award is not as much of a lock as it once seemed to be. Affleck's allegations of sexual harassment are getting more play in the media which could hurt his chances. And also, no award is sure when Denzel Washington is in the race. This takes nothing away from Affleck's performance in the film which is nothing short of exemplary. He's managed to portray a wide range of emotions in this very emotional film and hits all the right notes. Moving between immature to world-weary as the film moves, it manages to be one of the strongest portrayals of a emotionally suffering character in recent memory.

 Backup Pick:  Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson in Fences. Denzel's win in the SAG awards is what has been widely credited as turning this Oscar into a two horse race (which it definitely wasn't last year after The Revenant). Unlike recent years where the actors go through harsh conditions or drastic physical changes to get the award, here it's only the power of the acting itself that drives. This is a flashy and powerful part, which definitely shows its origins in the theatre. Troy Maxson is the most important person in his life and every single scene is about him, no matter how many other characters are in the room. It's that strong of a performance.

Most Deserving (My Pick):  Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson in Fences. Paradoxically I want Denzel to win because Fences was not an excellent film. Manchester by the Sea and Hacksaw Ridge are still good films which are buoyed by good acting. La La Land is good despite Ryan Gosling not because of him. Even Viggo Mortensen doesn't drive Captain Fantastic as much as Denzel (and Viola Davis) do to Fences. Without the acting this isn't even watchable. 

  • Best Actress
Most Likely Winner: Emma Stone as Mia Dolan in La La Land. La La Land might sweep the Oscars and if so owes a large debt to Emma Stone who is magnificent in it. To say it was a natural fit is overused but totally accurate as Stone does everything in this musical like if she's been preparing for this part all along. Despite being given very limited space to work with by the writers, Stone lights up every scene and her performance was reason enough to see the movie. 

Backup Pick: Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie. The academy loves Natalie Portman (though not as much as they love Meryl Streep who got a clear courtesy nomination) and they definitely love films about real historic characters. This sets up Portman as a strong second in the race. Just because it's the kind of film the Oscars like doesn't make it undeserving however. Portman hits all the notes to show the rawness of grief following her husband's death. It's fair to say that her performance was expected to be good by her past record but the quality on display makes it possible to put this as her best performance yet.

Most Deserving (My Pick) : Isabelle Huppert as Michele Leblanc in Elle. Huppert has been one of my favourite actresses since I saw The Piano Teacher. I can't remember seeing her in a bad film and this is no exception. I'm not one to overuse the word empowering (or care to use it in discussion of film merit) but there's no getting around it this time. Huppert's performance turns a cliche film trope of rape into a complex portrayal of a response (perhaps not everyone may see the film as empowering). It's one of the most original takes on a rape-revenge film just for the lightness of portrayal in what is usually a heavy handed genre. Without Huppert's self-assured performance  it could have easily fallen flat.

  • Best Supporting Actor
Most Likely Winner: Mahershala Ali as Juan in Moonlight. One of the best movies of the year (I'd really say only Arrival or The Salesman are better) is made better by Ali's performance. The entire movie shrugs off stereotypes about the black experience in America, shown in this portrayal by Ali as sympathetic drug dealer, Juan. It's not exactly uncommon to have drug dealers shown to be complex humans but usually it's within the context of the crime trade (where they're shown to be honorable or motivated by past tragedy). Juan becomes a role model and a makeshift father, putting the criminal aspect of his character firmly in the background (though not dispensing with it entirely, giving more opportunity for Ali to display his ability to convey guilt and emotion).

Backup Pick: Dev Patel as Saroo Brierley in Lion. The win at the BAFTA has put Patel as second favourite, going ahead of Bridges. I have to say I didn't care for this film a lot and it's really only watchable because the acting is very good (much like Fences). The film is filled with cliches and the storyline seems to do its best to be emotionally manipulative. It is not the film you'd expect good acting because it seems to call for overdone. This is where Patel shows his quality. Everything seems to suggest making the role over the top, so his nuanced and measured approach into showing the character becoming more consumed by his obsession with discovering his own past makes the character really come alive.

Most Deserving (My Pick) : Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton in Hell or High Water. I really like Westerns and crime films and although Jeff Bridges has been playing the same gruff and grizzled characters of rural America for what seems like at least a decade, I'm never tired of them. His Texas Ranger is great, spending most of the film figuring out criminal behaviors while piling good-natured insults at his religious, Native American-Mexican partner. Definitely the most entertaining character in the film and in the climatic scenes, the most determined as well. I want him to win but not so much that I'll be annoyed if Ali picks up the award.

  • Best Supporting Actress

Most Likely Winner: Viola Davis as Rose Maxon in Fences. There's a bit of boring controversy by the fussy about whether this role was actually one which fell under Best Actress criteria instead of Best Supporting (basically the opposite of when Kate Winslet won Best Actress for The Reader  even though most felt it was a supporting role). I'd say it definitely is supporting even though she's the main actress just because of how much Denzel dominates the film. But her supporting role is one which really grounds the film and she plays a perfect foil to the main character, being the voice of reason at times but regularly going up against her husband. At 1/50 to win, this one is almost a sure thing.

Backup Pick: Michelle Williams as Randi in Manchester by the Sea. Probably very unlikely to win which is unfortunate as she's very good in this film. However she's a bit underused and on the bench a lot, even when she's on the screen since the focus is very much on her ex-husband in the film. In that case she can be said to be a supporting character but the her portrayal is solid enough that you want to see more of her and hear her story as well. It is another good role for Williams who is quite good at delivering emotional performances but it seems unlikely to be enough for the Oscar.

Most Deserving (My Pick) :Viola Davis as Rose Maxon in Fences. By the end of the film it's her character who can be said to have made the most changes and moved her state from exceptional weariness to be able to show and express the strength she has inside. It's a great portrayal of immense endurance and just like with Denzel's performance, the movie wouldn't be able to stand without the strength of the acting. Also, I think Viola Davis is one of the best actresses currently working and criminally underrated.