Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 Oscar Predictions

Oscar fans, our "Superbowl" is right around the corner! This sure has been a strong season for film. Do you have your outfits and menus planned for the big day? Turn on E! at 3pm to start the red carpet festivities, pop the bubbly and get comfortable. Jimmy Kimmel is sure to bring some laughs when we tune in next Sunday, February 26!

Who do I think should and will win the top awards? Check out my predictions below.

Best Picture
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Should Win: Moonlight. What a breath of fresh air this one was. While it was a bit of a downer, it puts the spotlight on a story that doesn't get told often enough. I loved the casting, screenplay, score, acting and direction. I sobbed throughout the entire thing and had all the feels. Do I need to go on? This has my vote.

Will Win: La La Land. Hollywood loves a story about itself, and this really harkens back to the movie musicals of the 40s and 50s. Every Oscar voter will see this film as "their story" and remind them of how they got started in the biz, so it's sure to capture major votes. At the time of publication, the only film I haven't seen yet is Fences, unfortunately, but I will see it prior to the big event.

Best Actor
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Should Win: Is it bad to say Denzel, even if I haven't seen Fences? He won the Tony for the play's revival on Broadway, and he is also Denzel Washington. I think this role is probably him at his best - charismatic, mean, controlling, empathetic, lovable, disgusting - this is a difficult role for an actor to embody and I'm sure he does it justice.

Will Win: Casey Affleck. The Academy has this thing where they don't like to give an actor an Oscar more than once. It happens, but it is rare. So I think this is Casey's year. He was wonderful, and had the whole "I can't tell if he's even acting" thing, which means he is doing a tremendous job acting. I think he's an underrated actor and I'd like to see more from him before we give him gold, but I think he's got it in the bag.

Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Should Win: Amy Adams for Arrival, WHO IS NOT EVEN NOMINATED?!?! The Academy made a HUGE "oops" when they left her off this list. Everything I see her in is my new favorite Amy Adams film. She has a strong resume, and Arrival really is the best I've seen her yet. It is ludicrous that she got snubbed, especially for this role.

Will Win: Emma Stone. Hollywood loves her (so do I) and she stole the movie from Ryan Gosling. Like Affleck in Manchester, I couldn't tell that she was acting - her character came across as how I imagine she is in real life, which again, means she's probably doing a pretty excellent job acting.

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Should Win: Mahershala Ali. This is a really tight category. I'm not sure that Bridges and Hedges belong here, but I would be okay with Ali, Patel and Shannon all winning. Can we just talk about Michael Shannon - I am stunned and thrilled that Shannon got recognized for this role! He was one of the best parts of the movie, and his body of work is honorable.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali. While he was only in the first chapter of the movie, he had a pivotal role and brought such grace and delicacy to a raw, tough character. His star is on the rise.

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Should Win: Dare I say Naomie Harris for Moonlight? I can feel all the Viola-lovers throwing shade at me right now, and while I haven't seen Fences, I can vouch for Naomie's slaying of her character. She plays a supportive mother, a crack addict and a guilt-ridden old woman. While Ali is only in the first chapter of the film, Naomie is in all three, and plays just as crucial a role.

Will Win: Viola Davis. People thought it was her year YEARS ago, and she won the Tony for this role on Broadway. She and Denzel are magical together - maybe they will both take home gold!

Best Director
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Should Win: Denis Villeneuve. Even if you don't enjoy sci-fi, chances are you'll enjoy Arrival. I had so many emotions in this film - fear, apprehension, relief, confusion, resolve, empathy - not to mention the cinematography, score and AMY ADAMS.

Will Win: Damien Chazelle. I give this man mad props and all the kudos for attempting to make an old-school movie musical in 2017. Did I fall head over heels for it? Much to my dismay, I did not. However, the musical theatre nerd in me is tickled pink that an old-school movie musical is most likely going to win the Oscar for Best Picture in 2017. And Mr. Chazelle deserves recognition for that, too.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is one of the most well-written, perfectly-cast and superbly-told stories I've seen this year. Sadly, it is especially timely, but it is also an incredibly inspiring story. One that I am ashamed to say, I was not familiar with. I imagine several of us were unaware of the three African-American women, heroes really, who worked for NASA in the 1960s and ultimately helped launch our space program and get a man on the moon. The trio of ladies (played brilliantly by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae) is supported by an excellent cast including Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali. This film has everything you could possibly want, including catchy, old-school-sounding original songs by Pharrell. What more could you want in a movie?!

We meet our protagonist Katherine Goble Johnson (Henson) when she is just a child. Calling her a skilled math whiz is an understatement - she can handle any numbers thrown at her. As an adult, Katherine and her fellow masterminds Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Monae) fight their way to equality, or rather simply, recognition at NASA. Each woman has her own personal struggle: Katherine, to get credit for her correct calculations that co-worker Paul (Parsons) takes credit for; Dorothy, to get the title and pay of supervisor, since she is doing the work of one; and Mary, to take courses at an all-white school and become the first female African-American engineer for NASA. It's no spoiler alert that all women accomplish their goals, and then some.

There is humor among the heartbreak, most notably from one-liners delivered by Monae, who is certainly having her season on the screen - she shared it earlier this year with Mahershala Ali in "Moonlight". Ali also shines here as Katherine's suitor and later husband. We see the ladies run half a mile across NASA's campus just to use the bathroom, and they are forced to drink from separate coffee pots - a reminder of the disrespect African-Americans received not only in the workplace, but in society.

While Octavia snagged an Oscar nomination, this is really Taraji P's show. She brought such grace to her character and the touching moments she shares with her daughters gives me chills just thinking about them. Jim Parsons, while in a terribly cruel role, does a fantastic job at it. It's no wonder this cast won the SAG Award.

Hearing cheers in the audience for several large and small accomplishments throughout the film was inspiring, and people of all ages, races and genders will appreciate this story. I always say, the truth is stranger and more exciting than fiction. This is definitely one of those stories. For a really great read, check out this article from the Winston-Salem Journal.