This feature initially ran in late January. We’re reposting because there’s a little awards show this Sunday where they give out golden statues.
Another year, another boring round of Oscars, right? Not quite.
After being hilariously trolled by last year’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign — not to mention, you know, 2016 host Chris Rock — the Academy made an effort to shake things up by diversifying its membership, adding 683 new members, a pool that breaks down to 46% female and 41% people of color. Judging from this year’s offerings, it worked.
Then again, it helps that Hollywood also took note. Although the year started out rough, with miserable blockbusters and reboots piling on top of one another like oozing summer garbage on New York City streets, 2016 came to a close with some wildly diverse stories, from Moonlight to Hidden Figures to Fences to Lion to Loving. That’s only a handful!
The Oscars reflect that this year. Sure, some might argue the 14 nominations for Damien Chazelle’s La La Land are a bit much — not this writer, who can’t stop singing “Someone in the Crowd” every morning in the shower — but they’re also forgetting that not every would-be juggernaut actually walks home as one. Just ask Richard Linklater…
When it comes to this ceremony, it’s anyone’s game, and looking ahead, it’s hard to really scoff at any of the potential Best Picture winners. They’re all bonafide critical darlings — hell, one particular win for one less favorable filmmaker could be seen as an unlikely Hollywood redemption story — and that’s the best case scenario, right?
Well, it sure as hell beats seeing Deadpool on there. Nevertheless, take a closer look with us as we breakdown each category and try and decide who should win and who will win. Some believe there’s a science to this shit, and they’re goddamn fools.
It’s nothing but a crapshoot.
Best Animated Feature Film
Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life As A Zucchini
The Red Turtle
What should win: Kubo and the Two Strings
What will win: Moana
In a surprisingly stacked year for animated features (Finding Dory is a notable, high-grossing exclusion from this year’s nominations, for starters), this race will probably come down to familiarity over general quality. That’s not to say there are necessarily any bad entries here; Disney showed up in a big way, and their dual nominations speak to the increasing quality of their in-house work. But although we see the incredibly popular Moana taking home the prize — especially as it’s picking up steam in the weeks following the Golden Globes’ pick for Zootopia — it’s Laika’s gorgeously ambitious stop-motion/CG hybrid Kubo and the Two Strings that we favor most.
Best Foreign Language Film
A Man Called Ove
Land of Mine
What should win: Toni Erdmann
What will win: A Man Called Ove
Okay, so maybe Toni Erdmann was too good for this world. It absolutely could have been nominated for Best Picture. Or Best Director. Or Best Original Screenplay. Or Best Actor. Or Best Actress… For Christ’s sake Oscar, did the 160-minute runtime bum you out before you gave this movie a shot!?! IT HAS MORE HEARTBREAK AND HILARITY IN IT THAN ALL THE OTHER NOMINEES! YOU SHOULD FEEL SO LUCKY TO HAVE SOMEONE LIKE TONI IN YOUR LIFE! HE GOT US TO SING WHITNEY HOUSTON AGAIN! TAKE LIFE LESS SERIOUSLY! THIS FILM HAS A 40-MINUTE NAKED BRUNCH THAT IS QUITE POSSIBLY THE FUNNIEST AND MOST BIZARRE COMEDY SCENE THIS SIDE OF A BLAKE EDWARDS FARCE LIKE 10 OR THE PARTY.
Sorry, where was I? Oh! Best Foreign Language Film. Toni Erdman, simply put, rules. It’s a new absurdist classic; devastatingly, deliriously human. It took Cannes by storm, had a minor release from Sony Picture Classics last fall, and was more-or-less snubbed by the Academy. So here, right here, is where deserving praise can be heaped on the eccentrically unforgettable work by Maren Ade. Before the inevitable American remake. But the Academy’s probably gonna reward the more middle-ground Man Called Ove, which is fine … but he’s not Toni.
Best Documentary Feature
O.J.: Made in America
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
What should win: O.J.: Made in America
What will win: O.J.: Made in America
A look back at the last 20 years of Best Documentary Oscars is not without its share of classics. Films like Man on Wire, Searching for Sugar Man, and March of the Penguins turned their subjects into something bigger than the screen, the kind of stories friends would tell each other over drinks, its subject matter so captivating that it demands to be shared. O.J.: Made in America is something different. Like Amy Winehouse and Muhammad Ali (who also saw docs about them win statues), the story of O.J. was already known. Hell, it wasn’t even the only acclaimed presentation of his life this year. But O.J.: Made in America might have been the most ambitious film of 2016 regardless for genre. Running 467 minutes over five parts, it does its damndest to tell the whole story of O.J. Simpson, letting it sprawl to cover greater issues of race in America, landing on something so insightful and thorough that no other documentary released this year stands a chance in hell.
Linus Sandgren, La La Land
Bradford Young, Arrival
Rodrigo Prieto, Silence
James Laxton, Moonlight *
Greig Fraser, Lion
Who should win: Linus Sandgren, La La Land
Who will win: Linus Sandgren, La La Land
La La Land has proven to be a “your mileage may vary” kind of film, but even its detractors can’t deny that this thing looks good. Get used to this sentiment, because you’ll be seeing it a lot in the entries to come. Linus Sandgren should and will win for his sumptuous take on Los Angeles—that dizzying final sequence alone makes him a sure thing—so let’s take a minute to rhapsodize about some of the year’s most expertly captured films. Silence? Breathtaking. Arrival? Awesome, and in the most literal sense of the word. Moonlight? The only potential spoiler here, as James Laxton does as fine a job capturing real-world Miami as Sandgren does capturing dream-world L.A. Jackie? Inexplicably shut out. Lion? Yeah, sure. This category may be as sure a thing as things come, but the competition sure is pretty.
Tom Cross, La La Land
Joe Walker, Arrival
John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water
Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders, Moonlight
Who should win: Tom Cross, La La Land
Who will win: Tom Cross, La La Land
Tom Cross already won a very deserving Oscar for editing Chazelle’s Whiplash. That thing was cut like a machine. With edits tighter than a snare drum, Cross showed an affinity for hard, rhythmic film editing that would have made Bob Fosse choke on a cigarette. To see Cross play with old staples like layered imagery, cross-fades, and long-ish takes that recalls films like An American in Paris was nothing short of eye-catching. A feast for the film nerds in all of us. There’s nothing wrong with being flashy, especially in a film about showbiz, and Cross demonstrated his knack for musical movement again with La La Land. Is it revolutionary? No, of course not. Does it get the A in film history? You betcha. This baby’s assembled in a way anyone can see and easily appreciate. So while Arrival was edited to be slow and steady, or Moonlight was cut to be abrupt and hallucinatory, Cross was like Edward Scissorhands at the edit bay. Take that, haters of quick cuts.
Best Original Screenplay
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By the Sea
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou, The Lobster *
Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
Who should win: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By the Sea
Who will win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Well, the voters put themselves in one hell of a pickle this year, no? Good fucking god. From top to bottom, there’s no denying why each name and screenplay is under this banner for 2016. Mike Mills’ delicately placed family turmoil amid a bristling cultural revolution in America with 20th Century Women. Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou wrote the greatest Black Mirror episode with The Lobster, one that left us sucking down two Xanax as opposed to four. Taylor Sheridan grilled up cowboy ethics and class issues through the BBQ that is Hell of High Water. Kenneth Lonergan welded grief and fortitude with humor and heart to masterful results with Manchester by the Sea. And finally, Damien Chazelle turned Los Angeles into a magical, dreamy world again with La La Land. Voters are going to go with the latter, no doubt, but if they want to honor gold with gold, the award should go to … and this one requires much deliberation and thought … Lonergan. Here’s hoping they throw the curve ball toward Boston.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Eric Heisserer, Arrival
Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McRaney, Moonlight
Luke Davies, Lion
August Wilson, Fences
Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
Who should win: Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McRaney, Moonlight
Who will win: August Wilson, Fences
No woman has won any screenplay award since 2007 when Diablo Cody won for Juno, and none has won in Adapted since Diana Ossana shared the award in 2005 for Brokeback Mountain. And that streak looks unlikely to end this year, with Hidden Figures scribe Allison Schroeder a major underdog in this year’s field. Though Arrival has managed to earn noms for both creative and technical categories, the latter of those areas figures to be its strongest chances. And with Lion just happy to be nominated, that really leaves a two-horse race: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney for Moonlight and August Wilson for Fences. Moonlight might be the greater achievement, having actually adapted a story into a screenplay (whereas Fences is already a play), but the chance to award Wilson for his beloved work a dozen years after his death might be too difficult of an opportunity for the Academy to pass up.
Best Original Song
“City of Stars”, La La Land
“How Far I’ll Go”, Moana
“Can’t Stop the Feeling”, Trolls
“The Empty Chair”, Jim: The James Foley Story
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, La La Land
Who should win: “City of Stars”, La La Land
Who will win: “City of Stars”, La La Land
The best part of the Best Original Song award is that it provides the Oscar’s equivalent to their musical guest. It could be big names like Adele or Celine Dion singing the hearts out or it could create Oscar oddball moments where the likes of Juicy J or Elliott Smith take the stage. This year is not without its star power, either, with Justin Timberlake nominated for his massive Trolls single “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, Sting up for some movie called Jim: The James Foley Story that we’re pretty sure the Academy made up just to get the former Police frontman up on stage, and Hamilton man-of-the-moment Lin-Manuel Miranda for a song from Moana that’s sung by Auli’i Cravalho on film but will probably be performed live by the soundtrack singer Alessia Cara. That sounds like a good show, right? But really what everyone will want to see is Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone giving the live version of their adored La La Land songs, immediately followed by the song’s writers and composers, Justin Hurwitz , Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul walking home with statues. This is Hollywood, and “City of Stars” speaks to just about everyone voting for this thing.
Best Original Score
Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, Lion
Mica Levi, Jackie *
Thomas Newman, Passengers
Who should win: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Who will win: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Looking to toss down a little money? Go for this one. There’s absolutely no way Justin Hurwitz doesn’t win this award. Not only does he deserve it, if only for that piano melody behind “City of Stars”, but it’s a widely acclaimed musical with 14 jaw-dropping nominations. Granted, Nicholas Britell’s work on Moonlight is brilliant, not to mention our 2014 Composer of the Year Mica Levi, whose work on Jackie is a character in itself, but way too many voters are going to see “Score” see the name La La Land, circle it, and then move on. Again, it’s all deserved, but, um, well, there you are…
Best Visual Effects
The Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Kubo and the Two Strings
What should win: Kubo and the Two Strings
What will win: Anyone’s guess?
This one’s a total toss up. Odds are it’ll rightfully go to Kubo and the Two Strings given the breadth of work Laika put into the film, but the Oscars love rewarding the box office titans in this category, which means we might see a single win for Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Then again, The Jungle Book was also a huge hit and, as my fellow Film Editor put it so eloquently, “made singing animals actually look like a real thing.” As for the other two, Doctor Strange did some commendable work and Deepwater Horizon is the only nomination here grounded in actual reality, so if the voters were swayed by natural explosions, there’s that. If you insist on gambling in this category, go with Kubo. As for us, we’re tossing our hands up this time.
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
What should win: A Man Called Ove
What will win: A Man Called Ove
Makeup’s a helluva category. Seriously! It still exists in this strange moment where more and more filmmakers are leaning on digital alterations (if not fully articulated CGI creations) for body change. Critics and audiences tend to either wince at aging makeup, or note the rubber factor in genre films – the two best places for them in this day and age. Sorry to channel the griping of an old man or something, but it’s kinda true.
Regardless, let’s look at the offerings here. One, Suicide Squad as a movie is dumb as a rock, and the creature effects and makeup looked like a can of Chunky soup thrown at a screen. And the only notable hairstyling served to make Margot Robbie a bad girl pixie with pigtails. Hard pass. Then there’s Star Trek Beyond, which involves a nifty sight gag involving this one alien that’s hiding some MacGuffin behind her head, but the film’s such visual viscera that it will likely have gone unnoticed.
So, yeah, we’ll give this one to the Swedish film, A Man Called Ove, on the grounds of sheer likeability and respectability. Err, the film, not the makeup. But liking the former makes it easier to reward the latter. Old age makeup is nothing special, but, are Oscar voters gonna feel comfortable giving an award to the Suicide Squad? Admit it, you’re laughing at the fact that it’s nominated already!
Best Costume Design
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
What should win: The Handmaiden
What will win: La La Land
There’s perhaps no clearer “should win” than in this category, and the film in question isn’t even nominated. Oh, South Korea, what were you thinking? Granted, The Handmaiden might have given the Academy the vapors, but my god, the costumes! Its home country’s failure to submit it for consideration may have doomed Park Chan-wook’s thrilling piece of imperialist noir, but come on, just look at it. In its absence, La La Land will sweep this award in with the rest, as cute dresses are never a bad thing. Jackie may give it a run for its money, thanks to Natalie Portman’s drunken mid-film costume parade, and Fantastic Beasts earned its nod for Seraphnia Picquery’s headwear alone. Still, since this isn’t The Handmaiden’s to win, it’s La La Land’s to lose.