Based in Canton, Michigan, Nerd on Film is a film review site by Nathan Evans. His posts explore both current releases and whatever the hell films he feels like writing about that week.

2017 OSCAR PICKS AND PREDICTIONS

2017 OSCAR PICKS AND PREDICTIONS

Well, it's that time of year when all of Hollywood decides to get together and give itself a big ol' pat on the back for a job well done. This year that pat is well deserved. 2016 ultimately was a strong showing for cinema, and there are a ton of fantastic films duking it out for the most prestigious award film offers. What follows are my picks and predictions for some of the major categories for this year's Oscar's. 

I'm also going to tack on my list of the Top Ten films from last year. I've been struggling to get it out since the beginning of the year, but life's busy and I haven't been able to find the time. So instead of a stand alone article I'm gonna add the list here. I hate to give my list short shrift, but I want to continue to move forward on the new year's new releases and there's only so much time seeing as how I don't get paid to do this (If anyone would like to payme to do this please get in touch... I'm not joking... please?!...) ON WITH THE LIST!!!

BEST PICTURE:

What should win: Manchester by the Sea 

Runner up: Fences

What will win: La La Land

If you've read my review of 'MBTS' then you know just how taken I was by that film. Very few films deal with grief in a realistic way, usually shoehorning in some kind of feel good ending. 'Manchester' doesn't. It's an all too human film with a simple, but true message: sometimes you can't come back from tragedy. It's one of the rare films that doesn't feel like a movie. The characters are real people and you care for them in the same way you might a close friend.  

'Fences' is my runner up for many of the same reasons I loved 'Manchester'. Not to mention it's made all the more impressive by the fact that most of the film takes place in a single location -- no small feat. The material is Shakespearean in complexity and the fantastic performances that fill the piece do it more than justice.

Now, with that said, let's be real here: 'La La Land' is most likely going to win. It's a movie that's in love with movies, something The Academy usually takes a shine to; they'll miss no opportunity to celebrate themselves after all. Oh, and the film stars a pair of pretty white people; something else The Academy never misses a chance to pass up. 

Unlike many of the people who are bashing the film in the wake of its awards buzz, I still stand by my initial review: 'La La Land' is a great film, and a refreshing resurgence of the classic Hollywood musical, but it's a film lacking the kind of truth you'll find in my personal picks. Unusually, unlike most of the times when The Academy gets it wrong, it won't be the end of the world if Damian Chazelle's opus does take home the gold. It's a decision I can respect, but still an unfortunate one when you place it against the other nominees.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:

Who should win: Denzel Washington

Runner up: Casey Affleck

Who will win: Casey Affleck

This might just be the hardest category for me personally. As you read above, I loved both of these films, and while 'Manchester' came out on top for me as a whole, I can't deny just how fantastic Denzel Washington is in 'Fences'. Admittedly, the character Washington portrays, Troy Maxson, is inherently more dynamic than Affleck's Lee Chandler, but Washington shouldn't be punished for choosing great material. Maxson is a complicated man, more villain than hero, but we come to understand why he's flawed through Washington's performance; a performance that requires every inch of the veteran actor's range.

Affleck on the other hand portrays a man lacking in emotion. He's really an absence of a person due to the tragedy in his past. By no means is that easy material for an actor toconvey, but it doesn't require someone to stretch in the same way Washington had to to realize Maxson. Much like Washington, Affleck is the heart of 'Manchester' (my favorite film of last year), so it pains me to say Washington should win, but I rest easy knowing that Affleck's most likely going to take it anyway.

At any rate, I'll be pulling for both of these guys on Oscar night, and I'll be happy with whoever gets it; unless of course Gosling (of 'La La Land'), an actor I do appreciate greatly, comes out from behind and takes it out from under them. He's one of the best actors working today, and he does have an Oscar in his future, but hopefully not for this role.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:

Unfortunately, I haven't seen enough of the films that round out this category, so I'm ill equipped to judge, but I have a feeling that Emma Stone is going to take it for 'La La Land', and deservedly so. The real tragedy of this race, though, is the fact that Viola Davis isn't competing in it. Through studio machinations she was placed in the supporting actress category so she'd have a better shot of actually taking home a trophy. Which is probably a smart move, but not the "right" one.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Who should win: Mahershala Ali

Runner up: Jeff Bridges

Who will win: Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali is my favorite up and coming actor working today. On the television side I loved his work on Netflix's campy and fun 'Luke Cage'. Though he was the best thing in that show, I had no idea of just how good he was until I saw 'Moonlight'. His portrayal of Blue, the sympathetic drug dealer who shepherds a young boy struggling with his sexual identity, is fantastic work. Though the part is small, Ali makes an impression, and, like in 'Luke Cage', is once again the best thing in an already great product.

Jeff Bridges is a not-too-distant second. His Marcus Hamilton from 'Hell or High Water' is the type of character Bridges excels at: a smarter than he looks curmudgeon who expresses love through light bullying. It's a fun role in a solid film, but unworthy of besting Ali in the category.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Who should win: Viola Davis

Runner up: Michelle Williams 

Who will win: Viola Davis

As I expressed before, I don't feel this category is entirely fair. While Viola Davis is as good as Denzel Washington is in 'Fences', her role isn't a supporting one: she's a lead. Despite the politics behind her inclusion in the category, there's no doubt in my mind that she deserves, and will receive, the award; which is unfair to Michelle Williams from 'Manchester'.

Much like Ali in 'Moonlight', Williams isn't in enough of 'MBTS', but when she does show up, she's a more than welcome addition. She's an actress that has been turning in consistently great performances under the radar for years, and 'Manchester' is no exception. She only really gets one moment to shine in the film, but she'll break your heart with it. Any other year, I'd be pulling for her to take the trophy, but at this point Davis is well overdue. 

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:

What should win: Zootopia

Runner up: Kubo and the Two Strings

What will win: Moana

'Zootopia' is a charming and delightful film from beginning to end. It's a children's movie that actually dares to deal with the perils of racism; something it's target audience hopefully isn't dealing with. The voice talent behind the characters are magnificent and, despite the heavy nature of the material, a wealth of humor and charm are on full display. The film marks a resurgence in the animation department for Disney as well. For the past few years the studio has taken a back seat to Pixar, but between this, 'Frozen', and 'Moana', they're slowly reclaiming their place as the number one animation studio.

A very close second is 'Kubo and the Two Strings'. Laika Studios' blend of traditional stop motion animation and cutting edge CGI is a visual achievement. The story is simple and the characters are charming, and the Japanese folklore the film explores lends a beautiful, yet haunting quality. The only thing holding the film back from the top spot for me is its narrative. While it possesses all of the qualities stated above, the material would've been better served had it been more epic in scope.

Despite only being serviceable, Disney's 'Moana' will most likely win. While the animation is beautiful, I couldn't help but be let down by the songs created for the film from Broadway breakout Lin Manuel Miranda. Couple that with a story that falters in the same way 'Kubo' does, and you end up with a film that's less than award's worthy. Unfortunately, The Academy will give the film the win simply because Miranda's name is attached.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

What should win: Moonlight

Runner up: La La Land

What will win: Moonlight

For me the winner of this category is a no brainer. 'Moonlight' is by far the best looking film of the year. The hot palette of the cinematography compliments the film's Floridian location and creates a slick, sleek canvas that's always visually arresting. 

'La La Land' is a distant second. The film is pretty to look at, and brings a great flavor to the choreography, but it's rough around the edges comparatively to 'Moonlight'. I think The Academy will agree.

DIRECTING:

Who should win: Barry Jenkins for ‘Moonlight’

Runner up: Damien Chazelle for ‘La La Land’

Who will win: Damien Chazelle

My picks for this category are going to seem odd, because neither 'Moonlight' or 'La La Land' landed as one of my Best Picture choices, but the fact of the matter is that this year's nominees are all so good they have to be compared on different scales. 'Manchester' and 'Fences' are great films, but they're great because of the writing and the performances-- not because of the direction. Of course all of these films are well directed, but 'Moonlight' takes great pains to tell its story visually. There's minimal dialogue in the film compared to the others, but the audience is always aware of the mood and inner monologue of the characters. 'Moonlight' is only Barry Jenkins second feature, but he already handles his camera like a veteran, bringing a foreign film flavor to a domestic release. 

'La La Land' is my runner up, and I believe it's going to win. Chazelle, who directed 2014’s fantastic ‘Whiplash’, took on an ambitious project with ‘La Land’ and he proves himself more than capable. His characters are lovable and their romance is bittersweet. Rather than flooding the film with musical scenes at every turn, Chazelle feels his moments out, lending a shade of realism to the fantastic imagery. It’s a piece of work worthy of the prize, but ultimately I’m rooting for Jenkins. 

So there it is: my 2017 Oscar picks and predictions. The films The Academy have nominated represent many of the best film that came out last year, but by no means are their nominations perfect. As always I find myself frustrated by the politics that go on behind the scenes of the show as well as The Academy’s resistance to opening up the categories to genre fare. There’s no denying that the films they’ve shone a spotlight on are important films that deal with important subject matter, but movies can and should be fun as well.  That’s where my personal list comes into play. 

The following list represents what I believe to be the ten best films from last year. It’s a good mix of prestige pictures and good old fashioned entertainment. As I prefaced in my worst of the year list, these films aren’t necessarily the best objectively, but they are movies that made an impression, and ones I can see myself returning to over and over again in the future. Here they are: 

NERD ON FILM'S TOP TEN OF 2016:

10. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

John Goodman's not creepy at all. 

John Goodman's not creepy at all. 

9. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

Cryogenically brainwashed bros before billionaire bros. 

Cryogenically brainwashed bros before billionaire bros. 

8. THE NICE GUYS

It's just friggin' cool.

It's just friggin' cool.

7. ARRIVAL

A touching sci-fi film featuring Amy Adams' best performance. Should've been nominated for Best Actress. 

A touching sci-fi film featuring Amy Adams' best performance. Should've been nominated for Best Actress. 

6. MOONLIGHT

A film about love, life and trauma. 

A film about love, life and trauma. 

5. LA LA LAND

White people and their struggle to save jazz. 

White people and their struggle to save jazz. 

4. DOCTOR STRANGE

Insane visuals, breathtaking special effects, and The Batch-- 'nuff said!

Insane visuals, breathtaking special effects, and The Batch-- 'nuff said!

3. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

How was this film this good?

How was this film this good?

2. FENCES

Who said you got to like Troy Maxson? It only matters if you were entertained by him. 

Who said you got to like Troy Maxson? It only matters if you were entertained by him. 

1. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Depression: The Movie!!!

Depression: The Movie!!!

 

 

 

 

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GET OUT

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2