Typically being too sick to go to the movies in late January wouldn’t be a huge loss. The month is full of throw-away dreck like “Underworld” and silly blockbusters like “XXX.”
Unfortunately, here on the peninsula, January and February are also when the big Oscar contenders start trickling onto our screens. This week we finally got “La La Land,” a movie I’m dying to see. And so, even though I’ve extolled my readers to get out and see these smaller, artsier films in the theaters, strep throat completely waylaid my plans to watch the film that was recently awarded with fourteen Oscar nominations — that’s tied for the most nominations of all time.
So I can’t tell you how the movie is. I hear it’s really good — a rather musically inclined friend of mine has seen it twice and offered to go a third time with me if I could get my sick butt off the couch. Oh well, maybe it’ll stick around for a few weeks.
Instead, I’d like to look at the major Oscar nominations and talk about which movies are likely to do well on February 26. Let’s start with Best Picture.
Most categories for the Oscars have between three and five nominations, but some crazy math instituted in the last few years allows for Best Picture to have up to ten — presumably to allow for some movies that people have actually seen to be nominated.
This year the list includes “La La Land,” “Fences,” “Moonlight,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Hidden Figures,” “Hell or High Water,” “Lion” and my favorite, “Arrival.” Of course, I’ve only seen “Arrival” and “Hell or High Water,” but Amy Adams’ sci-fi drama was so good, it’d take a lot to beat it for me. “La La Land” is on track to win this, with the coming of age drama “Moonlight” in a strong second place. If those two split the vote, “Arrival,” which received eight nominations on it’s own, could get some love, though the NASA tale, “Hidden Figures” which received stellar reviews and several nominations as well, has been getting a lot of buzz. If I had to bet however, I’d guess “La La Land” will take it home, though.
Best Actor this year will probably go to Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea.” Affleck is a remarkable actor who turns in these great, lived-in performances that kind of take you by surprise. I loved him in “Gone Baby Gone,” and “The Assassination of Jesse James,” and I think he’s earned it. If not Affleck, it will probably go to Ryan Gosling who will be carried on the sheer weight of love for “La La Land.” Other nominees include Viggo Mortensen for the little seen “Captain Fantastic,” Andrew Garfield for “Hacksaw Ridge” and Denzel Washington for his adaptation of the play “Fences.”
Best Actress is always kind of a strange duck. Often this will be the only nomination for the films in this category. I don’t know if it’s because Hollywood has difficulty coming up with good, mainstream projects for women, or if these movies are just more difficult to find.
This year, the actress with the most buzz is Ruth Negga, for Jeff Nichol’s true-life drama “Loving,” about the mixed race couple whose marriage claim went all the way to Supreme Court. This would be a huge career boost for Negga, whose biggest credit before this was as a villain on TV’s “Agents of Shield.” Other nominees include Isabelle Hupert in the French film “Elle,” Emma Stone for “La La Land,” Natalie Portman for “Jackie” and Meryl Streep for “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
Honestly, this category is pretty wide open as everyone except for Streep has been spoken of as a strong contender. I think people are betting on a “La La Land” sweep and that Stone will get this, but my money is on Negga. Interestingly, everyone said Amy Adams was shoo-in for a nomination in this category, but somehow she didn’t make the final cut.
I’m going to skip the supporting actor categories — both of them are likely to go to “Moonlight,” but these are wild card awards, so who knows. Instead, I want to talk about the writing categories. The Adapted Screenplay nominees are “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” “Moonlight” and “Lion.” Looking at this strategically, I’d say that “La La Land” will pick up most of its nominations, leaving this one of the big ones that “Moonlight” will grab. “Moonlight” has great critical acclaim, but its subject matter makes it less accessible than “La La Land.” I would love to see “Arrival” win this, but I’m afraid that film may have to be satisfied with the nominations.
Oddly, the biggest hurdle to “Moonlight” winning this award is that “adapted screenplay” is a bit of a stretch in that the play that “Moonlight” is based on, “In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue,” is unpublished.
For Original Screenplay, I think the award will go hands down to “La La Land.” Damien Chazelle burst on to the scene with last year’s “Whiplash” and is a strong contender for writing and directing this year’s feel-good musical darling. If, for some reason things turn “Moonlight’s” way, and Barry Jenkins wins for Best Director, then this screenplay award would definitely be a consolation prize. Other nominations include “Hell or High Water,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “20th Century Women” and “The Lobster.”
Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve actually seen many of these films, just read a lot about them. We got “La La Land” in the theater, and that’s great — here’s hoping we’ll see even more of these available in the future. We just have to be healthy enough to go out and watch them.