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I'd Like to Thank the Academy - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
I'd Like to Thank the Academy

All right you guys. Listen. I enjoyed La La Land a lot -- I gave it a good B+ rating. I stand by that. The music in particular is wonderful. But having it tie for the highest number of Oscar nominations ever, with Titanic (another good but wildly overrated movie) and All About Eve (actually a solid classic), at 14? Come on. This movie received so many nominations I'm only talking about 12 of them in this entry. I never write about sound editing and sound mixing, because who gives a shit? This results in an unfortunate effect for a perfectly good movie: It's becoming so overrated, I'm starting to resent it. It's widely expected to sweep the major categories this year, and it just doesn't deserve to.

Two movies received eight nominations: Arrival and Moonlight, both somewhat surprising, for different reasons. You don't expect a movie about an alien invasion -- pseudo-cerebral as it may be -- to get showered with Academy love. And I fully expected Moonlight, in my opinion unequivocally the year's best movie, to get nominations. I just didn't expect it to get that many. Unfortunately, it's still likely to get outshined on Oscar night by La La Land.

And then there were three movies that tied this year in particular for third-most nominated, at six nominations each: Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, and Lion. Hacksaw Ridge is certainly the most-nominated film this year that I did not bother to see -- and I saw nearly all of them -- but I just can't get over my distaste for Mel Gibson. In any case, these numbers are far more reasonable, generally speaking.

Lastly, there are the surprising diversions from the SAG Award nominations, given that those who vote for acting nominees for the Oscars is essentially the same voting body as those for the SAG Awards. The Best Actor nominees and the Best Supporting Actress nominees match perfectly, but for Best Acress, the SAG Awards nominated Amy Adams and Emily Blunt; Amy Adams in particular was expected to get an Oscar nod. Instead, those slots at the Academy Awards went to Isabelle Huppert (who?) and Ruth Negga -- the latter of whom helped make this year a record six African American nominees. For Best Supporting Actor, SAG nominated Hugh Grant, who was bumped by the Academy in favor of Michael Shannon.

So let's go through the Academy categories individually now, shall we? I'm breaking with "tradition" this year and starting with the ladies.

Actress in a Leading Role

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

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: I would bet large sums of money that Emma Stone has got it in the bag. If La La Land has even one award practically guaranteed this year, it's Best Actress. And to be fair, she is fantastic in it.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: Of these nominees, Natalie Portman objectively gave the best performance. I realize not everyone agrees with me. The friend I saw Jackie with didn't think she channeled Jackie Kennedy very well. I thought she was amazing.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: I love Meryl Streep, but Jesus Christ. Twenty Oscar nominations now? I swear, Meryl Streep could record a selfie rant with her smart phone on a street corner and she'd wind up nominated at the next year's Academy Awards.

Actor in a Leading Role

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

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: The momentum is all about Casey Affleck here. It's sort of ironic, given that his brother Ben, while he won once for Best Picture (Argo) and one for screenwriting (Good Will Hunting, a movie that frankly hasn't aged well), still has no Oscar for acting. It's true, however, that Casey is a better actor.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: Of these nominees? Denzel Washington. But he already has two Oscars, which means he'll need a hell of a lot more momentum than he's gotten this year to get a third one. That's just how the Academy works, unfortunately.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: To tell you the truth, I'm leaning toward saying Casey Affleck should be denied the award, talent or not. All that sexual harassment stuff just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I'm not inclined to feel he should be rewarded.

Actress in a Supporting Role

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

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: By all accounts, Viola Davis is the front runner -- and largely because of deft campaigning, not least of which was her decision to submit herself in the Supporting category where she knew she would be more competitive. She'd have little chance against Emma Stone, but she has plenty of chance against everyone else on this list.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: I want Moonlight to get all the awards. It won't, and it won't get this one either, but Naomie Harris deserves this one.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: Lion exceeded my expectations, but if there is any award it doesn't deserve -- in spite of Nicole Kidman being a historically great actor -- it's this one.

Actor in a Supporting Role

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

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: This feels like one of the tighter races. I feel like no matter which one I predict, I'll probably be wrong. This may be the one instance in which Moonlight actually has a chance.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: And Moonlight is the one that deserves it.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: I was much more impressed with Nocturnal Animals than I expected to be, but I'm a little mystified that Michael Shannon was its one and only acting nomination. If anyone deserved to be nominated for this movie, it was Amy Adams -- and perhaps that's why she got edged out of the race this year: nominee voting split between this and Arrival.

Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Courgette
The Red Turtle

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: How in the hell did Finding Dory not get nominated? It was the second-highest grossing movie of the year! How strange. Usually I'd say the most successful film in this category is most likely to win -- but even The Secret Life of Pets, the #4 grossing movie of the year, didn't get nominated. Next on the list would be Zootopia, which did get nominated. Honestly I just don't know. Kubo and the Two Strings could get it just for its stunning visuals.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: I only saw three of this year's nominees in this category, and they all got a B+ from me. I liked them all the same. I must say that I have more of a soft spot for Moana than either of the other two, though.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: I'd never even heard of Life as a Courgette or The Red Turtle before this week. And neither do I have any particular distaste for the three I saw. I can't choose one in this category that I think should be excluded.


Arrival, Bradford Young
La La Land, Linus Sandgren
Lion, Greig Fraser
Moonlight, James Laxton
Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Probably La La Land, not because of merit but because of momentum. It did have pretty great cinematography in it, though.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: I only gave Moonlight, out of all these films, a solid A for cinematography. So to me the choice is clear.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: The degree to which La La Land has become overrated has colored my perception, so I really don't want it to win this one, and I'll freely admit that's perhaps unfair. Moonlight still deserves it regardless.

Production Design

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: This is one of the categories I find more difficult to predict with any real confidence. In spite of La La Land getting nominated here, I feel like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the kind of movie with the more memorable set designs.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: I guess I would also say that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had production design that demanded the most effort.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: I did not see Passengers, so this is maybe unfair, but I read enough about it to decide I don't want it to win anything.

Costume Design

Allied, Joanna Johnston
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colleen Atwood
Florence Foster Jenkins, Consolata Boyle
Jackie, Madeline Fontaine
La La Land, Mary Zophres

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: I think this could be where Jackie gets its win. Its costumes are evocative in a way none of those in the other nominated films are.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: Honestly I don't care that much.


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

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: This is almost certain to go to Damien Chazelle for La La Land.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: I don't even care that I never even gave Hacksaw Ridge a chance: fuck Mel Gibson. He should be kissing the Academy's feet just for getting nominated.

Film Editing

Arrival, Joe Walker
Hacksaw Ridge, John Gilbert
Hell or High Water, Jake Roberts
La La Land, Tom Cross
Moonlight, Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: This will likely be another easy win for La La Land, even though it's among the least deserving on this list.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: Although Hell or High Water is a criminally underrated and little-watched movie, Moonlight still has the edge. Its editing was damn near perfect.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: Have I mentioned I don't want Mel Gibson's movie to win anything? I suppose that's unfair to John Gilbert. Well, life isn't fair. Also I don't want La La Land to win this award. But I won't be surprised if it does.

Makeup and Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: I don't get why only three films get nominated in this category. I suppose between these three, Star Trek Beyond is likely to get the win.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: And between these three, Star Trek Beyond likely does have the best makeup and hairstyling.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: Suicide Squad was so universally panned by critics that I skipped it. And yet: I did see A Man Called Ove, and rather liked it. But I'm perplexed by its inclusion here. I saw nothing whatsoever that indicated any kind of unusual challenge when it came to makeup and hairstyling.

Music (Original Score)

Jackie, Mica Levi
La La Land, Justin Hurwitz
Lion, Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka
Moonlight, Nicholas Britell
Passengers, Thomas Newman

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: The music in La La Land is one of its greatest assets. It will win this award.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: Setting aside actual songs, when it comes to original score, I don't often even notice that when I watch movies. I certainly did when watching Jackie, though, as its score was uniquely exceptional. It would get my vote.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: Passengers, I suppose. Even though I didn't even see it. But at the end of the day I'm fine with any of the others winning.

Music (Original Song)

"Audition (The Fools Who Dream)," from La La Land, Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
"Can't Stop the Feeling," from Trolls, Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
"City of Stars," from La La Land, Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
"How Far I'll Go," from Moana, Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda
"The Empty Chair," from Jim: The James Foley Story, Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: There has been some talk of votes splitting between the two La La Land songs nominated, resulting in a loss for the movie in this category. I think it will still win. Probably for "Audition (The Fools Who Dream," since Emma Stone is a better singer than Ryan Gosling is.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: Honestly, this is the one category in which I'd be gung-ho for a La La Land win -- the music is by far my favorite thing about it. And the two songs nominated are the movie's two best songs, so, take your pick. Although if pressed I would also let "Audition" squeak by for the win.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: I don't really have any particular beef with any of the other nominees though. That said, as much as I love Justin Timberlake, "Can't Stop the Feeling" is a pretty unexceptional, generic pop song.

Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: This depends on how many Academy members actually watch the nominated films. If they all see it, then Kubo and the Two Strings is the logical win.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: Although I found the story lacking, the visual effects are by far the biggest reason to see Kubo and the Two Strings, especially considering it is stop motion animation. They are astounding.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: Doctor Strange? Bleh. Yawn. Okay, I didn't see it. Maybe the visual effects are amazing? Whatever, still: bleh. Yawn. The world had more than enough comic book movies a decade ago. Let's look toward movie concepts with some real innovation.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Arrival, Screenplay by Eric Heisserer
Fences, Screenplay by August Wilson
Hidden Figures, Screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Lion, Screenplay by Luke Davies
Moonlight, Screenplay by Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: I would bet that this is maybe the one category in which Moonlight is the genuine front runner.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: Do you even need to ask? Moonlight.
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: Fences, great as the dialogue is, does not deserve this award. Given that the movie itself still feels like a play, it's hardly even an adaptation.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Hell or High Water, Written by Taylor Sheridan
La La Land, Written by Damien Chazelle
The Lobster, Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
Manchester by the Sea, Written by Kenneth Lonergan
20th Century Women, Written by Mike Mills

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Another duh; La La Land.
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: Hell or High Water has a flawless script. You can take that to the bank! (Also this movie is about bank robbers.)
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: Come on. Give any of the other movies besides La La Land this award. But noooo, you won't listen to me! You never do! I've been shouting into the Internet void for twelve years! Sheesh!

Best motion picture of the year

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

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: La La Land. La La Land. La La Land. Have I mentioned La La Land?
WHO I THINK SHOULD WIN: Moonlight. Moonlight. Moonlight. Have I mentioned Moonlight?
WHO I THINK SHOULD NOT WIN: Hacksaw Ridge. Have I mentioned I hate Mel Gibson?

(Nominations for foreign language film, documentary feature, documentary short, animated short, live action short, sound editing, and sound mixing were also announced, but I don't know enough about them to make any worthwhile observations.)

The 88th Academy Awards telecast will air on ABC Sunday, February 26 at 4 p.m. Pacific Time.
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