Between the election (ugh) and spending Thanksgiving in Texas, the Oscar blogging took a back seat. Right now I am sitting in an airport, getting ready to head back to Virginia, and figured it was time to get back in the game before the season kicks into full gear. You see, the National Board of Review (NBR) will be announcing their nominations sometime this afternoon. Though we have been speculating and tweeting since Labor Day, for all intents and purposes the awards season begins today. Is it right that we are talking about the best of the year starting on November 29th? No. Is it happening? Yes. So buckle up guys, the critics and other organizations are voting and we are about to kick into overdrive.
I like NBR, they’ve tended to give nominations to some more out of the box choices. Though this means that their Best Movies line up with Oscars maybe 50%, it makes for an interesting start to the season. Last year The Hateful Eight, Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton and Creed were all named among their Best Films. Outside of some acting and writing noms, those films were not part of the main awards players, so it was nice to see them get some attention on the front end.
With the exception of two (2000 – Quills, 2014 – A Most Violent Year), every NBR best picture since 2000 has gone on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Now when the NBR winner is something expected (i.e. La La Land, Manchester By The Sea, Silence), that piece of trivia doesn’t mean too much. If they decide to go with something a little more unconventional (i.e. Mad Max: Fury Road), then NBR’s “first out of the gate” status can actually mean something. We had been optimistically speculating and advocating for Fury Road all last year, it was the NBR that solidified the film as an actual awards player. Be on the lookout for the unconventional players this afternoon.
Let’s Talk Contenders
It is November 29th, the NBR is about to announce and we are about to jump into December. For Oscar watchers it is about to get crazy, so lets play some catch up with some films I’ve seen and where they might land this year:
Loving has the benefit of being not only a powerful historical tale of how one couple’s love lead to a constitutional amendment, but this depiction of forbidden love also comments on marriage struggles we are seeing play out today. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga are both wonderful, watching them work together makes the film a winner for me. Because the movie follows the real life story pretty closely, it is a bit slow for my taste. I think the film is an important one to watch, just not a personal favorite I’ll be revisiting.
Expected Nominations: Best Actor Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay
Other Possibilities: Best Picture, Best Costume Design, Best Hairstying/Make-Up
I’ll compare Moana to any one of the recent Marvel films. Is it a well made film, living up to the expectations set by others in the “franchise?” Yes. Does it do anything super out of the box? Not really. Is that a problem? That would be up to you. Now to be clear, I do think Moana is progressive in a way that should be celebrated, but as a whole the film is pretty by the book. I think the jokes are funny, the songs are good, and the story hits the right emotional notes when it should. Maybe our expectations were too high, it is totally within my character to over hype films before they come out, Moana is a great addition to the Disney Princess lineup, but I do think there was an opportunity to something extremely great.
Expected Nominations: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Song
Other Possibilities: (If they really go for it) Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture
Arrival just might be my favorite film of the year, and I’m pretty nervous this one is gonna be left behind this awards season. The Dennis Villeneueve directed sci-fi picture walks the perfect line between intellectually interesting and emotionally devastating. We go on a very thrilling journey watching a linguist do the basics of translation, giving us a new take on the old “fist contact” alien story. All of this makes for a good movie, what makes a great movie is the emotional core at the heart of Arrival. Between Amy Adams’ strong performance and the unexpected heart of the film, Arrvial ends up tugging at your heart strings while also stimulating your brain, a truly powerful experience.
Expected Nominations: Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay
Other Possibiliites: (Before I would have put these in the expected collumn, but there is a very strong chance the Oscars don’t go for this one at all. I think Best Actress is happening no matter what, the following would only happen if the film is “accepted” as a whole) Best Picture, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score.
I was lucky enough to catch Jackie at the Virginia Film Festival (full review will be coming soon) a few days before the election. At the time, seeing a powerful woman struggle to gain influence in Washington made for a good movie, “good thing those days are behind us” we all thought. Now (again, I say “ugh“), Jackie is a must-see, displaying the continuing struggle of women in places of power. The film features a dynamite performance by Natalie Portman, who is all but guaranteed a nomination, if not win Best Actress.
Expected Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Hairstyling/Make-Up
Other Possibilies: Best Original Score, Best Cinematography
Hell or High Water
This is an “older” release (I know I know, it came out in August, but that is pretty much ancient in terms of Awards season), but let me go on the record here before we jump into the thick of the season: Hell or High Water is one of the best films of the year and it should be nominated up and down the categories this year. The film was a solid success for the indie CBS Films. They put out the movie and word of mouth was able to garner it about $40 million at the box office and some Independent Spirit Awards. Hell or High Water gives a painfully accurate depiction of West Texas, features some powerful performance and tells a great story about family and how small town folks are dealing with the economy. If you haven’t, be sure to check this one out. Consider this my “horse” in the awards race, and I will be rooting for this one for sure.
Expected Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges) (and that’s a strong maybe)
Other Possibilities: Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Hairstyling/Makeup, Best Production Design
Again, let this serve as some quick catch-up before we jump into the season full throttle. We’ll get back to full predictions next week. For the time being, make sure to GET YOURSELF TO THE THEATER! There are so many great movies available to see, and the amount of releases is about to increase tenfold over the next couple of weeks.
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