tv/movies

Oscar predictions and movie reviews

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Each year, I try to see all the films that involve the Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Actor Category. I am usually not successful, but this year I’m closer than I ever have been before. The only one I’ve missed out on is “Elle,” but it’s not for lack of trying. It’s not playing anywhere (nor has it been for the last month and a half) within a 50 mile radius of me and it’s not on demand.

If you haven’t seen these films and don’t want to ruin it here’s your warning: SPOILER ALERT. I’m no great film critic; I’m just a regular person who likes movies and can appreciate the art in them as long as it’s not too out there. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the movies in each of these categories for this year (listed in alphabetical order.

arrival.jpgBest Picture: Arrival
Best Director: Denis Villeneuve

Amy Adams plays a linguistics professor who is hired by the government to communicate with aliens who have landed on earth. It doesn’t sound very exciting and it is relatively slow-moving in the beginning, but once they are able to make a connection, it is fascinating. I’m a sucker for sci-fi movies and this one was no disappointment. There was a crazy twist at the end that had us thinking and talking about it for at least a day, which is a sign of a great movie. I loved Amy Adams in this role, loved the plot and the way it was directed, and love the sci-fi twist at the end.

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Best Actor: Viggo Mortensen

This is a unique look at a man with his family, living off the grid in the Pacific Northwest, and their need to collide with modern society with the death of the mother of the family. The movie doesn’t ever go into the father’s (Viggo Mortensen) background, and I wish it had; he is obviously very intelligent and has planned a life for his children where they can fend for themselves physically and mentally. I enjoyed watching them journey through their biggest adventure into the “real world” and come to peace and moderation at the end.

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Best Picture: Fences
Best Actor: Denzel Washington
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis

Let me start by saying I like Denzel Washington. I really do. So I was hoping this movie would continue that. IT DIDN’T. This is a movie about a man who has never dealt with the demons from his childhood and instead inflicts them on everyone around him — His kind wife, who loves and tolerates this guy for 18 years, then he cheats on her, and then asks her to raise his baby from another woman when the baby mama dies during childbirth. Ugh. His son, who is a musician, and finally makes it doing something he loves and his father won’t go see him play. And his youngest son, who earns a football scholarship to a college. Mind you, he doesn’t want to play professionally, he just wants an education, but his father is angry that he wasn’t taken seriously as a baseball player because he’s African American and forbids his son from playing football. His anger has held him down and it holds down his whole family. The fact that his wife and children are good people are in spite of him; most of the time anger like this gets passed along the generations. This movie made ME angry that I spent money and time watching it.

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Best Actress: Meryl Streep

We all know from Abba (the musical) (see below for my thoughts on musicals) that Meryl Streep knows how to sing. And she can sing well. As someone who has classical training in voice, I know how hard it must be for someone who can sing to suddenly have to sing very badly. As in, the worst singer in the world. She was awesome, as Meryl Streep usually is. It’s a great movie and turns out to be a tender love story. I thought Hugh Grant should have been nominated for Supporting Actor. This one is worth seeing.

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Best Picture: Hacksaw Ridge
Best Actor: Andrew Garfield
Best Director: Mel Gibson

This graphic and stunning telling of the battle of Hacksaw Ridge is not to be missed. It’s a story about the first conscientious objector in the army, who enlisted during WWII, but refused to kill for religious reasons. Instead, he was a medic on the front lines. What he was able to accomplish during the battle was nothing short of a miracle. I loved Vince Vaughn’s role as the sergeant during boot camp also. During this movie, I lost all track of time and had no idea that 2 1/2 hours had passed by. I am pleasantly surprised that Mel Gibson and his picture was nominated, given his troubles with his reputation, but he and this picture definitely deserved at least the nomination, if not the win. See it.

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Best Picture: Hell or High Water
Best Supporting Actor: Jeff Bridges

Overall, this was a good flick. Two brothers, taking on the establishment banks and the reverse mortgage that took their home from them by robbing smaller banks to pay off the debt. I’m not sure why it rose to the level of best picture; maybe I’m missing something. Gotta love Jeff Bridges. He’s just cool in anything he does. This one is in the middle of the pack for me. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it.

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Best Picture: Hidden Figures
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer

Wow, what a story. Three brilliant African American women, working at NASA in the 1960s fought not only the gender gap, but also the racial prejudices that went along with that time to truly make a difference in the space program. They were true trailblazers in the scientific world and did so much for all women everywhere. I think there are better contenders for Supporting Actress than Octavia Spencer, but Hidden Figures makes my top three for winners for Best Picture.

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Best Actress: Natalie Portman

I thought this was going to chronicle Jackie’s life more. Instead, it starts just before the assassination of JFK and takes us through the funeral. As we watched it, I thought her performance was great as we see her in the early mourning stages for her husband. My appreciation for her performance grew afterwards. As we were walking out of the theater, someone had pulled up a YouTube video of Jackie Kennedy’s tour of the White House. Natalie Portman nailed her voice and dialect EXACTLY. She used a dialect coach to perfect Jackie’s speech patterns. I also learned that there were two sides to Jackie; the tv side and the feisty private side, which she was also very good at portraying. Great movie, wonderful performance. She’s come a long way from Queen Amidala.

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Best Picture: La La Land
Best Actress: Emma Stone
Best Actor: Ryan Gosling

Best Director: Damien Chazelle

I’m really not a fan of musicals. A few years ago when I had to sit through Les Mis, I wanted to poke my eyes out with a red hot poker. It’s no surprise that I didn’t really care for this one, especially when it opened with a scene of rush hour traffic and everyone getting out of their cars singing and dancing on them. Shortly after that was another number, but then they became very spaced out and changed as the movie became more complex. More jazz and piano. And, dude, Ryan Gosling can PLAY PIANO. So frequently throughout the film we can see emotion on his face, but you can actually feel it when he plays piano. Wow. But Emma Stone can’t sing and can’t really dance; I didn’t find her performance worthy of an Oscar nod. I can appreciate that the director was trying to do something novel; a new musical set in modern times. It kind of worked.

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Best Picture: Lion
Best Supporting Actress: Nicole Kidman
Best Supporting Actor: Dev Patel

This seems to be the year of true stories. This one chronicles the life of an Indian boy who gets lost and follows the cutest 5 year old kid through the streets of Calcutta. He is eventually picked up and taken to an orphanage, then adopted by a family in New Zealand. Next we see him as an adult and, with the help of modern technology, he tries to track down his family, which seems impossible. He does it in such a way that he is completely respectful and loving towards his adopted parents, which was a super feel-good moment in the movie. I enjoyed this movie and the fact that it brings to light an ongoing problem of lost children in India and encourages us to help them. Worth seeing, but bring the kleenex.

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Best Actress: Ruth Negga

Here is another true story, about the Lovings’ struggles in the 1960s as the state of Virginia forbade their marriage because it was inter-racial. Their case eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court and Loving v. Virginia is what determined that marriage is a fundamental right. I didn’t compare Ruth Negga’s performance with videos of the actual Ruth Negga, but I am left to assume that she very accurately mimicked the real person. Overall, the movie was slow, but the story is such an important one that I would recommend it.

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Best Picture: Manchester by the Sea
Best Actor: Casey Affleck
Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams
Best Director: Kenneth Lonergan

This movie was hard to get through. We follow a broken man through the death of his brother and his attempts to do the right thing and raise his teenage nephew. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn why he is broken. My initial reaction to this movie was not a positive one. I felt frustrated and sad at the end. But as I thought about it more, the more I realized what a phenomenal job Casey Affleck did in portraying such a damaged person when he really had very little dialog. The fact that we could tell he was broken so early on and he was able to do it without some big emotional scene was amazing. This is worth watching, but I’d say you’d have to be in the right frame of mind to see it. But your artsy beret on.

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Best Picture: Moonlight
Best Supporing Actor: Mahershala Ali
Best Director: Barry Jenkins

Here is a coming-of-age story for an African American boy as he stuggles with his mother, his environment, and discovering his sexuality. I enjoyed the look into a world that is so foreign for me from a cultural standpoint and, even though this isn’t a true story, am reminded how many children in unforgiving cultures suffer as they come to the realization they are homosexual. I didn’t really see anything all that spectacular from Mahershala Ali to make me think he should win, though. Good flick, but the same warning about the right frame of mind as I gave for Manchester. 

Here are the ones I hope win. 
Best Picture: Manchester by the Sea
Best Actress: Natalie Portman
Best Actor: toss up for me; either Casey Affleck or Ryan Gosling

And finally, here are my predictions. 

Best Picture: Fences

Best Actress: Natalie Portman 

Best Actor: Denzel Washington 

Let’s see how many I’ll get right! What are your predictions?

2 thoughts on “Oscar predictions and movie reviews

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