Guide to the 2017 Oscars (Update)


Oscar night has come and gone and a lot of awards were dished out, a few to the right people a few to the wrong people.  No big upsets anywhere though which is good for me, bad for the people who actually watched the whole Oscars ceremony.  I was neither as write as I’ve been in the past nor as wrong.  I struggled with the technical awards this year just because I overthought at every possible opportunity.

Tonight is the night of the 89th Academy Awards.  Which means two things: I’m going to talk about a bunch of movies, a handful of which some of you have seen and far more most of you have never heard of.  And second I’m going to give my opinion on the work of a lot of people more talented than me (and a few who are just luckier than me).  I got your back so you can sound smart at all those Oscar parties this year even though the only two movies you saw this year were Split and Don’t Breath.

I’m always impressed by the Oscars, it seems to be a real challenge in the 21st century to put an award show together that has anything of value to ay at all.  While the Emmys are disappointing in their lack of imagination, at least they’re not the Grammys which couldn’t be more disconnected with quality music if they were run by Helen Keller.  The Oscars on the other hand are as competent as usual, nothing mind blowing, nothing disappointing—and there’s a little color which is nice so when everyone gives their speeches about the tire fire that is America at the moment they won’t seem as hypocritical.

As always, over the last few months I have watched every film nominated for every category except animated feature film, any short films (because they are essentially impossible to get a hold of), and documentary and foreign language films.  So I’ll cover everything there is that I could possibly cover.


Will Win: The movie/actor that is most likely to win the actual award

Upset: The second most likely movie/actor to take the award Oscar night

Should Win: The nominee that is actually best in its category (because we all know… I know all)

Snubbed: The movies/actors that were better than at least one of the nominees

The Big Boy Awards

Best Picture

The coup de grâce of film awards.  No they are not 100% accurate every year; for every The Return of the King and Schindler’s List there are as many Crashs and Forrest Gumps.  But 100% accuracy is an unreasonable expectation of an anonymous committee that judges art.  You can really only expect that kind of accuracy from one anonymous man with a blog on the internet—or I would like to think.



I’ve talked a lot about Arrival over the past few months, both here and in my real life.  It’s the kind of movie that just sticks with you.  I remember the moment I left the theater and I texted my friend Cory and immediately told him that he had to go see it.  Denis Villeneuve has proved over the years that he deserves to be listed in the vein of the filmmaking greats.  Villeneuve followed up Prisoners, Enemy, and Sicario—three drastically different films but all masterfully directed—with another beautifully and minimally shot film whose plot and genre could be no more different than the three before it.  A lot of directors get stuck in a genre comfort zone and I think to their detriment.  Villeneuve has an aesthetic style that he carries from film to film but he also has the ability to tell many stories within that style.  Coupled with some pretty great performances from his lead cast and Arrival manages to be one of the most enjoyable and smart sci-fi films in years.

Rating: 8.5/10



Denzel Washington and Viola Davis bring their successful run of the August Wilson play to the screen, almost exactly as it was for better or worse.  If Arrival is a director’s film Fences is almost the quintessential actors’ film.  Washington and Davis play lead (yes lead) characters Troy Maxson and Rose Lee Maxson in a very Wilsion story about manhood and fatherhood and how those are navigated by the black community in Jim Crowe America.  While I have never been blown away by August Wilson as a playwright I could watch Denzel Washington and Viola Davis watch paint dry and the supporting cast is equally praiseworthy in Fences.  Old favorites Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, and Stephen Henderson give typically impressive performances but it was Jovan Adepo who impressed most in his first film role as Cory Maxson Troy and Rose’s teenage son.  The script allows for such dynamic acting from all the cast it is good enough to make you forget that it is barely directed at all and that, besides the opening scene, the whole film is essentially set in one house (much like a stage performance might be).  The film is far from perfect and probably not even the best possible adaptation of the Fences script but it’s hard to complain about a movie with scenes like the one between Washington and Adepo near the close of the film.

Rating: 7/10

Hacksaw Ridge


Really?  Is there anyone we needed back less than Mel Gibson?  Disregarding his contributions to society for a moment, Mel Gibson’s directorial contributions include The Man Without a Face, Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto, and finally Hacksaw Ridge.  Two of the four movies before Hacksaw Ridge are borderline unwatchable.  Not since George Lucas has anyone ridden the coattails of singular success like Mel Gibson has with Braveheart.  Hacksaw Ridge isn’t good.  It’s at best okay.  It is a film that is half dreadfully dull and poorly paced and half nonstop perverse violence.  Hacksaw Ridge is yet another World War II film that is closer to American propaganda than it is to actual filmmaking.  The Americans are superheroes and the Japanese are monsters, as faceless and expendable as they are barbaric and horrific.  It’s not that I have a problem with WWII movies, I love violence as much as the next guy who used to be a 13 year old boy but its been done literally dozens of times, and done much much much better than this.  Das Boot, The Bridge of the River Kwai, Patton, Inglorious Basterds, Black Book, Atonement, Stalingrad, Defiance, and of course Saving Private Ryan just to name a handful of movies that do this—but better.  How many average WWII movies do we really need?

Rating: 4/10

Hell or High Water


Living in middle America might be worth classifying as torture.  Hell or High Water is the story of two desperate brothers turned bank robbers in West Texas and the police that track them.  It’s a pretty straightforward movie so straight forward in fact that I bet the only person more surprised by its nomination than me was David Mackenzie himself.  This is a pretty typical film festival movie: big stars and relatively unknown directors teaming up to make understated eminently watchable movies.  Hell or High Water gives an interesting take on one of the most recycled film genres, the heist film.  Even though there is plenty of it, this is not a movie about bank robberies or surviving on the run, it’s a pretty impressively told story of the people living in these dying towns all across middle America and it’s not a story that gets told much which is refreshing.

Rating: 6.5/10

Hidden Figures


A pretty obvious response to OscarsSoWhite for a decently deserving movie.  Is this one of the 9 best pictures of the year?  No.  Did it do enough well to be worthy of a nomination?  Definitely.  Hidden Figures is a very good version of a well-worn formula.  It doesn’t take a genius to put together that this is a rehashing of many sports movies that have come before it: Remember the Titans, 42, Pride, Glory Road, to name a few.  There’s nothing truly special about this movie, at the end of the day it’s well written and well-acted and it tells a compelling “untold” story as the marketing for this movie refuses to let us forget.

Rating: 6/10

La La Land

La La Land2.png

I’ve written so much shit about La La Land at this point.  I love this move, I love basically everything about it.  Damien Chazelle has been killing it recently, and as far as I’m concerned Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone can do no wrong.  If you really must read more about what I’ve written already, here you go:

Rating: 10/10



A leak of this movie (and all the Oscar movies) came out during voting season—as it always does.  I think Lion is the film that suffers most from watching it on a grainy webrip copy.  The movie is beautifully shot even in its, at times, very bleak settings Lion manages to find the beauty in a pretty disheartening story.  Garth Davis has shown that he has a knack for finding the beauty in barren settings on Top of the Lake, almost his only other directorial credit besides Lion to date.  On top of being really impressed with the directing of this film I love Dev Patel, always have even The Last Airbender and About Cherry considering he is still one of my favorite working actors.  The movie is beautiful enough and the cast, even outside of Patel, is good enough to make up for some of the shortcomings of the film for sure.  At times Lion is pretty cliché and emotionally tone deaf, it often falls back onto trying to make the audience cry rather than telling the very compelling story of its main character.  I think the biggest problem the film suffers from though is trying to tell a complete story.  Saroo’s life is uplifting and courageous but Lion tries to tell two half stories.  Just when I became invested in young Saroo’s life we shift immediately to the future and it feels like we just into a pretty rushed story.  I want to know more about what Lion hints at.  What is Saroo’s relationship with his adoptive brother?  What is the family life like for this very oddly constructed Australian family?  How does Saroo cope with his racial identity?  The movie hints at all these questions but it really is just that—a hint—which is a shame.

Rating: 6/10

Manchester by the Sea


Kenneth Lonergan is the kind of director who will come out of the woodwork every half a decade or so to either drop a massive hit or a hot pile of shit.  And there is no in between.  Last time he surfaced in 2011 he released Margaret, a movie so painfully boring and poorly made that it feels more like a Law and Order episode than an actual movie.  It also managed to rake in $623,292 on a $14 million budget.  This is the first Lonergan had been heard of since writing Gangs of New York and the first film he had directed since the indie classic You Can Count On Me.  So it was really about time that the writer of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle came out with something amazing.  Manchester by the Sea is a movie that does everything but still manages to do it well.  It’s very depressing, beautifully shot, acted extraordinarily well, and at times is really very funny.  This is literature in cinematic form, Lonergan goes out to tell human drama in its purest and succeeds tenfold.  The subtleties of Lee Chandler’s character are amazing to watch throughout the movie.  It is saying something that of the nine best picture nominees Manchester by the Sea feels the most like you’re watching a real story—even considering three of the films are based on historical events.

Rating: 9/10



It’s become kind of a joke that Moonlight is an Oscar checklist film: black, gay, poverty, drugs, based on a play, based on the writer’s real life.  And it’s definitely entire possible that Barry Jenkins was thinking about his acceptance speech all along while writing this film but that doesn’t detract from the fact that he has something really special here.  Moonlight is minimalist story telling at its best; it manages to tell a focused and comprehensive story of Chiron’s life as he grows up closeted in a poor, drug filled black neighborhood in Miami.  While the three actors that play Chiron are amazing especially Ashton Sanders who plays teen Chiron it is the supporting cast that really steal the screen here.  Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe, and a personal favorite of mine André Holland deliver some of the best performances of the year in roles that feel like they take up huge swaths of the film but really only have about 20 or so minutes of screen time total.  I love to see different stories on screen, Chiron’s story and the story of people like him are too rarely seen on screen and Jenkins does such an amazing job with this film.  Barry Jenkins isn’t just a great writer he’s an amazing director the shot selection and aesthetics of Moonlight are second to none this year while it’s not as flashy as some of the other films nominated it is an equal if not greater directorial achievement.

Rating: 9/10

It’s pretty irritating that the Academy continues to not nominate all 10 films that they could.  I was all for switching from 5 to 10, but I also thought that meant they’d actually pick 10 movies.  For the first time in a few years I think the best picture category is decently close going into Sunday night.  There isn’t really a clear front runner because of the sheer quality of the films that came out this year which is a good problem to have.  It’s also hard to predict how much Casey Affleck’s past crimes will affect Manchester by the Sea in categories outside of best actor.  But still; I do my best.

Will Win: La La Land

Upset: Moonlight

Should Win: La La Land

Snubbed: Green Room, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Salesman


Winner: Moonlight

I am torn about this; I was not all that sure that La La Land would take the award, certainly not as sure as I was about some of the other awards tonight.  On one hand I think La La Land was definitely the best movie of this year, definitely of the nominations.  But on the other hand as a black man who lives in Trump’s America I do really like that Moonlight won–it is the second best movie at the end of the day anyway so it’s certainly deserving.

Best Director


I wonder if we’ll ever have a best director contender that is not nominated for best picture.  There are plenty of movies every year that are well directed but end up not being particularly amazing movies. This year however the four movies in this category with the ability to walk away with the best director award are also the four most likely to win best picture.  This award usually goes to the flashiest performance behind the camera so Damien Chazelle will probably walk away with it but I think that there is equal skill in the minimal beauty that Villeneuve, Lonergan, and Jenkins employ.  With all the names that got left off this list—I can think of maybe 30 people who did a better job directing than Mel Gibson in 2016—it’s probably about time that the Academy extend this category to 10 films then we could have some interesting nominees to celebrate great directors of average films.

The Ranking:

  1. Damien Chazelle- La La Land
  2. Barry Jenkins- Moonlight
  3. Denis Villeneuve- Arrival
  4. Kenneth Lonergan- Manchester by the Sea
  5. Mel Gibson- Hacksaw Ridge

Will Win: Damien Chazelle

Upset: Kenneth Lonergan

Should Win: Barry Jenkins

Snubbed: Ethan & Joel Coen for Hail, Caesar!, Ken Loach for I, Daniel Blake, Tom Ford for Nocturnal Animals, Taika Waititi for Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Robert Zemeckis for Allied, Shane Black for The Nice Guys, Martin Scorsese for Silence


Winner: Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Damien Chazelle is very deserving of this award.  I would have been very surprised if Moonlight took home both the best picture and director awards.  Also he’s 32 and has already made 2 of the best 20 or 30 movies this decade, not to mention his writing work on 10 Cloverfield Lane he’s got a lot of years in front of him to collect best picture trophies.

Best Lead Actress


It’s really weird that only one of these movies got nominated for best picture.  It’s even weirder than none of them except La La Land got nominated for a single other award.  I don’t know exactly what this says about the opportunities given to women in Hollywood but I know it’s not good.  This is however the most diverse collection of films in any category which for a best actor/actress award can make things pretty interesting.

The Ranking:

  1. Emma Stone
  2. Isabelle Huppert
  3. Natalie Portman
  4. Ruth Negga
  5. Meryl Streep

Will Win: Emma Stone

Upset: Isabelle Huppert

Should Win: Emma Stone

Snubbed: Amy Adams for Arrival, Annette Bening for 20th Century Women, Sandra Hüller for Toni Erdmann, Mary Elizabeth Winstead for 10 Cloverfield Lane


Winner: Emma Stone- La La Land

You’re playing from behind when you’re acting in a role like Mia.  The last three winners were: locked in a room with their child born of rape for a few decades, slowly succumbed to the symptoms of alzheimer’s, and lost all their money and most of their mind.  Emma Stone fell in love and danced a bit on screen.  It took a truly amazing performance to win the award over these other performances, many of which were awardworthy themselves.

Best Lead Actor


Not since the 2016/2-17 NBA season has there ever been more of a two man race for something.  This award is going to Casey Affleck or Denzel Washing and rightfully so.  Viggo Mortensen is a good actor but there isn’t much special about his performance in Captain Fantastic and I could say the same for Andrew Garfield.  Ryan Gosling is almost painfully charming in La La Land but compared to what Washington and Affleck get to do on screen there isn’t much competition there.  I’ve said my piece about what Casey Affleck has done, I think it’s disgusting and if the way that society chooses to punish him is to deny him an Oscar than I certainly would not bemoan that decision.  But I am also torn between that and separating artist from art.  I think there is also an entire conversation to be had about the way that Casey Affleck has been treated and Nate Parker was treated in the wake of similar situations.

The Ranking:

  1. Casey Affleck
  2. Denzel Washington
  3. Ryan Gosling
  4. Viggo Mortensen
  5. Andrew Garfield

Will Win: Denzel Washington

Upset: Casey Affleck

Should Win: Casey Affleck

Snubbed: Colin Farrell for The Lobster, Chris Pine for Hell of High Water, Nate Parker for The Birth of a Nation, Dace Johns for I, Daniel Blake


Winner: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

I overestimated how much all the shit would effect Casey Affleck’s award chances.  I have not decided how I feel about the whole thing really.  When you at a little time to it people are much more able of separating art from the man; think Buster Keaton, D.W.Griffith, John Wayne, Elvis Presley, the list goes on and on.  But it does feel more insidious in the present that’s for sure.

Best Supporting Actor


Jeff Bridges has found his niche in his old age.  He knows what character he likes to play and he’s going to keep playing it until he dies.  But he is very good at it so it might not actually be a problem.  Unlike last year the talent pool for supporting actors was pretty deep this year and you could’ve easily had five different nominees and it wouldn’t have surprised me all that much.

The Ranking:

  1. Mahershala Ali
  2. Dev Patel
  3. Jeff Bridges
  4. Lucas Hedges
  5. Michael Shannon

Will Win: Dev Patel

Upset: Mahershala Ali

Should Win: Mahershala Ali

Snubbed: Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals, Lucas Jade Zumann for 20th Century Women, Jovan Adepo for Fences, Chris Gethard for Don’t Think Twice (sneakily amazing performance)


Winner: Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

I should’ve just listened to my gut, I panicked for no reason rally.  Ali gave the better performance I thought Lion’s lack of wins would come into play here but I really just overthought this whole award for no reason.

Best Supporting Actress


This category is kind of as sham because Viola Davis got robbed five years ago.  Davis was the presumptive winner in the best actress category for her performance in The Help—and of the five women nominated was definitely the most deserving.  But come the night of the awards she lost out to Meryl Streep.  And I think she looked at the field this year and decided she didn’t want to lose yet another award to someone like Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, or Emma Stone so whoever it was be it her, the studio, her agent, etc. decided that they would put her up for supporting actress in Fences.  I think it’s a shame that Viola Davis has so little confidence in the voters that she has to go play baseball in a teeball league but based on her past experience I can hardly blame her.  But really Michelle Williams is going to suffer most in this situation.

The Ranking:

  1. Michelle Williams
  2. Viola Davis
  3. Naomie Harris
  4. Octavia Spencer
  5. Nicole Kidman

Will Win: Viola Davis

Upset: Michelle Williams

Should Win: Michelle Williams

Snubbed: Greta Gerwig for 20th Century Women, Alia Shawkat for Green Room, Lily Gladstone for Certain Women


Winner: Viola Davis – Fences

Again, baseball in a teeball league.  It just wasn’t fair really.

Best Original Screenplay


Even though the actors and the directors are the stars of the Academy’s big night.  None of these movies are shit without plot or dialogue.  Look at Nocturnal Animals prestige directing, an amazing cast, almost entirely snubbed by the Academy because the writing was just so bad—and rightfully so.

The Ranking:

  1. Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
  2. La La Land – Damien Chazelle
  3. 20th Century Women – Mike Mills
  4. The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
  5. Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan

Will Win: La La Land

Upset: The Lobster

Should Win: Manchester by the Sea

Snubbed: Jim Jarmusch for Paterson, Mike Birbiglia for Don’t Think Twice, Joel & Ethan Coen for Hail, Ceasar!, Jeremy Saulnier for Green Room, Taika Waititi for Hunt for the Wilder People, Disney Team for Zootopia


Winner: Manchester by the Sea

It was the best written movie this year, sometimes its really as simple as that.  I assumed the love for La La Land would be more prevalent tonight but it did end up winning almost all the ones it should’ve so I can hardly complain.

Best Adapted Screenplay


Adapting a screenplay is a whole different beast then writing something original.  Not more or less challenging just entirely different so it was good when the Academy separated the writing award into two different awards.  Adapted screenplay tends to be a smaller talent pool though so you get nominations like Lion and Hidden Figures both of which had good but certainly not great writing.  Also isn’t it kind of weird to nominate August Wilson for this award?

The Ranking:

  1. Moonlight – Barry Jenkins
  2. Arrival – Eric Heisserer
  3. Fences – August Wilson
  4. Lion – Luke Davies
  5. Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

Will Win: Moonlight

Upset: Arrival

Should Win: Moonlight

Snubbed: Jeff Nichols for Loving, Amy Jump for High-Rise, Justin Marks for The Jungle Book


Winner: Moonlight

Honestly it’s kind of a shame that Arrival and Moonlight came out in the same year because cinematically they do a lot of the same things really well; Moonlight just does them slightly better and beat Arrival in a lot of the categories they were both nominated for.

Slightly Smaller Awards

Maybe not as blockbuster as best picture or actor but these awards are still full of household names and even if you’re not a film nerd you could care about who wins some of these.

Best Cinematography


The Ranking:

  1. La La Land
  2. Moonlight
  3. Lion
  4. Arrival
  5. Silence

Will Win: La La Land

Upset: Moonlight

Should Win: La La Land

Snubbed: Sing Street, Kubo and the Two Strings, Passengers, Live by Night


Winner: La La Land

There are some shots in this movie that still bring a tear to my eye.  And I say that with no shame at all.

Best Film Editing

La La Land3.png

The Ranking:

  1. Moonlight
  2. La La Land
  3. Arrival
  4. Hell or High Water
  5. Hacksaw Ridge

Will Win: Moonlight

Upset: La La Land

Should Win: Moonlight

Snubbed: Hidden Figures, Bleed for This, Elle, The Neon Demon


Winner: Hacksaw Ridge

John Gilbert’s editing on Hacksaw Ridge is definitely the loudest of these five films.  cutting in battle scenes without the crutch of shaky cam is nice, but compared to the subtlety and elegance of Moonlight, La La Land, and even Arrival I still don’t think its a close comparison regardless of what the Academy has to say.

Best Sound Editing


The Ranking:

  1. La La Land
  2. Arrival
  3. Deepwater Horizon
  4. Hacksaw Ridge
  5. Sully

Will Win: La La Land

Upset: Hacksaw Ridge

Should Win: La La Land

Snubbed: Doctor Strange, Allied, Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them, Hidden Figures


Winner: Arrival

I really didn’t expect for the ambient sound style mixing of Arrival to get rewarded over the sheer brute force of Hacksaw Ridge or the technical execution of La La Land considering the history of this award, especially in recent years.

Best Production Design


My favorite of the technical awards, I love a good set

The Ranking:

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  2. La La Land
  3. Passengers
  4. Hail, Caesar!
  5. Arrival

Will Win: Hail, Caesar!

Upset: La La Land

Should Win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Snubbed: Allied, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Live By Night


Winner: La La Land

Give La La Land all the awards, I’m never going to complain about that.  But Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had the best set design of any movie in the last 5 years.

Best Visual Effects


The Ranking:

  1. Kubo and the Two Strings
  2. Doctor Strange
  3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  4. The Jungle Book
  5. Deepwater Horizon

Will Win: Doctor Strange

Upset: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Snubbed: Passengers, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Deadpool, The Huntsman: Winter’s War (I know we all forgot this movie happened, but it’s probably to most visually stunning live action movie of the year)


Winner: The Jungle Book

Ehhhh, okay.  I can kinda see what they value here.  But I still think beauty is more important here than technical execution.

The Unsung Hero Awards

You might not care, but you can’t act naked. Someone’s got to be the best at clothing actors.

Best Costume Design

The Ranking:

  1. Jackie
  2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  3. Florence Foster Jenkins
  4. Allied
  5. La La Land

Will Win: Florence Foster Jenkins

Upset: Jackie

Should Win: Jackie


Winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Ranking:

  1. Star Trek Beyond
  2. Suicide Squad
  3. A Man Called Ove

Will Win: Suicide Squad

Upset: Star Trek

Should Win: Star Trek


Winner: Suicide Squad

Best Original Score

The Ranking:

  1. La La Land
  2. Moonlight
  3. Passenger
  4. Lion
  5. Jackie

Will Win: La La Land

Upset: Haha

Should Win: La La Land


Winner: La La Land

Best Sound Mixing

The Ranking:

  1. La La Land
  2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  3. 13 Hours
  4. Hacksaw Ridge
  5. Arrival

Will Win: La La Land

Upset: Hacksaw Ridge

Should Win: La La Land


Winner: Hacksaw Ridge


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