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2016

2016 Wrap-up

Well….it’s officially time for me to regroup. I had an epically terrible night of predictions. Since starting this 6 years ago, the methods of the Academy have definitely changed. They’re predictable but not in the old ways. They’re actually recognizing talent now, which is nice. If I had gone with my gut and chosen predictions based off my own beliefs, I would have done better. 2016 winners

Notes:

  • I was right to avoid looking too much into the other award shows this year. Next year, I also need to avoid the Internet as a whole. I was going to put down Rylance as my prediction until I started reading things saying it was Stallone’s year.
  • Speaking of Rylance, that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever seen the Academy make.
  • I should’ve known better than to think they’d give anything to Star Wars.
  • As much as I wanted Newman to win, it was nice to see emotional Morricone get up there and finally win. He definitely deserved it. That was the best score.
  • I’m unreasonably annoyed that Lady Gaga didn’t win for her song. She should have.
  • I was right when I thought they wouldn’t give The Revenant the trifecta of best picture/director/cinematographer. I just didn’t think they’d take away Best Picture. Spotlight was really good but I’m not sure I agree with it being BP.
  • Ex Machina winning visual effects is another example of the Academy being less predictable by picking actual quality work. That film had some intense, ground-breaking work in visual effects and definitely deserved the award. It didn’t cross my mind to pick it because usually the odd man out (the one movie with only a couple nominations) doesn’t get the award.

I have a plan for next year. And now I have 6 years of data to work off. Next year will be better.

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2016 Predictions

After agonizing unnecessarily over this prediction table, here are my final choices for this year. I saw 20 out of 32 movies this year. Of the 12 I didn’t see, 7 were basically inaccessible. prediction table 2016

Here are some notes regarding my predictions:

  • If Stallone wins Supporting Actor, I think it’ll be more of a symbolic gesture than anything. His (theoretical) last Rocky movie, he’s never won an Oscar, he’s getting on in years…..BUT, the #oscarssowhite crew will go nuts if he wins. I think there’s a solid chance he won’t win just for that reason.
  • I have an odd number of personal choices that match my predictions this year. However, trying to not have the same choices last year led to me getting a lot of things wrong so, we’ll see.
  • I am not confident in my prediction for Iñárritu. He’d be winning twice in a row. He did not do a great job, I think, compared to the others. He compromised too much for the sake of time and budget.
  • On similar lines, I thought about putting Lubezki down for cinematography (for The Revenant) but if The Revenant wins Best Picture, Director, and Cinematography, it’ll be the exact same group that won those categories last year. That seems a little too weird. But it’s possible Lubezki could win.
  • I’m not confident about TFA‘s prediction for film editing.That one could probably go to anybody.
  • #oscarfornewman

Straight Outta Compton

Movie: Straight Outta Compton
What it’s up for: Original Screenplay, Visual Effects

Straight Outta Compton tells the tale of the rise of hip-hop group N.W.A. in the late 80s/early 90s. As someone who knew nothing about rap, hip-hop, or the histories of either, this was an educational experience for me.

As a whole, the movie is solid. It is well-crafted, well-written, and well-executed. The original screenplay flows elegantly through the story, providing just enough detail for people like me to know what’s happening, but not so much that it waters down the script. The actors used what they were given convincingly. The scenes were set up beautifully and helped communicate what was happening. It created all the emotions you could hope for in a well-written story.

The visual effects are virtually invisible (which is, of course, a good thing). I had to search for what exactly was done in the visual effects realm to realize what they had accomplished. Most of the effects were to create crowds or to assist in making scenes look dated. It was well done, but I’m not sure it deserved the nomination. Meanwhile, the production designers should have been nominated for their monumental efforts in this film. They incorporated symbolic uses of color and light. They transformed locations into their early 90s counterparts. It was just gorgeous.

Predictions
Original Screenplay – I actually think it might win this one.
Visual Effects – Really unlikely

 

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Movie: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
What it’s up for: Makeup

This might be my favorite movie of this year’s nominees. It’s currently free to watch on Amazon Prime and I would recommend it to anyone. (There is some subtitled strong language. And by “some”, I mean a lot. You know how Europeans are with the f— word.)

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is the description of the plot. On Allan’s (Robert Gustafsson) 100th birthday, he leaves through the window of his retirement home which results in a manhunt for his safe return. On Allan’s journey, he has a run in with a biker gang, finds new friends, and recollects on important moments in his long life.

The flow of this film is hysterical. It plays out with an appealing unpredictability punctuated with a sort of comic book style humor. The production design is gorgeous and there’s some beautiful shots throughout the film. The wide variety of characters involved with this story creates storylines for everyone to enjoy. It’s fun. It’s sweet. It’s quirky.

The makeup nomination comes from the old age makeup applied to Gustafsson. He plays Allan throughout multiple stages of his adult life. As the show “Face-Off” taught me, old age makeup is one of the hardest types of movie makeup to accomplish. The effect was good but not always entirely convincing.

Prediction
Makeup – Doubtful

Nominations for Best Song

I didn’t watch any of these films, but here are the songs nominated this year, for your listening pleasure:

“Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction

“Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey

(WARNING: Explicit content)

“Simple Song #3” from Youth

“Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

“Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre

 

Prediction
Shooting off the cuff, I feel like Lady Gaga and company might win this one for “Til It Happens to You”.

Bridge of Spies

Movie: Bridge of Spies
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Score, Production Design, Sound Mixing

Continuing the theme of simple yet satisfying stories, I present Bridge of Spies. I certainly don’t mean simple in any sort of patronizing way. It’s just hard to get things wrong with Tom Hanks and the Cold War.

Bridge of Spies relays a true story of Jim Donovan, a civilian lawyer (Tom Hanks) who is called upon to defend an accused Soviet spy. Then the government requests his assistance in negotiating a prisoner exchange with Russia.

Mark Rylance is marvelous as the accused Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. He’s solidly my choice for the Supporting Actor win. His lines are stoic and concise but he delivers them with this sense of hidden emotion. There’s a feeling of innocence around him which creates a desire to see him stay well. Despite his position in the story, you’re never really given a chance to dislike him. His character is surprisingly lovable. This works well with the film since much of the story’s focus stays on the idea of human rights and the position the United States holds in giving people those rights.

The original screenplay is solid and virtually flawless. It smoothly flows through each scenario. The script works brilliantly with what’s happening on screen. Each scene is set up with intention and a focus on the overall theme. That being said, there’s a certain…tameness about it that keeps me from rating it higher than some of the other screenplays this year.

The production design team’s monumental achievement shines in the scenes that occur in Berlin. They re-create a Berlin in the middle of building the Berlin wall, when East Berlin is still trying to create its identity as a communist nation. The effect is convincing, to say the least. The overall design of the film keeps things consistent and in perspective, which creates the feeling that you are with Donovan in all the events that occur.

Thomas Newman wrote the score for this film. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while may recall my post for Newman two years ago regarding Saving Mr. Banks. Everyone’s all over the internet bothering people about Leonardo DiCaprio deserving an Oscar. MEANWHILE IN THE LAND OF MUSIC, Thomas Newman remains the most nominated living composer to have never won an Oscar. He’s been nominated for 13 Oscars, which makes Leo’s 6 nominations seem like nothing. The score for Bridge of Spies is gorgeous, moving, and helpful to the story. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING HE’S EVER DONE. I really want to see him win this year. #oscarfornewman

And then there’s sound mixing. There was nothing wrong with it. It overcame the obstacles of having multiple languages, lots of dialogue, and war scenes without causing confusion. All in all, it was successful. More successful than The Revenant…..(no, I will never get over it).

Predictions
Best Picture – No
Supporting Actor – I hope so. It might be possible.
Original Screenplay – Doubtful
Production Design – Doubtful
Score – Please please please……..but I have a bad feeling he won’t win.
Sound Mixing – Doubtful

Creed

Movie: Creed
What it’s up for: Supporting Actor

I was somewhat skeptical of some of the hype surrounding Michael B. Jordan and this film. I’ve seen the other Rocky movies. I enjoyed them. I thought this one was going to be a sad remake like so many others have been. I’m quite happy to be wrong.

Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) quits his comfortable financial job to pursue his love of boxing. When the local gyms won’t train him, he seeks out the council of his father’s friend and boxing rival, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Although he tries to make a name for himself on his own, soon people find out that he’s the son of Apollo Creed and it propels him on an accelerated track to prove himself as a boxer.

The movie warms your heart in a surprising way. The screenwriters did a great job with the script, even if the screenplay as a whole was rather standard. It’s well-paced and clever. They don’t box anyone into stereotypes. (No pun intended.) The characters are given full freedom to be unique people. The story is predictable but fun.

Michael B. Jordan was fantastic and probably should have gotten an Oscar nomination for his role. He performs well as an athlete and delivers his lines with humor and feeling. The end of the film truly shows the full scope of his acting ability. As the love child of Apollo and the product of the foster care system, Adonis’ identity isn’t fully formed even as an adult. He wants to find a place to fit and for someone to believe in him. Enter Rocky Balboa.

Sylvester Stallone hits you right in your emotions. (No pun intended.) There are several opportunities throughout the film for Stallone to show off his depth and range. He’s convincing and lovable. He puts so much heart into this role and you really feel it in this film. All his friends and loved ones have moved on without him. He feels alone in the world. Then here comes Adonis to give him some purpose again. It’s adorable and heart-wrenching.

It’s a great film. Simple but effective. The type of thing that gives you hope that not all movies will depress you. It gives you hope for positive outcomes in life. It gives you hope to keep on fighting. (Pun intended.)

Predictions
Supporting Actor – Possibly…but I have a different favorite for this category

 

 

The Martian

Movie: The Martian
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects

Everyone probably knows the basic premise of The Martian by now. Basically, an astronaut named Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets stranded on Mars and everyone tries to get him back. I don’t say that cynically or tongue-in-cheek. The end result of this storyline is a fun and engaging adventure with a fantastic ensemble cast.

The production design worked perfectly. Space movies have been done many times and it’s easy to get stuck in a space movie rut when it comes to design. This one, however, felt natural and realistic. It felt like something that could be happening in this day and age, not in the future. The modern take on the design is accentuated by an artful, semi-futuristic attention to detail. The interior scenes were the most intriguing to me. There’s a consistency and flow to each location that keeps everything connected.

The adapted screenplay meshed well with the overall design to create that sense of authentic reality. The timeline for the movie spans over several years but the screenplay seamlessly transitions across time without kitschy tropes or over-used transitions. The progress of the story was well-paced without being too predictable. They avoid the awkwardness of Watney talking to himself by having him do “daily logs”. My one technical objection was to some over-the-shoulder POV camera angles (primarily near the beginning) that ruined some of the illusion of Watney being stranded alone on Mars.

The script was clever and concise and integrated the talents of the cast involved. There were a couple minor exceptions to that involving Watney and Jeff Daniel’s character (NASA administrator Sanders) where a few of their “one-liners” seemed forced. I can’t understand how that happened when much of the rest of the script smoothly incorporates humor without feeling contrived. I loved the variety of characters and the choice of actors. The threat with using that many well-known actors is for characters to feel unnecessary. Each character played an important role and each actor filled those roles well. They worked well together and each contributed to the story. My favorite moment is a scene where Sean Bean and some of the others discuss a plan called “Elrond”. If you don’t know why that’s funny, look up “Sean Bean” and “Lord of the Rings”.

Matt Damon‘s character, Mark Watney, is the centerpiece of this ensemble. After Watney is left on Mars, he must figure out how to survive and let Earth know that he’s still alive. Damon makes these terrible events amusing and makes talking to yourself seem normal. For about 80% of the movie, Damon is his typical charming self. The 20% where the walls break down and you see what’s really going on for Watney are what make his performance Oscar-worthy.

The sound editing was high class. Space movies always require a significant amount of sound creation and foleying. The sound editing was flawless, as far as I can recall. Everything felt natural and there weren’t any abrupt moments caused by sound.

The visual effects were perfect. Like I’ve said about everything else, the film felt real. The spaceship scenes were the most complex with gravity effects and the integration of the sets into outer space. Mars was convincing. It was all just good. Visual effects are somewhat difficult to examine nowadays. The only times they aren’t good are if there are some glaring problems (like The Revenant‘s fur rendering issues).

Predictions
Best Picture – Unlikely
Leading Actor – Unlikely
Adapted Screenplay – Possibly
Production Design – Possibly
Sound Editing – Possibly
Sound Mixing – It’ll get both sound categories or neither
Visual Effects – Unlikely

Animated Feature Films

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the two “foreign” movies nominated for AFF each year will not be easily available before the Oscars themselves. This year, those two movies are Boy and the World and When Marnie Was There. However, I did manage to track down the other three. I’ve already discussed Inside Out, the likely winner of this category. Here’s a quick review of the other two.

Shaun the Sheep Movie

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Claymation always astounds me. The incredibly intense process makes any feature length attempt admirable. Shaun the Sheep is adorable and entertaining. Shaun, the sheepdog Bitzer, and the rest of the flock spend the movie trying to find their farmer who gets lost in the big city. Among the gags and non-verbal jokes, it creates some surprisingly deep and emotional moments. It’s definitely worth watching, especially for kids.

Anomalisa

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Every year, there’s one movie I regret seeing. This was that movie.

An admirable effort was put in to overcome the technical and production hurdles of this film. First of all, it’s stop-motion. Second of all, it’s stop-motion using rapid prototyping (aka 3D printing) – a still fairly new concept. Third of all, it was (at least partially) funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

The story follows Michael, a motivational speaker who looks for purpose in his boring and predictable world while on a business trip. It’s an adult film. It’s rated R. But the sex scenes weren’t even the worst thing about this film. The worst thing about the film was the lack of resolution for Michael. I suppose this was intentional since real life throws us problems without resolutions all the time. However, Michael leaves us with virtually no hope for himself or for humanity. My objection simply comes from an emotional and spiritual standpoint, as someone who wants the best for humanity.

The technical aspects of the film were spectacular. After a while, once I got used to the puppets, everything seemed natural. They are some of the most realistic puppets for stop-motion animation I have ever seen. The screenplay – aside from the moral problems – is well-done. The story itself almost becomes something fantastic. Everyone in Michael’s world has the same voice and the same face except for Lisa. The symbolic ideas behind this concept are incredibly intriguing and almost turn into an interesting story.

Predictions
It will be completely shocking if anything besides Inside Out wins. Especially because it was nominated for Original Screenplay.

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