Best Picture:Lady Bird Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya Animated Feature Film:Coco Cinematography: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049 Costume Design: Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread Directing: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water Documentary (Feature):Icarus Documentary (Short Subject): “Heroin(e)” Film Editing: Lee Smith, Dunkirk Foreign Language Film:The Insult Makeup and Hairstyling: Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, and Lucy Sibbick, Darkest Hour Music (Original Score): Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water Music (Original Song): Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, “Remember Me” (Coco) Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, and Jeffrey A. Melvin, The Shape of Water Animated Short Film: “Revolting Rhymes” Live Action Short Film: “DeKalb Elementary” Sound Editing: Richard King and Alex Gibson, Dunkirk Sound Mixing: Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo, and Mark Weingarten, Dunkirk Visual Effects: John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert, and Richard R. Hoover, Blade Runner 2049 Writing (Adapted Screenplay): James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name Writing (Original Screenplay): Jordan Peele, Get Out
We live in a democracy. Majority rules, right? Not always. Not at the Oscars, anyway (necessarily). You’d think that the process of deciding the year’s Best Picture would be as clear-cut as to award the movie with the most votes. But it’s not, and hasn’t been since 2008. (It doesn’t necessarily work that way to determine the US President, so why should determining the year’s top movie be any different?)
In 2009, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) expanded its Best Picture nominations from five to 10 (now the number of nominees can be anywhere between 5 and 10), it reintroduced its preferential voting system, one that was last used from 1934 – 1945. The system is pretty complex, and with over 7,000 ballots to sort, it takes about a week for those famed accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers to determine the winners.
A few of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentary short films are available free online (full versions below), while others are accessible on Netflix and HBO. Here’s how to watch all five.
IMDbdescription: Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds. Their love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart. Director: Laura Checkoway Runtime: 29 min.
You have enough on your plate. Nominee luncheons. Press releases. Etc. I get it. You don’t have time to watch all the nominated films. No worries. I’m pleased to step up to the plate, watch the movies, and offer my (informed) opinions. I know you’ve looked forward to this memo for the last nine years, so how could I possibly disappoint you by skipping a year? So attend your lunches and write your press releases lauding improved diversity numbers among your ranks. Leave the Oscars to me. I’ll take it from here.
Two months ago, I encouraged several people to watch this year’s crop of Oscar-nominated documentary shorts. My only instruction: have tissues handy. Hard-hitting themes ranged from Syria, to end-of-life decisions in an ICU, to Syria, to the Holocaust, to Syria.
So months before the White House fired its missiles in the direction of the Middle Eastern country this week, the Academy was providing us privileged folk sitting in soft recliners with varied perspectives on the crisis that’s happening halfway around the world—where instead of privilege there are regular shellings, and instead of soft recliners there are scared children. The nominated documentaries, “The White Helmets” (the eventual winner), “Watani: My Homeland,” and “4.1 Miles” each offer a completely different take on Syria’s civil war, and each gives us reason to care. This is essential viewing. Below I give a brief synopsis for each film, including the full version of “4.1 Miles.”
I have a bit of an attachment to this film. “Stutterer”, written and directed by Benjamin Cleary, was submitted to a film festival of which I was a member of the screening committee. I loved it. Of the 100 or so films I screened that year, it was one of the best I had seen. I championed it to the programmers in hopes that they’d agree and add it to the festival’s slate. Alas, the film didn’t make the cut—not because it wasn’t good or deserving. Great films are often rejected from festivals for any number of reasons. Months later, “Stutterer” was nominated for an Oscar, along with one other film I screened for the same festival (which I also championed and was also rejected). “Stutterer” won. (I should start my own damn festival.)
Best Picture:La La Land Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences Animated Feature Film:Zootopia Cinematography: Linus Sandgren, La La Land Costume Design: Mary Zophres, La La Land Directing: Damien Chazelle, La La Land Documentary (Feature):O.J.: Made in America Documentary (Short Subject): “The White Helmets” Film Editing: Tom Cross, La La Land Foreign Language Film:The Salesman Makeup and Hairstyling: Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo, Star Trek Beyond Music (Original Score): Justin Hurwitz, La La Land Music (Original Song): Justin Hurwitz and Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, “City of Stars,” La La Land Production Design: David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, La La Land Animated Short Film: “Piper” Live Action Short Film: “La Femme et le TGV” Sound Editing: Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan, La La Land Sound Mixing: Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow, La La Land Visual Effects: Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon, The Jungle Book Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight Writing (Original Screenplay): Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Eight years later, I’m still waiting for that magical piece of mail, inviting me to join your fine organization. But that’s not keeping me from sounding off on a few Oscar categories. I’ve seen all the nominated films, and I have some thoughts that should be considered. So allow me to make your job easier. Here’s who should win. You’re welcome.
I’ve been having conversations lately with friends who aren’t quite buying into the frenzy. They may like or dislike La La Land, but either way they’re just not getting it. “Fourteen Oscar nominations? Tied for the most in history?” La La Land may be good, but it’s not a juggernaut, they might say. Its effect on our culture is hardly titanic in scale. So why all the hype?