As we drift past the halfway mark of the year, it’s time to start talking about awards season. Unfortunately, this has been a particularly dour year for movies; last year had far more and overall better movies. Who’d have thought that Logan would still be considered an awards season front-runner this far into 2017? Here’s hoping Dunkirk lives up to the hype and becomes the movie to beat. Until then, let’s consider some potential nominees.
Best Foreign Film: Raw
While Get Out is unquestionably the horror movie of 2017, it would be nice to see Raw getting more attention. Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, this French film about cannibalism is actually a coming of age story about two sisters battling an addiction masquerading as a body horror movie. The gore is not as over-the-top (or gratuitous) as one might think, and it’s used very effectively.
Best Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Film Editing: Baby Driver
A surprise box office hit (and thankfully so), Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver uses sound and film editing in ways that elevate it well past the conventional heist/crime film. Although its film editing (Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss) gives us some of the most memorable car chases in years, the best aspect of the film is its sound design; this aural landscape becomes a character itself within the film. The use of music, the hum of tinnitus, and the rhythm of the cars lets us into worldview of Baby (Ansel Elgort). It’s rare for a film to make sound such an important part of a character, and even rarer for a film to integrate it so remarkably into itself. It would be great to see Baby Driver nominated for higher profile awards, but at the very least it should be acknowledged for these achievements.
Production Design: The Beguiled
Sofia Coppola’s remake of a 1970s Clint Eastwood movie earned her the Best Director award at Cannes this year. Although it’s unlikely that she’ll repeat this feat later this year, this Civil War thriller has several other aspects that should be honored. The costuming and overall production design are the highlights, and the look and feel of the candle-lit Virginia boarding school instills the entire film with an eerie sense of isolation. Despite the country being at war, there’s a persistent sense that the outside world does not exist (though not in a Shyamalan twist way). And while Best Director might be out of her grasp, Coppola could be on the short list for Adapted Screenplay.
Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele, Get Out; Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick
Although most awards generally disfavor genre pictures (other than a continuing penchant for mediocre biopics), there are two examples from this year that are likely to be recognized later on. The romantic comedy The Big Sick (written by real life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon) and the thriller Get Out (written and directed by Jordan Peele) have both received significant critical and commercial acclaim for being clever, original takes on conventional stories. Get Out, especially, has become one of the biggest success stories of 2017. Many still rank Peele’s socially conscious thriller/satire among the best films of this year, and it would be surprising if it wasn’t acknowledged in some form.
Best Supporting Actress: Catherine Keener, Get Out
A two-time Oscar nominee already, Catherine Keener could possibly get her third nod for her role as Missy Armitage in Get Out. In a town full of villains, she stood out the most as the hypnotist who mesmerizes unwitting victims to their ultimate doom.
Best Actress: Salma Hayek, Beatriz at Dinner
Salma Hayek has gotten some of her best reviews in years as the titular character in Beatriz at Dinner. About a healer/Mexican immigrant who dines with a fantastically rich boor, Beatriz has received praise for its topicality and performances.
Best Supporting Actor: Patrick Stewart, Logan
Much like his co-star Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart has gotten significant acclaim for turn in Logan, playing Professor Charles Xavier presumably for the last time. As the once powerful telepath affected by dementia, Stewart brings an emotional strength and intelligence to the role and allows Professor X to be something more human than a simple comic book hero. And, as a beloved actor for decades who seems to keep growing in popularity combined with an otherwise shallow pool, Stewart could be a good long-shot choice.
Best Actor: Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes
It’s rare for awards ceremonies to acknowledge sci-fi in any major category, but this year there are two lead actors who could possibly break the trend. The most obvious selection is Hugh Jackman as Logan in Logan. After nearly two decades of playing Wolverine, Jackman brought his character’s centuries-long saga to a respectable end and in doing so instilled a rare level of maturity in comic book movies.
However, Andy Serkis’ performance as Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes should be considered an equal (if not more) remarkable achievement. There’s been a groundswell of support for Serkis to be honored for his revolutionary use of mo-cap since 2001 when his Gollum first appeared in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. As the lead ape Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, Serkis arguably outdoes his work as the ring-obsessed Hobbit. Under the guidance of director Matt Reeves (who helmed the second and third movies in the trilogy), Serkis gives Caesar such a raw level of humanity that it grounds the entire series, despite its most surreal premise. With War bringing the trilogy to a close, Serkis gives us a character with genuine emotional depth; we appreciate and understand his burden and pride as the father of a new society. (And it goes without saying that it should be a shoo-in for best effects.)
Best Director/Picture: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
There have been a few decent movies in 2017, but very few genuine stand-outs. So sight unseen, I have to give the early edge to Christopher Nolan and Dunkirk.