Last Sunday were the Golden Globes, which marks the last big awards ceremony before we finally learn the Oscar nominations on January 24th (final ballots were due on January 13th). Halfway through the year, I wrote an article expressing my awards hopes for 2016’s first set of movies. The plan, naturally, was to do a second one for the latter half of the year. Unfortunately, the rest of the year didn’t produce much Oscar hopefuls for me (and, unsurprisingly, all of my suggestions from the first article seem pretty irrelevant by now).
Besides, by this time in any year, it becomes futile to discuss any sort of Oscar aspirations; we already know the likely winners or at least the top two (or three) battling it out for supremacy. For 2016, it’s obviously going to be a race between Manchester by the Sea and La La Land with Moonlight as a dark horse, and all three of those movies are likely favorites for acting prizes too. It’s actually kind of similar to last year where the two big competitors were the very dry, very human drama (Spotlight) vs. the very showy, unique drama (The Revenant) with a more socially conscious flick (The Big Short) coming up from behind. I wouldn’t be surprised if the result is the same: best director to Land and best picture to Manchester. (Though, more likely, La La Land will sweep. The Academy loves Hollywood throwbacks and tributes to lavishness (after all, that’s what the Oscars are), and La La Land has established itself as the more buzzed about film without the unforgiving harshness of last year’s DiCaprio-starrer.)
Nevertheless, here’s a few films I would like to see in the ultimately disappointing (and overall pointless) ‘honor to be nominated’ crowd
Want to See Nominated
Some of my early favorites of the year, such as The Neon Demon, Hail, Caesar!, Midnight Special, and The Lobster, might get nominations, but wins are unlikely. Even in the “lesser” categories, my appreciation for Cliff Martinez’ score for The Neon Demon and the art direction and other assorted craftsmanship in Hail, Caesar! (Art Directors Guild nominee for Excellence in Production Design notwithstanding) will likely fall to the potential juggernaut of La La Land.
Arrival– The Amy Adams-led/Denis Villeneuve-directed sci-fi drama has a strong underdog status, bolstered by significant critical (and unexpected commercial) success. Despite the Academy’s well-known bias against science-fiction, it is expected to rightfully obtain a decent amount nominations,. Possible nominations? I think it’s worthy of Picture, Director (Villeneuve), Adapted Screenplay (Eric Heisserer), Editing (Joe Walker), and Actress (Amy Adams). Will it win any of those? There’s a real dark horse chance for actress, and lighter-but-still-very-dark horse for adapted screenplay nomination, with the likely winner for that being Moonlight.
Hell or High Water – The neo-Western Hell or High Water is a testament to the power of how great it is to see a simple story done well. No major set pieces, no last minute twists, no extensive special effects, no moral speechifying, just your classic cops and robbers tale, and it’s fantastic. It has potential to be one of 2016’s most talked about stand-outs in years to come, with a fan base that is sure to grow once it hits cable. Possible nominations? Picture, Director (David Mackenzie), Original Screenplay (Taylor Sheridan), and Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges). Best chance of win – Supporting Actor; Bridges is beloved and that’s the major category without a clear-cut winner or ‘top two’.
Hacksaw Ridge – My big hope for Mel Gibson’s World War II epic is to see Hugo Weaving get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Desmond Doss’s (Andrew Garfield) father Tom Doss. The gruff, alcoholic, abusive-but-not-really-for-the-time father who disapproves of his son’s choices is a common character in movies like this (e.g. Raymond Massey in East of Eden), but the former Agent Smith brought genuine integrity and humanity to the role and made it easy to understand where Desmond got his strength of will and commitment from.
Deadpool – Obviously it won’t win anything, and it shouldn’t. I don’t even think it should be nominated for anything, despite it being my favorite superhero movies of the past several years. However, the little film whose trip to the big screen was fraught with perils and the studio turning its nose up at it at every turn has gotten a surprising amount of awards love with Golden Globes, Producers Guild, and Directors Guild nominations. The main reason why I want it to get some attention is because there will be something strangely satisfying about seeing this goofy comedy put the boot to the neck of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which most certainly thought the “Martha” twist would be an emotional gut punch the likes of which (superhero) movies have never produced. Now it’s a punchline. DC threw all the money and iconic characters in its arsenal at BvS, and a film featuring its main character masturbating to a stuff unicorn is the one that’s getting all the attention. Half of Justice League promotions is going to be damage control, but more about that later this year…
In addition to those I want to see nominated, here are a couple of movies that have some awards heat, but ought to be shut out.
Don’t Want to See Nominated
Nocturnal Animals – One of the most disappointing movies of the year, writer-director Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals has nevertheless obtained some awards buzz for acting, writing, directing, and even best picture. With the exception of acting, this movie should not be in competition for any of the bigger awards. Despite the initial car chase scene (which ranks up there with Funny Games for powerful home invasion intensity – that’s a compliment), the rest of the movie is essentially Amy Adams reading an okay-if-unexceptional pulp Western then gasping and dropping the book every 25 pages. Beyond that we slog through flashbacks of an obviously-doomed-from-the-start relationship between an unlikable cowardly man (Jake Gyllenhaal) and an unlikable vain woman (Amy Adams) falling apart. Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a fictional hillbilly maniac in the movie-within-the-movie, which is an okay choice – though if anyone should be nominated it’s Michael Shannon as a fictional unhinged cop in the movie-within-the-movie.
Nevertheless, if you want to see a fantastic movie from 2016 about the hidden darkness of the art industry filled with universally unlikable characters (but in a good way), actual themes, and clever use of dark humor, The Neon Demon surpasses Animals on every level. And if you want to see a movie about the dissolution of a relationship, there’s Manchester by the Sea, but that doesn’t need any more attention. Or better yet, there’s the Ryan Gosling/Michelle Williams 2010 fare Blue Valentine.
Florence Foster Jenkins – Well nobody expected much of this forgettable film, did they? But after telling a room full of actors and filmmakers that they were better human beings than athletes and threatening the internment and deportation of Ryan Gosling, I think Best Actress is now Meryl Streep’s to lose. Sorry Isabelle Huppert (deserved winner) and Emma Stone; how dare you not make everything political.
So those are the likely, and unlikely, Oscar favorites for this year. And, as with every time I write about the Oscars, I really need to reiterate: they don’t matter. Trying to guess the winners is more entertaining than arguing about what should win. Remember, Dances with Wolves beat Goodfellas; The English Patient beat Fargo, and The King’s Speech beat Inception, The Social Network, Black Swan, Winter’s Bone and numerous other superior films. Your favorite movie will remain your favorite movie, and history will tell what’s remembered fondly and what joins The Artist in the pile of “oh right, that was a thing, wasn’t it?”