Sunday, December 4, 2016

'Manchester', 'Moonlight' and 'La La Land' Lead Early Critics Awards

It has begun. Awards season is "officially" underway after what has been a busy seven days of early -- and I mean ridiculously, unnecessarily early -- precursor citations. The main takeaway: In a studio year as lack-lustre as 2016 was, it looks like critically acclaimed indies will be leading the race, namely Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea and Damien Chazelle's La La Land, while some sneak-peek twitter reactions to Scorsese's recently screened Silence paint it as a major last-minute lurker that could crash the party.
The National Board of Review got the ball rolling last Tuesday, handing Manchester four prizes including Best Film, Best Actor and Best Screenplay. Moonlight trailed with a pair of wins for Jenkins' direction and Naomie Harris' incredible performance.

The New York Film Critics Circle followed up two days after with three prizes apiece for both Manchester and Moonlight, but at the eleventh hour voted in favour of La La Land as Best Film (not an unprecedented move for that group).

That same day, La La Land went on to dominate the Critics Choice nominations with 12. Again, Moonlight had a prominent showing with 10, Manchester with 7 (Full list of nominees will appear at the end of the post with some quick takes).

The LA Film Critics Association rounded out the week by naming Moonlight the best of the year just this afternoon. The film also won Best Director, Supporting Actor and Cinematography. La La Land only earned a single prize from the west coast crew (for music), but was runner-up in five other categories, making it the most represented title in the group's day of announcements. Hmmm... were they afraid giving it multiple wins would smack of homerim?

Also speaking up last week was ASIFA-Hollywood with the 44th Annual Annie Award nominations. Zootopia led the way with 11, represented in every eligible category. With the last American studio toons finally being screened, it looks like we can confirm what we suspected back in March: Zootopia is probably going to win the Oscar. Its studio stablemate Moana was once considered a sight-unseen threat, but not anymore. It's a pleasant enough diversion, with lots of goodies on the soundtrack and pretty pictures -- as in, soooooo gorgeous! -- but it suffers mildly from an uneven pace and more severely from clumsily handled character arcs. Its better chance for Oscar gold will be in the Best Original Song category, although that too looks like stiff fight to be in this year.
While we're on the topic of animated award hopefuls, I was quite delighted at the laurels Laika's Kubo and the Two Strings managed to pull down this past week. Not only did it manage to snag a Best Animated Feature gong from the National Board of Review (this will be a rarity in a season sure to be owned by Zootopia), but it trailed the Disney juggernaut by only one Annie nomination and even advanced as one of the 20 semi-finalists for the Best Visual Effects Oscar. When I reviewed the stop-motion marvel back in August I asserted that this would make an inspired and absolutely deserved nomination, but I won't harbour false hope of it moving any further than this. When was the last time an animated feature made it to the bake-off? Ratatouille I think?

Anyway, here are the nominees for the Critics Choice Awards, the first televised show of season. It goes down next weekend...
You heard me: Next weekend. Talk about desperate.

Best Picture
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
Pretty much a barometer of where the race is at, not allowing for Silence of course. Am I really going to have to go seek out Sully?

Best Director
Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”)
Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”)
Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”)
Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea”)
David Mackenzie (“Hell or High Water”)
Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”)
Denzel Washington (“Fences”)

Best Actor
Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”)
Joel Edgerton (“Loving”)
Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”)
Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”)
Tom Hanks (“Sully”)
Denzel Washington (“Fences”)
Edgerton's work might be too low-key for the Academy's idea of ACTING.

Best Actress
Amy Adams (“Arrival”)
Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”)
Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”)
Ruth Negga (“Loving”)
Natalie Portman (“Jackie”)
Emma Stone (“La La Land”)
Adams is probably facing an uphill climb for an Oscar nod. Looks like another stacked year for this category.

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”)
Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”)
Ben Foster (“Hell or High Water”)
Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”)
Dev Patel (“Lion”)
Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”)
Nebulous category. Ali the best of the five I've seen.

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis (“Fences”)
Greta Gerwig (“20th Century Women”)
Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”)
Nicole Kidman (“Lion”)
Janelle Monáe  (“Hidden Figures”)
Michelle Williams (“Manchester by the Sea”)
I'm no fan of category fraud, but if it can get Viola the Oscar she should've gotten five years ago, I can forgive... this once.

Best Young Actor/Actress
Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”)
Alex R. Hibbert (“Moonlight”)
Lewis MacDougall (“A Monster Calls”)
Madina Nalwanga (“Queen of Katwe”)
Sunny Pawar (“Lion”)
Hailee Steinfeld (“The Edge of Seventeen”)
Haven't seen Lion or A Monster Calls yet, but the other four are strong choices. Steinfeld FTW.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Luke Davies (“Lion”)
Tom Ford (“Nocturnal Animals”)
Eric Heisserer (“Arrival”)
Todd Komarnicki (“Sully”)
Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi (“Hidden Figures”)
August Wilson (“Fences”)

Best Original Screenplay
Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”)
Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”)
Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou (“The Lobster”)
Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea “)
Jeff Nichols (“Loving”)
Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”)
I worry that Manchester will become the default winner here all season long. There's much to admire and discuss in the film's performances and unusual tonal shifts, but I'm not sure this qualifies as a great screenplay.

Best Cinematography
“Arrival” (Bradford Young)
“Jackie” (Stéphane Fontaine)
“La La Land” (Linus Sandgren)
“Moonlight” (James Laxton)
“Nocturnal Animals” (Seamus McGarvey)
Laxton an inspired pick here, but the Academy's cinematography branch can be hard to penetrate for lesser known talents.

Best Costume Design
“Allied” (Joanna Johnston)
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Colleen Atwood)
“Florence Foster Jenkins” (Consolata Boyle)
“Jackie” (Madeline Fontaine)
“La La Land” (Mary Zophres)
“Love & Friendship” (Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh)

Best Editing
“Arrival” (Joe Walker)
“Hacksaw Ridge” (John Gilbert)
“La La Land” (Tom Cross)
“Moonlight” (Nat Sanders, Joi McMillon)
“Sully” (Blu Murray)
This is a nomination I need to see Moonlight repeat on Oscar morning.

Best Hair & Makeup
“Doctor Strange”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Star Trek Beyond”

Best Production Design
“Arrival” (Patrice Vermette; Paul Hotte, André Valade)
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Stuart Craig; James Hambidge, Anna Pinnock)
“Jackie” (Jean Rabasse; Véronique Melery)
“La La Land” (David Wasco; Sandy Reynolds-Wasco)
“Live By Night” (Jess Gonchor; Nancy Haigh)

Best Score
“Arrival” (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
“Jackie” (Mica Levi)
“La La Land” (Justin Hurwitz)
“Moonlight” (Nicholas Britell)
“Lion” (Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka)

Best Song
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
“City of Stars” from “La La Land”
“How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from “Trolls”
“The Rules Don’t Apply” from “Rules Don’t Apply”
“Drive It Like You Stole It” from “Sing Street”
Lin-Manuel Miranda may get his EGOT. "How Far I'll Go" is a likely nominee, but you know what that song really needed: A bridge and a finish.

Best Visual Effects
“Doctor Strange”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“The Jungle Book”
“A Monster Calls”
A Monster Calls missed the Academy's semi-finalist list of 20. Ouch.

Best Animated Feature
“Finding Dory”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“The Red Turtle”
Wouldn't be surprised if the animation branch picked another foreign toon to go along with The Red Turtle.

Best Foreign Language Film
“The Handmaiden”
“The Salesman”
“Toni Erdmann”
All but The Handmaiden are official submissions for their respective countries.

Best Acting Ensemble
“Hell or High Water”
“Hidden Figures”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“20th Century Women”

Best Action Movie
“Captain America: Civil War”
“Doctor Strange”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Jason Bourne”
Hacksaw Ridge as an action movie is a bit of a stretch. Is there any good reason why something as bad-ass as Kubo couldn't be considered here?

Best Actor in an Action Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch (“Doctor Strange”)
Matt Damon (“Jason Bourne”)
Chris Evans (“Captain America: Civil War”)
Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”)
Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool”)

Best Actress in an Action Movie
Gal Gadot (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”)
Scarlett Johansson (“Captain America: Civil War”)
Margot Robbie (“Suicide Squad”)
Tilda Swinton (“Doctor Strange”)
Um, how about Blake Lively? Way to dig deep, BFCA.

Best Comedy
“Central Intelligence”
“Don’t Think Twice”
“The Edge of Seventeen”
“Hail, Caesar!”
“The Nice Guys”

Best Actor in a Comedy
Ryan Gosling (“The Nice Guys”)
Hugh Grant (“Florence Foster Jenkins”)
Dwayne Johnson (“Central Intelligence”)
Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”)
Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool”)

Best Actress in a Comedy
Kate Beckinsale (“Love & Friendship”)
Sally Field (“Hello, My Name Iis Doris”)
Kate McKinnon (“Ghostbusters”)
Hailee Steinfeld (“The Edge of Seventeen”)
Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”)
In a less competitive year, this wouldn't be an embarrassing Best Actress roster (though McKinnon is Supporting).

Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie
“Doctor Strange”
“Don’t Breathe”
“Star Trek Beyond”
“10 Cloverfield Lane”
“The Witch”
Glad to see The Witch crop up somewhere, even if only in one of those superfluous genre ghettos.


  1. "Wouldn't be surprised if the animation branch picked another foreign toon to go along with The Red Turtle."

    Chances are that it's going to be Your Name, which overtook The Red Turtle to claim Best Animated Feature at the LAFC Awards.

    1. Possible. But let's not overestimate the influence of a single critics group. Animation branch has been resistant to anime not under the Ghibli banner.

  2. Yes you should seek out Sully. It's very good, same with Finding Dory (haters gonna hate).