Tag Archives: craft

Get Out

Wow. Just, wow.

Probably the best horror film I’ve seen in ages. It has only one open question (resolved about 2/3 through) and one surprise; it derives its horror from how real it all feels. It is honest and rarely keeps you waiting when you’ve gotten ahead of it. That allows you to feel the tension of Daniel Kaluuya’s (Sicario) character to the fullest. He never comes off as dumb. He unpuzzles the plot as fast as the audience and acts. Part of what makes it so scary is the feeling that he really can’t avoid the inevitable. It is a powerful and compelling performance.

Helping that along are some equally solid performances by Bradley Whitford (Saving Mr. Banks) and Allison Williams (Girls). The rest of the family is a bit less believable with Catherine Keener (Begin Again) being marginal, but intriguing, and Caleb Landry Jones (Stonewall) just feeling out of control. I think that was writer and first-time director Jordan Peele’s intent, but I wish he had reined it in more to keep it just a bit less obvious.

However, as the horror of the situation unfolds, we are swept along. It is uncomfortable and frustrating, embarrassing and angering. And, yes, pretty terrifying, but not in a monster-going-to-eat-your-face way, but more in a this-feels-almost-like-it-could-happen way. It makes Peele a great choice for the upcoming series adaptation of Lovecraft Country, which also has to walk that line. (Also a book I highly recommend.)

But Get Out goes beyond just the typical horror movie/teen angst level. There is a sociological aspect to this movie. It will be taught in years to come in universities and high schools by those brave enough to do so. The resonance of the tale, both as personal nightmare and social commentary is loud and disturbingly clear.

If this had released even 8 years ago (maybe less), it would have felt like propaganda or blaxploitation. In today’s times of stress and fear it comes across more as object lesson and metaphor. What is white privilege? What is it to abandon your own culture or have it co-opted? We get a complete spectrum of the latter with LilRel Howery (Carmichael Show) at one extreme end, Kaluuya as a middle ground, and Lakeith Stanfield (War Machine) at the far extreme end, with two painful touch-points by Marcus Henderson (Pete’s Dragon) and Betty Gabriel (Good Girls Revolt) as the family help. It isn’t, of course, that straight forward, but from an academic standpoint it is ripe for debate and examination. Add to it the realities of the plot itself, once revealed, and it is even more powerful.

This film had a huge reception in theaters, earning $250M worldwide. And while $$s aren’t always the best way to judge a film, in this case it is a great measure of the chord it struck. This isn’t an easy film to watch, but it is well done, well conceived. Like Hell or High Water, it is a movie of its time, though with frankly much more meat to the bone. If you somehow missed Get Out, make time for it. It is a great ride that also happens to comes with a message. If nothing else, it is guaranteed to start a conversation.

Get Out

3 Generations

This is best thought of as a film about family rather than a story about a young trans man played by Elle Fanning (20th Century Women). It is primarily a tale about how this unique family inter-relates. And, in the end, this movie is really more Naomi Watts (Sea of Trees) story than it is Fanning’s.

But, truth be told, it is Susan Sarandon (The Meddler) and Linda Emond (The Family Fang) who steal this movie. Their characters and interactions are beautifully understated and comfortable. They throw away their lines like the old, partnered couple they are supposed to be but also manage to stay in the background. They take focus because of their quality, not because they are scene stealing.

There was so much controversy over this film as it came to screens. The MPAA tried to saddle it with an R rating due to its subject matter (learn more about the MPAA) and because Fanning was playing the role rather than a trans actor. Fanning (20th Century Women) does try to do her best, but I honestly never really bought her in the role both because the on-screen and script choices didn’t really fully jibe with my own experiences with people in transition.

The movie is simply, fundamentally flawed. Director and co-writer Gaby Dellal worked with Nikole Beckwith, but didn’t quite nail the story either in balance or action. Added to that, there is a forced layer of auteur visuals in the videos created by Fanning’s character that don’t feel at all on point or by him. And there is also a more metaphorical aspect of resampling and recreating music into something by that character. In neither case does the film pursue the threads, leaving them dangling, unfulfilled, and even distracting in some ways. And the men in this film, Tate Donovan (Argo) and Sam Trammell (The Fault in Our Stars), are somewhat pointless, but that is by design, though an odd message given the core focus.

Ultimately, there is entertainment and warm fuzzies to be had here, and a couple of the performances really are worth seeing. But as a movie it is middling in its success.

3 Generations

Wonder Woman: Female empowerment or just a brass bikini?

***SPOILERS ABOUND***SPOILERS ABOUND***

When I discussed this movie yesterday, I alluded to some frustration and disagreement about whether and how this film succeeded on a purely female empowerment level. To really discuss that meant massive spoilers, so I avoided it. However, after many more conversations IRL, it seems like I should dive into it all, best I can, but with the proviso that you should see the film first in order to make up your own mind and to not have anything revealed.

I will try to avoid all discussions of acting ability and dialogue in this conversation and concentrate solely on the plot points of the script and the scenes that made the cut. Because, truth be told, I think the root of my issues lay there not just in the unbalanced acting ability onscreen.

Let’s acknowledge that, yes, there is a strong woman pounding the tar out of bad guys. Let’s also acknowledge that a very gifted female director is behind the scenes and that she has cemented her legacy with this film alone, even if she hadn’t already with her previous efforts.

That said, there are two main issues that I think throw this film out of pure female empowerment and both grow out of a single root cause. They also both occur in the final act of the movie and are interrelated, but separate issues.

The root cause is the well-indicated, without crossing the PG line, of Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman’s night together. We should all have known at the moment that if they had sex, he needed to die. Honestly, I didn’t put it together at that point, but I did wonder at why the heck they did. Not because I’m a prude. And we know Wonder Woman knows the pleasures of the flesh from their conversation in the boat, so it wasn’t out of the question. However, crossing that line between these characters fundamentally changes many things that have implications later that weaken Wonder Woman’s decisions to my mind.  At the very least, it muddies the waters. Also, the way it is filmed, it appears to be his decision, even if he seems to acknowledge some unspoken nod off camera. Had the shot been from her POV it may have mitigated the issue, but it didn’t appear to be a POV shot to me. And, beyond that, I still think the scene shouldn’t have happened. But, if it had to happen, it should have been 100% with her in control on screen, not even in the implied control of a man. This moment ultimately colors two other major decision points.

First, Trevor sacrifices himself. The question here is why? There is an argument I’ve been involved with that claims Trevor is only at the front because of Wonder Woman and, therefore, all of his actions are in support of her. I disagree. We know Trevor never just follows orders from Etta’s comments to are Ares-in-disguise. He would have gone anyway in order to hunt down Dr. Poison/Maru, even if he hadn’t ever considered gods in his midst. But he also chooses to sacrifice himself both as a humanitarian and because he thinks he’s saving the girl he’s fallen for, not really fully believing she was a goddess and invulnerable (despite the earlier moment at the village). More importantly, Trevor taking the initiative diminishes Diana’s ownership of the resolution of the fight. Sure, there is a bigger fight going on, but that still isn’t his focus or what he really quite believes at that moment, by my and other’s estimation and even by the flashback/fill-in (cheap, BTW) of their conversation. And keep in mind that Ares, a decidedly male entity, is arranging all of this through his nudges, so who is in control?

Second, the final motivation for Diana’s ability to beat Ares is driven by…. and here is where the Fifth Element comments from my earlier post come in… love. But is that universal love, the capability to love humankind and go beyond the Amazons-first mentality, or is is the love of Steve Trevor, specifically, that drives her? And this is where their night together matters. Had they not been together, the moment of epiphany for Diana would have been chaste and unencumbered by the personal and physical love of a man. It would have been a realization about herself and, more generally, about all those around her. Instead, it comes off as a grief-stricken response about a relationship because there was a relationship. Legit? Sure, but it diminishes her into emotional woman, not a super hero defending the human race. In fact, it makes her no better than the petty Olympians to whom she is related in this tale who kill each other for personal sleights, damage and death to Earth below be damned.

Still not with me on this. OK, consider the final scene before the brief coda. Diana thanks Bruce for “bringing him back to her.” She doesn’t say, “thanks for reminding me why I do this,” nor “I miss all of these great heroes.” Nope, this is all about Trevor in the script, no one else and nothing else mattered in this reverie.

I don’t want to overburden a popcorn film with too much analysis, but Wonder Woman has been long anticipated for so many reasons and the reaction has been so strong, that I wanted to at least put on some critical goggles and consider the implications before we christen it a guide for all girls. It has some great aspects as reference, but I think the end was weakened in ways that could have been easily avoided.

Samurai Jack (series 5)

After a 13 year hiatus, there was definite trepidation around how this magnificent series would revive; the dead so often don’t return with their souls intact. I needn’t have worried. Despite the gap in time (appropriate in some ways) and the move to computer graphics, Samurai lost little, if any, of its original sense and sensibility. Its minimal graphics were very much in its favor, and the return of Genndy Tartakovsky to oversee and run the result kept it on track. Even the loss of Mako as the voice of the great evil Aku didn’t slow it down.

In some ways, this is the best of the series. Before it was very episodic without much of a trajectory other than the increasingly scaling fights with Aku. The universe always expanded with new characters and ongoing interactions, but seasons never felt like they had a shape. This final series has a very definite shape and a eye to its ultimate ending.

If you like Samurai Jack, you have to see the end of the saga. If you somehow missed it before, discover it now and not have to wait over a decade to have your hunger sated for an ending. Samurai remains as good as ever and as beautiful and as poetic as it began.

Samurai Jack

The Space Between Us

What could have been a really solid science fiction romance in the vein of The Martian meets (pick any teen romance), ends up as a sweet film with no teeth that leaves adults in the dust. I so wanted this to be more than it was.

Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland) and Asa Butterfield (Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children) play your typical young couple separated by circumstances and, literally, the world who find each other. Both are strong actors. Both do what they can with the script they are provided, but neither is overly deep or realistic because the story just isn’t. Despite that, they both make their characters feel real, within that limitation.

The two primary adults in the film have their own journeys to navigate, but the movie doesn’t really give them the space they need either. Carla Gugino (San Andreas) delivers what she has to, though she ends up sort of hollow due to a lack of script and screen time. And Gary Oldman (Léon: The Professional) was just off in this role. His reactions were far too broad and obvious for me. He is usually an actor of such great power, and in this he is a fragile and uncontrolled mess as an actor. His performance is within the bounds of the sense of the story, but that is another problem.

Director, Peter Chelsom (Hector and the Search for Happiness) shook what he could from the movie. I think he could have exerted a stronger hand over several moments to keep them from going as large as they did, but he generally kept the main relationship at an even and digestible tenor. The real problem was the script… which you may have picked up on by now.

I wish Space had included some of the craft and complexity that Loeb’s other recent screenplay, Collateral Beauty, had contained.  I could even give Loeb and his co-writers a break on the utterly absurd faster-than-light communication if he hadn’t also blown other major science issues. You’re only allowed one big lie per story. More than that and your audience notices and starts to get annoyed, even if they don’t know why. The story was also massively inconsistent in what Butterfield’s character knows or has been exposed to. This tale had a lot of potential, but little of it was realized because the script writers thought that their audience wouldn’t notice the difference, which was a mistake. Just as I would get engaged with the characters, another silly assertion would arise and I’d have to take a breath and consciously ignore the stupidity. Sort of breaks your rhythm as a viewer.

Ultimately, this is a film that will appeal to a younger audience and, in fact, they may enjoy it a great deal as they tend to be more forgiving as long as the main characters are engaging. But even as a metaphor or allegory, adults will be challenged by some of the logic and lack of depth. At least watching Robertson and Butterfield work is always rewarding. The two are growing up to be very capable actors and will be around a long time if they can negotiate their transitions to fully adult roles. They are certainly on the right track… they just have to get their managers to pick better scripts for them.

The Space Between Us

Ikiru (To Live)

What is a life worth living? What is a life well-lived?  Akira Kurosawa tackles these questions through the life of a mid-level bureaucrat in 1950s Japan with his trademark patience and dark humor. From the start, Kuraosawa makes sure that while the subject may be deep, you aren’t taking it too seriously. His intent is to nudge rather than hit you upside the head.

Takashi Shimura drives this film in the main role. It is one of the most unpresupposing performances I’ve seen. We watch him literally open up and flower as the film goes on. There are few “big” moments, but several small, intense events that awaken in Shimura’s character a need to live. But is isn’t just the character journey that has impact. The overall structure of the narrative is just as intriguing as the story itself, unfolding in unexpected but necessary ways. If it weren’t for Kurosawa’s inventiveness, the 2.5 hours would have suffocated under its own weight. Instead, he manages to keep us intrigued through fearless storytelling, probably informed a little by his previous foray into narrative structure in Rashomon just two years previous.

Ikiru also marked Kurosawa’s moment before Seven Samurai and some of his most lasting cinema. Kurosawa, as a writer and director, has created and influenced some of the top films and directors of all time (including Star Wars via The Hidden Fortress). There is a beauty to his stories and craft, but never a moment when he insults his audience. His films are about his characters and their troubles and challenges… they just happen to also provide inspiration and commiseration for the viewer. Ikiru is a beautifully funny and heart-warming part of that opus that can still inspire 65 years after its release.

Ikiru

The Salt of the Earth

I’m not entirely sure where to begin with this powerful piece. Perhaps the right way is with the director, which is counter-intuitive, but the result of this movie is directly related to Wim Wenders’ (Pina) involvement.

Making a film about a photographer is fraught with issues. A medium of moving pictures trying to elicit an understanding of a medium that relies on single, frozen moments is practically at odds from the start. Wenders, who narrates a large part of the film, comments on that in a way at the top of this documentary. But Wenders was a perfect choice as a man who could take this story and make the film feel like a Salgado photo from beginning to end. He captured the sense, sensibility, and framing of the great photographer’s works and filmed Salgado commenting on his photos while looking at them. The overall feel is often like an intimate, private show.

Tackling this subject also meant finding the story of Salgado’s life, the narrative by which Wenders captures your imagination and exposes the root of the art. He went with the title as it is now, but it could also have been “The Life, and Death, and Life of Sebastião Salgado” given the shape of his life and tale. Salgado has led a fascinating life both in deeds and trajectory.  His story is as inspiring as his art, not only for its unlikely path but also for its intensity and dedication to the purpose and result. To discuss it would be to rob you of the journey and revelations, so I won’t.

I discovered Wim Wenders as a narrative filmmaker. His power, however, as a documentarian is proving to be equally or more emotionally and artistically impactful for me. He embraces his subjects and holds them close, for years in some cases, before embarking on trying to tell their story in the right way. This movie is no exception and the result is something that has to be seen.

The Salt of the Earth

Arrival (redux x2)

I haven’t written up a rewatch in a long time. In part because there just hasn’t been a reason. However, last night I rewatched Arrival for the 3rd time, and I’m still finding little moments and lines in it that I missed. The script and direction continue to impress me, as does Amy Adams’s performance.

I’ve debated vociferously with folks since last year about the quality of this film. The more I watch it, the more I stand behind my feeling that it was ripped off at the Oscars. It is one of the tightest, most intelligent scripts I’ve seen in a very long time. It certainly was better than anything else up for the awards. The more often I see it the more I am seeing in it from a craft point of view. And, more importantly, it never seems to get boring. The pacing and the emotional run remain compelling on every watch. Joe Walker’s editing drives a  pace and energy that cannot be ignored.

Denis Villenuve may have created his masterpiece with this film, though I am hopeful it is just the beginning of his efforts that were already impressive. Similarly, I’m hoping the script by Eric Heisserer is a beginning rather than a peak (especially if you look at what he did before). 

If you haven’t seen this flick yet, for whatever reason, get it in your queue. Forget the genre, that isn’t the focus. I’ve watched it with folks who normally walk out of the room the second they see a spaceship or have a whiff of science fiction; even they were impressed with the movie. If you have read the original story and weren’t overly taken with it, ignore that and see how this adaptation takes that tale to a whole new level (a rarity in film, to be sure).

Yes, I’m badgering you. You know who you are. See this film… see it more than once and you’ll understand my comments even better.

Oscars (2017): The results

How did I do with my predictions? My worst in years thanks to some honest competition and, well, a couple bits of stubbornness on my part. I actually hit the first four announcements out of the gate, and then things started to get interesting…

Here’s the top line:

62%, 15 out of 24

Of the major awards:
4 out of 7

Of the minor awards:
6 out of 9

Of the technical awards:
4 out of 8

So, basically, I mucked it up across all categories. If I’d not stuck to my guns on a few of the categories, I’d have done significantly better, but I really disagree with a few of the winners and I wasn’t willing to compromise my opinion to get a better hit rate. A few straggling write-ups will be coming over the next days as I squeezed in a few more films before the big night, but none changed my choices.

The detail follows.

THE MAJORS

Best supporting actress

My prediction: Viola Davis
Winner: Viola Davis

Best supporting actor

My prediction: Mahershala Ali
Winner: Mahershala Ali

Best actress

My prediction: Emma Stone
Winner: Emma Stone

Best actor

My prediction: Denzel Washington
Winner: Casey Affleck

OK, I wasn’t surprised here, but I was disappointed.

Best director

My prediction: Damien Chazelle
Winner: Damien Chazelle

Best foreign language film

My prediction: Toni Erdmann
Winner: The Salesman

Again, not an entire surprise here. Quality of Farhadi’s film aside, politics were certainly on its side.

Best picture

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: Moonlight

If you missed the presentation on this, read about how it happened. Honestly, Moonlight is a great movie, but I don’t know that I’d pick it as the top, especially given the 3 awards it won, versus La La Land’s 6. Whether it was the musical thing, the politics thing, or vote splitting, it is rare to lose top honors while picking up Director and at least one of the major actor awards  (not to mention score, song, cinematography, and production design). Frankly, just glad it wasn’t Manchester.

THE MINORS

Best adapted screenplay

My prediction: Moonlight
Winner: Moonlight

Best original screenplay

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: Manchester by the Sea

Feh. Just, feh.

Best animated feature

My prediction: Kubo and the Two Strings
Winner: Zootopia

As promised: AAAARRrrrrrggggg!!!!

I admitted all along that Zootopia was the likely winner. This was a stubborn hope on my part that enough of the Academy would see Kubo so it could win. It is the far superior piece of work. Hopefully Laika’s next will finally land a win.

Best documentary feature

My prediction: OJ: Made in America
Winner: OJ: Made in America

Best original song

  • La La Land – Audition (The Fools Who Dream) by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • La La Land – City of Stars by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • Moana – How Far I’ll Go by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Trolls – Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
  • Jim: The James Foley Story – The Empty Chair by J Ralph and Sting

My prediction: Fools Who Dream (or City of Stars… but La La either way unless they split the vote)
Winner: City of Stars

Yeah, La La… I’m not penalizing my self on this one. I did declare for the correct one before the show… I forgot to update. C’mon, I’ve been honest all along, just trust me on this one.

Best original score

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: La La Land

Best live action short

  • Ennemis Interieurs
  • La Femme et le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecode

My prediction: Sing
Winner: Sing

Best documentary short

  • 4.1 Miles
  • Extremis
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani: My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

My prediction: The White Helmets
Winner: The White Helmets

Best animated short

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  • Pearl
  • Piper

My prediction: Pearl
Winner: Piper

No real surprise given the Pixar background. At some point I do hope to see it. Pearl was available to me, but haven’t seen the rest yet so guessed.

THE TECHNICAL

Best costume design

My prediction: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best make-up and hairstyling

My prediction: Suicide Squad
Winner: Suicide Squad

Best production design

My prediction: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Winner: La La Land

This surprised me, I admit. And, honestly, don’t see it, but hey, good for them. All the nominees here were deserved.

Best cinematography

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: La La Land

Best film editing

My prediction: Arrival
Winner: Hacksaw Ridge

So totally disagree here, but, again, this was one of my stubborn choices. I really didn’t think this would be the result, though.

Best sound editing

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: Arrival

Of the possibilities for Arrival, this isn’t the one I would have selected, but am glad Arrival got at least one win.

Best sound mixing

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: Hacksaw Ridge

Yeah, this was a possibility and they did a heck of a lot of good work on the battle scene. I admit I selected based on an expected landslide for La La Land in this category.

Best visual effects

My prediction: Jungle Book
Winner:  Jungle Book

Oscars 2017 (final call)

So, it’s time to put all the cards on the table and make my final bets. The end of awards season has definitely clarified some of the potentials, but there are always surprises. 538’s ongoing statistical analysis was interesting, but felt somewhat flawed for a while. By the end, I was pretty much aligned with the stats which clarified as the post SAG awards season crept onward. Best Actress and Best Picture initially had the biggest gaps due to late arrivals of some films and the lack of eligibility of others to all the awards used as guidance.

I didn’t quite manage to get to all the films again… some just weren’t available to me. But I did get to most…  Reminder this is about predicting winners, not necessarily who I think should win. And with that disclaimer, here we go…

THE MAJORS

Best supporting actress

Viola Davis still has the edge here after a long awards season. I couldn’t argue with her win, but I think Spencer’s performance was more controlled and subtle.

Winner: Viola Davis

Best supporting actor

Mahershala Ali continued to dominate the season. It is possible he could still lose it, but not particularly likely.

Winner: Mahershala Ali

Best actress

This one of the categories that could surprise. Stone has been the favorite and La La Land is dominating all the awards ceremonies. But Huppert wasn’t even eligible for a number of the same awards, so we’ve not seen the play-off of the two. And Huppert has been doing well in foreign awards. I still bemoan the snub of Amy Adams for Arrival, but what can you do? Given the tidal wave of love for La La Land, I think it will carry this award away with it as well.

Winner: Emma Stone

Best actor

I’ve been surprised to see Affleck’s star still ascendant in this category, but Washington was very late to the season. There really is no comparison, to my mind, in ability. Washington’s performance is much more compelling. Gosling is great in La La Land, but the role doesn’t have the depth to compete here despite the juggernaut of a musical behind him.

Winner: Denzel Washington

Best director

Chazelle is still the likely winner here, especially after his DGA win. My preference is still Villenueuve. Arrival is beautifully and mindfully directed and structured. It isn’t as easy a movie as La La Land, but it is much better crafted.

Winner: Damien Chazelle

Best foreign language film

Winner: Toni Erdmann

A Man Called Ove is gaining some late momentum, but I think Erdmann’s momentum was stronger early, when a lot of votes probably were logged.

Best picture

 

My personal pick for best in this field is still Arrival. It accomplished some very difficult feats and left the audience with some very interesting ideas and did it all honestly, while managing to let you trick yourself. Hidden Figures managed to deliver a powerful, but personal story. Either are solid choices for the win.

However, La La Land, which I also enjoyed a great deal, has the Hollywood and Broadway inside track and massive momentum (not to mention 14 new nominations).

Winnner: La La Land

 

THE MINORS

Best adapted screenplay

Arrival. Period.  It even improved on the award-winning original story it was based upon. But, honestly, likely to be Moonlight. This gets harder to predict due to Moonlight being here rather than in Original (as it was for BAFTA and WGA where it won).

Winner: Moonlight

Best original screenplay

This is a bone that may get thrown to someone other than La La Land. While Lobster is quite unique, it just isn’t that great a script/story at the end of it all. Manchester, as well, fell flat for me. The strength it has is really the performances, not its words or story, but it has been gaining momentum due to its BAFTA win. Given the political tides, it could end up Hell or High Water, but think it released too long ago to capture the votes. Admittedly, after WGA, where Manchester lost to Moonlight (which is in the Adapted category here), it is even less clear. Given the continued groundswell for La La Land, I’m going with them to break the musicals curse (An American in Paris was the last time a musical won original script, back in 1951, with Gigi getting adapted in 1958).

Winner: La La Land

Best animated feature

Kubo and Two Strings came back into the running after BAFTA, despite the Anie going to Zootopia. But the momentum is clearly with Zootopia, despite all its weaknesses and flaws.

That said, I’m sticking to my guns on on this one for the right choice rather than the likely. It’s Kubo for the statuette because if it doesn’t win I will scream at the reveal.

Winner: Kubo and the Two Strings

Best documentary feature

Winner: OJ: Made in America

It is possible that 13th still takes this category, but the general winds suggest not.

Best original song

  • La La Land – Audition (The Fools Who Dream) by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • La La Land – City of Stars by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • Moana – How Far I’ll Go by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Trolls – Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
  • Jim: The James Foley Story – The Empty Chair by J Ralph and Sting

Winner: Fools Who Dream (or City of Stars… but La La either way unless they split the vote)

Honestly, I have a strong feeling that Miranda will take this to promote him to that rare PEGOT category.  But the support for a La La sweep is pretty strong and How Far I’ll Go just isn’t as good as the other options.

Best original score

Winner: La La Land

Really, is there any doubt on this one?

Best live action short

  • Ennemis Interieurs
  • La Femme et le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecode

As usual, throw a dart and pick one.

Winner: Sing

Best documentary short

  • 4.1 Miles
  • Extremis
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani: My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

Winner: The White Helmets

No particularly good reason for this pick other than its topical nature.

Best animated short

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  • Pearl
  • Piper

For its pure audacity, going with the new tech.

Winner: Pearl

THE TECHNICAL

Best costume design

Winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best make-up and hairstyling

Both Suicide Squad and Star Trek received awards from their peer awards ceremony, but since the whole Academy votes here, I think it is Suicide Squad hands-down.

Winner: Suicide Squad

Best production design

Winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Passengers impressed me more, but the broad scope of Beasts and its popularity will probably take the night.

Best cinematography

Winner: La La Land

I don’t think it was the best, but I think it will get caught up in the tsunami that has been building for the movie.

Best film editing

Winner: Arrival

The editing made Arrival. No other nominee can claim that integral a role for its success. I know Hacksaw took BAFTA, but however adept, the story didn’t change based on the editing. I’m being stubborn here, I realize.

Best sound editing

Winner: La La Land

Hacksaw has a real chance here. The work during the battle is pretty amazing.

Best sound mixing

I’ve made this mistake in the past by going for the big action flicks like Rogue One… keeping any dialogue intelligible over all that racket took some serious effort. But given that the CAS award went to La La Land, I’m going to believe the professionals since they get to vote on it again for Oscar night.

Winner: La La Land

Best visual effects

Winner: Jungle Book