Tag Archives: General

Fall TV 2017: The New Stuff

OK, I can’t (and don’t want to) watch everything. But here are my initial impressions of the new crop of stuff after the first episode (or so). I’ll likely post what survived my schedule later this fall.

In no particular order:

The Orville
I expected to really dislike this show, but it continues to surprise me. For all its weakness (usually around its broad humor moments), it is trying to ride the line of satire and homage and doing it well. In many ways it is more Star Trek than the latest Trek offering, which makes the timing of this drama especially interesting in contrast to Star Trek: Discovery.

Star Trek: Discovery
The franchise had a middling opening on the script and acting front, but no worse than Next Generation’s launch. It’s easy to forget just how bad the first season of TNG was, but it was really pretty bad. It survived due the vacuum of similar shows and went on to become something rather good.

Discovery is burdened by a future we know, so it really will be the characters that sell this, not the plots, per se. So far, the characters aren’t particularly compelling..so much so that even the first two hours didn’t elicit from me a gasp. And the technology and creature anachronisms are frustrating.

You can see the Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods) influence on the bones of this show, but his exit and subsequent rework by Paramount is leaving it in an uncomfortable place. The energy is odd and the sensibility feels at war with itself. It may find its feet over the season, but I can’t say the pilot filled me with curiosity to come back for more the way The Orville did. And by the end of the third episode I was left wondering if they were trying to remake themselves in the image of Babylon 5 (even more so than DS9 did).

There is a big universe for Discovery to play with, though it feels like a lot more of the same. That can be good and bad. TNG and DS9 both expanded the Star Trek universe in different ways to differing success with the same underlying issue. But is it worth a separate subscription fee to see every week? Right now, I’m thinking not, though if it were on free broadcast I’d probably give it more time. We shall see how it develops.

Good Doctor
Weak start but with some stuff to build on. Unless the writing picks up, however, the story alone isn’t enough to hold it together or keep me coming back. Just too many medical gaffs and overwrought moments. It was good to see Antonia Thomas (Lovesick/Scrotal Recall) in a larger production to get her broader exposure. And, writing issues aside, while Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) has created an interesting character in the lead, Graham Verchere as his younger self just isn’t up to the task which is weakening the story.

Young Sheldon
Surprisingly engaging for a spin-off tale. Keeping the Sheldon we know as a bridge definitely helps, but the solid relationships and struggles of the family are also well done. While the young Sheldon is good, Raegan Revord as his twin sister and Zoe Perry (No Pay, Nudity), as his mother are the real stars of this sitcom so far.

Me, Myself, & I
Had to see this for the cast and the conceit. As it turns out, it was better than I anticipated, though not brilliant. The 30 minute format is very tight for 3 characters across time every week. Very frenetic to follow. The potential is there. It is up to the writers to make it work. So far, they are not impressing me.

Will & Grace
Seriously it is like there wasn’t a 10 year gap, which is bloody impressive. From the opening moments through to the end, the show still has its original, ephemeral magic. You either love or hate, but you can’t fault it for maintaining the magic.

Inhumans
An incredibly weak launch to a show that had huge potential and one of the longest set-ups (via the Marvel movies and Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D) I can ever recall. Even the solid talent, like Iwan Rheon (Residue, Game of Thrones) and Ken Leung (Lost, Star Wars: Force Awakens) couldn’t overcome an obvious, plodding, and ill conceived story. The world is incompletely thought through, the rules nebulous at best, and with a depth measured in millimeters. While I will give it another episode or so to see if it finds its feet, after the end of the double-episode launch, I was gnashing my teeth at the ‘surprise’ ending. If it is emblematic of the kind of scripts, and it appears it is, that are to come, it isn’t going to keep me in attendance. And I thought Iron Fist was going to be the nadir with the hope that it would serve as the TV division’s Iron Man 2; I wish I’d been right.

The Gifted
Another incredibly weak start for an action/adventure in a crowded and over-worked field. I’ll give anything with Amy Acker (Much Ado About Nothing) a shot, but this only gets one more before a decision is made. Just too serious and too much of the same, even if it is spawned from one of my more favorite branches of the X-Men universe.

10 Days in the Valley
While intense, this is a slow burn of a train wreck and tragedy. It is good to have Kyra Sedgwick (The Edge of Seventeen) back on screen, but not sure I’m looking for this kind of a character and story at this time. I do have some police procedural frustrations with the show, but I could get over them. Really the issue is timing.

9JKL
Great concept and some talent in the cast, including Linda Lavin, David Walton, and Liza Lapira. But the writing and directing are just awful. This one died on my list in the first episode. I didn’t even see any hope for it.

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World
I have to admit this one pulled it out at the very end for me…at least enough to give it a shot. It has that Joan of Arcadia feel to it, amusingly given Jason Ritter’s (Carrie Pilby) presence. It could quickly get tiresome, but they avoided some initial pitfalls. And I have to admit I enjoyed the heavy Amy Adams/Arrival vibe they gave the first episode. Still, it isn’t like we haven’t seen this story in the past (usually as horror) and their rules are squishy at best…either he is the only one or the other 35 meteorites anointed the rest of the gang and the rest is just for comedy. Will give it another round to see where it goes, but it will need to step up its game to keep me.

Ghosted
So this is The Orville of X-Files. It was just good enough in its launch to get another shot, but it only made it the first 15 minutes of the second. It just isn’t written well enough nor are the main characters all that engaging for me. I imagine it will find an audience out there, but it may not be enough to survive.

Wisdom of the Crowd
Probably the most attuned to the sense of the day and with a great conceit. Admittedly, it is a bit forced and it dances around the law quite a bit. But for all its weaknesses in credibility, it is terrifyingly willing to tackle some real social issues and technology. In addition to Jeremy Piven (Mr Selfridge) we also get Natalia Tena (Game of Thrones) to help drive it forward and both have some good chops to do so.

New micro-story on Story Seed Vault

A new tale of mine, a bit of cyber espionage, is up on Story Seed Vault today.

The challenge for this market is to tell a whole story in 140 characters or less; essentially no more than one Tweet’s worth. And the story has to be based on some new bit of science. They can explain it a bit more and how you can tackle entry into the Vault yourself.

You can find the current tale at: https://storyseedvault.com/2017/10/06/1451/

I have at least once more appearing in this venue soon, so stay tuned!

My previous tale is still on the site at:
https://storyseedvault.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/40/

The world didn’t end…

This last week I took off for the wilds of Oregon (Unity Lake Recreation Site, to be exact) to view the total eclipse. The days were hot, the nights were cold (around 5C/40F), and the stars magnificent. But it all paled to the 2 minutes of totality.

It wasn’t quite what I expected. It didn’t get dark like night, but more like a deep twilight. I didn’t get to hear all the animals go to sleep as none were hanging around making noise before the moment the sun winked out. But the difference between partial and full eclipse really indescribable, or as I tried to explain to a neighbor on my return, it is like being not pregnant and a little bit pregnant; it is all or nothing.

I took a slew of photos, but the best is probably this diamond ring at the end of totality:

Even at higher res, it isn’t brilliant photography, but I was there to see it, not photo it for magazines. And I took it, so I’m rather proud. Two minutes was not quite enough to satisfy, but I can completely understand why some people chase eclipses around the world. It is unlike anything you can picture if you haven’t seen one. One moment there is sunshine (even if dim and slightly red shifted) and the next there is a black hole in the sky. Staring up at that, you really understand why ancient civilizations were so terrified of them when they occurred.

 

New Tale to Tell in 140 Characters

My latest sold story is up on Story Seed Vault today. They can better explain  their mission and raison d’être.

The challenge for this market was to tell a whole story in 140 characters or less; essentially no more than one Tweet’s worth. And the story has to be based on some new bit of science. I can’t resist a challenge…

You can find it at: https://storyseedvault.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/40/

I hope to be adding more to the vault over time as well. If I’m going to read science news all the time, I should also find more ways to make it pay!

A few decades ago…

Back in 1981, a whole different century, I began working out as a matter of sanity and as a substitute for sleep. Hey, I was young, stupid, and living on adrenaline.

Five years later, June of ’86 , I had my first (and only) portfolio created for my acting career. The photographer was great and among the shots was one that has lived in infamy as: Leatherman. It got passed around my friends and beyond for a while back then. Thank god the internet was nascent or it probably would have been sent much further. Uploading at 300 baud was not fun.

As it turns out, my twice-a-day, six-days-a-week workout schedule is something I got accustom to and managed to continue even till today (if you’re doing math, I’m starting my 36th year shortly). For the heck of it I decided, if not to recreate the portfolio piece this summer, to see how well I’d held up. I realize this is the worst of ego gone rampant, but WTF, I hardly ever take pics anymore or allow people to take pics, so why not?

So, here I am again just over 31 years later. The hair is shorter (and thinner) and, yeah I was ridiculously underweight back in ’86 (and got worse till the following year, which is another story), but the pic came out not too bad for someone who’s hit their mid-50s.

So, I’ll see you again in another 30 or so years and have a good laugh over it all atrophying…

 

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.

1500 (and counting)

Image result for fireworks

I’ve been at this a few years now and this post marks my 1500th!

Many more movies and TV shows have been covered than the post number represents given that I double or triple-up items at times.

For those that have been finding it useful: you’re welcome. For those that aren’t following it… well, what can I say that you won’t have read anyway?

Seriously, this has been my passion for a while now. As I’ve said before, I do this as much for myself as my own memory aid and thought process as I do for all the friends and acquaintances that request recommendations. It also keeps me writing almost every day.

So what’s next? I’m still seeing about 250 films plus a ridiculous amount of TV a year, though I don’t write up everything…  For the record, yes, I still manage to have a life, see people, and do things. Really, I do. Film and TV are just how I unwind nearly every night, before trundling off to bed to read for a bit.

Thanks to all who’ve have continued to let me know you’re enjoying these posts. Most of that is off this site, but it is good to know it’s still being read.

And now on to 1501 and counting….

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

Oscars 2017 (nominations)

So I did pretty well with the nominations (my hit rate was 87% based on the full field of 103 choices across the major categories as listed on HSX), but there were definitely some surprises. I also didn’t list all of the potential categories, but I’ll be honest about where I hit or not below. Updates to my picks on winners will occur just prior to the big night… and I’m sure there will be some rethinking after the SAG awards this Sunday. This year, I also discovered 538’s ongoing statistical analysis of the choices, which was both surprising and a bit disappointing. But as we all know, stats often don’t tell the whole or a reliable story.

I still have some gaps at the time of the initial writing, but I hope to fill as many of them as possible before the great event.

THE MAJORS

Best supporting actress

Viola Davis has the edge here in a really tough field. I couldn’t argue with her win, but I think Spencer’s performance was more controlled and subtle.

Best supporting actor

Mahershala Ali is the clear front-runner, and deservedly so. While the other performances are all solid, his was the most ranging and subtle.

Best actress

I did get partially caught out here. Dropping Amy Adams and keeping Streep (who was also up for SAG) surprised me. Adams performance is solid, but understandably challenging to interpret due to the story. But Streep, as talented as she is, just wasn’t that good in Florence Foster Jenkins. Not adding Taraji Henson to this field was criminal. Huppert has a head of steam globally, and I did miss those winds previously, but it wasn’t that surprising. However I did call Negga for Blunt (again as compared to SAG).

The win here is tough. Stone will have a lot of focus and love. If I had to pick this moment, I’d go with the tidal wave of La La Land.

Best actor

Had this, though there was an outside chance Hanks would have been added over Mortenson.

The race here is Washington vs. Gosling. Washington is the better performance, but Gosling’s piano work alone is enough to astound. As of now, I think Washington will walk away with Oscar despite La La’s rolling thunder.

Best director

Chazelle is the likely winner here, but my personal preference would be Villenueuve, whose achievements in Arrival really outshine the other movies in this list.

Best foreign language film

Based on what’s been happening, Toni Erdmann is the likely win here.

Best picture

Had half-expected Silence to be part of this field, but had the rest of them, not that it was a difficult list to guess this year. The winner… now that gets more interesting.

My personal pick for best in this field is 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 manages to deliver a powerful, but personal story. Either are solid choices for the win.

However, La La Land, which I did enjoy a great deal, has the Hollywood and Broadway inside track and massive momentum (not to mention 14 new nominations). I suspect La La takes the statuette.

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 one of the others; probably Moonlight.

Best original screenplay

La La Land is the likely winner. 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.

Best animated feature

Kubo and Two Strings was one of the best animated flicks I’ve seen in ages. It was original, unique, and flat-out gorgeous and fun. However, I know Zootopia is likely to win.

That said, I’m sticking to my guns on on this one and sticking with Kubo for the statuette because if it doesn’t I will scream a bit at the reveal.

Best documentary feature

This one is tough, but I’m thinking the politics of the moment insist that 13th takes the category.

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

La La may well work against itself here and split the vote. But, while not entirely upbeat as a song, I’d go with Fools Who Dream. If the vote splits, will probably go to Trolls.

The only wild card is Miranda. As I mentioned in the prelim to this post before the announcements, crowning another EGOT is a hard opportunity not to take for voters (and in this case PEGOT since he has a Pulitzer as well, which only 2 others have done before).

Best original score

Yeah, La La Land by a mile. No matter how you feel about this movie, the complexity and originality of the score is way beyond any of the other entrants.

Best live action short

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

As usual, throw a dart and pick one (I really wish you could get to see these more easily). I’ll start with Sing as my choice and will revise based on buzz later.

Best documentary short

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

Ditto: but going with Joe’s Violin for now cause I like the title.

Best animated short

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

Second ditto: Going with Pear Cider and Cigarettes in honor of the nod to Jarmusch.

THE TECHNICAL

Best costume design

This gets interesting. Usually this goes to a period piece… but they are all period pieces. Several are flamboyant period pieces. Based on scope and challenge, I’m thinking Fantastic Beasts. While the others all did wonderfully, they were invisible (a feat in itself) but Beasts had both ends… the invisible and the inventive, which tips the scales in its favor.

Best make-up and hairstyling

Wow, just not the three I’d have expected. Suicide Squad, I think in this case. Harley Quinn and the Joker alone deserve it; utterly unforgettable, the pair of them.

Best production design

Another tough choice as each succeeds quite well in its way. I’m going to go to an outlier here because, honestly, the production design really did impress me: Passengers. However, Beasts is likely to take this one as well for similar reasons as costume. But I didn’t think the design in Beasts was really all that good… it felt forced and unreal rather than magical to me. Passengers was seamless and felt real to the tale rather than distracting from it.

Best cinematography

For this it is between Arrival and Silence. Arrival’s work is more complex, with focus and framing adding to the story telling. Silence is just plain pretty, from what I’ve seen. With no other nods, Silence may get its shot here. For my sensibilities, though, Arrival deserves it in this field.

Best film editing

Arrival, without question for me. The editing made this film. No other nominee can claim that integral a role for its success.

Best sound editing

La La Land for this. The soundscape of the film is just as important as its story in this case.

Best sound mixing

Thinking Rogue One for this one… keeping any dialogue intelligible over all that racket took some serious effort.

Best visual effects

For sheer inventiveness, probably Doctor Strange, though Jungle Book rewrote the tech handbook quite a bit and it has nothing else on order this year despite being such a huge, popular hit. And I’m not sure I could pull apart Kubo to place it in this category… so suspect others can’t either.