It again comes to the time of the year when spectators eagerly await to see which of their most favored actors and actresses will go home with a certain golden figure in their hands. Many cinephiles nervously anticipated the release of the Oscar nominations, both excited and fearful to see if any changes had been made since last year’s #OscarSoWhite movement. They were likely relieved to see that the diversity of 2017’s Oscar nominations broke records in Oscar history, with 6 of the spots for Best Actress and Best Actor (in both the Leading and Supporting categories) allotted to black talents such as Denzel Washington and Ruth Negga. Could this simply be an outlying response to last year’s controversy, or will having such a diversified portfolio of nominations soon become an Oscar norm? Nobody knows, but at least for now we can admire the varietyof nominations that we have spoken so laudably of.
Best picture awards have always been the highlight of the Oscars, with the year’s best films duking it out to see which one will come out on top. The films that have secured Best Picture nominations this year are Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. The 2017 Oscars feature some of the fiercest competition yet, with films covering topics ranging from the arrival of aliens to the hardships of growing up gay. Picking a winner from this group was no easy task, but we here at 151MM think Moonlight will be this year’s Oscar Best Picture. Although films such as La La Land may be more popular, Oscars are typically awarded to films that have a depth to them. Also worth noting is that past Oscars tended not to favor rom-coms such as La La Land. Moonlight on the other hand explores the impact of family upon a child, and the effects that growing up gay and as a minority in a hostile community can have on a person. Because of this we think Moonlight will become Best Picture, and if you haven’t seen it yet we highly recommend that you do!
The nominees for this years Best Actor are Ryan Gosling, Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield and Viggo Mortensen. While all of them delivered solid performances, this year’s Best Actor award is likely going to be a two way race between Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington. Affleck’s acting was truly superb in Manchester By the Sea his performance in the movie’s defining scene, where his character runs into his ex-wife on the street, was full of genuine emotion and nothing short of Oscar worthy. It is highly possible that Affleck will follow in the footsteps of his brother and net an Oscar of his own. However there has recently been a surge in support for Denzel Washington. The SAG awarded him the highest honor for his performance in Fences. Washington’s portrayal of a bitter ex-baseball player turned garbage man was authentic and moving he really knocked it out of the park. Unfortunately, there is only one winner at the Oscars, so we here at 151MM have to give it to Denzel Washington. While both actors delivered incredible performances, Washington may be a more suitable choice for the message people in the film industry are trying to send. Affleck has more controversy due to allegations of sexual assault, and this year’s Oscars may just be the most politically charged yet. Given that many notable members of the film industry have come out in criticism of President Trump, especially his treatment of women, it may be likely that the Academy will pass over Affleck because of these allegations. If Washington does take home the Best Actor Award, it will be the first time in more than a decade that an African American has accomplished this feat, with the last being Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.
This year’s Oscar race for Best Actress is highly competitive, setting the likes of critic favorite Emma Stone to newcomer Ruth Negga. Many of the nominees this year are well seasoned in their field field, such as Meryl Streep and Natalie Portman, who have many different acting awards tucked under their belt. This happens to be Streep’s 21st Oscar nomination in the span of her career. However, it is highly unlikely that she will be getting another Oscar to add to her mantelpiece this year, seeing as to how Portman and Stone appear to be this year’s most competitive frontrunners. Although the requirements of their roles were near polar opposites, both actresses are critic favorites for this year’s Oscar win. Emma Stone has received lavish applause for her skill as a singer-dancer-actress in Damien Chazelle’s TIFF audience-award-winner La La Land, while Natalie Portman has received similar recognition for her role in Pablo Lorrain’s Jackie of the grieving widow of John F. Kennedy following his murder. Birdman nominee Stone came out of Venice with Best Actress award in hand and went on to take home both Golden Globe and SAG awards. Portman has a similar range of accomplishments, winning the Critic’s Choice Award and snapping up nominations for Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG awards. Although it seems like the two are in an equal match, Stone’s SAG win might just be her slight edge over other contenders. Both 2014 and 2015’s Best Actress winners (Julianne Moore and Brie Larson respectively) won a SAG award for their Oscar nominated film roles. Considering that popularity amongst critics may just be what the win boils down to, it is highly likely that it will be Emma Stone, who takes home this year’s award.
The Oscar nomination for Best Director is currently held by several impressive contenders, each of whom have emerged awards-in-hand from this year’s festivals. Some of the frontrunners in the race include La La Land’s Damien Chazelle and Manchester By The Sea’s Kenneth Lonergan. Another contender who makes it to the top is Barry Jenkins, who is being honored for his contribution to the film Moonlight. Many have thrown their support behind the nomination of Jenkins, seeing as how the film which he directs is one of diversity. However, it is highly likely that Chazelle will take home the award, seeing as how he is one up Jenkins, having won this year’s Directors Guild Award. You could count on just your ten fingers the number of filmmakers that have won the Award in the past yet lost the Oscar run. Throughout the past 68 years, 60 DGA winners have won Oscar awards for their directing, and Chazelle should be no exception. If PHS alumnus Chazelle does win Best Director, he will not only be the youngest ever to own a DGA but also the youngest director to ever win an Oscar, breaking two impressive records.