Thursday, February 23, 2017

And the Oscar goes to ...

My 2016 started off in an average fashion and then just went downhill, the only saving grace were the sheer number of great movies that released. From 'Deadpool' to 'La La Land', from Ryan Reynolds to Ryan Gosling, we truly had some amazing movies in 2016, and I'm quite sure that the big Oscar day is going to start off with Ryan Seacrest asking the Ryans on the red carpet "how come Canada makes such amazing specimens, and can we all move into your country for the next few years?".
My love for the Oscars started way back in 2001, when I got up really early on Oscar morning (because of the time difference) and went to my neighbours house to watch the ceremony and see whether 'Lagaan' would win the Oscar for the 'Best Foreign Film' (Sadly it did not), and ever since that day I have been smitten by it. My admiration increased to a whole new level in 2009, when I saw someone whom I admire and love, stand on that beautiful stage and collect 2 statuettes. Those who know me well, already know who I'm talking about, for the others, I'm talking about music composer AR Rahman, who went home with the Oscar for 'Best Score' and 'Best Original Song' for the movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' that year.
I have seen lots of people whom I admire & look up to, stand on that stage and collect that golden statuette (Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Hans Zimmer, Steven Spielberg, Ennio Morricone - the list goes on).

As I always say with these Oscar posts, I know there are lots of you who might not value the Academy Awards that much or might think they are overrated, well I totally respect your opinion and understand where you are coming from. Secondly, these are just my opinions, you might not like the nominees & the movies and might want somebody else to win, which is totally cool.

So yeah, I write this post every year solely because I love movies. I have tried my level best to watch all of these movies (either in a theatre or in some other way or form). There are certain categories that I have left out because either I have no idea about them or haven't seen majority of the movies in those categories.
FAIR WARNING: If you are one of the few people who disliked or even 'hated' La La Land, then you are definitely not going to like what you are about to read. 

Best Picture:
Projected Winner: La La Land
'La La Land' was truly one of the most unique experiences I have ever had while watching a movie. It was one of those movies where I had this big grin all throughout the movie, and I was completely overwhelmed by what I was watching. If you have ever been in love or have been crazily passionate about something, then I suggest you give this a watch, if you haven't already. This is the kind of movie that you would want all your exes to watch, and may be even think of you at least once while they watch it. The moment the movie ended, I just wanted to bow down to the talent of Damien Chazelle (Writer-Director, previously nominated for 'Whiplash). The sheer tenacity with which he has pulled off this amazingly stunning project is just unbelievable!

Surprise Winner : Moonlight
If only 2016 was a year when we did not have 'La La Land', then this beautiful gem would definitely have been my pick. It's always inspiring and beautiful when a movie touches your soul, and when you feel and empathize with the characters, that's what 'Moonlight' did for me.

Best Director:
Projected Winner: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
From that incredible opening scene on the freeway to the last scene which features a fast-forward, Chazelle makes the whole movie just glide through. Whether it was the camerawork or the music or the dance numbers, it made me feel like I'm sitting in a raft and just gliding through a beautiful celestial stream, which occasionally had a few bumps here and there. I have no doubt in my mind that Chazelle is going home with this one. In 2014, I had gone crazy over his 2nd directorial movie 'Whiplash', for which I felt he should have got nominated, but this year I believe with 'La La Land' Chazelle is going to be the youngest winner in this prestigious category.

Best Actor:
Projected Winner: Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)
I have never shied away from saying that I am a big fan of Ben Affleck, whether it's his directing, writing or even acting, I love the guy. But this year, his little brother who used to get screwed around in 'Good Will Hunting' has finally shown us how gifted he is! Stephen Fry summed it up aptly during his monologue at the BAFTA's this year when he said "Casey Affleck is without doubt one of the most brilliant actors in his family." Well that he most definitely is.

As soon as the movie begins, you start having this incredible urge to console and hug Casey Affleck, even when you as an audience don't really know what's wrong with his character or what he is going through (which you find out much later in a heartbreaking scene), you feel like putting your hand over his shoulder and saying to him "I know it feels shitty right now, but it's going to be okay. Trust me." The beautifully subtle way with which Casey Affleck performs and does justice to this role is truly unbelievable. After watching the movie I remember feeling, only a person who has been through some kind of sadness would have been able to write (Kenneth Lonergan) and then act out such a role. Do watch this magnificently poignant movie, but beware, hearts will be broken & tears will be shed.

Surprise Winner: Denzel Washington (Fences) 
Performing a character from an August Wilson play on stage itself is a tough ask, but adapting, acting AND directing an August Wilson adaptation for screen, is a totally different ball game, but then we are talking about a superhuman by the name of Denzel Washington. He manages to pull it off amazingly well, the only slight negative is that the movie looks like a play being filmed. I felt there was so much Denzel could have done with the characters and the story but I guess, he wanted to stay true to the vision of August Wilson. He had played the role brilliantly on stage and even won a Tony Award for it in 2010, and had been trying to get this story made in to a movie for the last 6 years. What I loved about Denzel's performance is that it's completely opposite to the kind of performance Casey Affleck does in 'Manchester By The Sea'. Denzel is just the opposite of subtle, he lays everything out on the screen, his character's happiness, his sadness, everything is there for us to see in a hard-hitting loud way. Knowing the fact that he has missed out on the direction nomination for this one, I won't be surprised if Denzel picks up his 3rd acting Oscar for 'Fences'.

Notable Mention: Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
I have just one thing to say about 'Captain Fantastic' or as I like to call it 'World's Best Dad', PLEASE watch it. Think of it as a cross between 'Little Miss Sunshine' and 'Into The Wild'. Mortensen truly is an actors' actor and a gifted one.
If I could vote, my vote would have gone to this genius.

Best Actress:
Projected Winner: Emma Stone (La La Land)
This category is pretty much done and dusted. Everyone in Hollywood is in love with Emma Stone right now and she truly was adorable in 'La La Land'. She definitely was charming and was the heart & soul of 'La La Land', but this category deserved to be fiercely competitive, which sadly it's not. It's a travesty that some of the best performances of this year, some of whom I personally feel were way ahead of Stone, likes of Annette Bening, Amy Adams and Rebecca Hall who I felt outperformed Stone by miles are not even nominated.

Notable Mention: Amy Adams (Arrival)
Even though she wasn't nominated in this category, I just have to mention her name here. She single-handedly carries the whole movie, and still somehow was robbed of a nomination! My vote would have gone to this linguistically solid gem of a performance by someone who carries the whole burden of 'Arrival' on her shoulders.

Best Supporting Actress - Viola Davis
Surprisingly Viola Davis wasn't playing a supporting character in 'Fences', she was very much the leading actress in the movie. She had even won a Tony Award in the best actress category in 2010 for playing the same character when it had gone on stage, but I guess, the studio must have thought she would have a way better chance to win this category rather the 'Best Actress' category, where it's pretty much a given that Emma Stone is going to walk away with the glory.
I still believe Viola Davis was robbed off her first win way back in 2012 for her performance in 'The Help' when she lost out to Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady). 

Notable Mention: Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
In my honest opinion, it's Harris who deserves to win this category because like I said, Viola Davis is not a supporting actress in 'Fences', whereas Harris is perfectly that in 'Moonlilght', she's a strong and solid supporting character who excels with each passing second in the movie. 

Best Supporting Actor:
This is definitely the toughest category to predict this year.
Projected Winner: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
One of the major reason why I want Mahershala Ali to win is because I loved 'Moonlight' and he was incredible in it. It's an extremely powerful beautiful little film. And secondly, Mahershala Ali is one hell of an amazing actor, whether it's his performance in 'Hidden Figures', 'House Of Cards' or 'Luke Cage', he has been amazing in all the roles he has played in the last 2-3 years. If it hadn't been for 'La La Land', I would have wholeheartedly wanted 'Moonlight' to walk away with all possible statuettes this year. Trust me, 'Moonlight' is that beautiful, it's a brilliant coming of age story that you wouldn't want to miss.

Surprise Winner: Dev Patel (Lion) or Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
These two could very easily pull the rug from under Mahershala Ali's shiny shoes! These two definitely weren't the supporting actors in their respective movies but once again the studio must have thought they would have a much better chance in this category. 

Best Cinematography: 
Projected Winner: Linus Sandgren (La La Land)
'La La Land' opens with an extremely impressive musical number amidst a traffic jam on the freeway, which doesn't even feature the two main leads! Cars, trucks and buses get stuck and everyone suddenly just pulls to a stop. People get out of their respective vehicles and instead of raging and abusing at the top of their voice, they instead sing and dance to "Another Day of Sun,” The camera then swings and glides to keep up with all the movements;Linus Sandgren and his camera dance along with the folks on the freeway,which ends up being a perfect ode to LA.
Sandgren successfully manages to make Los Angeles look poetic, evoking the feeling of classic Hollywood, using long and fluid takes and creates a world of vivid and beautiful colour.

Surprise Winner: Bradford Young (Arrival) 

Best Music:
Projected Winner: Justin Hurwitz (La La Land) 
It took Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz more than 6 years to realize their long held passionate dream of making this Hollywood musical, which would be an ode to their favourite musicals of the 40's and 50's. Hurwitz had been working on the music of 'La La Land' even before the duo had started working on 'Whiplash' (their previous outing together).
This is Hurwitz’s 3rd collaboration with writer-director Damien Chazelle, his Harvard roommate. The two met freshman year at Harvard, where they started a band called Chester French with classmates. By sophomore year, the two decided to quit the band and work full-time on movies.
Well, you don't create a lavish movie musical in a hurry. These two classmates/roommates/fools-who-dared-to-dream who love movies and music would have the perfect ending to their story this coming Oscar night, or should I say, the perfect beginning. 

'And here's to the fools who dream. Crazy as they may seem.'

Best Song:
Projected Winner: 'City Of Stars' (La La Land) 
Justin Hurwitz is going to walk away with his 2nd Oscar of the day, and along with him the 2 debutants, lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who currently have a sold out Broadway show running by the name of 'Dear Evan Hansen' are going to walk away with their first win.

Best Editing:
Projected Winner: Joe Walker (Arrival) 
With 'Arrival', Joe Walker just showed us that he's a genius who can successfully manipulate time and space and keep the audience guessing. 
I'm going to sum up my feelings by saying that 'Arrival' is a like quadpod that has 4 very strong and extremely effective legs in the form of Amy Adams (Lead), Eric Heisserer (Writer), Denis Villeneuve (Director) and lastly, Joe Walker (Editor), who all get together and successfully pull off this amazing science fiction project about tolerance and unity. 

Surprise Winner: Tom Cross (La La Land)
If the Academy truly is blindingly in love with 'La La Land' then it's very much possible that it might win this category too.

Best Original Screenplay:
Projected Winner: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea) 
'Moonlight' should have been in this category rather than being in the 'Adapted screenplay', if not for the weirdly conservative Academy members who decided that Moonlight should be put in the other category, because the writer-director Barry Jenkins said that what inspired him to write 'Moonlight' was a play, 'In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, written in 2003 by Tarell Alvin McCraney that was never produced. So with 'Moonlight' out of this category, I am going with Kenneth Lonergan's 'Manchester By The Sea', a heartbreaking story of a man who's having a terribly tough time trying to deal with his past.

Surprise Winner: La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
Like I said before, depends on how much love the Academy wants to shower on 'La La Land'.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Projected Winner: Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
This is perfect example of how a story is supposed to be adapted. Eric Heisserer manages to make all the necessary changes required to elevate an already well written short-story of Ted Chiang's by the name of 'Story of your life' and makes it even more appealing.
With 'Moonlight' also being in this category, I'm split between the two. I would be happy if either one of these two win, but as this is an 'Adapted Screenplay' category, I'm going to go with 'Arrival'.

Surprise Winner: Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) 

Best Production Design:
Projected Winner: La La Land
I feel the only competition to 'La La Land' in this category is 'Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them' but even then I'm quite sure that Academy is going to go with the musical that evoked the glorious Hollywood of yesteryear in all its beauty.

Best Visual Effects:
Projected Winner: The Jungle Book
'Rogue One' was great, but jungle book is jungle book. Call me biased or nostalgic, I am going to side with 'The Jungle Book' on this one.

Out of the possible 13 Oscars that 'La La Land' could win, I'm going to say that it's definitely going home with at least 7. 

Following are some movies that may not have got a nomination or even garnered any kind of financial success but made an impact and left a mark on me: (Not in any particular order)
  1. Swiss Army Man - The Daniels (Writer & Director) You'll either hate it or just fall in love with the sheer magic & genius of it. Luckily, I fall in the latter.
  2. Deadpool - Tim Miller (Director) This movie in my personal opinion deserved to get nominated in at least 3 categories. This is exactly how a 'R' rated superhero movie is meant to be!
  3. Sing Street - John Carney (Writer & Director) I loved 'Once', I was smitten with 'Begin Again' and in 2016, I fell head over heels 'Sing Street'! Trust John Carney to make a really sweet little gem filled with great characters and musical pieces.
  4. Paterson - Jim Jarmusch (Writer & Director)
  5. Hunt for Wilderpeople - Taika Waititi (Adapted for screen & Director)
  6. 10 Cloverfield Lane -  Dan Trachtenberg (Director)
  7. The Edge Of Seventeen -  Kelly Fremon Craig (Writer & Director) John Hughes Re-Incarnated
  8. Don't Think Twice - Mike Birbiglia (Writer & Director)
  9. War On Everyone - John Michael McDonagh (Writer & Director)
  10. The Shallows - Jaume Collet-Serra (Director) Anthony Jaswinski (Writer)
  11. Tickled (Documentary) - David Farrier & Dylan Reeve (Directors)
  12. Hush - Mike Flanagan (Co-wroter,editor & director)
  13. Blue Jay - Alexandre Lehmann (Director) Mark Duplass (Writer)
And that's an official wrap for 2016! This scene from 'Zootopia' of a creature that is half blind and half deaf pretty much sums up my year. Hope 2017 will be kinder.
2016 was a great year for movies, here's hoping 2017 is even better.
All the best and May The Force Be With You.