My Own 89th Annual Academy Awards (My Nominees)

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by Brian Surber

Before the Academy tells us who they believe to be deserving of film’s biggest prize, I thought I’d weigh in. Just as with last year I have split My 89th Academy Awards post into two.

Here is Part I – My Nominees.

P.S.: I added some categories. Whoops!


 

Best Picture
13th
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
La La Land
Moonlight
Sing Street

 

moonlight

 

WINNER:
Moonlight

 

An impassioned, important, and vital piece of art, Moonlight is the movie miracle of the year. Beautifully filmed and urgently telling a tale of the pain of living a life you didn’t choose, Moonlight casts a light on a subject and on people whose story isn’t told. It is a remarkable achievement that is all the more necessary because we haven’t seen anything like it before.

 

RUNNER-UP:
La La Land

 


 

Best Director
Park Chan-wook – The Handmaiden
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Taika Waititi – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

 

Moonlight

 

WINNER:
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

 

To tell this tale in the amount of time Barry Jenkins had, to create a complete character over three different actors, to craft a film this personal and striking and poetic is simply magnificent. Barry Jenkins’ work on Moonlight is nothing short of a force of careful nature.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Damien Chazelle – La La Land

 


 

Best Actor
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Julian Dennison – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Dave Johns – I, Daniel Blake
Jesse Plemons – Other People
Denzel Washington – Fences

 

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WINNER:
Denzel Washington – Fences

 

A true tour de force of acting, Denzel Washington gives his greatest performance in Fences. It’s a showy performance, to be sure, but that takes nothing away from the talent, effort, and truth he brings to the screen. Washington pulses with power and insecurity as he crashes like thunder in each frame. It’s a masterclass.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

 


 

Best Actress
Amy Adams – Arrival
Annette Benning – 20th Century Women
Oulaya Amamra – Divines
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land

 

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WINNER:
Oulaya Amamra – Divines

 

No lead actress commanded the screen this year like 20-year-old French actress Oulaya Amamra in the little seen Divines. As Dounia, Amamra is simply brilliant as a young woman who feels there is one path for her and her best friend (played by the also terrific Deborah Lukumuena). At times a funny buddy comedy (with a wonderful friendship at the center), often a coming-of-age drama, and featuring a tragic and impactful ending, Amamra carries the film with incredible ease. Every moment feels real, and raw, and undeniably powerful.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Emma Stone – La La Land

 


 

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Shia Labeouf – American Honey
Dev Patel – Lion
Jack Reynor – Sing Street
Trevante Rhodes – Moonlight

 

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WINNER:
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

 

As the heartbeat of Moonlight, Mahershala Ali is felt long after his final appearance onscreen. He plays Jaun as a man no longer conflicted but settled at his place in life and finds a chance in Chiron to make good on the bad he believes he has done. Ali is patient, sensitive, caring, and present. And not only does Chiron need his presence but Moonlight does as well.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Shia LaBeouf – American Honey

 


 

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences
Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women
Lily Gladstone – Certain Women
Molly Shannon – Other People
Angourie Rice – The Nice Guys

 

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WINNER:
Viola Davis – Fences

 

The definition of raw and honest, Davis gives her best performance and more than holds her own again Denzel in Fences. Viola is able to reach inside a woman so simple on the outside and exploit that which makes her unique and complicated. She gives life to not only Rose but to underappreciated women everywhere. And her scene is simply devastating, heartbreaking, and breathtaking to watch.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Molly Shannon – Other People

 


 

Best Original Screenplay
Kelly Fremon Craig – The Edge of Seventeen
Chris Kelly – Other People
Richard Linklater – Everybody Wants Some!!
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Mike Mills – 20th Century Women

 

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WINNER:
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

 

There is so much patience, steadiness, and complexity in Kenneth Lonergan’s screenplay for Manchester by the Sea that while terrific, the film barely does justice. This is a magnificent screenplay that takes a head first dive into grief, loss, and memories. Details are revealed to us as characters are forced to come face to face with their past and how it relates to their present. The structure the script takes doesn’t care about an audiences attention or understanding but rather in finding the truth to these characters’ situations. A script with this much care and execution is hard to find.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Kelly Fremon Craig – The Edge of Seventeen

 


 

Best Adapted Screenplay
Park Chan-wook & Chung Seo-kyung – The Handmaiden
Eric Heisserer – Arrival
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Taika Waititi – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
August Wilson – Fences

 

huntforthewilderpeople

 

WINNER:
Taika Waititi – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

 

The Hunt for the Wilderpeople was the most joyful movie-going experience I had all year. This is a tender, hysterical, and fun fable that is one of the more emotionally real tales we had in 2016. There is a striking balance here between Waititi’s sense of wonder and humor and the relationship at the center. Memorable characters, dialogue destined to be cult classics, an infectious sense of adventure, and, most importantly, an affecting emotional center.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

 


 

Best Animated Feature
Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kung Fu Panda 3
Sausage Party
Zootopia

 

zootopia-3

 

WINNER:
Zootopia

 

Visually thrilling, beautifully animated, and socially relevant Zootopia is an important film for children. Sure it’s funny, a bright, and clever, but it carries a message of social tolerance and equality.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Kubo and the Two Strings

 


 

Best Foreign Language Film
Divines
Fire at Sea
The Handmaiden
The Salesman
Train to Busan

 

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WINNER:
Divines

 

Between a harrowing Italian documentary about the European immigrant crisis, an epic and erotic Korean tale of deception and love, an Iranian-French deep exploration of the human connection in relation to tragedy, and an insane Korean zombie thriller it’s the small French-Qatar drama about friendship and ambition that takes the prize this year. Divines is vibrant and strong as it portrays two young women who yarn for something outside of their current situation and find it in a dangerous place. A tragic love story about friendship, class expectations, and dreams.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Train to Busan

 


 

Best Documentary
13th
I Am Not Your Negro
Fire at Sea
Life, Animated
Weiner

 

1200

 

WINNER:
13th

 

In a terrific year for documentaries, and especially incredibly vital documentaries, 13th was the powerhouse. Expertly tracing the history of a prison complex system from the drafting of the 13th amendment all the way to Trump, Ava DuVernay (quickly becoming one of our most important voices) entertains and enrages. With electric editing, dynamic cinematography, and a message of paramount relevance, 13th  was the most important film of 2016.

 

RUNNER-UP:
I Am Not Your Negro

 


 

Best Original Score
Arrival
The Fits
Jackie
La La Land
Moonlight

 

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WINNER:
La La Land

 

A beautiful melody of old and new, the score to La La Land is just as soaring as the film itself. The different compositions of the same melody stunningly captures the various moods of the story. “Mia & Sebastian’s Theme” is personal and passionate, “Planetarium” is dreamlike and fantastical, and “Epilogue” is all-encompassing, inspiring, heartbreaking, and a complete summation of love and loss. This is an original score that will go down as one of the best in recent Oscar history.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Moonlight

 


 

Best Original Song
“Another Day of Sun” – La La Land
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – La La Land
“Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana
“I’m So Humble” – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

 

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WINNER:
“Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street

 

As with documentaries this was a great year for original songs. And while any of these, and more, could have gotten the award I have to give it to the scrappy, pissed, and talented teens in Sing Street. Angry, rebelious, messy, and oh so 80s’ “Drive It Like You Stole It” was the perfect anthem for any kid trying to make the best of a bad situation. Plus it’s so damn catchy.

 

RUNNER-UP:
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

 


 

Best Sound Editing
Arrival
The Jungle Book
Patriots Day
Star Trek Beyond
Sully

 

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WINNER:
Arrival

 

The icy and ominous sounds of the unknown visitors created an atmosphere that was unmatched anywhere else in cinema in 2016.

 

RUNNER-UP:
The Jungle Book

 


 

Best Sound Mixing
Deepwater Horizon
The Jungle Book
Patriots Day
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Sully

 

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WINNER:
Deepwater Horizon

 

Deepwater Horizon works for many reasons (its acting and direction, for example, are top notch) but this movie is nothing without putting us on this rig. Each explosion, burst, and crash hits you right in your chest.

 

RUNNER-UP:
The Jungle Book

 


 

Best Production Design
Allied
The Handmaiden
Jackie
La La Land
The Witch

 

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WINNER:
The Handmaiden

 

From the posh, classical mansion to the lush and petrifying levels just below, the production design of The Handmaiden brings an overtly sexual and devious plot a heightened reality. The entire look of this film is designed to provide these characters, and their actions, with surroundings that could have come right off the pages of literary classic. This, in turn, elevates the proceedings and causes the twists, turns, and exploits that much more impactful.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Jackie

 


 

Best Cinematography
American Honey
Arrival
Jackie
La La Land
Moonlight

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WINNER:
Jackie

 

Floating camera work, claustrophobic  frames, subdued colors, a necessary grained-celluloid quality, the cinematography in Jackie does everything it can to create a unique experience. The film seems to hover right next to the action and move as unhinged as the heroine of the story. Beautifully composed shots that resemble works of art as the picture perfect world inside the frame comes crumbling down. This is a work of confidence, emotion, unease, and poetry.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Moonlight

 


 

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Jackie
Nocturnal Animals
Star Trek Beyond

 

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WINNER:
Star Trek Beyond

 

See photo above.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Jackie

 


 

Best Costume Design
20th Century Women
Allied
Jackie
La La Land
The Nice Guys

 

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WINNER:
Allied

 

Contemporary meets classic as the too-cool-for-school costuming of Allied best exemplifies the films melding of past and present. I mean these guys are stylish as hell. In fact, Allied encapsulated the mantra of the recent xXx: Return of Xander Cage better than xXx did: Kick some ass. get the girl, and try to look dope while you do it.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Jackie

 


 

Best Film Editing
13th
Arrival
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
La La Land
Moonlight

 

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WINNER:
Moonlight

 

As we follow Chiron through three distinct periods in his life, the editing carefully gives way to allowing him to grown inside the frame of the film. Shots take their time, and in moments of discovery allow Chiron, and therefore the audience, amble time to process. Their is a tranquil poise with which this film plays out. Nothing is rushed, forced, or eager. This is someone’s life, someone’s very existence, and the editing knows, respects, and honors this.

 

RUNNER-UP:
La La Land

 


 

Best Visual Effects
The BFG
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Trek Beyond

 

kubo-and-the-two-strings-2-credit_laika_-_focus_features

 

WINNER:
Kubo and the Two Strings

Visual effects is not exclusive to computer generated effects, and Kubo and the Two Strings was the most visually affecting movie of the year. In terms of how a film is created, visually, from scratch, this was a wonder. Blending computer animated with stop motion has never looked so seamless and have seldom been used to such effect.

 

RUNNER-UP:
The Jungle Book

 


 

Best Vocal/Motion Capture Performance
Ellen DeGeneres – Finding Dory
Idris Elba – The Jungle Book
Samuel L. Jackson – I Am Not Your Negro
Charlize Theron – Kubo and the Two Strings
Mark Rylance – The BFG

 

iamnotyournegro_01

 

WINNER:
Samuel L. Jackson – I Am Not Your Negro

 

Supplying James Baldwin’s words with a quiet and deep power, Samuel L. Jackson (whose famous voice is almost unrecognizable) allows the message and importance of I Am Not Your Negro to seep into the audiences’ subconscious. The words seem to melt off the screen and reach you with incredible oomph.  This is a masterstroke of voice acting because Jackson doesn’t push, he simply lets the wisdom and density of Mr. Baldwin permeate in the air for all to absorb.

RUNNER-UP:
Idris Elba – The Jungle Book

 


 

Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast
20th Century Women
Everybody Wants Some!!
Fences
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

 

Moonlight

 

WINNER:
Moonlight

 

Three separate actors, who had never met before, were able to create a complete, complex, tragic, three-dimensional portrait of character unfamiliar to mass audiences. Three separate actors, who had never met before, were able to create a partner for him who was kind, emotional, and caring. Janelle Monae and Naomie Harris fiercely, in their own right, gave him two contrasting mother figures each of importance. And Mahershala Ali made the biggest mark, influencing him and showing him a way of life that, while dangerous, could occur along side a kind heart. In 25 days everyone in Moonlight created something essential, exclusive, powerful, and incredible. They are the ensemble of the year.

 

RUNNER-UP:
Fences

 


 

Those are the categories with my nominees and my winners. If you have any questions, thoughts, comments, money to give please let me know in the comments below.

Soon I will post Part II which will be all of the actual nominees ranked in order of how I would vote. But I think we can all be honest, this list here is clearly better than what the Academy gave us.

Stay tuned!

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