This year was a fine year for film, as was 2015. Not only were independent and documentary films leading with great work, but people of all colors and genders were represented in the mix. Let us hope that this diversity of writers, actors, directors, cinematographers, etc., continues and becomes an integral part of the filmmaking community.
My top film of the year was the highly original and absurd The Lobster, and it’s represented among the nominations for Original Screenplay. To no one’s surprise, La La Land nabbed 14 nominations. Hollywood still loves and honors its own. The excellent Moonlight and Arrival are tied for eight nominations. Complete breakout nominations by film are here.
With some nominated films still to watch, not sure that I’ll get to them all by Oscar day. But as we all know, you needn’t have seen the films to predict the winners. It’s just more fun (and engaging) if you have.
Notable in film 2016:
> Strides in diversity: As noted above, #OscarsSoWhite shouldn’t be an issue this year, as many fine films and performances have been honored from the leads in Denzel Washington’s Fences to the actors and director of Moonlight (along with an unnominated film, Morris from America, which I liked very much). According to IndieWire, diversity in film is better in the independent fillmmaking community with its many initiatives, but there’s still along way to go.
> Documentaries in forefront: Had a huge impact this year, including the excellent O.J. Made in America, along with political docs such as Weiner, and 13th with its resolute look at the incarceration of black men.
> Religious themes: Were at the forefront of many films last year: Martin Scorcese’s Silence, about a Jesuit priest protecting Japanese Christians in 17th century Japan; the folktale, The Witch, about banished Puritans and their encounters with evil; the Midnight Special blended religious and sci-fi themes within a cult and a young boy’s otherworldly visions.
> Women in film: According to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television, in 2016, “women comprised 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 2 percentage points from last year…” Additionally, 35% of films employed no women, or only one woman in the role of director, writer, producer, executive producer, editor or cinematographer. Ladies, we’ve got a lot of work to do here. Luckily, Maren Ade’s film, Toni Erdmann, is leading the pack in the best foreign film category.
The bypassed and perennial favorites
> Snubs: Colin Farrell deserved a nomination for The Lobster, as well as Joel Edgerton, always wonderful, especially in this restrained performance in Loving. Love you Meryl Streep, but nommed for Florence Foster Jenkins? Umm, no. Amy Adams who turned in a quietly nuanced performance in Arrival missed the remaining spot because of this halo effect.
> Surprises: So happy to see Ruth Negga’s still and beautiful performance in Loving get recognition. Mel Gibson nabbed a directing nod for Hacksaw Ridge. And of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda nommed for, and co-performing, his song from Moana, and going for the EGOT prize.
> It’s a la la year, and La La Land will collect an armful of Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and likely Best Song. I liked the film, but from the nominees, my choice would be Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight.
> Best Actor is a tight race between Casey Affleck for his heartbreaking performance in the midst of grief and loss in Manchester By The Sea and Denzel Washington’ s forgotten Troy in Fences. Affleck has been cleaning up at critics awards and won the BAFTA. I’m calling it for Affleck, my choice, but this could go either way.
> Supporting actors, Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali and Fences’ Viola Davis are this year’s slam dunks, and deservedly so.
> I’d be surprised if Best Documentary doesn’t go to ESPN’s O.J. Made in America. It was an OJ kind of year.
As always, surprises and upsets in any categories are welcome. Expect political speeches galore (personally I wouldn’t feed the beast any more), and a long, long show. We’ll see how Jimmy Kimmel does as a first-time host. Does anyone but Billy Crystal want that gig more than once?
Photos: © Each respective film.