MoviefiedNYC’s Oscar Predictions: Who will Win and SHOULD win!

oscar-17This weekend the 89th Academy Awards will be held where Hollywood will bestow its highest honor to a deserving few. If you are going to an Oscar party and haven’t had time to see all of the nominated films, fear not, the MoviefiedNYC team has done all of the leg work for you. Managing Editors John David West and Myrna Duarte share their predictions along with Award Season Guru Ariadne Ansbro. Below are our picks for who will win and which of the nominees should win.

Best Picture: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

lalaland2

  • Ari – Who will WinLa La Land will take home the gold.  This film swept the Golden Globes and won a record setting 7 awards, not to mention it has picked up a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations, and it won the Producers Guild Award.  See a pattern? Who Should Win: La La Land.  It has been a difficult year, and this film lifted its audience into the clouds.
  • John David – Who will Win: La La Land is clearly set to win, it has 14 nominations, it won the Golden Globe, and it’s a happy movie in depressing year. Oh, and it’s about LA and the movie business, that guarantees a win.  Who Should Win: I’m kind of split between Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. A Moonlight upset would be sweet, but Manchester is my best movie of 2016. 
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  Ugh .., La La Land, though I do do think Hidden Figures might be giving it a little competition.   Who Should Win: Moonlight a deeply affecting, beautifully-made film, indie favorite, a surprise hit with a passionate fan base.
Best Director: Denis Villeneuve, Arrival, Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge, Damien Chazelle, La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea, Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
LLL d 10_1990.NEF
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • AriWho will Win: Damien Chazelle will pick up his first Oscar for directing La La Land.  This film was a labor of love that took him years to have made.  It’s time for that hard work to pay off.  Who Should Win: I loved what Chazelle did was Land, so to have him win will not be a disappointment.  However, Barry Jenkins beautifully crafted Moonlight with limited resources and turned it into one of the best films of the year.
  • John David – Who will Win: Damien ChazelleLa La Land, he managed to make an original musical in a time when movie musicals are essentially dead.   Who Should Win: Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, a beautifully realized work of art.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Barry Jenkins for a personal and intimate work, and done on a shoestring budget. I believe the academy will get this right.  Who Should Win: Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, but secretly, I am rooting for Denis Villeneuve, Arrival.
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea, Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge, Ryan Gosling, La La Land, Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic, Denzel Washington, Fences 

Denzel Washington, Fences
Denzel Washington, Fences

  • Ari – Who will Win: While Casey Affleck delivered a riveting performance and was considered the front-runner going into Awards Season, he has taken a serious blow due sexual harassment allegations.  Please note: While Oscar normally does not give a hoot about this kind of thing years later (see Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson, etc.) this is a bit fresh.  Therefore I am going to say that Denzel Washington is going to take home the gold, especially since he won the SAG.  Who Should Win: Both Washington and Affleck were fantastic in their films.  Washington, playing an outwardly combative man who feels that everything happens to him, not because of him, and Affleck, playing a man with the weight of the world and his conscience on his shoulders, both gave breathtaking performances this year.  Honestly, I would not be disappointed if there was a tie.
  • John David – Who will Win: I’m going to take a very minor risk and say, Denzel Washington, Fences will win his third Oscar. Affleck seems to be loosing ground due to his the bad press. Who Should Win: Casey Affleck for his brilliantly restrained performance Manchester. However, Denzel Washington was equally brilliant. For me, it’s really a toss up.
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  Denzel Washington in  Fences, but this will be a nail-biter down to to the last second. Casey Affleck has been the frontrunner but is losing steam.   Who Should Win: This is tough, both Affleck and Washington deliver tremendous performances,  but I think I have to go with Denzel Washington in  Fences.
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle, Ruth Negga, Loving, Natalie Portman, Jackie, Emma Stone, La La Land, Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Emma Stone, La La Land
Emma Stone, La La Land

  • Ari – Who will Win: Emma Stone for La La Land.  She has the momentum of a hugely successful film and she has won all of the pre-Oscar awards.  This is a lock.  Who Should Win: I really enjoyed Ruth Negga in Loving.  Negga said more with her eyes and body language than she did with her mouth, and gave a worthy performance playing an amazing woman.
  • John David – Who will Win: The Best Actress winner should be called the Most Fuckable Hollywood White Girl Award and this year it goes to Emma Stone. She was good but no Huppert in Elle, or Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins, or Ruth Negga…or Amy Adams.  Who Should Win: Isabelle Huppert for her complex and brave performance, the most interesting and solid performance of the group. Amy Adams who was not nominated should have been a front runner for Arrival.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: This is  locked up for Emma Stone in La La Land. If there is an upset, it will be Isabelle Huppert, Elle. Who Should Win: Amy Adams for Arrival, she was ROBBED.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight, Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water, Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea, Dev Patel, Lion, Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals.
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Ari –Who will Win: Mahershala Ali is poised to take home the gold.  He was in about 15 minutes of the entire film, but his presence is felt throughout the entire film.  Who Should Win: Dev Patel was incredible in Lion.  His portrayal of a young man driven to find his family with few clues was heart-wrenching and heart-warming all at the same time.
  • John David – Who will Win: If Mahershala Ali doesn’t win for Moonlight, it’s “Fake News.”  Who Should Win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight – just stop and give it to him!
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  Mahershala Ali, Moonlight but a Dev Patel upset could be possible. Who Should Win:  Mahershala Ali in Moonlight is EVERYTHING. 
Best Supporting ActressViola Davis, Fences, Naomie Harris, Moonlight, Nicole Kidman, Lion, Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures, Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea.
Viola Davis, Fences
Viola Davis, Fences
  • Ari – Who will Win: Viola Davis should have had her Oscar speech written months ago. The third nomination will definitely be the charm for her.  Who Should WinViola Davis blew me away.  I recently read an article where she stated that even though the won a Tony for this role on Broadway, she finally felt that she understood the character when she made the film.  It is incredible.
  • John David – Who will Win: Viola Davis, Fences   Who Should Win: Viola Davis, Fences, followed very closely by Michelle Williams.
  • Myrna – Who will Win:Viola Davis, Fences  Who Should Win: Viola Davis, Fences full stop.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Arrival, Eric Heisserer, Fences, August Wilson, Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Lion, Luke Davis, Moonlight, Barry Jenkins with story by Tarell Alvin McCranley

moonlight-2

  • Ari – Who will Win: Since Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins will not be taking home an Oscar for Best Director, he will win in this category.  Who Should Win: For me it’s a toss-up between Moonlight and Fences.  August Wilson was a masterful playwright, and, since he is deceased, this is his only chance to win an Oscar.  However, does this mean that William Shakespeare can be nominated too?
  • John David – Who will Win:Barry Jenkins for Moonlight and for not winning Best Director. Who Should Win: August Wilson, what language!
  • Myrna – Who will Win: August Wilson, Fences  Who Should Win: August Wilson, Fences the words are musical. 
Best Original Screenplay: Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan, La La Land, Damien Chazelle, The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan, 20th Century Women, Mike Mills
Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
  • Ari – Who will WinThis is actually a tough category.  The Screen Writers Guild awarded Moonlight the Original Screenplay award, while the Academy deemed it only eligible as an Adapted Screenplay.  This means that La La Land and Manchester by the Sea will duke it out for the final prize.  I am going to say that the Academy will give it to Manchester.  Kenneth Lonergan worked on this script for several years and it was even included on Hollywood’s Blacklist of best unproduced screenplays at one point. Who Should Win: Manchester by the Sea 
  • John David – Who will Win: It would be quite sad to see La La Land win, it’s the most “unoriginal” screenplay of the group. I mean, it’s full of clichés that we’ve seen in countless other films—oh my coffee get spilled on her white shirt. Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea. He’s not going to win director or best picture and this is a category where they can spread some love. Who Should Win: Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea, but I would love my personal favorite Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou to win for the darkly funny Lobster. By the way, where is Maren Ade for Toni Erdmann on this list?
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan  Who Should Win:The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos’s dystopian tour de force.   
Best Animated Feature: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia.
zootopia
Zootopia
  • Ari – Who will WinZootopia appealed to children and adults, which is key in this category.  Honestly, I loved the idea of a sloth working at the DMV.   Who Should Win: Zootopia was very innovative and entertaining, but I did enjoy the beautiful story behind Moana.
  • John David – Who will Win: Zootopia   Who Should Win: Zootopia. Yes, it’s all about the Sloth. 
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Zootopia   Who Should Win: Zootopia, so much wit.   The film is filled with lessons about tolerance, diversity and racial profiling delivered with conviction,  it is  almost a little  subversive. 
Best Animated Short: Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl, Piper

piper-pixar-short

  • Ari – Who will WinPiper because Pixar short films are AWESOME!!!  Who Should Win: Piper because Pixar short films are AWESOME!!!
  • John David – Who will WinPiper   Who Should Win: One of the better movies of the year was Piper.
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  Didn’t see them, boo. Who Should Win:
 Best Cinematography: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence 
arrival
Arrival
  • Ari – Who will WinLa La Land turned a concrete city that I really have no love for (ahem, Los Angeles) into a beautiful world where love is just around the next corner.   Who Should Win: Lion’s sweeping views of Mumbai and Tasmania were a travel junkie’s eye-candy.  Yes, I am that junkie.
  • John David – Who will WinLa La Land, it had pretty lighting.  Who Should Win: missing from the nominees is Cafe Society (Vittorio Storaro), but Arrival is my pick.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: The safest bet, La La Land, Linus Sandgren will win.  Who Should Win: Bradford Young for Arrival. He is the first African-American cinematographer ever nominated for the award. He also shot two amazing films of 2014, Selma and A Most Violent Year.  
Best Costume Design: Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster, Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land 

jackie
Jackie

  • Ari – Who will Win: Mary Zophres costumes in La La Land were both timeless and evocative of Old Hollywood.  Who Should Win: I have issues with films that are based on famous people, as there is a mountain of photographic evidence to base portrayals and styling on.  However, Madeline Fontaine’s costumes in Jackie were meticulously done.  She took one of the most photographed dresses of the 20th century and brought it back to life.  It makes other attempts pale in comparison.
  • John David – Who will WinLa La Land for its TJ Max knock offs!  Who Should Win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Myrna – Who will Win: La La Land, the primary color palette was easy on the eye but no real thrill. Who Should Win: Jackie
Best Documentary Feature: Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life Animate, , O.J.: Made in America, 13th.
13th
13th
  • Ari – Who will Win: I have the feeling that 13th is going to be the winner in this category. This is mostly because 1.) The Academy will try to make it up to Ava DuVernay for not being nominated for directing Selma several years ago, and 2.) O.J.: Made in America was five hours long.  I don’t know if the Academy voters had the stamina to sit through the whole thing.  Who Should Win: I watched O.J. over the course of one weekend and I am considering doing it again.
  • John David – Who will Win: I have an odd feeling that 13th will win over O.J. both are fantastic documentaries but I think that 13th has this one.   Who Should Win: O.J. was riveting and extremely well done, but it’s really a TV doc. My vote goes to 13th the most important documentary of the year.
  • Myrna –  Who will Win: What an AMAZING year for documentaries. O.J.: Made in America, is a statement about celebrity and race relations in America, as it also was about a high profile murder case. Incredibly compelling. Who Should Win: 13th a game changer of a film. 
Best Film Editing: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Moonlight.
hacksaw-ridge-1
Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ari – Who will Win: La La Land, but I could see Moonlight pulling an upset.  Who Should Win: La La Land
  • John David – Who will Win: La La Land   Who Should Win: La La Land
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  La La Land, Tom Cross  Who Should Win: Arrival, Joe Walker a sci-fi parable about time, memory, and unity.
Best Foreign Language Film: Land of Mine, A Man Called Ove, The Salesman, Tanna, Toni Erdmann.
the-salesman-asghar-farhadi
The Salesman, Shahab Hosseini, Asghar Farhadi
  • Ari – Who will WinI honestly think that Iran is going to win its second Academy Award for The Salesman.   Who Should Win: Toni Erdmann was hilarious.  I wish comedies won more awards.
  • John David – Who will Win: This is a tough one to call but I think it’s going to be Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman edging out the rest, not only because it’s a great film but it may get some help from Farhadi’s boycott of the Oscars over Trump’s Muslim Ban.  Who Should Win: Toni Erdmann and The Salesman are both in my top 10 movies of 2016 with The Salesman having an edge.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi Who Should Win: The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi, though I was secretly charmed by A Man Called Ove.
Best Documentary Short: Extremis, 4.1 Miles, Joe’s Violin, Watani: My Homeland, The White Helmets
  • Ari – Who will Win: Three of the documentaries have to do with war in Syria, so I think that they may split the vote.  What do Academy voters love to award outside of a timely issue?  That’s right, the Holocaust!  Joe’s Violin is about a Holocaust survivor who donates his violin to a little girl in the Bronx.   Who Should Win: I thought that White Helmets truly captured the feeling of civilians in war, and the need to help your fellow man.
  • David – Who will Win: The White Helmets   Who Should Win: The White Helmets
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  The White Helmets, Grain Media and Violet Films inspired by a Quranic verse that says “to save a life is to save all of humanity,” the group has rescued more than 60,000 people Who Should Win: The White Helmets, Grain Media and Violet Films

Best Live Action Short: Ennemis Intérieurs, La Femme et le TGV, Silent Nights, Sing, Timecode

femme-et-le-tgv

  • Ari – Who will WinEnnemis Intérieurs, is a very timely film as it deals with a French-Algerian man accused of hiding the identities of possible terrorists.  Who Should Win: Ennemis Intérieurs
  • David – Who will WinSilent Nights  Who Should Win: There were some really good choices in this category, including Timecode and Ennemis Intérieurs, but La Femme et le TGV was a beautiful shot movie with an engaging story– it’s a complete little film that should take home the Oscar.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Did not see them.  
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad
star-trek-beyond
Star Trek Beyond
  • Ari – Who will WinStar Trek Beyond  Who Should Win: Star Trek Beyond!
  • David – Who will WinStar Trek Beyond.   Who Should WinStar Trek Beyond – I guess we are in agreement on this one! 
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Star Trek Beyond  Who Should Win: Star Trek Beyond
Best Original Score: Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Passengers.
la_la_land_spotlight
La La Land
  • Ari – Who will WinLa La Land’s score was upbeat, romantic, haunting, and wistful. Not to mention I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack. Congrats Justin Hurwitz on your first Oscar.   Who Should Win: See above.
  • John David – Who will WinLa La Land, after all it’s a musical—with 14 nominations! Who Should Win: La La Land, would like to see Moonlight’s moving soundtrack score upset.
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  The musical,  La La Land. Who Should Win: Moonlight so moving.
Best Original Song: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” La La Land, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls, “City of Stars,” La La Land, “The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story, “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
how-far-ill-go
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
  • Ari – Who will Win: “City of Stars” was the perfect song to encapsulate the love of Mia and Sebastian.  Expect it to win.  Who Should Win: While I loved “City of Stars”, I might have to go with “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” as it was Emma Stone’s best moment in the film.
  • John David – Who will Win: Of course “City of Stars,” it’s an adorable, simple little tune about Los Angles. Who Should Win: “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana. The song actually moves the story along and gives insight into the character’s struggle. Oh, and it’s a song by Lin Manuel Miranda–it’s his year! …or are we bored with him yet?  I second Mryna’s Sing Street comment below! 
  • Myrna – Who will Win:City of Stars,” La La Land but Trolls might just pull an upset Who Should Win: “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana or anything from Sing Street.
Best Production Design: Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail, Caesar!, La La Land, Passengers 
hail-caesar
Hail, Caesar!
  • Ari – Who will WinLa La Land, yay Hollywood! Who Should Win: Fantastic Beasts made a fantastic world come to life.  (See what I did there?)
  • John David – Who will Win: La La Land  Who Should Win: Hail, Caesar!
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  La La Land, it’s pretty.  Who Should Win: Arrival, stylish, with a look that will inspire so many sci-fi films to come.
Best Sound Editing: Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Sully

sully

  • Ari – Who will Win: I know nothing about Sound Editing or Sound Mixing.  However, a war film normally wins in this category when it is nominated, so welcome to your only win Hacksaw Ridge.  Who Should Win: Probably Hacksaw simply for bringing war to life.
  • John David – Who will WinHacksaw Ridge  Who Should Win: Hacksaw Ridge
  • Myrna – Who will Win:Hacksaw Ridge Who Should Win: Arrival
Best Sound Mixing: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
La La Land
La La Land
  • Ari – Who will Win: La La Land because it is a musical!    Who Should Win: La La Land.  Let’s just say that it seems easier to mix live action with live action than making a seamless sound transition in pre-recorded music from a studio.
  • John David – Who will Win: La La Land   Who Should Win: La La Land
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Hacksaw Ridge  Who Should Win:Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:
Best Visual Effects: Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
the-jungle-book
The Jungle Book
  • Ari – Who will WinThe Jungle Book cause I want to play with Baloo. Who Should Win: All kidding aside, The Jungle Book’s visual effects were pretty incredible.
  • John David – Who will Win: The Jungle Book  Who Should Win: The Jungle Book
  • Myrna – Who will Win: The Jungle Book, too bad the couldn’t animate the kid. Who Should Win: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The 89th Academy Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 26 on ABC. Join MoviefiedNYC for live streaming at @MoviefiedNYC

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MoviefiedNYC’s Top 10 movies of 2016

John David West’s Top 10 Films of 2016

10. Hacksaw Ridge

hacksaw-ridge-1Mel Gibson (yep Mad Mel is back) and Hacksaw Ridge proves to be a better venture than his previous outings. The film is sometimes a little schmaltzy with the typical Hollywood, man against all odds, American glory, and pious, good-versus-evil sentimentality, but in actuality it’s kind of refreshing. This is the true story of Desmond Doss (played by Andrew Garfield) in one of his best performances to date. Doss is a Seventh-day Adventist, who—as a conscientious objector—joined the military and refused to carry a gun into battle.  Doss’s refusal to participate in violence starkly contrasts the war-torn images Gibson’s puts on the screen. They are brutally violent, limbs are blown apart before our eyes and rats feast on dead soldiers. Is it too much? Perhaps not. War is far more brutal than anything we can watch on the big screen in the safety of our cozy seats. At this point, I am quite weary of the “based on a true story” marketing that seems to give so many films a certain level of cachet, but in the case of Hacksaw Ridge, the true story of Desmond Doss’s selflessness is rather refreshing to see a unique World War II story.

9. O.J.: Made in America

o-j-made-in-america-1This gargantuan documentary by Ezra Edelman runs a staggering 464 minutes—well over seven hours. Its length—and the fact that it never becomes dull or tedious despite it—solidifies that the O.J Simpson story may best represent America’s obsession with celebrity, media, violence, the criminal justice system, and our complex, ongoing issues with race relations.

8. Fences

fences-1August Wilsons’ Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play features career high performances by Viola Davis and Denzel Washington. This play to screen adaptation may disappoint audiences who crave action and more locations than simply a backyard and living room, but it’s the simple set that doesn’t interfere with Wilson’s beautiful linguistic music along with Washington and Davis’ passion.

7. Tony Erdmann

tony-erdmann-1Another film that brings some much-needed originality to this year’s batch of movies. A German comedy that doesn’t try too hard to be funny – it’s comical when it needs to be and touching when the time is right. What’s most satisfying about Toni Erdman is how surprisingly gratifying of a film it is – just wait for the birthday brunch that becomes absurdly funny and oddly relatable. It’s a clever comment on the ridiculousness of corporate conformity and a need to perform well for the team.

6. 13th

13thNot only is Ava DuVernay’s documentary about the U.S. prison system a sobering essay on institutionalized racism in the U.S, but is also a study – through the 13th Amendment of the Constitution – of how it was allowed to thrive. The films success lies in its accessiblity whilst never being preachy. This is with out a doubt a movie that everyone should see.

5. Arrival

Amy Adams, Arrival
Amy Adams, Arrival

Adapted from the book, Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, Arrival ponders some tough questions, in the words of its director Denis Villeneuve: “What would happen if you knew how and when you will die? What will your relationship with life and love, your family, and friends, and with your society be?  By being more in relationship with death, in an intimate way with the nature of life and its subtleties, it would bring us more humility.” We all need that human humility today, more than ever. As one of the smarter films of 2016, and with an intelligent performance by Amy Adams, Arrival is one last year’s films that deserves a second viewing.

4. The Salesman

the-salesman1Asghar Farhadi‘s realistic thriller The Salesman opens like a disaster film as an apartment building appears to collapse as its residents are forced to flee. After this disruptive event the films settles into Farhadi’s typical exploration of domestic life as the film’s central characters, a married couple, played brilliantly by Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti are forced to find an alternative apartment to live in. The Salesman is ultimately about more intimate matters than a physical disaster as their lives are dramatically changed by a violent event in their new apartment. Farhadi carefully and quietly spins the domestic drama into naturalistic revenge thriller that takes you for the ride inside the heads of its lead characters.

3. The Lobster

lobsterThe Lobster is one of the most unique films of 2016. Set in the near future, it takes an absurdist angle to explore what it means to be single. In this gray futuristic story, the uncoupled are arrested and transferred to The Hotel, where they must find a mate and fall in love within 45 days or they will be forever transformed into an animal of their choosing. Written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who brought us the Oscar nominated Dogtooth (2011). This is his first English language film, and he’s just as compelling and disturbing in English as he is in Greek. This time he has a few big screen names from Hollywood’s John C. Reilly, to across the Atlantic with England’s Rachel Weisz, France’s Léa Seydoux and middle-aged, pudgy Irish Colin Farrell in a very strong yet understated performance. These actors are all doing great ensemble work in a movie whose title begs the most important question – “what animal would you choose?”

2. Moonlight

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Moonlight is quite possibly a perfect acting movie – its ensemble of actors don’t miss a beat. While Mahershala Ali is getting all the—well deserved—attention for his performance as the neighborhood drug dealer who provides a young boy a home away from his abusive home—a stable life, if you will.  But the critically-overshadowed performance of Ashton Sanders as the bullied and questioning teenage Chiron is one of the most moving of the film.  Naomie Harris (Skyfall) as Chiron’s crack addict mother is one of the year’s most compelling performances. With the film’s visually delightful cinematography and a beautiful script, Moonlight does not miss a step under the brilliant direction of Barry Jenkins. 

1. Manchester by the Sea

manchester-seaFew directors are able to make a film that successfully blurs the line between tragedy and comedy, while also maintaining a tone that is unquestionably dramatic. It helps that the film is set during an overcast snowy New England winter; that its set in a working class environment; and has an score that features some heavy pieces, including Albinoni’s classic funeral hit, “Adagio in G Minor.” Director and writer Kenneth Lonergan has seamlessly blended the dramatic with the comic,  through his direction of his well-crafted script. You don’t walk away confused about you just watched—it’s a definitely a drama, a devastating drama, with many moments that capture the clumsiness that bring humor to daily life. Affleck is the conflicted center of this film and gives a career-high performance that is a case study of quiet restraint, and subtle emotional depth. This is an honest performance that is successful for it’s nuanced and controlled quality, yet it’s not dull or boring—it’s authentic. Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife delivers one of her most powerful performances in years. Manchester by the Sea, with its strong cast, mature writing, masterful direction, and a score that—despite coming dangerously close to overpowering the film—effectively enhances the over all tone. Manchester By The Sea is one of 2016’s best films and my number one.

 A few more:  

singstreet2
Sing Street (Dir. John Carney)

Sing Street

Elle

Lion

Loving

The Handmaiden 

Paterson

LaLa Land

New York Film Festival: Manchester by the Sea

 

manchester-seaFew directors are able to make a film that successfully blurs the line between tragedy and comedy, while also maintaining a tone that is unquestionably dramatic. It helps that the film is set during an overcast snowy New England winter; that its set in a working class environment; and has an score that features some heavy pieces, including Albinoni’s classic funeral hit,“Adagio in G Minor.” Director and writer Kenneth Lonergan has seamlessly blended the dramatic with the comic, not only through his direction but also through his well-crafted script. You don’t walk away confused about you they just saw—it’s a definitely a drama, a devastating drama with many moments that capture the clumsiness that add to daily life with humor.

Manchester by the Sea came out of Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals as a favorite and it’s getting the same love at this year’s New York Film Festival. Lonergan directs with careful detail and allows the scenes to run as long as necessary without feeling indulgent, but with enough emotional intensity that it feels honest. The performances possess the same quality of subtle intensity. Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a handyman living in a working class neighborhood of Boston. He’s essentially given up on life after suffering a tragic loss some years earlier. Following the death of his older, more stable brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Lee learns that is the sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Affleck is the conflicted center of this film and gives a career-high performance that is a case study of quiet restraint, and subtle emotional depth. This is an honest performance that is successful for it’s nuanced and controlled quality, yet it’s not dull or boring—it’s authentic.  Lee is ultimately a likable guy, mostly because, although he is very damaged and lonely, he is in need of help, he is a good man who is responsible and does the right thing. Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife delivers one of her most powerful performances in years, despite her too little screen time. In an unforgettable scene later in the film, Williams and Affleck are remarkable and heartbreakingly honest as she is awkwardly tries to talk to Lee about their tragic past, but through polite restraint, Lee is unable to let go and succumbs to avoidance as his only tool. In the hands of any other director this scene would have been a sappy, get-out-your-handkerchief moment, but here it’s a simple, frustrating (you want reach out and help them), and truthful moment. Affleck and Williams handle this scene masterfully.

kyle-chandler-casey-affleck-credit_-claire-folger-courtesy-of-amazon-studios-and-roadside-attractionsAnother stand out performance comes from Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom, Grand Budapest Hotel) as Lee’s nephew who finds himself suddenly alone, and at odds with Lee’s desire to take Lucas back to Boston to live until he is of legal age to receive his inheritance.  With his teen angst and rampant horniness, he’s the perfect counterpart to Casey’s emotionally muted (yet volatile given enough alcohol) and sexually stalled state. Their relationship is a pleasure—with the right amount of pain—to watch.

Manchester by the Sea, with its Oscar caliber performances, mature writing, masterful direction and a score that—despite coming dangerously close to overpowering the film—effectively enhances the over all tone of the movie, will likely stand out as one of 2016’s best films.

–John David West

 

New York Film Festival: Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea is the one to see at this year’s New York Film Festival. Writer, director Kenneth Lonergan’s film is deeply moving, honest, and surprisingly funny. Casey Affleck’s truthful performance is detailed, restrained, and refreshingly organic. He is surely this year’s Oscar front runner.
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