The Oscars – Final Predictions

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Well here we are…it’s the day of the show y’all and I’ve done by best to get a look at the nominees. Out of 62 movies nominated this year, I managed to see 61 (My Life as a Zucchini, I’ll be haunted by you for the next 365 days).  If you’re looking for help filling out your Oscar ballot, take heart to my final predictions below.  This was a good year for movies and many decisions are tough choices and/or close calls…but let’s hope there are more than a few surprises tonight and voters didn’t just vote for La La Land across the board.

BEST PICTURE
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures – Should Win
La La Land – Will Win
Lion
Manchester By the Sea
Moonlight

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle – La La Land – Will Win
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge – Should Win
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea
Dennis Villenueve – 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 – Will Win/Should Win

BEST ACTRESS
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie – Should Win
Emma Stone – La La Land – Will Win
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight – Will Win/Should Win
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester By the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis – Fences – Will Win/Should Win
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester By the Sea

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Eric Heisserer – Arrival
August Wilson – Fences
Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi – Hidden Figures
Luke Davies – Lion
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight – Will Win/Should Win

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Mike Mills – 20th Century Women
Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou – The Lobster
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea – Will Win/Should Win

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
A Man Called Ove – Sweden – Should Win
Toni Erdmann – Germany
The Salesman – Iran – Will Win
Land of Mine – Denmark
Tanna – Australia

BEST EDITING
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge – Should Win
La La Land – Will Win
Hell or High Water
Moonlight

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Arrival – Should Win
Lion
La La Land – Will Win
Moonlight
Silence

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar – Should Win
La La Land – Will Win
Arrival
Passsengers

BEST SOUND MIXING
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge – Should Win
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
La La Land – Will Win
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

BEST SOUND EDITING
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge – Will Win/Should Win
La La Land
Deepwater Horizon
Sully

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Extremis
4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin – Should Win
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets – Will Win

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Ennemis Intérieurs – Will Win
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode – Should Win

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl – Should Win
Piper – Will Win

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie – Will Win/Should Win
La La Land
Allied

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Mica Levi – Jackie – Should Win
Justin Hurwitz – La La Land – Will Win
Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka – Lion
Nicholas Britell – Moonlight
Thomas Newman – Passengers

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
13th
I am Not Your Negro
OJ: Made in America – Will Win/Should Win
Fire at Sea
Life, Animated

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
My Life as a Zucchini
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
The Red Turtle
Zootopia – Will Win/Should Win

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
Kubo and the Two Strings
The Jungle Book – Will Win/Should Win
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Star Trek Beyond – Will Win/Should Win
Suicide Squad
A Man Called Ove

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – La La Land
City of Stars – La La Land – Will Win (I don’t love any of these songs so I’m not picking a “Should”)
How Far I’ll Go – Moana
Can’t Stop the Feeling – Trolls
The Empty Chair – Jim: The James Foley Story

Movie Review ~ The Red Turtle

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The Facts:

Synopsis: The dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.

Director: Michael Dudok de Wit

Rated: PG

Running Length: 80 minutes

TMMM Score: (9.5/10)

Review: Nestled into a small theater on chilly Friday nursing a cup of coffee, I knew what I was in for with The Red Turtle. No dialogue, Oscar nominee, first film from Studio Ghibli that wasn’t Japanese, crafted by a small crew. Leading up to the Oscar nominations every shortlist for possible contenders mentioned this one and now having seen it myself it’s not hard at all to understand why. It’s a beautifully told piece that’s part fairy-tale, part parable, and unexpectedly moving.

Shipwrecked and waking up on a deserted island, a man struggles to acclimate himself to his new environment. We don’t know who he is, where he’s come from, or what kind of person he was before we meet him but we’re instantly rooting for him. Exploring the tropical islet, he winds up in a scene as harrowing as any live-action sequence I saw in the past year. When was the last time you felt an animated character was in physical danger…and not in a fantasy sort of way? In this brief bit of peril, writer/director Michael Dudok de Wit quickly shows what the stakes are if anything should happen to the man and how no one is there to help him.

Using bamboo and leaves, he fashions quite an impressive raft to take him back to civilization, only to have his raft capsized by an unseen force before he gets too far. Numerous attempts seem destined for success only to be dashed again and again by this great presence. Desperate, starving, and losing some will the man tries one last time and that’s when he comes face to face with the titular character. How the man winds up connecting with the turtle is best left for you to discover on your own as the tone changes from despair and uncertainty to survival and understanding.

As with most Studio Ghibli films, the animation is broad and flat which makes it look like a series of postcard images instead of one with great dimension but it’s an intensely rich film on nearly every level. There’s also a fair bit of humor to be had as well, with a family of crabs providing bits of comic relief to break up passages of time.

For a film with no dialogue, it really speaks to the heart and I can’t imagine how any words would have enhanced the thoughts and ideas brought to life by Ghibli. A beautiful score by Laurent Perez Del Mar is really all that’s needed to provoke the imagination and stir emotions. Every year the Oscars seem to locate one true animated gem that isn’t a mile a minute caper comedy or franchise blockbuster to give some variety to the category and obviously The Red Turtle is this year’s treasure.

The Red Turtle isn’t going to break any kind of box office but it’s a film I think parents will discover as time goes on and will enjoy sharing with not only their children but their friends.

Oscar Nominees: Best Makeup & Hairstyling

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Every day from now until the Oscars on Sunday, February 26 I’m going to deconstruct the nominees in each category. I’ll give you their history with the Academy, some extra thoughts on each nominee/film, who was snubbed, and what you might consider before choosing them in your office pool.

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Nominee: Eva Von Bahr, Love Larson
Film
: A Man Called Ove
Oscar History: Both have one previous nomination under their belts, for last year’s surprise nominee The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Thoughts: Old age make-up can go very wrong (hello Jersey Boys) or very right, as it did with A Man Called Ove.  This sleeper hit from Sweden also is in the running for Best Foreign Film and it justly earned both of its nominations.  The graceful aging of key characters by Von Bahr and Larson added to the film’s heart and soul as we looked back on the titular character’s life.  Whereas the other two nominees are flashy, the work here is subtle but no less memorable.

Nominee: Joel Harlow, Richard Alonzo
Film
: Star Trek Beyond
Oscar History: Harlow has been nominated twice before, winning for Star Trek.  This is Alonzo’s first nomination.
Thoughts: I missed this one in theaters but watching it at home recently I was impressed not only with the rich visuals of the third entry in the rebooted Star Trek franchise but how unique each and every character was in makeup and hairstyle.  No two beings looked alike and even if some looked like well painted sponges, there was a seemingly never ending buffet of colorfully intricate designs that passed by onscreen.  It helps that one of the nominees already won for the original reboot of the series…but then again maybe once was enough for some voters.

Nominee: Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, Christopher Allen Nelson
Film
: Suicide Squad
Oscar History: All are first time nominees
Thoughts: Boy, I really hated this movie  Hated. Hated. Hated.  It’s on my worst of the year list and for good reason – it’s an ugly, rotten film with ugly, rotten characters.  That being said, these first time nominees sure went full throttle into comic book land with new designs for the Joker, Harley Quinn, and Killer Croc.  It’s the Killer Croc design that could push this crew into the winners circle…but I personally can’t stomach the thought of Suicide Squad being forever referred to as “Oscar Winning”.

Missed Opportunity:

Should Been Nominated: Here’s another category where I think the Academy nominated the right artists.  The only other one that could have fit in here would have been Deadpool and it could have taken Suicide Squad’s place.

Any one of these could be named the winner but I’m going to throw my endorsement to Star Trek Beyond for its out of the box/world designs, though I’d be just as happy if A Man Called Ove snuck in there and snagged this one away from two loud Hollywood blockbusters. Just please…not Suicide Squad.

Oscar Nominees: Best Production Design

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Every day from now until the Oscars on Sunday, February 26 I’m going to deconstruct the nominees in each category. I’ll give you their history with the Academy, some extra thoughts on each nominee/film, who was snubbed, and what you might consider before choosing them in your office pool.

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Nominee: Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte
FilmArrival
Oscar History: Vermette was nominated once before, for The Young Victoria. This is Hotte’s first nomination.
Thoughts: Making a futuristic world look not so futuristic is not small feat and Vermette and Hotte aided Arrival‘s director in creating a unified vision of a not too distant future.  From the structured plain-ness of Amy Adams lakefront home to the various tents and pop up war rooms where government officials and scientists work together to figure out what some unexpected visitors want, the production design is organized and focused.  It’s actually a bit too subtle to truly contend with its fellow nominees, but overall the design is crisp.

Nominee: Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock
FilmFanastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Oscar History: Craig has been nominated 10 times before, winning for The English Patient, Dangerous Liaisons, and Gandhi.  Pinnock has been nominated five times before (twice in one year!), winning for The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Thoughts: For me, I always associate production design with the physically present sets and props the actors interact with.  While that does fall under the banner, the job of the production designer is to make cohesive all elements of the film production, including visual effects.  There’s a lot of imagination on display here and the period setting definitely helps one understand how these designers were nominated…but too much of the film feels created not crafted.

Nominee: Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh
FilmHail, Caesar!
Oscar History: Gonchor was nominated once before, for True Grit. Haigh has been nominated six times before, winning for Bugsy.
Thoughts: Period pieces always tend to fare better because in the eyes of the Academy, there’s a greater degree of difficulty in the full recreation of the past.  The designers involved with Hail, Caesar! certainly got the feel and look of early Hollywood, creating not only several jaw dropping sound stages but a fully realized backlot and several glamorous beach front mansions.  Remember what I say (because I’ll be saying it often throughout the next few weeks), nothing pleases Hollywood more than to reward films about Hollywood.  

Nominee: David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
FilmLa La Land
Oscar History: First time nominees.
Thoughts: Following along in the footsteps of Hail Caesar!, La La Land also takes place on the back lot of a movie studio and makes its own dreamy trip through a soundstage featuring several genres of classic Hollywood.  There’s a more modern realism afoot and the nominees here were admirably able to clean-up Los Angeles without scrubbing it of all its underbelly touches too much.  I actually started to notice the production design more in the second half of the movie when we visit more intimate venues and glide through a fantasy sequence where the attention to the details makes all the difference.

Nominee: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Gene Serdena
FilmPassengers
Oscar History: Hendrix Dyas has been nominated once before, for Inception.  Serdena has been nominated previously for Her.
Thoughts: This one is just completely odd to me.  Watching Passengers I remember specifically feeling how artificial everything looked.  The inner workings of the spaceship transporting human cargo to another galaxy is certainly grand in scope and doesn’t go the traditional route but the added visual effects tended to overwhelm the simple design elements..  Where most movies set in space have dark passageways and cold edges, the designers for Passengers balanced a brighter palate, lending some warmth to an overall chilly movie.

Missed Opportunity:

Should Been Nominated: Jean Rabasse for Jackie
Why?: I’m shocked Rabasse didn’t land a nomination for his striking recreations of historical locations in Jackie.  Perfectly blending with the work of the costume designer, the art direction was immaculate and not just the same old artist interpretation of the White House.  Rabasse had his work cut out since so many others have had a chance to put their own stamp on the Kennedy’s and their compounds…but this movie felt like it truly lept from the pages of history.  Passengers should have been swapped out for Jackie.

While I would love Hail! Caesar to nab the statue, it’s looking likely that La La Land, with its more contemporary take at Hollywood will continue its consumption of Oscars with a win here as well.

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Song

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Every day from now until the Oscars on Sunday, February 26 I’m going to deconstruct the nominees in each category. I’ll give you their history with the Academy, some extra thoughts on each nominee/film, who was snubbed, and what you might consider before choosing them in your office pool.

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Nominee: Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Song: ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream)’ from La La Land
Oscar History: First time nominees, Hurwitz is also nominated for Best Original Score
Thoughts: Right off the bat, let me say that I wish there was a rule that there could only be one nominee per film…but that’s sour grapes on my part because, well, read on.  The first of two songs nominated from La La Land is arguably the better of the pair, though it’s also the one that does more to solidify Emma Stone’s hopes of winning an Oscar than its own.  The 11 o’clock number for Stone’s struggling actress character, it’s got a good bridge but not much of a hook.  Truth be told, it’s largely due to Stone’s earnestly honest performance of it that makes it memorable.  Taken out of context on the live broadcast (and maybe sung by someone other than Stone), I’m wondering how strong it will feel.

Nominee: Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Song: ‘City of Stars’ from La La Land
Oscar History: First time nominees, Hurwitz is also nominated for Best Original Score
Thoughts: La La Land‘s second nomination is for the song featured heavy in the trailers and promo clips.  It’s an ear-worm of an anthem, but not a terribly tuneful or great one.  Score composer Justin Hurwitz wisely interspersed the song generously throughout the film and Ryan Gosling’s laid back jazz musician actually made me think he was coming up with the words right there on the spot.  Don’t forget that Hollywood LOVES to reward material that involves them in some way and a song called ‘City of Stars’ in a movie title La La Land hits the double target for voters that can’t get enough of their own back-patting. If neither film from La La Land takes the trophy, don’t feel too bad for composers/lyricists Pasek and Paul, they have Dear Evan Hansen, a sizable hit on Broadway looking likely to win them a Tony.

Nominee: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Song: ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from Moana
Oscar History: First time nominee
Thoughts: I’m just going to say it and I don’t care if you hate it.  Lin-Manuel Miranda is possibly the most overexposed celebrity alive today and if his song from Moana wins it will be largely due to the Hamilton fever that has taken over both coasts over the last two years.  There’s no doubt that Miranda is musically gifted and winning an Oscar here would make him the youngest EGOT winner ever (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) but the man has already won everything under the sun (even a Pulitzer!) for Hamilton…voters are either going to want to make it a clean sweep or they’ll think Miranda has filled enough shelf space this year with other statuettes.  That being said, while Moana and this song aren’t my favorite in the Disney canon, it surely makes for a positive message for young girls in that it teaches them they don’t need to pine for a prince to achieve the impossible.

Nominee: Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, Shellback
Song: ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ from Trolls
Oscar History: First time nominees
Thoughts: Like Pharrel’s ‘Happy’ from a few years back, this song from Trolls is the kind of get up and shake your groove thing song that will make its performance one to look forward to.  If La La Land‘s two songs split the vote and Miranda Mania doesn’t bring Moana to the winner circle, this could (and, really, should) walk away the winner. The only caveat I can see is that this one has gotten the most radio air time and if listeners/voters are sick of hearing it every day in their gym it might make it harder for them to cast a vote for it to win.  It’s a fun song with good lyrics and a great hook…a definite party song.

Nominee: J. Ralph & Sting
Song: ‘The Empty Chair’ from Jim: The James Foley Story
Oscar History: Ralph has been nominated twice before, last year for Racing Extinction and in 2013 for Chasing Ice.  Sting has been nominated three times before, for Cold Mountain, Kate & Leopold, and The Emperor’s New Groove.
Thoughts: When the nominations for Best Original Song rolled out, I can imagine many people having to blink a few times when they saw this nomination appear on screen.  Looking over all the nominees, this is still the biggest WTF moment but digging deeper maybe it was wrong to count this one out in the first place.  Both Sting and J. Ralph have been nominated multiple times in this category and Sting especially has a lot of good friends within the Academy.  Trouble is, the song is a bit of a downer as is the documentary it’s pulled from so we could be in for a bathroom break once Sting takes the stage to perform it.  The movie didn’t get much traction…in fact, I didn’t even remember that I had SEEN this movie already, having caught it when it was broadcast on HBO earlier this year.

Missed Opportunity:

Should Been Nominated: ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ from Sing Street
Why?: Oh my goodness I was SO hoping this song (or any song, for that matter) from Sing Street would make it into the nominations.  The movie has the best songs of the year in my book and any one of them could be placed in the list of nominees and outshone its competition.  Director John Carney’s previous two wide released films (Once and Begin Again) snagged nominations and Once actually won.  I think the music here is better than both of them so it’s a damn shame a song like the favored ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ couldn’t rustle enough votes to see its name announced on Oscar night.  

In my book, the Best Song of the year wasn’t even nominated.  Instead we’re left with two languid songs from the first original musical produced in Hollywood in decades, a pretty good song from a hotter than hot composer, a party anthem destined to be played in roller rinks for eternity, and a Sting track that feels like a B-Side.  So…while I’d give it to the Trolls song I’m going to go with ‘City of Stars’ from La La Land for the win.  (By the way, all five nominees were better than Sam Smith’s dreadful winning song from last year!)

Oscar Nominees: Best Visual Effects

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Every day from now until the Oscars on Sunday, February 26 I’m going to deconstruct the nominees in each category. I’ll give you their history with the Academy and some extra thoughts on each nominee/film and what you might consider before choosing them in your office pool.

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Nominees: Craig Hammack, Jason H. Snell, Jason Billington, Burt Dalton
Film
: Deepwater Horizon
Oscar History: All first time nominees, aside from Burt Dalton who has been nominated three times before, winning for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Thoughts: All of the other nominees had a bit of an advantage over Deepwater Horizon because they largely took place in worlds of fantasy or other dimensions where rules didn’t quite apply.  The visual effects artists for this one, though, had to live not only in the real world but tell a true tale of survival at sea.  An explosion on a drilling rig sets a whole host of awfulness down on its crew and provides an unrelenting two hours of nail-biting.  A move with lots of fire and rain could easily become a mish mash when seen on the smaller screen but the texture and contrast designed here gives the film an immediacy that works as well on your home screen as it did on your local IMAX.

Nominees: Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, Paul Corbould
Film
: Doctor Strange
Oscar History: Bluff and Cirelli are first time nominees, Ceretti and Corbould were nominated before for Guardians of the Galaxy.
Thoughts: I don’t usually feel my stomach lurch much in movies but the 3D kaleidoscopic effects that featured prominently in Doctor Strange almost made me use my popcorn bag for something far less appetizing.  Though I didn’t much care for the film (I’m in the minority, I know) I have to agree with critics and audiences alike that praised this Marvel Universe entry as the most sophisticated looking.  Hopping through worlds, wormholes, and far off dimensions, this one may make you weak in the knees and stomach.

Nominees: Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, Brad Schiff
Film
: Kubo and the Two Strings
Oscar History: First time nominees
Thoughts: Laika, the studio that relased Kubo and the Two Strings has been a frequent nominee in the Best Animated Feature category (Coraline, ParaNorman, & The Boxtrolls all netted noms) but this is the first time they’ve turned up in the visual effects discussion as well.  Blending stop-motion animation with cutting edge technology, the crew of first time nominees made this tender fable come to life in suprising ways.  All Lakia films are dark and this one had some fairly heavy messages swimming about, but the storytelling was aided by the way the figures moved and reacted.

Nominees:
Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, Dan Lemmon
Film
: The Jungle Book
Oscar History: Legato has been nominated three times before, winning for Hugo and Titanic. Valdez is a first time nominee, Jones has been nominated twice before, winning for Avatar. Lemmon has been nominated twice before.
Thoughts: As the final credits were wrapping up for this live-action update of the Disney animated classic, it might have been easy to miss the phrase ‘Filmed entirely on a lot in Los Angeles’.  Wha??  Not that I actually thought the movie was completely made up of location shooting, I guess I never stopped to think that a film with landscapes and animals created entirely by visual effects wouldn’t need to leave the US to do its work.  I saw the movie twice in theaters and both times was struck by how seamlessly the live action boy was blended with the computer generated world.  Incredible work.

Nominees:
John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal T. Hickel, Neil Corbould
Film
: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Oscar History: Knoll has been nominated five times before, winning for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Leo is a first time nominee. Hickel has been nominated three times before, winning for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Corbould has been nominated four times before, winning for Gravity and Gladiator.
Thoughts: I’m going to be honest and say that I was pretty tired and more than a little grumpy when I finally saw Rogue One: A Star Wars story so I’m recalling it through an ornery filter.  Look, this may not have been my favorite Star Wars film (how people could say this is the best one since The Empire Strikes Back is just…mystifying) but as in most of the films in this series, the visuals were top notch.  Crafting solar climates that living actors worked in quite well, these nominees have the most previous wins and nominations under the belt and you can see why.  It’s the work of pros…even if I felt the overall movie was a teeny bit of a letdown after The Force Awakens which I felt had more striking visuals that I responded to on a totally different level.

Missed Opportunity:

Should Been Nominated: Actually…I think the Oscars got the nominees right.  There was a shortlist of 10 and the five that made it in felt like the most deserving.  The other contenders were Arrival, The BFG, Captain America: Civil War, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Themand Passengers.

I think it’s safe to say that The Jungle Book has this one wrapped up.  Signaling a true step forward for visual effects creating 98% of what you see on screen and doing it seamlessly, it easily earns this award.  If I had to put a spoiler in, I’d say the stop-motion work in Kubo and the Two Strings was fairly awesome as well.  It could easily be dismissed as just an animated film…but the technical effects that went into making it smooth were amazingly well executed.

Oscar Nominees: Best Costume Design

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Every day from now until the Oscars on Sunday, February 26 I’m going to deconstruct the nominees in each category. I’ll give you their history with the Academy, some extra thoughts on each nominee/film, who was snubbed, and what you might consider before choosing them in your office pool.

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Nominee: Colleen Atwood
Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Oscar History: 12 previous nominations, 3 wins (Alice in Wonderland, Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago)
Thoughts: The true veteran of this year’s roster of nominees, Atwood has had a long professional relationship with Tim Burton and with films that allow for imaginative flights of fancy. First nominated in 1995 for Little Women, the large bulk of her nominations have come from films that allow her outside of the box approach and exemplary eye for detail to shine. For her nomination this year, she successfully blended drab period clothing with a touch of colorful wizardry. Personally, I like Atwood’s work when it’s more dramatic like for Snow White and the Huntsman but her costumes here more than earned her a spot among the year’s best.

Nominee: Consolata Boyle
Film: Florence Foster Jenkins
Oscar History: 1 previous nomination (The Queen)
Thoughts: Last nominated exactly a decade ago, Boyle’s costumes for Florence Foster Jenkins never outshined their leading lady. Dressing a character that fancies herself an opera singer might suggest a more eccentric style but Boyle let fellow nominee Meryl Streep worry about the mechanics and decked her out in appropriately dramatic performance wear. Her other period costumes had nice touches and the stiffness of her shirt collars mirrored the society the title character was trying to impress.

Nominee: Madeline Fontaine
Film: Jackie
Oscar History: First time nominee
Thoughts: Jackie Kennedy has been portrayed in so many mediums that it might seem Fontaine had it easy when faced with dressing Natalie Portman and others. Not so, first time nominee Fontaine had to recreate several famous looks but give them a Technicolor vibrancy to really pop. The exquisite textures and trims were truly a remarkable sight.

Nominee: Mary Zophres
Film: La La Land
Oscar History: 1 previous nomination (True Grit)
Thoughts: A real head-scratcher of a nomination in my book, I’m guessing Zophres earned the nomination through a combination of La La Land Fever and for a sequence near the end of the film where costumes were key identifiers of time and place. Other than that, the work seemed to exist in the retro-chic clothing of now with a jazz hipster vibe. With the other nominees, I definitely remember being impressed by the costumes…but in La La Land nothing stood out as special.

Nominee: Joanna Johnston
Film: Allied
Oscar History: 1 previous nomination (Lincoln)
Thoughts: While I’m sure stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard would look good in a potato sack and Crocs, Johnston challenged herself a bit more with her elegant costumes for the 1940’s set spy tale. Having collaborated with director Robert Zemeckis on many of his films, she likely knew how to dress her actors in clothes that would provide some dazzling visuals their director couldn’t recreate on a computer. Cotillard’s evening dress in particular from a key scene alone might have netted her this nom.

Missed Opportunity:

Should Been Nominated: Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson for The Dressmaker
Why?: For a film all about the effect haute couture has on the residents of a small town in the Australian outback, I’m surprised there was no nomination for these two.  Wilson is credited as the designer of star Kate Winslet’s gorgeous clothing but Boyce crafted some fiery looks herself.  The Dressmaker fizzled out when released here but at least the two were recognized by the Australian version of the Oscars for their designs.

So…four deserving nominees and one that doesn’t quite fit with the rest. The Academy has long eschewed giving the award for a contemporary film so but I’m not entirely sure La La Land is out of the running. My vote would be for Jackie with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or Florence Foster Jenkins neck and neck for second place.

Movie Review ~ The Space Between Us

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The Facts
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Synopsis: The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be.

Stars: Gary Oldman, Asa Butterfield, Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery

Director: Peter Chelsom

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 120 minutes

TMMM Score: (3/10)

Review: There’s going to be an easy litmus test as to how well you’ll enjoy The Space Between Us. If you can make it through the first five minutes without groaning and/or rolling your eyes than maybe, just maybe, this sci-fi adventure/teen romance will be worth your time. For everyone else, do yourself a solid and have a back-up movie prepared because as the film begins to lose all control of logic, tension, and interest the groans will just get louder and the eye rolls more strenuous.

In the vision of 2018 suggested by the movie, colonization of Mars is a reality and the first settlers are ready to blast off. Dubbed East Texas, the endeavor is the brainchild of Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and serves as a chance to not only explore life on another planet but a chance for Shepherd to live out a childhood fantasy. Unable to physically make the journey due to an illness never fully defined, Shepherd voyeuristically watches the crew blast off and tracks their movements while big wigs from NASA (including an authoritative, if bored looking, B.D. Wong, Jurassic Park) keep an eye on the progress.

Early into the trip, mission leader Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery) discovers she’s pregnant but they’ve gone too far to turn back and she winds up having the baby shortly after arriving on the red planet, dying in childbirth. While the identity of the father isn’t immediately known, plenty of talking heads dub Sarah’s ‘behavior’ as inappropriate…making me wonder if the movie takes place in 2018 or 1968.

Flash forward 16 years and the baby has grown into angsty teen Gardner (Asa Butterfield, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children). Aside from a ramshackle robot (a stock character right down to his Brit accent and uppity demeanor), Gardner’s only real friend is Kendra (Carla Gugino, San Andreas) an astronaut that seems to have other responsibilities but is shown only as a well-educated babysitter. In between shifts in the colony greenhouse (leading me a first to be confused if Gardner was his name or his profession), Gardner chats up a lonely foster child (Britt Robertson, The Longest Ride) who doesn’t know her internet pen pal is literally from another planet.

Finding a clip from his mother’s personal items of a man that could be his father and driven in no small part by his developing libido, with Kendra’s help Gardner is eventually brought down to Earth. However, whatever freedom he thought he would have isn’t in the cards and he becomes a science experiment kept in quarantine. In short order, Gardner stages a daring escape and tracks down Tulsa who isn’t so happy her pal ditched her for 7 months while returning home through the stars. A cross-country chase ensues with Gardner and Tulsa hilariously pursued by Kendra and Nathaniel with all the conviction of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Along the way, secrets are revealed, love blooms, and every scene is written and performed like the cliffhanger final moments of a season finale.

On the performance spectrum, the range is anywhere from passively engaged to Gary Oldman. As a teen finding his Earth legs, Butterfield gets the gangly piece down…but unfortunately, Allan Loeb’s (Collateral Beauty) script sets him up first to be an introverted orphan in search of answers before switching it up to make him a romanticized dweeb that loses key brain cells in his new environment. On Mars, he’s marveling at the deeper context of Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire but on Earth he recoils in horror when he spots a horse trotting down the street. Gugino is typically dependable for a dose of grounded reality but paired with Oldman’s awkwardly earnest portrayal of a smarty-pants wunderkind, there’s no balance for either to find good footing. Also, Oldman can never decide if he’s from London or the Midwest. One moment his accent strains on the consonants and the next he’s practically demanding tea time. Robertson’s fairly one-note as a tough on the outside soft on the inside tomboy. It’s hinted she may have a talent for music but after plunking out a song on a keyboard at Sam’s Club, it’s never mentioned again.

Director Peter Chelsom doesn’t do much with the material either, moving actors and set pieces through a variety of hackneyed action sequences with little fanfare. He also isn’t able to inspire many sparks between Butterfield and Robertson, as both seem uncomfortably ill matched and kept together for the sake of the plot. Taking place in 2034, Chelsom’s spin on future living is delivered with little bells or whistles. Aside from some upgrades to personal computers and communication devices, teens still dress like hobos and no one is traveling around in flying cars.

Worth keeping your distance from, The Space Between Us was originally set for release in August and then pushed back again to December. Ostensibly, it was moved to the less busy pre-Valentine’s Day weekend with the hopes to attract some of the date night business for those unable to go for Fifty Shades Darker. Too light to stay Earthbound and too lackluster to be fueled by a mission to Mars, this misfire has no atmosphere to speak of.