Review: My Oscars Ballot and Countdown (2016)

For the fifth consecutive year, my annual “Countdown to the Oscars” has concluded. And, the Oscars are TONIGHT! In preparation for tonight’s ceremony, I have provided below my personal Oscars ballot—it includes my ranking of each nominee in the eleven categories in which I have seen each nominated film/performance. I have also included my final list of the Top 10 Films of 2016.

Check out my ballot, revisit my reviews of the year’s best films, and make sure to tune into the 89th Academy Awards tonight at 7:30pm (CST) on ABC, live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA. Enjoy, film fans!

89th Academy Awards Nominations (My Ballot)

Best Picture

  1. Manchester by the Sea
  2. Hell or High Water
  3. Arrival
  4. Moonlight
  5. Lion
  6. La La Land
  7. Fences
  8. Hidden Figures
  9. Hacksaw Ridge

Best Actor

  1. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
  2. Denzel Washington (Fences)
  3. Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
  4. Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
  5. Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

Best Actress

  1. Natalie Portman (Jackie)
  2. Emma Stone (La La Land)
  3. Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
  4. Ruth Negga (Loving)
  5. Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
  2. Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
  3. Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
  4. Dev Patel (Lion)
  5. Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
  2. Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
  3. Viola Davis (Fences)
  4. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
  5. Nicole Kidman (Lion)

Best Director

  1. Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
  2. Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
  3. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
  4. Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
  5. Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
  2. Hell or High Water (Taylor Sheridan)
  3. La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
  4. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills)
  5. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou)

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney)
  2. Fences (August Wilson)
  3. Arrival (Eric Heisserer)
  4. Lion (Luke Davies)
  5. Hidden Figures (Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi)

Best Original Score

  1. La La Land (Justin Hurwitz)
  2. Lion (Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka)
  3. Moonlight (Nicholas Britell)
  4. Jackie (Mica Levi)
  5. Passengers (Thomas Newman)

Best Cinematography

  1. Arrival (Bradford Young)
  2. La La Land (Linus Sandgren)
  3. Moonlight (James Laxton)
  4. Lion (Greig Fraser)
  5. Silence (Rodrigo Prieto)

Best Film Editing

  1. La La Land (Tom Cross)
  2. Arrival (Joe Walker)
  3. Hell or High Water (Jake Roberts)
  4. Moonlight (Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon)
  5. Hacksaw Ridge (John Gilbert)

Top 10 Films of the Year:

  1. Manchester by the Sea
  2. Hell or High Water
  3. Arrival
  4. Moonlight
  5. Lion
  6. O.J.: Made in America
  7. La La Land
  8. Fences
  9. Zootopia
  10. Nocturnal Animals

 

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Review: My Ballot and Countdown

Nominees Luncheon

It is hard to believe that after a few weeks of working hard to blog continuously about my favorite non-sports event of the year, we are finally one day away from the Oscars. In preparation for tomorrow’s show, I am providing all of you with a review of my blog from these past couple of weeks. This review includes all of the winners of the 13 categories in which I have seen each nominated film/performance and have subsequently blogged about, and it also includes my list of the “Top 15 Films of the Year.”

Get caught up on my picks, and feel free to look back over any of my past posts featuring much more in-depth commentary on each of these films and performances. Make sure to tune into the 85th Academy Awards tomorrow night at 7:30pm (CST) on ABC, live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, CA. And don’t forget to check back here after the show to read all about my reaction to the winners, losers, and inevitably unforgettable moments from the broadcast. Enjoy, everyone!

My Oscar Winners:

Best Picture: Silver Linings Playbook

Actor in a Leading Role: Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)

Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Actress in a Supporting Role: Amy Adams (The Master)

Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Skyfall)

Directing: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Film Editing: Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg (Zero Dark Thirty)

Best Original Score: Thomas Newman (Skyfall)

Sound Editing: Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers (Skyfall)

Sound Mixing: Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, and Stuart Wilson (Skyfall)

Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Top 15 Films of the Year:

1. Silver Linings Playbook

2. Moonrise Kingdom

3. Zero Dark Thirty

4. Skyfall

5. Django Unchained

6. Life of Pi

7. Amour

8. Les Misérables

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Looper

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo

Best Original Screenplay

Tarantino

The Oscar for Best Original Screenplay is awarded to the writer(s) of a particular screenplay that is not based upon any prior published work.  This year’s group of nominees features some established, acclaimed writers and a couple Academy Award newcomers.  Between the nominated writers, they have been nominated for four writing Oscars and have won two.  Although there are some great scripts up for the award this year, one writer has already been sweeping the award shows for his screenplay, winning the BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice Award—this year, it just so happens that I am in full agreement with the major award shows on this category.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Original Screenplay:

WINNER: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Tarantino, also the director of the film, has created one of the greater scripts in modern cinema.  It has created a significant amount of controversy, but it has also been met with rave reviews from the critics—Quentin would not want it any other way.  Even though he did not win the Oscar in this category for Inglourious Basterds, which is by far my favorite movie of all time, he still has penned another masterpiece in Django.  Tarantino has a knack for creating some of the most remembered characters in the history of film, such as Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs, Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, and Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, and in Django, he does not disappoint, creating unbelievably dynamic characters like Dr. King Schultz and Calvin Candie.  I will never know how the inner workings of Tarantino’s mind operate, but I am most unquestionably thankful for the written work he has given us.  Tarantino was previously nominated for two writing Academy Awards, both in the Best Original Screenplay category, and he won for Pulp Fiction (1994).

2. Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)

Wes Anderson, also the director of the film, and Roman Coppola have collaborated for their second screenplay together—their first was The Darjeeling Limited, a film they also co-wrote with Jason Schwartzman.  The end result of their most recent work together is an incredibly hilarious, wildly entertaining script.  This screenplay has the best shot among the other nominees to upset the heavyweight Tarantino, and if things fall correctly for Anderson and Coppola, they just may find themselves raising the Oscar statute.  This story is one of a kind.  It tells the story of young love from a unique perspective that only Anderson, one of the most distinctive writer-directors of our time, could do.  It is a refreshingly different film, and it has quickly become one of my favorites of all time.  Anderson was previously nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).  Coppola has not previously been nominated.

3. Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)

After Anderson and Coppola, Mark Boal has the next best chance to knock off Tarantino at the top in this category.  This is only Boal’s second screenplay, but just like his previous one for The Hurt Locker, it is action packed and beaming with award-winning quality.  Boal tells the story of the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden, the most dangerous man on earth.  The Kathryn Bigelow/Mark Boal collaboration may not be quite the masterpiece it was for The Hurt Locker, but it is most assuredly not far behind.  I was on the edge of my theater seat throughout the entire film, and a lot of this is due to the spellbinding script Boal has written.  Mark Boal was previously nominated and won for Best Original Screenplay for The Hurt Locker (2009).

4. Michael Haneke (Amour)

Michael Haneke, also the director of the film, has finally been nominated by the Academy for his superb writing abilities.  Haneke is one of the most unknown writer-directors to the general public in the United States, but I have been aware of his work for quite a few years now.  The biggest film festival in the entire world is the Cannes Film Festival, and the top award at this festival is the Palme d’Or, an award given to the top film of the festival.  Only seven filmmakers have won this award twice since 1939—Michael Haneke is one of those (The White Ribbon, 2009, and Amour, 2012).  Haneke’s French-language film is intriguing, matchless, and invigorating.  The words he penned for this film not only earned him an Oscar nomination, but it also resulted in lead actress Emmanuelle Riva being nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role.  Haneke has not previously been nominated for any Academy Awards in either of the two writing categories.

5. John Gatins (Flight)

Gatins is an established screenwriter, but to be completely honest, none of his scripts have been anything close to award worthy.  His screenwriting filmography includes Summer Catch, Hardball, Coach Carter, and Real Steel, but his big break finally came with the 2012 film Flight.  In this film, Gatins uses an incredibly entertaining story line to keep our attention, but it is the complexities he has created in regards to human morality that truly sets his script apart.  I am surprised that he received a nomination, but after seeing the film, it is definitely justified.  Gatins has not previously been nominated for any Academy Awards in either of the two writing categories.

Writers snubbed in this category: Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)

Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 10 – Looper

LooperLooper is a film written and directed by Rian Johnson.  The movie is set in Kansas City during the year 2044, thirty years before time travel is invented.  Time travel is illegal in the future, and it is only used by the mob on the black market.  When the mafia wants someone killed, they send that person back thirty years where trained assassins, called “loopers,” kill them.  The story follows Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a looper who encounters his own self when the older version of himself (Bruce Willis) is sent back from the future to be assassinated.  When a looper comes across their older self, an event known as “closing the loop,” they must kill the older version of themselves or face death by the mob.  When Joe’s older self gets away, a series of wild, electrifying events take place.  Ultimately, the deeper reason for the elder Joe’s return is revealed and the fate of human existence consequently hangs in the balance.

Looper is clearly one of the year’s most confusing films; however, in this case, confusing does not necessarily equal an immediate dislike for the movie.  In fact, Looper was one of my personal favorites released in 2012, and I rushed to buy it on Blu-ray the day it came out.  Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) creates a landscape in both the past and future that resembles the darkest of dystopian societies, and his use of short, expeditious scenes plays perfectly along with this theme.  If you are a fan of sci-fi thrillers, you will definitely want to check this one out—it is essentially a mix between The Terminator (1984) and Minority Report (2002).

Since Looper was released in September, it has garnered significant critical acclaim, and it was featured on a variety of important lists of top films of the year.  With that being said, it has not been nominated for any major movie awards.  The only noteworthy nomination is for Best Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards.  Even without any momentous award nominations, I still view Looper as one of the best movies of 2012.

One strong point of the film that critics across the nation have praised is the cast.  Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Premium Rush) plays young Joe and Bruce Willis (Pulp Fiction, Die Hard) plays the elder Joe, and the two bear a striking resemblance in the film—this is because makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji created various prosthetics for Gordon-Levitt to wear to resemble Willis’ facial features.  In the diner scene when both versions of Joe are sitting across a table from each other, it is blatantly visible how alike they truly look.  Not only does Gordon-Levitt mimic Willis’ physical features, he also engages in the action scenes of the film in the same nature as Willis has been doing for his entire career in movies like the Die Hard and The Expendables franchises.

Solid supporting performances are given by Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria) as Sara, the farmhouse owner that young Joe seeks refuge at while hiding from the mafia, and Jeff Daniels (Dumb and Dumber, The Newsroom) as Abe, the guy the mob sent back to the past to manage the loopers.  The breakout performance, however, is from Pierce Gagnon as he portrays Sara’s son Cid, a young, innocent-looking boy who ends up being more than meets the eye.  Looper is rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity, and drug content.

Academy Award nominations for Looper:

NONE

Looper trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iQuhsmtfHw

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo

Best Cinematography & Best Film Editing

Bond Cinematography

The Oscar for Best Cinematography is awarded to a particular film for the finest artistic and technical decisions in regards to the creation of the moving images on the screen.  The award is presented to the Director of Photography (Cinematographer) from the film.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Cinematography:

WINNER: Skyfall (Roger Deakins)

2. Life of Pi (Claudio Miranda)

3. Anna Karenina (Seamus McGarvey)

4. Django Unchained (Robert Richardson)

5. Lincoln (Janusz Kaminski)

Zero Film Edit

The Oscar for Best Film Editing is awarded to a particular film for the finest post-production digital editing.  The award is given to the film’s principal editor.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Film Editing:

WINNER: Zero Dark Thirty (Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg)

2. Life of Pi (Tim Squyres)

3. Silver Linings Playbook (Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers)

4. Argo (William Goldenberg)

5. Lincoln (Michael Kahn)

Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 11 – The Perks of Being a Wallflower

PerksThe Perks of Being a Wallflower is a film directed and written by Stephen Chbosky.  The movie follows Charlie Kelmeckis, a young teenager entering his freshman year in high school in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA.  Charlie enters high school as a troubled and introverted kid, struggling to find anyone to become friends with.  He ultimately meets two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), and they quickly bond into an inseparable trio of best friends.  Throughout the rest of the school year, Charlie engages in many of the common events associated with adolescent years, such as partying and finding his first love, but deep, dark secrets of Charlie’s past continue pulsating through his veins and attempt to lead him down a disastrous path.

This movie, as stated above, was directed and written by Stephen Chbosky.  The novel of the same name that Chbosky adapted for this screenplay was actually a book that he himself wrote in 1999.  Even though Chbosky has written screenplays before, most notably the 2005 film Rent, this was his first attempt at directing a feature film.

After viewing the film, I was impressed with so many aspects of the production.  For starters, I thought it was a near-flawless screenplay with the perfect combination of drama and comedy, mixed with some quirky, witty dialogue.  Considering Chbosky adapted his own book, which had already been described as a modern cult classic, I was expecting his screenplay to receive some award considerations.  His screenplay has been nominated for a few different awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards, but I believe his work is most definitely worthy of higher praise.

Chbosky also brought together a very young, but seasoned cast to portray the roles of his multifarious characters.  Logan Lerman (3:10 to Yuma, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) plays the role of Charlie, and on the screen, an unmistakably shaken teenager is illustrated, and this is almost entirely due to the skillful performance of Lerman.  Emma Watson takes on her biggest role since the Harry Potter franchise officially ended in 2011, and it is easy to determine from her performance in this film that she is not a one-dimensional actress—she indubitably has a bright career ahead of her in the film industry outside of Hogwarts.  Lastly, Ezra Miller (City Island, We Need to Talk About Kevin) gives an invigorating performance as Patrick.  Aside from Charlie, Patrick is one of the most complex characters of the entire film, and Miller delineates the character consummately as a kid trying to suppress the emotional, melodramatic issues in his life by providing humor to everyone around him.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight – all involving teens.

Academy Award nominated for The Perks of Being a Wallflower:

NONE

The Perks of Being a Wallflower trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5rh7O4IDc0

And the Oscar goes to…

83rd Academy Awards, Oscar Envelope

Hey everyone!  The Oscars are only 19 days away, and this blog is about to heat up starting tomorrow.  Over the next 16 days, I will be updating this page with posts nearly every singe day.  Below I have provided a schedule of dates when I will post and the content that will be included each day.  This way, you can make sure to visit this page on any day that provides a topic that you are interested in.  These topics will include categories from my Oscars ballot and a countdown of my “Top 15 Films of the Year.”  After my Oscars ballot and list of “Top 15 Films of the Year” have been revealed, I will provide additional commentary leading up to the actual ceremony.  Feel free to comment and leave me any of your thoughts or suggestions.  Check out the schedule and make sure to follow all of the updates.

SCHEDULE OF POSTS:

2/6: #15 on the list of Top Films, Best Supporting Actress

2/7: #14 on the list of Top Films, Best Supporting Actor

2/8: #13 on the list of Top Films

2/9: #12 on the list of Top Films, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

2/10: #11 on the list of Top Films, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

2/11: #10 on the list of Top Films

2/12: #9 on the list of Top Films, Best Adapted Screenplay

2/13: #8 on the list of Top Films, Best Original Screenplay

2/14: NO POSTS

2/15: #7 on the list of Top Films, Best Original Score

2/16: #6 on the list of Top Films, Best Actress

2/17: #5 on the list of Top Films, Best Actor

2/18: #4 on the list of Top Films

2/19: #3 on the list of Top Films

2/20: #2 on the list of Top Films, Best Director

2/21: #1 on the list of Top Films, Best Picture

Rolling out the red carpet!

academy-awards

Welcome to my blog: “Countdown to the Oscars…from the mind of a film aficionado.” I’m Gaylan, the aforementioned film enthusiast whose mind serves as the basis for all of the cinematic content that will be included on this site for the next few weeks. For those of you that know me, I am a huge fan of the film-award season, specifically the Oscars.

I have always been into movies, but my true obsession with the silver screen developed during the spring semester of my freshman year at Oklahoma State when I took an “Introduction to Film Theory” course. Ever since then, I have viewed films in a completely different light and have learned to appreciate these moving pictures as a compelling form of art.

Subsequently, over the past four years, I have tried to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible before the broadcast so that I can feel more connected and engaged while watching the Academy Awards. In fact, of the past four Oscar ceremonies, I have watched 33 of the 34 total films that have been nominated for Best Picture (the only one I missed was District 9, which I still haven’t even attempted to see).

Each year when the Oscar nominations come out, I print off the nominees and essentially cast my own (unofficial) ballot. This has been a ritual I have always kept within the boundaries of my own home, but this year I have decided to create this blog and share my ballot with each of you.

Over the next few weeks leading up to the awards, I will be posting categories from my Academy Awards ballot on this blog with commentary on my winner choices, and I will be releasing a list of my “Top 15 Films of the Year.” I will only vote on categories in which I have seen every film or performance that is nominated in that respective category.

My goal for this blog is to provide as much detailed information about the Oscar-nominated films and performances this year as possible and to provide you with my own opinions and commentary about these movies. I look forward to any comments you might have about my ballot and my “Top 15 Films of the Year” list. Enjoy, and make sure to watch the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 24, 2013, live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, CA.