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Oscars 2016: My Nominations Ballot

Oscar nominations are Thursday. To prepare, I do two things: first I tell you what I’d nominate, and get all those personal opinions out of the way, and then I guess what actually will be nominated. Today is that first one.

Basically — if I had a ballot, and could pick what I think should be nominated in every category (something that could not happen even if I were able to vote), this is what I’d vote for. I’ve seen 400 movies this year, I’ve got some standing to pick things. And I have this website, where I talk about movies and the Oscars. Pretty much I have standing to do whatever I want. And this also clears my head of that pesky notion of, “Well, I’d like this person to be nominated, so let’s put them on the list because maybe I can will it into existence.”

Here is what my Oscar nominees would look like:

Beginning with Best Picture, I give the same caveat I give every year, which is — we don’t know how many nominees there are gonna be. There have been 8 the past two years. There were nine before that. There can be up to 10. I have no idea.

What we do know is that there will be at least 5. So I pick five automatically and then number 6-10. So that way, if they nominate 8 films, then the top 8 on my list become my personal ballot. Pretty simple.

Best Picture

Arrival

Hell or High Water

Kubo and the Two Strings

La La Land

Moonlight

6. A Monster Calls

7. Jackie

8. Moana

9. The Nice Guys

10.  Sing Street

This is a weird year. One of my top five films (The Girl with All the Gifts) is not eligible to be nominated because it hasn’t been released in the US. And I generally have that weird stigma against animated films, feeling like they have their own category, and that they need to be truly extraordinary to be automatically put on the Best Picture list. I’d probably have settled for Kubo and Moana as #8 and #9, content to let them be on if we got that far, but otherwise not automatically putting them on. But this year… so much stuff doesn’t really fit for me that I’m just voting for what I liked best.

La La Land and Moonlight were getting on no matter what. That’s obvious. Then I go down my favorite films list… I don’t need most of them nominated for Best Picture. The Nice Guys, Fantastic Beasts — I love them, but I don’t need to vote for them. But that also begs the question — if they’re your favorite, wouldn’t they also be the “best”? I honestly don’t know.

I do this weird dance of going through my favorite films and the ones likely to be nominated, and seeing which ones I’d feel happy putting on. And we know the big two are gonna be on there, and I agree with them on Arrival and I like Hell or High Water enough to put that on. After that — Manchester… I liked it a lot, but I didn’t love it enough to nominate it myself. I loved Hidden Figures, but not as much as the other, “lesser” films. And I’m certainly not gonna put that on just to hit some kind of racial quota or whatever white guilt logic people have. Lion I liked a lot, but again, not as much as the others.

So I settled on the big two, Arrival and Hell or High Water. And at that point, fuck it, I loved Kubo, so Kubo goes on. I’ll throw A Monster Calls on there, even though I don’t need to see that nominated. Jackie I liked a lot, so sure. Then… Moana and The Nice Guys outrank the populist/”Oscar” choices remaining, so I put them on. And I loved Sing Street, so we’ll toss that one a bone.

I don’t love this year for the Oscars. I agree with most of what they’re gonna do, but most of my tastes are more mainstream/popcorn-oriented this year. I know that doesn’t usually gel with the Oscars, but fuck it. What I liked is what I liked.

And La La Land gets my vote. That was always gonna be the case.

Best Director

Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Pablo Larrain, Jackie

Jeff Nichols, Midnight Special

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

I feel bad for leaving Travis Knight off this list for Kubo. That was truly fantastic work. Instead I went with the double films Jeff Nichols had this year, both of which managed to make my top 20.

Otherwise — three of these are gonna be nominated. They’re terrific. La La Land is vibrant filmmaking. Moonlight is just so captivating and beautifully captured. And Arrival takes what could be a low budget Netflix movie or an over-budgeted sci fi action mess and turns it into one of the most beautifully shot, thoughtful movies of the year that makes you think more than anything else from 2016. And Villeneuve is just so overdue at this point, I’d probably have put him on over someone else even if he weren’t solidly in my top five as he is. And Pablo Larrain did a gorgeous job with Jackie, and I think his decision to focus it entirely on her and keep everything else to a minimum really made the film work to its full potential. Plus the way he frames her and makes it look all grainy and 60s — I loved it. I’ll give him the nod.

I guess Chazelle gets my vote. Not because I thought this was perfect direction, but between it being my favorite film of the year and the snub for Whiplash — I’ll give it to him.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Cliff Curtis, The Dark Horse

Joel Edgerton, Loving

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Denzel Washington, Fences

I had a hard time with this. Affleck and Gosling were of course gonna get on. And I still love The Dark Horse, so let’s give Cliff Curtis the respect he deserves. The other two — had no idea.

I went with Joel Edgerton, since I did really like Loving, and I think he turned in a great performance there. And then, since my other top performances were fine but didn’t need to be nominated (Chris Pine? Ehh. Miles Teller? Ehh), I went with Denzel. Because he is great in Fences and because it’s a way of honoring him for everything he did to bring this film and this story to the screen. I think it’ll be a well-deserved nomination.

And I guess I’ll vote for Casey Affleck. I don’t really have a horse in this race. His performance was most affecting for me, so I guess he’s the default choice.

Best Actress

Amy Adams, Arrival

Rebecca Hall, Christine

Sasha Lane, American Honey

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

I hate that I couldn’t include Ruth Negga on here, who I thought was better than Edgerton was and is really deserving of a nomination. But these five actresses are really good, so shit happens.

Adams, Portman and Stone will be nominated, and they’re totally worthy of being so. Rebecca Hall gave what I consider the single best performance of 2016, so she’s of course getting on my ballot. And then Sasha Lane — she’s so good in American Honey I had to show her some love. She gives a performance that really ought to have gotten more awards attention than it did.

Rebecca Hall gets my vote.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Craig Robinson, Morris from America

Ali, Hedges and Patel will likely all be nominated. Patel was the one I thought about switching off for one of the other possible nominees (Bridges, Taylor-Johnson, Shannon), but I felt like keeping him on because I did think he delivered quite a moving performance.

Ralph Fiennes is so fucking good in A Bigger Splash that he had to be the choice there. And Craig Robinson gives one of the most underrated performances of the year. Gotta show him the love.

Ralph Fiennes would be my vote in this category. I mean…

fiennes-dance-1

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences

Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Apologies to Janelle Monae. I wanted to put you on here.

Viola Davis, Naomie Harris and Michelle Williams speak for themselves. They will be nominated, and there’s a reason for that.

Nicole Kidman will also be nominated, and I put her on my list for a very specific reason — I’ve been very anti-Kidman in the past. I never loved all the performances of hers that other people loved, and I really never quite liked her on screen. And this was a performance that I admittedly think is very good. So this is a sort of apology nomination.

And Greta Gerwig — she can be somewhat grating or one-note for me, and she tends to star in unbearable, pretentious New York indies (not just Noah Baumbach movies), but she was really good in 20th Century Women and while I’d normally not put something like that on this list, this is an exceptionally weak year so she’ll get on as a sort of half-apology nomination.

The vote is… ooh, that’s tough.

I think the vote is Viola Davis. Maybe Naomie Harris, but I’d give Viola her due.

Best Original Screenplay

Christine

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Manchester by the Sea

The Nice Guys

Ones that just missed out — Jackie, Everybody Wants Some, The Lobster and Eye in the Sky. Also shout out to Midnight Special and Hail Caesar.

La La Land — if it were all musical, I might not have. But there are long stretches of this movie without music. I’ll go with that.

Hell or High Water is just — yeah. Of course.

Manchester — same.

The Nice Guys — I love me some Shane Black. So yes.

And Christine I thought was exceptionally written, so I’m shouting it out.

My vote is either Hell or High Water or Manchester. I’m gonna say Manchester, because that’s such a difficult tone to pull off. But Hell or High Water is a close second and could be the vote on another day.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Arrival

Hidden Figures

Lion

Loving

Moonlight

Yup. Loved all five of these. Not a whole lot to add, especially since at least three of these are gonna get nominated, if not four of them.

Moonlight will win the Oscar and is getting my vote. Deservedly so. That is just an incredible piece of work all around.

Best Editing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

Somehow that worked right in with five Best Picture nominees. So in a way, I’m doing the “Academy” thing. But I honestly don’t have many other ones I thought were as strong as those. Maybe Jackie. Otherwise, those five.

I’ll give it to… oh shit. That’s tough. Fuck it. La La Land. I don’t know. Maybe Arrival could be the vote on another day.

Best Cinematography

American Honey

Arrival

Jackie

La La Land

Moonlight

Jackie, La La Land and Arrival are self-explanatory. Moonlight too. American Honey gets on because that’s a really difficult film to shoot. You gotta follow your actors as they basically do whatever they want. And it looked gorgeous. Major kudos to that DP. Robbie Ryan. Who also did Daniel Blake. So that’s cool.

My vote… oh, that’s interesting. Maybe Jackie. Let’s say Jackie. Because I don’t know.

Best Original Song

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” from La La Land

“City of Stars,” from La La Land

“Drive It Like You Stole It,” from Sing Street

“How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana

“Start a Fire,” from La La Land

All in on La La Land here, naturally. And the Moana song of course. Can never turn down a good princess song. And Sing Street — of course. This would be the best category in fifteen years if this is what they nominated. Honestly, you can put the Timberlake song on there instead of one of the La La Lands and it would still be the best in fifteen years.

The vote… oh this is interesting. “City of Stars” is gonna win, but is it my favorite? My favorite might be “Start a Fire.” But I think I’ll take “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).” I’m a sucker for a showstopper like that.

Best Original Score

Jackie

La La Land

The Light Between Oceans

Moonlight

Nocturnal Animals

I’ve only just (lightly) started getting into which scores this year I liked, so this isn’t a full list. This isn’t necessarily reflective of which scores I actually liked best. This is purely just which scores I either felt were most effective, or ones that stood out to me while watching the films.

La La Land will not, and should not, lose this category. That’s the vote.

Best Production Design

Hail, Caesar!

Jackie

Kubo and the Two Strings

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

La La Land and Jackie, of course. Liked the Old Hollywood of Hail Caesar. Kubo looked incredible. And Star Wars. All pretty self-explanatory for me.

Jackie is the vote.

Best Costume Design

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

Jackie

La La Land

Live by Night

Old Hollywood, Harry Potter, musical, Jackie O. and period gangster. All solid work.

Jackie is the vote.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Florence Foster Jenkins

Hail, Caesar!

Suicide Squad

Cause sure.

Hail, Caesar is the vote.

Best Visual Effects

Arrival

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue one, of course. Kubo because the entire movie is visual effects, in a way. The Jungle Book was made from scratch, Doctor Strange looked nice, and Arrival accomplished a lot with their use of effects. Sucks I had to leave Fantastic Beasts off, but I’m not that upset.

The vote… I mean, I want to say Kubo, but let’s give it to Rogue One.

Best Sound Editing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

The Jungle Book

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Sully

They just made sense.

Vote is Rogue One.

Best Sound Mixing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Silence

Vote is La La Land.

Best Animated Feature

Finding Dory

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

The most likely category and the best one. These were the best five.

Kubo is the vote.

Best Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Tanna

Toni Erdmann

I’ve seen seven of the 9. Haven’t seen Paradise yet, haven’t seen It’s Only the End of the World yet.

My Life as a Zucchini was okay and I didn’t particularly care one way or the other for it. The King’s Choice was the weakest of the bunch.

Toni Erdmann and The Salesman were the best. I liked A Man Called Ove a lot, and Land of Mine was solid. And Tanna was well done, so that’ll be the fifth.

Toni Erdmann is the vote.

Best Documentary

Cameraperson

The Eagle Huntress

Fire at Sea

O.J. Made in America

Weiner

I’ve seen 13 out of the 15 shortlisted films. Running them down quickly….

Did not like Command and Control, Zero Days and The Ivory Game. Pretty indifferent toward The Witness and 13th. Liked Life Animated, Hooligan Sparrow, Gleason and Tower. Loved O.J., Weiner, Fire at Sea and The Eagle Huntress. Have not seen Cameraperson or I Am Not Your Negro.

So we’ll take the four I loved, and the fifth spot is gonna go to Cameraperson, sight unseen, just because I like the idea of it. Maybe I won’t like it, but what the hell.

O.J. Made in America is by far the vote.

Best Documentary Short

Extremis

Joe’s Violin

The Mute’s House

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets

Did not like Frame 394. 4.1 Miles was whatever. Joe’s Violin was fine. Extremis was decent. Liked The White Helmets a lot. Have not seen the other five. So we’ll nominate the three I thought were okay and pick two I haven’t seen because they sound interesting. I generally only get to see these if and when they’re nominated.

The White Helmets is the vote.

Best Live-Action Short

Graffiti

Nocturne in Black

Silent Nights

Sing

Timecode

I never get to see any of these before they get nominated, so I’m picking purely on which ones sound the most interesting.

I can’t really vote, having seen none of them. But if I had to guess which I’d like the most — probably Timecode.

Best Animated Short

Blind Vaysha

Inner Workings

Once Upon a Line

Pearl

Sous Tes Doights

I’ve only seen four. Borrowed Time is fine. Piper is fine. Inner Workings I liked. And Pearl I liked. So those two are on. Once Upon a Line looks good, so let’s put that on. Sous tes doights too. That’s on. Last spot, let’s say Blind Vaysha. Because why not?

My vote right now is Pearl.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow I actually pick the nominees.

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