Written by Sooz Kempner


Scene one, scene ‘em all

Out of touch with this year’s Oscar nominations? Never fear, our film buff Sooz Kempner has all the facts you need (and quite a lot you don’t).

Dressed for success: Natalie Portman in Jackie, a nominee for Best Costume Design. Photo: Fox Searchlight.

It’s nearly that time again, the apex of awards season, the Academy Awards.

In Trump’s America, it’s vaguely refreshing to see an Oscars that isn’t nearly as white as previous years and we should all make the most of it because, if Trump has his way, by next year all the nominees will be films by Leni Riefenstahl.

Every year I have a little dissection of the nominees, bravely deciding what’s hot and what’s not despite not having seen many of the films on the list. Can’t stop a girl from guessing. Here are some of my predictions:

Best Film Editing

I have seen all of the editing nominees and it’s one of the technical categories where I actually know what qualifies as good editing and bad editing. For example: Goodfellas = good editing and Sharknado 3 = bad editing.

La La Land was audacious filmmaking with bold, long, sweeping shots which were cleverly either genuinely one take or made to look like one take. Arrival and Moonlight aren’t films where I even noticed the editing techniques employed and that’s also a plus point. I think my Oscar pick for editing has to be Hell or High Water as the sense of urgency created by Jake Roberts is all part of what makes this movie a surprisingly instant classic.

Arrival posterBest Sound Mixing

It’s too easy to just go “LA LA LAND, OF COURSE!” but in this category there are real strong contenders and I’ve heard people complain that they couldn’t always hear the lyrics of the songs in La La Land.

I confess I haven’t seen 13 Hours but of the other movies my vote is for Arrival. The film has such a strong visual design that it’s easy to dismiss the sound mix which effortlessly creates the otherworldly feel of the aliens.

Best Animated Short

Oh hi. I haven’t seen a single one of these animated shorts. Let’s see now, Piper is obviously about a bagpipe-playing mouse and nobody’s going to be into that. Sorry, mice, just being honest! Pearl is something to do with singing oysters. Pear, Cider and Cigarettes is about a badass teen in early-2000s Surrey. Borrowed Time is about a woman who borrows a man’s watch and they fall in love. Blind Vaysha is… I don’t know. Oscar goes to: Pearl. Because singing oysters are rad.

Best Visual Effects

Very surprised to not see Arrival in this category as I thought the visual effects were subtly and stunningly implemented but I guess I’m going to throw the Oscar to Rogue One, ‘coz Peter Cushing (spoiler alert, blah blah, if you haven’t seen it by now were you really a fan?) didn’t remotely uncanny valley me and that’s no mean feat.

Best Production Design

Oooooo strong category. Passengers ONLY has production design going for it; the rest of it was a hot steaming fail. La La Land looks absolutely beautiful with its use of real LA and impressionistic flat sets for the fantasy sequences. Arrival’s understated design with its muted colours and eerie lighting deserves big plaudits but for me the winner here is Hail, Caesar!, a vastly underrated film in my opinion. It hilariously captures old Hollywood in its production and that’s why I’m chucking an Oscar its way.

Best Documentary Short

Look, I think it’s very unfair that I’m expected to have actually watched all the nominated stuff before I pass judgement on it. Jesus, I haven’t seen any of the short subject docs, OK? So let’s guess our way to victory… 4.1 Miles is the exact distance between my house and my work so that sounds like a real dull movie. Just being honest!

Extremis sounds badass, amiright? Joe’s Violin is about a guy called Joe who inherits a violin and is instantly great at playing it. Good for Joe. Watani: My Homeland is about someone who lives in Watani. The White Helmets is a little bit cheeky! And the Oscar goes to… Joe’s Violin.

NB: Having since read up on what the documentary shorts are about I apologise unreservedly for my flippancy.

Best Sound Editing

Gotta be honest, I’ve never fully understood the sound editing and sound mixing categories but… I dunno… La La Land. Congrats.

“‘Can we separate the art from the artist?’ is a good question here, ‘cos fuck Mel Gibson but yes, I can, in this case, separate the art from the artist. And for that reason I don’t understand why Gibson is on the Best Director list.”

Best Live Action Short

I shouldn’t get in trouble just because I haven’t bothered to watch the live action shorts. There’s a new series of It’s Always Sunny that started last month and EastEnders is on four times a week. I’m very busy.

Let’s see now… Timecode… I think that was a Sony Playstation game in the late 90s so I’m dead chuffed to see it’s made its way to the big screen. Silent Nights? Sounds festive! A real crowd-pleaser. Sing? That’s a feature film. Lies. La Femme et le TGV… hmmm… GCSE French (grade D) was a long time ago… the girl… and the… television? Ennemis Intérieurs? Enemies Inside? The Oscar goes to Timecode. Playstation 4 lyf!

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

These technical categories can really shake things up because thanks to the best makeup and hair category, fucking Suicide Squad is an Oscar-nominated film and now joins 50 Shades of Grey and Norbit in the worst-films-nominated-for-an-Oscar bin. Fuck it, Suicide Squad, you win the Oscar.

Best Costume Design

I’m just going to throw out my Oscar real quick: Jackie. This is a very precisely made movie and the costumes are Mad Men-perfect. PS: Where was the nom for Hidden Figures?

Best Cinematography

Another strong line-up; any of these would be worthy winners. Moonlight gets a special mention with its extraordinary use of blues and barely-there lighting. My vote is going to Silence which has been woefully overlooked in this year’s Oscars, I thought it was completely riveting despite some fairly dodgy accent work. Rodrigo Prieto’s extraordinary use of an overhead shot of the priests making their way down a staircase alone is Oscar-worthy.

Best Original Score

I love all of the scores in this category. Even Passengers didn’t manage to fuck up its score. Justin Hurwitz’s jazz-influenced La La Land score is a helluva toe-tapper while Moonlight’s unexpectedly epic orchestral neo-classical score breaks your heart without you even realising its happening until your face is all wet. My vote though goes to Jackie, with a looming, unsettling string-heavy score that weighs heavy on you and complements the film’s bleakness perfectly.

Best Original Song

Ya know, La La Land having two songs in this category is not a big surprise but I am surprised to not see either Another Day of Sun or Someone in the Crowd as one of them. I think this is a win for Audition though, a song that deeply resonates with any artists who dared to dream.

“We all love Meryl Streep. She is a Hollywood icon and is most certainly NOT underrated. But this rule where she apparently has to be nominated every year regardless of other performances that get snubbed due to her inclusion is doing my nut.”

Best Documentary Feature

For once I have seen all the documentaries nominated and it makes me feel like a very great person. I think 13th has got this (and Ava DuVernay’s powerful exploration of civil rights and the 13th amendment is a deserving winner) but my Oscar goes to OJ: Made in America, a sprawling look at civil rights in the US alongside OJ Simpson’s rise to stardom and fall from grace.

At eight hours long it’s one to watch in its original television format at home but I’m so pleased to see it nominated here as it was the best thing I saw in any medium in 2016.

Best Foreign Language Film

Guess what? I have only seen Toni Erdmann because I’m a big philistine. I haven’t seen a single other film on the list. And I found Toni Erdmann deeply irritating. For that reason there will be no foreign feature Oscar this year.

Best Animated Feature

I’m really intrigued to see My Life as a Courgette. Imagine, a courgette living a life. My Oscar goes to Zootopia because it was fucking perfect. No Finding Dory? No problem.

Best Director

“Can we separate the art from the artist?” is a good question here, ‘cos fuck Mel Gibson but yes, I can, in this case, separate the art from the artist. And for that reason I don’t understand why Gibson is on this list.

Of the five people nominated, Gibson is the one that doesn’t measure up to the other four in terms of filmmaking. Scorsese has been omitted, Tom Ford isn’t there, Denzel Washington, even Clint Eastwood… all belonged on this list more than Gibson, so I can’t understand why he’s there.

But enough of that… congratulations Damien Chazelle. You win my Oscar and I cannot wait to see what you present us with for the next 40 years.

Mahershala Ali photo by Gordon Correll, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Best Supporting Actor

After last year’s Oscars-So-White backlash it is good to see a real turnaround with POC nominated in every acting category. As transparent a reaction to the debacle of the last almost-a-century of whitewashing that has gone on in awards season and in Hollywood in general that this is, it’s still a good thing and one that better not be a one-year-only deal.

The nominations have predictably been met with a few lone cries of ‘tokenism’ but it’s all bullshit. The nominated actors in all four categories all belong there, bar one choice (I’ll get to it) and everyone needs to get on board.

This very strong category spoils me for choice. Dev Patel’s nomination is particularly sweet as he was totally snubbed for Slumdog Millionaire a few years back. My Oscar though goes to Mahershala Ali who is having a hell of a career at the moment. I hope we see more of him. Zing!

Best Supporting Actress

Nicole Kidman’s never been bad but it’s too easy to forget just how good she can be and it’s fantastic to see her get a nod for her turn in Lion. Michelle Williams probably only has 15 minutes of screen time maximum in Manchester by the Sea but her appearance packs a punch.

I have no idea who the winner will be, and to be honest I don’t think I can pick a winner. Maybe Naomie Harris in Moonlight takes the crown; she really disappears in to her character and you forget that there’s an actor in there.

Best Actor

So, putting aside the fact that there’s a strong possibility Casey Affleck has behaved like an absolute jerk, this is another incredibly strong category. Every one of these performances would be a worthy winner and although Affleck is the favourite I would love to see Denzel Washington or Ryan Gosling take the big prize. With his recent Screen Actors Guild win, Washington could cause an upset on the night.

Best Actress

OK, so I love Meryl Streep. We all love Meryl Streep. She is a Hollywood icon and is most certainly NOT underrated. But this rule where she apparently has to be nominated every year regardless of other performances that get snubbed due to her inclusion is doing my nut.

Amy Adams for Arrival is a big ol’ snub, as is Taraji P Henson for Hidden Figures and the biggest snub of all is apparently for 20th Century Women’s Annette Bening. Streep was brilliant in Florence Foster Jenkins, of course she was, she’s Meryl Streep but her place on this list is questionable. As for the big winner, I can’t imagine it being anyone other than Emma Stone.

La La Land photo: Summit Entertainment.

Best Picture

Here it is! The big prize! With a maximum of 10 films allowed to be nominated I don’t understand why there only nine when Silence wasn’t nominated. Of the nine to choose from though we are all spoilt for choice.

Hackshaw Ridge wasn’t for me unless you’re really into seeing men on fire in slow motion a whole bunch. Fences was powerful but you could see its theatre origins throughout and Lion suffers a little from a very underwritten stock girlfriend character but other than that there is little to fault about these nominations.

The main race seems to be between Moonlight, La La Land and Manchester by the Sea and unless there is a major upset it’s going to be La La Land. A beautifully-made, stunningly-acted homage to old Hollywood musicals with an unforced contemporary edge makes it the movie the whole world needed right now.


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Written by Sooz Kempner

Funny Women Variety Award Winner 2012. ASDA Kate Bush.