The Taylor Awards 2017

Academy_Award_trophy

Another year, another Oscar season. As always, I’m excited for the Oscars, but if you’d like to know what my favorite films were, then read on!

Here follows a set of lists that sometimes coincide with the Oscar selections and sometimes don’t. I have bolded my favorites and linked to the blog posts involving those films if possible. Those that do not have a bolded entry are too close to call; those with two signify a tie. Once again, I’ll put the disclaimer that I probably forgot a few films/performances or simply didn’t see them. Apologies.

Now without further ado!

Best Picture – Academy-esque Films

13th

Arrival

Captain Fantastic

Hell or High Water

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

La La Land

Lion

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

 

moonlight-poster

Property of A24.

This year saw the release of a sterling array of films that fit into a variety of genres. The documentary 13th broke my heart with its deep-dive into the horrors and injustices of mass incarceration in America. Arrival delivered an essential story about humanity’s need for communication. Captain Fantastic showed an unconventional father’s love for his children in a tragic situation. Hell or High Water was a modern western masterpiece. Hunt for the Wilderpeople showed that quirky, heartwarming, and tragic could all be used to describe the same movie about two outcasts coming together. That it was hilarious also solidifies its presence here. La La Land brings old and new together in a perfect package that reminds me why I love movies. It’s a film for artists and dreamers, a call to never give up and persevere. It’s hard to resist the pull of that message. Lion was a touching story about loss and identity. Simple, yet emotionally gratifying. The Lobster was a hilariously dark exploration of the vicious ironies of modern love. Manchester by the Sea was a wonderfully poignant mediation on grief. However, of all these films, I think Moonlight, as a whole, is the one I’d choose as “Best,” because it offered me a glimpse into a world that is not my own; it let me understand one man’s struggle with his identity and his relationships in an extremely artful, emotionally resonant way. I won’t soon forget it.

And just a hair behind Moonlight, I’d put La La Land and Manchester by the Sea, two films that I also loved.

Best Picture – Science Fiction or Fantasy

10 Cloverfield Lane

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Extended Edition)

Captain America: Civil War

Doctor Strange

Split

Star Wars: Rogue One

Swiss Army Man

Warcraft

The Witch

It has been another strong year for fantasy and science fiction (which always seems to be shunned on the awards’ circuit save for last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina). However, I think this group is too close for me to call. If anything, I’d say 10 Cloverfield Lane and Split satisfy my yearning for small, taut thrillers, Swiss Army Man and The Witch give me just the right amount of moody weirdness, while other films like Captain America: Civil War and Star Wars: Rogue One offer the epic scope that I crave.

 

Best Action Film/ Best Film that Happens to Have Great Action Scenes in It

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Extended Edition)

Captain America: Civil War

Doctor Strange

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

John Wick: Chapter II

Star Wars: Rogue One

Warcraft

This was a difficult choice for me because all of these films are filled with great action sequences. John Wick: Chapter II has enough face-shooting, throat-punching mayhem (with the requisite return of the amazing Keanu Reeves) to satisfy any action fan. Captain America: Civil War is here solely upon the majesty of its Airport Fight sequence, which manages to have a handful of heroes clash in unique ways while maintaining dramatic focus and letting everyone have a moment to shine. Finally, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Extended Edition) is here simply for the Warehouse Sequence, which gave me the Batman fight scene I always wanted. Fingers crossed for The Batman to be just as thrilling as that sequence.

 

Cap

Property of Disney.

Best Director

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

DANIELS – Swiss Army Man

Robert Eggers – The Witch

Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Yorgos Lanthimos – The Lobster

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water

Martin Scorsese – Silence

Dennis Villeneuve – Arrival

Taika Waititi – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

la-la-land

Property of Summit Entertainment.

This category is filled with brilliance. It was hard to choose a victor, but I ended up going with Damien Chazelle, who seems to have revived a genre through the pure cinematic joy of La La Land, a film that I love for its dedication to artists and their dreams. After Whiplash and La La Land, I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Best Actress

Amy Adams – Arrival

Annette Bening – 20th Century Women

Viola Davis – Fences

Mary Elizabeth Winstead – 10 Cloverfield Lane

Natalie Portman – Jackie

Emma Stone – La La Land

Anya Taylor-Joy – The Witch

This category is populated by knockout performances, but for me, it was Natalie Portman in Jackie that moved me most. She effortlessly captures the double-life of Jackie Kennedy, contrasting her turbulent private life with the demands of her extremely public persona. An intriguing, layered performance. I was mesmerized.

 

jackie-poster-1

Property of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge/Silence

Ryan Gosling – La La Land

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington – Fences

Casey Affleck’s performance is devastating in Manchester by the Sea. It’s subtle and refined, yet so controlled that he somehow manages to characterize a man numbed by trauma and make the audience feel for him. It’s a genius performance and probably my favorite of the year. And just a step to the left of that is Viggo Mortensen, one of the finest actors alive today. His unconventional father figure in Captain Fantastic is the heart and soul of the film; it’s a complex performance, full of warmth and compassion, yet also contradictions that the character must face. Mortensen navigates this human puzzle with a master craftsman’s grace. I love this man.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Naomie Harris – Moonlight

Nicole Kidman – Lion

Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Like my pick for Best Supporting Actor, Michelle Williams is only in a few scenes in Manchester by the Sea. However, Williams uses the most of her time, turning in an incredible performance full of pain and heartache. It’s caught in glances at first, a lingering melancholy between William’s and Affleck; but when it comes to the surface it gushes out in a scene so earnest it will move even the iciest of viewers. Always reliable, this is some of Michelle William’s finest work.

 

manchester-2

Property of Amazon Studios.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Julian Dennison – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Ben Foster – Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel – Lion

Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals

Though only in a small portion of the film, Mahershala Ali’s Juan is a looming presence in the entirety of Moonlight. It’s a quiet, thoughtful performance that’s filled with warmth, compassion, and guilt. Ali effortlessly conveys Juan’s growing affection for Chiron, providing him with a father figure that is sorely missed in the latter two-thirds of the film.

moonlight-1

Property of A24.

Best Cinematography

Thimios Bakatakis – The Lobster

Jarin Blaschke – The Witch

Greig Fraser – Lion

James Laxton – Moonlight

Seamus McGarvey – Nocturnal Animals

Giles Nuttgens – Hell or High Water

Linus Sandgren – La La Land

Larkin Seiple – Swiss Army Man

Bradford Young – Arrival

This is an incredibly tough category this year, however I chose Swiss Army Man for Best Cinematography due to the sheer overwhelming power of its inventiveness. There’s a wild, beating heart of creativity that pumps in every frame of this film and Larkin Seiple’s skillful eye manages to capture its kooky, earnest magic in vivid, colorful detail while also using a number of inventive techniques to convey the questionable mental state of the main character.

swiss-army-man

Property of A24.

Film Editing

Tom Cross – La La Land

John Gilbert – Hacksaw Ridge

Joi McMillon & Nat Sanders – Moonlight

Jake Roberts – Hell or High Water

Joe Walker – Arrival

There’s a hypnotic quality to Arrival that is difficult to capture in words. It has a thoughtful pace, but it’s never slow, instead unfolding and crosscutting between different timelines and events in a beautifully coordinated, yet elegant way. It’s some truly great work from Joe Walker.

 

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Luke Davies – Lion

Eric Heisserer – Arrival

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Taika Waititi and Te Arepa Kahi – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Arrival is a magic trick of a film and that is largely due to its magnetic script by Eric Heisserer. It’s a thought-provoking movie that manages to explore macro and micro events through its unique structure by contrasting a possible apocalypse with a personal tragedy in a completely unexpected way. A brilliant work of screencraft.

arrival

Property of Paramount Pictures.

Writing – Original Screenplay

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou – The Lobster

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Mike Mills – 20th Century Women

Tyler Sheridan – Hell or High Water

There was a ton of creativity on display here in the Original Screenplay category this year. However, none moved me quite as powerfully as Kenneth Lonergan’s quietly devastating Manchester by the Sea. It’s an emotional powerhouse of a film delivered in a script that is beautiful in its sparseness. The naturalistic quality of conversation is so difficult to capture, but Lonergan does it here with a master’s deftness.

manchester

Property of Amazon Studios.

Music – Original Score

Arrival – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Lukasz Pawel Buda, Samuel Scott, Conrad Wedde

La La Land – Justin Hurwitz

Lion – Volker Bertelmann & Dustin O’Halloran

Moonlight – Nicholas Britell

Star Wars: Rogue One – Michael Giacchino

Swiss Army Man – Andy Hull & McDowell

I know this is a contentious category for many, and though I loved all of the entries here, there was something strangely hopeful, yet somber about Michael Giacchino’s score for Star War: Rogue One. It ran counter to expectations to produce something new, and in my opinion, powerful. However, I would be remiss to deny the wonderful mix of joy and melancholy I feel when listening to Justin Hurwitz’s brilliant La La Land score. It’s catchy, moving, and instantly memorable.

Music – Original Song

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

“City of Stars” from La La Land

“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

La La Land is obviously the favorite here, but as a singular song, I was most taken by Lin Manuel-Miranda’s “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana. If he wins the Academy Award here, he’ll be the youngest person ever to win the coveted EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony). I think that would be pretty cool. NOTE: I still haven’t listened to Hamilton. I know. I know.

moana

Property of Disney.

 

Visual Effects

Arrival

Doctor Strange

Kubo and the Two Strings

Star Wars: Rogue One

Warcraft

All admirable tech entries here, however none engrossed me as fully (or as seamlessly) in a different world as the technology on display in Warcraft. Fully half of the film’s main characters are CG and yet I felt for them, they seemed wholly tangible. Everything from the orcs’ design, musculature, movement, clothes, hair, and even facial expressions was pitch perfect.

Best Breakout Performance

Anya Taylor-Joy – The Witch

Surely one of the most talented new actresses to come around in some time, Anya Taylor-Joy has impressed me in both The Witch and the recent Split. In the former, she offered a transformative performance that was both calculated and effortlessly naturalistic. Be on the lookout for what she does next.

thewitch

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch. Property of A24.

Most Majestic

Sadly, once again Richard Armitage was not in a nominated film this year.

Other Films I Enjoyed

20th Century Women

The Accountant

Allied

Before the Flood

Don’t Breathe

Don’t Think Twice

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fences

Green Room

Hidden Figures

High-Rise

Jackie

Kubo and the Two Strings

The Lego Batman Movie

Moana

The Nice Guys

Nocturnal Animals

O.J. Made in America

Sausage Party

Silence

Star Trek: Beyond

Suicide Squad (Extended Edition)

Tallulah

Zootopia

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s