Wednesday, November 30, 2016

AWARDS SEASON: Finding Love in a Hopeless Place

Will voters feel the love for La La Land?
As I write this piece mere moments after watching the incendiary "I Am Not Your Negro", I can't help but think of how the current political and social climate has impacted the Oscar race. At a time when the United States is as divided as ever along racial and socioeconomic lines, it is not surprising that films celebrating love have garnered the bulk of the Oscar buzz so far. From the taboo romances central to "Loving" and "Moonlight", to the familial affection underpinning "Fences", "Lion" and "Manchester by the Sea", the "Oscar bait" films of 2016 appeal to our better selves.

And of course, there's hardly anything more optimistic than a musical romance. As we head into the "serious" phase of the awards season tomorrow, "La La Land" has taken its understandable place as the presumed frontrunner. And with its popular director and cast, and the coveted TIFF People's Choice Award in hand, it certainly looks the part. But there are several other contenders hot on the heels of its dancing shoes.

Here are my first Best Picture predictions of the season, in anticipation of the nominations for the "Big Three" televised precursors (Critics Choice, Golden Globes, SAG):
  1. La La Land
  2. Manchester by the Sea
  3. Fences
  4. Moonlight
  5. Arrival
  6. Jackie
  7. Sully
  8. Silence
  9. Lion
  10. Loving
If you've been paying attention to recent Oscar years however, you'll know that we are far from the days when one film would sweep everything. Indeed, the trend suggests a new normal, where Best Picture isn't sealed until that final envelope is opened. It will be particularly interesting to see how the #OscarsSoWhite controversy plays out this year, with a number of strong films featuring largely black casts in the race. If there is to be a challenger to "La La Land", it may well be from this group of "Fences", "Moonlight" and "Loving". But the season is still young however, with many momentum shifts in store. Let's see what surprises tomorrow will bring, as the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle gets things rolling in earnest.

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