Making the Movie

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Category: Movie Making News (page 2 of 246)

Why Movies Will Be The Literature of the Future

WaitButWhy has long, very long article about the coming future of brain-to-brain communication. It’s great, but it’s long. Maybe read my short essay first…

Okay, still here? So what seems to be happening in the world of neuroscience is that machine-brain interfaces are The Next Hot Thing. Eventually this will lead to people who are wearing devices that turn thoughts into computer code and vice versa. Actually, it is already happening with devices like cochlear implants that let deaf people hear and tongue electrodes that let blind people see.

What I’ve taken away from this vision of the future is that words, especially written words, are in trouble. The auditory cortex and the visual cortex are among the best understood parts of the brain, and the likely entry point for an advanced “wizard hat” machine-brain interface. Hmmm, what form of communication do we already have that’s audio-visual…?

Movies! That’s right, in many ways we cannot fathom how the people of the future will communicate with each other. But at least until the deeper parts of the brain are understood, they are probably going to be sending the future equivalents of movie clips back and forth.

It may be immersive, VR-style movie clips. But it’s going to be audio-visual. Which means people with superior audio-visual skills, a.k.a. filmmakers, are only going to rise in status. Filmmakers are going to be on the forefront of pushing this new form of communication. Filmmakers are going to be creating the brain-movies that will become our shared culture.

That future may mirror the present we are experiencing. Just like today we can still watch a black & white film and be moved to tears — “Zuzu’s petals!” — the flat, low-resolution, non-brain-enhanced films of today should still be able to move future generations, even after the written word has been made obsolete.

Obsolete? Yes. Imagine any text you encounter being performed by a digital Meryl Streep. Or, further in the future, an understanding of what the text means simply being implanted as a memory. When the machine attached to your brain can read text — in any language — your brain will have no need for the long, difficult process of learning to read.

So the machines attached to our brains are going to be turning any text we encounter into audio-visual information. Perhaps this bodes well for Hollywood’s great stockpile of unproduced screenplays. It definitely bodes well for filmmakers who are willing to have their own storytelling intelligence modeled as the artificial intelligence that will be doing the translating.

You’ll be able to send an A/V ‘thoughtgram’ to your friend in the style of Ingmar Bergman or Mira Nair or Busby Berkeley. These thoughtgrams won’t require actors, production designers or really anyone else, just a clear imagination. The American version of the auteur theory will finally be true. Thoughtgrams will have just a single “author,” like the written literature which gave the French originators of the Auteur Theory such paroxysms of inferiority.

Or will they have a single author? With a wizard hat allowing you to network with other wizard hats and various flavors of Artificial Intelligence, perhaps the movies of the future will still be collaborative in much the same sense they are today. A thoughtgram writer’s scenario will be taken up by a thoughtgram producer who will hire talented thoughtgram actors, directors and audiovisual technicians to complete it.

Fan edits of thoughtgrams will compete like memes. Anyone out there who thinks they have a better ending to the latest Marvel story can simply think it into existence and send it out. Then someone else can improve it. And so on. It may become much more like ancient literature, say the oral tradition around the Homeric epics. No longer is there one single author or version, simply a tradition that is constantly evolving and being adapted to the audience and the concerns of the generation.

The films of today will most definitely seem stodgy. But they may provide the kernel for whole libraries of updated variations in the new wizard hat medium. After all, stories have been around in many forms throughout the ages, and the great ones have persisted. There’s no doubt, in my feeble, unaugmented mind, that they will continue to persist.

Wednesday Links: The Bard of Suck

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

The New York Times Magazine: Mike Judge, the Bard of Suck – Mike Judge’s filmography is brief from one way of looking at it. But it’s very long and potent when viewed from other angles.

The Cinematography of Ghost In The Shell (YouTube)

Variety: Michael Ballhaus Dead: ‘Goodfellas’ Cinematographer Was 81 – RIP. One of the greats!

Scorsese released a statement reading, “For over 20 years, Michael Ballhaus and I had a real creative partnership, and a very close and enduring friendship. By the time we met, he had already made film history with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and I revered him. He was a lovely human being, and he always had a warm smile for even the toughest situations—anyone who knew him will remember his smile. We started working together in the 80s, during a low ebb in my career. And it was Michael who really gave me back my sense of excitement in making movies. For him, nothing was impossible. If I asked him for something difficult, he would approach it with enthusiasm: he never told me we couldn’t do something, and he loved to be challenged. If we were running out of time and light, he would figure out a way to work faster. And if we were behind schedule and getting into a situation where we had to eliminate set-ups, he would sit down with me calmly and we would work it out together: instead of getting frustrated about what was being taken away, he would always think in terms of what we had. Really, he gave me an education, and he changed my way of thinking about what it is to make a film. He was a great artist. He was also a precious and irreplaceable friend, and this is a great loss for me.”

Kottke: Incredible low light camera turns night into day – People used to shoot Day for Night. Now we can shoot Night for Day… I foresee some interesting creative possibilities, not the least of which will be making shooting at night cost less in lighting equipment and resources for low budget films!

SlashFilm: Why A New Oscar Rule Could Make Best Animated Feature Nominations Dumber – The animation categories are already heavily tilted toward Disney/PIXAR, it seems to me, probably because the Academy membership is tilted toward them and people who know them. This rule change actually has the potential to change this. I think it may be a step in the right direction.

Criterion: Walking with Scorsese – A tour of the Martin Scorsese retrospective artifacts exhibit, now in Berlin. I hope it comes to LA!

Blank Check with Griffin & David Podcast takes on Spielberg’s War of the Worlds – They’ve got a whole Spielberg series going. Great film geek listening!


Avid EDL Manager / List Tool Crashes

Wednesday Links: No Pepsi Ads Here

Mashable: Movie theaters won’t be around much longer. Here’s why. – Josh Dickey may be overstating the case here, but he’s not wrong. It seems inevitable that the theatrical experience will be changed by the trend toward releasing movies on home video sooner. However, you could argue that many talented writers and filmmakers have already migrated to television, including web-delivered television. Many episodes of the last season of Game of Thrones had higher production value than the average Hollywood film.

LATimes: Disproving the ‘black films don’t travel’ Hollywood myth – Dumb gatekeepers means a big opportunity for filmmakers and distributors who are willing to defy conventional wisdom.

Deadline: Why Kumail Nanjiani & Emily Gordon Went With Amazon For ‘The Big Sick’ – Amazon’s strategy of buying festival-tested films and supporting name filmmakers creatively paid off big last year.

I Think You’re Interesting Podcast: Interview with Ceyda Torun, Filmmaker of Kedi – How to film a documentary from a cat’s POV. Also, some good sense of the business of being an independent filmmaker and leveraging your unique perspective on the world.

Poster Boys Podcast: The best movie posters of the 90s!

Slashfilm: ‘Life’ Director Daniel Espinosa on the ‘Green Screen Disease’ and Long Takes – Also, Danny Boyle talks to Nerdist.

IndieWire: “Netflix isn’t making ‘movies.’ They are funding exclusive-access commodities that help grow their subscriber base.” – Relatedly, Variety reports that Adam Sandler has re-upped his Netflix contract.

SlashFilm: Tom Cruise’s ‘Mission: Impossible 6’ Stunt Will “Top Anything That’s Come Before” – Any guesses as to what it will be? He’s already dangled off the world’s tallest building and held his breath for long periods of time. I’m gonna go with space jump.

Brain Pickings: The Magic and Logic of Color: How Josef Albers Revolutionized Visual Culture and the Art of Seeing – See also Esquire’s article on movie color palettes.

TrueFilm subreddit: What makes movies look cheap?

Hollywood Reporter: ‘Beauty and The Beast’: Why Live-Action Remakes Can’t Replace Cartoons – And yet, with Mulan, The Sword in the Stone, The Lion King and so many more in production, it seems they will keep being made. There has been a backlash to this trend, but I see it as part of the broader trend of nostalgia entertainment: Jurassic World, The Force Awakens, Stranger Things. In the 1980’s there was a great deal of 1950’s nostalgia entertainment. Disney cartoons are especially ripe, since they re-release about every seven years, and thus are nostalgic for more than one generation of filmgoers.


Must-Listen Podcasts for Filmmakers #trypod

It’s a great time to be a filmmaker who listens to podcasts! The array of podcast options continues to grow, including some excellent shows that will help filmmakers improve their skills. Below are some of my favorites…

1. KCRW’s The Business – Host Kim Masters catches you up on the latest movie business news. In the first segment, The Hollywood Banter, she and guest host break down the headlines. But the meat of the show is an excellent interview with filmmaker or filmmaking team.

I have not found another podcast that concentrates on the movie business rather than celebrity angles. Masters and her producers choose a wide array of interesting people throughout the movie business to interview, from Barry Jenkins on directing Moonlight to a historian of Hollywood agency CAA.

(If you’re into filmmaker interviews from a more artsy-fartsy angle, check out KCRW’s The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell. While Elvis has been interviewing a lot of fashion people lately, his bread and butter is interviews with directors and actors. His trademark moment is when he asks them about a theme he’s found running through the entire body of their work. Sometimes it provokes an interesting bout of introspection. Sometimes the filmmaker just says, “Huh. I don’t see that.”)

2. Scriptnotes – Real working A-list screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin have been recording this weekly show for years. Recent shows are free, or if you like, you can deep dive into the incredible back catalogue (available for a token subscription fee).

They regularly select three pages from scripts sent in by listeners for a sensitive critique in what they call the Three Page Challenge. In another recurring segment, they cover recent news stories and ask Is This A Movie? Perhaps most importantly, they answer listener questions and constantly dispel the common myths about what makes for good and bad screen storytelling.

If you’re not into listening, there are transcripts of every episode available to read! Or, conversely, if you like screenwriting podcasts and having things read to you, check out The Blacklist Table Reads series.

3. The Flop House – Three friends, Elliott, Stuart and Dan, watch a bad movie — usually a recent Hollywood bomb — and dissect it in a hilarious, digression-filled conversation. From a filmmaker angle, learning what doesn’t work in a film can be more valuable than what does. And why not laugh while doing it?

If you’d rather listen to a podcast that dissects, uh, better films, check out Lieography. Each episode, Joanna, Ace and John break down a biographical film. They rate the film for both historical accuracy and audience-pleasing storytelling. You can learn a lot from this podcast about how to adapt a real-life story into a film.

4. The Slashfilmcast – There are a ton of excellent movie review podcasts, from the venerable Filmspotting and Film Week with Larry Mantle, to upstarts like Top 5 Film and Movie Geeks United! Right now, my current go-to is the Slashfilmcast where host Dave Chen and his friends Jeff Cannata, Devindra Hardawar (and sometimes other guest online film reviewers) tackle a wide range of films. They review everything from South-by-Southwest indie hits to popcorn blockbusters. Over the course of making the show, Chen himself has become a documentary filmmaker, and so he brings a true filmmaker-in-development perspective to the discussion.

If you’re into the horse race of who will win awards, Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men podcast takes the Oscar.

5. You Must Remember This – Writer and narrator Karina Longworth goes deep into Hollywood history. Right now she’s got a “Dead Blondes” series going, which explores the lives of famous actresses who died early – Marilyn Monroe, Veronica Lake, Jean Harlow and more. If you’re a true-crime fan (Serial, anyone?), check out the series on the Manson Murders and how they intersected with 1960’s Hollywood.

If you like movie history, but Longworth’s style isn’t for you, try out Attaboy Clarence or its spinoff The Secret History of Hollywood – right now in the middle of a Dan Carlin-esque epic series on the Warner brothers.

Show’s Over, Folks

How do I listen to all of these podcasts? My preferred podcast app is Downcast, where I can make a playlist (like, say “Filmmmaking Podcasts”) that automatically loads the latest episodes and then plays through continuously — great for long Los Angeles commutes!

What podcasts do you listen to that you think other filmmakers would enjoy? Leave a comment below.

Wednesday Links: Thermoptic Edition

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.
Adam Savage’s Tested: How Weta Workshop Made Ghost In The Shell’s Thermoptic Suit! (video) – The engineering involved in modern movie costumes is highly under-rated. I had assumed that many shots of Scarlett Johansson’s character in the trailer were CG. I never assumed a costume with this kind of look and movement could be created in real life!

Cracked Podcast: 25 Bizarrely Specific Things Movies Get Wrong About Reality – A must-listen for screenwriters. The panel has a good discussion of movie clichés to avoid.

Beyond the Frame: Smartphones in Cinema: A Missed Opportunity? (video)

No Film School: 47 Things We Learned from Nicolas Cage’s Vampire’s Kiss Commentary – This is a rather obscure cult film, but a must for anyone who wants to understand the origins of Cage’s unorthodox style of screen acting. Did Nicolas Cage really eat a live cockroach? Yes, and he believes it provided the same value as a $2M special effect. And he’s not wrong.

The Seattle Times: Accountants in Oscar mistake off the show – Yes, the individual accountants appear to have goofed. But there are reports they are being harassed and even receiving death threats. That’s out of line. Have a little compassion for someone who is probably already mortified to have bungled in front of millions of people on live television.

SlashFilm: This Manchester by the Sea VFX Reel Is Unbelievable


DVD Review: Tanna

Nominated for Best Foreign Film, Tanna is an incredible window onto a Stone Age way of life as it persists in the modern era. The Yakel people of the island of Vanuatu tell their own true story of events that occurred in 1987, with help from some non-indigenous filmmakers. (This is no documentary. The movie is gorgeously photographed and skillfully acted.)

I love movies that take place in a Paleolithic world. Humanity has existed in a tribal, hunter-gatherer mode for most of its existence. And thus stories like this can’t help but take on a mythic quality that rocks you right to the bones. If you’ve heard about this film, you’ve probably heard that the story is strikingly similar to Romeo & Juliet. And it is, but with, y’know, volcano worship; bows and arrows; and songs delivered from a Spirit Goddess.

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Oscars Post Mortem: Moonlight’s “Unprecedented” Win

Moonlight won. Some other things happened. But Moonlight won the ultimate prize.

The many people proclaiming Moonlight‘s win as unprecedented are wrong in some respects. They are right that never has a movie so gay and so black won the top prize. But the Academy has awarded low-budget urban character studies before, from Marty to Rocky. Everyone loves a good underdog story.

Moonlight was made for $1.5M. It had the lowest box office of any Best Picture nominee. It was such a long shot, it made La La Land look like a juggernaut.

Why Did Moonlight Win Best Picture?

Even though it was a small film, Moonlight was made with an incredible level of craft. The screenplay is personal, emotional and beautifully structured. The performances are pitch-perfect, including three central performances from newcomers that seamlessly blend into each other. The production design evokes the real Miami and the tactile cinematography elevates it to a magical and cinematic level. The sensitive editing paced the scenes and the performances expertly, and the ethereal score made the audience feel what the inexpressive main character could not say.

La La Land, the frontrunner going into the final category, is a movie that is divisive. Moonlight is a film that everyone at least likes. It may not have been #1 on many ballots, but I would bet it wasn’t #8 or #9 on many either. The ranked voting system the Academy uses for Best Picture may have given it the advantage it needed. La La Land — which had a record-tying number of nominations, and which had just won Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Actress — also had its share of haters. In the weeks leading up to the vote, it became fashionable to signal virtue by pointing out the awkwardness of casting whitebread Ryan Gosling as a savior of jazz’s (historically Black) legacy.

But you don’t need La La Land haters nor the Academy’s recent efforts to diversify its membership to explain Moonlight‘s win. The movie is good. The movie is worthy. Everywhere there has been shock because it is so rare that the Best Picture winner agrees with critical filmgoer taste. I used to link to a blog called The Oscars Are Always Wrong, which meticulously listed the nominees for each year and explained who should have won the awards. Unlike the year where Crash beat Brokeback Mountain, I don’t think we’ll be hearing moaning about this result decades later. The Oscars are not always wrong. This time, the Oscars were right.

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Movie Review: The Great Wall

The Great Wall movie posterWhat’s up with Matt Damon’s accent?

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and not just from puzzling that question. The Great Wall has a super-basic plot: monsters vs. wall army; fighting for a cause vs. self-interest. However, the mythic elements and the visuals, as with all Zhang Yimou films, do not disappoint. The sound design, particularly a scene with whistling arrows, was outstanding.

I expected Damon’s character to be a token one, like American films do with Chinese actors. But he is the true star of the film, with a strong support from Chinese actress Jing Tian. The main flaw is that he is supposed to be a selfish mercenary who learns to commit to something bigger than himself. But we never see him be selfish, only hear a lot of talk about it.

Jing Tian is beautiful. Her hair remains salon-perfect despite repeatedly taking on and off a helmet. However, her English seemed to have been learned phonetically. It lacks actorly inflections. I would have preferred to have a bit more character development from her, but maybe her performance was trimmed in editing. Pedro Pascal, playing a Spanish mercenary friend of Damon’s character, lends the movie a Game of Thrones vibe. He and Willem Dafoe, as another corrupt Westerner in the Song empire, are quite good. Andy Lau, a huge Chinese star, is wasted in his role as another military leader.

But you’re not going to this film for character development. I wish I had gone to a 3D screening. As with previous Zhang Yimou period epics, the production design and visual effects are a sumptuous feast. The monster battles are varied and plentiful. And, unlike recent American blockbusters, the film doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Although the film was written by North Americans (including Marshall Herskovitz, Ed Zwick and Tony Gilroy), no doubt it contains additional levels of meaning for Chinese audiences. The monsters (the Tao Tei, hopefully to be featured again in some Legendary Pictures King Kong sequel) emerge every 60 years. Was this number chosen to evoke the communist revolution? Certainly portraying the Mongols as rapacious alien hordes is a bit insensitive.

The Great Wall, like all walls, is better on paper than reality. Still, I’d rather have more original films in unique settings (like this one) than ten predictable remakes.

Wednesday Links: Behind the Scenes on La La Land

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Deadline: Behind the scenes of La La Land‘s most challenging scenes

Recode: The film producer who made Whiplash missed out on La La Land because of a missed lunch – Jason Blum is a sharp guy, but Hollywood is also a game of luck.

How lenses change the shape of a face

How camera lenses change the shape of your face

Vox: 7 reasons Hollywood doesn’t make romantic comedies anymore – Another reason: Romance has changed in the age of Tinder, and no filmmakers have yet cracked the code for how to make entertainment that reflects this. Challenge issued.

Oscar-Nominated Screenwriters Share Worst Studio Notes: ‘So Where Are the White People?’ – The art of deflecting bad notes is what separates the A-list screenwriters from the B-list.

TrueFilm subreddit: Kubrick on Mankind: A Proposed Watching Order – You could even skip Fear & Desire and the short films and get a very strong program.

A short introduction to cinematography by Luke Valadie

USA Today: 7-year NFL veteran Domonique Foxworth saw ‘Concussion’ and it made him question everything

Cinema can fill in the empty spaces of your life and your loneliness. –Pedro Almodovar

2017 Oscar Nominations Analysis

My quick takes on today’s nominations…

Best picture
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Hidden Figures”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”

Analysis: It’s a race between La La Land and Moonlight. Now, one wrinkle is that the Academy uses an instant runoff voting system for this category, which could hurt La La Land because it is a more divisive film than Moonlight. (Does anyone HATE Moonlight?) Snubs: Sully, 20th Century Women, The Lobster, Silence, Nocturnal Animals, Zootopia, Jackie.

Best actress in a leading role
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”

Analysis: This is a tough category to predict. There’s a story for why each of these nominees would win. Ruth Negga’s performance is the least showy, so she probably has the least chance. Meryl has won many times before, so the Academy won’t feel bad avoiding her. Isabelle Huppert’s character in Elle makes no sense, and the film is a professional troll. However, some people seem to be blown away by her performance in it. She certainly commits. She’s also considered the Meryl Streep of European actresses, so I think she may have to be content with her Globe. That leaves Emma Stone and Natalie Portman. Portman seems the clear favorite here. Jackie is basically one long closeup on her emoting visage. But if La La Land is sweeping every category, look for the well-liked Emma Stone (playing an aspiring actor with the majority of Academy voters being actors) to win.

Best actor in a leading role
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”

Analysis: Affleck is the one to beat. You might see Denzel edge him out if the whisper campaign about Affleck’s treatment of women gains traction and the Academy wants to reward Denzel for starring in and directing his passion project, Fences. Snubs: The little kid from Lion, all the actors who played Chiron in Moonlight.

Best director
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”

Analysis: Anyone other than Chazelle is an upset here. Snubs: Martin Scorsese for Silence, Clint Eastwood for Sully.

Actress in a supporting role
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”

Analysis: Although Viola Davis seems to have already been crowned here, I could see Michelle Williams with an outside chance. Both have single scenes in their nominated films that will absolutely wreck you.

Actor in a supporting role
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Analysis: Mahershala Ali is the one to beat. The Academy members will be looking to reward Moonlight and this is one of the easiest places to do it.

Best documentary
“O.J.: Made in America”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Fire at Sea”
“Life Animate”

Analysis: I’ve only seen one here, OJ: Made in America, but it is brilliant. It’s also long, so that may turn off Academy voters, who may prefer to award Ava DuVernay, director of 13th, whose Selma the Academy unjustly snubbed a few years back.

Best foreign language film
“Toni Erdmann”
“The Salesman”
“Land of Mine”
“A Man Called Ove”

Analysis: I haven’t seen any of these yet, although I love the Iranian director who made Salesman. Toni Erdmann has the most buzz around it, but this category is often the one with the best pictures of the year (as opposed to Best Picture). So it’s anyone’s game.

Best animated feature film
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“The Red Turtle”
“My Life as a Zucchini”

Analysis: Kubo really did it for me, but so did Moana and Zootopia. The Red Turtle is supposed to be a beautiful, almost wordless film. Zucchini aka Courgette seems like the ‘Happy to be here’ pick. Probably the Academy will go with Zootopia, because it managed to put social issues in a kid-friendly form. On the off chance that Moana splits the Disney Animation Studios vote, Kubo could sneak in. Snub: Finding Dory and PIXAR.

Best adapted screenplay
“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins
“Arrival,” Eric Heisserer
“Lion,” Luke Davies
“Fences,” August Wilson
“Hidden Figures,” Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

Analysis: All of these are nominated for Best Picture, but Moonlight has the most heat. One thing that might keep Moonlight from winning is that the main character is not very articulate. Unfortunately, the Academy tends to associate these awards with showy dialogue rather than what a screenplay is: the whole story. Arrival is very cleverly constructed. Fences also stands a good chance, since it is from a stage play that is considered modern Shakespeare. And the dialogue is very, very, very good. I’m not sure it was well-adapted into a film, but I don’t get a vote. Snubs: Deadpool, Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Best original screenplay
“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle
“Hell or High Water,” Taylor Sheridan
“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan
“The Lobster,” Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
“20th Century Women,” Mike Mills

Analysis: This one will likely come down to the Best Picture nominee overlappers. La La Land is not beloved for its screenplay (except by the Golden Globes, I guess). So that leaves Hell or High Water and Manchester by the Sea. Writer/director Kenneth Lonnergan is a playwright, and Manchester is the more writerly film, so I’d predict that one. Taylor Sheridan, the (excellent) writer of Hell or High Water, used to be an actor. And as we know the Academy is mostly actors, and may like to vote for their own. So I guess they will be asking themselves: “Which one don’t you want?” Snubs: Kubo, Moana, Zootopia, Green Room, Everybody Wants Some!, Hail, Caesar!

Best original song
“How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”
“City of Stars,” “La La Land”
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” “Trolls”
“The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story”

Analysis: It doesn’t look good for Lin Manuel Miranda’s EGOT. “How Far I’ll Go” is not even the second best song in Moana, in my opinion. There’s a possibility of the La La Land songs splitting the vote, although I’d guess “City of Stars” will be the frontrunner anyway. There’s also a chance the statue will go to “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake, which is a bona fide hit song. Snubbed: Every song in Sing Street.

Best original score
“La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz
“Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell
“Lion,” Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
“Jackie,” Mica Levi
“Passengers,” Thomas Newman

Analysis: La La Land is again the one to beat, since the music in the film is kinda the point. Jackie had a really interesting modern score that I would love to see rewarded, and Moonlight and Lion had very fine scores too. Snub: Manchester by the Sea, Arrival

Best cinematography
“Moonlight,” James Laxton
“La La Land,” Linus Sandgren
“Arrival,” Bradford Young
“Silence,” Rodrigo Prieto
“Lion,” Greig Fraser

Analysis: I didn’t like the look of Arrival but I seem to be the only one. Moonlight was good but it seemed like they couldn’t afford a focus puller. La La Land may win for the showy camera movies and (intentionally) artificial lighting, although I think Silence and Lion are the masterworks here. Rodrigo Prieto is the biggest name on this list, and this is the only place where Silence fans can show their love, so I’m guessing he’ll win. But it could be anyone’s ballgame.

Best production design
“La La Land,” David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock
“Arrival,” Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte
“Hail, Caesar!,” Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh
“Passengers,” Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena

Analysis: La La Land is the front runner. Hail, Caesar! could be a surprise winner here, because the production design is outstanding and this is the only place voters who liked that film have a chance to show their love.

Best visual effects
“The Jungle Book,” Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould
“Doctor Strange,” Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
“Deepwater Horizon,” Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton
“Kubo and the Two Strings,” Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff

Analysis: The Jungle Book jumps out at me here, since the film was so beloved and people were really blown away by the quality of the effects. Doctor Strange also is a movie where the effects are a big draw. I think Rogue One also has a shot here, since the effects were outstanding and have an old-school practical look, which I think the Academy would appreciate. Snubs: Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, Passengers, Jason Bourne, Star Trek Beyond

Best costume design
“La La Land,” Mary Zophres
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Colleen Atwood
“Florence Foster Jenkins,” Consolata Boyle
“Jackie,” Madeline Fontaine
“Allied,” Joanna Johnston

Analysis: The costumes in Allied made me, a not fashionable person, go “Wow!” However, I think Jackie could win this one. In some cases the dresses were made with material ordered from the same factories as Jacqueline Kennedy’s real, iconic dresses. Fantastic Beasts also seems to have a shot here, with a combination of period clothes and fantasy clothes.

Best makeup and hair styling
“Star Trek Beyond,” Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
“Suicide Squad,” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson
“A Man Called Ove,” Eva von Bahr and Love Larson

Analysis: The Visual Effects people in my office are crying foul on Star Trek‘s makeup nomination, since many of the makeups had to be touched up digitally. But that’s par for the course any more in big movies. I loved the Killer Croc makeup in Suicide Squad, not to mention Harley Quinn and Joker, but I think the Academy may just hand over the statue to A Man Called Ove, since it also a Best Foreign Film nominee and therefore has more prestige.

Best film editing
“La La Land,” Tom Cross
“Moonlight,” Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon
“Hacksaw Ridge,” John Gilbert
“Arrival,” Joe Walker
“Hell or High Water,” Jake Roberts

Analysis: If the night is going to La La Land, Tom Cross could win his second editing Oscar. However, Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge are ‘cuttier’ films, which the majority of naïve Academy voters tend to prefer.

Best sound editing
“La La Land,” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
“Arrival,” Sylvain Bellemare
“Sully,” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
“Deepwater Horizon,” Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli

Analysis: Likely La La, although the Academy does like to reward war/action films like Hacksaw Ridge in this category. Sully and Arrival actually had some beautiful sound editing, leading into and out of the ‘flashbacks’. Snubs: Silence, Kubo and the Two Strings, Don’t Breathe

Best sound mixing
“La La Land,” Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
“Arrival,” Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth

Analysis: Likely La La, although the Academy does like to reward war/action films like Hacksaw Ridge, Rogue One and 13 Hours in this category. But they will probably split that vote, leaving Arrival as the only possible upset pick.

Best animated short film
“Borrowed Time”
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
“Blind Vaysha”

Analysis: “Borrowed Time” has some heat online. It was made by PIXAR artists but not by PIXAR officially. That’s up against “Piper” which is an actual PIXAR short (and beautifully rendered). Last year I got burned trying to choose short films based on merit, versus who has the most prestige. So at this point, I’d predict one of these two PIXAR-associated films, likely “Piper” because it is more officially PIXAR.

Best live action short film
“Sing (Mindenki)”
“Silent Nights”
“Ennemis Interieurs”
“La Femme et le TGV”

Analysis: No idea.

Best documentary short subject
“The White Helmets”
“Watani: My Homeland”
“4.1 Miles”
“Joe’s Violin”

Analysis: No idea.

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