Each year, I vow to watch as many nominated films as possible.
Each year, I ultimately fall short of my expectations.
Academy Award nominations in 2017, however, brought many, many films I actually wanted to see, which means I get to make 'informed' decisions when deciding which film to root for.
BEST FILM - Hidden Figures or Moonlight
Hidden Figures: This film has great, three-dimensional characters I cared about, a message and plot still relevant today, and it's a hugely enjoyable ride!
Moonlight: It took me a while to connect with the narrative, mostly because I felt it lacked a clear direction in the beginning, but once the romance unfolded, I was so glad I stayed. I was cheering on Chiron and Kev, and gosh, that ending was a perfect fit both tonally and plot-wise.
ACTING AWARDS - Garfield, Ali, Harris
Yes, Denzel Washington and Viggo Mortensen were brilliant, and Casey Affleck as well. But it was Andrew Garfield who blew me away in the Lead Actors list.
Yes, Viola Davis is a goddess, but it was Naomie Harris who left me watching in awe.
I've loved Mahershala Ali ever since House Of Cards, then in Luke Cage, and he deserves this award for a grand performance.
I have only seen Emma Stone in La La Land, so I abstain from that category.
DIRECTING - Moonlight
Or Hacksaw Ridge. Or Manchester By The Sea. All amazing work, in my opinion.
My stance on Arrival: I understand why people might love this film, but it failed to grip me. It was tediously slow-paced, and while the premise and the twist at the end are intriguing... the execution failed to draw me in.
My stance on La La Land: It's not a musical - the numbers, while catchy, don't further the plot - and it portrays an overly male perspective with a concept of art as something that brings you luxury and fame, not something that gives your life MEANING. I really hope this view on art doesn't prevail in 2017.
I'm a writer, first and foremost, so I have a LOT of feelings about these categories (including why the hell they are always the last two to be named).
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - Hidden Figures or Moonlight
Both "Fences" and "Lion" were not translated into a screenplay, in my opinion. You can clearly tell that Fences is a stage play, and the screenwriter thought changing the layout of the dialogue into a script format actually works. Yet I found it too static, too play-ish. There is so much potential here, but it wasn't adapted to the film format sufficiently.
Same goes for Lion. I hadn't heard about the book before watching the film, but I just knew this wasn't an original work. Due to the great cinematography, it works on screen, but... I wouldn't call it the best.
Hidden Figures is a cinematic experience, as is Moonlight. I personally found Hidden Figures the better script - extrapolated from my watching the film - but I will be rooting for both.
CINEMATOGRAPHY - Silence or LION
Yeah, I don't have a real favourite.
COSTUME DESIGN & PRODUCTION DESIGN - Fantastic Beasts
I really think FB should have been nominated for a screenplay award, too. This film was a great experience, and the beautiful world created by the art department is simply captivating and inspiring.
FILM EDITING - Hacksaw Ridge
It was visceral. It made me flinch, grimace, and jerk back at times. Powerful editing that neither of the other nominees compares to, in my opinion.
SOUND EDITING - Deepwater Horizon
I caught this on holiday in the UK in a cinema where no one talked during the film, and I think this picture's soundscapes are part of the reason why.
And the Oscar goes to...
... not my picks. At least, if past years are any indication. But that's okay: everyone's tastes are different, plus there are political motivations to consider. And Tinsel Town just loves films about the industry.
And while I will lament what La La Land winning Best Picture would mean for Hollywood's concept of art, I will take it as a vicious motivator to pursue MY concept of art. Something that adds purpose to my life, something that inspires people, that holds "a mirror up to nature".
Now I'm curious: What are your picks, folks?