What a fiasco with the prestigious yet erroneously named Best Foreign Language Film category, with the *insert horrific superlative here* ban on Muslims entering the United States, which means now as a result, even though there has been a supposed shift in the process, Asghar Farhadi is to not attend. His fine latest film The Salesman will have either got the votes as a kind of ballot rebellion and go on to win, or else will be pushed aside altogether. However you want to look at the whole affair, The Salesman ought to have got the boxes ticked for the sheer quality of the movie. Maren Ade’s comedic drama Toni Erdmann has had the most tongues wagging over the last nine months and has been the favorite for some time. But this is a closer race than many appreciate. A Man Called Ove from Sweden also has a Make-Up nomination to add to its ammunition, and Australia’s Tanna may well be the rank outsider, but far from buried.
Given the social hype and supposed Iranian repellent, Denmark’s entry Land of Mine by Martin Zandvliet seems fitting given the story of young soldiers tasked with the unimaginable task of removing land mines on the Danish borders deposited by the Germans during the war. It’s a superbly executed, knock-out of a film, capturing a chapter of war (post-war here) swirling away from the tried and tested aspects of the genre. The soldiers are literally boys, judging by the state of them have already been to hell and back, in a time and place we can only gasp or wince at, as we sit safely watching. Land of Mine portrays a corner of the horrors of war we dare not tread ourselves, lives and limbs are lost in a heartbeat, and the tension and emotion that comes with it is hard not to embrace. There is a continuing flourish of Danish cinema. Even the Academy are fans, with Susanne Bier nominated for After the Wedding in 2006, and then winning for In a Better World (beating Yorgos Lanthimos and Denis Villeneuve coincidentally), before A Royal Affair, The Hunt, and A War were also nominated. I predict Land of Mine will give Toni Erdmann a run for its money. In 2001, the Academy voters looked to be heading for the full-of-beans, crowd-pleaser Amelie, but instead awarded Danis Tanovic’s war drama No Man’s Land. Just sayin’.
Speaking of Lanthimos and Villeneuve, both established film-makers in the running this year for Academy awards in two very different, but excellent movies. Both, too could come away empty handed. The nature of the beast. As I previously babbled on about in my For Your Consideration post for Best Original Screenplay, so I will spare you a rant here, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou ought to walk away with the Oscar if there is any logic in the world for The Lobster.
As for Arrival, achieving nods in all the right places comes Oscar nominations morning, except once glaring omission – Amy Adams. Psychology of Film’s Christina wrote a terrific piece on the accomplished, and Oscarless, actress, which in itself was enough to sway voters. Alas, it was not to be. But there is a lot of love for this movie, and while it may be the bridesmaid in many categories (Picture, Director, Visual Effects), its biggest chance of what pundits would refer to as an upset, may well be in Best Cinematography – and a worthy win it would be. Not only is record-breaker Bradford Young’s tremendous work here memorable and integral story-telling, it is in its purest, most magical beyond the epic landscape scopes and panoramic poise, when it hits ultimate beauty in the intimate flashforwards. Voters knew his deep down, the impression was made.
Perhaps where Arrival fails, an explosive, almighty special effects feast can win the prize for Best Visual Effects. If you have seen any footage, or read anything at all about the extensive, innovative work that went into the glory of Kubo and the Two Strings then you will find the very rare nomination in this category for an animated feature completely warranted. Stunning visuals, unexplainable to the non-expert human eye, and even kind of unfathomable once you have seen or realized how they did it. The hard work, ridiculous amount of time and patience, that went into assembling the visual effects included in the graft of the animation itself. The paper serves much, much more than to be folded I can tell you. With a likely win in Best Animated Feature, Kubo could be plucking two gold strings on the night.
I’ve said it more than once, I love Emma Stone, but there is no way she should be the front-runner to win Best Actress for her perfectly fine role in La La Land. There’s nothing I nor you can do about that status, or the outcome now. With Jackie and Natalie Portman sowing down somewhat, and Ruth Negga and Meryl Streep seemingly in ‘no chance’ territory, it’s easy to understand how voters settled for Stone given the movie’s overly lavished reputation. That just leaves Isabelle Huppert for Elle. I said if she gets in she wins. And stubborn-ass that I am I stand by that. I wasn’t blown away by the movie itself, and will give it a second viewing, but Huppert is astounding – an actress still daring to go where many wouldn’t, and she hardly batters an eyelid. Huppert has a back catalog going back over forty years that many an actor or actress must constantly dream about. Going way, way back to the likes of Aloïse, The Lacemaker, Violette Nozière, right up the more recently were the actress has been busier than most with Louder Than Bombs, Valley of Love, Things to Come, and, of course, Elle. There’s an abundance of films coming up in the next twelve months or so. After a ridiculous amount of César Award nominations too, Huppert just won Best Actress for Elle. It’s a bold, brave move for Oscar voters in a year doors and barriers are hopefully being knocked down. Everyone is talking about Elle and Isabelle, this would be an extremely popular win. And even though this is (unbelievably) her first Academy Award nomination, the win will be about fucking time.
The world needs to calm down a little regarding Viola Davis. I have nothing against the woman and the stellar work she churns out, it is the excessive hype swirling around that notion she is owed an Academy award. Fences could easily win three awards on the night, very conceivable, and it does look like Davis is home and dry, and the most likeliest to bring the film a win. However, and this may well be a gigantic however, I have a sneaky suspicion (and bias hopefulness) that the Best Supporting Actress prize may well go to an actress I believe deserves it more (like that means anything). Naomie Harris is so good in Moonlight carrying the drug-riddled mother through the three chapters so seamlessly. This is also an inspiring, powerful performance from Harris, who has somehow slipped under the net thus far in a diverse and promising career, providing the year of film with some of its most iconic moments, and probably the best supporting turn by an actress in 2016. Harris was also honored with an OBE from the Queen so this could well turn out to be a week to remember.
And without digging through too much of the evidence in the case for Moonlight to win Best Picture, and not La La Land, let me just state a few quick facts. Films with the most nominations don’t always win Best Picture nowadays, and the 8 nominations for Moonlight is an impressive feat in itself, and you would struggle to find many people arguing that it doesn’t deserve every single one of them. Beyond the #OscarsSoWhite movement, the multi-social implications and importance of the motion picture in its immovable story-telling and technical flair, would make this not just a very worthy winner, but a well-earned stamp on the depiction of groups who still don’t get the limelight on film they deserve without question. Oh, and of course, regardless of Damien Chazelle’s Best Director win, Moonlight is the best picture on the list. Come on, it really ought to be as simple as that.