Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

31 January 2017

Oscar Noms 2017: 3 of 13

Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival
Part 2 - Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion

Part 3:
4 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Actor: Denzel Washington (Flight, Training Day, The Hurricane, Malcolm X, Glory, Cry Freedom)
  • Adapted Screenplay: August Wilson
  • Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (The Help, Doubt)
Director: Washington
Cast: Washington, Davis, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney

You can read my review of this movie here. I loved it, incidentally. Word on the street is that Washington really wanted a Best Director nomination for this movie; it didn't happen, but he may end up taking home another Oscar for acting (it would be his third) if the SAG award is any indication. It is important that I say again that Viola Davis should not be campaigning in this category, but, hey, what can you do? I think if I had to vote, I would still vote for her. She is great in the movie. The screenplay nomination is actually sort of baffling to me; I have no idea what these writers were thinking. I mean, Wilson has been dead for years, and that nomination could have meant something to a screenwriter like Jeff Nichols (Loving) or a team like Park Chan-wook & Chung Seo-kyung (The Handmaiden). It is weird to me that they did not think of this.
Will Win: Supporting Actress
Could Win: Actor
My Rating: #16 out of 86

Hell or High Water
4 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Original Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan
  • Supporting Actor: Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Crazy Heart, The Contender, Starman, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Last Picture Show)
  • Film Editing
Director: David Mackenzie
Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey, Joe Berryman

I really liked this movie too. Have I noted yet how surprised I have been to have liked everything so much this year? It really is sort of strange. It is worth noting that this is a screenplay nomination that will really make a difference. Taylor Sheridan is primarily known as an actor, and so this will certainly have an appreciable effect on his career. I don't expect Hell or High Water to win anything on February 26th, but I think that's just fine. This movie surprised everyone by continually appearing on awards lists and top-ten lists. It is a strange movie for people to have noticed, I think, but I don't mind. It's an exciting movie, with a pretty great stick-it-to-the-man attitude and a really lovely fraternal relationship at its center.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #18 out of 86

Hidden Figures
3 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Adapted Screenplay: Theodore Melfi & Allison Schroeder
  • Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Director: Melfi
Cast:Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Jim Parsons, Glenn Powell, Aldis Hodge, Olek Krupa, Donna Biscoe, Kimberly Quinn

This movie is fine, but I sort of don't get the hype. I have gotten tired of this candy-coated version of the early 1960s that we are all somehow supposed to believe happened. This is actually one of the reasons why Ava DuVernay's Selma was such an extraordinary achievement: the version of the 1960s we are usually fed these days pretends that most white folks weren't actually racist, they were actually nice, welcoming white people who were just waiting for a black woman with a little gumption to challenge the status quo. This is a bunch of nonsense – and also not how racism actually works. Still, the actresses at the center of Hidden Figures are a pleasure to watch (especially Taraji Henson), and the movie has a lot of fun in the candy store it builds. It is a delight to watch Henson show up a racist Jim Parsons by doing really complicated math in front of him, and it is fun to see Monáe bring a court order into her all-white engineering class and tell everyone in the class to go fuck themselves (it's actually PG; no one tells anyone to go fuck himself). I love seeing representations of black folks in fabulous clothes doing awesome things on my movie screens. But all of this comes at a price. We cannot start to believe that Jim Crow wasn't that bad; if we do, we deny the violence and daily humiliation that black folks in the U.S. had to put up with constantly. To my mind, even the phrases "first black woman to..." and "first woman to..." hide within them a kind of denial of the racism on which this country was built – they make it seem like it was some power inside the individual that allowed him or her to achieve something others could not. That isn't really how it worked, of course. Think of the many, many people who came before (Troy Maxson from Fences is precisely this type of character) who were prevented from achieving their dreams, not because they didn't have the gumption of Dorothy Vaughan or the talent of Jackie Robinson, but because the racist laws in Virginia and South Carolina and Florida and Louisiana – and the racist "gentleman's agreements" in Arizona and California and Illinois and New York – demanded that they be kept from exercising their capabilities. So, call me a curmudgeon, but although I thought Hidden Figures was fun in a bubble gum kind of way, I found myself frequently annoyed.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #46 out of 86

3 Nominations
  • Actress: Natalie Portman (Black Swan, Closer)
  • Costume Design: Madeline Fontaine
  • Score: Mica Levi
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Portman, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Beth Grant, John Carroll Lynch, Max Casella

These three nominations for Pablo Larraín's movie make perfect sense; they are essentially what this movie is. Jackie can be boiled down to its costumes, its central performance, and its haunting horror-film score. I appreciated Jackie, but as I said in my notes on it, I didn't really enjoy the movie, even though I sort of got what it was trying to do. I am really pleased for Mica Levi and her nomination, too, even though I was not really a big fan of her score for this movie. I was obsessed with her score for the strange sci-fi/horror movie Under the Skin, my favorite film for 2014, and so I am glad she is getting some recognition. I only predicted a lone nomination for Portman for this movie (with the possibility of a costume nod), so I am honestly surprised by the three nominations Jackie picked up. This means that it connected with audiences way more than I thought it would – and clearly more than it connected with me. Still, don't expect it to take anything home on the 26th. Jackie's just happy to be invited to the party. She'll be wearing black.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A

29 January 2017

Oscar Noms 2017: 2 of 13

Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival

Part 2:
Manchester by the Sea
6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Kenneth Lonergan
  • Actor: Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)
  • Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan (Gangs of New York, You Can Count on Me)
  • Supporting Actor: Lucas Hedges
  • Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine, Brokeback Mountain)
Director: Lonergan
Cast: Affleck, Hedges, Williams, Kyle Chandler, C.J. Wilson, Gretchen Mol, Tate Donovan, Matthew Broderick

This is my favorite of the Best Picture nominees. Manchester by the Sea is a tragic film about a man whose brother dies at the beginning of the film. This brother, who is working as a building superintendent in Boston, is forced to move back to his hometown to take care of his brother's effects for a while and to take care of his teenage nephew, who is also, of course, dealing with the death of his father. We know that the main character, Lee, is harboring some real demons at the beginning of Manchester, and we learn those details slowly over the course of the film. Manchester is about those demons, about the weight of enormous errors in our lives, and about trying to carry those weights. In this sense, Manchester by the Sea is a tragedy in the way Aristotle describes it in the Poetics when he says that tragedy happens to "a man who is neither a paragon of virtue and justice nor undergoes the change to misfortune through any real badness or wickedness but because of some mistake". Lee doesn't have anything essentially wrong with him, he is just carrying something very, very heavy. The film asks us to carry that too, for a bit. The performances are superb – Affleck should win the Oscar, and in a year where Viola Davis wasn't running a lead performance in supporting, Williams would win one too. (I've never been totally sold on Williams, if I'm honest, but in this she is so, so excellent.) The film, in general, is assured and steady and does what it is attempting to do perfectly. This is great, sad storytelling, that doesn't opt for the "heartwarming" bullshit to which we have all become so accustomed.
Will Win: Actor, Original Screenplay
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #6 out of 85

Hacksaw Ridge
6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Mel Gibson (Braveheart)
  • Actor: Andrew Garfield
  • Film Editing: John Gilbert (The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring)
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
Director: Gibson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Luke Pegler

I've already written about what a surprise it was for me to have loved Hacksaw Ridge as much as I did, and I am so happy that it did so well with nominations. Six is a lot! More than anything, I am excited for the real stars of this film, Gilbert, Garfield, and the sound guys who were nominated. You'll notice that the Academy did not nominate Robert Shenkkan for his screenplay – it is an uneven mess – and that unevenness will surely hurt the film when people get down to voting. Let's talk about Garfield, though, who is a superb actor (go back to his first big role in Boy A and prepare to be blown away) and who was great in both Hacksaw and Silence this year. He has earned a well-deserved first nomination. As for Hollywood's apparent forgiveness of Mel Gibson, don't be so sure. You can be sure that everyone still thinks he's crazy. But he is a very good director, and he has a very clear point of view that you can see recurring in his work. A nomination here is not forgiveness, just an acknowledgment of his work. You won't see him winning an Oscar any time soon.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Film Editing, Sound Editing
My Rating: #12 out of 85

6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Adapted Screenplay: Luke Davies
  • Supporting Actor: Dev Patel
  • Supporting Actress: Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole, The Hours, Moulin Rouge!)
  • Cinematography: Greig Fraser
  • Score: Hauschka & Dustin O'Halloran
Director: Garth Davis
Cast: Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Priyanka Bose, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui

So, I thought Lion was going to be a sentimental mess, and I was expecting to dislike it. I was also imagining that Dev Patel was pulling category fraud by campaigning in the Supporting Actor category. I was wrong on both counts. Lion is a lovely, moving film, and the lead actor in the film is a little boy named Sunny Pawar, with whom you will fall instantly in love. Lion is the story of an Indian boy named Saroo who gets very, very lost and cannot find his mother and brother. He finds himself in Calcutta, and, having spoken Hindi all his life, can communicate with no one in the Bengali-speaking metropolis. Because the movie spends so much time with the young boy and Sunny Pawar, the film establishes itself as an adventure story first and foremost, so that when we switch, near the middle of the movie, to the more psychologically inflected story of the adult Saroo looking for his family, this too functions like an adventure story. Kidman, Patel, and Wenham are all excellent, and this movie simply works. Lion is an Australian film, too, but it is also about our world in the twenty-first century, in which people in many different places are connected in so many myriad ways with one another. Lion is in Bengali, Hindi, and English, and it spends no time apologizing for its linguistic shifts – in fact they become part of the fabric of the world Lion is attempting to describe.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #48 out of 85

Back to:
Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival

28 January 2017

2016 in Review

~ ~
1. Embrace of the Serpent
2. 20th Century Women
3. Nocturnal Animals
4. American Honey
5. The Innocents
6. Manchester by the Sea
7. Midnight Special
8. The Handmaiden
9. Moonlight
10. The Red Turtle
11. Captain Fantastic
12. The Lobster
13. Hacksaw Ridge
14. Toni Erdmann
15. Dheepan
16. The Fits
17. Fences

~ ~
18. Hail, Caesar!
19. Hell or High Water
20. Elle
21. Arrival
22. Neon Bull
23. Deepwater Horizon
24. Rogue One: a Star Wars Story
25. Things to Come
Land of Mine
Star Trek Beyond
Cemetery of Splendor

Certain Women
The Salesman
La La Land

Sing Street
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Kubo and the Two Strings
Love & Friendship

The Witch: a New-England Folk Tale


The Meddler
Lazy Eye
A Bigger Splash
The Dark Horse
Hello, My Name Is Doris
Spa Night
The Nice Guys

~ ~
 The Wailing
Swiss Army Man

Don't Call Me Son
Hidden Figures 
Other People
My Golden Days

~ ~
Rules Don't Apply
Knight of Cups
The Club
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The Jungle Book
Doctor Strange

The Edge of Seventeen
My Life as a Zucchini
The Program
Labyrinth of Lies
Morris from America

Closet Monster
A Man Called Ove
Marguerite & Julien

~ ~
Eisenstein in Guanajuato
Louder than Bombs
Diary of a Chambermaid

Bleed for This
Florence Foster Jenkins

~ ~
A War
From Afar
The Huntsman: Winter's War
The Neon Demon
X-men: Apocalypse
The Birth of a Nation
Café Society

Last Days in the Desert

~ ~
Suicide Squad
Triple 9
The Dressmaker

~ ~
13 Hours

Oscar Noms 2017: 1 of 13

Every year in the weeks leading up the Academy Awards ceremony, I post my thoughts on all of the nominees, although I exempt myself from the documentaries because I don't really like documentaries all that much. For me that means 52 films this year (5 more than last year). This is a strange year in many ways, but perhaps the most normal in recent memory.

A while ago I posted an elaborate set of reasons for why I still pay attention to the Oscars, I want to amend this in light of a philosophy I developed regarding the foreign language films:

If you have a desire to complain about movies that were snubbed or passed over or whatever, here's what I will say: if there are movies that you loved that you are sad didn't get nominated, comfort yourself by reminding yourself that you've already seen those movies! Use the Academy, instead, to draw your attention to movies you haven't seen. Even when the Academy creates a mess, they're still going to point us toward some great movies. For example, my absolute favorite movie for 2016, Embrace of the Serpent, was mostly on my radar because it was nominated for Foreign Language Picture last year.

A good chunk of the films in my top 10 for the year were passed over (American Honey, The Innocents, The Handmaiden, Midnight Special), but some of them scored a nomination or two (Captain Fantastic, 20th Century Women, Nocturnal Animals), and two were nominated for Best Picture (Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight). In short, there is lots to appreciate here, even if the Academy and I don't always agree. And this year, there is more to be happy about then ever. The nominees this year are more diverse than ever, and the nominated class of 2017 is going to look more like it should than it has in a long time.

I will go film by film beginning with the movies most beloved by the Academy this year. If the nominee has been nominated for Oscars previously, he or she will be listed next to his/her name in parentheses).

This year's nominees:

La La Land
14 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Damien Chazelle
  • Actor: Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson)
  • Actress: Emma Stone (Birdman or the Unexpected Value of Ignorance)
  • Original Screenplay: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
  • Cinematography: Linus Sandgren
  • Film Editing: Tom Cross (Whiplash)
  • Production Design: David Wasco & Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
  • Costume Design: Mary Zophres (True Grit)
  • Score: Justin Hurwitz
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
  • Song: "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)"
  • Song: "City of Stars"
Director: Chazelle
Cast: Gosling, Stone, John Legend, Finn Wittrock, JK Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt

The Academy clearly loved this movie – 14 nominations ties the record held by All about Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997) for the most nominations any film has received – and there is actually lots to love about this movie. For me, the whole is not quite as good as the sum of its parts, but this is by no means a bad movie. In fact, it is very good. There are just a lot of better things out there. My chief problem with La La Land is that it is peddling a bunch of romantic nonsense. For the folks behind La La Land, all you need are dreams, and you can succeed. In fact, the film jumps forward five years in order to skip over all of the actual work needed to succeed in any field. La La Land wants only dreams – and it runs for the Hollywood Hills as soon as it's time to get down to business. In any case, 2016 was a rough year of all of us and maybe the Academy just needs a little singing and dancing to get them through, you know? If they want to pretend that Los Angeles is like a musical comedy, then, well, can we really blame them? Musical comedy is certainly preferable to the orange hellscape of corruption that is the United States government. But let's talk about each nomination in turn, because it deserves all of its sound nominations and its song nominations. And if the singing is terrible, Justin Hurwitz' score is gorgeous and totally makes up for that; I listen to it all the time. Production design, cinematography, and editing are indeed all well-deserved nominations. I am less sold on the above-the-line nominations (director, picture, actor, actress), Chazelle, Gosling, and Stone are all hard workers and none has ever won before, so it's hard to be mad about any of this. In fact, if you look at the list of collaborators above, you will find only won Oscar winner – Tom Cross. This is a strong team, and I am happy for them, even if the awards sweep on February 26th is going to mean for a less interesting telecast than usual.
Will Win: Picture, Director, Actress, Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Original Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Song ("City of Stars")
Could Win: Actor, Original Screenplay
My Rating: #28 out of 84

8 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Barry Jenkins
  • Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins & Tarrel Alvin McCraney
  • Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali
  • Supporting Actor: Naomie Harris
  • Cinematography: James Laxton
  • Film Editing: Joi McMillon & Nat Sanders
  • Score: Nicholas Britell
Director: Jenkins
Cast: Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome

This movie is absolutely great, and I am so happy that it has received so much love. I have already written about it here, so I won't go into it again. When I saw Moonlight, I immediately thought that there was no way the Academy was going to pay any attention to it at all, and I have been continually surprised by the love showered on it by the establishment and by audiences everywhere. This is fabulous. It's an excellent movie and deserves its accolades. It is one of my favorite films of the year. Note, too, that this is a group of first-time nominees in every category. I think we should be most surprised by the nomination for Nicholas Britell, but his score is beautiful, and this is a very exciting choice by the music branch, who, it must be admitted, made lots of good choices this year. Moonlight is probably only going to win two statues on the 26th, but many many more people are going to see this movie because of these trophies, and that will need to be good enough.
Will Win: Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay
Could Win: Picture, Director, Cinematography, Film Editing
My Rating: #9 out of 84

8 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Denis Villeneuve
  • Adapted Screenplay: Eric Heisserer
  • Cinematography: Bradford Young
  • Film Editing: Joe Walker (12 Years a Slave)
  • Production Design: Patrice Vermette (The Young Victoria) & Paul Hotte
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
Director: Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma, Mark O'Brien

On one hand, it is a surprise that the Academy loved this movie so much. It showed up in a few more categories than it was expected to show (film editing, production design, screenplay), but everyone thought Amy Adams was a lock for a nomination. She is excellent in this movie, and was fully deserving of a nomination (particularly because of her great work in Nocturnal Animals, as well), but she was, apparently, not enough people's favorite actress of the year this year, and she missed out on a nomination. It was the weirdest surprise of nomination morning. Still, Arrival showed very well, even if I don't think it will go home with any statues, and everyone should be proud. This is an excellent movie with a strong feminist strain. It's a bit of a mystery film, as well as a science-fiction film, but more than that it is a feminist rallying cry, asking us to let go of traditional ideas and rethink language, as well as time, from the perspective of collaboration and circularity. I enjoyed this quite a bit, and I've been recommending it to everyone.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing
My Rating: #20 out of 84

25 January 2017

Some 2016 Movies That Didn't Get Oscar Nominations

Recently I've been trying to finish up my 2016 list – I've seen 82 for the year and have another 42 to go – and since the Oscar nominations barely came out on Tuesday morning, I've mostly been seeing other stuff on my list, that is: films that I knew were not going to get nominated, but that I wanted to see. Here are some movies that were not on Oscar's radar that I got to see recently:

Chris Kelly's Other People. Gayportance alert! This film is about a television writer who moves back to his hometown because his mom gets sick. It features a lovely performance by Molly Shannon as the dying mother. This movie is really funny, like laugh-out-loud hilarious. It's a comedy about watching your mom die, so that is sort of an awkward story to tell, of course, but it is really sweet and the comedy totally works. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Other People is also about dealing with a homophobic family, but this isn't really the focus of the movie, thankfully, and it becomes more of a film about getting older and figuring out how important family actually is or isn't for an adult queer who has moved to the city and attempted to leave the small town behind.

More gayportance! Andrew Ahn's Spa Night is a simple, sexy little film about a young Korean-American living in Los Angeles who is trying to figure out lots of things. More than anything else, Spa Night is a careful character study. We spend a great deal of time with the main character, played beautifully by Joe Seo, and this time is always compelling.

Spa Night is a coming-out, coming-of-age story, but the cultural specificity of growing up in this Korean-immigrant household makes this worth seeing. It premiered at Sundance last year and is on Netflix right now. It will be of interest mostly to gay men, of course, and probably not to anyone else. I was into it, though.

And then there's Andrea Arnold's American Honey, which is basically perfect. American Honey is so good that it is actually difficult to talk about it in normal paragraphs. Andrea Arnold, as you probably already know, is a superb filmmaker (her earlier Fish Tank is on Netflix and ought to be viewed immediately if you haven't seen it yet). Honey is a movie about the feelings of loss, desperation, desire, and disaffection that are so prevalent in the United States right now. For Arnold, a British director, to have come to the U.S. to make a film about USAmerican disaffection might seem an odd choice, but let me tell you: it works.

I read a critic somewhere who said that Andrea Arnold's films feel like her main characters feel (maybe Richard Lawson?), and that is absolutely true for American Honey, which is scary and weird, but also emotionally full and filled with delights. It boasts great performances by newcomer Sasha Lane (who was discovered by Arnold on a Florida beach), Riley Keough, and Shia LaBeouf, who proves once again that he is a terrific actor and probably the best actor of his generation. (Listen, I know the man is probably crazy, but he is ferociously talented.)

American Honey is about USAmerican poverty, about trying to find direction, in a country suffering from job loss and drug epidemics. It's about looking for love and affection as a way to redirect the pain of this poverty and unemployment and drug use. It's about scrounging for a buck and doing whatever you need to do to keep going. I loved this movie.

23 January 2017

Oscar Nomination Wish List

The nominations are tomorrow at 8:18am, and I am pretty excited. I tell people this is like my Christmas morning, and I guess that's fairly true. What I really love about nomination morning is the surprises, though, so what I am really hoping for is for strange things to happen, unexpected people to get in, shocking inclusions.

Here are things I am hoping for for Tuesday morning. Many of these are longshots, but I will be crossing my fingers anyway:
  • Isabelle Huppert, Best Actress for Elle
  • Annette Bening, Best Actress for 20th Century Women
  • Down with Florence Foster Jenkins in all categories including Best Actress. Meryl Streep needs to give us all a break.
  • Up with Deadpool in all categories. I haven't seen it yet, but who cares. 
  • Paul Verhoeven, Best Director for Elle (it could happen!)
  • Down with Jackie in all categories
  • Tom Ford, Best Director for Nocturnal Animals 
  • Up with Nocturnal Animals in all categories
  • The Red Turtle for Animated Feature
  • "Take Me Down", Best Original Song for Deepwater Horizon
  • "Gone 2015", Best Original Song for Miles Ahead
  • "Drive It Like You Stole It", Best Original Song for Sing Street
  • Andrew Garfield, Best Actor for Hacksaw Ridge
  • Jay Wadley, Best Score for Indignation
  • Alexandre Desplat, Best Score for The Light between Oceans 
  • Moonlight in all categories (I'm hoping for it to appear in some surprise categories)
  • Saela Davis, Anna Rose Holmer, and Lisa Kjerulff, Best Original Screenplay for The Fits 
I guess that is enough dreaming...

22 January 2017

Best Actress 2016

My top choices in the order I would place them on my Academy ballot if I were allowed to vote. In other words, this is my top five, but I acknowledge that this list is already influenced by awards buzz, and the actresses who I think would theoretically benefit the most from my vote are at the top.

ANNETTE BENING, 20th Century Women



ISABELLE HUPPERT, L'Avenir (Things to Come)


Also loved:
Amy Adams, Nocturnal Animals
Juliette Binoche, L'Attesa (The Wait)
Sonia Braga, Aquarius
Sally Field, Hello, My Name Is Doris
Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures
Royalty Hightower, The Fits
Sandra Hüller, Toni Erdmann
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Lou de Laâge, Les Innocentes (The Innocents)
Ruth Negga, Loving
Susan Sarandon, The Meddler
Léa Seydoux, Journal d'une Femme de Chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid)

Apologies to:
Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane), Catherine Deneuve (Standing Tall), and Krisha Fairchild (Krisha), whose films I have not yet seen but will see soon.

My Best Actress picks from past years (2004-2016)
My Best Actor picks from 2016
My Best Supporting Actress picks from 2016
My Best Supporting Actor picks from 2016

21 January 2017

Best Actor 2016

My top choices in the order I would place them on my Academy ballot if I were allowed to vote. In other words, this is my top five, but I acknowledge that this list is already influenced by awards buzz, and the actors who I think would theoretically benefit the most from my vote are at the top.

VIGGO MORTENSEN, Captain Fantastic



CASEY AFFLECK, Manchester by the Sea

Also loved:
Cliff Curtis, The Dark Horse
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Colin Farrell, The Lobster
Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash
Ben Foster, The Program
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nocturnal Animals
Shahab Hosseini, The Salesman (فروشنده)

Apologies to:
Gael García Bernal (Neruda), Dave Johns (I, Daniel Blake), Shia LaBeouf (Man Down), and Miles Teller (Bleed for This) whose films I have not yet seen but will see soon.

My Best Actor picks from past years (2004-2016)
My Best Actress picks from 2016 (TBA)
My Best Supporting Actress picks from 2016
My Best Supporting Actor picks from 2016

20 January 2017

Best Supporting Actress 2016

My top choices in the order I would place them on my Academy ballot if I were allowed to vote. In other words, this is my top five, but I acknowledge that this list is already influenced by awards buzz, and the actresses whom I think would theoretically benefit the most from my vote are at the top.

AGATA BUZEK, Les Innocentes (The Innocents)

SARAH GADON, Indignation



MICHELLE WILLIAMS, Manchester by the Sea

Also loved:
Tyne Daly, Hello, My Name Is Doris
Linda Emond, Indignation
Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
Agata Kulesza, Les Innocentes (The Innocents)
Laura Linney, Nocturnal Animals
Katy Mixon, Hell or High Water
Mélodie Valemberg, Journal d'une Femme de Chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid)

My Best Supporting Actress picks from past years (2004-2015)
My Best Actress picks from 2016 (TBA)
My Best Actor picks from 2016 (TBA)
My Best Supporting Actor picks from 2016

19 January 2017

Best Supporting Actor 2016

My top choices in the order I would place them on my Academy ballot if I were allowed to vote. In other words, this is my top five, but I acknowledge that this list is already influenced by awards buzz, and the actors whom I think would theoretically benefit the most from my vote are at the top.


SHIA LaBEOUF, American Honey

JOEL EDGERTON, Midnight Special



Also loved:
Riz Ahmed, Rogue One
Sylvain Dieuaide, Marguerite
Colman Domingo, The Birth of a Nation
Russell Hornsby, Fences
Laurent Lafitte, Elle
Dev Patel, Lion
Jack Reynor, Sing Street
James Rolleston, The Dark Horse
Matthias Schoenaerts, A Bigger Splash
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Hugo Weaving, Hacksaw Ridge

My Best Supporting Actor picks from past years (2004-2015)
My Best Actress picks from 2016 (TBA)
My Best Actor picks from 2016 (TBA)
My Best Supporting Actress picks from 2016 (TBA)

18 January 2017

Pregame: the Longshots

My November-February movie-watching is dictated by a couple of important parameters:
The Oscar nominations don't arrive until late January, but if I wait until the nominations come out, lots of things will no longer be in theatres, especially movies that don't do well. But, see, lots of bad movies get Oscar nominations in categories like Best Original Song, Best Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects. So I pick through what I think could be nominated and then basically gamble. What I don't want to happen is have a movie get nominated for something totally random like Best Sound Editing and then have it be in that period of time between theatrical release and Internet release when I can't catch it before the Oscars. This occasionally leads to some pretty egregious pregames... and to me seeing some terrible movies.

Here are some of my most egregious pregames of this awards season:

Trolls. Yes, I did see Trolls. Justin Timberlake's song "Can't Stop the Feeling!" was one of my not-so-guilty pleasures last Summer, and it was super popular. It was written specifically for Trolls, so a nomination seems sort of inevitable. This happened when Pharrel got nominated for "Happy" for that stupid Despicable Me 2 concoction a couple years ago. In truth every year some idiotic films get nominated in this country, and I am forced to figure out a way to see them (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Lego Movie, Ted, The Muppets, you get the idea). I figured I would take the bull by the horns this year and get myself to the theatre for Trolls.

The verdict? It was so totally asinine. But I honestly didn't mind. It was plenty of fun, and even though I think Anna Kendrick is annoying, the movie has Christine Baranski, as well as enough irony about its own stupidity to squeak by. Will it be nominated? I still think so, although there is a lot of competition.

Allied. I am an asshole for seeing this one. I don't know what I was thinking. I think I had in my mind that this was vaguely about World War II and that its 1940s dresses and suits and possibly even the art direction would hook a nomination even though the critics tore this one to pieces and audiences seemed soft on the thing. That costume category can be very strange. How is a person to predict a movie like Mr. Turner or The Grandmaster or The Invisible Woman? These things are difficult.

The verdict? This movie is terrible. I almost never like Marion Cotillard in movies where she speaks predominantly English, and this one is no exception. She looks awkward in almost every scene, as though she isn't quite positive that she understands what she's saying. Now, this could work for her character, who is supposed to be a foreign spy, but it doesn't. And Brad Pitt (who I have said before is a brilliant actor) is totally phoning this one in. He is dull and stilted. He's supposed to be playing a bit of a previously-unloved dork, too, which makes no sense because he is Brad fucking Pitt and is cooler than most people who have lived on this earth in all of human history. Also, the script is terrible, and it appears as though a few superfluous shootout sequences behind enemy lines were added at the last minute just to give this bland narrative some spice. But nothing could have saved it. A disaster. Will it be nominated? No way.

Doctor Strange. I went to see this because everyone was talking about its special effects and because people drunkenly recommended it to me. I know you aren't into Marvel movies, Aaron, but trust me on this one. That sort of thing. Special Effects movies can be dangerous to miss, too, because sometimes the lag between theatres and the blu-ray release can take a while. So off to Doctor Strange I went.

The verdict? Boring. Why are all of these Marvel movies exactly the same. And why is the world always about to end so that all of humanity is threatened with destruction? Can't we, in one of these Marvel movies, just be threatened with something a little less apocalyptic? Perhaps magical space-bending wizards could avert the destruction of, like, 500,000 people or simply figure out how to stop a military coup in a European (or South American, I'm not picky) dictatorship. Why not? Why do they always need to repair the fraying of the space-time continuum or some other silly thing. Like, ooooo, I wonder if the superheroes will manage to stave off the apocalypse until yet another sequel offers a new threat to human existence. Yep, turns out they did! Whew, that was a close one. Will it be nominated? Yeah, I think so. The effects really are cool.

I've already talked about Rules Don't Apply, which I thought might nab a nomination or two, and The Dressmaker, which I thought might get a costume nomination, so I won't go into those here, especially since I don't think either will get nominated for anything next Tuesday. But I do have one more:

Hacksaw Ridge. This is the new Mel Gibson movie, and I had planned to see it with a friend, but he and I had seen a couple of real stinkers in a row, and I got nervous. I couldn't bear watching another really bad one with him. I wanted to make sure the next one we saw together was really good. I also wasn't really sure what this could be nominated for – sound? sound editing? acting?

The verdict? The film's first and second acts are both rather uneven – and do not seem to match one another either – but Hacksaw Ridge is amazing. It's stunningly, shockingly good, and the presentation of the violence during the war sequences is so fast and head-spinning, so disgustingly grotesque, so absolutely horrific that I sat with my jaw dropped for most of act three. I have never seen anything like the violence in this movie. I mean that honestly. And this movie's distaste for the violence of war is not only a part of its plot – the central storyline is about a soldier who refuses to carry a weapon and do harm to anyone else – it is part of its filmmaking as well. The direction of these war sequences is so refreshingly opposed to the horrors of war. It's great.

And will it get nominated for anything? Hacksaw Ridge has emerged as one of the frontrunners in the race this year. It's one of the big surprises of the year. People are talking about Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay. It could rack up 6 or 7 nominations next Tuesday and I wouldn't be surprised. If it does, it will have deserved them.

03 January 2017

91 Songs

Happy New Year! The Oscar nominations will be announced early in the morning on January 24th, but several categories (Makeup, Visual Effects, Foreign Language Picture, Score, and Song) have already had short lists released by the Academy. In this post, I invited some of my funniest friends to listen to some of the enormous short-list of 91 songs and pick their favorites. There are ninety-one of these tunes, though, so this was a project, but my friends are troupers and they brought the hilarity below. (You will notice, by the way, that "No Dames" from Hail, Caesar! and "Sledgehammer" from Star Trek Beyond are not eligible. I have no idea why this is.)

I'll share our twelve favorite songs first (each of us picked our 5 favorites, but there was lots of overlap), and then the rest alphabetically. These were the best of the bunch:

“Gone 2015” from Miles Ahead
Justin: Really liked it. Reminded me of Digable Planets and other ’90s jazz-influenced hip-hop. Also nice to see young jazz guys like Robert Glasper pushing the genre forward.
Aaron: This is a great song. It would be awesome if it got nominated.
Alex: I love Robert Glasper. A+++++.

"Take Me Down" from Deepwater Horizon
Ryan: As someone from the Gulf Coast, who obsessively watched all the coverage of Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent ecological and cultural catastrophe, I don’t know what on earth this song is meant to evoke from that except the most generalized “down home” vibe.
Aaron: This song is by Gary Clark Jr. and starts off with a harmonica and a guitar. I loved it from start to finish. This is one of my favorites of the eligible songs.
Justin: Gary Clark Jr. is the truth. Loved the song. Hopefully he’ll get to perform it at the Oscars.
Alex: It’s fine.

“I See a Victory” from Hidden Figures
Aaron: Ok I love this. It has a gospel, soul feel to it and I am all about it.
Justin: Watched this last night. A perfect movie for a substitute teacher to play during fourth period. Song is fine, but generic.
Ryan: Did they not think to use Janelle?!? 
Alex: I’m into it. But yeah, Janelle woulda been the right call.
Ryan: UGH, this was a fave, until Kim Burrell got all homophobic! Seriously, come through, Janelle!

"Runnin'" from Hidden Figures
Aaron: Pharrell Williams! He is awesome. He needs another nomination, but I don’t think this song is very good. But who knows what the Academy will do. Also, I don’t think I realized before that Pharrell can’t really sing.
Justin: Pharrell can make a hit in his sleep, which exactly sounds like what happened here.
Ryan: See above.
Alex: YASSSSS. Hidden Figures soundtrack, werk.

“City of Stars” from La La Land
Aaron: Catchy. Plus this is the movie’s central song. It is getting nominated. It’s the movie’s most hummable, singable song.
Ryan: There was more poetry in every line of Moonlight. Sadly, I fear this movie is going to stomp all over Moonlight. #OscarsSoWhite
Alex: Is Ryan Gosling singing?? No me gusta. Song is Ok-ish.

"Still Falling for You" from Bridget Jones's Baby
Aaron: The song is sung by Ellie Goulding, and actually I think this might be one of the best of the bunch. I do not care about Bridget Jones or her baby, but the song is a winner.
Justin: “Ellie Goulding” is such a Muggle name.
Alex: I wanted to like this so badly – I have a weakness for the B. Jones stories and, like most women, love P. Dempsey and C. Firth. (I’m enjoying these initials.) But I can’t support a song whose single line refrain IS THE SAME NOTE 5 TIMES. Also for the remainder of the list, I’m only listening to songs that either pique my interest or whose comments by A./J./R. Intrigue me.

 "I'm Still Here" from Miss Sharon Jones!
Aaron: It would have been totally cool for them to nominate Sharon Jones for this. But Miss Jones died in November 2016. It’s a real missed opportunity, and who would sing this song now?
Justin: Best song on the list hands down. Janelle Monáe could sing it?
Alex: Janelle for Pres 2020!

“How Far I'll Go” from Moana
Ryan: This may just be that sweet, naive anthem we need to delude ourselves that somehow we'll manage 2017 better than we did 2016.
Aaron: Pretty hard not to love this song. And it is the centerpiece of this musical film, which everyone loves. The song comes back again and again throughout Moana.

“Blind Pig” from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Aaron: This is a jazzy number that I loved.
Justin: Cool little song. I wouldn’t nominate it, but a cool song, still.
Ryan: I really enjoyed imagining this tune with a light, gay BDSM-themed music video, per the title.

“Never Give Up” from Lion
Aaron: This is one of two Sia songs this year. This one is better than the one from The Eagle Huntress. If you’re into Sia you will probably like this. The lyrics are actually related to this movie in some way, unlike some of these songs.
Justin: It’s like the underdog team just won the championship! Tell me I’m wrong.
Alex: Justin is right. And I feel like I could totally go to the Olympics when I listen to this. I love Sia and I really like this. Indian music in beginning is slightly corny though.

“Drive It Like You Stole It” from Sing Street
Justin: This movie was great and so is the song.
Aaron: I love this. It sounds like an upbeat Spandau Ballet song. I need them to nominate this. And all of the images from this video make me want to see this movie.

“Moonshine” from Live by Night
Aaron: Foy Vance singing about moonshine and bootlegging? I like this kind of country music. In fact, I pretty much love this song. But while we’re talking about Live by Night… this got released on Christmas Day, clearly aiming for end-of-year awards, but it has appeared on no one’s lists. In fact, no one is even talking about this movie.
Justin: I like it, but it’s no Gary Clark Jr.

And now for the rest (i.e. the other 79 songs...): 

Alex: I’m somewhat a fan of Pink, even when her songs are, like this one, somewhat meh. I think it’s some weird form of nostalgia for my youth. Anyway, the framing of the video, though, is so unnecessary: dude has wife who hangs from trapeze all the time, and then cut to him throwing her in the loony bin. What is Pink trying to tell us?! (For the record, probably none of my comments will have anything to do with movies. And I usually listen to 30 sec of each song. Gotta be efficient, people.)
Aaron: Girl power! Pink’s song for Alice through the Looking Glass is about going through glass ceilings. “We came here to run it!” the chorus says, and she has a group of singers behind her. I am not into this kind of music, but it has a great pop beat and will connect with lots of folks.
Justin: OMG the video starts off with a Corey Hart cameo. Anyway, the song is fine in that generic, written-by-a-Scandanavian-pop-savant way. I didn’t watch the movie, but I doubt it has as many practical effects as the music video. Also, has P!nk always had that exclamation in her name?

“Rise” from American Wrestler: the Wizard
Aaron: I cannot seem to find this song anywhere, but it is fittingly performed by Andy Madadian, the Armenian-Iranian singer who now lives in Los Angeles.
Justin: This movie isn’t about The Grand Wizard from the WWE, so it is invalid.

Aaron: This is a Blake Shelton – i.e. country – song. I don’t get it.
Justin: Just like the movie, I quit after a few minutes.
Alex: I watched a little just to see who this guy was because he is Gwyneth Paltrow’s new husband. I tried to think about some funny comparison to her former husband, who heads Coldplay but mostly I just think they are both mediocre musicians. Also, the song – at least the first 30 seconds – was terribly annoying.

Justin: The movie is about bullying and teen suicide, so of course Tori Amos is the perfect choice. I also have never understood the appeal of Ms. Amos, since the only Amos I like makes cookies and is famous for it.
Aaron: “Flicker” is by Tori Amos, the singer I was most obsessed with in high school and college. This is a weird song. Maybe I needed to have seen Audrie & Daisy to get it, but I have never heard of this documentary. The song is pretty enough, and I guess the Academy has been interested in songs from documentaries lately.
Alex: Something about attaching Tori Amos to a Netflix documentary about cyberbullying and high school rape makes her seems cliché in a way I don’t think she deserves. (Even if the doc is important and good, which it may well be.) I do like the song but I have to actively detach it from thinking about it as backdrop to dramatic moments.

Justin: Umlaut party! The song is boring, or should I say, böring.
Aaron: This movie looks like it might be good. This song is not.
Alex: I’m so excited that this strange letter ð is in the singer’s first name. That’s all I’m really excited about here. Besides the fact that the Wikipedia entry defines the movie in a highly hyphenated way: “an American-Icelandic-French mystery-drama film”.

Aaron: From Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. This is their only musical outing this year at the movies. I like these guys, but this song is a downer; in fact, it is an apocalyptic climate-change song, with a tone like a judge issuing a life sentence to a criminal.
Alex: This is fine. I mean, it sounds like the right song to musically illustrate the slow demise of humankind.
Justin: This would’ve been better as a Johnny Cash cover.

Aaron: God alert. This tune involves the word “Emmanuel”, which in Hebrew means “God with us”.
Alex: The invocation of God combined with the catchiness of the song just makes me uncomfortable.
Justin: “Hey, it’s me, Pastor Nick. I know some people think Christians can be square, but what they don’t know is that we rock! Now join me in singing this tastefully rocking but still praise-worthy song! Also, gays are still bad and life starts at conception. 1-2-3-4!!!”

Alex: I feel like I’ve heard similar versions of the instrumental part in like 5 different movies?
Aaron: More about the god. “I call you mine but you’re truly his”, the first line of the song says, “He’s the reason we exist…”
Justin: “Pastor Nick here. Remember, the bus is leaving at 10 am sharp for the retreat. We will leave your booties behind. I’m not joking. BTW, has anybody seen my car keys? They were on the piano.”

Aaron: This has a breezy, country, guitar-strum vibe. But then Rachel Taylor starts singing about prayer. I couldn’t finish it.
Alex: I ignored the lyrics so I didn’t fall into the trap Aaron did. And lo and behold, it was quite pleasurable.
Justin: “Haha, very funny. Found my keys in the men’s toilet. I know it was you,Toby. Have fun walking to the retreat, buddy.”

Aaron: I still can’t believe they remade Ben-Hur. Like, it won 11 Oscars in 1960. We needed a new CGI-fest version of this novel? I kind of enjoyed this tune by Andra Day, although its lyrics baffle me: “Revenge is so loud / and the drums are so proud”? What does that mean?
Justin: Haven’t we Ben-Hur before? LOLOLOL But seriously... why?
Ryan: Rihanna for the History Channel.

Aaron: This is real? This song involves the lyric “I’m like fuck you, fuck her, and fuck them” and also the lyrics “White Russian? Really?” and “dad get out of my room, I’m rapping.” Not for me.
Justin: If the song is as funny as the movie, then I’ll pass.

Aaron: This is by a band called Short Sleeve Heart. The song is sentimental nonsense. Awful.
Justin: Agreed.

Aaron: This has a kind of Sigur Ros sound to it. I loved it.
Justin: Forgot this movie even came out. The song is whatever.

Aaron: This is mournful and meditative and I was bored.
Justin: I liked it in that True Detective-theme song way. Strange this is from that border-crossing horror movie.

Aaron: I was into this until the singers started singing. No thanks.
Justin: The trailer for this movie is cut like it’s Drive, or something, which I feel it is nothing like. The song also seems like it’s for another movie, a movie I still wouldn’t watch, but another movie, nonetheless.

Aaron: This is Sia’s second song from this year. It feels different from her other stuff. Slower. I was bored.
Justin: I like that most of Sia’s songs sound like the final song in an ’80s sports movie.
Alex: I love Sia’s voice but am not inspired by this song.

Aaron: Why is this guy yelling through this ostensibly sensitive little tune?
Justin: I started watching this doc the other day. Interesting subject, uninteresting song.

Aaron: This is a country tune from Lucinda Williams that is basically terrible.
Justin: I’m guessing they couldn’t get Tom Waits?

Aaron: This song was nominated for a Golden Globe. It legitimately sucks, so I don’t know how that is possible. Also, this movie looks terrible.
Justin: Didn’t Matty McConaughey already do a movie called Fool’s Gold? Also, the song is basically what they filter in when you’re trying on skinny jeans at Urban Outfitters.

Aaron: Oh Usher! He’s so cute.
Justin: Ugh. I hate it. Is this for a Disney channel movie?

Aaron: This song is delightful. In the movie, Doris attends a Baby Goya concert as a part of her plot to seduce the man she’s crushing on.
Justin: It’s cute, but if Jack Antonoff gets nominated for this I’m going back in time and voting for Trump.

Aaron: Oh my god. Awful.
Justin: Are we on a subway? Do you have a dollar I could give this guy so he’ll get off at the next stop?
Ryan: The title alone should have warned us from listening. Also, can things never again feat. Josh Fox, whoever the fuck that is.
Alex: I want to know what charisma smells like. But I’m not going to listen to this song.

Aaron: This is the fifth Ice Age movie. These must make money, but there must also be a lot of dead souls at 20th Century Fox. Jesus Christ. Five of these?
Justin: This song is a Collision Course of awfulness, amirite?
Ryan: Never have I ever seen an Ice Age movie. (Smugly doesn’t take a drink.)
Alex: Me neither.

Aaron: The Academy has the opportunity to nominate Leon Redbone for an Oscar here, but I can’t see them taking it. This song sounds like something my uncle made up to sing after too many whiskeys.
Justin: It’s the Mr. Belvedere guy!

Justin: I sort of hate Sting.
Aaron: Oh, I was into this. I like it.
Ryan: Is it terrible that before researching this I thought it was about Mark Foley, the Republican congressman who sexted underage boys?

Aaron: This is from an emotional part of the film, and it is a beautiful little ditty.

Aaron: This was really fun. If I remember correctly, though, the Academy rules allow only two songs from any one film to be nominated, so I expect John Legend’s tune gets left off the list.

Aaron: Zzzzzzzzz.
Justin: I’ll watch this doc and cry because that is what I do these days.

Aaron: I am into this Hozier’s voice. I can’t really understand what he’s saying, but I kind of don’t mind. Did anyone see this Tarzan movie? I don’t feel like anyone did.
Justin: Errbody ripping off Antony and the Johnsons nowadays.

Aaron: I actually think this tune could surprise on the morning of the nominations. I think it is boring, but it is from The Little Prince, and people may have a feeling when they listen to it.
Justin: I liked the movie, but do not like this song.

Aaron: I have no idea what is happening in this song or what this woman is saying, but it is all cute. I would really enjoy this song if I were super drunk.
Justin: Great montage song.

Aaron: I liked this movie, but this song is annoying.
Justin: I’m not Loving this.

Aaron: This song is by Michel Legrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman, who were the expert songwriters for Oscar nominations for years. Does that mean that this showtune-like song featuring musical-theatre performer Melissa Errico could get a nomination? Somehow I don’t think so, but it could happen.
Justin: Blergh.

Aaron: I forget how many celebrity singers do these songs. This one is by Florence + the Machine. If the Oscar-voters really wanted to nominated popular singers so that they could have a great show in February, they actually could. This should probably be a little reassuring. When voters nominated David Lang’s “Simple Song #3” and Antony’s “Manta Ray” last year it was bad for the Oscar telecast because those folks are not big stars, but it was nice for them to have Oscar nominations. Voters are not simply choosing the most popular singers.
Justin: This sounds like the main song for the next James Bond.

Aaron: Everyone’s favorite Pulitzer-prize-winning songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda actually appears in Moana as little Moana’s ancestor in one of the movie’s coolest sequences. There isn’t much to the song, though, and Lin-Manuel is not a singer. Before we are done talking about Moana, I have to ask why The Rock’s song from the movie, “You’re Welcome”, is not on this list. Perhaps they didn’t submit it? That seems silly on the surface, but Disney, knowing that each movie can only get two nominations maximum, has probably decided only to submit two songs from each of its films in order not to split any votes. It has only submitted two songs from each of its other musicals as well (Pete’s Dragon, The Little Prince). Still, “We Know the Way” was definitely the wrong choice here. “You’re Welcome” is such a better song.
Alex: Aaron has very complex and informed feelings on this song and others in this movie. All I can say is I AM INTO THIS ONE. I WANT TO EXPLORE THE WORLD ON A RAFT.

Aaron: Um, Rita Wilson sings this song. I have nothing else to say.
Ryan: Is Rita Wilson in MBFGW2?
Alex: According to Spotify, Rita Wilson has 4 ALBUMS OUT. OK, 2 are Xmas albums but still. Who knew that Rita was such a little songbird? I really hope she and Tom Hanks do a Hanukkah duet album next year. But because she is a Renaissance lady, yes, she IS ALSO in MBFGW2.
Justin: I think she performed this on The Today Show, right before they showed the three best ways to beat holiday weight.

Aaron: I lied, Sia apparently has a third song eligible for an Oscar nomination this year. This played over the end credits of this mess of a movie and isn’t a terrible song, even though I have no idea what she’s saying. Seriously, though, I don’t care because fuck The Neon Demon.
Alex: I have a hard time being critical of anything Sia does. Even things by her I don’t like initially I end up playing on repeat. This is not the best but I’ll probably get hooked on it. Unsurprisingly, I know nothing about the movie.
Justin: “...and new champion, Daniel LaRusso Jr!” - From The New New Karate Kid: Just Kiddin’

Aaron: More country music. Some of these are better than others. For this one, Edwin McCain has composed the song just a bit higher than his own range. That leads to some seriously strained notes.
Justin: If by “his own range” you mean “good,” then yes.

“Find My Victory” from Olympic Pride, American Prejudice
Aaron: Here’s another one I can’t find. This is performed by Tony Hightower, but that’s all I can seem to figure out about this song.
Alex: I smell a conspiracy. WHERE ARE ALL THESE SONGS?

Aaron: I don’t get it.
Justin: Is this from Moana?

Aaron: Green Day? Please retire.
Alex: I’m not even listening because I agree with Aaron.
Justin: “There’s something so predictable, and in the end it’s rife, this song is just a ripoff of Time of Your Life.”

Aaron: I am getting bored with this project. This song is boring.
Justin: Half the songs on this list are this Portlandia sketch.

Aaron: This song is from the band Imagine Dragons and it basically consists of them saying “levitate” numerous times.
Justin: Imagine if this was a good song.

Aaron: A.R. Rahman composed this. This is one of those rousing things that feels like something that plays over a victory sequence or over the end credits of an uplifting sports movie.
Justin: This would sound better with Sia singing it.

Aaron: This is pretty but sort of forgettable.

Aaron: The best thing about this song is the weird girl in the video who is trying to dance sexily while fiddling at the same time. It makes no sense at all. Especially since this is a kids’ movie.

Aaron: This is a Burt Bacharach tune sung by Sheryl Crow. But I am sorry to report that it is boring.

Aaron: “My apple crumble is by far the most crumblest / But I act like it tastes bad out of humbleness.” Hahaha. Also Andy Samberg is really sexy.

Aaron: This is from a music documentary about a YouTube singer, and it would be totally awesome if it got nominated.

Aaron: I guess I didn’t realize how many of these original songs come from documentaries every year. There are so many. I am bored by this slow, meditative song, but I am sure it has a very nice emotional effect in this film I would never watch normally.

Aaron: Uh oh. Alicia Keys. I wouldn’t really like this song even if someone else sang it, but since Alicia Keys is not a very good singer, I was definitely not interested in this.

Aaron: This begins with trumpets and is one of those “inspiring”, “heartfelt” songs about “stakes”, “true victory”, and “nothing to lose”. It is legitimately awful.

Aaron: Awful.
Aaron: Songs with "a message" like this one, Alex, make me want to die. How's that for honesty?

Aaron: In Rules Don’t Apply, this is such a beautiful theme song. The clip is from the movie itself. The song comes back later in the picture, so this isn’t all there is to the tune, but the clip demonstrates how embedded into the plot the film itself is. I will be happy if this gets nominated.

Aaron: Charmingly ironic and delightfully filthy. As a melody, it isn’t much, but this is really about lyric showmanship. This is very very clever and perfect for the movie, but I wouldn’t listen to it on its own ever.
Ryan: Alan Menken? I’m in.

Aaron: This is sung by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande. But that can’t make this a good song. And I am praying that I don’t have to see this movie, because it looks asinine and boy do I hate these Illumination Entertainment studio offerings.

Aaron: This is not bad, and I like the two singers (Sam Tsui and Madilyn Bailey). Also, this video is fun - filmed using a selfie stick at Universal Citywalk (even if their lipsynching doesn’t always quite match the track).

Aaron: This song is very different from the other Sing Street tune. But this one features Adam Levine having a feeling, so I assume this one will be nominated and the '80s-inspired one that I love will not be nominated. I should, perhaps, have more faith in the Academy’s music branch, but I do not. (Actually, this song gets better as it goes on longer. I shouldn’t be so mean.)

Aaron: This is a Peter Gabriel song, but… well... he’s sort of talk-singing in this? Maybe into an autotune machine? This is so weird and bad.

Aaron: Yes, Céline Dion! Come through, girl. I actually don’t know what Snowtime! is, and I thought the song was sort of just generically sweet. But it’s Céline!
Alex: That’s right, boy, observe that accent! I was also weirdly excited to listen to Céline. I really do find it funny when a singer is singing about really emotional topics and the music video cuts to really emotional Pixar characters. “Don’t give up, little computer generated boy!!!”

“Kiss Me Goodnight” from Southwest of Salem: the Story of the San Antonio Four
Aaron: Another one I can’t find. But this movie is about a witch trial! In Texas!

Aaron: I was into this. I like its beat. And the way the singer sounds like he’s in a beachfront bar on a Florida key. It makes me feel like drinking an icy drink filled with rum. And that’s never a bad thing.
Alex: I feel like he is in a cabin in the Adirondacks. But anyway, it’s an OK song.

Aaron: I keep forgetting Will Smith was in this movie. In an case, the song isn’t very good, but I have to admit to being into it. It is catchy even if it is badly written.
Justin: It’s like KROQ made an algorithm of successful current songs, fed it into a computer, and this is what was spit out.

Aaron: This made me want to jump out of a window and break my neck.
Alex: Yup. Bad.

Aaron: “Montage” is one of the best sequences in Swiss Army Man, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a song.

Aaron: I have no idea what is happening here, and no one in the Academy will either. Is this song in Bambara and French? Anyway, it is not that great of a song in any language.

Aaron: Common won an Oscar for his last song for an Ava DuVernay movie, but this song doesn’t have as good of a hook, and Common lazily quotes Maya Angelou and Billie Holliday. The whole thing feels sort of phoned in.

Aaron: Is John Hawkes a singer? Too Late is not the John Hawkes film where he is a singer, right? I think maybe that was from last year and it was called Low Down. This is a reasonable mistake. He sure does do a lot of singing in movies for a man who isn’t actually a singer. Oh! Wikipedia informs me that John Hawkes was part of the Austin band Meat Joy (apparently unrelated to the Carolee Schneemann performance) and also the group King Straggler. As it turns out I have nothing to say about this boring song, but lots to say about John Hawkes’ singing career.

Aaron: I have to tell you that I hope this gets nominated because I saw Trolls expressly because I expected it to get a nomination. This was the song of Summer 2016, so I don’t see how it can miss a nomination, but I certainly suppose it could.
Justin: This movie, like Angry Birds, is about one species wanting to eat another one. So I guess the feeling that can’t be stopped is genocide?

Aaron: This song is super annoying in the film, and it is intended to be. It has a standard bubble-gum pop sound that is pretty impossible not to detest.

Aaron: Some of these documentary songs are ridiculous! This is the weirdest song. I listen to things like this and I think, well, it must work with the film. But I am not really interested in documentary filmmaking, so, I probably won’t see this movie.

Aaron: As far as I can tell this has not yet been released in the U.S. In any event, I can find no recording of this song anywhere.

Aaron: Again, it would be totally cool if this song, which was written for this music documentary, got a nomination and could be performed at the Oscars. But, I don’t know, I think We Are X and X Japan itself might be a little out there for Academy voters.

Aaron: “Wakin’ up to the pound of a hammer / Pictures on my phone, tryna piece it all together.” Hangover song. This is a mess.
Alex: All of the troops seem to have abandoned Aaron in his critical crusade. Justin? Ryan? Hello?

Aaron: Ugh. I hated this.

Aaron: I didn’t hate this one until it became a duet. This song, like “New Dogs, Old Tricks” also referred to pounding heads and hangovers. I guess that is what the movie is about?

Aaron: This song has a melody, but the singer does not sing. He instead speaks the lyrics. I don’t understand anything about this What Happened Last Night movie.

Aaron: This is a funny, tongue-in-cheek song by Eric William Morris and frequent nominee Marc Shaiman that must make sense with the movie. On its own it makes no sense.

Aaron: Shakira appears in Zootopia as a booty-shaking ibex (?) complete with homosexual background dancing tigers. The song is catchy but pretty typical fare. Not very interesting. I kind of wish “try everything” as a mantra were related to getting kids to try different foods and, like, different hairstyles. As it is, I am not sure what Shakira wants us to try.
Alex: Is she an ibex? An antelope? Plus Shakira hips + butt added, obv. I don’t know what the creature is but I am into it. And the tigers are totally A+. I’m generally fairly motivated by this song but not sure toward what. I guess everything?
Justin: Antenope!

The Contributors:
Justin thinks truffles are overrated, but Ruffles are underrated. You can find him on Instagram (justinabarca) and Twitter (@thewarclub).
Alex loves to do yoga and spill food on herself. You can find her on Instagram (ripple617) and Twitter (@ripple617).
Ryan is against nostalgia in principle yet is somehow a romantic. He can be found on Twitter (@avidyarns) and Instagram (avidyarns).