It’s nearly that magical time of year, marked by drunken live-tweeting the best (and worst) celebrity moments, cheering and booing the winners, and hoping that Jimmy Kimmel will somehow not be a complete disappointment while hosting. The 2017 Academy Awards are practically upon us, and now that Leo has won a damn Oscar everyone can really focus on how angry they’ll be when their choices fail to deliver.
The Best Picture category holds especially high regard, being teased throughout the entire ceremony as the brief main course to a series of appetizers most viewers may or may not fully care about. Which of the films will win this year? Time will tell. However, if it were up to this particular writer…
Nominees: Moonlight, Fences, Lion, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water, Arrival.
What Will Win – La La Land
Musicals do not translate as well to movies, as they don’t have the same level of immersion. Seeing a musical movie is almost on the same level as looking at pictures of other people enjoying an amusement park; there’s a clear sense of fun there, but it’s secondhand at best Those things kept in mind: La La Land, amidst the other offerings this year, is as exciting as a scoop of plain, vanilla ice cream. Yes, it has talented names attached, with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling shining like the beloved stars they are.
A writer with a slightly different view: La La Land – Moulin Rouge for a new age
The musical numbers are largely full of frantic energy and sugary-sweet cheer, with the exception of crooning, slow-as-molasses “City of Stars”. The overall tale—of dreaming of stardom, lovers struggling to find their own while make things work with each other, and the ups-and-downs of both—isn’t exactly fresh, though it plays out well enough. This would have been a lovely Broadway show if it weren’t for the fact this is the era of Hamilton, and it certainly isn’t Best Picture victory material. All the same, it turned enough heads in terms of reviews and ticket sales that this seems like the obvious choice.
What Should Win – Hidden Figures
Perhaps this is too easy a time to argue that a film celebrating diversity deserves the Academy’s accolades, especially in the wake of many #OscarsSoWhite. To make that argument, however, would be to overlook the tremendous cinematic victory that is Hidden Figures. Hollywood portrayals of historical events and figures often feel like some forced way to look back at the figures of yesterday with new reverence. Not the case with Hidden Figures. Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae step into the lives of the very real figures they play (Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, respectively) quite brilliantly. Audiences experience these actresses’ very real struggles as women of color in a workforce dominated largely by white men. (As an aside: Octavia Spencer better win that damn Supporting Actress Oscar, but that’s not the focus of this segment).
Jim Parsons plays a permutation of what everyone is used to him playing (and this is said knowing his acting capacity is so much greater than…well, this), but that doesn’t detract from the overall quality brought to theaters by Hidden Figures. If more historical depictions in cinema were approached with this kind of talent, who knows what kind of upset wins the Oscars could see? But it starts, and needs to start, with Hidden Figures. Should—and this should—win, please let there be a jab about the “Hidden Fences” gaffe.
By Philip Gorski