Matt and Matt’s Oscar Countdown: Best Actor/Actress and Picture

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By Matt Paolizzi and Matt Soderberg, Co-Student Life Editor and Opinion Editor

 


Best Actor

The Nominees

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea as Lee Chandler
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond T. Doss
Ryan Gosling – La La Land as Sebastian Wilder
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic as Ben Cash
Denzel Washington – Fences as Troy Maxson

 

Should Win – Casey Affleck

Let’s dig right into it then. Andrew Garfield should have been nominated for the critically underrated and undercovered (and under-nominated) Silence. While he’s fine in this film and has some great camera stealing moments, it’s Mel Gibson’s direction that impressed me more. Ryan Gosling, ugh I love the guy but much like his counterpart in La La Land he’s not Oscar worthy in this one. There’s just not enough he gives us. Viggo Mortensen, another one of my favorite actors in film, puts in an interesting performance that has led to him being labeling as a “dark horse” for this category. Once again however, I’m left impressed but not as much as the others I’ve seen. I’m still upset that my man Viggo wasn’t nominated for “A History of Violence” in 2005, at least he was in 2007 and 2011. But the real gem of this crop is Casey Affleck. What sets Affleck’s performance apart from any other this year is it’s effortlessness. To act is to pretend. You are not yourself, you are someone else. So much study is put into this art form and some, such as the Stanislavski system, provides an intricate framework for an actor to maneuver in. I am by no means saying that the overstudy and rigor of acting theory is a bad thing by any means. It is why this generation of proper, Shakespearean British actors are better than most current American actors, who are trained on commercials or are child actors. The British make actors, Hollywood makes stars. Casey Affleck is by no means an ametuer. He has many great roles under his belt, from his Best Supporting Actor nomination for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” to his great performances for “Out of the Furnace” and  “Gone Baby Gone”. But his style is not constrained. It is loose and flexible. He’s not even trying at all. That’s what makes his performance such a stunner. No one else is one his level in this category, not a soul. No one makes you feel the pain of loss, of depression, of pain like Affleck does. If you just can’t feel it, watch that middle flashback section where we learn the source of Affleck’s eternal sadness. It hurts to look at Affleck in this film. He is a detached man, one apart from society in constant voluntary exile. Working all day, getting in bar fights by night until an opportunity to lift him from all this finally presents itself, he can’t handle it. Not even all the love in the world can save him. The most heartbreaking line by Affleck doesn’t come from the “baby stroller” scene with Michelle Williams, thought he’s phenomenal in that, it comes from a late night dialogue with his nephew, all of his emotions spilled onto the table in the simplest terms, and it all comes down to four words, “I can’t beat it.” Nothing has moved me like that in a film since I can remember, and it’s all because of the way Affleck sells it. No, wrong word choice there. Affleck doesn’t sell anything here, he doesn’t even give it to us. He presents it to us whether we’re watching or not. But I implore that you do. Look at him and despair.

Will Win – Denzel Washington

It will be bittersweet when Washington wins over the incredibly deserving Affleck. One of Hollywood’s most popular faces will win his second Best Actor award, having won previously for his role in the 2001 classic Training Day. It will no doubt earn unwavering praise by the press for diversity and approval for the masses for giving it to someone they recognize, people who think that Afflecks only play Batman. Affleck’s controversy over his long settled sexual harassment allegations will sink him in the long run, despite him sweeping most of the other awards shows, like the highly respected BAFTAs and Golden Globes. I hope that the Academy decides to choose one of the most awe inspiring performances of the millennium by someone not named Daniel Day-Lewis and not fall to pandering and thinking of the artist over the art. I’ll be okay if Washington wins, it’s not a Redmayne-Keaton level travesty by any means, but much like Keaton I felt connected to Affleck and I’ll be bummed when he gets…fine I’ll say it…robbed. I just hope Affleck keeps it going, the guy could become an all-timer if he plays his cards right.

 

 


Best Actress

The Nominees

Isabelle Huppert – Elle as Michèle Leblanc
Ruth Negga – Loving as Mildred Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie as Jackie Kennedy
Emma Stone – La La Land as Mia Dolan
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins as Florence Foster Jenkins

 

Should Win – Natalie Portman

First thing, WHERE ON EARTH IS AMY ADAMS!?!?! Literally you had two excellent performances to chose from (Her roles in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals) and you give it to one of Meryl Streep’s worst roles and a “just alright” performance for Ruth Negga? I’m sorry, I love Streep and believe her to be one of the greatest actresses of all time, but let’s be honest. Her odds of getting nominated were definitely increased because of her Golden Globes speech. Now that those two are dealt with, onto the big three of this category, Emma Stone, Natalie Portman and Isabelle Huppert. Huppert caught many film buffs off guard, even more than Fences meteoric rise over the last month or so. Her surprise win at the Golden Globes gave her and “Elle” much needed attention. It’s an excellent film, but one that is completed dominated by Huppert. The verten actress puts in a powerful and dreadfully funny performance that captivates. She’s irresistible. The way that she makes humor seem believable in such a black comedy is impressive and Huppert deserves recognition. But nothing, save for Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea moved me the way Portman did with her portrayal of Jackie Kennedy in “Jackie”. We forget the people in history. We forget that these names we learn are more than names, they were people. Men and women. They were loved, they had other’’s whom they loved and cared for. The great American tragedy of the JFK assassination  fundamentally changed our perceptions of the government and of how we view and value youth. Wrapped up in all this was Jackie Kennedy, one of the most interesting and intelligent women ever to serve as First Lady. She is often remembered as some pretty face who dressed nicely and just disappeared after her husband was killed. But Jackie O was so much more, and Portman shows this wonderfully. We see her desperation those moments directly following the assassination carry some much weight and Portman bares it all so wonderfully. She has so many moments too, her first shower after the assassination, wiping the her husband’s blood off of her, her aggressive interviews with a journalist and the highlight and perfect showing of her mastery of Jackie Kennedy’s persona, her confrontation with a staff member where she demands to walk with her husband’s coffin during the funeral procession. It’s a performance that has not been covered as much as it should be, from a film that deserves much more than it got nominated for. Portman redeemed herself from the mortal sins that were the Star Wars prequels with her win for “Black Swan” and I see so much of that darkness come out for this role. She won’t win, but she damn well should.

Will Win – Emma Stone

I saved my Emma Stone rant for this section. It’s hard to dislike her. Emma Stone went from some throwaway comedy actress doomed to roam in the “Superbad” and “Easy A” realm of films forever. But ever since her role in “Birdman”, I’ve changed my mind. She really does have the chops to compete. La La Land is a phenomenal film. It isn’t the absolute best, more on that later, but it certainly was my favorite film of this year and one of the most enjoyable theater outings I’ve ever had. Stone is lovely in this film, better than her co-star Gosling, but not that good. Musicals can be hard to win acting awards for, Anne Hathaway is the exception to that however. Her role as Fantine in Les Miserables provided the blueprint and sadly I just didn’t see that with Stone. She’s captivating no doubt, but not Oscar worthy. But buoyed by La La Land’s immense popularity, she’s captured most of the hardware this year and her march to the Oscar seems inevitable. Natalie Portman stands as a dark horse behind Isabelle Huppert, the only two that stand a slight chance. Stone continues her rise to superstardom with this win and while I really do like her as an actress, I fear that this has underserved all over it.

 


Best Picture

The Nominees

Arrival – Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder, and David Linde
Fences – Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, and Todd Black
Hacksaw Ridge – Bill Mechanic and David Permut
Hell or High Water – Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn
Hidden Figures – Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams, and Theodore Melfi
La La Land – Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, and Marc Platt
Lion – Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Angie Fielder
Manchester by the Sea – Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, and Kevin J. Walsh
Moonlight – Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner

 

Should Win – “Manchester by the Sea”

I gave a lot of my thoughts on this category during my initial reaction to the list of nominations. To me it’s a three man race between “Manchester by the Sea,” “Moonlight” and “La La Land”. “Lion” and “Hidden Figures” have already been ranted about, their inclusion is mere pandering and deserving films such as “Nocturnal Animals,” “Jackie” or “The Lobster” should have found their ways into this category instead. There’s a sort of “lesser big 3” that has show itself in this category, those three being “Fences” and “Hell or High Water” with “Arrival” being the best of them. But it really does come down to the real big 3 that have already been mentioned.  

Will Win – “La La Land”