The Biggest Snubs from this Year’s Oscar Nominations

One of the fun things to discuss, debate, argue, or silently complain about on social media is Oscar snubs. Luckily this year, the ship has been righted and I think we can put the #Oscarssowhite controversy to rest because of how diverse the nominees were this year. Although to be fair, the Academy set the bar pretty low the past two years in terms of cultural variety. But there’s one thing the Academy can never escape and that’s snubs. While I certainly don’t believe some of my snubs ever had a chance, they are deserving of some gold.

Best Picture Snub
Swiss Army Man

I knew this was a longshot. I know the Academy isn’t about to publicly acknowledge a farting boner corpse movie. But a little part of me had hoped that its indie cred, combined with its existential storytelling, would have made it a respectable dark horse in a field of 10. It’s unique, fascinating, moving, well-acted and wonderfully shot. Its only flaw is that it’s too off putting for general audiences and slightly juvenile for the snobby voters in Hollywood. I swear this is the last time you’ll hear or see me cheerleading for this movie.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: 20th Century Women

Best Director Snub
Robert Eggers, The Witch

Eggers immersed himself in 1630’s New England to deliver a historically accurate portrayal of terror in the unknown wilderness of early America. Everything from the film’s dialogue to the farmstead were meticulously groomed and crafted by the director. He managed to wrangle four (including one teenager) child actors, keeping them from being annoying, as they traditionally are in horror movies. This production designer turned director crafted an atmospheric horror masterpiece. Eggers is one to watch out for.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, Swiss Army Man

Best Actor Snub
Tom Hanks, Sully

Let’s clear up this presumed notion I’ve seen on social media. Tom Hanks doesn’t get nominated every year. He hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since 2001 and hasn’t won a golden statute since 1995. I’m not asking the Academy to throw him a bone, he doesn’t need one. But don’t overlook the fact that “Sully” is a sub par movie-going experience without Hanks’ hefty talents in the pilot seat. Hanks’ navigates Clint Eastwood’s so-so work into a memorable tale of average Joe heroism and the bureaucratic blame game.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nocturnal Animals

Best Actress Snub
Sasha Lane, American Honey

I wouldn’t blame you for not watching “American Honey.” Three hours of wanderlust is too much for the average audience. But first time actress, Sasha Lane, is a treasure to watch. She was up for every challenge of portraying an impoverished young adult. Lane portrays an innocent, if not naive, teenager looking for her purpose and a slice of the American dream. Her character, without speaking usually, represents youthful aspirations and good intentions, despite the thieving people around her. Lane keeps the flame of hope in her character lit throughout the movie, making her character one to root for her and admire.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Amy Adams, Arrival

Best Supporting Actor Snub
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

The story within a story is the strongest part about “Nocturnal Animals,” mainly due to its wonderful performances. Leading the way is Jake Gyllenhaal, but his emotionally distressed character would be nothing without the terrifying Texas psychopath played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. While visually disgusting, Taylor-Johnson’s grimy character radiates off the screen. He’s calculating, but relaxed. He’s vicious, but calm. The dynamic extremes of his character are balanced by Taylor-Johnson who’s “ablicious” and repugnant.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Ben Foster, Hell or High Water

Best Supporting Actress Snub
Haley Bennett, Girl on the Train

I know. I know. This is a bad movie. But the Academy has not been above nominating a bad movie or rewarding the components of a bad movie. Let’s not forget that “50 Shades of Grey” is an Oscar nominated movie with five Razzie wins under its belt. While Emily Blunt should certainly be commended for her performance, it’s Haley Bennett’s performance as the tragically flawed suburban floozy that becomes the center of the movie’s suffering. Her character lives life emotionally empty, only to be killed when finding new life. In the rear view mirror of 2016, Bennett’s performance is brave and engaging, but trapped in a lifeless cliché movie.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

Best Animated Feature
Finding Dory

Is “Finding Dory” that average? I thoroughly enjoyed the Pixar movie and was surprised it didn’t, at the very least, get a nod. It’s not the best of the year, but it can certainly be mentioned in the same breath as the other candidates. I haven’t seen “The Red Turtle” or “My Life as a Zucchini” so I can’t comment on their quality since they certainly secured the final two spots. I’m sure they’re good. Maybe this is a sign that Pixar should just avoid sequels for a while. At least “Sausage Party” didn’t steal one of the nomination seats or else there’d be hell to pay.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: None. This was a year that saw Angry Birds, so we need to do better in 2017.

Best Original Screenplay
Zootopia

It’s been mentioned before, and not just by me, that “Zootopia” benefited from coming out at the right time. The script, while being generously relatable to kids and adults alike, has a wonderful message about acceptance. A city populated with cute, furry animals taught everyone that sexism, racism, classism and xenophobia are still very real and can divide us in a heartbeat. Disney could have easily settled for a buddy cop movies with animals, but instead allowed the script to naturally evolve and survive the rewriting process. Despite nine credited writers, “Zootopia” never became diluted or a jumbled mess. Instead it ran smoothly with a clear message of tolerance.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: The Invitation

Best Adapted Screenplay
Silence

Martin Scorsese’s decades long passion project is based on a work of historical fiction. While having never read the novel myself, the folks who have read the book have left nothing, but glowing reviews of it online. If the purpose of the 20th century novel is to make us reflect and question spirituality and our religious beliefs as a whole, Scorsese captured that wonderfully in a movie that, while drawn out, is beautifully retold on the silver screen. Scorsese painted a beautiful picture just like the book certainly transported readers back to post-Feudal Japan.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: High-Rise

Best Music
Cliff Martinez, Neon Demon

While I’m not completely sold on “Neon Demon” being a good movie, I found myself listening to the soundtrack of “Neon Demon” multiple times. While adding another layer to the movie, the soundtrack on its own accord is a wonderful synth album inducing feelings of hope and despair. “Neon Demon” is a visual experience, complimented by a wonderful score that spurs dread and bouncy optimism, sometimes within a single song. “Neon Demon” is the only movie this year where the music feels like an unseen narrator for how we’re supposed to feel.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Johann Johannson, Arrival

Best Music, Original Song
Drive it Like You Stole It, Sing Street

The coming-of-age love letter to the 80’s, “Sing Street,” should have been more popular. Not only did the Clash, A-Ha, and the Cure get some much deserved love on the screen, but the movie featured some dynamic original music. Most of the original content, like “Riddle of the Model,” was short nods to music by Duran Duran or other iconic bands. However, the movie reaches its crescendo with its most poppy rock hit, “Drive It Like You Stole It.” The song is a big metaphor for the final act and growing up in general. Just listen to it and tell me that’s not the best original song of the year.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Montage, Swiss Army Man

Best Foreign Language
Elle

I’m finding it difficult, once again, to put into words why I like this movie so much. Just read my review.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: I’m not sure. I should be more cultured.

“La La Land” Dances Way to Record 14 Academy Award Nominations

“La La Land,” writer/director Damien Chazelle’s love letter to the classic Hollywood musical, tied “All About Eve” and “Titanic” in receiving an amazing 14 nominations for the 89th Annual Academy Awards.

The film has a chance to join “It Happened One Night,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Silence of the Lambs,” which took home the prizes for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. “La La Land’ earned nominations in all of those categories and added nods for Original Score, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. The film also earned two nominations in the Best Original Song Category.

Joining “La La Land” in the Best Picture category are: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight.”

Best Actor nominees include Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) and Denzel Washington (Fences)

For Best Actress, the nominees are Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land) and, in her 20th acting nomination, Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

The Academy Awards will be awarded on Sunday night, February 26th.

Here is a complete list of the nominees:

Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Animated Feature Film
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“Zootopia”

Cinematography
“Arrival”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Silence”

Costumed Design
“Allied”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“Jackie”
“La La Land”

Directing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”

Feature Documentary
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“13th”

Short Subject Documentary
“Extremis”
“4.1 Miles”
“Joe’s Violin”
“Watani: My Homeland”
“The White Helmets”

Film Editing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Moonlight”

Foreign Language Film
“Land of Mine”
“A Man Called Ove”
“The Salesman”
“Tanna”
“Toni Erdmann”

Make Up and Hairstyling
“A Man Called Ove”
“Star Trek Beyond”
“Suicide Squad”

Original Score
“Jackie”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Passengers”

Original Song
Audition (The Fools Who Dream), “La La Land”
Can’t Stop The Feeling, “Trolls”
City Of Stars, “La La Land”
The Empty Chair, “Jim: The James Foley Story”
How Far I’ll Go, “Moana”

Production Design
“Arrival”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Hail, Caesar!”
“La La Land”
“Passengers”

Animated Short Film
“Blind Vaysha”
“Borrowed Time”
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
“Pearl”
“Piper”

Live Action Short Film
“Ennemis Intérieurs”
“La Femme et le TGV”
“Silent Nights”
“Sing”
“Timecode”

Sound Editing
“Arrival”
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Sully”

Sound Mixing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

Visual Effects
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Doctor Strange”
“The Jungle Book”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Adapted Screenplay
“Arrival”
“Fences”
“Hidden Figures”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”

Original Screenplay
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“The Lobster”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“20th Century Women”

Our Critics Pick the Best (and Worst) Films of 2016

As the year 2016 finally comes to an end it’s time for the film guys (and gals) here at Media Mikes to share our thoughts on the best and worse films that the year had to offer. Since I’ve got the by-line, I’ll go first:

Mike Smith’s Best Films of 2016

1. “Birth of a Nation”
I can’t understand how fickle Hollywood is. It was just a little under a year ago, when the Academy Award nominations were announced, that everyone was up in arms due to the lack of minority representation among the major nominees. When “Birth of a Nation” first opened, it drew raves – including from me – and seemed to be on a collision course with Oscar. Then it was reported that the films co-writer, director and star, Nate Parker, had been accused of rape 20 years ago while in college. I will admit right here that when I did my “Fall Movie Preview” I mentioned the alleged event, even questioning if it will have any effect on the film’s popularity. Obviously the answer is a resounding yes. Sometime ago I read a magazine article about possible Best Picture nominees and the very first line stated that the alleged incident pretty much knocked the film out of the race. Too bad. “Birth of a Nation” is one of the most original and powerful films of this or any year.

2. “Hacksaw Ridge”
Apparently Hollywood found a film that is bulletproof from negative publicity. Directed by everyone’s favorite crazy uncle – you know who he is, the one that really shouldn’t drink and then make phone calls – Mel Gibson, this is the true story of how a soldier can refuse to pick up a weapon but still become a hero.

3. “Weiner”
My father used to tell this joke: A man and his wife have a baby but it’s only a head. Ashamed, the father puts it in a coffee can and puts it on the back porch. 21 years later he picks up the can and takes it with him to the local bar. He orders two beers, drinks one and pours the other into the head’s mouth. Suddenly the head spins around, drops to the floor and begins to grow – arms, legs, body. After a few minutes where once sat a head now stands a beautiful specimen of a man. “Holy shit,” the father exclaims and orders two more beers. He and his son clink glasses and drink. Suddenly the boy falls over, dead. The bartender looks over the bar at the body on the ground and says, “Poor kid. He should have quit while he was ahead!” That is the same advice Anthony Weiner should have taken. Once a growing force in politics, Weiner had to resign his seat in congress after it was discovered that he had texted nude photos of himself to women not his wife. Years later he decides to run for Mayor of New York City. He’s doing well in the polls when – you guessed it – he took that second glass of beer! Caught once again sharing shots of his penis, he withdraws from the race. I just realized that I used the words “growing” and “withdraws” in a story about a guy named Weiner. See what I did there?

4. “Manchester by the Sea”
Normally when I see Casey Affleck on screen I immediately see him in the back of Chuckie’s car in “Goodwill Hunting,” waiting for his lunch and singing out, “I wish I had a double-burger!” He’s always been good in pretty much everything I’ve seen him in since but he NAILS IT with his performance here. With a constant level of sadness just peeking out no matter the situation, he may not be the only Affleck with an Oscar come this February.

5. “Moana”
Dwayne Johnson sings! That is one of the great surprises in this sure-to-be next animated Disney classic. Great songs, fun performances and a strong female character add up to an amazing night at the movies.

Mike Smith’s Worst Film of 2016

No contest here. Say hello to “The 5th Wave.” Allow me to share some of my review:

“A film only in the sense that it’s being shown in theatres, “The 5th Wave” tells the story about what can happen when you reveal the BIG ending 20 minutes into the film and apparently forget what the words “continuity” and “believable” mean.”

Need I say more? But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some more suggestions from the rest of the gang:

Mike Gencarelli’s Best and Worst of 2016

Best:
“A Monster Calls”
“Deadpool”
“Doctor Strange”
“Finding Dory”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“The Neon Demon”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“The Secret Life of Pets”
“Trolls”

Worst:
“The BFG”
“The Legend of Tarzan”
“Nocturnal Animals”
“Snowden”
“Zoolander 2”

Lauren Damon’s Best Films of 2016

1. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”
Taika Waititi on my list again! This movie managed to be funny, sweet, original and not to mention shot gorgeously. The main boy (Julian Dennison) was so well cast opposite Sam Neill. Also fell in love with Rachel House who then also turned out to be my favorite crazy grandma in Disney’s Moana (not on my list here, but did enjoy.)

2. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Ho. Lee. Shit. This movie has Death-Star sized balls in the darkness territory and I felt so proud of Disney for actually letting it be that way. I enjoyed it way more than The Force Awakens because it felt so fresh for the franchise. The third act battle was astounding and their usage of Darth Vader put the biggest grin on my face.

3. “Don’t Think Twice”
Mike Birbiglia’s film about a tight-knit improv troupe that’s split when one of its members ascends to an SNL-type show was full of top comedians (Birbiglia, Chris Gethard, Tammy Sagher, Keegan Michael Key, Kate Micucci and Gillian Jacobs make up the group) doing hysterical improv, but more impressively bringing so much heart and smart observation to this very specific scene and age group. It was equal parts hilarious and heart-breaking.

4. “Deadpool”
I’m so glad this movie exists. Knowing that Ryan Reynolds fought for years to get a Deadpool movie made that gets the character right and to have it turn out this funny and bad-ass just made my nerd heart happy.

5. “Captain America: Civil War”
The Russo brothers here continue to make me excited for their upcoming work on Avengers: Infinity War because Civil War proved that these guys know how to handle a massive cast. This film arguably had the most baggage (i.e. number of movies in the MCU you should be up to speed with going in) but it never felt that way and they managed to seamlessly introduce both Black Panther and a new Spider-man (who I loved! Great job by Tom Holland). The heroic showdown in the German airport is one of my favorite sequences of the year.

Lauren Damon’s Worst Film of 2016

“Jason Bourne”
Most disappointing. I was so incredibly bored, I couldn’t believe it. Muddled action sequences, may-as-well be stock footage of nefarious control rooms, and a backstory that added exactly one sentence of history to the Bourne mythos. Tommy Lee Jones could have been asleep in his role while title character reportedly had only 25 lines of dialogue, just a lazy effort in a franchise I’ve previously loved.

Jeremy Werner’s Best Films of 2016

1. “Swiss Army Man”
Very few movies have the honor or distinction of being wholly unique, but “Swiss Army Man” grabs that honor within minutes of beginning. Surely, it’ll also be the only movie ever that’ll ever explore existentialism through a farting boner corpse.

2. “Zootopia”
After a rough 2016, where some of the ugliest sides of people were brought to the forefront, it’s refreshing to see a sharply written animated movie film highlight tolerance and acceptance. This movie will resonate for years and decades.

3. “Arrival”
A poignant sci-fi flick that simply teaches communication is the main ingredient to understanding one another. But on a deeper level, “Arrival” reveals that we’re not alone in the universe, on a galactic and emotional level.

4. “Manchester by the Sea”
Despite all the emotional gut punches that this movie delivers, it’s final moments offer hope, forgiveness, and that well-deserved light at the end of the tunnel for those who’ve had tragedy and depression consume them.

5. “Hell or High Water”
The neo-western feels trapped in an economic hangover, saying more about it’s themes than any of it’s characters. It’s a bank heist movie with realistic grit and a sour message.

6. “O.J.: Made in America”
Despite being nearly eight hours, this documentary never gets boring in it’s unflinching look at racism in America. The trial of the 20th century has never felt more prevalent as police involved shootings and racial tensions are on the rise in America.

Jeremy Werner’s Worst Films of 2016

1. “Nine Lives”
I’d rather eat an uncleaned box of kitty litter than watch this movie again. Actually, no. I wouldn’t. That’s dangerously unhealthy and potentially life-ending. But I think you get the point. This movie is awful, beyond human words can comprehend.

2. “The Divergent Series: Allegiant”
Back in 2014, I made a journalistic plea to moviegoers to not see “Divergent” so I could be spared anymore suffering. Those cries went unheard and two years later I endured another two-hour cinematic abortion.

3. “Passengers”
Many have noted “Passengers” is Stockholm syndrome in space, but I’d like to point out that “Passengers” is also a sign that victim blaming and rampant sexism is still a concern in the future.

4. “Warcraft”
Somehow “Warcraft” has a 7/10 on IMDB. Somehow this made back twice it’s budget. Somehow the “Ghostbusters” remake was a box office bomb and has a lower IMDB rating. This world sucks. Let’s go to Mars.

5. “Mother’s Day”
“Mother’s Day” is the film equivalent of a hard slap to the face for hard working moms in the world. Moms deserve a movie that loves and supports them, and doesn’t belittle them, like “Mother’s Day” did.

Loey Lockerby’s Best Films of 2016

1. “Hell or High Water”
A near-perfect blend of family drama, heist movie, absurdist comedy & neo-Western.

2. “Moonlight”
Thoughtful, sensitive & beautiful. It tells a long story without dragging it out or pacing it badly. No small feat.

3. “Manchester by the Sea”
I loved every flawed, struggling character. How many tragedies can actually make you feel better by the end?

4. “Arrival”
Tackles serious emotional issues while offering an intelligent sci-fi story & relatable characters. Exactly what this genre does best.

5. “The Witch”
It’s not horror-movie scary, but it’s terrifying in the realistic way it portrays madness & early American religious fanaticism.

Loey says they were spared having to watch anything horrible this past year. You can read Loey’s full reviews here.

Film Review: “Arrival”

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 116 minutes
Paramount Pictures

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

If you’re hoping for an alien movie filled with mindless city destroying explosions, slow-motion gunplay, and jingoistic speeches by presidential figures, you’re going to be severely disappointed with “Arrival”. But if you’re looking for a profoundly tragic and beautiful sci-fi movie that transcends its interstellar subject material with an introspective look at what it means to be human, then you’re going to love “Arrival”.

When a dozen circular, monolithic structures appear over the surface of the planet in 12 seemingly random spots, the Earth quickly comes to a screeching halt. Classes are called off, planes are grounded, the economy goes into a literal freefall, and the world sits and watches as nothing happens. No sounds, no communications and no clue as to what these odd ships are here for. There’s an impending fear because dozens of governments attempt communication, but aren’t quite sure if the beings that they’re talking to are friendly or not. The U.S. government acquires the best of the best for the job, Dr. Louise Banks (Adams).

While senior U.S. military officials like Weber (Whitaker) expect immediate results, Banks has a deep understanding of language as well as the patience it takes to understand what an intergalactic species is saying. The master linguist is aided by Ian (Renner), a mathematician that comes in handy to device a program in place to decipher the visual language the aliens are using. But alas they face an uphill battle.

Fear of the unknown, the inability for governments to work together, conspiracy theorists having a social media outlet and an impatient generation are at full work outside the space ships and military quarantine zones surrounding the structures. “Arrival” doesn’t necessarily focus on that too much though because we all know that the human race couldn’t handle the possibility of extraterrestrial life. As “Men in Black” so eloquently put it, “People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals.”

“Arrival” finds more usefulness out of Banks’ psyche. It’s tough to describe the internal and mental conflict broiling in Banks’ head without revealing too much of what gives meaning to the slow burn reveal towards the end of “Arrival”. Director Denis Villenueve, whose other movies have ambiguous endings and hidden meanings (“Prisoners”, “Enemy” and “Sicario), is the right choice for a movie that has more than meets the eye.

Adams helps convey the deep emotional turmoil inside Banks and is complimented by the various forces pulling her apart. Throughout the run time of “Arrival”, we watch Banks struggle with the insignificance that humanity feels when knowing we’re not the only special entity floating around in the universe. That struggle turns into one of confusion and understanding that something greater is at work than the petty distress that mankind feels when losing it’s individuality.

The release of “Arrival” feels poignant considering the current election in the U.S., but for those who look beyond that simplistic snapshot reaction, there’s a deeper meaning at play. If “Arrival” has anything to offer, it’s therapeutic reassurance that despite the struggles we face because of our differences, every living human being on this planet still feels love, regret, sorrow, and joy. And understanding that idea every day could ultimately lead to unity and healing.

Media Mikes 2016 Fall/Holiday Movie Preview

Labor Day has come and gone, and unless you’re dressing up as a ghost, you better not be wearing anything white! With the end of summer comes the beginning of fall and the start of Hollywood’s “Prestige Movie Push!”

We’ll take a look at what the studios hope are their best bets to fill the multiplexes and bring home the Oscars. Once again, a big thank you to our friends at Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) for some synopsis information. Opening dates noted are subject to change at the whim of the studios. Enjoy!

OCTOBER 7

THE 13th

Documentary
Directed by: Ava DuVernay

The director of “Selma” gives us an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.

OSCAR CHANCES: Will surely make the short list.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION

Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer
Directed by: Nate Parker

Set against the antebellum South, the film follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

OSCAR CHANCES: After last year’s #OSCARSOWHITE controversy, the early buzz on this film almost guaranteed a bounty of nominations. However, it was recently revealed that writer/director/star Nate Parker and his co-writer, Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a fellow college student in 1999. Though Parker was not found guilty and Celestin had his conviction overturned, their alleged victim committed suicide. Not sure how this news will affect the Academy voters.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux
Directed by: Tate Taylor

In the film, being compared to “Gone Girl,” a recently divorced woman
takes the train to work every day and imagines the lives of a young couple she
sees every day. Things get weird when the young wife disappears.

OSCAR CHANCES: Blunt is already getting raves for her performance.


OCTOBER 13

MASCOTS

Starring: Christopher Guest, Parker Posey and Jane Lynch
Directed by: Christopher Guest

Simply described as “a look into the world of competitive mascots,” this is the latest opus from the great Christopher Guest. Sadly, unless I missed it, this is the first of Guest’s films that does not include Eugene Levy.

OSCAR CHANCES: Possible screenplay nod.

 

OCTOBER 14

THE ACCOUNTANT

Starring: Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons and Anna Kendrick
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor

A forensic accountant un-cooks the books for illicit clients. What I like about the trailer is that Affleck seems to be a young genius. Maybe this is his chance to play Will Hunting?

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe.


KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?

Starring: Kevin Hart
Directed by: Leslie Small and Tim Story

Kevin Hart performs his comedy in front of 50,000 fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: No.


OCTOBER 21

AMERICAN PASTORAL

Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and Ewan McGregor
Directed by: Ewan McGregor

In 1968, a hardworking man, who’s been a staple in his quaint community for years, watches his seemingly perfect middle class life fall apart as his daughter’s new radical political affiliation threatens to destroy their family. Based on the novel by Philip Roth.

OSCAR CHANCES: Adapted screenplay?

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE

Starring: John Travolta, Ethan Hawke and Karen Gillan
Directed by: Ti West

A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody cross-hairs of revenge. Ethan Hawke’s second western this season and John Travolta in a cowboy hat for the first time since “Urban Cowboy.” Yee-hah!

OSCAR CHANCES: Sadly Western’s very rarely get recognized.

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Edward Zwick

Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Director Zwick has helmed three of my favorite films (“About Last Night,” “Glory” and “Legends of the Fall” but only has an Oscar for co-producing “Shakespeare in Love.” It’s about time this man was recognized, though I don’t think it’s going to be for a Jack Reacher film.

A MONSTER CALLS

Starring: Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver
Directed by: J.A. Bayona

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom’s terminal illness.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

TYLER PERRY’S BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN

Starring: Tyler Perry
Directed by: Tyler Perry

Madea winds up in the middle of mayhem when she spends a haunted Halloween fending off killers, paranormal poltergeists, ghosts, ghouls and zombies while keeping a watchful eye on a group of misbehaving teens. I’m scared.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m going to go out on a limb and say “no”

OCTOBER 28

INFERNO

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones
Directed by: Ron Howard

When Robert Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks, and together they must race across Europe against the clock to foil a deadly global plot. The second Felicity Jones film in as many weeks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Sorry, Tom, but your nomination this year is coming from “Sully”

 

NOVEMBER 4

BLEED FOR THIS

Starring: Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart
Directed by: Ben Younger

The inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who, after a near fatal car crash, which left him not knowing if he’d ever walk again, made one of sport’s most incredible comebacks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Robert DeNiro and Hillary Swank won Oscars for portraying boxers so never say never. Hell, Stallone got nominated…TWICE!

DOCTOR STRANGE

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen
Directed by: Scott Derrickson

A neurosurgeon with a destroyed career sets out to repair his hands only to find himself protecting the world from inter-dimensional threats.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

HACKSAW RIDGE

Starring: Andrew Garfield and Sam Worthington
Directed by: Mel Gibson

WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Mel doesn’t appear in this one but his dead-ringer son, Milo, does.

OSCAR CHANCES: Gibson (Mel, not Milo) already has an Oscar for directing so you never know. I’m sure people have forgotten what all of the hub-bub was about concerning him a few years ago.

LOVING

Starring: Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Jeff Nichols

Back in the dark ages, Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. Apparently they had nothing better to do in Virginia at the time.

OSCAR CHANCES: Acting, picture.

TROLLS

Starring the voices of: Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake
Directed by: Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn

Remember those little plastic things with long hair that you used to put on the end of your pencil? When I was a kid we called them Kewpies but apparently they are Trolls and they have their own movie. Good for them!

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe best hairstyling?

NOVEMBER 11

ARRIVAL

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

OSCAR CHANCES: Picture, director, acting.

SHUT IN

Starring: Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay
Directed by: Farren Blackburn

A heart-pounding thriller about a widowed child psychologist who lives in an isolated existence in rural New England. Caught in a deadly winter storm, she must find a way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Unsure, but young Mr. Tremblay should have been nominated last year for “Room.”

USS INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE

Starring: Nicolas Cage and Tom Sizemore
Directed by: Mario Van Peebles

The harrowing true story of the crew of the USS Indianapolis, who were stranded in the Philippine Sea for five days after delivering the atomic weapons that would eventually end WWII. If you saw “Jaws,” this is the tale that Quint tells. Other “Jaws” related facts: this was the original idea for “Jaws 2.” Also: Mario Van Peebles starred in “Jaws the Revenge.”

OSCAR CHANCES: To me it looks like a “made for TV” movie. How about Emmy chances?


NOVEMBER 18

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Starring: Hailiee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner and Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. Is that weird? When I was in high-school I wanted to date my best friend’s older sister. Hopefully Stevie Nicks got some money from this.

OSCAR CHANCES: Nada

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jon Voight and Ezra Miller
Directed by: David Yates

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. Even though Harry Potter and his pals are less than 20 years old it seems like they’ve been around forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, music (the great James Newton Howard)

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Starring: Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Affleck and Williams have been nominated in the past so I’m not ruling anything out.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Starring: Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Tom Ford

An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale. November is Amy Adams month.

OSCAR CHANCES: Across the board


NOVEMBER 23

ALLIED

Starring: Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war. Cotillard isn’t married so maybe we can look forward to reading about “Bradarion” soon.

OSCAR CHANCES: Pitt, Cotilliard and Zemeckis have been there before.

BAD SANTA 2

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates and Tony Cox
Directed by: Mark Waters

Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.

OSCAR CHANCES: I thought Billy Bob deserved a nod for the first film but I’m going to say no.

MOANA

Starring the voices of: Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk and Nicole Scherzinger
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall and Chris Williams

A young woman uses her navigational talents to set sail for a fabled island. Joining her on the adventure is her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated feature, original song

RULES DON’T APPLY

Starring: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins and Ed Harris
Directed by: Warren Beatty

An unconventional love story of an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and the eccentric billionaire who they work for. Beatty has been wanting to do a Howard Hughes-based film since the 1970s. Not sure if this is what he had in mind back then but, after a 15-year absence, it’s great to see him both in front of and behind the camera.

OSCAR CHANCES: Only two people have been nominated in the same year for acting, directing, writing and producing the best picture: Orson Welles and Warren Beatty. And Beatty did it TWICE!


NOVEMBER 25

LION

Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Garth Davis

A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

OSCAR CHANCES: Many


DECEMBER 2

LA LA LAND

Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Directed by: Damien Chazelle

From the creator of “Whiplash” comes a film about a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. And it’s a musical!

OSCAR CHANCES: Early film festival buzz say’s this may be the film to watch (both on screen and at awards time!)


DECEMBER 9

MISS SLOANE

Starring: Jessica Chastain
Directed by: John Madden

An ambitious lobbyist faces off against the powerful gun lobby in an attempt to pass gun control legislation.

OSCAR CHANCES: Actress. Madden directed the Oscar-winning “Shakespeare in Love.”

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Starring: Jason Bateman and Jennifer Anniston
Directed by: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand.

OSCAR CHANCES: Zip

DECEMBER 16

COLLATERAL BEAUTY

Starring: Will Smith and Keira Knightley
Directed by: David Frankel

A tragic event sends a New York ad man on a downward spiral.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’ve already had to apologize to Will Smith twice for doubting he’d get nominated for “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” There won’t be a third. Good luck Will.

FENCES

Starring: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis
Directed by: Denzel Washington

An African American father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. Based on the August Wilson play.

OSCAR CHANCES: YES!

THE FOUNDER

Starring: Michael Keaton and Patrick Wilson
Directed by: John Lee Hancock

The story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. You may look at your next hamburger differently. Keaton is said to be so good that they pulled the film from it’s original release date.

OSCAR CHANCES: Keaton

A KIND OF MURDER

Starring: Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel
Directed by: Andy Goddard

In 1960s New York, Walter Stackhouse is a successful architect married to the beautiful Clara who leads a seemingly perfect life. But his fascination with an unsolved murder leads him into a spiral of chaos as he is forced to play cat-and-mouse with a clever killer and an overambitious detective, while at the same time lusting after another woman. This will be a day of decisions for Patrick Wilson fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: Don’t see any

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

Starring: Felicity Jones, Jimmy Smits and Warwick Davis
Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Or, as I like to call it, “Episode 6.5” The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans to the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow. Holy crap! The Death Star, Leia’s family, Darth Vader AND Wicket the Ewok? I’m already in line!

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, make up.

DECEMBER 21

20th CENTURY WOMEN

Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Laura Wiggins
Directed by: Mike Mills

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s.

OSCAR CHANCES: Can anyone tell me why Annette Bening hasn’t won an Oscar yet? Didn’t think so. Keep your fingers crossed.

ASSASSINS CREED

Starring: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Justin Kurzel

When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society. This synopsis seems so crazy considering the cast. I wonder if the two leads made the same mistake Bill Murray did when he thought “Garfield” had been written by one of the Coen brothers!

OSCAR CHANCES: Fassbender elevates everything he’s in so I’m not saying no!

PASSENGERS

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt
Directed by: Morten Tyldum

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early. It’s so weird to see Lawrence in a movie at the end of the year NOT directed by David O. Russell. Oh well, there’s always next year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, technical stuff

PATRIOTS DAY

Starring: Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Monaghan
Directed by: Peter Berg

An account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Sounds better than what I thought it was – knowing Wahlberg is a huge New England Patriot fan I thought it was about a day with Tom Brady. The third film by Wahlberg and director Berg and second this year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Oh yes.

SING

Starring the voices of: Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Garth Jennings

A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated film….maybe.

DECEMBER 25

GOLD

Starring: Matthew McConaughey and Bryce Dallas Howard
Directed by: Stephen Gaghan

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. When he was outrageously thin in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” McConaughey still looked good. In this one he’s bald and….dammit!

OSCAR CHANCES: No sir.

WHY HIM?

Starring: James Franco and Bryan Cranston
Directed by: John Hamburg.

A dad forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend. Based on a story by Jonah Hill. Somebody needed money.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m ashamed that I have to include those words with this film.

DECEMBER 28

PATERSON

Starring: Adam Driver
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet.

OSCAR CHANCES: Love Jarmusch. Maybe a witting nod.