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Critics’ Choice Awards 2017

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The first awards show of the season will be on A&E on December 11th. It’s the Critics’ Choice Awards, for which I’m a voting member. No, you won’t see me get up on stage and hand out any trophies. We have the hilarious comedic actor T.J. Miller do all the heavy lifting (and he was hysterical in his first year hosting last year). And wasn’t he fun in Deadpool? I’m also guessing we’re one of the few awards shows that’s honoring that hysterical superhero flick.

I’m guessing I’ll have a harder time fitting into my tuxedo than Deadpool did getting into his red latex costume. Instead of fighting crime, I’ll be fighting with fellow critics over delicious food, and bending the ear of the actors that show up.

Among my highlights last year was making Ken Jeong laugh, telling Sylvester Stallone I loved Copland, and talking to the polite, young star of Room.

This year, I might have to refrain from saying something rude to Mel Gibson. I was disappointed to see his Hacksaw Ridge got a few nominations. That has to do with the fact that I don’t think Gibson is a changed person, and with Hollywood so quick to slap labels on Trump being a racist and all these other things, Gibson has said and done much worse. Yet here he is, being praised for a movie that was actually poorly done in a number of ways. But I digress.

The Critics’ Choice Awards have proven to be the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations, so I’ll give you our list below and you can tell me if you agree or disagree. I’m guessing like most people, there will be many on the list you haven’t seen. A few haven’t been released yet (including Fences, which scored Denzel Washington a double nomination — for actor and director). Yet I’m sure I can speak for the Broadcast Film Critics Association (which has around 300 critics, making it the largest film critics’ organization in the U.S. and Canada)… we get tired of always being asked “Are there any good movies out?”

Well, this list is a good place to start. Of course, I can’t just post the list and leave well enough alone. I’m going to do a bit of editorializing with it. So…on with the nominations:

BEST PICTURE

ARRIVAL. A decent sci-fi film, but not enough happened to consider this a great film. I doubt you’ll be disappointed, though.

FENCES. Powerful stuff. Denzel Washington can read the phone book, and we’d be mesmerized (side note: with nobody using phone books anymore, perhaps we need a new metaphor).

HELL OR HIGH WATER. The best movie of the year. I’ve seen it three times, and might see it another three.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. The second best movie of the year, from one of the most interesting playwrights working today.

LOVING. A movie that should be nowhere on this list. It’s an awfully boring movie, about an important story regarding the laws on interracial marriage. Bring a pillow.

LION. I’m glad Dev Patel is carving out a nice career for himself. He’s always watchable on screen.

SULLY. Are you kidding me? It’s an okay movie, but “best picture”?

MOONLIGHT. This isn’t a perfect film, but it’s a strong debut, and some very emotional stuff. I liked it a bit more weeks later, when I found myself still thinking about this poor kid and what he went through in life. I can’t argue with it’s inclusion, despite it being flawed.

LA LA LAND. A charming musical. It leads with 12 nominations. The director gave us the powerful Whiplash last year, which was better. Maybe it got all this love because it showed these Los Angeles critics how to sing and dance, instead of just screaming, when stuck in traffic. This film doesn’t make my Top 10 of the year, and the two leads (who got nominations), have each done two or three movies better than this.

BEST ACTOR

Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea. Well deserved. It’s the first movie I’ve seen him in, where his acting was natural and perfectly inhabited the character.

Joel Edgerton in Loving. He’s an amazing actor (and his brother is an amazing talent), but this movie didn’t show it. The character was too stoic and uninteresting.

Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge. This might be the one nomination I don’t have a problem with regarding Hacksaw Ridge, although Gibson does such a poor job directing, there are a few scenes he should’ve had Garfield scale it back a bit (including how he’s staring at his girlfriend in a movie theatre).

Ryan Gosling in La La Land. He’s done better work, but for his facial expression at the end of the movie — I have no qualms about this nom.

Tom Hanks in Sully. Uh…he looks nothing like Sully. And, he acts a lot like Tom Hanks, but with a mustache and white hair. He was fine in the movie, I just don’t think it deserves any award consideration.

BEST ACTRESS

Amy Adams in Arrival. She was terrific in this role, it just wasn’t a great film. She wasn’t as good in Nocturnal Animals, but that was the better film.

Annette Bening in 20th Century Women. She was better in Rules Don’t Apply, but that was a bad movie. In this, it’s too similar to her character in the terrific The Kids Are All Right. This movie just isn’t that good.

Isabelle Huppert in Elle. She’s an amazing actress and great in this. The problem is that it’s a rape/revenge movie, and isn’t the least bit realistic. No character would act the way people in this movie acted. The director did Showgirls and Starship Troopers. You’ve been warned.

Ruth Negga in Loving. Again, she just didn’t say or do enough. Just opening her eyes really wide, like a baby bird peeking out of the nest, doesn’t warrant a good performance.

Natalie Portman in Jackie. Great job, and Portman, time and time again, shows she’s a terrific talent.

Emma Stone in La La Land. She’s fine in this role, but isn’t she just playing herself?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. One of my favorite performances of the year. He plays a drug dealer that takes a liking to a shy boy that’s picked on. It’s amazing.

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water. Yep. This is the way he should’ve played the character in True Grit. Maybe he’s done the gruff cowboy before, but we love him!

Ben Foster in Hell or High Water. I love that they both got nominated. For my money, the award should go to Foster. I loved him in 3:10 to Yuma and The Messenger. He’s so underrated, and Bridges already has a billion awards. There’s a scene where Foster has to be both angry and sad all at once, and with tears welling up in his eyes, he nails it. Foster! Foster!

Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea. I love his inclusion, as he was terrific. Yet the Critics’ Choice has a category for actors under 21, and he’s there, too. So why not give this space to someone else? Perhaps Patrick Stewart playing a skinhead in Green Room?

Dev Patel in Lion. He’s great, but is this really a “supporting” role and not “lead”?

Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals. This is such a great character, but he’s done the tough guy before. I won’t complain, because I’m a huge Shannon fan. Yet if we’re going to nominate actors that play characters they have before, why not Christopher Walken in The Family Fang?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Viola Davis in Fences. She’s wonderful in everything she does. Easily one of the Top 5 actresses working today.

Greta Gerwig in 20th Century Women. I enjoy her quirky characters, but come on. We’ve seen her play this role before, and the movie wasn’t very good.

Naomie Harris in Moonlight. She’s okay in this, but once she becomes a crack addict, it becomes cliche. I would’ve rather seen the subtle performance of Janelle Monae get the nomination for this movie. Instead, Monae got the nomination for Hidden Figures. Go figure.

Nicole Kidman in Lion. Okay, but she’s done better stuff.

Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea. She’s only in about 8 minutes of the movie, but it’s powerful. Now, I complained when Viola Davis got nominated for Doubt, because she was only in one scene with Meryl Streep (despite it being a terrific scene). At least Williams is in a few different scenes, so it’s well deserved. She’ll be getting my vote in this category.

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS

I love this category. Last year, I couldn’t decide between Jacob Tremblay in Room or R.J. Cyler in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. This year, I can’t decide which performance I liked better between Lucas Hedges in Manchester, or Hailee Steinfeld in The Edge of Seventeen.

Alex R. Hibbert is terrific in Moonlight, Lewis MacDougall is fine in A Monster Calls. Madina Nalwanga has you rooting for her in Queen of Katwe, it’s just not a very good movie, despite being a true story. Sunny Pawar in Lion is well-played, and it’s also a true story.

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE

We have this category in the San Diego Film Critics Society, and it’s always fun. The nominees are:

20th Century Women, Fences, Hell or High Water, Fences, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight.

BEST DIRECTOR

Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge. Now, aside from my complaints of Gibson as a person (and there are lots, and we can’t just blame the alcohol, which he’s trying to do)…he didn’t do a great job with this. The score was too loud and manipulative, and he did too many close-ups of blown off legs and rats eating dead bodies. He should’ve been a bit more subtle in many scenes, and it was gratuitous with the gore.

It was nice that Arrival didn’t become a crazy alien invasion, shoot ‘em up picture, but Denis Villeneuve could’ve done more with this story. I have no problem with the other terrific nominations:

Damien Chazelle for La La Land, Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea, or Denzel for Fences.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water. All well-deserved. Jeff Nichols for Loving? Nope. He’s an interesting filmmaker (Midnight Special, Mud, Take Shelter), but this film didn’t work as solid entertainment. Yorgos Lanthimos/Efthimis Filippou disturbed us with Dogtooth, and now with The Lobster. Even though that didn’t completely work as a film, it was interesting and original enough that it’s deserved a nomination.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Tom Ford — Nocturnal Animals (I suggest you go find his A Single Man, too; beautifully shot in every way)

Luke Davies — Lion.

Eric Heisserer — Arrival

Todd Komarnicki — Sully

August Wilson — Fences

Allison Schroeder/Theodore Melfi — Hidden Figures (Melfi was so gracious at the San Diego International Film Festival, I’ll be happy if he gets the underdog win here).

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Zootopia is the best animated movie this year. Bar none. Critics, though…like to go for stuff like The Red Turtle or Kubo and the Two Strings (which had an amazing first 30 minutes, then turned into a snooze-fest).

Finding Dory was cute, but not great. Moana had amazing animation, but was the same old story, with uninteresting songs. (I didn’t see Trolls.)

BEST ACTION MOVIE

Captain America: Civil War. It was the least interesting of all the Captain America films.

Deadpool — You might not have a better time watching a movie this year.

Doctor Strange — a fun comic book picture.

Jason Bourne — Is this Matt Damon again? Nice to see him back, but disappointing.

Hacksaw Ridge — A terrific story, turned into a poorly done movie.

BEST COMEDY

Central Intelligence. I hate to admit, I laughed. A lot.

Deadpool. This is where my vote goes.

Don’t Think Twice. I love to see that Mike Birbiglia got the nomination here. Go find his debut movie Sleepwalk with Me. A terrific comedian, and wonderful human being.

The Edge of Seventeen. A good movie, but could’ve been better. It’s no Perks of Being a Wallflower, Mean Girls, Easy A…and it could’ve been. It’s the best teen comedy of the year, though.

The Nice Guys. Great costumes, music, and cast. Just not that funny, and the ‘70s comedies have been done so much better before.

Hail, Caesar! The Coen brothers have been really disappointing lately. A few terrific set pieces, and a few terrific scenes (Channing Tatum dancing). This didn’t work, though.

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY

Everyone in this is well deserved but one. I liked seeing Viggo Mortensen from Captain Fantastic, which was more of a dark comedy; Ryan Gosling, Dwayne Johnson, and Ryan Reynolds. All solid. But Hugh Grant for Florence Foster Jenkins? He’s not funny in it, and the movie is awful.

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY

This list is just awful. Kate McKinnon went too over the top in Ghostbusters. Kate Beckinsale was fine in Love & Friendship, but it was a confusing and unfunny period piece. Sally Field had a few funny moments in Hello, My Name is Doris…but not enough for a nomination. Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins — we’re supposed to feel bad for her, not laugh at her. Right? Oh, who knows. It was an awful movie. Hailee Steinfeld from The Edge of Seventeen is an okay pick, but she’s more of a teen angst character, not humorous. Why not Nicole Kidman from The Family Fang? Or Salma Hayek getting raunchy in Sausage Party? What about one of the moms in Bad Moms — Kristen Bell or the always hysterical Kathryn Hahn?

BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE

10 Cloverfield Lane. It was okay, but could’ve been better.

Arrival. Okay, but not great.

Doctor Strange. Hey…if we’re putting comic book movies here, where is Deadpool?

The Witch. Well done, but ultimately disappointing.

Star Trek Beyond. It was nice seeing it with the cast here at Comic Con, and it had it’s moments. The first two were better.

Don’t Breathe. A terrific premise, that was poorly executed. It reminded me of the much better Green Room.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Handmaiden

Julieta

Neruda

The Salesman

Toni Erdmann

Elle. Geez, I’m so tired of arguing with critics that liked the unrealistic and offensive Elle. What should be on this list, and is on my list of best pictures of the year, comes out of New Zealand. It’s The Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

BEST SONG

This is always a fun category. We awarded Bruce Springsteen the award for his terrific song in The Wrestler, and it still bugs me that didn’t even get an Oscar nomination. Our list is always better than the Academy’s.

Audition (The Fools Who Dream) and City of Stars – La La Land. Wonderful song, and terrific singing and dancing throughout.

Can’t Stop the Feeling – Trolls. We’ve all gotten tired of this Justin Timberlake song being played every hour on the radio, right?

Drive It Like You Stole It – Sing Street. I adore the music movies John Carney does (Once and Begin Again). This movie is a bit flawed, but still worth checking out. The song is catchy.

How Far I’ll Go – Moana. This is one of the rare times that all the songs in an animated picture failed.

The Rules Don’t Apply – Rules Don’t Apply. Two different versions of this song are used in the movie brilliantly. It was one of the few bright spots in this picture.