Note: Click on any individual photo in these collages for the bigger version. UPDATED WITH WINNERS! Winners in each category are bolded. New commentary for winners is written in green […]
Note: Click on any individual photo in these collages for the bigger version.
UPDATED WITH WINNERS! Winners in each category are bolded. New commentary for winners is written in green text.
- 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (producers Erwin Stoff, Michael Bay)
- Hacksaw Ridge (producers David Permut, Bill Mechanic, Brian Oliver, William D. Johnson, Bruce Davey, Paul Currie, Terry Benedict)
- Hell or High Water (producers Sidney Kimmel, Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn)
- La La Land (producers Marc Platt, Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Gary Gilbert)
- Manchester by the Sea (producers Matt Damon, Lauren Beck, Chris Moore, Kimberly Steward, Kevin J. Walsh)
An eclectic mix in a strange year. All of these except for 13 Hours were among the Academy’s 9 Best Picture nominees. I’ll discuss each in more detail as we go through the rest of the categories.
As you’ll see, the film has won all 5 awards it was nominated for (which I swear I did not do on purpose), making some Biggies history as the first Best Picture winner in the entire time I’ve been doing this to sweep every category it was up for. Pretty damn cool. Granted, this is a lot easier to accomplish with 5 nominations than with, say, 12, but impressive nonetheless since I’ve had Best Picture winners in the past with as few as 6 nominations (Drive). So, in theory, since it’s now also my Best Picture winner with the fewest overall nominations, you could argue it’s both the weakest and most dominant Best Picture winner in Biggies history. Pardon me, my brain just exploded.
This Year’s Oscar Winner: Moonlight
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
- Michael Bay, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
- Peter Berg, Patriots Day
- Damien Chazelle, La La Land
- Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
- David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water
That’s not a typo, folks. Michael Bay is a Best Director nominee. And deservedly so. He has FINALLY made a legitimate dramatic film. For the first time in his career he was able to restrain his flashy, spastic tendencies and use his visual talents to serve the story. It’s a bloody miracle. The best comparison for 13 Hours is Black Hawk Down (our 2001 Best Picture champ), which also documented a historical event while eschewing traditional narrative. 13 Hours isn’t quite as good, because it isn’t as compelling a story, and, well, it wasn’t directed by Ridley Scott.
It’s also nice to give Peter Berg his first Best Director nomination. He’s somehow become the go-to guy for current event dramatizations. He did excellent work on Lone Survivor a few years ago (and just missed out being nominated for it), and he also made Deepwater Horizon in 2016, which was damned good, too. Many people thought it was way too soon to make a movie about the Boston Marathon bombings, but if you put that thought aside and judge it only on its merits, Patriots Day is an excellent movie that pays due respect to the real life heroes of those days. I only wish he could make one of these movies without Mark Wahlberg. Berg brings a blue collar rawness to his movies that you don’t often see anymore. He’s one of the best actors-turned-director in the industry, and like Bay, he’s one of the Hollywood people I’d most like to hang out with.
Damien Chazelle (or “Wonderboy” as I like to call him) was nominated here just two years ago for his first major release, Whiplash. To make a complex, original musical like La La Land as his second film is an astonishing accomplishment.
I’m thrilled to have Mel Gibson back in the Best Director field. It’s his third directing nomination, and his first since The Passion of the Christ way back in 2004. In 1995, he made a little number called Braveheart, which is only one of the finest movies ever made. He won Biggies for Best Actor, Director and Picture that year. He’s slowly been making a comeback with his acting, but Hacksaw Ridge has proven that no matter what you think of the man, you can’t deny his skill as a director, even 10 years after his last film, Apocalypto.
David Mackenzie is a Scottish director I’d never heard of prior to watching Hell or High Water, and he comes out and makes a perfect modern day American western as if he were the long lost grandson of John Ford. It’s not often you see a director drop out of the sky and make the best movie of the year, but Mackenzie may have done just that. (Update: he did.)
This Year’s Oscar Winner: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
- Captain Fantastic, written by Matt Ross
- Hell or High Water, written by Taylor Sheridan
- La La Land, written by Damien Chazelle
- The Lobster, written by Yorgos Yanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
- Manchester by the Sea, written by Kenneth Lonergan
The Lobster was probably the strangest 2016 movie I saw, but if you just let it wash over you, it’s one of the most clever and enjoyable films of the year. Few movies this year created their own world as skillfully as this one. It must be seen to be believed.
When I watched Captain Fantastic, I was surprised to learn it was written and directed by Matt Ross, who I know as an actor primarily for playing Gavin Belson on Silicon Valley, the best comedy on TV. This is his second feature film, but the first that got a wide release (or semi-wide anyway), and it shows he’s got some real potential. I’ve never tried it myself, but I imagine writing super smart characters must be one of screenwriting’s greatest challenges. The concept of a man raising his kids in the wild away from society in modern times is a really compelling idea.
Major props to actor-turned-writer Taylor Sheridan, who is nominated in this category for the second consecutive year, following his brilliant Sicario script in 2015. Sheridan is quickly becoming one of the most interesting writers in Hollywood, and I love his penchant for gritty, dark crime stories. David Fincher needs to direct one of this guy’s scripts, dammit. With his own directorial debut Wind River coming out later this year (and garnering pretty good reviews at Sundance), Sheridan could be right back in this category in 12 months.
The one great surprise of 2016 may be that it was probably the strongest year ever for original screenplays. Most years it’s tough to find 5 worthy nominees here, but in 2016 there were at least 10 damned good films based on original works. Some of the films not nominated here but worthy of recognition include The Edge of Seventeen, Miss Sloane, Green Room, The Nice Guys and Zootopia. It kills me to leave any of them off this list.
This Year’s Oscar Winner: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
- Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
- Moonlight, screenplay by Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney
- Nocturnal Animals, screenplay by Tom Ford
- War Dogs, screenplay by Todd Phillips, Jason Smilovic, Stephen Chin
I realize a lot of the best dialogue in Deadpool was improvised, but I have to assume some of it was scripted. Regardless, the leanness of that movie’s story allowed for that improvisation to take place. Either way, all dialogue is considered part of the script for awards purposes. The WGA also nominated the film, so I can’t be that crazy.
Tom Ford‘s Nocturnal Animals is one of the best unseen gems of 2016, and I politely demand you go watch it as soon as possible. I went into the film with no expectations, but I was happily surprised at just how well made it is, starting at the script level. When I found out how much Ford changed the movie from the novel it’s based on, I was even more impressed. It’s really unfair that someone can make a movie this good AND be one of the best fashion designers in the world.
Moonlight is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s own unproduced stage play. What’s interesting is that the big reason Moonlight gets so much love is because it’s about a gay black character, but the character wasn’t gay in the source material.
War Dogs sees its only nomination in this category, but I did also consider it for several others, including Jonah Hill‘s tremendous performance and its gorgeous cinematography. I said last year how happy I was that Adam McKay made such a successful transition from comedy to drama with The Big Short, and I’ve often said Todd Phillips was capable of the same thing. He proved me right with War Dogs, which is one of the craziest true story adaptations you’ll ever see. I’m happy to give Phillips his first nomination, and I doubt it’ll be his last. It’s worth noting that War Dogs co-writer Jason Smilovic is a previous Original Screenplay nominee for Lucky Number Slevin in 2006. I’m betting the list of people I’ve nominated in both writing categories is fewer than 10 deep. There may not even be 5 of them.
Note: I left Fences off this list for the same reason I didn’t even consider it for Best Director and Best Picture. I’m not exaggerating when I say it may be the least cinematic movie I’ve ever seen, and I have to believe that began at the script stage. August Wilson‘s adaptation of his own play has excellent dialogue worthy of nominating and it produced several stellar acting performances, but Denzel Washington’s decision as director to be slavish to the stage material hurt the movie, so I will not reward its script. All you have to do is look back one year to see how an incredibly theatrical script (Steve Jobs) can be turned into a visually striking movie. Fences may be the first movie that didn’t care about cinema being a visual medium. I dare say I was offended.
This Year’s Oscar Winner: Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay (The Big Short)
BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
- Captain America: Civil War
- Captain Fantastic
- Hidden Figures
- Manchester by the Sea
Some considered it boring, but I found the “realness” of Manchester‘s acting to be one of the film’s biggest strengths. When your characters are this miserable, that pain needs to feel real and not overdone.
This Year’s Oscar Winner: N/A
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Steve Jobs
- Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
- Ryan Gosling, La La Land
- Tom Hanks, Sully
- Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
- Denzel Washington, Fences
Triple Biggies Best Actor winner (and now 9-time overall nominee) Tom Hanks takes the spot that Andrew Garfield has been getting at every other awards ceremony. While I think Garfield is excellent in Hacksaw Ridge (and in Silence, by the way), I found Hanks’ subtle, noble work in Sully to be slightly more compelling.
This Year’s Oscar Winner: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
- Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
- Viola Davis, Fences
- Natalie Portman, Jackie
- Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen
- Emma Stone, La La Land
A very competitive year in the lead actress category. This is Jessica Chastain‘s third individual nomination since she burst onto the scene in The Help in 2011. She was up for Supporting Actress for that film and won this category in 2012 for her subtle but masterful work in Zero Dark Thirty. With Jodie Foster less active in recent years, Chastain is my current favorite actress, and she was once again brilliant as a powerful Washington lobbyist in the underrated Miss Sloane.
Since we don’t do category fraud here at the Biggies, Viola Davis is up for lead actress for Fences, instead of continuing to prance her way through this year’s awards circuit because she unfairly decided to campaign for Supporting Actress in that film instead. She IS the co-lead in that movie, and she’s so good in Fences that she may win Best Actress, but it still disappoints me she actively chose
the easy route to basically cheat for an easier path to awards his season.
Now 19-year old Hailee Steinfeld was previously nominated when she was just 14 in 2010 for her incredible work in True Grit. Edge of Seventeen is one of the best, most honest coming-of-age teenage dramedies in the past 20 years, if not the best, and she carries the movie on her shoulders from start to finish. It’s an instance of absolutely perfect casting. I wish she would make better choices in roles going forward (she’s been in a lot of forgettable movies between 2010 and now), but it’s good to see she’s still realizing the potential she showed in True Grit.
Natalie Portman is devastating in Jackie, portraying an iconic historical figure with grace, but without placing a huge emphasis on making the performance merely an imitation. As someone who is fascinated by the JFK assassination and its aftermath, seeing this angle of those events brought to life was as informative as it was entertaining.
I really loved Emma Stone in La La Land. Her struggling artist may have been the movie character I most connected with in 2016. I understand everything she feels in that movie, and as a “fool who dreams” myself, her performance of “Audition” gave me the old single tear the first time I watched the movie. She sings, she dances, she acts. She’s happy, she’s sad, she’s optimistic, she’s beaten down. It’s a tour-de-force.
This was the toughest category for me to choose and the last one I finalized. By the slimmest of margins, Jessica Chastain takes her second Best Actress prize in 4 years for a terrific movie she pretty much carried on her own. It’s got a fine supporting cast, but Chastain is in nearly every frame of the movie, and her character’s actions drive the entire well-written plot.
This Year’s Oscar Winner: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Brie Larson (Room)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
- Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
- Sunny Pawar, Lion
- Ashton Sanders, Moonlight
- Hugo Weaving, Hacksaw Ridge
I only agreed with 2 of this year’s Oscar nominees in this category. In both Moonlight and Lion, I believe the Oscars chose the wrong actor to represent the fine work done in those films. While Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali was excellent in Moonlight, he didn’t blow me away, and I’m still boggled by how he rolled through awards season in this category. I thought young Ashton Sanders (who plays the main character in the second portion of the film as a teenager) had the most challenging role in the movie. Meanwhile, you could easily argue that Dev Patel is actually a lead in Lion. In the end, I decided that what 8-year old (!) Sunny Pawar did was much more difficult, especially for a child actor. I also found his 40% of the movie to be much better than the Patel-led 60%.
It appears Jeff Bridges was born to wear a Stetson and practice his craft in the desert. This is his third nomination for a movie set in the west, after his Best Actor win for Crazy Heart and his nomination for in the same category in 2010 for True Grit. I love every second of his performance in Hell or High Water. Few actors make greatness look so easy.
Finally, I’m very happy to welcome Hugo Weaving back to the nominees’ list. I’ve always loved him as an actor, but his only previous nomination was for his brilliant work as Agent Smith in the Matrix sequels way back in 2003. He’s showed us once again why he deserves more prominent roles.
If you were counting at home, that’s 4 individual acting nominees this year who are 20 or younger.
Jeff Bridges now needs only a Best Ensemble win to join the elite acting Triple Crown club. Only Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet have won Biggies for lead actor, supporting actor and a win as part of an ensemble cast.
This Year’s Oscar Winner: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Nicole Kidman, Lion
- Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures
- Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
- Rachel Weisz, The Lobster
- Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Worst. Year. Ever. For this category. Honestly. There were only 6 candidates I even considered in this category this year, and I’m really only confident with 3 of these. Aspiring screenwriters, I’m telling you: write a strong supporting female role and that actress is guaranteed to be nominated.
It’s notable that this is the second year in a row Rachel Weisz snuck in a Supporting Actress nomination for one of the very last movies I watched for consideration. Last year I watched Youth at the last minute and had no idea she was even in it, let alone how good she was. I also didn’t know she was in The Lobster, which I watched primarily because it was supposed to be a strong original screenplay candidate. It’s always fun to be surprised. And she wins! For a performance unlike anything she’s done previously, and unlike almost anything else we saw in a 2016 movie. She’s fantastic. See The Lobster.
This Year’s Oscar Winner: Viola Davis (Fences)
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
Click ahead to Page 3 as we continue with the craftsmanship and tech categories.