1.  Natasha Braier, The Neon Demon
  2.  Mauro Fiore, The Magnificent Seven
  3.  Sean Porter, Green Room
  4.  Rodrigo Prieto, Silence
  5.  Linus Sandgren, La La Land

It’s strange and rare to see only one of our Best Picture nominees represented for its cinematography, but it just so happens that most of 2016’s best camerawork took place in films that weren’t weren’t as great in other areas.

Silence was tough to sit through at nearly 3 hours long, but it was beautiful to look at throughout.

Mag7 Denzel silhouette
Probably my favorite single shot of 2016. Denzel’s nighttime silhouette in Mag 7.

I want to single out Green Room right quick. A film that was good in so many areas really excelled with its camerawork. The photography in this film is stunning. It makes excellent use of natural light outdoors and available light indoors. You get no sense that there were ever any elaborate lighting setups, and the way they enhanced the green tones was stylish without being overbearing. It’s also one of the sharpest movies I’ve seen in years. When people have the film vs. digital argument, those in digital’s corner ought to use Green Room as an example of what digital can do that film can’t. This is how you do amazing cinematography on a small budget. Kudos to director Jeremy Saulnier, cinematographer Sean Porter and their crew.

Green Room monitorGreen Room road gif

The colors of La La Land:

LLL colors 1LLL colors 2LLL colors 3

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Linus Sandgren (La La Land)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)


  1.  Tom Cross, La La Land
  2.  Gabriel Fleming, Colby Parker Jr., Patriots Day
  3.  John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
  4.  Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water
  5.  Pietro Scalia, Michael McCusker, Calvin Wimmer, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

I usually like to nominate one film that has flashy, stylistic editing, but there were no good candidates this year for that spot, so we’ve got a list of 5 incredibly effective and efficiently cut films, 3 of which (Patriots Day, Hacksaw, 13 Hours) must have been very complicated assemblies. Most of these guys have been nominated previously, while Pietro Scalia, one of the best editors in the industry, is a 2-time previous winner for Gladiator and Black Hawk Down (which were back-to-back). It’s no shock that Michael Bay wanted him as the point man on 13 Hours.

I really liked the decision by Peter Berg and his editors to intercut actual security camera footage from the real events during the scenes in which those events were being dramatized. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done before, and it was really effective here, particularly in the riveting carjacking scene. Colby Parker Jr. was nominated here three years ago for Berg’s Lone Survivor.

Maybe the second-toughest choice I had to make this year. I love all of these edits, but I went with the simple efficiency of Hell or High Water‘s editing over some of the other, more action-y choices. Hell or High Water is painterly, and Jake Roberts‘ subtle, but beautiful brush was one of the biggest contributors to this work of art.

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  John Gilbert (Hacksaw Ridge)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Margaret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road)


  1.  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  2.  The Handmaiden
  3.  Hidden Figures
  4.  La La Land
  5.  Passengers

The more I thought about it, the more I loved Passengers‘ sets and art direction. Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas has been doing fantastic work for almost two decades (X-Men 2, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Inception, Steve Jobs), and it’s nice to see him have his day.

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  La La Land

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Mad Max: Fury Road


  1.  Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  2.  Erin Benach, The Neon Demon
  3.  Dante Ferretti, Silence
  4.  Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
  5.  Joanna Johnston, Allied

That’s two categories in a row with no representation by this year’s Best Picture nominees, again illustrating what an uneven year 2016 was. I actually enjoyed Fantastic Beasts a lot more than I thought I would, in large part due to how beautifully realized it was, evidenced here by its nominations for its sets and costumes. It was nice to be able to include Neon Demon here, because it’s rare to see a film set in present day nominated for its costumes.

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Colleen Atwood (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road)


  1.  Hacksaw Ridge
  2.  The Neon Demon
  3.  Rogue One
  4.  Star Trek Beyond
  5.  Suicide Squad

Sidebar: I just want to take a brief moment to say a big FUCK YOU to the writers of all 27,492,335 articles and tweets in the days after the Oscars this year joking about “Suicide Squad now has more Oscars than…” (like THIS ONE, in which the writer lists The LEGO Movie as a “classic” that won no Oscars) Rarely has internet groupthink been this pathetic. It won BEST MAKEUP, motherfuckers. It didn’t win Best mothafuckin Picture. It didn’t win Best mothafuckin Director and Jared Leto didn’t win Best mothafuckin Supporting Actor (at least not for this movie). So the fact that Suicide Squad has more Oscars (1) than movies like The Shawshank Redemption, or people like Alfred Hitchcock, has NOTHING to do with ANYTHING in comparing them. It’s mere coincidence. This is actually one of the few categories the Oscars got right this year, given they only had 3 nominees for makeup. Should Suicide Squad have its 2016 Oscar revoked because Singin’ in the Rain didn’t win one 64 years ago? What is your fucking point? Since you guys don’t seem to have one, here’s the only thing you need to know: even bad movies can have excellent craftsmanship. That’s it. 7 words to solve your conundrum. Retweet THAT, you clickbaiting whores.

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Suicide Squad

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Mad Max: Fury Road


  1.  Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
  2.  Michael Giacchino, Rogue One
  3.  Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
  4.  Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Patriots Day
  5.  Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

That’s 4-for-4 for Trent Reznor, who was previously nominated on his first 3 feature scores, all David Fincher collaborations. Atticus Ross shares those noms, and he has a fifth previous nomination for his work on The Book of Eli in 2010. I’ve been wondering for years when the duo would score a non-Fincher film, and while the Patriots Day score isn’t as listenable as their previous movie music, it fits Peter Berg’s film beautifully. And to have the duo again score a film set in Boston pulled on this Masshole’s delicate heart strings.

“Resolve”, from Patriots Day

Michael Giacchino (previously nominated for Up in 2009) had the unenviable task of being the first composer not named John Williams to score a Star Wars movie. While this is probably the “least great” of any Star Wars score, he did manage to come up with some very good new themes and bridge the cap musically between the prequels and the “current events” Star Wars films. Again, an incredibly difficult task. It’s even more impressive when you read that Giacchino had all of 4 weeks to write this music after Alexandre Desplat unfortunately dropped out of the project (I still want to hear what Desplat would’ve done with this movie). For comparison, John Williams is already recording the score for Episode VIII, which doesn’t open until December.

“Jyn Erso & Hope Suite”, from Rogue One

Hans Zimmer returns to the nominees’ circle after a one-year absence, teaming up with his new favorite protege, Junkie XL (last year’s winner for Mad Max: Fury Road) on what became the most heavily debated movie of 2016. I found it interesting that Zimmer said he avoided working on the Batman music in this film because he had of course already been there, done that on Christopher Nolan‘s Batfilms. Regardless of who did what, this was an excellent collaboration on a controversially not-great movie. However, I’m still pissed we didn’t get to hear his magnificent new Superman theme in all its glory in this movie, probably because the Man of Steel spent most of the film being a miserable bastard.

“Beautiful Lie”, from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Nicholas Britell‘s beautiful, quiet, haunting Moonlight score puts you right inside his characters’ heads, while Justin Hurwitz‘s dazzling jazz score for La La Land complements that film’s story and songs and is basically a character in and of itself. We’ve got a wonderful variety of music represented this year.

“The Middle of the World”, from Moonlight

“Mia & Sebastian’s Theme”, from La La Land

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road)


  1.  “City of Stars”, written by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
    performed by Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone, La La Land
  2.  “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, written by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul – performed by Emma Stone, La La Land
  3.  “How Far I’ll Go”, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda
    performed by Auli’i Cravalho & Alessia Cara, Moana
  4.  “Incredible Thoughts”, written by Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Tim Sommers, Jeremy Dussolliet – performed by The Lonely Island feat. Michael Bolton & Justin Timberlake, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  5.  “Heathens”, written by Tyler Joseph
    performed by twenty one pilots, Suicide Squad

Justin Hurwitz’s double nod here gives him 3 individual nominations for La La Land, an amazing feat for a non-director. I wasn’t blown away by the songs in that movie the first time I saw it, but on repeated viewings and listening to the soundtrack a bunch, its songs have grown on me quite a bit. I’ve been begging for a new musical with original music and songs for years, and La La Land delivered on that hope.

Popstar had 4 or 5 hilarious and clever songs good enough to be nominated here (see the movie and buy the soundtrack, fuckers), but I chose to go with my absolute favorite of the bunch, “Incredible Thoughts”, which closes out the film with a couple of pretty big celebrity cameos.

I suppose it was inevitable that Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda would eventually write awards worthy music for film, and I’m glad he’s done it sooner rather than later. His songs for the wonderful Moana are damned good, and “How Far I’ll Go” is pretty much a perfect Disney song (in all the right ways). I also adore “You’re Welcome”, performed by the film’s co-star, Dwayne Johnson.

Between Original Song and Original Screenplay, this was a good year for a couple of categories that are typically very hard to fill to my satisfaction. 2016 wasn’t a complete disaster after all.

With wins in both music categories (a rare accomplishment in and of itself), Justin Hurwitz is now a double-Biggie winner. His hypnotic score drives La La Land from start to finish, and the original songs he co-wrote are music to this dreamer’s ears.

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  “City of Stars” (from La La Land)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  “Writing’s on the Wall” (from Spectre)


  1.  13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
  2.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  3.  Captain America: Civil War
  4.  Hacksaw Ridge
  5.  Jason Bourne

La La Land was almost the first film to be nominated in this category for its dance choreography, but in the end I didn’t want to nominate it only to set precedent. The dance numbers in that film are very good, but they aren’t anything earth-shattering or new. In that film’s absence, it’s once again just a group of films with awesome stunts. The Captain America franchise was nominated here two years ago for The Winter Soldier, and this is 2-for-2 for the Bourne movies being nominated for their stunts since I created this category in 2005, after Dan Bradley‘s team won the award in 2007 for The Bourne Ultimatum. 13 Hours features some jaw-dropping, brutally realistic “effects of heavy weaponry” violence, and while Batman v Superman‘s action is mostly CG-enhanced, the one scene of Batman tearing ass through that warehouse near the end of the film was reason enough for it to be included here. It’s the most intense Batman action we’ve ever seen in 27 years of the character’s cinematic crime fighting.

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  N/A

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Mad Max: Fury Road


  1.  Captain America: Civil War
  2.  Doctor Strange
  3.  The Jungle Book
  4.  Rogue One
  5.  The Shallows

Strange cape tug

Both 2016 MCU films are represented, as most of them usually are. I thought Doctor Strange‘s effects were really clever, taking some of the cool stuff we saw in Inception to whole new, more intricate levels while also introducing new shots like the out-of-body astral plane effects. And I’m sure Civil War‘s effects teams must’ve had an absolute blast working on so many iconic characters in one film. Apparently, every single shot of Black Panther in costume is a CG shot, which is an interesting choice. Regardless, I sure as hell wouldn’t have guessed that before I read about it.

The sheer volume of effects in Jon Favreau‘s surprisingly good Jungle Book remake is noteworthy, as almost the entire film was shot on tiny sets and green screen stages, with not just the animals, but all of the environments around the characters created mostly after the fact.

I vehemently despised the choice to show the face of Carrie Fisher‘s young Leia at the end of Rogue One, but I decided I wasn’t gonna hold one two-second shot against the rest of the film’s phenomenal effects work. I thought the effort to bring Grand Moff Tarkin back to life with ILM’s face replacement technology was truly remarkable and utterly convincing, but I didn’t think it worked nearly as well for the brief shot of young Carrie Fisher. It’s a really distracting moment in an otherwise perfect scene to end the film. It’s a nitpick I’ll probably never get over, but again, it doesn’t kill the rest of the movie.

I like to find one spot in this category for effects on a smaller budgeted film, and this year The Shallows gets that spot. Even though I knew the shark in that film must’ve been CGI, not once during the movie did I think about it as an effect (or about some other things in the movie that are effects), a testament to its effectiveness. Excellent effects work in service of the story. That’s what it’s all about, folks. Perhaps The Shallows is what Spielberg would have done with his shark if he had today’s technology for Jaws.

This is really cool stuff on a movie that cost less than $20 million to make:

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  The Jungle Book

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens


  1.  Arrival
  2.  Hacksaw Ridge
  3.  La La Land
  4.  Rogue One
  5.  Sully

As always, Best Sound is the mixing of dialogue, music, sound effects and ambiance, while Sound Editing is the creation and placement of specific sound effects. This year, Arrival & Rogue One are the only two films nominated in both categories.

The Soundworks Collection on Captain America: Civil War. Always excellent:

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Hacksaw Ridge

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  The Revenant


  1.  13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
  2.  Arrival
  3.  Captain America: Civil War
  4.  Deepwater Horizon
  5.  Rogue One

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Arrival

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens

OSCARS COMPLIANCE:  I agreed with the Oscar winners in 7 of the 18 categories we share, for a whopping 39%. We agreed 10/18 times last year. 3 of my winners this year (Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress) were not even nominated at the Oscars.

Click to page 4 for fun statistics and breakdowns of all the big nominees, along with this year’s honorary award recipients and Biggies Hall of Fame inductees.


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