Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Oscars will have surprises

Friday, February 24, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

It was another good year at the movies in 2016.

In North America, movies grossed $11.4 billion in 2016, besting the record of $11.1 billion in 2015.

Walt Disney Studios held the top three positions: “Finding Dory,” $486.3 million; “Rogue One,” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

None of these was a Best Picture nominee for the Academy Awards, to be telecast at 8 p.m. EST Feb. 26. Here are my picks for the seven categories of the Lehigh Valley Press “Readers Pick the Oscar recipients” contest:

Best Picture:Among the nine nominees, “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight,” the favorite is “La La Land.” The strongest contenders are “ Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hidden Figures,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight.” Just to keep it interesting among the very strong nominees: I predict an upset:“Moonlight.”

Lead Actor:Casey Affleck is the front-runner for “Manchester by the Sea.” Contenders are Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge” and Denzel Washington, “Fences.” Other nominees in this tightly-contested category are Ryan Gosling, “La La Land” and Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic.” Predictably, it’sCasey Affleck.

Lead Actress:Ruth Negga was nuanced and subtle in “Loving.” Natalie Portman was amazing in “Jackie.” Isabelle Huppert was nominated for “Elle” and Meryl Streep received a record 20th Oscar nomination for “Florence Foster Jenkins.” For “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem,” and for “La La Land,” it’s the remarkableEmma Stone.

Supporting Actor:All of the nominees were excellent in this very competitive category: Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”; Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”; Dev Patel, “Lion,” and Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals.” The pivotal “Moonlight” performance will do it forMahershala Ali.

Supporting Actress:Again, a category of worthwhile nominees: Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”; Nicole Kidman, “Lion”; Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures,” and Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea,” but the money scenes in “Fences” belong toViola Davis.

Director:Beautiful and compelling work by terrific film-makers: “Hacksaw Ridge,” Mel Gibson; “Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins; “Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan, and “Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve, but the most beautiful of all is “La La Land” byDamien Chazelle.

Animated Feature:Missing in action is “The Secret Life Of Pets.” But the time for parsing snubs is well past. The nominees are a mixed bag: “Moana,” John Musker, Ron Clements, Osnat Shurer; “My Life as a Zucchini,” Claude Barras, Max Karli; “The Red Turtle,” Michael Dudok de Wit, Toshio Suzuki, and the presumptive recipient, “Zootopia,” Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Clark Spencer. Again, to keep it interesting and because it’s the most artistic among nominees:“Kubo and the Two Strings,”Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner.

Box Office,Feb. 17: “The Lego Batman Movie” assembled another No. 1, this time for Presidents’ Day weekend (Monday tallies were unavailable at deadline), with $34.2 million, $98.7 million, two weeks, holding “Fifty Shades Darker” again at No. 2, with $20.9 million, $89.6 million, two weeks, as something there is that doesn’t love a wall, at least among United States’ movie-goers, put Matt Damon’s “The Great Wall” at No. 3 with an unimpressive $18 million.

4. “John Wick: Chapter 2,” $16.5 million, $58.6 million, two weeks; 5. “Fist Fight,” $12 million, opening; 6. “Hidden Figures,” three Oscar nominations, $7.1 million; $142.5 million, nine weeks; 7. “Split,” $7 million, $123.6 million, five weeks; 8. “A Dog’s Purpose,” $5.5 million, $50.6 million, four weeks; 9. “La La Land,” record-tying 14 Oscar nominations, $4.5 million, $133.5 million, 11 weeks; 10. “A Cure for Wellness,” $4.2 million.

Unreel,Feb. 24:

“Get Out,”R: Jordan Peele directs Allison Williams, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener and Daniel Kaluuya in the horror film about a young African-American man visiting his Caucasian girlfriend’s mysterious family estate.

“Collide,”PG-13: Eran Creevy directs Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley in the action-thriller about an American backpacker involved with a ring of drug smugglers as their driver as they have not so much fun, fun, fun on the Autobahn.

“Rock Dog,”PG: Ash Brannon directs the voice talents of Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons and Lewis Black in the animation feature comedy about a radio and a Tibetan Mastiff.

“Bitter Harvest,”R: George Mendeluk directs Max Irons, Terence Stamp, Barry Pepper and Samantha Barks in the war drama set in the 1930s Ukraine as Stalin advances the ambitions of communism.