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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscars for 2016 Films

Oscar Statuettes
Thanks for noncommercial use: Prayitno on Flickr
The Academy Award ceremonies are tonight and my wife and I have again been using some of our leisure time to view nominated films and acting performances. Regular readers may recall that I only saw one of the films nominated for best picture during the 2016 calendar year.

We started watching nominees very late this year and didn't see many of the nominated movies or performances. Thus, this post is something that will be updated later in the year as we watch more of these films.

In any case, based on my recent attempts to see at least some of the contenders, I'm going to rank-order the films and acting performances. Obviously, this is my completely subjective perspective -- and hardly an ideal way to think about art. Plus, I can only rank the small sample of performances I watched. That is a big limit since I failed to see 6 of the Oscar-nominated Best Picture nominees (including the favorite) and I've yet to see most of the acting performances.

Keep in mind that these are not my predictions about winners in each category. Go to the Hollywood Stock Exchange if you want predictions based upon betting markets. Spoiler Alert: La La Land is a big favorite for Best Picture and its female star (Emma Stone) seems to be one of the biggest favorites in a major acting category. The film's director Damien Chazelle is also expected to win an Oscar. In other categories, Fences co-stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are strongly favored to pick up hardware, as is Mahershala Ali of Moonlight (and Hidden Figures).

Note for future readers: Films and performances shaded in yellow below will indicate additions/edits after the Oscars are awarded (and the original blog posting).

Best picture

Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures **
Manchester by The Sea
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

Comment: I really liked Hell or High Water, but it is a crime noir film, one of my favorite genres. Hidden Figures was quite well done and I liked it too. Both films had some cliches of their respective genres. Moonlight is an excellent movie too.

Best director

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Best actor in a Leading Role

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

Comment: I really enjoyed Captain Fantastic. See it if you haven't had a chance.

Denzel Washington was terrific in Fences

Best actress in a Leading Role

I did not see any of these performances prior to the Oscars:

Emma Stone – La La Land
Natalie Portman – Jackie

Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion

Either of those [top two] guys could win. They were both fantastic.

Shannon was also great -- how much weight did he lose to play that role? The film was disappointing, however.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures **
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
Nicole Kidman – Lion

Her character is a villain in the film, but Harris was great in her role.

Best Documentary Feature

I failed to see any of these before the Oscars:

I Am Not Your Negro

Fire at Sea
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America

Comment: Netflix had 13th available to stream prior to the Oscars and the O.J. film is on demand on TV -- from ESPN, I think. A couple of others are on Prime. This is a category that I should have given more attention weeks ago.

Best Foreign Language Film

A Man Called Ove (Sweden) in Swedish

I finally watched A Man Called Ove in 2022 and it's well worth your time. There are some clich├ęs and the crusty old man schtick gets a bit tiresome, but it is earnest and funny. 

And I haven't seen these either:

Land of Mine (Denmark) in Danish
The Salesman (Iran) in Persian
Tanna (Australia) in Nauvhal
Toni Erdmann (Germany) in German

Toni Erdmann tops some lists as best picture of 2016. I'm eager to see it.

** I saw these films or performances in the theater.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

ISA 2017

Harbor view from Hyatt Regency
I attended the 2017 ISA conference in Baltimore this past week. It's enormous and I have ambivalent feelings about it. There are 75 to 80 panels at a time, with at least 5 people usually on each panel (4 or 5 papers is typical on "regular" panels, plus a chair/discussant). Lots of people complain about under-attended panels, but many show up for roundtables featuring prominent scholars in the discipline.

I managed to see a few old friends from academia and from the "real" world. I visited a brewpub and a craft beer bar, walked around Camden Yards, and took the commuter train to DC in order to do some work tied to my job as department chair. Soon, I'll try to upload a few pictures with this post.

Pictured below left: the Babe Ruth statue outside Camden Yards and the beer menu from The Brewer's Art last Wednesday night.

Saturday morning, I presented a paper on "Trump and American Foreign Policy; A Threat to Peace and Prosperity?" I've uploaded it to my page and my Research Gate page. I'm grateful to Fabrizio Coticchia for his helpful comments. I'm not sure what to do with the paper, but Fabrizio had helpful insights about Silvio Berlusconi that seem directly applicable to Trump and about the literature on political "outsiders" who assume executive power.

If anyone reads the paper and has comments, please send them along. Also, I'm genuinely looking for ideas about what to do with it. At minimum, it has prepared me for teaching about Trump in class.

Note: "The Voice" TV program was conducting auditions just around the corner from my hotel and near the conference. I've included a photo of the line:

The Voice auditions

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