A Watchers Guide To The 88th Academy Awards

By Justice Skinner

The Oscars are finally upon us! It has been a crazy year defined by a gorilla named Harambe, a guy named Daniel’s white vans, and the future of the free world passing into the hands of Donald Trump. But despite the hysteria of the outside noise, the realm of cinema has had one of it’s best calendar’s ever.  Now, that the culmination of the 2016 cinematic year is here, the Oscars are set to reward the crème of the crop.

There are solid entries in basically every category this year, but while there are surefire wins (Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali), there will also be closer bouts in the categories of, “Best Actor”, “Best Director”, and “Best Picture” which will be in search of a contender to upset this years’ hottest musical, La La Land.

They will all be in search of a coveted piece of silverware.


Now, without further ado, the “Best Picture” nominations of this years Oscars.

Best Picture




The small indie film made with only a 1.5 million budget has turned into the critic’s darling. The movie takes a three-part approach detailing the life of a man named Chiron, showing him as a child, teenager, and then an adult.

Moonlight is the moving, emotional, hand-crafted story of a man trying to find his way in a generational “coming of age” story, but is also in rare company in the genre. This due to how Barry Jenkins brought the movie’s character unique, original stories to life as he adapted them from the book ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’.

If any movie is going to play spoiler to La La Land, it’s this one.


Hell or High Water


Hell or High Water is an in your face crime/drama that examines how far a person might go for the ones they love. The movie is set in modern day, rural Texas, and the plains of America. The setting and mundanity of the movie create a remarkably endearing story.

The movie mixes action and snappy dialogue, all the while providing touching moments to create an awesome film. It is easy to sit down, relax, and watch this film of robbers Chris Pine and Ben Foster as they escape the clutches of sheriff Jeff Bridges.




Lion is a well drawn out drama that depicts the boyhood and eventual manhood of Saroo. As a child Saroo is trapped on a train for several days and ends up in a crazy train station far from home.

He is adopted into a family and lives there for most his life. That is until memories come flooding back of his childhood and he decides to embark on a quest to find his forgotten family.

The movie packs a punch with actors Dev Patel (formally in the Oscar darling Slumdog Millionaire), and award-winning Nicole Kidman. If you haven’t already seen it, then Lion is a great movie to check out.


Hidden Figures


Hidden Figures is a movie about three African-american women and their untold contribution to NASA operations and  the space race. The movie, which has received warm reception from the critics, stars phenomenal actresses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae who hold Hidden Figures’ title roles.

However, what is more surprising is the movie’s rise to domestic success. With one-hundred-and-forty-six million dollars earned by a movie with a twenty-five million dollar budget, the film exceed all expectations.

If you were one of those people who have not joined in on the sleeper hit, then don’t hesitate. This movie is worth your time.


Manchester by the Sea


This heart-breaking, emotional movie showcases Casey Affleck’s character’s fractured life as he deals with depression and tries to pick himself up again.

However, it is crucial to not forget Michelle Williams role as Randi, who surly keeps the tears flowing in the tortuous story. Also, Lucas Hedges has a strong performance as he takes his turn as the 16-year-old nephew Casey Affleck’s character has to be a guardian too.

The movie had Oscar buzz before it came out and now seems like it push through and has a chance, if it has played its cards right, to get their name on the winning Best Picture ballot.




In an era over-bloated by over-budget sci-fi blockbusters, Arrival is a breath of fresh air.

A true thinking man’s epic, the film maintains a glorious look and feel, as well as a rich story that keeps the pace brisk and intriguing. The lead of the cast, Amy Adams, absolutely nails this film and there was some warranted surprise to her nonexistent Best Actress nomination for her role in the film.

If you are in search of a blockbuster type film, but also want a calculated plot and story, this is the one for you.


La La Land


It wouldn’t be surprising if this article wasn’t the first time you have heard of La La Land. For the last couple months it is probably all you have heard about from your “artsy” friend. It has become a seemingly unstoppable locomotive on its way to Oscar greatness.

A story of struggling musician Sebastian, and equally struggling actress Mia, the movie shoes the two characters as they waltz their way through a film that presents a choice:a once in a lifetime chance at romance or the spotlight. Having 14 (14!!) Oscar nominations, don’t be surprised if La La Land sweeps away this award as well.


Hacksaw Ridge


With Andrew Garfield taking a leave from one of the most popular characters of all time (Spider Man), the young actor definitely took a step back in the penthouse of acting and was sent scrambling. How to get back up? Team up with Mel Gibson to deliver a gory war drama. The soaring film centers on a pacifist man of faith who restrains himself from using a weapon and through all types of tribulation, throws himself selflessly onto the battlefield to save fallen soldiers. One of the surprises of the Oscar season is how quick it took for Mel Gibson to get into the director of year nominations, but it is no less deserving as this bloody war film deserved to be in the best picture of the year conversation.




Denzel Washington returns to the scene again. This time, with the movie adaptation of the Tony Award winning play, Fences. With his theatrical costar beside him, Washington and Viola Davis reprise their roles from the broadway smash.

The film is about Troy Maxson, a sanitary worker in Pittsburgh, who once dreamed of playing baseball in the big leagues. Maxson, however, never achieves this dream as he lived before  African-Americans were even allowed to play. Now, thinking about to his dreams of glory could threaten to pull his family apart.

Both Denzel and Viola have been put up as nominations for their roles, and both have a chance of making out with an award and hopefully for them this one.


And the Oscar goes to…

Best Picture Winner: La La Land


Best Actor



  • Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

  • Denzel Washington – Fences

  • Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

  • Ryan Gosling – La La Land

  • Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic


The award for Best Actor seems to have turned into a two-horse race between Affleck and Washington. Both stared in truly thoughtful and wonderful movies (Manchester by the Sea and Fences) with Denzel directing his nomination.

Both have also been out off the Oscar race for a while, with Denzel’s last nomination for the 2012 Movie, Flight, and Affleck’s last nomination for 2008’s, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

But who knows? Ryan Gosling could ride the La La Land train all the way to Best Actor. While Garfield and Mortensen are long shots, it is a celebration for the two both getting back on their feet and being nominated for the prestigious award show.

One of the nail biters of this award show, it should come down to the wire.


And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actor Winner: Casey Affleck


Best Actress


  • Emma Stone – La La Land

  • Ruth Negga – Loving

  • Isabelle Huppert – Elle

  • Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

  • Natalie Portman – Jackie


This years Best Actress nomination list packs quite a punch. Irresistible performances ranging from the magnificent Meryl Streep to the steadfast Natalie Portman, among others, all get nomination nods this year.

Indeed, both Streep and Portman give great performance for two female characters, one of which dreams of singing in the spotlight even at her elderly age, and the other the mourning wife of President Kennedy trying to piece herself together after the assassination.

Some of the other candidates include Isabelle Huppert and Ruth Negga, who both play mothers reeling from tragedy.

However, there would be a roar of surprise if Emma Stone didn’t end up with the “Best Actress Award”. Using all of her talent, gentleness, and feistiness to pull off a memorable performance in La La Land, Stone has solidified herself as the clear favorite to bring this one home.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress Winner: Emma Stone


Best Supporting Actor


  • Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

  • Dev Patel – Lion

  • Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

  • Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

  • Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water


Lucas Hedges’ role as Patrick in the Best Picture nomination, Manchester by the Sea, introduced the world to an actor that will certainly remain in the spotlight. Dev Patel returns to scene with the touching film Lion and Michael Shannon shows an ability to portray an unnerving streak as the hard detective in Nocturnal Animals. That said, no member of the field has a real chance end with up this award.

Mahershala Ali is the clear frontrunner. In only 15 minutes of screen time for the sympathetic drug-dealer in Moonlight to let his presence be felt, he captures audiences.

If Ali were to somehow slip and anyone else was to win, it will be Bridges entry as the aging sheriff tasked with stopping a chain of bank robbers in Hell or High Water.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Supporting Actor Winner: Mahershala Ali


Best Supporting Actress


  • Viola Davis – Fences

  • Nicole Kidman – Lion

  • Naomie Harris – Moonlight

  • Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures

  • Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea


Octavia Spencer and Michelle Williams both make this list with great performances in movies that are opposite sides of the coin. One, an uplifting film of the African american women in the space program, the other, a movie looking through the broken fragments of a New England man and his surroundings. Remaining contenders, Naomie Harris and Nicole Kidman, also put on terrific performances as mothers in their respective films.

This  award will be going to Viola Davis. She portrayals whatever is needed at the moment and gives an awe-inspiring introspection for her character in Fences. Expect Viola Davis to be holding this Oscar come Sunday.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Supporting Actress Winner: Viola Davis



Best Director


  • Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

  • Kenneth Lonergan’s – Manchester by the Sea

  • Damien Chazelle – La La Land

  • Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge

  • Denis Villeneuve – Arrival


Three “Best Picture frontrunners” (La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight) couldn’t have made it without their directors, and that has been recognized by the Academy. Barry Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan, and Damien Chazelle all head into the night with each having a chance for this Oscar while Denis Villeneuve and Mel Gibson remain in the background.

A surprise this year is the quick embrace from the academy for Mel Gibson who got back on track with his Wll drama, Hacksaw Ridge. Denis Villeneuve artfully crafts the sci-fi epic Arrival, and has a welcome spot on this list as well.

But, if you are speaking about artfully crafted films, look no further than Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. The musical is sure to finish the Oscars with several awards and Chazelle’s work on the project might land him this trophy too.

However, in spite of the juggernaut that is La La Land, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s work on Manchester by the Sea and neither will Jenkins indie masterpiece Moonlight will go far from unnoticed.

In one of the tighter races of the night, the Oscar goes too…

Best Director Winner: Damien Chazelle


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