By Matt Neglia As the world reacts in astonishment at what transpired yesterday evening in regards to the 2016 Presidential Election results, we here at NextBestPicture.com are trying to understand what this means for this year’s Oscar Race? It’s no surprise that in previous election years, the films which won were a reflection of how the country was feeling at that time and were chosen almost as statements than based upon their individual merit. This year’s presumed frontrunner is “La La Land” and questions have aroused as to whether another challenger could rise to the occasion and cause an upset just as Donald Trump did last night. Let’s look back for a second at 8 years ago when President Barack Obama’s campaign of hope and change was in the public’s mind. The runaway winner that year was “Slumdog Millionaire” which still to this day manages to put a smile on my face every time I watch it and uplifts my mood no matter what is going on in my life. Before that, in 2004 “Million Dollar Baby” was a season late comer that swooped in and affected everyone emotionally about the heart of a fighter and finding closure in one’s own life. It was released during the midst of two ongoing wars at a time when the country was feeling the negative effects of the Bush administration. It may have been a grim film for some but also celebrated our willingness to push on. Before that, we had the 2000 Oscar year which still stands as one of the most divided in history just as voters felt divided over the outcome of Al Gore vs George W Bush. That year, “Gladiator” took the top prize with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Traffic” each taking their fair share of awards as well. I don’t want to bore you by going too far back in history with more comparisons of what was going on at the Oscars was certainly a reflection of how we were feeling as nation. There have been many articles written on this exact subject and a lot of it depends on your own individual perspective. Either you see the parallels or you think people are reaching and the best film won that respective year, plain and simple.
This year presents a unique scenario where “La La Land” is being hailed by critics as the early frontrunner and it has maintained this lead ever since it first screened at this year’s Venice Film Festival. I may not have seen the film yet, but there’s no denying some of the early responses that the film has received and how overwhelming positive those responses are. Is this going to be a steamroller year where one film wins everything and leaves the other films in the dirt such as in 2011 where “The Artist” squashed everything in its path? It’s still too early to call, but when the National Board of Review reveal their winners at the end of November, we may start to see the beginning of a tidal wave that does not stop. Or it could go another way. Which films stand the biggest chance to benefit from how Oscar voters must be feeling right now?
Will Oscar voters look towards Denis Villeneuve’s latest film “Arrival?” It’s a thinking person’s science fiction film that favors brains over braun and shows the power of communication, teamwork and understanding being used to face off against adversity over violent means. Maybe “Moonlight” continues to resonate with voters now more than ever as it tracks the struggle of a African American living in America as he wrestles with his upbringing, societal perception and sexual identity. What about “Fences?” August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play has already been described by those who have seen it as a powerful piece of work that celebrates the African American voice and could very possibly win both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis acting Oscars. Why not Best Picture as well? Or maybe, “Patriot’s Day” surprises all of us and reminds us of how strong we can be when we come together as a nation during troubling times to overcome a threat to our democracy. And where exactly will “Silence” factor into all of this? Will voters be able to relate to a nearly three hour Martin Scorsese directed period epic of persecuted Christians during feudal Japan? Who knows? Maybe “La La Land” will remain as the sure thing due to its escapist nature and throwback to older Hollywood musicals that manages to put smiles across all of our faces. It could very well be the whimsical escape from this supposed nightmare that many feel they are now living through. Do you think it’s a sure thing now more than ever? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think is winning Best Picture and which film poses the greatest threat to upset.
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