By Matt Neglia The two week long New York Film Festival has come and gone. It was a memorable one for me as it was my first film festival while running NextBestPicture.com and I can honestly say that I had a full experience that gave me great joy. I highly urge you, that if you love cinema, to check out your own local film festivals and take the time to surround yourself with the same people who love movies just as much as you do. But enough about that, I’m sure what most of you want to know is how did the festival impact this year’s Oscar race? Click below to find out.
“13th” Has Documentary Almost Sewn Up
The opening night of the festival showed a documentary for the first time ever in the festival’s 54 year history and it’s easy to see why “13th” holds the distinction. It’s a bold piece of a work which I illustrated in my review here. In my opinion, I think the Best Documentary race is officially over and that there is nothing that will overtake Ava DuVernay’s excellent film that explores over 150 years of racial inequality in this country. There is even a chance that it could make a play for Best Picture (Slim chance, I know), thus becoming the first documentary in Academy Award history to do so. It’s currently streaming on Netflix and I highly urge you to check it out.
“Moonlight” & “Manchester By The Sea” Are The Real Deal
Both “Moonlight” and “Manchester By The Sea” continued to wow audiences with their intimate and artful filmmaking, breathtaking performances and beautiful screenplays. Both films will be major contenders in many of the top tier categories including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Casey Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges & Mahershala Ali), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams & Naomie Harris) and their respective Best Screenplay categories. These are two of the best films of the year (See my reviews for both here and here) and aren’t going anywhere from this season’s predictions.
“Jackie” Is An Across The Board Contender
When “Jackie” first premiered at Venice many quickly assumed that the film would be a huge play for Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman and not much else after that. For those that have seen the film though, myself included, we know differently. “Jackie” is a masterwork from Pablo Larrain that deserves (And probably will be) to be recognized for it’s brilliant direction, mesmerizing writing, and top of the line production ranging from the haunting cinematography, to the unusual score by Mica Levi. Even Peter Sarsgaard who has never been nominated for an Academy Award may surprise many with a nomination for his role as Robert F. Kennedy. Bottom line is that “Jackie” could potentially be looking at double digits for its Oscar nomination haul.
“20th Century Women” Will Outperform “Beginners”
As highlighted in my review, “20th Century Women” is a wonderful followup by Mike Mills to his last film “Beginners.” That film managed to put Mike Mills on the map and nabbed an oscar win in the Best Supporting Actor category for Christopher Plummer. I’m very confident that “20th Century Women” is going to exceed that success for Mike Mills. The film seems all but assured to score at least one acting nomination for either Annette Bening or Greta Gerwig (It could potentially get both of them in depending on whether or not Bening is campaigned Lead or Supporting). The writing by Mills will surely be in contention as will the period costumes and kinetic editing. Best Picture feels like it may be a bit harder, but as contenders continue to drop off and the race starts to take shape, it could potentially happen.
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” Is Out
And we finally come to the main event. One of the most anticipated Oscar films of the year, directed by the legendary Ang Lee who is following up his Oscar winning work in “Life Of Pi,” and filmed for the first time in 120fps and screened in 4K resolution with 3D. “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” was meant to be a game changing event for the film industry. And in many ways, it is. Though some were divided on its technical achievement, I did not mind it. Instead, what I minded most was the film itself. This is not a good film. In my review I break down how it appears that Ang Lee was more concerned with getting the technology right than telling the story in the best manner possible. Most of the issues stem from the film’s screenplay and Lee is never able to elevate the material. I have since removed it from all of my Oscar predictions except for the sound categories where the halftime show and the war scenes shine the best. Lee’s film is a breakthrough for the industry, it’s just a shame that it’s more “Woodstock” than “Brokeback Mountain.”
You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @NextBestPicture