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Movie Reviews

2016 Scootzcademy Awards

Maximilian Rivera January 5, 2017
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Award season is upon us and it’s time that I crowned my personal winners for 2016 release that I have experienced. While I do my best to keep up with the latest releases, there are still a few movies that I have not seen and cannot put up for nomination for these prestigious awards. Notable movies that are not considered: Moonlight, Paterson, Jackie, A Monster Calls, Everybody Wants Some!, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, amongst others.

Here are the nominees, and below, the winners. Let me know your thoughts below!

  • Best Picture: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea
  • Best Director: Damian Chazelle, Tom Ford, Mel Gibson, Kenneth Longergen
  • Best Actor: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Joel Edgarton (Loving), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Denzel Washington (Fences)
  • Best Actress: Amy Adams (Arrival), Viola Davis (Fences), Ruth Negga (Loving), Emma Stone (La La Land)
  • Best Performance in a Supporting Role: Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals),  Hugo Weaving (Hacksaw Ridge), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Best Cinematography: Arrival, La La Land, Nocturnal Animals, The Birth of a Nation
  • Best Original Score: Arrival, Kubo and the Two Strings, La La Land, Moana
  • Best Screenplay: Arrival, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, Nocturnal Animals
  • Best Animated Film: Kubo and the Two Strings, The Little Prince, Moana, Zootopia
Best Picture – Manchester by the Sea
This year has proved an excellent year for movies and I had a very difficult time deciding which film was my favorite of the year. When it came down to it, I had to consider the movie that stuck with me the most, and that was Manchester by the Sea. From the stunning performances of the lead ensemble, to the brilliant writing, to the excellent camerawork and score, the film succeed on all fronts in telling it’s story and telling it well. It is very difficult to watch this movie and not feel taken aback by the tragedy, the heartbreak, and the grief on display, as well as the unique behaviors of each character. The movie does an excellent job of storytelling without exposition, and of delivering satisfying arcs for it’s characters. The subject matter is tough here, but it’s a part of life, and it’s a huge part of life. I think a movie like Manchester by the Sea is so powerful and so effecting, it’s a must watch for any film fans. 

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Best Director – Damian Chazelle (La La Land)
I was impressed by the way La La Land modernized the genre of the musical, by both staying true to what makes musicals fun and lively, but also freshening up the once dying genre by incorporating interesting and subtle modern filmmaking techniques into the film. La La Land is a movie that showcases it’s incredible talent both in front of the camera and behind it: from the music, to the writing, to the performances, to the visual style, it was all maximized to it’s fullest potential, and that is where Chazelle’s skill shines the brightest. Chazelle crafted an ode to Hollywood dreamers and lovers that both dazzles as a film on it’s own, while also providing a tale that has real, deep meaning.

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Best Actor ​- Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
If Casey Affleck’s performance in Manchester by the Sea isn’t Oscar-worthy then I don’t know what is. Affleck’s Lee Chandler is a complex, emotionally compromised man who goes through challenge after challenge and the emotion that Affleck conveys through this role is incredible. Brilliant writing makes Lee Chandler such a fascinating character, but Affleck’s performance is what sets this apart and makes the film work so well. It’s a heavy role, but in addition to nailing the emotional nuance of the character, Affleck excels in combining with the rest of the film’s ensemble for some excellent, believable interactions that form the cornerstone of what makes the movie so great.

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Best Actress – Viola Davis (Fences)
Viola Davis showed once again in Fences that she is one of the finest actresses on the planet right now. Her performance here is forceful, dynamic, and enthralling. Davis always brings it to her roles and this role is one that suited her well; from Broadway all the way to Hollywood, she has been earning widespread acclaim for her portrayal of Rose Maxson in the play turned Oscar-contender. Considering the movies costars Hollywood powerhouse Denzel Washington, it’s telling that Viola Davis steals every scene that she is in. Already twice nominated for an Academy Award, this year she is a real threat for her third nomination and first win.

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Best Performance in a Supporting Role –
Hugo Weaving (Hacksaw Ridge)

In a movie with a star-filled ensemble from top to bottom, Weaving doimnated every scene he was in in Hacksaw Ridge. Weaving Plays Tom Doss, the father of main character Desmond Doss, and is in just a handful of scenes in the film. Those scenes however show a dynamic range, from drunkard to caring father, from shame, to prideful veteran, and his extraordinary emotional scenes are the most memorable of the movie. What starts out seeming like a surface level deadbeat father, turns into an incredibly complex character, thanks to the power of Weaving’s performance.

Best Cinematography – Arrival
Taking the Best Cinematography award this year would be director Denis Villenueve’s sci-fi hit Arrival, led by Director of Photography Bradford Young. Watching this movie is an absolute visual treat; from the sweeping landscapes of the alien invasion, to the tight interactions between the nation’s scientists and military personnel, the movie is incredibly well-crafted. The team here did a great job of blending practical and computer-generated effects to make every scene- no matter how alien the location was- feel real and grounded. The movie does an excellent job of visual storytelling, proving that smart sci-fi can be done without pandering; Arrival takes the time to show what’s happening in the movie, and never feels like it’s in a rush to get to the next point. The shots here are often long and linger, forcing the audience to consider what’s on screen. It’s absolutely breath-taking.
Best Original Score – La La Land
What can be said about La La Land‘s music and score that hasn’t already been said? The musical songs are toe-tapping fun and emotionally evocative. The film score itself is brilliantly done by Justin Hurwitz (who collaborated with Damien Chazelle on the equally excellent Whiplash) and is just as catchy as the musical’s performances are. The toughest thing about the La La Land soundtrack is picking which song is best; I am partial to the infectious “Someone in the Crowd”, but the charming piano and lyrics in “City of Stars” have been coursing through my brain ever since I saw it as well.
Best Screenplay – Manchester by the Sea
I think this year, despite having a number of high profile duds and flops, we have also seen a great mix of unique, clever, and beautifully written screenplays, especially in the smaller films not being pushed by the biggest studios. The best of these in my opinion, is Manchester by the Sea by a longshot. No film that I have seen has handled a delicate, personal story of grief, sadness, and recovery better than Manchester by the Sea, written by writer/director Kenneth Lonergen. The dialogue here is an absolute triumph; it is all incredibly natural and real, and makes the dramatic moments in the movie even more affecting. The movie is also quite funny, not in a gag/over-the-top way, but in a grounded way that still feels very natural. Considering the subject matter is quite heart-rending, the fact that the movie takes the time to show you that there is still humor and joy amidst the sadness is one of it’s greatest victories.
Best Animated Film – Kubo and the Two Strings
It was a great year for animated movies, with a number of huge releases getting critical acclaim, but none stood taller to me than Kubo and the Two Strings. The Laika Entertainment brand over the years has become one of the premier studios for not only high quality animated films, but unique concepts and stories built around distinct and beautiful stop-motion. Kubo is no different; in fact, Kubo and the Two Strings is my favorite film of theirs to date. Led by Laika’s usual incredible visual design and masterful stop-motion work, the film crafts a beautiful tale of family and honor and courage. The voice cast is very good, the movie’s score is incredible, and again, I cannot stress enough how much of a joy it is visually. The film did not do very well at the box office, but Laika films usual have trouble finding a footing with audiences in theaters. That should not take away from the fact that it’s one of the most fantastic films I saw all year.

Max is a marketing copywriter by day, filmmaker and screenwriter by night. He resides in Charlotte, NC, and loves his dogs, watching movies, building LEGO sets, and eating food. Lots of food.You can find Max at his personal website and twitter.

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