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Wilson

The plot opts for cop-out sentimentality and begins to melt into goo.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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1.

"2017 Oscar Nominees Spotlight Diversity": Our critic Susan Wloszczyna analyzes this year's Academy Award nominees. Click here for the full printable ballot, courtesy of the official Oscar site. 

“As expected, Oscar voters were singing ‘La La Land’’s song on Tuesday morning when the contenders for the 89th Academy Awards were announced. The musical salute to Hollywood hopes and dreams claimed a record-tying 14 nominations, a feat previously achieved by 1950’s ‘All About Eve’ and 1997’s ‘Titanic.’ But monopolizing the ballot is one thing. Winning is another. No musical has taken home a Best Picture trophy since 2002’s ‘Chicago,’ which earned 13 nods and led to a revival of the genre that was a staple in the Golden Age of film. What sets ‘La La Land’ apart, however, is that it is an original story with all new songs and not based on a Broadway show or other source. The last time that a musical written just for the big screen was up for Oscar’s biggest prize was 2001's ‘Moulin Rouge!’ On a more serious note, after two years of only white performers making the cut, the list of 20 actors nominated boasts the most nominees of color ever with seven making the cut: Denzel Washington (‘Fences’), Ruth Negga (‘Loving’), Mahershala Ali (‘Moonlight’), Viola Davis (‘Fences’), Octavia Spencer (‘Hidden Figures’) and Dev Patel (‘Lion’). That tops 2004’s roster of five, including Jamie Foxx doubling up as both a lead (‘Ray’) and a supporting actor (‘Collateral’). Then there is Barry Jenkins, whose ‘Moonlight’ claimed eight nominations. He is just the fourth black filmmaker to be nominated for Best Director. And, as Chazelle’s biggest competition, he could become the first to win. The documentary category also did its part to put #OscarsSoWhite on the shelf at least for this year with such racially-themed selections as ‘I Am Not Your Negro,’ ‘O.J.: Made in America’ and ‘13th.’”

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2.

"Oscar Best Actor Battle: Denzel Washington ('Fences') Now Tied With Casey Affleck ('Manchester by the Sea')": According to Gold Derby's Paul Sheehan.

Denzel Washington (‘Fences’)  just caught up with Casey Affleck (‘Manchester By the Sea’) in the Oscar race for Best Actor. Each now has the backing of 12 of our two dozen Oscar experts derived from major media outlets. Washington pulled off an upset at the SAG Awards on Jan. 29 and that guild has a stellar track record at previewing the eventual Oscar champ. Eighteen of the 22 SAG winners have gone on to claim an Oscar bookend, including the last 12 in a row. [2003 SAG champ Johnny Depp (‘Pirates of the Caribbean’) was bested at the Oscars by Sean Penn (‘Mystic River’). ] For his stirring portrayal in ‘Manchester by the Sea’ of a loner forced to confront his past when a family crisis requires him to return home, Affleck has already won Best Actor from a jaw-dropping 29 of the 33 critics groups surveyed. He contended at the 2007 Oscars in Best Supporting Actor for ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ but lost to Javier Bardem (‘No Country for Old Men’). Washington, who took top honors from two critics groups, won a Tony in 2010 for headlining the first Broadway revival of the August Wilson domestic drama ‘Fences.’ He reprises his role as an ex-baseball player struggling to provide for his family and directed the film as well. Washington has won two of his six previous Oscar bids [‘Glory’ (supporting, 1989) and ‘Training Day’ (lead, 2001)].”

3.

"Damien Chazelle Wins DGA Award for 'La La Land,' Oscars Will Follow": As reported by Indiewire's Anne Thompson.

“The inevitable occurred Saturday night as Damien Chazelle accepted the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for ‘La La Land’ from last year’s winner, A.G. Inarritu. The DGA winner is usually a pretty certain match with the Oscar for the Best Director — the winner has not gone on to take the Academy Award only seven times. (The most recent example: in 2012 non-Oscar directing nominee Ben Affleck won the DGA Award for ‘Argo,’ while Ang Lee won the Oscar for ‘Life of Pi.’)Chazelle beat fellow first-time DGA and Oscar nominees Barry Jenkins (presented by his charming trio of stars in $1.5 million ‘Moonlight’), Kenneth Lonergan (introduced by ‘Manchester By the Sea’ star Casey Affleck) and Denis Villeneuve (tributed by Amy Adams of  ‘Arrival’). ‘Film is a universal language,’ Chazelle said, recalling how the French New Wave directors fell in love with Hollywood sans sub-titles. He also called out Oscar-nominated Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (“The Salesman”), who refused after President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban to attend the Oscars. ‘Movies are powerful because they speak to everyone.’”

4.

"2017 Oscar predictions slugfest: Will 'The Salesman' win thanks to President Trump?": Gold Derby's Marcus James Dixon, Tom O'Neil and Chris Beachum participate in a worthy debate.

“‘We’re gonna see politics play a huge role at the Oscars, and I think that will come into play with the Best Foreign Language Film category,’ I say in our predictions slugfest video. Gold Derby editors Tom O’Neil and Chris Beachum join me in dishing the below-the-line races, including our belief that President Donald Trump‘s Muslim ban could end up helping ‘The Salesman,’ since its Iranian director Asghar Farhadi is unable to come to America to enjoy his time in the Oscar spotlight. Watch the video above or listen to the podcast version below. ‘This director, who won years ago for ‘A Separation,’ has been very vocal,’ Tom reminds us. ‘Even if Donald Trump lifts the ban on immigrants and suddenly he’s allowed to go, he’s not going as a protest vote.’ According to Gold Derby’s Oscar experts from major media outlets, ‘Toni Erdmann’ (Germany) is still out front to win Best Foreign Language Film, but the margin is narrowing. Chris adds, ‘[Farhadi] is very smart. He’s gonna keep saying that he’s not coming and here’s the reason why until the ballots are closed, and then suddenly he’s gonna become available. Because what better stage, should he win, to be on to say what he wants to say? But he’s not gonna admit to that till the voting’s over.’”

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5.

"Oscar predictions 2017: The nominees tipped to win": A superb compilation from The Week.

“‘La La Land’ has long been a frontrunner for the top Oscars prize. Hailed as the ‘nostalgic musical Millennials have been waiting for,’ the film revives the grand tradition of MGM musicals with its leads, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, tap-dancing through their romance. Other titles long tipped by the bookmakers include ‘Manchester by the Sea,’ ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Silence’ and ‘Fences.’ ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ Mel Gibson's World War II drama, is a surprise contender. Based on a true story, it stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, a US combat medic and conscientious objector awarded the Medal of Honor for saving dozens of lives during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. January has also seen the release of a new challenger: space-race drama ‘Hidden Figures.’ The film, which stars Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae as the real-life mathematicians who played a major role in getting the Apollo missions off the ground, comfortably beat ‘La La Land’ to the number one US box office spot when it came out. ‘Although it looks like a movie machine-tooled to ride the wave of #OscarsSoWhite backlash, its actual ambitions seem far more modest: to entertain a lot, to educate a bit and to cheerlead pretty much constantly,’ says The Guardian.”

Image of the Day

Our own Collin Souter presents his picks for what short films will win the Academy Award this year in the live-action, animated and documentary categories.

Video of the Day

Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil, IndieWire’s Anne Thompson, Variety’s Tim Gray and Deadline's Pete Hammond participate in a four-way Oscar predictions smackdown.

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