Best Picture - Drama
Winner - Manchester By the Sea
Runners Up - Fences, Hell or High Water, and Moonlight
Commentary - In a great year there are four films all within a hair of each other. Fences was an incredible acting showcase, Hell or High Water is a modern western masterpiece, and Moonlight was a beautifully constructed film. But for me, the film of the four that had the most impact was Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea. It was so subtle, yet an emotional powerhouse. The three key performances were all brilliant, and Lonergan even managed to to throw in some humor. It slowly builds its story, unveiling its secrets and its characters as it goes. For all of its quietness and darkness, it is a mightily profound film that lingers with you long after you leave the theater.
Best Picture - Comedy/Musical
Winner - La La Land
Runners Up - 20th Century Women, and Hello, My Name is Doris
Commentary - So my favorite film of 2016 was easily La La Land. You know a film is good, and is threatening to others when the hate articles or comments start to pour in, and lately I have seen a lot of that. It probably offends the sensibility of some of the dark, indie-oriented folks, and I hope it keeps on doing so. Because La La Land was the most exuberant experience I have had in a theater in a long time. Brilliantly directed with some of the most incredible scenes, impeccably acted by two of the best working today, with a touching, heartbreaking, funny, and wonderful story about the struggle we all face to follow our dreams. The way that La La Land blends old Hollywood musical vibes with the millennial generation. The way that La La Land, thrills and excites while at the same time showing us reality. The way that La La Land explodes with a visual plethora of glory. The way that La La Land succeeds is nothing short of amazing.
Best Picture - Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror
Winner - Arrival
Runners Up - Deadpool, Midnight Special, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Commentary - Denis Villeneuve has built up quite a resume the last five years or so, and after Sicario had a brush with Oscar success, I think that Arrival is going to be an even bigger breakthrough in terms of industry awards, and boy does he deserve it. Arrival is a modern science fiction masterpiece, built on mood, an excellent central performance from the magnificent Amy Adams, an incredible dose of emotional heft, and the belief that science fiction doesn't have to be action driven or alien driven. Instead, Arrival is a wholly human experience, and the results are nothing short of amazing.
Best Picture - Animated
Winner - Zootopia
Runners Up - Finding Dory, Moana, and Kubo and the Two Strings
Commentary - In a great year for animated films, choosing just one was hard. But since the first time I saw Zootopia, no film has surpassed it. In this year particularly Zootopia is the exact film that everyone needs to see. It is a brilliant, funny, original animated film that was vastly entertaining, and another great entry into the Disney canon. But what sets Zootopia apart, is that it managed to capture the zeitgeist of race and racism that seem to encapsulate 2016, in a way that reminds us that in the face of darkness, it is the humanity and common ground we find in each other that gives us hope.
Best Picture - Documentary
Winner - O.J.: Made in America
Runners Up - 13th and I Am Not Your Negro
Commentary - 13th was so important, and I Am Not Your Negro is must-see viewing, especially in current times. But Ezra Edelman's brilliant, sprawling ESPN documentary, which played on television, but was first presented in theaters (and deserves to be seen in a binge-watching manner), was the most engaging and brilliant piece of nonfiction film-making of 2016. The expert interviews, the Oscar-worthy editing work, the way that Edelman brilliantly blended in the race tensions of Los Angeles leading up to the murder, the way that each character gets their own piece, their own story, all building up to that finale. He made it come alive again, and even though we all knew the verdict, we hoped that the horrifying story would somehow change. That engagement is hard for documentaries, particularly to the mass audience that watch this. It shows just how masterful this film truly was.
Best Actor - Drama
Winner - (TIE) Casey Affleck "Manchester By the Sea" and Denzel Washington "Fences"
Runners Up - Andrew Garfield "Hacksaw Ridge" and "Silence", and Joel Edgerton "Loving"
Commentary - Casey Affleck has a lot of personal issues going on right now, and I don't really feel like commenting on them. For just this moment, let's focus on his performance in Manchester By the Sea. He was so engaging, subtle, and yet effective in a brilliant role that showcases Affleck's quiet yet masterful grasp of his craft. On the exact opposite end is the great Denzel Washington. Unlike Affleck, there is nothing quiet about Denzel in Fences. It is a force of nature acting performance. Gripping, yet endearing. He creates an wholly-realized character that the audience simultaneously hates and sympathizes with. If you need any further proof that Denzel Washington was one of the great actors of all time, he just gave you a masterful piece of evidence.
Best Actress - Drama
Winner - Ruth Negga "Loving"
Runners Up - Amy Adams "Arrival" and "Nocturnal Animals", Natalie Portman "Jackie", and Taraji P. Henson "Hidden Figures"
Commentary - Previous Awards Psychic winner Amy Adams turns out yet another masterful performance, Natalie Portman is fantastic as ever, and Taraji P. Henson is wonderful in Hidden Figures. But the one performance of the year that I cannot seem to get out of my head is Ruth Negga's in Loving. I am a huge fan of Jeff Nichols, and appreciate his ability to brilliantly tackle so many different genres with such an incredible rate of success. Loving was probably his most masterful project to date, and also his most honest. Instead of turning the story of the quiet couple from Virginia into an over-the-top court drama, Nichols played tribute to the real couple by making his story a simple and delicate one about a couple who simply loved each other and wanted a chance. At the center of this movie are two great performances, and Negga was ethereal, honest, and brilliant in a way that is unfortunately probably too subtle for an Oscar nomination, and it is their loss.
Best Actor - Comedy/Musical
Winner - Ryan Reynolds "Deadpool"
Runners Up - Ryan Gosling "La La Land" and "The Nice Guys", Viggo Mortensen "Captain Fantastic", and Jesse Plemmons "Other People"
Commentary - Deadpool was freaking awesome. Their's no other way to put it. It is the movie that Suicide Squad should have been. It was loud, irreverent, funny, and one of the best comic book movies to be put on screen in a long time. At its center was a kick-ass, balls out performance from Ryan Reynolds. Only a talented, fearless, and ridiculously funny individual could pull off a performance like that with style, and Reynolds proved he was easily all three of the things.
Best Actress - Comedy/Musical
Winner - (TIE) Annette Bening "20th Century Women" and Emma Stone "La La Land"
Runners Up - Sally Field "Hello, My Name is Doris" and Hailee Steinfeld "The Edge of Seventeen"
Commentary - Emma Stone has been a favorite of mine since Easy A, a film lost in the conversation of "high school movies", instead of "great comedy movies". La La Land proves she is a bonafide superstar, and one of our brightest young talents. But I could not leave these awards without rewarding Annette Bening another time. Her performance in 20th Century Women was so complex, and beautifully built, that only an actor with her capabilities even had a chance of pulling it off. And she knocked it out of the park.
Winner - Damien Chazelle "La La Land"
Runners Up - Barry Jenkins "Moonlight", Kenneth Lonergan "Manchester By the Sea", and Denis Villeneuve "Arrival"
Commentary - La La Land is brilliant because Damien Chazelle has been working on this project for years. He made Whiplash just to prove that he was capable of much more, which is saying a lot considering the success of his so-called "test" film. This is clearly a passion project for this wonderful young director, and his enthusiasm and immense love of film shines through in every frame, and he deserves every honor he gets for this wonderful job well done.
Best Supporting Actor
Winner - Alan Rickman "Eye in the Sky"
Runners Up - Mahershala Ali "Moonlight", Lucas Hedges "Manchester By the Sea" and Jeff Bridges "Hell or High Water"
Commentary - I get why Ali, Hedges, and Bridges are leading the Oscar race. They deserve the recognition they are getting. But I'm a sentimental soul. I've never been shy about this. Alan Rickman was one of my favorite actors. He was a true thespian and a wonderful presence on screen. His final performance in Eye in the Sky proved why he was one of the best, and why he will be missed so much.
Best Supporting Actress
Winner - Viola Davis "Fences"
Runners Up - Michelle Williams "Manchester By the Sea", Molly Shannon "Other People", and Kathryn Hahn "Bad Moms"
Commentary - Williams was powerful in small role, Shannon proved she was more than a comedian, and despite Bad Moms being mediocre over all, Kathryn Hahn had a Melissa McCarthy or Robert Downey Jr. type performance that was so ridiculous it was brilliant. But Viola Davis is in this category, and so the rest don't matter to me. She is owed an Oscar, and they better follow through with it, or there are going to be a lot of upset people. Fences is her magnum opus. She has already won a Tony for this role and it's not hard to see why. This is the performance she was meant to play. She was jaw-dropping, emotional thunderous, and proved why she is one of the best actresses of our time.
Winner - Moonlight
Runners Up - The Jungle Book, Fences, Manchester By the Sea, and Zootopia
Commentary - Moonlight is a beautiful experience, and part of the reason is the amazing cast. Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali get a lot credit, and it is deserved, no doubt. But all of the guys who played Kevin, and all of the supporting characters helped to build this beautiful story, and deserve recognition as well.
Best Voice Acting/Motion Capture Performance
Winner - Ellen DeGeneres "Finding Dory"
Runners Up - Alan Tudyk "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story", Ginnifer Goodwin "Zootopia", and Jenny Slate "Zootopia"
Commentary - Tudyk is hilarious, and Goodwin and Slate make Zootopia. But I have been waiting 13 years to honor Ellen DeGeneres and her brilliant creation that is Dory. She proved yet again, that voice acting is under appreciated, and that Oscar attention should not be ignored simply because an actor is not seen on screen.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner - Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney "Moonlight"
Runners Up - August Wilson "Fences", Eric Heisserer "Arrival", and Jeff Nichols "Loving"
Commentary - This race got a lot tougher when Moonlight switched. I was all set for one of the three runners up, but Moonlight cannot be ignored. The way that Jenkins, based on an incredible unpublished work by Tarell Alvin McCraney, beautifully constructs this heartwarming and haunting tale is masterful.
Best Original Screenplay
Winner - (TIE)Kenneth Lonergan "Manchester By the Sea" and Taylor Sheridan "Hell or High Water"
Runners Up - Damien Chazelle "La La Land" and Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush, Jim Reardon, Josie Trinidad, Phil Johnston, and Jennifer Lee "Zootopia"
Commentary - Lonergan is a master playwright, and it shows in Manchester By the Sea. The way that he brilliantly blends the warm and heartbreaking dialogue, and builds these complex characters shows a true master of the art. Taylor Sheridan took what could have been a standard cat and mouse film and turned it into a character driven, brilliantly layered, often hilarious, and thrilling enterprise that surprised a lot of folks on just how damn good it was.
Winner - Linus Sandgren "La La Land"
Runners Up - Bradford Young "Arrival" and James Laxton "Moonlight"
Commentary - The opening and closing scenes alone are enough for Sandgren to win here, but the entire film is a visual wonder. La La Land lights up the screen with beautiful hues that perfectly capture the highs and the lows of our characters' journeys. It's cinematography truly was a work of art.
Best Visual Effects
Winner - The Jungle Book
Runners Up - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Doctor Strange
Commentary - Oh come on, this was one easy. What Favreau and his visual effects team without ever stepping foot in the jungle is groundbreaking and jaw-dropping.
Worst Film of the Year
Loser - Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Runners Up - Gods of Egypt and Zoolander 2
Commentary - Okay so maybe it's not the worst film of the year, but it is certainly the most disappointing. There was so much about this that they got right: the incredible cast, the great production values, good screenwriters and a decent director. So what the hell happened? I know that it was going to be difficult to follow Nolan's masterful Dark Knight trilogy, but this was just embarrassing in comparison. It tried to be dark, and only came out moody, it was horribly edited and put together, and most importantly, it was uninspired and lazy. I thought maybe it was just going to be this film, but then they royally screwed up Suicide Squad, and it makes me incredibly worried for Wonder Woman (which is a real shame cause I actually really like Gal Gadot in that role). So yes, there were worst film failures in 2016, but this is one was supposed to great, and it definitely was not.
Top 20 Films of 2016
1. La La Land
2. Manchester By The Sea
4. Hell or High Water
5. O.J.: Made in America
11. I Am Not Your Negro
12. 20th Century Women
13. Midnight Special
15. Kubo and the Two Strings
16. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
17. Hello, My Name is Doris
19. Everybody Wants Some!!
20. (TIE) Hidden Figures and Sully