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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Alabama film buffs weigh in with Oscar picks


In less than a week, the exterior of the Hollywood and Highland Center Shopping Mall in Los Angeles, which houses the Dolby Theatre, will be adorned with bright red carpet, hundreds of news media members, and film’s biggest stars. That same night, they will file inside to see what the 6,687 member Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose as the best of film in 2017. This is the world of the Oscars.

In order to bring a taste of this world to Tuscaloosa, we formed a 13-member panel of students, professors and others to vote for the University’s Oscar Choice.

For the category of Best Actress in a Supporting Role, the voters almost unanimously chose Viola Davis for her performance as Rose Maxson in “Fences.” Davis, who also played the role in the stage play of the same title, has dominated the awards circuit this year. David Allgood, manager at the Bama Theatre and one of the facilitators of the Bama Art House Series, had particularly high praise for Davis.

“Viola Davis gives a riveting performance through a character imbued with dignity, frustration, anger and love for her complicated and troublesome family,” Allgood said.

The Best Actor in a Supporting Role category wasn’t very close either as other awards season favorite, Mahershala Ali, accrued 10 of the 13 votes from the panel. Since his turn as Juan, the drug-dealing mentor of the main character in “Moonlight,” Ali has scored a whopping 40 awards, cementing him as a favorite to win the Oscar. Adam Brooks, director of the University’s Speaking Studio and self-proclaimed Oscar buff, explained why Mahershala Ali was an easy choice for Best Supporting Actor.

“Ali takes an often one-dimensional image in film – that of a drug dealer in some of the worst neighborhoods of Miami – and manages to add complexity, empathy and a moral center that anchors the journey of the entire film,” Brooks said.

The race for Best Actress in a Lead Role was another blow out as Natalie Portman raked in more than half the votes from the panel for her turn as Jackie Kennedy in the historical drama “Jackie.” Glenda Cantrell, who teaches an interim course on the Oscars where she and her students study the awards show and watch all of the nominated films, instead chose Isabelle Huppert for her role in “Elle.”

“Isabelle Huppert gives us a complex and complicated character in a film that is both gripping and disturbing,” Cantrell said. “She is riveting. Both poised and provocative, she makes it impossible to look away.”

The panel was also fairly uniform in their choice of Casey Affleck as Best Actor in a Lead Role for his work in “Manchester by the Sea.” Casey Affleck dominated the awards season in this category until Denzel Washington won the category at the Screen Actors Guild Awards for his role in “Fences.” While Affleck still looks to be the favorite in the category, Washington’s win at the SAGs makes it less than certain. Caleb Butler, a sophomore TCF student and yearly Oscars follower, chose Affleck for subverting the tropes of grief in movies.

“[Affleck] was able to show grief in a realistic way instead of going the sappy route that many emotional dramas do,” Butler said.

The panel was split on the Best Director category. Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) edged out Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) by just one vote. “La La Land” is only Chazelle’s third feature film as a director, and it has been a critical and financial juggernaut. Freshman TCF student and self-proclaimed film fanatic, Zain Hashmat, explains why Chazelle’s assured direction earned his vote for Best Director.

“By delicately crafting the story with utmost precision, Chazelle manages to make a film which should be cliche and familiar, end up feeling fresh, new and oh-so exciting,” Hashmat said.

Due to the large number of nominees in the Best Picture category, voters were asked to pick their first, second and third choices between the nine nominees. Each first place vote was worth three points, each second place vote worth two and each third place vote worth one. This was by far the closest race as “Moonlight” just edged out “La La Land” by only two points. Although “La La Land” earned the most first place votes, it had no second place votes, which is where “Moonlight” thrived with six. Kristen Warner, an assistant professor of JCM and the lone first place vote for “Moonlight,” chose it for its willingness to tell a story not often told in Hollywood.

“I think it’s important that we recognize the beauty, artistic talent and great storytelling within [“Moonlight”],” Warner said. “It shows parts of life Hollywood cinema doesn’t often reflect and does so with such precision, grace and nuance, it leaves a lasting impression.”

The Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and will air live on ABC from Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 26th at 7:30 p.m.

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