Turning our sights to next year, however, is the topic at hand. Which movies will end up making an impact? How will the Oscars be impacted by pop culture trends? Will there be more diversification or was that just a running gag this time around? Let's break out our crystal balls and attempt to see into the future.
By far, the biggest story of this year's Academy Awards was the lack of diversity. Hopefully, if you're reading this, you're not on either of the two extreme sides that are militantly against it on principle alone OR you're not someone who is advocating diversification purely for the sake of it, even at the expense of judging purely on talent. If that's the case, then you're in that middle ground of logic and reason that it appears most of the industry has come to the conclusion of, that there should be a more concerned effort not to discriminate against anyone of any background when it comes to hiring them for particular jobs that don't have any specifications behind them that are prohibitive. For example, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone that would argue an Asian man should be cast as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there should be no discussion saying that only men can direct superhero films if there are any women qualified enough to take on the reigns.
That being said, don't be too surprised if there isn't a grand, sweeping change when it comes to diversity for the nominees of next year's Oscars. Many of the films that will be nominated are already being worked on now—some even completed—and they haven't had time to reflect any changes in the mentality of the production companies.
This year's Best Picture winner Spotlight was pretty much the textbook definition of "Oscar bait" and I honestly didn't care for it all that much, similar to a lot of the nominees from history's past. By far, I would recommend people to watch Creed over it, since that was a much more enjoyable film, but I don't think that film was snubbed in favor of Spotlight because of its lead actor being black. Instead, I think that was more of a byproduct of the type of films those two are.
Creed is the seventh film in a fictional sports franchise, while Spotlight is a drama based on a true story that deals with a political scandal about a social issue. The latter is always going to receive more attention than the former. That is why 12 Years a Slave and The Help were given awards in the past (despite the subject matter not being something "white-washed") and why Star Wars: The Force Awakens—the seventh film in a fictional sci-fi/fantasy franchise which broke virtually every possible box office record this year—wasn't nominated for Best Picture.
Just as Dope and Straight Out of Compton weren't nominated for 2016, don't be surprised to see similar films not on the list for 2017. On the same token, don't be shocked if Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange aren't even remotely close to in the running for Best Picture. That's not a judgment of racial undertones in voting, but being biased against certain genres and favoring things that are by-the-books "Oscar films" from public perception over the years. It will take a lot more time for things to change, rather than just a few months. Seeing Mad Max: Fury Road get so much attention is a good sign that there are indeed changes happening, and one change begets the next. It will be shocking if by 2018, there isn't a noticeable difference, but don't be outraged if 2017's films are very similar to 2016's.
To counteract this, it'll be interesting to see who hosts the show. This year, Chris Rock was in a prime position to address the subject. Imagine how awkward it would have been if James Franco and Anne Hathaway were the hosts. Do they talk about it and risk being viewed as "unqualified to speak about the matter" or do they ignore it and risk being accused of sweeping it under the rug?
It's doubtful that the topic will have as much of a presence in 2017 as it did this year, as time will inevitably take some of the stinging sensation away. However, it still will resonate in some fashion, and it will be hard not to acknowledge last year's main talking point when looking back on how things have changed so much over the past year (if that happens). That being said, it seems like a comedian would be the best choice to host next year, with several suggestions of who should be the host including Kevin Hart (mentioned several times this year during the show), Louis C.K. (who had one of the funniest bits of the night when addressing the Best Documentary Short award), late night host Jimmy Kimmel (who has been doing his Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars show for a while and could step it up to a whole new level), and even just bringing someone like Chris Rock or Whoopi Goldberg back.
Either way, when it comes to the atmosphere of next year's Academy Awards, I don't expect to see #OscarsSoWhite being anywhere near as much of a focal point at the forefront, despite how it will inevitably have effects behind the scenes.
Leonardo DiCaprio Memes
The other biggest story for this year's Academy Awards was whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio would finally win the Oscar for Best Actor after years of putting on great performances, but coming up short. Yes, indeed he did walk away with the prize for his work in The Revenant, and while that will be celebrated, it also means the end of the memes that have been going around.
That was part of the fun of this season's buzz—the anticipation and anxiety of the outcome for Leo. All of that is gone, and there likely won't be a single person to rally around next year that fits the bill. The upside to that is how it means other people can work their way into the limelight and not be overshadowed, but the downside is that the average moviegoer might not be invested in the ceremony. I've heard more people talking about this award than any others, including Best Picture, so without that aspect to garner some attention, 2017 could be another year that passes by where people post on Facebook that they didn't even realize the ceremony was on the previous night.
Movies to Watch Out For
It's far, far too early to speculate with any kind of certainty, but just by reading some of the descriptions of what's to come over the next few months, it's not hard to pick up on a few red flags that stand out from the pack.
The Jungle Book is my go-to prediction for Best Visual Effects, as that movie just looks gorgeous. It's an amazing achievement to have one kid be the only thing "real" in the entire film and for it to be so photo-realistic in its look. Of course, it will have some other contenders nipping at its heels to take the statue away from it, such as Warcraft (which has CGI that looks much worse to me) and Rogue One (which could nab Best Costume Design) but Jon Favreau's team looks like the early winner.
The Angry Birds Movie seems like an easy pick for Best Animated Feature. I know, that's crazy, isn't it? The mobile game is so basic that it seems like a film based off it would be terrible, yet the trailers look pretty decent. Zootopia is coming out so early that it could hurt its positioning, as many people will have forgotten about it by next year. It sure as hell isn't going to Ice Age: Collision Course, am I right? Then again, Sausage Party could take us all by surprise, or things could be just as they always are with Pixar getting the win with Finding Dory.
As far as Best Picture goes, I wouldn't be shocked to see Birth of a Nation in the mix, especially considering the climate of diversity. Supposedly, the film is fantastic, which could mean that Nate Parker may end up at least being nominated for Best Actor for his performance in the film.
Silence is another early contender that I know almost nothing about, but the list of people involved just screams a nomination. When you've got Martin Scorsese working with Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, how can you bet against it being good? I would love to see someone like Garfield get recognition as I think he's a dangerously undervalued talent in the industry.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk could receive Best Picture contention as well as a Best Director nod for Ang Lee. It's based off a novel by Ben Fountain about the war in Iraq, so it checks off a lot of qualifiers for the type of material the voters are looking for. This seems like something that will lose Best Picture, though, but possibly win Best Adapted Screenplay, if it doesn't go to The Girl on the Train, which some reviewers have said is "the next Gone Girl" (which received some attention in its own right a while back).
Weightless from Terrence Malick, starring Christian Bale and Natalie Portman seems like the #1 movie that I'll be hoping doesn't win, as my track record with Malick is horrible. This comes off as pretentious fluff in the trailer for me, similar to The Tree of Life, but just because I didn't like it didn't stop others from raining praise upon it.
It's always good to stumble across new movies that are being released that we didn't even know about, so it'll be interesting to see what else pops up out of the blue to make an impression. Could Passengers be as awesome as its potential? Is Money Monster by the numbers enough? What about La La Land? Who knows!?
We have until February 26, 2017 to figure this all out, when the 89th Academy Awards are decided.