thoughts//THE CASE FOR 'LION'

AWARDS COVERAGE



Almost right out the gate, Garth Davis's feature film directorial debut, Lion, elicited comparisons to previous Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire. From the set-up, featuring a young Indian child racing through slums and his older self suffering through memories while tackling life as an adult, Lion's comparisons to Danny Boyle's film make some sense. Plus, with Dev Patel's participation, it's hard to ignore subtle similarities.

But, on its own, Lion is a tour de force drama that grapples family dynamics in the most beautifully heartbreaking way.

Based on the book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley about his own journey to finding his childhood home, the film was a critical hit and has slowly become a commercial success. For several weeks, the film has balanced heft box office receipts, keeping it in the domestic top ten.

Despite seeing a steady rise in its awards season chances, Lion has mostly been shut out from actually winning any prizes, leaving most of the winning to powerhouses like La La Land and Moonlight. Its heftiest chance on Oscar Sunday of a win is with Patel in the Best Supporting Actor category. The talented Brit picked up the same award at the BAFTAs last weekend becoming the surprise of the night.

The film is nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Let's dissect its chances at winning each award.

Tune in to the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 26, 2017, to see how well it does!

BEST PICTURE

Should It Win:
Pieced together almost seamlessly, Lion is a amalgam of harrowing antics and staunch drama that completely works. The stilted content, especially in the film's third act, are so emotional, a lazier director would allow for melodrama to lead each beat. Instead, Davis gives way to genuine portrayals and touching sequences that are never patronizing.

It also helps that, even though the basics of the film's structure are nothing necessarily new, each and every fiber of the film feels full of life and yearning. Again, each element is so polarizing, but never feels forced or contrived.

That subtle care and attention to each detail definitely gives Lion plenty of reason to among the year's best films. If it were to surprise and win, it would be a happy surprise.

Will It Win:
Unfortunately, even with Harvey Weinstein powering behind it, Lion has been mostly lost in the awards season conversation. It's win is in its nomination, which is helping it be seen by more and more people. If its word-of-mouth praise had started a little earlier, it may have more weight behind it, but alas La La Land and Moonlight are going at full steam.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Should Dev Patel Win:
Much like Viola Davis's nomination for Fences, Patel's nomination in the Supporting category feels a bit like category fraud. He is the backbone to the film, even though his younger self is portrayed for almost the first half by the adorable Sunny Pawar.

Patel delivers his strongest performance to date in Lion, never overdoing the emotions, though his character is drained right up until the film's finale.

Like director Davis's care with the overall production, Patel's very strong choices in each and every moment resonate. His work here should be the first of many stepping stones to his "legendary" status as one of Hollywood's greatest working actors today.

Will Dev Patel Win:
If you had asked a week ago, the answer would have been a quick "no." Both Mahershala Ali and Jeff Bridges have been ahead of the game throughout the awards season. But, Patel's win at the BAFTAs gives him major clout.

Best Supporting Actor will be one of the only categories to give Oscar Sunday some much-needed suspense.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Should Nicole Kidman Win:
While she hasn't picked up many accolades this season, Nicole Kidman has been frequently mentioned as a potential Supporting Actress contender. So, it's no surprise that her name was among those listed.

A true Supporting performance, Kidman adds the subtle punch Lion deserves towards the end; fully supporting the film in only a way a mother could. As silly as that sounds, it's true. And, if you've seen the film, you'll understand why. There's a motherly passion that seems so true coming from Kidman in this role. She's spoken frequently about how her own experience as an adoptive mother helped her connect to this story.

That passion and emotion rings true in each and every scene in which she plays. It's easily one of the year's richest performances. And, as a true Supporting role, it would make complete sense for the award to go to her.

Will Nicole Kidman Win:
Like many Oscar categories this year, the Best Supporting Actress race has been decided for months now. It's Viola Davis's to lose. Kidman, who has multiple nominations and a win under her belt, will unfortunately have to wait for another shot.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Should It Win:
Luke Davies adapted Brierley's nonfiction book to great aplomb. The dialogue is rich and engaging and compelling. We get some great pieces of conversation in the latter half of the film that literally grab the tears from inside you and force them onto your face.

But, the best pieces of the screenplay are in the details that build the first half of the film. Supported by beautiful cinematography (which we'll get to in a second), the way the story pieces together and carries itself is nothing short of perfection.

It seems subtle, which is the point.

Will It Win:
Due to strange Academy rules, Moonlight is competing in the Adapted Screenplay category, which seems like a destined winner. But, Hidden Figures also pops up here, which could end up as the film's one win.

And, the late August Wilson is up for his adaptation of his own, classic play, Fences.

Lion's chances are just as good as anyone else's here, but you'd be a fool not to lean towards Moonlight.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Should It Win:
Beyond the sharp script and beautiful performances, the first thing to grab your attention is Greig Fraser's impeccable cinematography.

In fact, it's so unexpected, it takes your breath away in the first few, drone-like shots of Indian countryside. Beyond just the epic shots that are scattered throughout, Fraser's own, delicate attention to closeups helps punctuate each moment as we travel towards the film's beautiful finish.

Never overshadowing, but always boosting each and every scene, the cinematography here is hands down one of the better elements. Some of the decade's best visuals are here. No lie.

Will It Win:
Tough to say. It could easily creep up as a deserving surprise winner, but juggernauts La La Land and Moonlight are mixed in. Plus, Arrival's beautiful cinematography is also present.

La La Land seems like the safe bet, but Moonlight's interesting choices could lead it to the front of the pack. A win for Arrival would be historic, as Bradford Young would become the first black cinematographer to ever win.

La La Land seems to have this one in the bag, though.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Should It Win:
The music in Lion is affecting, but never stands alone on its own as either memorable or epic.

This nomination was one of the film's greatest surprises. Not to say it isn't worthy, but the film's strong story and talented performances overshadow any supporting music that plays throughout.

An Oscar winner for Original Score should be comprised of memorable melodies or a raucous embrace of sound (look at incredible pieces present in films like Brokeback Mountain or Gravity).

It doesn't quite work here.

Will It Win:
The nomination here, alone, is enough of a reward. Plus, being up against an original musical means no one is safe (and rightfully so).

La La Land, again, has this award in the bag.

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