It’s that time of year again! Hollywood’s awards season is in full force, with the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and more already passing out their trophies. However, the Holy Grail of Hollywood awards remains the Oscars. Although we’ll have to wait until Feb. 26 to find out who takes home the coveted Academy Awards for best picture, best director and more, speculation on the front-runners has already begun, following the recent nominations.

Last year the Oscars generated controversy for the lack of diversity in the list of nominees. Thankfully, the Academy listened to that criticism and added more diversity to their membership. This year’s list of nominees includes a much more diverse grouping.

The best picture category typically generates the most attention, and this year Entertainment Weekly analysts have picked “La La Land” as the front-runner, with “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” as its closest competitors. I’ve personally seen just two of the movies up for best picture this year — “La La Land” and “Arrival” — though a number of others are on my “to watch” list. It’s easy to see why “La La Land” has become the front-runner; it’s an uplifting, old-fashioned musical that celebrates Hollywood and talks about following your dreams. “Arrival” is a beautiful, thought-provoking sci-fi film that puts a unique spin on the familiar alien invasion concept, but I see this one as more of a long shot to take the top prize.

For best actress, “La La Land” star Emma Stone is, unsurprisingly, seen as the front-runner. Her performance as an aspiring, idealistic actress is both moving and heartbreaking. Despite their fantastic chemistry in the film, some analysts see her costar Ryan Gosling as less likely to take home an Oscar for best actor; the front-runner is Casey Affleck for his performance as a troubled man who has to care for his nephew after the death of his brother in “Manchester by the Sea.” However, Denzel Washington could snatch the award from Affleck for his performance in “Fences” as a struggling sanitation worker in 1950s Pittsburgh.

The best supporting actor front-runner is Mahershala Ali in the coming of age tale “Moonlight.” While I haven’t see “Moonlight” yet, Ali really blew me away in last year’s Marvel/Netflix superhero show “Luke Cage.” Viola Davis is seen as the front-runner for best supporting actress, co-staring with Denzel Washington in “Fences.”

I was really glad to see the Academy Awards show “Kubo and the Two Strings” some love in the best animated feature category. I thought it was one of the best underrated movies from last year, and it’s nice to see it earning some recognition.

I always joke that most of my favorite movies of the year usually only get recognized in the visual effects category, and that was true again this year. 😉 I was glad to see nominations for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Doctor Strange” in this category, plus “Kubo and the Two Strings.” “Star Trek: Beyond” did pick up a nom in makeup and hair-styling. I’m disappointed to see no recognition for “Captain America: Civil War,” though to be fair even though I thought it had a great story, “Doctor Strange” had more impressive visuals.

While the types of movies I generally like to watch — sci-fi and superheroes — don’t usually get recognized by the Academy beyond categories like best visual effects, I don’t mind that (for the most part). I generally see the Academy Awards as a celebration of films that are more serious in tone and are trying to express an important message. However, I do wish sometimes they would show a little love to blockbusters that take some risks, like “Rogue One” with its tragic ending. And can you imagine Ryan Reynolds’ antics on Oscar night if he’d been nominated for his performance in “Deadpool”? 😉

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