2017 Oscars Predictions

It’s time for the Oscars, although it’s felt like they’ve come and passed with how long we’ve been experiencing the “La La Land” backlash. Since I’m filled with opinions, especially about the movies of 2016, it’s time for some prediction.

Best Picture

“Arrival”
“Fences”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Hidden Figures”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”

Will Win: “La La Land”
Should Win: “Moonlight”
Should Have Been Nominated: “20th Century Women”

La La Land is a very charming, visually stunning film that I saw twice. Both it and Moonlight have that distinction, although I could see La La Land a million times because it’s like comfort food followed by an emotional suckerpunch. While I think Moonlight is the better film and I would prefer it to win, I think it will go to La La Land because of the traction it has, backlash be damned.

I also wish 20th Century Women had been nominated as it was a visually interesting film with a funny but moving story. I also thought it was immensely better than Beginners, but I also didn’t care for Beginners.

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”

Will Win: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Should Win: Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Should Have Been Nominated: Paul Verhoven, “Elle.”

As I said earlier, “La La Land” charmed my pants off and I think a lot of that has to do with Chazelle’s direction of a tribute to classic movie musicals. However, I feel in terms of structure and feel, I would give it to Jenkins instead. I also would have liked to have seen Paul Verhoven nominated for “Elle,” which is an incredibly taut thriller, but that would have required foregoing the Mel Gibson redemption narrative.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Will Win: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Should Win: Anyone on this list who is not named Casey Affleck
Should Have Been Nominated: Tom Hanks, “Sully” or Ryan Gosling, “The Nice Guys”

I do not see anything stopping the Casey Affleck train, but it does really annoy me that in a year where we saw Nate Parker’s career and film destroyed, Casey Affleck gets to face sexual abuse allegations and sweep awards. I heard Andrew Garfield was fantastic in “Hacksaw Ridge,” Ryan Gosling is charming as ever in “La La Land,” although I wish this was for his performance as an alcoholic private investigator in “The Nice Guys.” I have not seen “Captain Fantastic” because it has not played in my area, but Denzel Washington was fantastic in “Fences,” especially showing all of the facets of Troy. Seriously, give the award to anyone but Casey Affleck.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Will Win: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Should Win: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Should Have Been Nominated: Tracy Letts, “Indignation”

I was stunned when Mahershala Ali lost the Golden Globe and if he loses, I will be shocked again. He’s fantastic as what is essentially a surrogate parent in the film and he plays a character who is often an archetype in films that tell black stories, but he does so in a way that creates a person on the screen, not a cartoon. He’s the presumed winner and deserves the award.

I will shut up about this after writing this paragraph, but Tracy Letts gave one of the best performances I saw all year as the dean in “Indignation.” In a just world, he would have had Oscar buzz, but unfortunately, he was not in the film adaptation of a Philip Roth novel that seemed poised for the Oscars.

Best Actress

Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”

Will Win: Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Should Win: Emma Stone, “La La Land” or Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Should Have Been Nominated: Viola Davis, “Fences” and Annette Benning, “20th Century Women”

You probably read what I wrote for “Should Have Been Nominated” and thought I made a mistake. No, I saw “Fences” and that movie was the Denzel Washington and Viola Davis show. She should have been considered for Best Actress, but is instead considered a Supporting Actress.

I think Emma Stone will win this award because she sings and dances in “La La Land” and is generally agreed to be the stronger half of the duo. While the movie as a whole made me cry, a lot of that was on the back of Emma Stone’s performance. Since she’s not up against Viola Davis, I think she’ll win. I also thought Isabelle Huppert was phenomenal in “Elle” and if the Academy really wanted to stun us, she will win the award.

Annette Benning’s performance in “20th Century Women” as the adrift single mother of a teenage boy was also sorely overlooked. She gave a very dry performance that alternated between hysterical and quietly heartbreaking, notably during every scene where she’s alone in her bedroom smoking.

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, “Fences”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”

Will Win: Viola Davis, “Fences”
Should Win: Viola Davis, “Fences”
Should Have Been Nominated: None

This is an incredible category because all of these are great actresses and I can confirm three of these performances deserve these nominations. Were Viola Davis nominated for Best Actress, I would say it’s a toss up. But this was the category Viola Davis was nominated for, so I think it’s locked up for her and she deserves it for delivering an astonishing performance in “Fences” and putting up with Jared Leto.

Best Original Screenplay

Mike Mills, “20th Century Women”
Taylor Sheridan, “Hell or High Water”
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Fillippou, “The Lobster”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”

Will Win: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Should Win: Mike Mills, “20th Century Women”
Should Have Been Nominated: None

I loved “The Lobster,” but I don’t think it’s going to win because it’s such a weird, divisive film. Speaking of divisive films, I do think it’s going to go to “La La Land” because it’s an original musical. I wouldn’t be shocked if it would go to “Manchester by the Sea” or “Hell or High Water,” which I could see this being the award it takes home.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Eric Heisserer, “Arrival”
August Wilson, “Fences”
Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, “Hidden Figures”
Luke Davies, “Lion”
Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Moonlight”

Will Win: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Moonlight”
Should Win: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Moonlight”
Should Have Been Nominated: Todd Komarnicki, “Sully”

I’m really happy to see Allison Schroeder on this list as she is the only woman nominated in the screenplay category. As a fan of August Wilson’s work, I’m also thrilled to see him get a posthumous nomination for the screenplay of “Fences,” based on his great play. All that said, I think this is going to “Moonlight” and I don’t see it going to anything else.

Best Animated Feature

“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“Zootopia”

Will Win: “Moana”
Should Win: “Moana”
Should Have Been Nominated: “Sing”

I haven’t seen “My Life as a Zucchini,” or “The Red Turtle,” but I think “Moana” is the strongest of the three other nominees and I’d like to see it win. “Kubo and the Two Strings” was in the summer and visually the most interesting, while “Zootopia” came out in the spring and has a lot of problems with it, although moments of the animation are really great. If it goes to something else, it’s “Zootopia,” which I don’t understand the love for although I do recommend watching it, or maybe “My Life as a Zucchini.” (And I genuinely liked “Sing,” but I’m happy “Trolls” wasn’t nominated.)

Best Original Song

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”—Music by Justin Hurwitz, Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“City of Stars” from “La La Land”—Music by Justin Hurwitz, Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from “Trolls”—Music and Lyrics by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster
“How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”—Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
“The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story”—Music and Lyrics by J. Ralph and Sting

Will Win: “City of Stars” from “La La Land”
Should Win: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
Should Have Been Nominated: “Runnin'” from “Hidden Figures”

Remember in 2014 when a song from “Alone Yet Not Alone” was nominated, but then had its nomination revoked? That’s what I feel like happened with “The Empty Chair” because I think a lot of people, myself included, expected something from “Hidden Figures.” Pharrell’s music for that film is catchy and I’ve had “Runnin'” stuck in my head long after seeing the film.

I had initially predicted this would be the final piece of Lin-Manuel Miranda getting a PEGOT, but then I saw “La La Land.” “How Far I’ll Go” is a really good “I Want” song that manages to be good in the context of the film and also in the end credits, where it’s performed by Alessia Cara. Unfortunately, it’s going to “City of Stars,” which is a good song, but I think “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” is the best song as it comes at what is the emotional turn of the film.

Finally, I’m not surprised “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” was nominated, but what a bland piece of average pop music. I had managed to catch it–hi, Eurovision!–but because of how far in advance it had been released before “Trolls,” I failed to realize it was tied to the movie, which for the longest time I didn’t really think was a movie, even while I sipped from a collectors cup while seeing the “Ben-Hur” remake. It’s kind of the “Happy” of this year, but I actually liked “Happy” the first couple of times I heard it.

Best Original Score

“Jackie,” Mica Levi
“La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz
“Lion,” Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
“Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell
“Passengers,” Thomas Newman

Will Win: “La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz
Should Win: “Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell
Should Have Been Nominated: “Moana”

Justin Hurwitz has created a fantastic jazz-inflected score for “La La Land,” which fits perfectly in the world of the film. However, Nicholas Britell’s haunting minimalist score for “Moonlight” was the most affecting of the nominees. (I listened to all of the nominees.) “Moana” featured a fantastic adventure score that utilized the traditional music of the area its story takes place and really should have been nominated.

Best Foreign Language Film

“Land of Mine”
“A Man Called Ove”
“The Salesman”
“Tanna”
“Toni Erdmann”

Will Win: “The Salesman”
Should Win: “Toni Erdmann”
Should Have Been Nominated: “Elle”

I have a gut feeling “The Salesman” will win and I’m more than okay with that since I’m a huge fan of Asghar Farhadi’s work. But maybe in a world where “My Life as a Zucchini” can be nominated even though no one had heard of it until a month ago, maybe a critically-acclaimed three hour-long German comedy can win.

Best Documentary Feature

“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“13th”

Will Win: “13th”
Should Win:
“13th”
Should Have Been Nominated:
None

This is normally the category I have the strongest opinions about and I don’t this year. “13th” will win because it tackles institutional racism in America while also being very accessible, even if you want to constantly hurl your laptop against a wall and scream at Ronald Reagan while watching it.

 

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