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Thursday, February 23, 2017

89th Academy Awards: Predictions And Other Thoughts


There are only a few days left until the 89th Academy Awards, so it’s time to nail down my predictions. As usual, some categories have obvious picks, a few are even safe bets, but a good portion of this race is still largely up in the air. I try to keep track of the awards season and get a feel for what films seem to have earned their way to Oscar glory, but it’s never an exact science. That said, I have laid out all the categories, with some thoughts on what might be happening come Oscar night. The predictions have been highlighted with what I think will win in each category.

Best Picture
“Arrival”
“Fences”
“Hell or High Water”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”
“Hidden Figures”
“Lion”
With 14 nominations and all the momentum in the world, it should be of little surprise to see La La Land take home the big prize. Having won plenty of awards leading up to this moment, including the all-important PGA, there is little doubt at an upset, no matter how much some may hope Moonlight pulls off the win instead.
Best Director
Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”)
Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”)
Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”)
Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea”)
Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”)
Since the key component of La La Land is its skillful direction, expect Damien Chazelle to walk away with the prize, becoming the youngest Oscar-winning director of all time. Having picked up plenty of awards leading up to this moment, including the DGA, the day is seemingly his to own.
Best Actor
Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”)
Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”)
Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”)
Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”)
Denzel Washington (“Fences”)
This is the tightest race of all the major awards. For months it seemed like Affleck had an Oscar set for him to take home. However, the SAG Awards gave their Best Actor prize to Denzel Washington. Given the history of SAG and Oscar almost always lining up, it is tough to go against them here. It’s a tough choice, but I’m thinking Denzel is going to walk away with his third Oscar (his second for lead actor).
Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”)
Natalie Portman (“Jackie”)
Emma Stone (“La La Land”)
Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”)
Ruth Negga (“Loving”)
While it seems less likely for Ryan Gosling to be a part of La La Land’s domination, Emma Stone has won practically all the awards to gear her up for an Oscar win as well. SAG plays a factor in this once again, though Huppert (and even Portman) still have a chance of claiming the victory for themselves. For the film about to have a big night though, this seems like Stone’s to lose.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”)
Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”)
Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”)
Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”)
Dev Patel (“Lion”)
Since the next category is a pretty safe bet, it now falls to Best Supporting Actor to become the only major wildcard of these big categories. Chances are Mahershala Ali scores the win, which would be well-earned, but Dev Patel has started to come on strong with a BAFTA win. Given how unpredictable the supporting actor categories can be, who knows? Maybe Michael Shannon will score a win out of nowhere.

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis (“Fences”)
Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”)
Nicole Kidman (“Lion”)
Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”)
Michelle Williams (“Manchester By the Sea”)
So here’s that safe bet I was talking about. Without question, Viola Davis is going home an Oscar winner on Sunday night. She’s giving a lead performance and up for a supporting award, so just know that she’ll be taking home a prize easily earned by her here.

Best Original Screenplay
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“The Lobster”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“20th Century Women”
This is a tough category. With the momentum and strength of La La Land, it is hard to vote against it for this major award. To be fair, no musical has won this category since The Producers way back in the 60s, so the reasoning is all that hard to understand. Additionally, given the acclaim that playwright Kenneth Lonergan has received over the years and the incredible work he’s done on film, he may be finally getting his Oscar for this rich and well-developed work that is Manchester by the Sea.

Best Adapted Screenplay
“Arrival”
“Fences”
“Hidden Figures”
“Moonlight”
“Lion”
Whether or not Ali wins for Supporting Actor, it seems like Moonlight’s big claim will be for the adapted screenplay that helped bring this terrific triptych to life. With La La Land likely laying claim to many of the technical categories, seeing Moonlight take home an Oscar for the category that gave inspiration to its terrific crafting will be very nice to see. That in mind, the depths and ambition of the story of Arrival would be worth awarding as well.

Best Foreign Film
“Land of Mine” (Denmark)
“A Man Called Ove” (Sweden)
“Tanna” (Australia)
“The Salesman” (Iran)
“Toni Erdmann” (Germany)
I’ve sadly been unable to see more of the Best Foreign Language nominees this year, but you can likely count on Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi taking home another Oscar due to aspects taking place outside of the Awards. The highly acclaimed Toni Erdmann has also shown up on enough top ten lists to make it a worthy competitor (in addition to A Man Called Ove). Still, The Salesman is the leader in a category that often surprises people.
Best Documentary Feature
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“OJ: Made in America”
“13th”
As opposed to the foreign films, I actually have seen the nominated documentaries (only some of the 7-hour OJ). With that said, it is the epic OJ: Made in America that likely has a win in store, despite its unconventional length. The fact that it’s been hailed as a masterpiece will play well for it, even as the highly acclaimed, racially-themed docs 13th and I Am Not Your Negro take on their share of credit for being incredibly well-don docs in their own right.

Best Animated Feature
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“Zootopia”
This is a race between Disney’s popular, hilarious and poignant comedy and the sweeping stop-motion animated epic from Laika. I am going with Zootopia, given its timely connection to race and $1 billion profits from last year, but if there’s one thing that wouldn’t upset me on Oscar night, it would be seeing an Oscar finally go to a studio I treasure for what they’ve accomplished.
Best Film Editing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Moonlight”
Best Picture often matches up with the editing category. Sometimes action-oriented efforts can pick up a win as well, but I don’t see Hacksaw or High Water taking home this prize. That said, the trickiness of Arrival’s storytelling heavily relies on how it is edited, so this wouldn’t be a bad loss if that film ends up coming out on top. Still, La La Land has the momentum to take home a lot of these technical awards.

Best Original Song
“How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”
“City of Stars,” “La La Land”
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” “Trolls”
“The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story”
While I know every single one of us can’t stop singing “The Empty Chair”, expect “City of Stars” to be the song of choice this year, even if it means denying Lin Manuel Miranda his EGOT (he’ll be back) with Moana.

Best Original Score
“La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz
“Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell
“Lion,” Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
“Jackie,” Mica Levi
“Passengers,” Thomas Newman
Sorry Thomas Newman, but you’ll need a 15th nomination to possibly finally win an Oscar, La La Land has this one all locked up. To composer Justin Hurwitz’s credit, he did spend 7 years working on this score.

Best Visual Effects
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Dr. Strange”
“The Jungle Book”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
Last year Ex Machina was the surprise winner, despite the presence of other huge movies. Still, I don’t quite see Kubo taking this one home, despite the immense joy I would have for that outcome. I’m expecting the visually fantastic Jungle Book to take home the prize, given how well-liked the film is and how ambitious this effort was to create an entire jungle and the animal lives abound through computers.

Best Cinematography
“Arrival”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Silence”
Let the record show just how strong this category is. Each film deserves to be here and I’m certainly glad Silence was able to get at least one nomination. Still, La La Land once again has what it needs to prevail. The film’s spectacle is enough to push it over the top, as its ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood allows for a dynamic affair overall.

Best Costume Design
“Allied”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“Jackie”
“La La Land”
Strong competition here as far as former Oscar winners and it may be unwise to vote against La La Land, but given the Academy’s preference towards period films, expect it to go to the one featuring the former stylish First Lady. Jackie has also claimed a few others awards leading up to this day, which bodes well for it standing out amongst the nominees.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“A Man Called Ove”
“Star Trek Beyond”
“Suicide Squad”
It may be a coin toss, but 2009’s Star Trek pulled off a win here, so expect this entry to take the prize again. Ideally the negative views on Suicide Squad hold it back from actually being an Oscar winner. Of course, A Man Called Ove is a Best Foreign Film nominee, which could be helpful, but the effects are likely too subtle compared to the genre films present here.

Best Production Design
“La La Land,”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Arrival”
“Hail, Caesar!”
“Passengers”
Likely to move with the potential momentum of the night, La La Land’s efforts to build a classical musical out of LA’s modern setting was enough to win plenty of people over and will likely lead to another win. Of course, you do have Fantastic Beasts and Hail, Caesar, which both have the recreations of certain periods to support their consideration.

Best Sound Editing
“Arrival”
“Deepwater Horizon”
Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Sully”
I’m calling for a potential upset here. Thanks to the BAFTA win, I have more confidence in Arrival’s potential at taking home a prize instead of the war film that tends to win this award. Hacksaw Ridge may still be the safer bet, but I’m hoping the aliens come home to roost.

Best Sound Mixing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“Thirteen Hours”
Musicals have a record of winning this category and even if I’m of the mind that La La Land’s sound mixing is actually one of its weaker aspects, I’m not going to doubt such a clear precedent.

Best Short Film, Live Action
“Timecode”
“Sing”
“Silent Nights”
“Ennemis Interieurs”
“La Femme et le TGV”
I’m voting with my heart on this one and hoping the charm prevails over the other shorts nominated. It’s a mostly solid crowd, but Timecode tells a fine story through some clever innovation and looks like a possible winner for voters.

Best Short Film, Animated
“Piper”
“Borrowed Time”
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
“Blind Vaysha”
“Pearl”
It’s been over a decade since Pixar won one of these Oscars, but I’m expecting Piper to break that pattern.

Best Documentary Short Subject
“Extremis”
“4.1 Miles”
“Joe’s Violin”
“Watani: My Homeland”
“The White Helmets”
You could flip a coin here, but I’m going with one of the three short docs to cover the Syrian refugees and the most intense of them. Joe’s Violin is another strong contender, but the mood of the night may tip in The White Helmets favor.

***


And that is it for predictions. We'll see where things end up this coming Sunday and whatever happens, I am hoping I can try to enjoy whatever Jimmy Kimmel has to offer as host.


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