If you aren’t in love with La La Land, the awards probably aren’t going to be much fun this year. Yet, due to the Academy’s valiant attempt to make up for last year’s #oscarsowhite scandal, some well-deserving nominees will finally have their day. Here now are my annual (and I think accurate) Oscar predictions in every category.
The Nominees: Arrival | Fences | Hacksaw Ridge | Hell or High Water | Hidden Figures | Lion | Manchester by the Sea | Moonlight
What is clear about this year’s Oscar nominees is that last year’s “whitewashing” controversy didn’t go unnoticed. There is a wide birth of diversity in this year’s Best Picture group, a clear representation of the African-American experience than has ever been seen in this category before. However, while Fences and Moonlight and Hidden Figures are great showcases for the black experience, they will all have to take to step aside in the face of a movie that has been cleaning up this award season.
Damian Chazelle’s La La Land, a sweet romantic (though, I thought, rather ordinary) musical about the aspirations of a jazz musician and an aspiring actress, is the darling of this year’s academy voters. Why? Well, the critics will tell you that the movie is lovely, knowing and beautifully crafted. That may be true, but I think it’s a case of location, location, location. La La Land is a love letter to The City of Angels and considering that most voters live and work in and around Los Angeles, it would be rather odd if they passed it over.
Dark horse? Probably not, but I wouldn’t dismiss Denzel Washington’s Fences.
Nominees: Damien Chazelle for La La Land | Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge | Barry Jenkins for Moonlight | Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea | Denis Villeneuve for Arrival
When a film is pushed to the front as much as La La Land, you can only expect that its director will go along for the ride. That’s the story with thirty-two year-old Damien Chazelle who proves to be a great visual storyteller – anyone will tell you that making a musical is as hard as making great comedy. How sure are this chances at the Oscar? Well, he won The Director’s Guild Award, which is voted on by the exact same body of voters who select the Oscar winner for Best Director. You do the math.
Nominees: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea | Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge | Ryan Gosling in La La Land | Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic | Denzel Washington in Fences
For a while, it seemed that Casey Affleck would be the year’s front runner for Best Actor, but then the charges of sexual harassment turned into a scandal and many think his chances at the gold went out the window. That was apparently especially when Denzel Washington took home the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for his acting. He’s a triple-threat. He has not only starred in the adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences but he also produced and directed it. Washington is becoming Hollywood royalty and they want to reward him for his effort.
Nominees: Isabelle Huppert in Elle | Ruth Negga in Loving | Natalie Portman in Jackie | Emma Stone in La La Land | Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins
If there were any justice, this year’s Best Actress prize would be an upset going to Natalie Portman for her shattering portrayal of Jackie Kennedy from the moment of her husband’s murder until the moment that she buried him. She not only gets the voice and the clothes right, but she climbs inside the mind of this woman whose whole world fell to pieces in a matter of moments and then was forced to move out of the White House and on with her life while still dealing with what happened.
But, Natalie will have to sit on the sidelines. For this year, the Academy is selecting Emma Stone. The Academy loves youth, beauty and talent and in her they have all three. They’ve been courting her for years, waiting for the moment to finally laud praise upon her. Two years ago she got her first nomination for playing Michael Keaton’s daughter in Birdman and here she is again, and not only does she act, but she also sings and dances. Who can’t love that?
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Mahershala Ali in Moonlight | Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water | Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea | Dev Patel in Lion | Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals
This is a great group of actors and anyone one of these performances could win in another year, but the gold belongs (and rightfully so) to Mahershala Ali who play Juan in the first half of Barry Jenkins Moonlight in the kind of performance that has you thinking about his long after he leaves the screen. As a drug dealer who turns father-figure to a shy kid who is struggling with his sexuality, Juan is a completely realized soul, a man whose life has been full of spikes and nails and wants to see this wayward kid become something more than what his negative environment expects of him.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Viola Davis in Fences | Naomie Harris in Moonlight | Nicole Kidman in Lion | Octavia Spencer in Hidden Fences | Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea
Oh dear, sweet Viola Davis. Viola, Viola, Viola. You’ve been circling Oscar since 2008 and now it’s your turn, hands down.
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: Hell or High Water | La La Land | The Lobster | Manchester by the Sea | 20th Century Women
Although I’m not a fan of the movie, I will concede that Ken Lonergan’s script for Manchester by the Sea (which he also directed) was something I hadn’t seen before. He presented us with a gaggle of miserable, unlikable characters and forced a change through circumstances beyond their control.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Arrival | Fences | Hidden Figures | Lion | Moonlight
I have every reason to think that Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney will (and should) win this award for Moonlight. Their achingly sad story of twenty years in the life of an African-American boy and how his negative environment, coupled with the people in his immediate hemisphere, shape the man he will become. YET, there’s competition from the late playwright August Wilson who penned the screenplay for Fences before his death in 2008. Posthumous Oscars make for great Oscar moments.
Best Animated Feature
Nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings | Moana | My Life as a Zucchini | The Red Turtle | Zootopia
For my money, Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings was the best animated feature of the year. But I always feel that the Academy voters can’t resist the lure of The Mouse. With Pixar out of the running, Walt Disney Pictures had two films in the running, one fantastic and the other so-so. Fortunately, the former will be the winner. Zootopia was something new and different and I think the voters will agree.
Best Foreign Language Film
Nominees: A Man Called Ove | The Salesman | Tanna | Toni Erdmann | Land of Mine
If topicality be the specialty of the day then look no further than The Salesman, which has nothing to do with Trump’s travel ban, but the director Asghar Farhadi has chosen not to attend the ceremony in protest. That’s irresistible for a show going out to a global audience.
Best Original Song
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from City of Stars
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls
“City of Stars” from City of Stars
“The Empty Chair” from Jim: The Jim Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana
Disney almost always dominates this category whenever possible and that’s good news for the feel-good “How Far I’ll Go,” but my money is on “City of Stars” features a whistling earwig that I’ll bet has stuck in the minds of voters as much as it has with me. I’m whistling it right now.
Best Original Score
Jackie | La La Land | Lion |Moonlight | Passengers
Wouldn’t it be kind of a kick to the crotch to have a movie like La La Land, a modern musical so beloved and so hailed and NOT having it win for Best Original Score.
Best Costume Design
Allied | Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them | Florence Foster Jenkins | Jackie | La La Land
The sweep of La La Land seems to promise that Mary Zophres has the edge here but my money leans toward Madeline Fontaine and the legendary pink suit worn by Jackie.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
A Man Called Ove | Star Trek Beyond | Suicide Squad |
A rather puny group this year, so my money is on Star Trek Beyond.
Best Production Design
Arrival | Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them | Hail, Caesar! | La La Land | Passengers
Another gold for La La Land.
Arrival | La La Land | Lion | Moonlight | Silence
While I think this should go to James Laxton for Moonlight, I see Linus Sandgren collecting yet another gold for La La Land.
Best Film Editing
Arrival | Hacksaw Ridge | Hell or High Water | La La Land | Moonlight
I say this every year. The key to Best Editing is guessing who’ll win Best Picture. La La Land.
Best Visual Effects
Deep Water Horizon | Doctor Strange | The Jungle Book | Kubo and the Two Strings | Rogue One
The Star Wars fan in me wants Rogue One to win here. The movie fan in my wants Kubo. My common sense says that the box office blockbuster The Jungle Book will be the winner.
Best Sound Editing
Arrival | Deepwater Horizon | Hacksaw Ridge | La La Land | Sully
‘nother gold for La La Land.
Best Sound Mixing
13 Hours | Arrival | Hacksaw Ridge | La La Land | Rogue One
Again, it would be a massive snub if a big old Hollywood musical like La La Land didn’t win here.
Best Documentary Feature
Fire at Sea | I Am Not Your Negro | Life, Animated | O.J. Made in America | 13th
The African-American experience is dominating here and it all depends on whether or not the voters will sit through five hours of O.J. If not, 13th.
Best Documentary Short
Extremis | 4.1 Miles | Joe’s Violin | Watani: My Homeland | The White Helmets
Joe’s Violin was about a holocaust survivor. You do the math.
Best Live Action Short
Ennemis interieurs | Le femme et le TGV | Mindenki | Timecode | Silent Nights
None of these were available to me, but I find that the frontrunner is Ennemis interieurs, the story of how two men come together in the 90s when Algerian terrorism reaches France.
Best Animated Short
Blind Vaysha | Borrowed Time | Pear Cider and Cigarettes | Pearl | Piper
Piper, the story of a hungry newborn sandpiper whose mother tries to help it overcome hydrophobia brought on by some crashing waves was adorable and featured some groundbreaking animation. Plus it may be Pixar’s only chance this year.
The 89th Annual Academy Awards air Sunday February 26th on ABC