My 2017 Oscar Predictions

2017-oscarsAfter months of hype, countless double and triple theater headers and a couple of other lame awards shows, we’ve finally arrived at the 2017 cinephile Superbowl. The 89th Academy Awards is shaping up to be an especially unpredictable show. La La Land‘s record tying 14 nominations could indicate to a sweep, but I believe we’re in for a show that’s a bit more interesting. Maybe Moonlight gets the extra attention it deserves due to the #OscarSoWhite campaign of the last couple of years and a recent resurgence of racial politics in the popular zeitgeist. Or maybe we’re in for a few upsets we aren’t expecting.
It’s anyone’s game and I can’t wait to see the outcome. Here are my picks for tonight’s Oscar awards. My picks for the winners are bolded. My favorites in each category are italicized.

Best motion picture of the year
“Arrival”
“Fences”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Hidden Figures”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”
 —
This is tough category. For the first time in my movie watching life, I managed to catch each of the nine Best Picture nominees before the big show and I can’t deny that every film nominated is outstanding in its own right. Though I would have loved to see a nod to 20th Century Women or Silence, I don’t think there’s any real fault with what’s nominated. When it comes to a Best Picture win, there are really only two contenders, La La Land and Moonlight. Both films are excellent, and despite the polarity online due to the recent politics in the US, I will ultimately be happy with either win.
HOWEVER. At the end of the day, La La Land is just another really showy film from a moderately successful Hollywood director about the myth of Hollywood and I don’t think it’s going to be remembered by anyone outside that artistic demographic. It’s a fun, fluffy and uplifting movie, but ultimately the film that will be remembered regardless of the outcome is Moonlight. This film is a coming of age story about a gay black man from inner city Miami which is so important and far removed from any past Best Picture winner. And it’s not just getting my vote because it has an “edgy” premise, I believe this film is a borderline masterpiece. I’m not here to gush, but Moonlight is a damn great flick that belongs on everyone’s watch list and I think its win would speak volumes about the academy if they gave it the gold. Regardless of tonight’s outcome, Moonlight is destined to remain in the conversation(and likely AFI lists) for decades to come. But tonight’s winner? My money is on La La Land.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield in “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling in “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen in “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington in “Fences”
This category is a real toss up. With Casey Affleck being the early favorite and Denzel taking the SAG, this really feels like it could be anyone’s game. Though the Denzel is a respected veteran in the Academy, his role in Fences just doesn’t feel quite like an Oscar performance. Casey Affleck will take the gold, but I would really like to see this year’s dark horse,Viggo Mortensen, surprise everyone with an upset.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
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 category is another really tough pick. Dev Patel won the BAFTA and is also doing a great job campaigning to be an Oscar winner, but ultimately my pick is going to Mahershala Ali for Moonlight. Though the film almost certainly loses Best Picture, I believe the academy will honor it with multiple other awards.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Isabelle Huppert in “Elle”
Ruth Negga in “Loving”
Natalie Portman in “Jackie”
Emma Stone in “La La Land”
Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins”
At this point, Emma Stone seems like a shoe-in. Natalie Portman may have been an early front-runner, but I believe Jackie as a whole left a less warming impression on Academy Voters. Isabelle Huppert has picked up some real steam, but I haven’t had the fortune of catching Elle which leaves me picking Emma Stone as the winner.
We love you Meryl, but its time for someone else to take the spotlight.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Viola Davis in “Fences”
Naomie Harris in “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman in “Lion”
Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea”
 —
Viola Davis is a mega-level boss x 12. ‘Nuff said.

Best animated feature film of the year
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“Zootopia”
 —
Sadly I wasn’t able to catch Ghibli’s latest, The Red Turtle, or the charming My Life As a Zucchini. With Pixar out of the game this year, the animated category is something of a toss up in comparison to past years. If you’re asking me, I say Kubo and the Two Strings is masterpiece that deserves all of the awards at all times, but given the current political climate and Disney brand power, I think Zootopia ends up taking home the gold.

Achievement in cinematography
“Arrival”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Silence”
This is a really tough category. Silence was woefully snubbed in multiple categories and only received this one nomination. Rodrigo Preito’s cinematography in that movie is absolutely  stunning movie, but I think Linus Sandgren’s showy techniques in La La Land will end up taking home the gold.

Achievement in costume design
“Allied”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“Jackie”
“La La Land”
I have particular opinion on this category, but period pieces almost always tend to do well and Allied just hasn’t had that Oscar hype machine behind it like Jackie has.

Achievement in directing
“Arrival” – Denis Villeneuve
“Hacksaw Ridge” – Mel Gibson
“La La Land” – Damien Chazelle
“Manchester by the Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan
“Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins
In a dream world where things were more fair and just, I’d give Moonlight Best Picture and Damien Chazelle Best Director. Say what you will about La La Land, but it’s a still a really well made flick that has put musicals back into the mainstream eye. In a year full of anger and disappointments, it was nice to see a film oozes passion, delight and optimism.
Save for Mel Gibson, I’ll be happy with any of these noms. They’re all deserving and I’d be doubly happy if Barry Jenkins got the win, but I don’t there’s no denying Damien Chazelle has earned that statue.

Best documentary feature
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“13th”
 —
The documentary category is especially strong this year.  I Am Not Your Negro, OJ: Made In America and 13th all describe different aspects of the systematic racism running through the underbelly of the US in shocking detail. Having only seen OJ: Made in America and 13th, I can confidently say that this is the strongest this category has been in the last several Oscar races. The incredible OJ: Made in America(a 3 part, 6 hour ESPN doc) has the most buzz going into the show which points to a win.

Best documentary short subject
“Extremis”
“4.1 Miles”
“Joe’s Violin”
“Watani: My Homeland”
“The White Helmets”
 —
I’m sad to report I haven’t seen any of the short docs this year. The flick that seems to come up the most in the online Oscar conversation  is “The White Helmets” and if the Academy is anything like America voters, the most publicity wins.

Achievement in film editing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Moonlight”
The technical categories are always a little tricky given their lower profile. If the La La Land freight train has already picked up enough speed by this point in the evening, it’s got editing in the bag. But I’m making my picks with the hope this show rewards multiple movies. Despite my preference for Arrival over every film in this category, I believe Hacksaw Ridge will win given its war movie genre. This flick received a surprising number of nominations and I just don’t see it going home completely empty handed.

Best foreign language film of the year
“Land of Mine”
“A Man Called Ove”
The Salesman”
“Tanna”
“Toni Erdmann”
 —
Due to the the screening limitations in OKC, I was only able to catch the delightful Toni Erdmann last weekend, meaning my experience with these nominees is limited. I think The Salesman has this film in the bag if for no other reason than the director Asghar Farhadi’s decision not to attend due to Trump’s recently attempted ban of muslim immigrants from several countries.

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
“A Man Called Ove”
“Star Trek Beyond”
“Suicide Squad”
 —
Anything but Suicide Squad. ANYTHING.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“Jackie”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Passengers”
 —
I know, I know. La La Land has amazing music. It’s so amazing that I own the soundtrack digitally and on vinyl. I have no doubt it will win every music related award there is to offer, but if I’m honest, I actually prefer Moonlight‘s deeply emotional score from Nicholas Brittell.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from “Trolls”
“City Of Stars” from “La La Land”
“The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story”
“How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”
 —
This category is way off. Sure, “City of Stars” is great and “How Far I’ll Go” is sweet, but none of the songs nominated represent the best songs from their respective film. Where is La La Land‘s sweeping opening piece “Another Day of Sun?” Moana‘s best song, “You’re Welcome” doesn’t get a nod? And that’s not even mentioning the biggest snub in the room. Where is the superior Sing Street setlist in these noms?  “The Riddle of the Model” and “Drive It Like You Stole It” are better than any of this year’s nominees. I’m calling shenanigans, academy. Now let’s just go ahead and give “City Of Stars” the gold and get on with it.

Achievement in production design
Arrival”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Hail, Caesar!”
“La La Land”
“Passengers”
 —
Production Design is always another tough pick. The special effects heavy flicks tend to get favored in this category so I’ve got to go with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them even though I’d award Arrival if I were running the show.

Best animated short film
“Blind Vaysha”
“Borrowed Time”
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
“Pearl”
“Piper”
 —
One series of shorts I did get to enjoy this year was the Oscar showcase of the animated shorts. This was another really strong category. I immensely enjoyed all of flicks, especially the lesser known short Blind Vaysha. Even though it’s not nominated in the Best Animated Film category for Finding Dory, Pixar will still one way or another. The most likely winner is going to be Piper, the short film that played in front of Moana. It’s undeniably an outstanding technical achievement and charming to be sure, but I’d much prefer to see the edgier pick, Borrowed Time take home the gold.
This is where the potential Hollywood drama comes in. Borrowed Time was made by Pixar Employees using Pixar’s own resources as a passion project, but is NOT actually a Pixar produced film. I’m betting Pixar is going to start changing up their workplace policies after this potential upset…

Best live action short film
“Ennemis Intérieurs”
“La Femme et le TGV”
“Silent Nights”
“Sing”
“Timecode”
 —
Hmmm…the magic 8 ball says “Sing.”

Achievement in sound editing
“Arrival”
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Sully”
 —
The statements I made in the film editing category also apply to sound.

Achievement in sound mixing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”
 —
PSA: I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you that 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a load of garbage that should make every American who believes in equality angry. BUT THE AWARD GOES TO Arrival.

Achievement in visual effects
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Doctor Strange”
“The Jungle Book”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
 —
This category breaks my heart. The stop motion work Laika did with Kubo and the Two Strings is the most mind blowing special effects wizardry I’ve seen in my life. It breaks my heart that so few people saw this gem and the heartbreak is only going to increase when The Jungle Book takes home the gold due to Disney’s brand power.

Adapted screenplay
“Arrival”
“Fences
“Hidden Figures”
“Lion”
“Moonlight” 
 —
Adapted Screenplay is an aggressively competitive category this year which means I can’t help but think I’ll be happy with any outcome. To continue  theory that Moonlight loses Best Picture but wins a number of other awards, I’m betting it takes Adapted Screenplay. It’s an incredible story and it deserves any award thrown its way, but I would like to see Arrival take the gold for a non-technical award.

Original screenplay
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“The Lobster”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“20th Century Women”
 —
Original Screenplay may be the toughest category of the night. With the exception of La La Land (whose screenplay is far an away its weakest element), I’d be really happy with any of these films. Hell or High Water is an incredible flick that deserves an award in here somewhere. The Lobster is so absurd it deserves some credit in the show somewhere. Manchester by the Sea is a deeply personal and intimate script from writer/director Kenneth Lonergan. 20th Century Women is a really brilliant piece of work that quite frankly deserves more nominations.
The jury is out on this one, but if I’m marking my picks, I’d say Manchester by the Sea takes the gold.
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