Can it really be Oscar weekend already? It sure did creep up quickly this year. I’m always excited for Oscar Sunday to arrive, and this year is no exception. I have watched almost every movie in every category (with just a couple exceptions that I will point out) so I’m ready to dive right in to my predictions.
Best Picture: La La Land
This is certainly not a lock. Although Manchester by the Sea has seemingly lost traction in the last couple weeks, it could still win. And Moonlight has been quietly gaining momentum. Technically, I suppose we should throw Hidden Figures in the mix because it won the SAG for Best Ensemble, which can be a predictor in this category, as it was for Spotlight last year. But to me that’s a long shot. Honestly, I would be happy with any of the either three winning, but I’m going to bet on the favorite.
Best Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences
The two front-runners in this category are a study in contrast. Casey Affleck’s performance in Manchester by the Sea is the slow burn of a man carrying an almost unbearable cross, while Denzel’s performance blazes like fireworks. I’ve been a huge Affleck fan for years (I think he is a much better actor then brother Ben) and I would love to see him win here. But he has been losing traction. And unfortunately, the Academy often overlooks this kind of subdued performance. Also, Denzel is simply astonishing. He is the living embodiment of August Wilson’s character, and I think he’s going to take home his third statue, which puts him in some rarefied air.
Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land
Honestly, I think Isabelle Huppert is probably the most deserving in this category, but I think it highly unlikely she will win, despite her Golden Globe victory. Actors in foreign language films almost never win at the Oscars . Natalie Portman has been charging to the front if you believe the publicity, but I was not entirely taken with her performance. Granted, it is a daunting task to take on such an iconic figure, at such an iconic time in her life. I don’t know that anyone could have done it better. She could walk away with it, but I’ll stick with Emma as my prediction.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Many of the prognosticators say this one is entirely up in the air, but it was one of the easiest picks for me. Ali portrayed his character with honesty and immediacy. He breathed life into every single scene he was in, and although he leaves the film far too soon, his impact is never forgotten. He also won the SAG, which is a strong predictor.
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
This is the closest to a slam dunk in any of the acting categories this year. I would be shocked if Viola didn’t win. Michelle Williams is the closest competition, and she did have one incredibly powerful and moving scene in Manchester by the Sea (now that I think about it I would go so far as to say it’s an unforgettable scene) but Viola’s performance is one for the ages.
Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Another sure thing. Damien is the clear front runner, and his win at the Director’s Guild Awards makes an Oscar win all the more likely.
Animated Feature: Zootopia
Zootopia has swept all the major awards shows already, making it the clear favorite. Honestly, I really enjoyed four of the movies in this category (I did not see My Life as a Zucchini, and not for lack of trying). The Red Turtle may be my personal favorite, but it doesn’t stand a chance.
Cinematography: La La Land
So, all five of the movies in this category look fantastic. And I could see Arrival or Moonlight possibly pulling off the upset. But really, La La Land has a fantastic look. The lighting is phenomenal. The hilltop dance sequence alone pushes it ahead of the pack.
Costume Design: La La Land
If you look at past winners in this category, you will see that period films are favored. However, the contemporary film is the front runner. I think Fantastic Beasts could possibly pull off an upset. Jackie is interesting; the clothes look great, but it’s more a case of re-creation than design. La La Land already won the Costume Designer’s Guild award, so I’ll stick with the favorite.
Documentary Feature: 13th
OK. So this is the first category I really struggled with. All five nominations were good. They were all powerful and informative. O.J.: Made in America could very easily win here. My only problem with that is that this was designed as a TV miniseries. It only earned the nomination here because it was screened in a couple of theaters to make the cut. Nobody went to the movies and watched all 7 hours of this. I could make a solid case for all five films, and if you haven’t watched a lot of documentary films, I would encourage you to give one a try. The reason I am going with 13th is because it is timely, and because the director Ava DuVernay was (unjustly, I believe) shut out of the Best Director category for Selma two years ago.
Documentary Short Subject: Joe’s Violin
Three of these shorts deal with the migrant crisis in Europe, and if people are influenced by politics in their voting then expect White Helmets, which is about the Syrian Civil Defense to win. It is a good short film (you can stream it on Netflix now), but the most moving, inspiring story to me is the one about a Holocaust survivor donating his WWII violin to a resource-strapped girl’s school in NYC. If I’ve learned one thing in this category, it’s vote with your heart.
Film Editing: Arrival
The Editor’s Guild split their awards into categories for drama and comedy/musical, just like the Golden Globes. So Arrival won for drama and La La Land won for comedy or musical. La La Land is actually favored by many pundits, but I’m going to predict a win for Arrival, which is likely to get shut out in the other categories for which it is nominated.
Foreign Language Film: A Man Called Ove
This is really a three film race. Toni Erdmann was the early front runner. The Salesman has come on strong of late, in large part because of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s decision to boycott the ceremony. The Salesman is a good film, and Farhadi a good director who has already won in this category just five years ago for A Separation. Once again, if people allow politics to sway their vote, The Salesman could easily win. As I said, it is a really good film, but I have all my fingers and toes crossed for Sweden’s A Man Called Ove. Not only is it the best foreign film, but one of the best films of the year, period. (If you aren’t allergic to subtitles, you can stream it on Amazon for only 99 cents. Take a chance, it’s worth it.)
Makeup and Hairstyling: A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond is far and away the front runner here. And it certainly could win. There are three reasons I’m going against it. One: the first Star Trek reboot just won in this category 8 years ago. Two: A Man Called Ove is the only film in this category to be nominated in another category, which generally bodes well here. Three: Ove contains the kind of brilliant makeup work that is hiding in plain sight.
Music (Original Score): La La Land
I quite enjoyed Moonlight‘s score, but really, is there anyway the musical is going to lose in a music category? This is as close to a lock as you are going to find on your ballot.
Music (Original Song): “City of Stars”, La La Land
The only question here is which of the two songs from La La Land will win. Could they cancel each other out, allowing Lin Manuel Miranda to sneak in and seal the victory with his “How Far I’ll Go”, from Moana? Possibly. I’ll stick with the Stars.
Production Design: La La Land
This is another category where you can make a strong case for all five films. I’m going to stick with the leader of the pack, although it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if any of the other films won.
Short Film (Animated): Piper
This is one of the categories I really look forward to every year. There is generally a broad range of talent and creativity. This year, I was underwhelmed by most of the entries. I did enjoy Pearl, and actually would be happy if it won. But I think you can count on Pixar to chalk up another win in this category. Piper is the short that played before Finding Dory.
Short Film (Live Action): Ennemis Interieurs
I enjoyed four of the movies in this category. My only hope is that Denmark’s entry, Silent Nights, does not win. It is an emotionally pandering look at the current refugee crisis in Europe. Ennemis Interieurs is just the opposite. In this age when so many conversations are politicized and partisan, it was nice to see a scene with two characters with opposing views, each of whom has a valid perspective. It makes a strong point at the end as well. The other entries were all good. Overall I really enjoyed this category, and would be happy with any of the other films winning. I would encourage you to seek out the short films if you haven’t watched them before.
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
War films tend to do well in this category, and this is likely to be Hacksaw’s only real shot at an Oscar.
Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land is the favorite in this category, but I’m going to go out on a limb and take Hacksaw. You can’t pick the favorite all the time if you want to win an Oscar pool. Too, I’m really hoping that Kevin O’Connell (21 nominations, 0 wins) can break his unlucky streak and win for Hacksaw Ridge.
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
There are a lot of great effects in this category. But Jungle Book is far and away the favorite, because those animals just look so darn real!
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Moonlight
This is a very strong category, but look for Moonlight to pick up perhaps its only Oscar of the night in this category.
Writing (Original Screenplay): Manchester by the Sea
I think this may be one of the rare categories where La La Land
is edged out. First off, Manchester is a fantastic screenplay. Second, it is unlikely to win in any other category. Third, it is an opportunity to still recognize director Kenneth Lonergan with an Oscar, since he also wrote the film. And Lonergan is well liked.
That’s all folks! Except for my one gripe about the major snub to Sing Street, which should have got an original song nomination. Also Hugo Weaving for Best Supporting Actor in Hacksaw Ridge, and Hugh Grant in Florence Foster Jenkins, and…all right, I’ll stop!
Well there you have my 24 predictions. What do you think?