WeMissE’s Annual Oscar Predictions

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?

 

Advertisements

Moana (****1/2) continues to change the game for Princesses

moana

Moana – 2016

Directors Ron Clements and John Musker
Screenplay Jared Bush
Starring (Voices)  Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk

Lin-Manuel Miranda is everything right now in the world of show music, and that certainly was the predominant word rushing through early buzz of Moana. Luckily, when one sees the film, it’s not the only thing that anyone will remember. Based on Polynesian history and legend, in which story creators Clements and Musker discovered that the culture stopped travelling about 3000 years ago. Then about 1000 years later, they started up again. Early versions of the story centered around the character of demi-god Maui (Johnson), but the winds of Disney change caught on.

Now we get a young teenage princess (Cravalho) with her pet chicken Heihei (Tudyk) who is destined to redeem the sins of the afore-mentioned Maui. He stole the heart of the island Goddess Te Fiti to bring it to humanity as a gift. Kind of like he envisions he is. If Gaston had some charm, he’d be Maui. Oh and yeah, she says she isn’t a princess. Maui dispenses with that faulty logic with one of the films many clever lines:

If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.

Moana is the daughter of the chief (Morrison) of a small Polynesian Island Motunui and she dreams of life beyond the reef. Her grandmother (House) encourages the dreams, but her father thinks it’s foolish. Upon her Grandma’s dying wish Moana makes her escape and comes across Maui, who has been stranded on an island for a millenia. Before the film falls into the familiar rhythm of so many Disney movies that preceded it, we are reminded that Maui is brash and stubborn in his insistence that he has done nothing wrong. Oh, and he’s a little scared.

Moana isn’t scared though. She’s a girl. And this time around, the girl doesn’t need a man to finish the job so she can fall in love with him.

Moana the film is beautiful in much the same way that Tangled is in its palate of deep resonate colors that jump off of the screen. One could watch this movie 1000 times and still not catch up with the detail imbued within the frame. It’s the most beautiful film of 2016.

The characters and situations are memorable. Heihei, as dumb as the chicken is portrayed, has a usefulness that is endearing and never detracts from the film as so many sidekicks in Disney films have in the past. Johnson excels in a role that allows him to be as manly as we all know he is, but still play second fiddle to a girl on a journey to find herself.  If only they could find a way to make him heroic without being foolish and still have room for Moana’s heroism, too.

Similarly effective are the various nemeses that they encounter. The giant coconut crab, Tamatoa (Clement) has a humorous number. The best part of the film is the chase scene involving scads of pirate coconut clad creatures called the Kakamora. It’s a brief interlude, but without a doubt, the best thing in the film. We need more Kakamora.

Moana is a worthy discovery for Disney. For once, we have a Princess character whose voice and body can’t fit into the mold of all the others before her. This is a great thing. She looks Polynesian. She sounds Polynesian. She still dreams her dreams like Disney, but she doesn’t need a man to save the day.

Cravalho does a great job singing various renditions of the centerpiece song How Far I’ll Go. She is, more importantly, the actual age of the hero she portrays. This is great because there is no question mid way through the story, she and Maui are not going to be an inevitable couple. Maui is too old and they don’t go creepy on this one. I am not sure how much farther we go with the story of Moana, but hopefully she continues to find a way to mine her talents.

Get used to hearing the soundtrack, because once the movie is released on home video no one is going to be able to avoid it in any house with kids under 10. Johnson’s You’re Welcome is a great farce and he has a good singing voice. The only place it falters is the song Moana does with her grandma’s ghost. It meanders like something from Into the Woods. They stay centered around How Far I’ll Go, for the most part and it works as an inspirational theme.

There is a recipe out there somewhere to make a valiant woman’s story without sacrificing her male counterpart. They almost made it here, but the “let me clean up your mess” feeling of the story doesn’t quite make it. Still, it’s message is good enough to accompany it’s remarkable visuals. I am going to assume no one will need to say “she persisted” someday. They will just say the protagonist persisted.

(****1/2 out of *****)