BEST PICTURE – LA LA LAND
No matter if there are 8, 9 or 10, since the expansion of the Best Picture category almost a decade ago, every annual race comes down to just three of the nominees. That means in this year’s competition, if you produced Hell Or High Water, Fences, Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion or Manchester By The Sea, be satisfied with your nomination. You ain’t gettin’ the gong.
In 2016, the real contest for the best movie of the year comes down to a little known story about Black mathematicians working for NASA, a love story/musical about beautiful white people struggling in Hollywood and a coming of age story about a Black kid in Miami.
Hidden Figures is the most commercially successful of this year’s crop of nominated films. It’s also one of the best reviewed nominees. And considering the racism of America’s current President and the #OscarsSoWhite campaign over last year’s Oscars, here’s a chance for the Academy to make a powerful statement.
But they won’t. Moonlight, another universally loved drama, at least with critics, is in the same boat.
Remember, the Academy is mostly made up of really old honkies, who rarely reward films featuring people of colour. Whitey usually votes for whitey. So, despite having its detractors, the safe bet is on La La Land. Besides, Hollywood loves itself too much to ignore movies that love it as well.
BEST DIRECTOR – Damien Chazelle (LA LA LAND)
Roger Ebert said it every year around this time but it bears repeating in his overwhelming absence. Almost all winners of the Directors Guild Of America prize (about 90% of them) go right on to win the Best Director Oscar. This year, the DGA went to La La Land’s Damien Chazelle. The golden eunuch is his.
BEST ACTOR – Casey Affleck (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA)
If you’ve seen the TV ads for Manchester By The Sea, you’ve surely heard a quoted rave from longtime Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers. In summary, he claims that Ben Affleck’s younger brother is a sure thing for Best Actor. Indeed, for a while, this category seemed like a lock for him.
Then came the reminders of Affleck’s shitty behaviour during the making of the fake documentary, I’m Still Here. (You know, the one where Joaquin Phoenix pretends to be a bearded rapper?) During the making of the film, the younger Affleck and some of his crew members repeatedly sexually harassed two women who worked on the production. The women later sued and both cases reached an undisclosed, confidential settlement.
Although he hasn’t faced a lot of hard questions about what happened (his few responses have not been all that candid, remorseful or reassuring), the stories resurfaced nonetheless which could potentially derail his long awaited Oscar triumph. I’m reminded of what happened to Cyrano De Bergerac, the superb 1990 version with Gerard Depardieu in the title role. While he had no chance at winning Best Actor (as expected, Jeremy Irons took the gold for being Claus Von Bulow in Reversal For Fortune), the film itself seemed a sure thing for Best Foreign Language Film. But then, stories surfaced of Depardieu talking about being part of gang rapes when he was a teenager. Journey Of Hope ultimately won the Oscar.
Further clouding the picture is Denzel Washington’s recent Best Actor win at the SAG Awards. Every year since 2004, the Best Actor SAG winner and the Best Actor Oscar winner have been the same person. Is that a spoiler omen?
There’s also the lovable dark horse candidate Ryan Gosling. Like Affleck, he’s a previous nominee who’s never been invited to thank people on stage. Because of feminist outrage over Affleck’s nomination, could he, not Washington, be the beneficiary?
Again, I’m reminded of Oscar history. In 2003, it looked like either Martin Scorsese or Rob Marshall were going to win Best Director. Instead, it went to cowardly child rapist Roman Polanski, a perennial no-show because of his legal situation. The fact of the matter is this. Talented white people rarely get punished for their personal misdeeds. So, Casey Affleck has nothing to worry about.
BEST ACTRESS – Emma Stone (LA LA LAND)
At first, Natalie Portman, already a previous winner for Black Swan, seemed like the presumptive frontrunner for playing Jackie O. But over time, things appear to have changed. When you think about it, Portman really doesn’t need another Oscar, anyway. Neither does perennial nominee and three-time winner Meryl Streep.
That leaves first-time nominees Isabelle Huppert & Ruth Negga plus two-time nominee Emma Stone. Huppert is a legend in France having been nominated 16 times for the Cesar, the French Oscar. It seems unlikely, however, that she’ll pull off an upset. The African-born Negga was cast in 12 Years A Slave, a previous Best Picture winner, but all her scenes were dropped from the finished film. Having gone mostly unrecognized in a number of previous shorts and occasional big features like World War Z, she could probably use a push here which would greatly raise her profile.
Stone was previously nominated for Birdman and stood no real chance of winning. This year will be very different. Barring an upset, I see her taking it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Viola Davis (FENCES)
Four years ago, Viola Davis lost the Best Actress Oscar to Meryl Streep. This year, Streep is nominated in the lead category while Davis is up for Best Supporting Actress, so that’s one less obstacle to overcome. Here are two more: Octavia Spencer and Nicole Kidman already have golden gongs for previous roles. Neither is in line for a second. Michelle Williams is on her fourth nomination and has never won before.
But Davis, already an Emmy winner for being the star of the popular How To Get Away With Murder, is owed a make-good for losing to the mighty Streep in 2013. Since she didn’t win for The Help, she’ll take it for Fences.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Mahershala Ali (MOONLIGHT)
The #OscarsSoWhite campaign in 2016 seemed to have convinced the Motion Picture Academy to single out more stories about people of colour and the result this year has been numerous nominations for films like Lion, Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures. In particular, seven POC have been recognized for their acting in 2017 and at least two will be going home with Academy Awards.
That means no second Oscar for Jeff Bridges and it means no big speeches from Michael Shannon and Lucas Hedges.
Dev Patel, the young star of Slumdog Millionaire, which won Best Picture and a bunch of other gongs almost a decade ago, could be a spoiler here. But I’m sensing a win for Mahershala Ali. The critically acclaimed Moonlight has to win something. Plus, Ali is a Muslim who will surely have plenty to say about President Donald Trump. Despite having already been handsomely rewarded for his performance in the film, he seems most likely to have his name called out Sunday night.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – OJ: MADE IN AMERICA
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – ZOOTOPIA
BEST FOREIGN FILM – TONI ERDMANN
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Damien Chazelle (LA LA LAND)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Allison Schroeder & Theodore Melfi (HIDDEN FIGURES)
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – JOE’S VIOLIN
BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Can’t Stop The Feeling! (TROLLS)
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – LA LA LAND
BEST SOUND EDITING – ARRIVAL
BEST SOUND MIXING – ARRIVAL
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – LA LA LAND
BEST FILM EDITING – LA LA LAND
BEST MAKE-UP & HAIRSTYLING – STAR TREK BEYOND
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – SILENT NIGHTS
BEST ANIMATED SHORT – PIPER
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – THE JUNGLE BOOK
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – LA LA LAND
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – LA LA LAND
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, February 24, 2017