Hello, readers. It’s that time of the year again where I make my picks for who should win and who will win the Oscars, an award so prestigious and so highly coveted, yet films like Fifty Shades of Grey and two Transformers films have been graced with the honor of slapping “Nominated for ____ Academy Awards!!” on their Blu-ray/DVD covers.
Thankfully, this time around, the nominations are more… ethnic, which is absolutely wonderful ’cause I was so worried about whether or not Jada Pinkett Smith was gonna attend or boycott the ceremonies once again. However, her husband wasn’t nominated for Collateral Beauty – ’cause… ugh – what a piece of shit film – so she might still be standing firmly on that soapbox of hers for another year. Either way, Oscars are no longer “so white”. Racism is now over. World peace has been achieved. Hunger, famine and war have been eliminated. All is right with the world. Amen.
In all seriousness, though, I can’t say I’m upset with the nominations. Most of them are expected, but there are some pleasant surprises, Mel Gibson has finally earned his comeback and more importantly, the Academy didn’t have to nominate Ride Along 2 or Fifty Shades of Black to play kiss-ass and make up for their so-called controversy from 2016. All in all, these are well deserved nods, so kudos to the Academy for getting it about 99% right.
As for that 1%? Let’s get that out of the way. Was Florence Foster Jenkins a bad film? Certainly not. Was Meryl Streep’s performance bad? Of course not. Was it great enough to deserve a spot as one of the five best performances from a leading actress, though? No, and certainly not over Viola Davis who should’ve been given the nod over her instead of being slotted in the Best Supporting Actress category. I don’t wanna dog Streep ’cause she is an amazing actress, but this proves my point that she’s now at that point in her career where she could get nominated for taking a shit in the woods. Of course, I’m sure she’s hoping she’ll win so she can deliver another self-righteous, utterly tone-deaf and not all that accurate (no, getting rid of all the foreigners doesn’t leave you with just mixed martial arts, ’cause the MMA is filled to the brim with foreigners) rant about some lowly sport/recreational activity that is so beneath an infallible creature such as herself.
Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get down to my predictions for the six main categories, followed by a quick rundown of who I believe will win the remaining categories.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences
Who should win: Casey Affleck
After years of egregiously overlooking Ben’s sublime, tour de force turns in Bounce, Forces of Nature, Reindeer Games, Paycheck and Gigli, the Academy owes it to younger Affleck brother Casey. Casey’s got some tough, highly worthy competition, and his performance is easily the least “performance-y” of the bunch (that goes to Denzel, and dammit, that man can put on a good show). That said, showy doesn’t always equate to being the best, and Affleck’s turn as a blue collar New Englander with a troubled past who finds himself having to take care of his equally troubled teenage nephew following the death of his brother is the most emotionally honest and achingly human performance I’ve seen from any actor in 2016. While, lesser talent may have turned this into one giant “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION” piece, Affleck instead chooses restraint, handling every emotional beat with grace and subtlety. It may be the quietest performance of the five, but every moment of Affleck’s silent resentment and held-back tears proves that sometimes the quietest roles can speak the loudest.
Who will win: Casey Affleck
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
Who should win: Mahershala Ali
This is easily the toughest pick of all six main categories. I’d be perfectly happy seeing any of these five men take home this award (in fact, one could argue any of the three leads in Hell or High Water – Bridges, Ben Foster or Chris Pine – could’ve nabbed a spot on the list), but I’m giving the slight edge to Mahershala Ali’s beautiful performance in Moonlight. On paper, his character sounds like such a cliché – the drug dealer with a heart of gold – yet Ali makes it a memorable turn that is impossible to forget. There’s not a single moment of manufactured heart from Ali. Every ounce he displays is pure, genuine heart, and it’s a testament to Ali’s performance that despite only appearing in just the first third of the movie, his character sticks in your mind long after this film has ended. His final moment onscreen, a scene so quiet yet so devastatingly powerful pretty much secured this award for him.
Who will win: Mahershala Ali
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Who should win: Emma Stone
This is a tough three-way choice for me between Huppert, Stone and Negga, and Stone barely ekes out the win. There are number of reasons why you should see La La Land, but the number one reason is the always adorable and charming Stone, who gives La La Land its feisty heartbeat. Bringing an expressive mix of deadpan humor, endearing sweetness and electrifying chemistry opposite co-star Gosling, with just a touch of heartbreak thrown into the pot, Stone brings dreamer Mia Dolan to vivacious life, be it during the incredibly catchy musical numbers or her more intimate moments with Gosling. Is she Ginger Rogers? Well, no, but she’d sure do Ginger proud and that’s more than enough.
Who will win: Emma Stone
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
Who should win: Viola Davis
Should Davis have been moved to Best Actress instead of Best Supporting Actress? I believe so, but the reason why she’s here is obvious. This is Davis’s best chance to win, much like many felt Christian Bale could’ve been given the nod for Best Actor in The Fighter but instead won for Best Supporting Actor. “Best chance” or not, Davis is a force to be reckoned with in Fences, and that screams volumes when you consider she’s acting opposite an always commanding presence like Denzel Washington. No doubt about it, Washington is onscreen dynamite here, but Davis matches him beat for beat, note for note and line for line as his longsuffering wife who gradually begins to show there’s only so much she can take. When her Rose finally stands up to Washington’s Troy midway through the film, it’s a powerfully moving showcase of pain, sheer strength and pent-up frustration finally boiling over that guarantees she’ll be walking home with a trophy.
Who will win: Viola Davis
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Who should win: Damien Chazelle
This is great lineup of well-deserved nominated directors, and as someone that’s defended Gibson not for what he did, but for his efforts to sober up and get his life back on track, I’m sincerely happy to see him back in the spotlight. That said, I’m going with Damien Chazelle. Good musicals are hard to craft; great musicals are even harder. There’s hardly room for middle ground. You either do it right like The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain and Fiddler on the Roof or you flounder and flop like Jersey Boys and Mama Mia! (you thought Russell Crowe drunk karaoke act in Les Miserables was bad, you should hear Pierce Brosnan woof and bark his way through that shit-show). So it’s nothing short of amazing that Chazelle, following his excellent sophomore effort Whiplash, has created one as infectious as La La Land. From the sharp editing style (reteaming with Oscar-winning editor Tom Cross from Whiplash) to the mesmerizingly vibrant look to his two irresistibly likable leads Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Chazelle has accomplished a superbly crafted ode to classic cinema. There’s not a frame found in this film that doesn’t ooze over with heart and passion from him. This is filmmaking form of the highest order.
Who will win: Damien Chazelle
Arrival – Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder & David Linde
Fences – Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington & Todd Black
Hacksaw Ridge – Bill Mechanic & David Permut
Hell or High Water – Carla Hacken & Julie Yorn
Hidden Figures – Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams & Theodore Melfi
La La Land – Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz & Marc Platt
Lion – Emile Sherman, Iain Canning & Angie Fielder
Manchester by the Sea – Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck & Kevin J. Walsh
Moonlight – Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner & Jeremy Kleiner
What should win: La La Land
Despite its recent controversy of promoting the “white savior” narrative, ’cause I guess we don’t have enough pointless bull shit to bitch about, La La Land was an invigorating breath of fresh air that partly redeemed a year in film that made me wanna kill myself. I say partly, ’cause 2016 was still a pretty shitty year. Yes, I get it, critics of La La Land. Gosling and Stone aren’t the best singers, but they’re far from bad either. And, yes, it didn’t reinvent the musical, but it sure as hell did everything it needed to do magnificently, and despite not being “original” or “inventive”, Chazelle still dared to move his story toward destinations that aren’t as conventional as you’d think. For God’s sake, even this asshole was moved by this picture.
What will win: La La Land
Okay, so there’s my predictions for the main categories. Here’s a quick rundown of the remaining categories.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight – Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney
Best Original Screenplay: La La Land – Damien Chazelle
Best Animated Feature Film: Zootopia – Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Clark Spencer
Best Cinematography: La La Land – Linus Sandgren
Best Costume Design: Florence Foster Jenkins – Consolata Boyle
Best Film Editing: La La Land – Tom Cross
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: A Man Called Ove – Eva von Bahr & Love Larson
Best Original Score: La La Land – Justin Hurwitz
Best Original Song: “City of Stars” from La La Land – Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Best Production Design: La La Land – David Wasco & Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
Best Sound Editing: Deepwater Horizon – Wylie Stateman & Renee Tondelli
Best Sound Mixing: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio & Stuart Wilson
Best Visual Effects: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel & Neil Corbould
Alright, book ’em, Danno. Those are my predictions, and I’m sticking to them. Jimmy Kimmel, good luck to you. Chris Rock’s hilarious opening monologue from last year has given you a tough act to follow. But if you need a confidence booster, just rewatch the abysmal clusterfuck that James Franco and Anne Hathaway performed back in 2011, and take heart knowing you can’t possibly do any worse.