Predicting the major categories at the 2017 Oscars
The Oscars are fast upon us, which means only one thing: Awards season is finally ending! Six months of slogging through articles predicting every bit of Oscar minutiae, analyzing which films have a shot at the big prize, and what that might mean for Hollywood, America, and the world at large. Emotions get heightened as sides are picked. If La La Land wins everything, then Hollywood is a fascist propaganda machine. If Moonlight wins, it's just the film industry trying to look good in the face of #OscarsSoWhite. If Hacksaw Ridge wins… OK, Hacksaw Ridge isn't winning anything.
Much as we would all like the infighting to be over, we should admit that we love it. This is the Superbowl for people who don't watch or understand football. It's our sport. We know it's bad. That it's just a bunch of wealthy people patting each other on the back, and at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. But whether or not the Oscars "matter" doesn't matter one bit. What's important is that we get to think about movies and talk about movies and argue about movies and make a case for why we love the movies we love (and hate the movies we hate). It's important, not because it ultimately means anything, but because having fun and getting to care about something so ultimately trivial is the stuff of life.
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Winner: La La Land
What? You need more explanation than that? Fine. La La Land is nominated in 14 categories, which ties Titanic and All About Eve for the most nominations ever. Do you know what else those movies have in common? They won Best Picture.
I'll admit that Moonlight has an outside shot, especially if the Academy follows the relatively recent trend of splitting the Best Picture and Best Director prizes between two films, but La La Land is still the clear favorite here. I've heard talk of a possible Hidden Figures upset because people loved it and it made a lot of money. Well, I'll believe it when I see it.
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Winner: La La Land
Damien Chazelle (above, right) will win for La La Land. But I'll admit I'm less than certain of this. I feel some sort of split coming. It could go the other way around with Chazelle taking Director while Moonlight gets Picture, but I suspect it's more likely we'll see what would amount to pity award for Barry Jenkins in the directing category. Pity or not, Jenkins would be the first black director to win the award, and honestly he's more deserving. I'd put my money on Chazelle, but I wouldn't be upset to lose that bet.
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
Winner: Denzel Washington
This is an interesting category, if only for the shift that's taken place over the season. This was Casey Affleck's award to lose, but lately it's looking like he's out of the running. His was the best performance of the year, but there's nothing wrong with denying to an award to an accused sexual predator. No, the winner this year will be Denzel Washington for Fences, whose performance is more than worthy of an award. He'll get it because he's great in the movie, and because it was his passion project, and because people love Denzel. All very good reasons.
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
Winner: Emma Stone
The winner here will be Emma Stone for La La Land. This is a competitive field, though. You've got Natalie Portman playing a famous person, which the Academy loves. Then there's Ruth Negga, who's generally amazing, also playing a true-life figure. Finally, Isabelle Huppert has an outside shot for her intensely complicated performance in Elle. I'd say if any of those women pose a threat to Stone, it's Huppert. But Emma Stone will win.
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
Winner: Mahershala Ali
Here we have a foregone conclusion with little chance for an upset: Mahershala Ali will win his performance in Moonlight, and he'll completely deserve it. His work in the film is extraordinary. I suppose if anyone might challenge Ali, it'll be Jeff Bridges, whose role is really more of a lead. He's great, and the Academy voters love him, but he's unlikely to pull off the upset.
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
Winner: Viola Davis
Another competitive category from the women. The winner here will almost certainly be Viola Davis for her incredible performance in Fences. The only thing standing in her was is a possible backlash for the fact that she clearly has a leading role, and was stuffed in this category to give her a lock on the win. That sort of blatant politicking rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and it's the sort of thing that could lead to a big upset. If on the off chance that backlash does play out, then there's a chance Naomie Harris will take. Still, this one is Viola Davis's to lose, and she probably won't. Personally, I can't wait for her speech.
Odds and Ends
Here I'll quickly give my take on some of the other categories. I think La La Land will win Best Original Screenplay, which is ridiculous, while Best Adapted Screenplay will go to Moonlight, where it thankfully doesn't have to compete with the steamroller that is La La Land. Best Documentary is a stacked category this year, and the likely—and deserving!—winner will be O.J.: Made in America.
Meanwhile, Best Foreign Language Film is a race between Toni Erdmann and The Salesman, but I'm going to predict a win for The Salesman, the Iranian film by past winner Asghar Farhadi. Its win will be a strong political statement, and an important one. There are worse reasons to win an Oscar.
Finally, in Best Sound Editing… just kidding. Happy Oscars!