It’s Oscar time again! For us movie lovers, this is the equivalent of our Super Bowl. Part of the fun is making predictions, and what I love about the Oscar nominations 2017 is that it’s no easy task. There are very few categories that have a “lock” like most years, where one contender is a virtual guarantee to win. We have some real horse races here, and I’m looking forward to some upsets and possibly some historic victories.
I’m starting off with the five major categories, including Best Picture, and more Oscar coverage is to come this weekend. I’ll record the winners here on Oscar night!
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
In 2011, the number of Best Picture nominees was increased from just five in each category to up to 10. This year we have nine deserving films. The year 2016 was a very good one for movies. A few that could have been contenders for that coveted tenth spot were Loving, Sully, Jackie, and one of my personal favorites, the foreign film Tanna from Australia.
My prediction for this year is La La Land. In spite of the fact that the industry is currently buzzing with a so-called backlash against the film’s momentum with 14 Oscar nominations, La La Land has the formula for success that the Academy loves: it’s a sweetly nostalgic movie about movies longing for cinema’s golden age. In a year with a turbulent political climate, a feel-good musical might be just the escapist confection Academy voters needed.
As for all the others, see them and support them at the box office! This is an outstanding line up of great flicks. It’s especially encouraging to see that Hollywood paid attention to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy from last year (due to the lack of diversity in the major categories), and has greenlit films with African-American casts like Fences and Moonlight (both adaptations of plays), and Hidden Figures, which celebrates the little-known story of the African-American women whose brilliant minds were critical to America’s success in the space race.
Isabelle Huppert ~ Elle
Ruth Negga ~ Loving
Natalie Portman ~ Jackie
Emma Stone ~ La La Land
Meryl Streep ~ Florence Foster Jenkins
I was sorry to see Loving overlooked for Best Picture. It’s a quiet, understated film about one interracial couple’s legal challenge to American miscegenation laws in the late 1950s. Ruth Negga’s portrayal of Mildred Loving is equally understated and graceful, but not flashy enough to garner the gold, unfortunately (though I hope Oscar night could prove me wrong). My prediction is Meryl Streep as the sentimental favorite for Florence Foster Jenkins, the true story of the New York City arts patroness who dabbled in opera singing… with unintended hilarious results. She has been nominated a record 20 times, and won three times. Could the fourth time also be the charm? Acknowledging a woman who has made Hollywood history, I think so.
Casey Affleck ~ Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield ~ Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling ~ La La Land
Viggo Mortensen ~ Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington ~ Fences
Casey Affleck is brilliant in his portrait of a broken man in Manchester by the Sea (though cringe-worthy accusations of sexual harassment have tainted his career high). The method acting is impressive, as is Ryan Gosling’s virtuoso piano playing in La La Land. But I think Denzel Washington is the favorite this year. Denzel is an industry icon who has consistently delivered over his long career. He also received the Screen Actors Guild award for best actor for this powerhouse performance in Fences.
My personal favorite performance from an actor last year is by Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic: he is offbeat but authentic as the reactionary father who raises his family as far “off the grid” as one can get.
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis ~ Fences
Nicole Kidman ~ Lion
Naomie Harris ~ Moonlight
Octavia Spencer ~ Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams ~ Manchester by the Sea
As I said before, it’s so great to see that the #OscarsSoWhite trend of last year is (hopefully) a thing of the past with a more diverse voting body within the Academy. Evidence of this is the nomination of no less than three outstanding African-American actresses in the Best Supporting Actress category: Viola Davis for Fences, Naomie Harris for Moonlight, and Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures. Hollywood loves powerhouse performances, and this year it’s clear that Octavia Spencer delivers. She is my bet for this year’s winner.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali ~ Moonlight
Jeff Bridges ~ Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges ~ Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel ~ Lion
Michael Shannon ~ Nocturnal Animals
So much deserving talent in this category! Mahershala Ali is wonderful in Moonlight as the mentor of an African American boy who desperately needs a father figure. Ali was similarly great in Hidden Figures as the decorated military man and love interest for Tarji P. Henson. Speaking of Hidden Figures, Kevin Costner’s failure to be recognized for his portrayal of NASA head honcho Al Harrison, who comes to understand the plight of African Americans within his organization and in the nation, is a major snub. You can’t miss his scene knocking down the “For Colored Ladies” bathroom sign with a crowbar, and his punch line: “From now on at NASA, we all pee in the same color.”
But this year I am guessing that Jeff Bridges will win for his crotchety but doggedly determined sheriff in Hell or High Water. This will be again a celebration of his esteemed body of work. He’s simply too beloved to walk away empty handed.
I think it’s going to be Damien Chazelle for La La Land. His brilliant choreography of the opening scene alone – with Angelenos dancing around and on top of their cars on a gridlocked freeway – is a showstopper. His serious competition comes from Kenneth Lonergan, another Hollywood favorite who first turned heads and wowed Sundance with You Can Count on Me. Then again, there’s also Barry Jenkins for Moonlight and his virtuoso direction in this searing examination of the black experience in America. Will he be the first African American to win a Best Director Oscar? A race to watch!
Arrival ~ Denis Villeneuve
Hacksaw Ridge ~ Mel Gibson
La La Land ~ Damien Chazelle
Moonlight ~ Barry Jenkins
Manchester by the Sea ~ Kenneth Lonergan