Oscar Predictions 2017

It’s that time of the year again.  The “La La Land” awards, sorry, the Academy Awards/Oscars are this Sunday.  And while it is going to be a tense and political ceremony (more so than last year’s parade of causes speeches), it will still be exciting to watch to see who ultimately wins the grand prize.

This year, I was able to catch fourteen out of the fifteen nominated shorts in Live Action, Animation, and Documentary, so I will be adding my predictions for those in the end.  I have also decided to give a brief reasoning why to all twenty-four categories unlike the big eight (Picture, Directing, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay).

So consider these options for your Oscar pool contest, and to get yourself hyped, here is this video, another video, and the last time I did this, which was a while back.

Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land (Should Win, Will Win)

Lion

Manchester By the Sea

Moonlight (Should Win)

There is no denying it.  Slam it all you want, but it’s La La Land that will take the top prize.  It is bright and cheery, maybe too bright for our current times, but I can’t deny that it is a well-crafted film despite some flaws.  This was a film made by people who loved the classic musicals of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and emulates those films from suggestive moments to outlandish scenes.  Sadly, that time period was also a tumultuous time in America where Hollywood refused to be political during the Cold War and all of those musicals had dominantly white casts. Believe me, I totally get the reasons why it’s receiving the heat.

But I want to point out that Moonlight is also the most deserving film for the award.  This film is a even-keeled masterpiece where not one element dominates over the other, every actor is Oscar worthy, and has a subject that is more relevant to the times than La La Land.  Both films will live in glory, but Moonlight will be seen as one of the best films about race and sexuality ever made, and I hope that beyond Sunday night that it will continue to receive the love.

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

Damien Chazelle, La La Land (Will Win)

Kenneth Longerman, Manchester By the Sea

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (Should Win)

Chazelle is poised to win, but it would be more rewarding if Jenkins won.  Moonlight could not be the film that it is without Jenkins.  He is the reason why every single detail is rich with color and nuance.  This is only his second film in his repertoire, and it has been eight years after his first film, Medicine for Melancholy, debuted.  Chazelle already has a career going.  It’s unclear if Jenkins will continue and at a frequent rate.  I want him to continue making movies.  I just think the Oscar is much worthier in Jenkins possession than Chazelle’s based on future projects and portfolio leading up to today.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences (Will Win)

No one should win.  Honestly, I didn’t get a chance to see two of the nominated performances, and the three that I did see were “eh” at best.  Based on his SAG win, Washington is poised to win because of the large cross pollination of SAG members and those who are members of the Academy’s acting branch.  It would also recognize his deft direction of the film despite being stilted to one setting.  Still, be open to the critical favorite and Golden Globe winner Affleck winning, but both of these performances came off as by-the-numbers Oscar Bait to me.

fen-02277r-sized
Washington on the set of Fences (Paramount)

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert, Elle (Should Win)

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land (Will Win)

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Sure, Stone is not flashy as other Oscar performances are, but her character arc is very familiar to those in the Academy.  It will strike a chord with those who have struggled and made it in Hollywood; however, I would argue that she has the same quality as Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar-winning performance in Silver Linings Playbook: beautiful starlet.  If there was any competition, it would be from Huppert, and for good reason.  She is a beloved international actress having a Juliette Binoche moment where everyone loves her and recognizes her.  It should be her chance to break through with American audiences, but the subject matter of Elle (sexual assault) may be too difficult for voters to commit to a viewing of the film.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight (Should Win, Will Win)

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester By the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

There is no performance this year that lasted so little on screen but had so much impact on the story arc than Ali’s.  As someone who only appears in the first third of Moonlight, and then disappears only to leave an impressional mark on our hero is worthy of an Oscar.  I would also add that Hedges in Manchester By the Sea was my favorite part of that film, and that he has a long career ahead of him.

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences (Will Win)

Naomie Harris, Moonlight (Should Win)

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester By the Sea

Sure, it’s Davis’s year.  But she only gets to chew on the material in the last hour of Fences, and is more worthy of a lead actress award that a supporting one.  However, she’s still good, just not as good as Harris, who’s energy is on an even level in the three time periods of Moonlight, and makes her crack-addicted mother character a well-rounded one.

Best Original Screenplay

Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water

Damien Chazelle, La La Land (Will Win)

Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, The Lobster

Kenneth Longerman, Manchester By the Sea (Should Win)

Mike Mills, 20th Century Women

Manchester By the Sea is a case study in storytelling.  Longerman wrote a piece that connects with people who have ever experienced grief, which is everyone.  I could see this lasting long beyond the screen as a stage play.  After all, Longerman is a prestigious playwright in addition to his three films that he has written and directed.  But La La Land is on track to win a record-tying eleven, maybe a record-breaking twelve if there are people willing to vote for a Best Actor or a Best Sound Editing award, but I only see it being eleven, and that means Longerman will have to sacrifice this award.  However, he is the closest competition to upsetting La La Land in this category, so we’ll have to see on Oscar night.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Eric Heisserer, Arrival

August Wilson, Fences

Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures

Luke Davies, Lion

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (Should Win, Will Win)

There is nothing like Moonlight, and if it’s going to lose out on the big prizes of the night, having a screenplay win would be a satisfactory back-up.  Besides, it reinvents the three-act structure like never before.

Best Documentary

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America (Will Win)

13th (Should Win)

While O.J.: Made in America is an important watch, it’s seven and a half hours long, was made for ESPN (but had a weeklong run in cinemas to qualify for this award), and the argument made about celebrity and race is unwieldy.  13th does a better job of executing a thesis, and it’s a massive one, as the examination of the 13th Amendment and America’s history of racial injustice is closely monitored under a microscope.  It is going to be screened and looked at for years to come.  That can’t be said for O.J.: Made in America.

Best Animated Feature

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia (Should Win, Will Win)

Take the stereotypical subject of animated films (talking animals) and have them discuss racial tensions.  That is the premise behind Zootopia, which was my favorite animated film of the year.  Not only is it a well done lesson for kids to respect one another, but it is also well written, has the best world building, and laugh out loud moments for both kids and adults.

Best Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine, Denmark

A Man Called Ove, Sweden

The Salesman, Iran (Will Win)

Tanna, Australia

Toni Erdmann, Germany (Should Win)

If there ever is a statement to be made this year, it would be awarding The Salesman and Asghar Fardi for this category.  I haven’t had time to see it, but I’ve seen Fardi’s past work, including A Separation which won this award six years ago.  He is one of the best directors working today, and it would be lovely to honor him.  However, my favorite is Toni Erdmann a comedy of errors that also keeps a keen eye on social issues including economy, international affairs, and feminism as well as celebrating the bond between fathers and daughters.

Best Editing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land (Should Win, Will Win)

Moonlight

Editing has been a bit unremarkable this year, but the hype train continues with La La Land.

Best Cinematography

Arrival

La La Land (Will Win)

Lion

Moonlight (Should Win)

Silence

Moonlight is rich in color despite being a heavy film.  It celebrates black bodies and Miami beaches like no other.  But I guess long takes and tons of panning make good cinematography.  So La La Land wins again.

Best Production Design

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land (Should Win, Will Win)

Passengers

This makes a lot of sense, as the film’s more whimsical sets and well-tailored props and settings reflect the musicals of yore and the film’s two central characters.

Best Costume Design

Allied

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land (Should Win, Will Win)

Here, you’re thinking, “Why?”  All I’m saying is, “Have you looked at Emma Stone’s iconic costume line-up?  Like this?  Or this?  Or this?  Or even this?”

Best Hair/Make-Up

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad (Should Win, Will Win)

While Suicide Squad may have sucked, it was hard to avoid how well the hair and make-up truly reflect the characters from the comics.  This is still a tough category, though.  Star Trek Beyond won for prosthetic make-up at the hair and make-up guild awards.

Best Sound Editing

Arrival (Should Win)

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge (Will Win)

La La Land

Sully

Arrival’s sound design is so unique, they had to create a whole new sound to the film’s extraterrestrial characters.  But war has been a proven winner when it comes to the Oscars, so I bet on Hacksaw Ridge.

Best Sound Mixing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land (Should Win, Will Win)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Musicals tend to win the sound mixing category, but if La La Land wasn’t a musical, I would still vote for it because it’s sound package (music, dialogue, foley, and effects) is perfect beyond compare.

Best Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book (Should Win, Will Win)

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I haven’t seen The Jungle Book, but I’ve seen this, and if this video doesn’t prove to you how remarkable the visual effects are, then you have poor eyesight.

Best Original Song

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” La La Land

“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls

“City of Stars,” La La Land (Should Win, Will Win)

“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story

“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana

La La Land is bound to win here, but with two songs, it’s hard to choose.  “City of Stars” represents the film better as an overall package versus “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).”  However, be open to the possibility of the an upset in “How Far I’ll Go” and a possible EGOT victory for songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Best Original Score

Mica Levi, Jackie

Justin Hurwitz, La La Land (Should Win, Will Win)

Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran, Lion

Nicholas Britell, Moonlight

Thomas Newman, Passengers

It’s gorgeous.  Just gorgeous.  End of story.

Best Live Action Short Film

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV (Will Win)

Silent Nights

Sing (Should Win)

Timecode

A film that feels like a fairy tale and stars Jane Birkin?  Seems like a winning formula.  But despite being a bright and lovely piece of work, I thought Sing and it’s use of kids and Mean Girls tropes was a better film out of the five.

Best Animated Short Film

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper (Should Win, Will Win)

This is tough because Pixar doesn’t have the best record when it comes to their shorts, but Piper is the best technically and narrative-wise.  Pearl is touching, but it’s art style is horrendous.  Borrowed Time was good but too short, so short that I want a feature-length movie when the credits rolled.  The other two deal with tougher subject material.  Pear Cider and Cigarettes may be too edgy and Blind Vaysha can be overwhelming.  I’d go with Piper, but I could see a possibility for a Borrowed Time or Pearl victory.

Best Documentary Short Film

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin (Will Win)

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets (Should Win)

In this category, there are not one, not two, but three films about the Syrian Civil War and refugee crisis (4.1 Miles, Watani: My Homeland, and The White Helmets).  I’m not saying this as a bad thing; I’m just trying to prove a point in that somebody should really be doing something about this.  Out of those three, The White Helmets is the better one in celebrating Syria’s unsung heroes as if they were firefighters.  However, due to the overwhelming amount of films in one subject matter, Joe’s Violin will end up taking it.  And why not?  It’s actually not that bad.  The story of a Holocaust survivor and a young immigrant girl who inherits his violin is beautifully told and is as Americana as it comes.

Author: Samantha Felmus

Samantha Felmus is a writer with a cinematic vision. She holds a BA in Liberal Arts with concentrations in film from Sarah Lawrence College and a MFA in writing and producing for television from Long Island University - Brooklyn, specifically the TV Writer's Studio Program. In her downtime, she likes to cook and watch all the random things available on Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. She currently resides in New York City.

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