The Oscars are always good fodder for friendly banter and wagers with friends. Who will win? Who are your favorites? I know mine – pretty much La La Land across most categories. I absolutely loved this movie – it was so original, it made me smile, dance, laugh, and cry. I’ve always loved my city, Los Angeles, and this movie is such a love story about the city of angels, and the opportunities for all the dreamers who have the chutzpah to pursue their dreams in our highly competitive city. Some will succeed – many will not – the passion that leads them to follow their dreams requires a boldness I think we all wish we possessed.
I’m sharing the well-pointed perspective of my esteemed movie-critic friend Jeff York, from theestablishingspot, on who will/should win, and why. Take a gander – do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s all go to the movies!
It’s that time of year again when film fans turn their attention to the Academy Awards. The ginormous ceremony arrives this Sunday and despite the excitement that the show always brings no matter what, this year may be the most anticlimactic in decades. Truly, only a handful of categories will likely provide any real suspense. Quite simply, if you’re filling out your ballot and predict that LA LA LAND will win in at least eight of the categories it’s nominated in, you could easily have a third of your ballot aced.
The modern musical about two artists struggling to make it in Hollywood is nominated in a whopping 14 nominations in 13 categories, and to put that in perspective, there are only five categories that it didn’t get recognition in that it could have, and six others that it couldn’t compete in, like Best Foreign Language Film. That many nominations indicate that the film starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone has a ton of support across the Academy and likely ensures that the film will dominate at the event this weekend.
The rest of the ballot isn’t all that challenging to predict either. In fact, when you figure in where all the previous awards have gone, what’s getting the press, who has the buzz, as well as the box office mojo, it’s not that difficult to come off like an expert soothsayer this year. Thus, without any further ado, are my predictions for the 89th Annual Academy Awards.
BEST PICTURE – LA LA LAND
With all those nominations, how does LA LA LAND not win? The only real competition it has comes from two films, both inflated by prognosticators who want a contest. Because HIDDEN FIGURES was such a runaway box office hit, some see it as a real threat. But it’s only got two other nominations. Two versus 14? Please. The genuine threat, though still a real underdog, is MOONLIGHT. It’s the most critically lauded film nominated in the top category this year. (It placed second in the recent Sight & Sound magazine international film critics poll of 2016’s best films.) The Barry Jenkins film has received eight nominations in total, so if any film is going to upset LA LA LAND, it will be his intimate character study of a gay black man growing up in Miami.
But I believe LA LA LAND has too much broad support, a terrific box office accumulation and standing as a critical darling to be vexed. It also exemplifies the most consistent and somewhat disturbing trend of Best Picture winners of the last decade in that it is a film all about the business. Since 2009’s SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, Oscar’s top prize has gone to four other films with a show biz backdrop – THE KING’S SPEECH, THE ARTIST, ARGO, and BIRDMAN. LA LA LAND is a Valentine to the industry, still heavy enough for voters despite the musical buoyancy. If LA LA LAND loses, it will be a bigger upset than 2006’s BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN losing to CRASH. But I don’t see that happening.
BEST DIRECTOR – DAMIAN CHAZELLE (LA LA LAND)
Chazelle may be only 32, and sometimes youth is voted against by older members, but since this young man’s won most of the critics’ awards, including a key victory at the Director’s Guild weeks ago, he should prevail at the Oscars too. The film is entirely his vision and the Academy will recognize that assuredly.
BEST ACTOR – DENZEL WASHINGTON (FENCES)
Interestingly, one of the only real nail-biters of the evening will be this major award. Up until the Screen Actors Guild Awards, it seemed that Casey Affleck was a shoo-in for his brooding, sublime work in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. Then, a story about him sexually harassing some coworkers resurfaced and it may have tainted his chances. Granted, he won the BAFTA Best Actor a few days back, but it seems that Washington’s tour de force has more momentum stateside after SAG. I believe it is enough to let him prevail. SAG is seldom wrong in predicting eventual Oscar winners, and Washington’s performance is outstanding. The fact that the actor also directed the film can only help his quest. (Actors, the largest wing of the Academy, love to vote for actors who wear many hats.)
BEST ACTRESS – EMMA STONE (LA LA LAND)
Five months ago, the contest seemed to be between Stone and Natalie Portman for JACKIE, but somewhere along the way, the tide turned against the previous Oscar winner’s sublime essaying of the 35th president’s wife. Since then, Isabelle Huppert has emerged as the only threat to Stone for her subtle and fierce work in ELLE. She could upset, but it’s hard to see how Stone doesn’t continue her sweep at the final ceremony. She’s won at the Golden Globes, SAG and BAFTA in the past months, and the Academy likes to reward Best Picture winners with an acting prize too. Plus, Stone is playing an actress who makes overcomes hardship in Hollywood and prevails. Life will imitate art here, most likely.