The Oscars are this Sunday, and there are a few things that I am confident will happen. The Academy will fix the #OscarSoWhite hubbub of the past two years by giving some significant wins to non-white nominees, though the nominations themselves probably did a lot to solve the issue for many. We are also set to have one of the most political shows in a long time, with their being weeks of push for acceptance speeches be used as a chance to speak out against the current American administration and the numerous issues that have arisen. I assume some will play it safe, but I expect some pretty electric speeches and it will turn out to be one of the most memorable shows in years. I'm looking forward to this show and maybe even more, writing about all that happens after.
Before we get to the show this Sunday, it is time for some big predictions on who I think will win this year.
Best Picture: La La Land
Damien Chazelle's homage to the 1950s musical is an awards juggernaut with a massive 14 nominations, which ties the record with All About Eve and Titanic. It isn't a small thing to note both those movies won Best Picture. It has also been described by some as a "love letter to Hollywood" and the Academy tends to like to award movies that celebrate the place the majority of the voters live and make their living. There has been a bit of a backlash against the movie being "too light" and lacking substance (something I am in a huge disagreement), and there has been a late surge for Hidden Figures (winning the SAG Outstanding Performance by Cast was a huge boost), and there are also several vocal champions for Moonlight (which won the Golden Globe). Despite those challengers, La La Land has been hot for months now and I'd say history is strongly on its side.
Best Director: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
There is a chance history will be made with Barry Jenkins becoming the first Black director to take home the statuette, but instead, it looks more likely we will have the youngest ever Best Director winner. When you have a close race, sometimes the beloved movie that didn't get Best Picture gets the Best Director, and this would be a year for that except a lot of the praise for La La Land is due to the direction of Chazelle. I get the feeling Hollywood wants to declare him as one of the next big things in the movie industry. Even though my predictions have nothing to do with who I think actually deserves to win, Chazelle does an incredible job of recreating a classic old school musical but blending it in a very modern world with emotional character-driven drama. It is a feel-good, toe tapping movie with a plot that is actually bit of a downer when you think about it, but Chazelle pulls it off with his meticulous direction.
Actor in Outstanding Leading Role: Denzel Washington (Fences)
For most of the road to the Oscars, Casey Affleck has been the heavy favourite with him picking up awards at most of the shows. He was one of the clear sure thing winners, but then Washington won at SAG, which has predicted the winner in this category for the last 13 years. Plus Screen Actor Guild members consist of the largest group of voting Academy members, so there is a strong chance Washington derails the Affleck train this Sunday. This would be Washington's third Oscar, which would tie the record for most actor awards for a male. I admit this is one of my bigger swings and one of the most likely that I could strike out on in the big categories.
Actress in Outstanding Leading Role: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Much like Affleck, she has been the sure-fire winners since the nominations were announced, with the big difference being she has remained on the road to the statuette. She has gobbled up all the major trophies and even though there may be more deserving winners, there isn't anyone else that has the buzz going into the show. Plus Academy likes using this award as a signal for the next big starlet and Stone fits that description perfectly.
Actor in Outstanding Supporting Role: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
This category became a bit of a free-for-all when Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor Johnson didn't even get an Oscar nomination. There was some early buzz for Jeff Bridges' role in Hell or High Water, but Ali has got the most vocal praise and been a critical darling. He also picked up SAG, which again is usually a good sign of who will take home the statuette.
Actress in Outstanding Supporting Role: Viola Davis (Fences)
Davis has picked up almost every award and has been a favourite before she was even nominated. If I am right on my predictions, we are looking at three non-white Oscar winners, which is pretty cool. Davis is definitely winning here, and it is well-deserved.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
The screenplay category is often used as the consolation prize for a beloved movie that didn't win the Best Picture, which is where Moonlight fits. It won for WGA, but oddly enough, it was under the original screenplay category instead. Hidden Figures has to be considered another heavy favourite, but I really think the Academy wants to honour Moonlight and this would be its best category. If Moonlight wins, this means it is the third and fourth time a black screen writer won in this category with Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney as the recipients.
Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
A musical hasn't won this category in over 60 years, probably due to filmmakers thinking such movies are great due to their music rather than their words. This is a category they tend to like to honour something dramatic and has emotional heft, and that is something Manchester by the Sea is loaded. It is also a critical darling that I am sure the Academy wants to celebrate and this is its best category.
Best Animated Feature Film: Zootopia
In a perfect world this fun but thoughtful feature would have been nominated for a Best Picture. But the Academy seems stuck on the idea the animated movies remain in this category and that is enough for them. The competition is pretty tight with Kubo and the Two Strings and Moana being really worthy winners as well (sadly, I never saw Red Turtle or My Life as a Zucchini). This was a critical darling that spoke into the modern zeitgeist, but also was the highest grossing of all the movies, plus for the last decade a Disney/Pixar feature always wins when nominated.
Best Animated Short: Piper
Pixar hasn't won in this category since 2011, so there is a feeling of it being due. Plus this is an expertly crafted and gorgeously animated feature. The story of a bird leaving the nest and going on his own isn't very deep, but it is inspirational and feel-good. This seems like a year where those type of works are resonating.
Best Original Score: La La Land
The score is not only catchy and a huge part of the movies' personality, but there is a chance the Academy voters may believe a score to a musical is a greater challenge than one to a typical movie. Traditionally, the winner in this category goes to one of the big Best Picture favourites, so that would slide it towards a win too. On top of that, the score has already dominated most of the awards shows leading to this one, so it has all the momentum, Plus repeat after me, "sweep, sweep, sweep, sweep."
Best Original Song: "City of Stars" (La La Land)
I personally have a soft spot for "How Far I'll Go" from Moana, but this is the one that I've been hearing all over the place and since Sunday is about crowning La La Land as the king, as a musical it should probably win here. There is talk that the fact it is also competing against another song from the movie, "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" that they will cancel each other out, but Lionsgate has smartly been pushing this song as its centrepiece. An upset wouldn't shock me, but this song has the most attention right now.
Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
This is a case of the voters choosing a movie as a way to rebel against the Trump administration. Director Asghar Farhadi stated he will boycott the Oscars due to Trump's travel ban, and this has caused several Academy members to say they will vote for this movie as a form of protest. It also helps this is a critically acclaimed movie, and probably had a strong chance to win even before the Trump lunacy. If it wins, Farhadi will join elite company as only the fourth filmmaker to direct more than one winner in this category (A Separation won five years ago) along with Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, and Carlos Saura.
Best Feature Documentary: O.J. Made in America
It was a bit of a long shot to get nominated due to its 7.5 hour run time, which made it more a docu-series than a feature. Some argued the Academy may be scared of the precedent it set if it allowed this documentary in, but now it is in, so they might as well go all in. It does have some heavy competition with Netflix making a huge push for the terrific 13th and I am Not Your Negro being a massive critical darling. But in the end, this feature is about celebrity culture and Los Angeles, which the voters have a soft spot.
Best Short Documentary: The White Helmets
This is another one of the picks that can make a huge political statement, as this short is about the volunteer civil defense organization in Syria. This movie shows some of the great good that is being done during that country's civil war, and I can see votes landing this way to speak out against the "not-a-ban."
Best Live-Action Short: Sing
I sadly did not see any of these shorts, as such things are hard to legally track down in the small city of Brantford. I went with the one with cute kids and music.
Best Cinematography: La La Land
I'm expecting La La Land to dominate the awards this Sunday, and this will likely be one of the categories considering how beautiful and vibrant this movie looks. The biggest competition is likely Lion, because it won the top award from the American Society of Cinematographers, but La La Land took home the prize from BAFTA.
Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had some pretty impressive special effect like bringing back Peter Cushing, but The Jungle Book created an entire jungle full of living and breathing animals. Its effects were cutting edge and changed the standard of what CGI can do. If you weren't aware all the animals were CGI and it was filmed entirely on a sound stage, you'd think you were in a real jungle with living animals that just had voice over work. On top of the fact it really is the most amazing visual achievement in decades, The Jungle Book has dominated most of the special effects awards prior to this show.
Best Costume Design: Jackie
Academy tends to lean towards period pieces when giving out this award, which is why I think this may be one of the few categories that La La Land loses. Natalie Portman looks great in several classic duds as Jackie Kennedy and the wardrobe are from a time brimming with nostalgia, so I can see this catching the voters' eyes. Plus it already won at BAFTA and the Critics' Choice awards for this category.
Best Make-Up and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
This is likely the winner due to the smaller Swedish feature, A Man Called Ove being passed on by a huge portion of the voters and Suicide Squad was critically torn apart. Based off that, Star Trek has the most positive buzz and momentum going into the awards. Yes, I know none of this actually has a thing to do with the quality of the make-up or hairstyling -- welcome to awards predictions.
Best Film Editing: La La Land
A favourite mostly because I'm expecting it to sweep a large part of the categories, but it also won at the ACE Eddie awards (for the musical/comedy category), which is voted by editors. The strongest competition comes from Hacksaw Ridge that won at BAFTA and Arrival, which picked up a win at the ACE Eddie awards in the drama category. Musicals or movies about music tend to do really well in this category, so I'm going with history again.
Production Design: La La Land
Contemporary set movies don't win here and the Academy tends to go for showy and extravagant for this category, but I'm pretty sure the narrative of the night will be La La Land running away with as many awards as it can get its dancey hands on. Plus it is a very stylized version of Los Angeles and sets designed to recapture the nostalgia of old musicals. This is another area where it could lose especially with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Passengers taking wins elsewhere. It is hard to bet against La La Land in almost any category.
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Traditionally, big loud war movies win here, and Hacksaw Ridge fits that description perfectly. There of course is a strong change La La Land snags another here, or Arrival with a quieter but haunting sound could sneak in too. I think this is where the Academy decides to share the love with some other movies.
Sound Mixing: La La Land
This is the sound category where the winner is often a musical if it has been nominated, and guess what, La La Land is a musical. Arrival could be a strong contender as well, as it won best sound at BAFTA. I am guessing most voters just go with the movie that they have been heaping accolades on all night.