The Peoples Critic

News and Commentary on Movies that Matter

2017 Oscar Predictions

Interior of a Movie Theater

2017-oscars-89th-academy-awardsWell, here we are. Early in a year wrought with transition. The Oscars follow suit shattering a two year #OscarsSoWhite trend with a much more diverse field of nominees. Films like Lion, Moonlight, Fences, and Hidden Figures received much love this year, and deservedly so! We can now move past the petty race conversation and put the spotlight on what the Oscars are all about: honoring the best art, performance, craft, and cinema that all people have to offer.

The big story is La La Land’s historic 14 nominations, tying it with Titanic and All About Eve for the most Oscar nominations of all time. La La Land’s current box office sits at around $140 million, making it a far cry from that of Titanic’s $1.2 billion gross (adjusted for inflation). However, the real test will be if it can put its modest money where its mouth is and sing and dance its way over the “11-wins” hump that hit Titanic like an iceberg and become the winningest film in Academy Awards history.

Not if Arrival and Moonlight have anything to say about it; both films managed an impressive 8 nominations this year, and right on their heels are Hacksaw Ridge, Lion, and Manchester by the Sea with 6. In other words, La La Land is going to have to beat a few films over and over again to reach supreme cinematic dominance.

Anyway, like I do every year, I have laid out all 24 categories and their nominees along with my humble (yet educated) opinion on who will bring home the gold at this year’s ceremony, held Sunday February 26th and hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

Of course, keep an eye out for The People’s Critic’s time honored traditional Oscar Dinner Menu. Here’s a sneak peek – Meryl’s Chicken Streeps are back, yet again!

Part I: Shorts and Sound

2017-oscar-noms-770x433This first group will focus on the five categories that are usually the toughest to call as they are either short films not easily viewed by most people or they are those two lovely sound categories that many have trouble differentiating between.

1.   Best Short Film (Live Action) – Nominated films are:

Ennemis Entreniers
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights

Never have I been more unfamiliar with a list of films than I was with the list of nominated short live action films. Still, The People’s Critic does not balk at adversity! I did my research, watched the trailers, and watched what I could on iTunes. Here are my two cents. La Femme et le TGV is very Girl on the Train, and while the storytelling and production look impressive, I think the buck stops here. Silent Nights and Sing are nice films; one about a forbidden relationship between a Dutch woman and an illegal immigrant and the other about an award winning high school choir with questionable fame. The truth is, this is a two-dog race, as the other two films did far better than the rest in the awards circuit. Ennemis Entreniers (Enemies Within) is a French film about a potential terrorist looking for citizenship in France, and Timecode is a strange tale about parking lot security guards working alternate shifts who find the most interesting and entertaining ways to pass time on their shifts. I understand the draw to all five of these films this year, but to me there is no question – Timecode is the best. I would watch a feature length film about these two!

Prediction: Timecode

Winner: Sing

2.   Best Short Film (Animated) – Nominated films are:

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Far easier to see than their live action counterparts, the short animated films this year are all on point. These films were plentifully available online…until enough Oscar buzz started surrounding them, resulting in several of them being pulled. All of them are very good this year, and you should be able to find Pearl, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, and Piper pretty easily. Disney is always the team with the most skin in the game with this category. However, in recent years, Disney has only been batting about .500 in this category. This year their entry is Piper, which is cavity-ridden, sugary sweet in the story department, but technically, it is bar-none the most impressive looking film of the group. This presents the question, what’s more important: the technical or the story? Last year’s winner, Bear Story, certainly had handfuls of both, but no film looked as good as Piper. However, hold it right there because we have a first for the medium in the form of Pearl. Pearl is the first film designed for virtual reality storytelling, nominated for an Oscar. It is inspired by that tear-jerker The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and if you have a daughter, prepare to cry your eyes out. The film works without a VR headset, but if you watch it on the Chrome browser, you can use draggable navigation. As far as pushing the envelope of emerging technology, this film is outstanding. As a former teacher and current instructional designer (and father), I have to go with Pearl!

Prediction: Pearl

Winner: Piper

3.   Best Documentary (Short) – Nominated films are:

4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

The “colon” trend continues, 2014 winner – The Lady in Number Six: Music Saved My Life, the 2015 winner – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, and the 2016 winner – A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness! Grammatically speaking, there’s only one possibility for who wins this category for 2017: Watani: My Homeland. Punctuation-based Conspiracies aside, Watani is a fine film showcasing Syrian refugees escaping Aleppo for Germany. However, The White Helmets is an even better film about rescue workers who voluntarily risk their lives to rescue victims of the daily airstrikes on civilian targets in Syria. This is the one to see, AND it was produced by and available on Netflix!

Prediction: The White Helmets

Winner: The White Helmets

4.   Best Sound Editing – Nominated films are:

Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

5.   Best Sound Mixing – Nominated films are:

Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

 As per the usual, I deal with these two categories together. Not because they are the same (as evidenced by the slight variety in nominees), but because they are often confused. Sound editing is the art of recording sound effects, background music, as well as sound creation. Sound mixing is taking all of the sounds recorded and needed for a film, along with the dialogue, and putting it all together, adjusting the levels, etc. Films that are technical achievements usually see their successful evening at the Oscars start here. Last year, Mad Max: Fury Road took nearly every technical award for which it was nominated. This year, we don’t have a film like that, and these awards are likely to go in the only other direction they tend to go – music. The last musical to get the kind of attention La La Land is getting this year was Chicago in 2002, which won Sound Mixing (it was not nominated for Sound Editing). More recently, Les Misérables won in the Sound Mixing category in 2013 (it too was not nominated for Sound Editing; I blame Russel Crowe). Additionally, La La Land director, Damien Chazelle’s previous effort, Whiplash won Best Sound Mixing in 2014 (it also was not nominated for Sound Editing). This year we have a musical, and it IS nominated for both categories. Consider it lock.

Prediction: La La Land for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing

Winners: Sound Editing – Arrival, Sound Mixing – Hacksaw Ridge

Part II: Songs, Styles, and Sets!

oscar-music-2017This set of predictions rounds up the lower tier categories and begins the accent to the major ones. These predictions will focus on the six categories that make up the atmosphere of a film: Original Song, Original Score, Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup, and Visual Effects.

6.   Best Original Song – Nominated songs are:

“Audition” (La La Land)
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (Trolls)
“City of Stars” (La La Land)
“The Empty Chair” (Jim: The James Foley Story)
“How Far I’ll Go” (Moana)

A double dose of La La may be the key to the EGOT for Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda. If he wins the Oscar for his song “How Far I’ll Go,” he will be the youngest EGOT[1] ever, taking the crown from Robert Lopez. “City of Stars” from La La Land did win the Golden Globe this year, but “Audition” also from La La Land, was not even nominated for the Golden Globe even though it is easily the superior song from the film. The scene that accompanies “Audition” is perhaps the greatest scene in cinema all year, and the song is outstanding on its own. The trouble is, while it is nice to get those 14 nominations, doubling up here could split the votes and make just enough room for the Hamilton-auteur to get his “shot” and his EGOT all at once. “How Far I’ll Go” is an emblematic anthem that stands out. “Audition,” on the other hand is understated and is more a sum of all its parts. What will the Academy value most? Listen to these two songs back to back; it’s a pleasure to do it. You’ll likely want to go take on the world afterwards, but you’ll also see that “Audition” is something special.

Prediction: “Audition” (La La Land)

Winner: City of Stars” (La La Land)

7.   Best Original Score – Nominated films are:

Jackie (Micachu)
La La Land (Justin Hurwitz)
Lion (Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka)
Moonlight (Nicholas Britell)
Passengers (Thomas Newman)

Justin Hurwitz is a name that has been around for a little while now regardless of the fact that he’s barely 30 years old! He met his collaborator, Damien Chazelle as an undergraduate at Harvard, and it was kismet after that. While Hurwitz is up for three Oscars this year, this is the one he probably wants the most. If there’s any one more deserving of accolades for La La Land than Chazelle, it’s Hurwitz, and for him to walk away empty handed would be egregious. The song could easily go the other way, so Academy members will be sure to check Hurwitz’s name here.

Prediction: La La Land (Justin Hurwitz)

Winner: La La Land (Justin Hurwitz)

8.   Best Costume Design – Nominated films are:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land

This category favors the period piece, and well the case can be made that all of these films are period pieces, in a way.  We’ve got a real pro in the mix here this year in Colleen Atwood for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. She’s been nominated 11 times and won three times. The films she won for line right up with Fantastic Beasts[2].  Of course, she’s also lost for these types of films, as with Into the Woods. French costume designer Madeline Fontaine might sneak by with her vivid recreations of such iconic looks in Jackie. Here’s the thing though. Only one of these films is nominated for Best Picture, and that can result in an edge for Mary Zophres for La La Land.

Prediction: Mary Zophres for La La Land

Winner: Colleen Atwood for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

9.   Best Production Design – Nominated films are:

Arrival (Patrice Vermette)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Stuart Craig)
Hail Caesar (Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh)
La La Land (Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, David Wasco)
Passengers (Guy Hendrix Dyas)

The best thing about Hail, Caesar!, apart from Alden Ehrenreich, is watching the Coen Brothers direct a series of classic Hollywood genre set-pieces. The nomination is reward enough for that film, but it is worth mentioning. Ok, so the Oscar for Production Design goes to the art director who best accomplishes the appropriate mood for an audience’s experience through visuals, movement, and other varieties of art direction. Only two of the nominated films above are also nominated for Best Picture, but rarely do winners for Production Design and Best Picture intersect (you’ve still got a chance, Passengers!). The stand-out film for this category is La La Land. Love it or loath it, La La Land is a spectacle of visual pizzazz and nearly all of it is done without special effects or CGI. Its creative choreography, music, and sets all weave together to enhance the film exquisitely!

Prediction: La La Land (Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, David Wasco) 

Winner: La La Land (Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, David Wasco) 

10.       Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Nominated films are:

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

This is one of those sad years where a movie that made my list of worst films of the year (at #2, mind you!), now is forever permitted to be considered Oscar nominated. Now this category has been known to nominate some clunkers. I’m talking to you Bad Grandpa! But it is also one that tends to have the fewest nominees each year, so come on! For four years in a row now, regardless of the quality of nominated films, only three films managed nominations for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. This category continues to circle the drain with three moderately weak choices for the “makeup” category. I refuse to believe this now Oscar nominated film, Suicide Squad will ever be the Oscar winning film Suicide Squad, so what can I say for Star Trek and A man Called Ove. Well, Star Trek: Beyond feels like the favorite. Harlow received an Oscar for his work on the 2009 Star Trek film, so he’s back up for it again here in a film that certainly involved a lot of work from him. A Man Called Ove is nominated in the Foreign Film category as well, and I’m not sure what that really means for it here. Since it’s not a favorite for Foreign Film, maybe it will get its recognition here? The makeup use Ove is nowhere near the level of creative application needed in the other two films. It’s a tough call. Still, I’ll go out on a limb for Star Trek: Beyond. Just not Suicide Squad; please not Suicide Squad!

 Prediction: Star Trek: Beyond

Winner: Suicide Squad 😦

11.       Best Visual Effects – The nominated films are:

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

AKA, the blockbuster award. Now we get down to films that the average filmgoer can evaluate. The Visual Effects Oscar goes to a film that demonstrates greatness in the world of special effects. It’s no coincidence that three of these five films made over $200 million domestically this year. Last year a certain galaxy far, far away missed out for another “Bad Robot,” with Ex Machina. I wish the force was strong with this one, but I think another film is tugging at the strings.

Prediction: Kubo and the Two Strings

Winner: The Jungle Book

Part III: Don’t Shoot Me, I’m the Cinematographer!

moonlight-la-la-land-manchester-by-the-sea-620x360Part three of The People’s Critic’s Oscar predictions begins the major film awards.  These predictions will be for seven very different categories: Documentary Feature, Animated Film, Foreign Language Film, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, and everybody’s favorite – Cinematography (renamed, the “Emmanuel Lubezki Award” by The People’s Critic – Cinematography dorks will get that one). This year, however, Emmanuel Lubezki will not win the Emmanuel Lubezki award, so it’s an exciting year!

12.       Best Documentary Feature – Nominated films are:

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
OJ: Made in America

Well, in a year rebounding from a trend of non-diverse nominees, you can certainly expect the documentaries to take notice, and they did. Every one of these films is about dealing with the stigma of being a minority – four of which being about race relations. The limited theatrical run that qualified OJ: Made in America to be nominated as a film and not television project is an interesting one. Obviously, Made in America tackles its subject in 10 hours of captivating analysis. No other film comes close to that kind of introspection. However, no other film used the television medium for production and then backed into an Oscar nomination in this fashion. If voters find OJ not guilty once again, then the Juice is loose! If they feel the glove fits, then 13th gets its mits (on Oscar).

Prediction: OJ: Made in America 

Winner: OJ: Made in America 

13.       Best Animated Feature – Nominated films are:

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle

I have been obsessed with learning more about My Life as a Zucchini ever since I heard its title. This movie is not to be glossed over. Many are counting on Disney to improve its record to 10 – 5 in the history of this category with either Zootopia or Moana, but My Life as a Zucchini just barely missed being nominated in the Best Foreign Film category! Also, there’s Kubo and the Two Strings, which actually did get a nomination in a separate category. Last year I mentioned how this category is “growing up,” and I was right. These films are becoming major players and drawing extraordinary talent from all areas of production. I think the next conversation will be when a director of an animated film finally secures a Best Director nomination!  Ok, so who will win this year? The Red Turtle, while impressive, comes from Studio Ghibli, which has not had much success since Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement. Zootopia, to me still has enough steam after its Golden Globe win to push itself past Kubo. It’s a more progressive animated film for Disney, even if it has talking animals, and that sloth scene alone deserves a special Oscar.

Prediction: Zootopia

Winner: Zootopia

14.       Best Foreign Language Film – Nominated films are:

Land of Mine (Denmark)
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
The Salesman (Iran)
Tanna (Australia)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

The big story here is where’s Elle? The film that won the Golden Globe for this category and also picked up an award for Isabelle Huppert is curiously not even nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It may be the biggest snub of the year, as it had all the word of mouth and strength to likely win the category. The Salesman and Toni Erdmann now appear to be the frontrunners. There’s something about Toni Erdmann that has me leaning in that direction. It’s the only nominated film directed by a woman, and the subject matter is the most uniquely clever of the bunch, a sort of Mrs. Doubtfire for the modern age. Still in terms of where the buzz is, it’s all about Iran and there will be no death of this Salesman!

Prediction: The Salesman

Winner: The Salesman 

15.       Best Original Screenplay – Nominated films are:

Hell or High Water (Taylor Sheridan)
La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, Epthimis Filippou)
Manchester By the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
20th Century Women (Mike Mills)

As a writer (or to put it more modestly, one who appreciates writing), the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay has a special significance.   Last year, the “spotlight” was on Spotlight, which won this award along with Best Picture. It is not hard to win this one when you have a film about smart-talking journalists who (through writing) uncover horrific truth that results in a major upheaval for the Catholic Church and redefines the power of the press. This year, we don’t have that kind of film this year. We do have one that uses the written word and music to self-congratulate Hollywood and demonstrate the anxiety and tension that comes with choosing between love for one another and love for one’s art, which is close. We really don’t have a frontrunner this year though. Each of the nominees put forth a starkly different film than the next, and as far as writing is concerned, each excels! The winner for originality is Yorgos Lanthimos’s first English-speaking film, The Lobster. However, it is a rather alienating film for some and likely won’t get the votes. The same can be said for Sheridan’s Hell or High Water, which is elevated more by its actors and performances than its writing. It really comes down to Lonergan vs. Chazelle. Lonergan has not been getting the love he deserves for writing Manchester by the Sea. It is a far better screenplay than its awards tally suggests. La La Land, as great as it is, is basically the classic boy-meets-girl story, with music. I think this one will be an upset, but the right kind of upset.

Prediction: Manchester By the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) 

Winner: Manchester By the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) 

16.       Best Adapted Screenplay – Nominated films are:

Arrival (Eric Heisserer)
Fences (August Wilson)
Hidden Figures (Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi)
Lion (Luke Davies)
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McRaney)

These films are the rare few who challenge, and at times overcome, that old adage that the book is better than the movie.  Last year’s winners, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for The Big Short, surprised the snot out of everyone. Everyone by The People’s Critic, that is! The secret to correctly anticipating the winner of this category is to look for the challenge. Adapting The Big Short was a BIG challenge, and it worked out. This year, we have Barry Jenkins, who took Tarell Alvin McRaney’s drama school project and made it into Moonlight. Astonishing and outstanding achievement!

Prediction: Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McRaney)

Winner: Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McRaney)

17.       Best Film Editing – Nominated films are:

Arrival (Joe Walker)
Hacksaw Ridge (John Gilbert)
Hell or High Water (Jake Roberts)
La La Land (Tom Cross)
Moonlight (Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders)

This is an impressive award to win and the Academy does not treat that lightly. The winner for Best Film Editing has often been the film that wins Best Picture, and it is no surprise that all of the films nominated here are also nominated for Best Picture. Anyway, this is a two-horse race. The editing of a film is nearly as important as the direction, since it affects the story, the pace, and the tone. Often, great editing goes unnoticed by the viewer because of how seamless the story has been woven together. The major consideration here is Tom Cross’s shaping of the mood, tone, and complexities in La La Land versus Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders’s careful and delicate shaping of a single character’s journey in Moonlight. Last year, this award went big with Mad Max: Fury Road, which bodes well for La La Land, especially since we don’t have another technical powerhouse film like Mad Max this year. I do think the craft of La La Land is the real achievement in this category this year. The opening and final scenes alone are a master class on editing. Bravo!

Prediction: La La Land (Tom Cross) 

Winner: Hacksaw Ridge (John Gilbert)

18.       Best Cinematography – Nominated films are:

La La Land

Not only did we not have Emmanuel Lubezki nominated this year, we also don’t have Dick Pope. I think we all remember Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs’s unfortunate mispronunciation of his name a few years back at the live nominations announcement. In an effort to prevent that type of gaff again, it appears the Academy has gone an entirely different route in announcing nominations by using a computer generated voice during the nominations announcement. So sad. Anyway, hello Silence, nice of you to show up; it’s an open bar – have fun! Ok, let’s talk about cinematography. Cinematographers are the directors of photography who oversee decisions on camera and lighting concerns.  To excel at this requires the talent of an artist and the technical knowledge of a director.  This year’s group makes for a tough category.  We have a Denis Villeneuve film in Arrival. His two previous films Sicario and Prisoners were both nominated in this category, however, they both were shot by veteran cinematographer, Roger Deakins. However, it appears Villeneuve has found a new muse in Bradford Young, who will also shoot the upcoming Star Wars Han Solo film in 2018. The man who has taken this award the previous three years in a row, Emmanuel Lubezki, is not standing in the way this year, so the door is open for Villeneuve to have his vision finally recognized. However, Damien Chazelle managed to steal David O. Russell’s favorite director of photography, Linus Sandgren who has provided Chazelle with some pretty impressive camerawork.  I think it’s his to lose. Hey Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 looks awesome and you got Roger Deakins back. Fourth time’s a charm, I swear!

Prediction: La La Land (Linus Sandgren)

Winner: La La Land (Linus Sandgren)

Part IV: The Big Ones!

oscars-2017-best-picture-nominees-arrival-fences-hacksaw-hell-hidden-la-la-land-lion-manchester-moonlight-620x360The final installment of The People’s Critic’s Oscar prediction series lists my picks for the six major film awards: Directing, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Actress, Actor, and Picture.  These are the categories decided by the largest blocks of voters and, thus reveal the academy’s consensus feelings on the great films of the year. This is where La La Land looks to put the smack down all over the place. If the awards go as I have predicted thus far, La La Land will be sitting with 8 Oscars without factoring in these final six categories. Of these six, La La Land is nominated in four of them, so it needs to sweep these final four awards to get 12 wins and be the winningest film in Oscar history. Not so fast, says Casey Affleck. Not so fast.

19.       Best Director – Nominees are:

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

They don’t get much more charming, inspiring, or deserving than the men nominated for this award…and then there’s Mel Gibson. If there’s anybody anywhere who embodies the, “it’s just an honor to be nominated,” saying, it’s Mel Gibson who hasn’t been nominated since 1996’s Braveheart and since then has worked diligently to offend and abuse virtually every type of person on God’s green earth and in the Dolby Theater on Oscar night. So Mel, go ahead and join Silence for another drink at the bar, but not too many. We know what you’re like when you’re drunk.

So clearly, we’re looking at the four directors who made inspiring, stirring, and incredible films and who did NOT berate, belittle, and mock Jews, women, Black people, and homosexuals. After I saw Manchester By the Sea, I was astonished by Lonergan’s skill at making a film that seemed to work in the same way as the human memory. His back and forth narrative was so surreal and impressively constructed that I believe I have a better handle on my own mind and how it works. And then I saw La La Land. I’ve said it again and again, the opening and closing minutes of this film are the finest of any film I’ve seen this year. Achievements abound from start to finish and many are due to Mr. Damien Chazelle’s direction. Nowadays, very few directors earn more than one Best Directing Oscar. Of this year’s nominees, only Gibson has ever even been nominated in this category previously. The award is closely associated with the Best Picture winner as well, however these awards are becoming more independent of one another. Still, this is where Chazelle gets his ultimate due. He will lose the screenplay Oscar to Lonergan, but he’ll take the directing one from him here.

Prediction: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Winner: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

20.       Best Supporting Actress – Nominees are:

Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea)

Acting categories need the least amount of explanation.  The supporting role awards are traditionally a bit more exciting…not this year though. This year we have a hands-down favorite and one who already has made history. Viola Davis’s performance as Rose in the adaptation of August Wilson’s play, Fences is nothing short of brilliant. With this nomination, Davis is now the first Black woman in history to be nominated for three Academy Awards. She has taught us how to get away with murder, and now she will teach us how to get away with Oscar. Good will abounds and will carry forth for all academy members who mark her name on their ballots. If the results are made public, she will most certainly be the landslide of the night.

Prediction: Viola Davis (Fences)

Winner: Viola Davis (Fences)

21.       Best Supporting Actor – Nominees are:

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell Or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

What a year Mahershala Ali has had! Starring roles in Netflix series House of Cards and Luke Cage, supporting roles in Hidden Figures, Moonlight, and Free State of Jones, all capped off with an Oscar nomination. This category dropped a real bombshell on favorite Sylvester Stallone last year for Mark Rylance. Barring a similar outcome, this one should go to Ali. His only real completion is Oscar-darling Jeff Bridges who embodied his role with superior gusto and machismo.

Prediction: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) 

Winner: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) 

22.       Best Actress – Nominees are:

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

This has been the category of clear winners in the past.  Cate Blanchett was the clear winner in 2014 for Blue Jasmine, Julianne Moore was the clear favorite in 2015 for Still Alice, and Brie Larson was the clear winner in 2016 for Room.  This year is harder to call, especially with a dark horse favorite and first-time nominee Isabelle Huppert, who also won the Golden Globe this year, in the running as well. Streep’s 20th nomination is likely more political than anything else, but the other four have got a real shot at winning. If it were up to me, this award would go directly to Emma Stone, but it’s not up to me and once again, I have to maintain my objectivity.  Natalie Portman gave a harrowing, emotional, and powerful performance as Jackie Kennedy and her buzz has been steadily growing all season. Still, I have to go back to that audition scene in La La Land, and I can’t shake it. I think Portman had to work harder to achieve her performance, but I think Emma Stone capitalized on her personality, reputation, and abilities. I think the voters will agree.

Prediction:  Emma Stone (La La Land)

Winner:  Emma Stone (La La Land)

23.       Best Actor – Nominees are:

Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

I used to be really bad at calling this category. I missed Ejiofor, Redmayne, and McConaughey, but damned if I didn’t read the writing on the wall last year and get DiCaprio right. This year, similar writing is on the wall. Every award you can basically get for acting is now sitting on Casey Affleck’s mantle, except one, but I think after February 24th, he’ll complete the set. I mean there’s nothing stopping him, and I daresay he’s a bigger lock than DiCaprio was last year. Ben will be scratching his head like a 2012 Peyton Manning as he watches his younger brother go on and outshine him at his own game. Then Ben will look at the box office for The Accountant and Live by Night and get to work on that next Batman script.

Prediction: Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea) 

Winner: Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea) 

24.       Best Picture – Nominees are:

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester By The Sea

Nine films were deemed worthy of Best Picture honors this year.  Additionally, half of them feature diverse stories and characters.  I still am not crazy about the decision to increase and vary the number of nominees for Best Picture, but it seems to be here to stay, and this year’s films do earn their spots. Normally you look to Best Editing or Best Director to get an idea for the Best Picture.  If that is the case, it’s La La Land both times.  However, last year we had Spotlight win this award without winning either of those. This year another “light” movie, Moonlight is looking to repeat that trend. Both of these films are deserving, but I keep coming back to La La Land when I think about what film really delivers in the areas that Academy voters most value.  Therefore, I hereby declare that the 11-win “curse” continues making La La Land the third film to earn 14 nominations and the fourth film to stall out at 11 wins.

Prediction: La La Land

Winner: La La Land…No, wait Moonlight!

The Final Cut

oscarAccording to my predictions…

  • This will be a year where La La Land basically steals the show.
  • The biggest winner will be: La La Land winning 11 of its historic 14 nominations
  • The biggest losers will be: Hacksaw Ridge, Arrival, and Lion all coming up empty despite earning at least six nominations apiece. 
  • The biggest upset will be: Kenneth Lonergan winning Best Original Screenplay over Damien Chazelle for Manchester By the Sea.
  • The surest bet will be: Viola Davis for Best Actress.

As always, it’s an exciting time for movies, so enjoy Oscar season, and of course, make it even better with The People’s Critic’s official 2017 Oscar Menu coming soon! Stay tuned.

If you think 5500 words is a bit too much to carry around with you, here’s a “travel-sized” version of my predictions, along with a blank ballot that you can download.


  • La La Land did steal the show with 6 wins, but the 7th was stolen from them when Moonlight was announced as the real Best Picture winner.
  • I correctly predicted 14 of the 24 categories. I went the wrong way on a few of them, but in a night of several upsets, 14 ain’t bad.
  • I was correct in predicting an upset with Lonergan winning over Chazelle for Screenplay, and my biggest lock, Viola Davis, played out as well.
  • Hacksaw and Arrival did not come up empty as I had predicted; Arrival won the Sound Editing award and Hacksaw received Sound Mixing and the impressive Film Editing Oscar!
  • I was correct in predicting Lion to leave empty handed, however.

[1] EGOT refers to a person who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award.

[2] Colleen Atwood won Best Costume Design for the films Chicago(2002), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), and Alice in Wonderland (2010).

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