Jason’s ’89th Annual Academy Awards’ Predictions & Predilections

89th Annual Academy Awards
Having literally seen ALL SIXTY-TWO nominated films, and having discussed the awards with members and staff of AMPAS, and having read many other predictions, I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on this. So here are my predictions (what will win) & my predilections (what should win)..

But, first, as an overview:
This is the first year after the “Oscars So White” campaign became the news of the Oscar season. So, when so many fine performances and works by artists of color were nominated, one might think the matter had been addressed. HOWEVER, the films in question (“Moonlight”, “Hidden Figures”, “Fences”, “OJ”, “13th”, “I Am Not Your Negro”) were all mostly completed or in post-production long before last year’s Oscars. So…I wouldn’t get too comfortable yet. Word is there are far fewer African-American-centric films being released in 2017…so we could be doing this dance all over again.

HOWEVER, just because that issue is slightly less contentious this year, doesn’t mean this will be a politics-free ceremony. QUITE the opposite. As has already been evident from previous 2017 awards ceremonies, Trump’s actions has guaranteed there will be more political references in speeches than ever before…especially due to how the travel ban has affected Oscar nominees – including previous winner, Iranian director, Asghar Farhadi. His refusal to make the trip to L.A. as a protest of the ban (and after initially being refused a visa in the first days of the ban)  will affect not just speeches, but the actual vote. Gonna be one angry evening, mixed in with all the earnest tears, the “follow-your-dreams” mishegas, and “I’d like to thank my team” annoyances.

The other story, of course, is the behemoth of voter good-will toward “La La Land” (a movie with, ironically, only one character of color – and the ‘sellout’ character, at that). It’s nominated for fourteen, and I fully expect it to win nine (possibly ten). So be prepared for a LOT of “La La Land” walk up music.

So, without further ado, here is my cheat sheet for your Oscar’s pool, and my explanations. I average 85-90% accuracy over the last decade (missed four last year), so I should be able to help you win. For a printable Oscar ballot (with my “will wins” and “should wins”), click here.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
The Best Picture award…what does that actually mean? Best crafted (La La Land)? Most affecting (Manchester)? Most important (Moonlight)? Best acted (Fences)? Best realized screenplay (Hell Or High Water)? Best buzz (Hidden Figures)?

Last year was simple, one film that met all the criteria (Spotlight) against a film that fifty percent of the voters hated (Revenant). So you’d think this year is a total toss up. Nope. Throw all that out the window when one of the films is ALSO about the film industry. This will probably be a closer vote than people think, but voters do love to see their own world reflected back at them.

Me? Yeah…give me “Moonlight” or “Hell Or High Water” any day over that non-musical musical.

a) Arrival
b) Fences
c) Hacksaw Ridge
d) Hell Or High Water
e) Hidden Figures
f) La La Land
g) Lion
h) Manchester By the Sea
i) Moonlight

Will win: La La Land
Should Win: Moonlight or Hell Or High Water


Achievement in Directing
Villeneuve’s film is meandering and slightly unfocused in narrative. Lonergan’s film is just way too long. And Gibson is just glad to be invited to the Ball. Which leaves the old school young director, Chazelle, versus the new school young director, Jenkins. Chazelle wins easily because , although I’d choose Jenkins without a moment’s hesitation.

a) Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
b) Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson)
c) La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
d) Manchester By the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
e) Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

Will win: La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
Should Win: Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)


Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
This was so far and away Affleck’s award until about three weeks ago. Then Denzel won the SAG award. The largest voting branch of the Oscars belongs to the actors…so…there ya go. Also, people who came late to Manchester may have wondered, as I did, why it takes so long to tell its story (and, of course, there’s the not-so-little issue of Affleck’s alleged sexual harassment history). The SAG win gives AMPAS voters just enough rationale to switch their votes. Denzel in a very tight vote. Casey is great. Denzel is ridiculously good.

a) Casey Affleck
b) Andrew Garfield
c) Ryan Gosling
d) Viggo Mortenson
e) Denzel Washington

Will win: Denzel Washington
Should Win: Denzel Washington

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
This is the least predictable major award of the evening. Streep shouldn’t be in the discussion for this performance. Negga is fantastic, but not enough people saw it and she didn’t score any other awards. Huppert won the Golden Globe, but “Elle” is abysmal and offensive and really hard to watch. Which leaves Stone and Portman. My belief is that Portman gave a performance for the ages, so she’d get my vote. But Stone is lovable and earnest (in a role that could’ve been played with a ton of melodrama) in a film that could garner double-digit wins. Oh, and she actually won the SAG. Sorry, Natalie.

a) Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
b) Ruth Negga (Loving)
c) Natalie Portman (Jackie)
d) Emma Stone (La La Land)
e) Meryl Streep (FFJ)

Will win: Emma Stone
Should Win: Natalie Portman

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
I’m on an island here, but I thought Ali’s performance, while very very good, just wasn’t the best of the year. I’ll be perfectly happy to see him win, but Shannon and Bridges are both SO complete in their performances…especially Shannon, who single-handedly elevates a dull film to something much more sustainable.

a) Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
b) Jeff Bridges (Hell Or High Water)
c) Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Sea)
d) Dev Patel (Lion)
e) Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Will win: Mahershala Ali
Should Win: Jeff Bridges or Michael Shannon

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Uh…easiest pick of the night. Ms. Davis could’ve easily won the Best Lead Oscar for her performance. The only actress that even comes close is Michelle Williams…but six minutes of screen time versus the force of nature that is Ms. Davis is not even close to enough. (and who doesn’t want to hear her speech?)

a) Viola Davis (Fences)
b) Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
c) Nicole Kidman (Lion)
d) Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
e) Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea)

Will win: Viola Davis
Should Win: Viola Davis


Achievement in Costume Design
And let the “La La Land” tech/design award onslaught begin! Beasts and Florence Foster had much more intricate and period-based work, but, even though the costumes in La La are SO musical-charicature, people loved her dress…and the movie…

a) Allied (Joanna Johnston)
b) Fantastic Beasts (Colleen Atwood)
c) Florence Foster Jenkins (Consolata Boyle)
d) Jackie (Madeline Fontaine)
e) La La Land (Mary Zophres)

Will win: La La Land
Should Win: Florence Foster Jenkins


Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
I’m no makeup/hair expert, but there seems to be a large swell of support for “Ove”, especially as it more than likely won’t win the Foreign Language Film award. “Star Trek: Beyond” should probably get the win, but won’t…I think. Who knows? But place your money on “Ove”!

a) A Man Called Ove
b) Star Trek Beyond
c) Suicide Squad

Will win: A Man Called Ove
Should Win: Star Trek Beyond


Best Animated Feature Film
I finally was able to see the french language version of “Zucchini” last night in a theater. It’s a beautiful, beautiful film, both visually and emotionally. It has a simple, yet pointed and relevant script and within the first five minutes it stops feeling like an animated film, even if it is the most artificial looking due to the nature of claymation. All of which is to say…..”Zootopia” will win. The message of THAT film is much more pertinent to the current climate. And it’s also a very good film.

a) Kubo and the Two Strings
b) Moana
c) My Life As A Zucchini
d) The Red Turtle
e) Zootopia

Will win: Zootopia
Should Win: My Life As A Zucchini


Best Foreign-Language Film
“Land of Mine” was the best film of the year in ANY language, in my estimation…
“A Man Called Ove” was the most popular foreign film of the year, but it seemed to be more enjoyable for the people who read the book than those who didn’t…
“Tanna” is an incredible experiment and lovingly told, but, probably not as deserving as other films left out altogether…
“Toni Erdmann” is /was the favorite until two weeks ago (even with it’s close to three-hour running time)…
“The Salesman”, a film by an Oscar-winning, and beloved, Iranian director, who was denied the ability to travel here under Trump’s initial ban and then refused to come at all as a sign of protest, will get the win. That win will act as a big F.U. to the Trump administration (even if the film is not his best, or the best this year).

a) Land of Mine (Denmark)
b) A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
c) The Salesman (Iran)
d) Tonna (Australia)
e) Toni Erdmann (Germamy)

Will win: The Salesman


Best Documentary Feature
So, “OJ: Made In America” will get the win. Argue all you want about how it was made for television and is too long. The truth is, almost all docs are bankrolled by streaming services at this point (netflix, sundance docs, amazon), so why not ESPN? The amazing thing is, those seven and a half hours go by faster than any of the other film’s two hours or less! “I Am Not Your Negro” is really the only other doc that matches its quality. HOWEVER, there may be a push for Ana DuVarnay’s “13th”, since she was locked out for her previous direction of “Selma”…so keep an eye out for that to possibly get the upset win. But really, “OJ” is a masterwork of African-American/LAPD relational history.

a) Fire At Sea
b) I Am Not Your Negro
c) Life, Animated
d) OJ: Made In America
e) 13th

Will win: OJ: Made In America
Should Win: OJ: Made In America


Best Documentary Short Subject
With the exception of “Joe’s Violin”, this may be the most heavy/depressing/hopeful expressions of faith in humanity (or lack thereof) group of films ever to share a category. For that reason alone, J”Violin” has a shot at winning. “4.1 Miles” was , to me, the most visceral and affecting. And “Watani” told the most complete story. But, “The White Helmets”, which is also fantastic, is a netflix joint, so more people saw it. I hope it wins, because the cinematographer was, just this morning, denied access to the U.S. to attend the Awards ceremony by Homeland Security. It’s a film about men who run in to collapsing buildings to save civilians…so, yeah, he must be a terrorist. Not.

a) 4.1 Miles (Greece)
b) Extremis (USA)
c) Joe’s Violin (USA)
d) Watani: My Homeland (UK)
e) The White Helmets (UK)

Will win: The White Helmets
Should Win: 4.1 Miles or Watani


Best Live-Action Short Film
Every year I say “they couldn’t possibly ignore this film…it’s so good!” And every year…they choose the silly one. When it comes to the Live Action shorts and the Academy Awards, up is down, down is up. That said, the only misfire in the bunch, “Silent Nights” is not audience friendly (although very political), so I’m okay with any other film winning. None of them are earth-shattering. “TGV” is the most feature-film like, possesses a likable main character, and delivers lots of European quirkiness, so it’ll probably beat the politically relevant (and exceptionally well-acted) “Ennemis Interieures”. And while there seems to be a late surge of support for “Sing”, which is a better film than TGV, I think it’s too late to overcome the gap. But for me, “Timecode” was the best of the bunch. Oh..it has no shot of winning.

a) Ennemis Interieures (France)
b) La Femme et le TGV (Switzerland)
c) Silent Nights (Denmark)
d) Sing (Hungary)
e) Timecode (Spain)

Will win: La Femme et Le TGV
Should Win: Timecode or Ennimes Interiueres


Best Animated Short Film
It always seems unfair that the massive corporate force that is Pixar gets to compete against animated shorts created by one or two artisans, but, hey, a short is a short. And this year, after a long break, Pixar will get the win. “Piper” is delightful, everyone saw it (including you) as it was the short shown in theaters before “Finding Dory”. None of the other films are captivating enough to topple it. They are all quite good (even if “Pearl”, produced for a virtual reality platform, makes almost no sense on a static screen). My favorite was the brilliant “Borrowed Time”! Oh…it has no shot of winning.

a) Blind Vaysha
b) Borrowed Time
c) Pear Cider and Cigarettes
d) Pearl
e) Piper

Will win: Piper
Should Win: Borrowed Time


Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SCORE)
Despite the most beautiful score from “Lion”, and the most contextually connected score from “Jackie”, there is no getting in the way of the “La La Land” tsunami. I have to admit, I liked the score FAR more than I liked the film, and I think many voters may feel the same way…

a) Jackie – Mica Levi
b) La La Land – Justin Hurwitz
c) Lion – Dustin O’Halloran & Hauschka
d) Moonlight – Nicholas Britell
e) Passengers – Thomas Newman

Will win: La La Land – Justin Hurwitz
Should Win: Lion – Dustin O’Halloran & Hauschka

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SONG)
If I could boycott an award this year, it would be this one. Not including anything from “Sing Street”, especially, “Drive It Like You Stole It”, which was nominated for a Globe, seems utterly outrageous to me. BUT, after speaking to a staff member of the Academy from the music branch, it was explained to me there was some trepidation at nominating a song that so closely and purposely relied on the rhythm section of well-known song (Hall & Oates “Maneater”). Regardless…grr! ANYHOO..”City of Stars” is a lock even if it’s not even the best song in the film – which is, without a doubt, “Audition”. The only song that may give it a run in voting is “Feeling” since everyone on earth knows it. Ain’t gonna happen.

a) “Audition” (La La Land)
b) “Can’t stop The Feeling” (Trolls)
c) “City of Stars” (La La Land)
d) “The Empty Chair” (Jim: The James Foley Story)
e) “How Far I’ll Go” (Monana)

Will win: “City of Stars”
Should Win: “Audition” (but, really, “Drive It Like You Stole It”, from “Sing Street”)


Achievement in Sound Editing (best creation of sound other than music – sound fx)
The entire voting membership is voting on the two technical sound awards, which means they might not know the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, which means “La La Land” could take this by accident. But if the voters do their homework, it’s down to “Hacksaw” and “Deepwater”. I think the sounds and audio effects of “Deepwater” are the more impressive since they add to our aural lexicon…in other words, we know what guns and bombs sound like. We have no idea what slowly collapsing oil rigs sound like. The same can be said of “Arrival”, but as amazing as the Heptapod language is, it just isn’t pervasive enough. All that said, “Hacksaw” is one of the more immersive aural war-scapes I’ve experienced in a film, and IF the voters know the difference (and they were all sent a youtube instruction video from the Academy), Hacksaw will get this award.

a) Arrival
b) Deepwater Horizon
c) Hacksaw Ridge
d) La La Land
e) Sully

Will win: Hacksaw Ridge
Should Win: Deepwater Horizon


Achievement in Sound Mixing (best mix of sound, dialogue, music etc.)
Again, “Hacksaw” is the most impressive in this category, but, no way it beats “La La”

a) Arrival
b) Hacksaw Ridge
c) La La Land
d) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
e) 13 Hours

Will win: La La Land
Should Win: Hacksaw


Original Screenplay
This is one of the more interesting races of the evening. The book of “La La Land” is wonky, predictable and occasionally dull as dirt. The other four, however, are all sensational, creative and incredibly moving. Personally, “Hell Or High Water” was the best original script I saw, with “20th Century Women” right behind it. I would add “Manchester” if it had about fifteen minutes less of driving scenes. None of it matters. The “La La” juggernaut moves along unhindered.

a) Hell Or High Water
b) La La Land
c) The Lobster
d) Manchester By the Sea
e) 20th Century Women

Will win: La La Land
Should Win: ‘Hell Or High Water’ or ’20th Century Women’


Best Adapted Screenplay


So since “Moonlight” is not going to win Best Picture, or Director, this is the slot the voters will reward it with…which it absolutely deserves. Brilliant script. The only other story I can see unseating it would be “Hidden Figures”, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

a) Arrival
b) Fences
c) Hidden Figures
d) Lion
e) Moonlight

Will win: Moonlight
Should Win: Moonlight


Achievement in Cinematography
“Epilogue” alone gets “La La” this prize. It is a beautiful film, and that’s more than partly due to Linus Sandgren’s gorgeous photography. Personally, I would have liked to see “Nocturnal Animals” or “Hell or High Water”, over “Arrival”, for their country-scapes, and use of color, which are magnificent. Ah well. “La La La La La La La La Laaaaa”

a) Arrival
b) La La Land
c) Lion
d) Moonlight
e) Silence

Will win: La La Land
Should Win: La La Land (but, really, ‘Hell Or High Water’ or ‘Nocturnal Animals’)


Achievement in Film Editing
This is always such a nebulous award…is it for the most complex editing (Hacksaw or La La), or the editing that most helps the story (Hell or High Water or Moonlight)? Or maybe the most confusing editing (Arrival)? As I’ve stated numerous times, I found “La La” to be pretty dull. However, I think that was due to the script and the repetitive use of music themes, not the editing, which, during the musical numbers, is quite good…so, what the hell…throw “La La” another award

a) Arrival
b) Hacksaw Ridge
c) Hell Or High Water
d) La La Land
e) Moonlight

Will win: La La Land
Should Win: La La Land


Achievement in Visual Effects
The only challenger to the incredible world created by Mr. Favreau and his “Jungle Book” team, is “Kubo”. Won’t matter. “Jungle Book” for the win.

a) Deepwater Horizon
b) Doctor Strange
c) Jungle Book
d) Kubo and the Two Strings
e) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Will win: Jungle Book
Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings


Achievement in Production Design
Beating a dead horse, here. “La La” wins for the “Epilogue” alone, even if “Hail, Caesar” and “Passengers” were more spectacular.

a) Arrival
b) Fantastic Beasts
c) Hail, Caesar
d) La La Land
e) Passengers

Will win: La La Land
Should Win: La La Land


Put on your safety belts, update your passports, and enjoy the fireworks of what will undoubtedly be the most interesting speeches ever, during the most predictable Oscars since “Titanic”.

Written 2/25/2017

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