No film blog is complete without the obligatory Oscar predictions post, and while I am by no means an expert on the Academy – or the film industry as a whole for that matter – I am willing to make some educated guesses as to who will be taking home a golden statuette. The ‘predictions’ that you are about to read do not come from a psychic nor do they come from a time traveller, and as a result can not be expected to be completely accurate. Thus, if you are trying to glean who will win, please do not base your Oscar expectations on this article, rather do as much research as you can and make your own educated guesses.
And so without further ado, the nominees for best picture are Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. Much as I would love to say that Arrival will win what is considered by most to be the most prestigious award of the night, the truth is that La La Land is the clear winner. It is not very often that I watch a film and am struck by how Academy-oriented it is, but La La Land is one of these films. The Academy voters will ooh and aah at the use of intense colours, they will be seduced by the creative lighting, and the musical style will have them swooning. While the reality of how much La La Land deserves this award is up for debate, especially when juxtaposed with a group of much more socially significant films, I have little doubt that Damien Chazelle will be receiving this statuette.
The Best Actor category this year is a highly competitive one. The actor who most deserves this award, based on his performance in Manchester by the Sea, is Casey Affleck – by a mile. This was a breakthrough role for the actor who is usually in his big brother’s shadow, and he filled the role of Lee Chandler with a heartfelt poignancy that very few other actors could have dared to try. However, the Academy could have been swayed by the sexual assault claims laid against Affleck, in which case Denzel Washington is a strong runner-up, with his equally powerful performance as Troy Maxson in Fences.
In the Best Actress category, I begrudgingly accept the brilliant performance of Emma Stone in La La Land. While the Academy might give this one to Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) for the sake of nostalgia, or to Ruth Negga (Loving) for the sake of diversity, the truth is that Stone displayed an intense emotional connection to her character that is bound to impress the Academy. Add this to the fact that so many of the voters have, themselves, been in Stone’s character’s, position, and you have a recipe for an Oscar. The only nominee whom I imagine could steal this award away from Stone is Isabelle Huppert, whose performance in Elle, despite lacking the same connection, was one of a far more sensitive and controversial nature.
In the Best Supporting Actor category, Mahershala Ali has a clean sweep. His presence in Moonlight is unparalleled, not even by Dev Patel’s magnificent portrayal of Saroo Brierley in Lion. Ali captivates audiences with a performance that is at once raw, vulnerable and incredibly real – not to mention the valuable boost to diversity in film that his win could bring. In terms of Best Supporting Actress, my bets are on Viola Davis, whose Best Actress-worthy performance in Fences is intensely believable and remarkably fierce. Her biggest rival comes in the form of Michelle Williams, whose heart-wrenching portrayal of sorrow and despair – although much more aligned to the title of ‘supporting’ actress – just falls short of the mark.
The award for Best Director will undoubtedly fall to Damien Chazelle who has hit the nail on the head when it comes to understanding the Academy and understanding entertainment. Although I do not approve of his Luhrmann-like techniques and his inability to use his filmmaking skill for more important comments than ‘being famous is hard too’, even I am unable to deny the enjoyment factor of La La Land and the directorial decisions that went into this – making Chazelle a clear winner ahead of films whose directors relied heavily on script.
La La Land could end up taking home the award for Best Cinematography too, given the artistry of each scene, although once again I harbour false hope that this one could fall to Arrival. The truth is, however, that all five films nominated in this category demonstrate an exceptional level of cinematography across the board that I have not seen in any Academy Awards in my lifetime. Lion, Moonlight and Silence all have just as much of a chance as Arrival and La La Land of taking home the cinematography statuette.
Best Animated Feature Film is likely to fall to Zootopia (which you may know as Zootropolis), although I do not doubt the ability of either Kubo and the Two Strings or Moana to steal the award away. All three are touching and didactic, and bearable for any adult who is made to sit through them. Finally, in the Best Documentary (Feature) category, the favourite to win is O.J. Made in America, although I have serious qualms about allowing an 8 hour documentary to win such a prestigious award. (Yes, you read that right, 8 hours). Thus, I tentatively predict a win for 13th which tells the heavily relevant story of race and incarceration in America – and in a much more direct fashion.
And there you have it, my amateur, if well researched, insights into the likely winners of the 89th Academy Awards. I have only ventured predictions in the major categories, but I am more than willing to look at the more niche categories if anyone so desires. Please feel free to spark friendly debate in the comments – I would love to hear your opinions as to who you think will (or should) win in each category. Until the night of the awards, it is all we can do to have many a heated discussion, and pray for our favourites.