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Thank you very much. And I hope, really I don't deserve this, but I hope to win some other Oscars!

Prediction - 2017 Oscars


It’s not as if the Academy Awards aren’t prone to wallowing in a mire of self-congratulatory massaging of the ego at the best of times, as its members flaunt their purportedly progressive consciences, so being thoroughly knee-capped last year over the (lack of) representation of persons of colour must have shaken members up a bit (whether or not the criticism was deserved). As such, only the least cynical would see a subsequent year featuring the most black acting nominees as a coincidence, but since seven minority actors were also nominated in 2007, it may suggest shaming the Academy into nominating is to little overall effect, except that maybe there’s now a hint of “Did they deserve, or were the members pushed?” (of course, the extent to which any selection of contenders is on merit is often moot anyway, it’s just that this way the mechanisms of the process may become more unflatteringly exposed).

But such matters must get in line behind Tinseltown’s almost wall-to-wall loathing (Jon Voight excepted) for the newly-enthroned President, and it will be interesting to see the extent to which a desire to protest his incumbency by voting causes will vie with the more masturbatory wish to shout about how great they are. If in doubt, one is generally wise to bet on the latter.

My guesstimate ratio has fluctuated since I began blogging predictions (I use that word loosely) in 2013 (46%, 66%, 50%, 63%) so I’m maintaining proficiently consistent averageness. This year I’m adding “The Interesting Choice”, to some of the categories, because in an era of over-analysed and scrutinised Oscars, where nothing is really much of a surprise or upset any more, it’s the less likely or more unusual option that deserves flagging.

(That's from Roberto Benigni's Best Actor acceptance speech in the post line, and no, he really didn't deserve it, and no he didn't win some other Oscars. On the other hand, you can't buy lines like "I would like to be Jupiter! And kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everybody!".)

Best Picture

Winner: La La Land
I’d like to win: Hell or High Water
The Interesting Choice: Arrival

As of writing, I’ve seen two of the nine Best Picture nominees, so expressing a preference right now would really be frightfully clueless, especially since I wasn’t effusive over either of those two. So, for the hell of it, I’ll pick Hell or High Water (even though I thought its writer, delivered an ultimately hacky script for Sicario). This year, there are a couple of the usual worthy period prestige pics (Fences, Hidden Figures), one of which is a stagy stage adaption (apparently) but will given due respect as it’s courtesy of Denzel.

Arrival is a rare SF nomination (although, to be fair, since the number of potential nominees has increased, that’s been a little less the case), and even less likely than it making the finals is it taking the statuette (which is why I’ve given it “The Interesting Choice”). Likewise, Lion, which is more your Philomena-ish respectable filler rather than anything standing a serious chance (it might have been Florence Foster Jenkins, if it wasn’t taking the piss by being a bit too shamelessly cheerfully Oscar-ish). Manchester by the Sea is much-lauded but has possibly peaked in terms of plaudits; it’s probably regarded as the best of the bunch when all is said and done, but may be insufficiently aspirational to get behind en masse. Hacksaw Ridge did all it needed by getting Mel back into, if not good books, then the “If you don’t say anything, we won’t either” realm of the forgiven, but for all his undeniable talent as a filmmaker it’s likely a bit too thematically rudimentary to have much of a shot.

So, it’s down to La La Land and Moonlight, as everyone seems to agree (it’s much more fun when these things are wide open, but they so rarely are anymore). Which goes back to what I was saying above: self-congratulation or statement for the top award? Which is more deserving is irrelevant, but my suspicion is that, as a low-key winner bagged the big prize last year, and the last big success to win was 2012 (Argo), that the Academy is in the mood for a popular, populist winner, one that effuses about Hollywood itself, and by implication how great the world can be when touched by its majesty.

Best Director

Winner: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
I’d like to win: Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
The Interesting Choice: Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)

Might this be a 2015, 2013 or 2012, where the Best Picture doesn’t yield a Best Director? Mel’s not getting it, although direction is likely Hacksaw’s greatest asset. He’s got one already, apart from anything else, and they wouldn’t risk him on the podium (which makes him The Interesting Choice). Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) lacks pizazz, and Villeneuve, who just needs that great screenplay to make a great movie, is the most accomplished technical talent here but doesn’t have the right picture.

 Which means it’s Damien Chazelle or Barry Jenkins, first timer or second timer. It would be difficult for La La Land to get the top award without recognising everything about its composition (whereas Chicago, even though its win was unwarranted, understandably saw voters failing to appreciate its direction was), so I’m calling Chazelle, even though I think his work on Whiplash was probably better in context.

Best Actor

Winner: Denzel Washington (Fences)
I’d like to win: Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
The Interesting Choice: Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

The good money is on Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), although anything could happen in a month – such as the re-reporting of past personal life issues – depending on whether and if who wants to undermine whom for the benefit of whomsoever (it might be the only award Manchester by the Sea sees, which may count for something). What is surely going to happen post-mortem, this time and for the foreseeable, is scorekeeping on the diversity of those who do or don’t win. The way it’s looking this year is that the Supporting Actor categories will see African-American winners, which in its way could be seen as a faint snub itself (doing just enough to ameliorate the matter but no more).

I don’t see Gosling (unless voters are blind to his stiff dance moves) or Garfield (playing a rootable character, but too good to be true, despite being true). Certainly not Hanks (snooze). So, it’s between Denzel and Casey, and since going with the odds on every choice is boring (Tom Hanks boring), and I’ve never truly been that taken with Affleck Jr (by which I don’t mean he’s Ben’s son or anything), I’m going with Denzel bagging his third Oscar. It looks good for the history books too. I’d like Viggo to win, because he’s a cool guy, cooler than Billy Zane even; he’s also the Interesting Choice here, since he doesn’t play by studio rules.

Best Actress

Winner: Emma Stone (La La Land)
I’d like to win: Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
The Interesting Choice: Ruth Negga (Loving)

Wise heads here have Emma Stone and her frog-sized eyes being recognised. I think we can forget about Natalie Portman and Anette Bening (no one cares enough about their movies, and they have Oscars anyway). Meryl is nominated every year she has a film out (which is every year), and she isn’t really trying in Florence Foster Jenkins, so I don’t think she’s getting another Oscar just yet (unless the Academy were really impressed with her trumping at the Golden Globes)

Feasibly, Isabelle Huppert might take it – she took a Globe, after all – but Ruth Negga might be one of those outside chances who gains surprising last minute momentum. Which makes her the leftfield, Interesting Choice; she was in a movie no one much cared for, and has a fairly low profile in her peer group. Ultimately, this is probably Stone’s to lose – young talent, sure to give a memorable acceptance speech – although it feels like, if she’s rewarded, Gosling should be too. In which case, Huppert (wouldn’t it be nice to have Paul Verhoeven given Hollywood money again, to do something lunatic, as long as he doesn’t go and make another Hollow Man?)

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
I’d like to win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
The Interesting Choice: Dev Patel (Lion)

This is another where you can quickly forget several of the prospects. Jeff Bridges (Hell and High Water) has been rewarded enough in recent years (getting the big one, and getting frequently nominated), and he’s doing that mumble core, marble-mouth voice again. There’s no will to give Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) anything, I don’t think, and Dev Patel would probably give an embarrassingly effusive winning speech, so that might be Interesting.

Which means it’s between Ali and Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), and it’s looking to be here and in Adapted Screenplay that Moonlight gets recognition. Ali’s a fine actor, so hopefully an award will break him out of sometimes undernourished TV and supporting roles.

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Viola Davis (Fences)
I’d like to win: Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
The Interesting Choice: Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Hidden Figures may well walk away from the Oscars empty handed, as I suspect it announces itself as too much of an ensemble for Octavia Spencer to have a chance.
But Davis’ shoe-in for this award guarantees that Fences will have something, even if Denzel misses out. The nods to Lion are all filler, like Nicole Kidman’s botox, while Manchester by the Sea is Manchester by the Sea. Sorry, Manchester by the Sea (and Michelle Williams). I’d like to see Harris on the podium, though, because she’s good even in dreadful parts (like Spectre) and that makes her the Interesting Choice.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Moonlight
I’d like to win: Pass

I don’t have much of a preference here. Any picture that relies on a Bootstrap Paradox inherently doesn’t deserve a best writing award (Arrival), no matter how good its constituent parts, while Hidden Figures, from the title down, is a deluge of wearily worthy intent. Fences might get it, but the consensus seems to be that its respect for its source material might be too great to consider what actual adaptation was necessary. So Moonlight for the win, probably rightly.

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: La La Land
I’d like to win: Manchester by the Sea
The Interesting Choice: The Lobster

I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen it, but given Sicario, I suspect Hell or High High Water had some degree of finessing to make it work on screen, if it’s that good. 20th Century Women would have come up with a better title if its screenplay was all that, and The Lobster is a much better short film than it is a feature (but would make for an interestingly oddball winner). La La Land is pleasant but I don’t think Chazelle’s curious success-fixated psychosis needs any encouragement. Which means he’ll get it, while the more persevering Lonergan gets ignored (alternatively, a screenplay snub could reflect that La La Land is something of a Titanic in terms of massaged clichés, and Manchester by the Sea could come away smiling).

Best Animated Feature

Winner: Zootopia
I’d like to win: Kubo and the Two Strings
The Interesting Choice: The Red Turtle

The money’s on Zootropolis/Zootopia/Zoophilia and I’d be good with that; if it wins it’s the one I can most get behind in this category since 2011’s Rango, but we’ll also have had five years on the trot of Disney/Pixar victories. I’m not that huge on Laika’s previous fare (Boxtrolls, sheesh!) but they’re a very talented crew, and there needs to be a sense that variety of form and style of animation can get a look in (Wallace and Gromit was 11 years ago, Spirited Away 13).

Best Documentary Feature

Winner: O.J.: Made in America
I’d like to win: O.J.: Made in America

Films concerning the migrant crisis (Fire at Sea), autism and Disney (Life, Animated, which certainly gives the Mouse House rosy affirmations it surely doesn’t need – the trailer is almost unfeasibly uplifting), a history of racism in the US as seen via writer James Baldwin (I Am Not Your Negro), a look at race in the US criminal justice system (13th, in respect of the 13th Amendment). The third picture focussing on race in the US, O.J.: Made in America is currently looking the most likely, as the acclaim has been near-universal (100% on Rotten Tomatoes, for what that’s worth).

Best Foreign Language Film

Winner: The Salesman
I’d like to win: Toni Erdmann

No holocaust movies nominated this year, so it’s wide open. The smart money is on German-Austrian comedy Toni Erdmann, in which a father reconnects with his daughter in antic fashion, and it’s certainly something of a breakout from the oft-ignored foreign language niche. However, the Trump travel band, and generally renewed appetite for Iranian sanctions, might elicit voting sympathy, forestalling Toni’s irrepressibility.

Also nominated are Tanna (love against the odds on the titular South Pacific island), Danish Land of Mine (a bit of poor pun, since it’s about German POWs clearing landmines post WWII), the aforementioned The Salesman (a production of Death of a Salesman occupies the backdrop to a couple’s domestic drama) and Swedish A Man Called Ove (the one with all the makeup, in which grumpy, bereaved Ove find something worth living for again, suggesting it’s not just Hollywood that mixes up maudlin treats).

Best Cinematography

Winner: La La Land
I’d like to win: Arrival

However the big night washes out, La La Land will take home the most awards, although Arrival is definitely the better-shot movie (whatever Villeneuve’s faults with narrative, they don’t apply to his visualisations, working here with Bradford Young), and Silence probably is too, but La La has grand design in its favour.

Best Costume Design

Winner: La La Land
I’d like to win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This is supposedly another La La win, although I’d be hard-pressed to tell you why (as would most, I suspect, when it comes down to it). Empire says never to bet against Colleen Atwood… No one here is inspired, but her Fantastic Beasts work at least registers in the mind. It comes to something when four out of the five noms are for period pieces (hopefully next year we’ll see Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets make the final five).

Best Documentary Short

Winner: Joe’s Violin
I’d like to win: pass

Subject matter includes those making end-of-life decisions (Extremis), a Greek coast guard captain dealing with the migrant crisis (4.1 Miles) a Polish Holocaust survivor’s – what a relief, there had to be a Holocaust piece in here somewhere – violin finds a new owner (Joe’s Violin), the experiences of the children of the Free Syrian Army commander (Watani: My Homeland) and volunteer rescue workers of the Syrian Civil Defence (The White Helmets).

Best Film Editing

Winner: La La Land
I’d like to win: Arrival

One area I can’t fault Chazelle is this category; Whiplash was edited to within an inch of its life, and if La La Land is more sedate in comparison, it’s still very keenly judged. So is Arrival, though, which is why it gets my vote (even if I ultimately prefer the former as a whole to the latter).

Best Make-up and Hairstyling

Winner: Star Trek Beyond
I’d like to win: Star Trek Beyond

Obviously, for making it look like Simon Pegg has hair. Suicide Squad must be getting recognition for deceptively intricate “bad” make-up and hair. As for A Man Called Ove, well the make-up is much better than the 100-year-old Man’s, but it isn’t terribly exciting. Not that make-up is terribly exciting most of the time, outside of select genres.

Best Original Score

Winner: Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)
I’d like to win: La La Land
The Interesting Choice: Mica Levi (Jackie)

No contest, particular since the movie’s non-songs are more impacting than its full-blown numbers. But Mica Levi, who furnished Under the Skin with a masterfully unsettling score, has contributed something interesting, if less disturbing than for that picture, to Jackie.

Best Original Song

Winner: City of Stars (La La Land)
I’d like to win: City of Stars (La La Land)

Another smart pick. I don’t much care for the other La La nominee, the Trolls one can go and do one, the Moana one is Disney Animated Ballads 101, and as for Mr Sting… He was better in Zoolander 2.

Production Design

Winner: La la Land
I’d like to win: Hail, Caesar!

La La Land will win, undoubtedly, but anyone with eyes can see Hail, Caesar! should get it.

Best Animated Short

Winner: Piper
I’d like to win: Pear Cider and Cigarettes
The Interesting Choice: Blind Vaysha

There’s a Pixar guys pic (but not Pixar itself), Borrowed Time, linocut-style abstract piece Blind Vaysha, Robert Valley’s Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl, and Pixar’s Piper. Pixar may well win this, but I’m guessing Theodore Ushev’s acceptance speech for Blind Vaysha would be interesting, as he says he fainted when he heard he made the final five.

Best Live Action Short

Winner: Silent Nights
I’d like to win: Timecode

Terrorism under the spotlight in a police station interview (Ennemis Interieurs), Jane Birkin train whimsy (Le Femme et le TGV), a kids’ choir with a secret (er, Sing), security guards separated by day and night shifts (Timecode) and bittersweet Danish Christmases and illegal immigrants (Silent Nights).

Best Sound Editing

Winner: La La Land
I’d like to win: Arrival

This is between Arrival, La La and Hacksaw Ridge. Mel does good visceral sound effects editing, but do they want to actually acknowledge his movies with a statuette yet? Like Hidden Figures, it may find itself empty-handed at the end of the night.

Best Sound Mixing

Winner: La La Land
I’d like to win: La La Land

These technical categories come down to persuasion much of the time; the man hours on a Michael Bay 13 Hours are probably far greater and more intricate than on La La, but that won’t be reflected in the result.

Best Visual Effects

Winner: The Jungle Book
I’d like to win: Kubo and the Two Strings

There’s no doubt The Jungle Book gets this, although I didn’t care for it, but the achievements of Kubo even getting this far is worth feting. Doctor Strange isn’t outlandish enough for an award, while Deepwater Horizon is probably best forgotten all round. Rogue One has some very lovely work, but also the Phantom Moff Tarkin.

Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

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