I Want To Thank the Academy…

By: Zach Kirkland

I have a soft spot for awards season. I really don’t know why. When I was younger, it all felt magical but nowadays, I have grown to hate the politics and self congratulatory campaigning behind it all. The films tend to no longer stand on their own merits. It just all feels phony once the Oscars finally roll around. That being said, awards season is a necessary evil as it remains a fantastic way to expose yourself to films outside the mainstream. Also, it’s fun to talk about. That’s why I love making predictions.

FULL DISCLAIMER: These are my predictions and mine only. I am not an expert. If you, for some reason, are such a degenerate gambler that you bet on the Oscars and you happen to lose a lot of money, don’t come looking for me.

BEST PICTURE

 

  • Arrival (Paramount Pictures)
  • Fences (Paramount Pictures)
  • Hacksaw Ridge (Summit)
  • Hell or High Water (Lionsgate)
  • Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox)
  • La La Land (Lionsgate)
  • Lion (The Weinstein Company)
  • Manchester by the Sea (Amazon)
  • Moonlight (A24)

 

WILL WIN: La La Land

SHOULD WIN: Moonlight

SNUBBED: OJ: Made in America

ANALYSIS: La La Land is a lock. It has been for a while. It’s the perfect Oscar sweetheart. It’s a good, modernized throwback to the good old days of Golden Age Hollywood. Moonlight, on the other hand, is the best film of the bunch. It is a beautiful and provocative take on sexual identity and masculinity. I still can’t get it out of my mind. However, if we wanted to include my Best of 2016, we’d have to mention OJ: Made in America. I still don’t understand why documentaries can’t be included in the Best Picture especially when a film is as vital and masterful as Ezra Edelman’s OJ: Made in America. Yes, it is a film. Yes, it should be nominated.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Denis Villenueve (Arrival)
  • Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
  • Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
  • Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

WILL WIN: Damien Chazelle

SHOULD WIN: Barry Jenkins

SNUBBED: Martin Scorsese (Silence)

ANALYSIS: This is a loaded category. Everyone nominated deserves to be included and recognized for their outstanding work. To me, it comes down to Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins for me. Chazelle is a lock to win, even more than his film is. Like my Best Picture analysis, I will continue to sing Moonlight’s praises and its director, Barry Jenkins. Jenkins made a small film feel gigantic. You just can’t stop thinking about Moonlight after you see it. In a perfect world, the legendary Martin Scorsese would be nominated for his latest film, Silence. Scorsese remains our greatest living filmmaker and Silence is up there with some of his best work. Truly remarkable.

BEST ACTOR

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

WILL WIN: Denzel Washington

SHOULD WIN: Casey Affleck

SNUBBED: Colin Farrell (The Lobster)

ANALYSIS: I’m torn. For most of the season, Casey Affleck has been the clear frontrunner. His performance as grief stricken Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea is a real knockout. Affleck almost underplays it, never allowing the performance to become showy and big. It’s purely internalized emotion. On the other hand, you have Denzel Washington’s performance as Troy Maxson in Fences which is acting with a capital A. It’s Denzel at his most Denzellian, a role created to win every acting award imaginable. After his win at the Screen Actors Guild, I think the Academy leans Denzel. He’s a favorite, having already won two awards for his turns in Glory and Training Day. I would give it to Affleck. It’s time he gets recognized for his always interesting work.

BEST ACTRESS

 

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

 

WILL WIN: Emma Stone

SHOULD WIN: Natalie Portman

SNUBBED: Amy Adams (Arrival)

ANALYSIS: This is Emma Stone’s award to lose and with good reason. She’s far and away the best part of La La Land, the film that will be by far the night’s biggest winner. She’s truly magnetic. She jumps off the screen. It seems like her own competition is Isabelle Huppert for her role in Elle, the latest from Dutch filmmaker/provocateur Paul Verhoeven. It’s a challenging, demanding role in a challenging, sexually provocative film that borders on perversion. I wouldn’t be surprised if she pulls off the upset but Stone seems like the best bet. I’d love to see Natalie Portman win for her transformative role as famous First Lady Jackie Kennedy in Jackie. If you watch archival clips of Kennedy, you’ll see the true power of Portman’s performance. It’s a haunting portrayal. In any other year, she’d be the winner. There’s also one more thing I should mention. WHY ISN’T AMY ADAMS NOMINATED FOR ARRIVAL? SHE CARRIED ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR AND BEST PICTURE NOMINEE ON HER SHOULDERS. THE SUCCESS OF THE ENTIRE FILM DEPENDS ON HER PERFORMANCE. WHAT THE (BLEEP) IS GOING ON? That’s it. Now, I can finally breathe.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

 

  • Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
  • Dev Patel (Lion)
  • Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
  • Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

 

WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Mahershala Ali

SNUBBED: John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)

ANALYSIS: The mark of a truly great supporting performance is that when the actor or actress disappears from the film, you desperately want to see them again. In Moonlight, Mahershala Ali’s Juan, a drug dealer who serves as a fatherly figure for Chiron, the main character, is only in the first act of the film. His presence looms over the entire picture. It’s a remarkable performance of a man who is essentially a walking contradiction. He looks after Chiron as if he is his son yet sells the crack Chiron’s mother is addicted to. One of the best performances of the year. Another one of the best performances of the year comes from John Goodman in Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane. Goodman plays Howard, a doomsday prepper with questionable motives who holds two others (Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr.) in his bunker as the world outside potentially ends. The sparse production design heightens Goodman’s menace. If the film wasn’t released in early February, I think Goodman would have gotten more recognition. He gave the most terrifying performance of 2016.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

 

  • Viola Davis (Fences)
  • Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
  • Nicole Kidman (Lion)
  • Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

 

WILL WIN: Viola Davis

SHOULD WIN: Michelle Williams

SNUBBED: Janelle Monae (Moonlight)

ANALYSIS: Viola Davis is going to win. However, she shouldn’t have been in this category. Thanks to some strategic positioning by Paramount, her campaign was for Supporting Actress instead of Best Actress despite having a lead performance in Fences. She has just as much screen time as Denzel. To be honest, her performance is so good, I don’t understand why Paramount didn’t submit her for Best Actress. She would win. If we want to go by truly supporting roles, I would give to Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea. The final conversation between Williams and Affleck is one that’ll make even the most hardened of men weep. It’s two actors at their most emotionally raw, giving it all they have in just a few minutes. It’s the best scene of the year, hands down. Michelle Williams needs to win an Oscar. She’s been so good for so long. What will it take? Despite Janelle Monae’s good performance in Hidden Figures, I think she is even better in Moonlight as Teresa, confused teen Chiron’s second mother. She is as radiant as her music. What a talent. I wish she were nominated.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

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

WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Kenneth Lonergan

ANALYSIS: With La La Land looking to clean up elsewhere, I think the Academy spreads a little bit of the wealth and chooses to recognize Lonergan instead of Chazelle. Lonergan has been an acclaimed playwright for a very long time and Manchester by the Sea is a continuation of his genius. The way he experiments with time throughout the film, slightly revealing the mystery behind Affleck’s Lee Chandler through cross cutting flashbacks is remarkable and inspiring for an aspiring screenwriter like myself. His films always feel like natural slices of life. In other news, I am still grinning over The Lobster love. I’m glad more and more people are recognizing its brilliance.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

 

  • Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
  • August Wilson (Fences)
  • Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures)
  • Luke Davies (Lion)
  • Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

 

WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Barry Jenkins

ANALYSIS: This feels like Barry Jenkins’s moment of the night. Moonlight might not be as dialogue driven as the other films in the category, most notably Arrival and Fences., but it’s brilliance lies within the power and meaning of every line and look from the actors. Its sparseness gives way to raw, emotional honesty. There’s a universal truth in the language and world Jenkins gives us.

OTHER PREDICTIONS

Best Cinematography: La La Land

Best Production Design: La La Land

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman

Best Original Score: La La Land

Best Animated Feature: Zootopia

Best Costume Design: Jackie (UPSET ALERT)

Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

Best Original Song: City of Stars (La La Land)

Best Film Editing: La La Land

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond

Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Documentary Feature: OJ: Made in America

Best Documentary Short: The White Helmets

Best Animated Short: Piper

Best Live Action Short: Enemies Within