Thursday, February 23, 2017

Academy will whistle "la, la, la, la, la. . ." all night Sunday

Stone (shown with the also nominated Gosling) will lead a big "La La" landing.
Except for just a few possible upsets, races in the most notable categories (the ones with full nominees listed below) at Sunday's 89th annual Academy Awards likely are all but over. I mean, does anyone really expect "La La Land," with its 14 nominations, to dance away  from Hollywood's Dolby Theater carrying less than at least 10 Oscars? 

I sure don't. In fact, I've got the musical/romance/fantasy winning exactly that many. And, if  you haven't guessed, all of my prediction choices are the ones in bold, with comments below as needed.

BEST PICTURE
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Since six of the above nominees were among my 10 favorite films of 2016, including "La La Land," I'd be hard-pressed to vote for just one if I actually did possess a coveted ballot. I suppose I would go with "Manchester by the Sea," but "Arrival," "Hell or High Water" and "Hidden Figures" would be right there as well. 

BEST DIRECTOR
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, 
Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Expected victor Chazelle is just 32 years old, and his last film, "Whiplash," was my favorite movie of 2014. More importantly, it also was a Best Picture nominee that took home three other Oscars that year.

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck, 
Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

The only legitimately close race on the big board pits Affleck, who I tabbed as the outright winner in September, when I saw his film at the 41st Toronto International Film Festival, against Washington, who directed his own tour de force performance. I'll stick to my guns, despite the latter's recent SAG victory and some allegations of  very bad behavior on Affleck's part.

BEST ACTRESS
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, 
Florence Foster Jenkins

Huppert and Portman probably present the only stumbling blocks for Stone. whose awards momentum looks unstoppable right now.  

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, 
Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Ali's performance was another I greatly admired in Toronto (and even then picked for Oscar glory) out of a marvelous ensemble cast. Some are touting Patel to eclipse the Moonlight, but I don't see it. "Lion" is probably my least favorite of the heavily nominated awards films. It's fine, just not great

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola
Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, 
Manchester by the Sea

Davis won a Tony award as Best Actress in a Play for the same role in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's "Fences." Really now, do you think there's any way she can possibly lose in this category? Seriously, it says here that she'd be the odds-on favorite for Best Actress, too, if she had decided to take that route to a first Oscar. 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

This is one that "La La Land" loses and rightly so. Kenneth Lonergan's somehow humorous take on tragedy is an all-time best.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight


Another wordsmith/director is Barry Jenkins, whose "Moonlight" script actually bested "Manchester" in Writers Guild competition for best original screenplay. It's in the "adapted" category here because the Academy deemed it to be based on a never-produced play. 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” 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

My two little granddaughters just love to sing and dance to Justin Timberlake's terrific "Can't Stop the Feeling" but, alas, I don't expect Oscar voters to be humming anything but a "La La" tune on awards night.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

There's a whiff of the night's night's biggest upset here, simply because "Kubo," in one man's opinion, is easily the best film in the category. Still, did the voters really watch it? Probably not, so "Zootopia" completes its impressive awards-season roll on another positive note.

Finally, the rest of your Sunday night winners: 

Cinematography -- La La Land; Foreign Language Film -- Toni Erdmann (with"The Salesman" closing in fast); Documentary -- O.J.: Made in America; Original Score -- La La Land; Costume Design -- La La Land (but watch out for "Jackie"); Production Design -- La La Land; Visual Effects -- The Jungle Book: Editing -- La La Land; Makeup & Hair -- Star Trek Beyond; Sound Editing -- Hacksaw Ridge; Sound Mixing -- La La Land; Live Action Short -- Ennemis Interieurs; Documentary Short -- Extremis: Animated Short -- Piper.

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