Spoiler alert in effect.
It’s that time of year where the Award Season is rapidly coming to a close, with the Academy Awards being the pinnacle of long campaign process. I’ve seen my fair share of Oscar-nominated films and performances, so here are my views on who will win the major categories.
Who will win: La La Land
Who I want to win: La La Land
Possible upset/s: Moonlight or Manchester By The Sea
I’ve watched all of the nominees in this category with the exception of Fences, so I can’t comment on that. But Fences did have a relatively later campaign push compared to the rest, so it could be that dark horse, though I doubt it. La La Land remains my favourite film in this category and it is definitely the favourite to win, after sweeping awards at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Critics’ Choice. Anything other than La La Land will be a real upset. The closest two competitors would be Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea. Moonlight did very well at the Independent Spirit Awards, winning 6 awards in total. Manchester By The Sea has strong writing by Kenneth Lonergan and brilliant acting from its leads and supporting actors, but will likely not be enough to overthrow La La Land. There’s also Hidden Figures which seems to be a crowd favourite, but while I thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s not going to win. All the other nominated films are deserving, but a in a year of such fantastic films, they will just have to be happy to be nominated. La La Land does have a record-equalling 14 nominations, so odds are in their favour.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Who will win: Casey Affleck
Who I want to win: Andrew Garfield
Possible upset/s: Denzel Washington or Ryan Gosling
So this is a relatively safe category for Casey Affleck to win his first Oscar. His performance in Manchester By The Sea is heartbreaking, emotional and honest, and has been winning accolades from early on in the award season. Though I found his performance impressive, I was actually more struck my Andrew Garfield’s performance in Hacksaw Ridge. I felt he was so into his character that by the end, I had forgotten that he really wasn’t Desmond Doss. Everything from his voice, to his body language to the consistency in his mannerisms, it all felt genuine and honest. It’s very unlikely he’ll win, just because the performances from last year’s films were all so good, but he would be my pick from the bunch. Both Ryan Gosling and Denzel Washington have some chance of nabbing it. Though I love La La Land to bits, Ryan Gosling’s performance did not exactly feel Oscar-worthy when I reflect back on it. Sure, he had to learn to play the piano and dance and sing etc. but many actors have to go through rehearsals and training regardless. He did a good performance, but pales in comparison to the rest of the field. I can’t comment much on Denzel’s performance, since I’ve yet to watch Fences, but I’ve heard good things about it, which means he might be the closet competitor to Casey.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Who will win: Emma Stone
Who I want to win: Emma Stone
Possible upset/s: None (I think Natalie Portman is a very distant runner-up)
If you want to bet your money on one thing, this is the category to go for. Emma Stone will win Best Actress. If not, it’ll be by far the biggest upset of the night. She has won all the possible awards she could win leading up to the Oscars and there doesn’t seem to be anyone close to taking it away from her. She excelled in La La Land with such an endearing, raw and real performance, showcasing her vulnerability and charisma through her acting, singing and dancing. For me, half the pleasure of the watching La La Land was seeing her act because I’ve always been blown away by her performances. This is her year. After being snubbed from any nomination for her leading role in The Help, and losing in the Best Supporting Actress category 2 years ago, she’ll finally get one. In terms of possible upsets, the only other person who could win would be Natalie Portman. She does an amazing job in portraying Jackie Kennedy, from her walk to her talk to her expressions. She had the majority of screentime on her, and she really held the film together. I also loved Ruth Negga’s performance in Loving. It’s so underrated but she plays such an extraordinary character that goes through such adversity. Unfortunately, she has an almost zero chance of winning at this rate. And I can’t leave this category with mentioning the biggest snub of all. Amy Adams. I like Meryl Streep, but really, her place in this category should have gone to Amy for Arrival. Amy Adams is the female Leonardo DiCaprio, having been nominated 5 times and winning none so far. This was poised to be her year, but neither of her roles (in both Arrival or Nocturnal Animals) were nominated.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Who will win: Mahershala Ali
Who I want to win: Mahershala Ali
Possible upset/s: Dev Patel
This category is probably the least predictable out of all the acting categories. There’s been a mixed bag of winners from other award shows, so there’s no real clear favourite. I reckon Mahershala Ali’s performance in Moonlight will grab it in the end. He won a SAG award for it and his portrayal of this very emotionally complex character really stuck with me for the duration of the film. Even though he’s only present in part 1, his influence can be witnessed in the transformation of the main character. However, at the Golden Globes, Mahershala lost out to Aaron Taylor-Johnson from Nocturnal Animals, who wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. So this category is definitely up for grabs. Other than Mahershala, I think Dev Patel might have an outside chance. His performance in Lion is really impressive. He plays a person who is conflicted with so many opposing emotions, from guilt to regret to sadness to frustration to joy. And he did an amazing Australian accent. Then there’s also Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water, who does the cowboy/ranger role really well and adds a bit of humour to the story. The most underrated performance I think is from Lucas Hedges. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams gets most of the attention for Manchester By The Sea, but Lucas’ performance was a standout. He’s able to play a teenage boy, who has to not only deal with the complexity of being this hormonal teenager but also navigate the unknown waters of his father’s death and the possibility of being relocated with his uncle. All do a fantastic job, but I think Mahershala will take it out.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Who will win: Viola Davis
Who I want to win: Naomie Harris
Possible upset/s: None (I think Naomie Harris is a very distant runner-up)
Similar to the Best Actress category, this one is pretty much set in stone. Viola Davis and her now infamous snot-filled performance will take this home. She’s the reason why I’m excited to go watch Fences. Based on the reviews I’ve read, I think she really deserves this one. A close second would be Michelle Williams, but I do think it’s slightly overrated. She had little screentime and really only had one notable scene towards the end of the film which might be worthy of a nomination. The same can be said of Nicole Kidman’s performance. Very little screentime and only one big scene. The Australian media hype her performance in Lion way too much. I think Naomie Harris’ performance is far more deserving. She looked so different in her portrayal of a drug addict mother, something so far removed from her previous roles. Octavia Spencer also did an amazing job in Hidden Figures, but will most likely be looked over this year.
Who will win: Damien Chazelle
Who I want to win: Damien Chazelle
Possible upset/s: Barry Jenkins or Kenneth Lonergan
Another done and dusted category, with La La Land’s Damien Chazelle most likely taking this home. He’ll be the youngest ever winner of Best Director at the Oscars if he wins (he’s only 32 years old!!!). I’m a bit biased, but I love this movie and so much of it came from his vision and brilliance and creativity. You only need to watch one interview with him to find out all the ideas and inspirations he sought for this original musical. Check out my review on it to see some of the musical and visual inspirations for the film and also be sure to check out his previous film Whiplash. The possible competitors would be Barry Jenkins or Kenneth Lonergan. Barry Jenkins did an amazing job bringing this story to life, drawing from his own upbringing with his drug-addicted single mother. With Kenneth Lonergan, he’s had his fair share of problems, with legal disputes shrouding his career early on. Manchester By The Sea is his comeback film which he also wrote, and with Matt Damon as producer, he reignited his career. Denis Villeneuve and Mel Gibson are the outside chances. I love Denis’ works, like Sicario, and I love how he has complex and real female characters as the leads. Arrival was a really telling a mother’s story and that’s pretty much unheard of for a sci-fi film. They’re all good, but really, no one stands a chance against Damien Chazelle.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Who will win: Moonlight
Who I want to win: Hidden Figures
Possible upset/s: Arrival
Moonlight is based on a play called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, which Barry Jenkins adapted into a screenplay. It’s broken up into 3 separate parts, while following the same character, each part depicting a pivotal moment in his life. I love the concept, but as I watched it, I felt there was no real plot and the pacing felt too slow at times, so for me, it wasn’t the most entertaining or engaging film. It is beautifully written though, especially that diner scene. In the end, I think it will win. For me, I would like to see Hidden Figures win. I thought it was funny, direct, engaging and powerful writing by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder. Arrival is probably the closest competitor, being adapted by Eric Heisserer from a short story named Story of Your Life. It’s an intellectually complex film to understand and there’s a lot of science behind it. But it’s unique and makes you think, which few films seems capable of doing.
Best Original Screenplay
Who will win: Manchester By The Sea
Who I want to win: La La Land
Possible upset/s: La La Land (not sure if this is considered an upset)
I feel this category may not be as clear-cut as it first seems. La La Land may be the obvious choice, but I feel Manchester By The Sea does have a strong hold on this. I really love them both. The writing in Manchester is just like everyday dialogue, with all its humour and quirks, but has the soul of something so beautiful in the centre. It’s deliberate but free-flowing at the same time and makes it easy to watch and a pleasure to see it play out on the screen. You’re never bored by it. La La Land is great too, but it is a musical, so perhaps it will make up for it in the music categories.
Best Original Score
Who will win: La La Land
Who I want to win: La La Land
Possible upset/s: None (I think Moonlight is a very distant runner-up)
A clear-cut category. There is no way La La Land won’t win this one. It’s a musical for Pete’s sake. And it’s all original music too. Justin Hurwitz is a genius and he’s put in all the hard work to create all this amazing music. I’m not a musical expert however, so I can’t say anything very technical here other than how I thought the music complemented and enhanced the film. With Moonlight, music definitely played an integral role, setting the mood and filling in the gaps. The diner scene at the end would definitely have failed without music. I was also very impressed with the score in Jackie. It was moving, powerful and haunting at times, with this really jarring violin piece that makes you feel uneasy. Really good score on that film.
So, that’s a wrap. I think La La Land will continue to win big as it has all season. Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea will get some awards too, and I think there will be a few upsets that no one will see coming. I’m looking forward to the musical performances from John Legend and Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as the politically-charged acceptance speeches. Let’s see how many I get right in the end!
Cinematography: La La Land
Costume Design: Jackie
Film Editing: La La Land
Make Up and Hair: Star Trek Beyond
Production Design: La La Land
Song: City of Stars (La La Land)
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Sound Mixing: La La Land
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Animated Feature: Zootopia
Documentary: O.J.: Made In America
Foreign Film: Toni Erdmann
Animated Short: Piper