89th Academy Awards: Predictions, Round I

Another year, another Oscars ceremony…and another shot at going 24/24 on predictions. This year’s offerings unfortunately overlooked some of the year’s more provocative films (Elle and Silence in particular). But it certainly responded quite well to #OscarsSoWhite, and it did a decent job balancing crowd-pleasers (Hidden Figures, Lion) with heavier endeavors (Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea). The one inexplicable choice: Hacksaw Ridge, an abominable pile of clichés that somehow wormed its way into six categories. The Academy obviously cared more about completing Mel Gibson’s feel-good redemption story than checking to see whether he actually made a good movie.

But I digress. Here, some preliminary predictions:

Best Picture:

Film FilmWatcher Rating (out of 4)
Arrival ***
Fences *** ½
Hacksaw Ridge *
Hell or High Water *** ½
Hidden Figures TBD
La La Land ***
Lion ***
Manchester by the Sea *** ½
Moonlight ****

Will Win: La La Land. It’s a movie about movies (think The Artist and Argo), swept the Golden Globes, and has a record 14 nominations. Unless something significant happens in the next four weeks, this is definitely the one to beat.

Should Win: Moonlight. La La Land is fine, but Moonlight is the real standout, a work of poetic beauty that redefines the coming-of-age genre. It’s the kind of thing more people ought to make.

Snubbed: Among the very good films that Oscar should’ve paid more attention to: Loving, Silence, Nocturnal Animals, Elle, and Florence Foster Jenkins. If we’re using Hacksaw Ridge as our standard, even mediocre movies like Sully, Fantastic Beasts, and Jackie ought to have been considered.

Best Director:

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

Will Win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Should Win: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Snubbed: The directors of all the films snubbed for Best Picture, as well as Denzel Washington for Fences, Garth Davis for Lion, and David Mackenzie for Hell or High Water. Any of them would’ve made a better choice than Mel Gibson.

Best Actor:

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

Will & Should Win: Casey Affleck, for his quietly moving performance in Manchester by the Sea. 

Snubbed: Andrew Garfield was good in Hacksaw Ridge, but he was even better in Silence. Joel Edgerton (Loving), Michael Keaton (The Founder), and the Hell or High Water duo (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) were all robbed. And the Academy’s refusal to recognize 2016’s many great child performances (Alex Hibbert in Moonlight, Sunny Pawar in Lion) is saddening.

Best Actress:

Actress Film
Isabelle Huppert Elle
Ruth Negga Loving
Natalie Portman Jackie
Emma Stone La La Land
Meryl Streep Florence Foster Jenkins

Will Win: Emma Stone, La La Land. She’s the reason front-runner La La Land manages to work its charms. And as demonstrated by the previous wins of Jennifer Lawrence (2012) and Brie Larson (2015), the Academy also happens to really adore young rising stars.

Should Win: Isabelle Huppert, Elle. No competition here – Huppert’s is the most absorbing and forceful of any of the 20 performances nominated this year. Ruth Negga wouldn’t be a bad choice either.

Snubbed: Amy Adams was the highlight of Arrival, while Emily Blunt was the one of the few redeeming features of The Girl on the Train. Annette Bening in 20th Century Women was also good – not amazing, but at least better than Natalie Portman’s vastly overrated turn in Jackie.

Best Supporting Actor:

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

Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight. He’s been on a roll with the critics, and the guy who snatched up the Golden Globe (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals) wasn’t even nominated.

Should Win: Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea. Ali was good, but Moonlight had many better performances (André Holland, Ashton Sanders). Hedges brought real heart to his role as a teenager grappling with the death of his father – and he made us laugh a good deal along the way, too.

Snubbed: Aside from Holland and Sanders, Jovan Adepo and Stephen Henderson of Fences both did fine dramatic work, Liam Neeson gave a completely underrated performance in Silence, and Meryl Streep’s male co-stars in Florence Foster Jenkins (Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg) were both hilarious.

Best Supporting Actress:

Actress Film
Viola Davis Fences
Naomie Harris Moonlight
Nicole Kidman Lion
Octavia Spencer Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams Manchester by the Sea

Will & Should Win: Viola Davis, Fences – another powerful performance from an actress Oscar has yet to recognize.

Snubbed: Nobody in particular.