Thursday, February 16, 2017

Oscar Predictions 2017

Back again to take a completely uneducated stab at 10 Oscar categories, hoping to snap the two year 7 out of 10 streak. As usual, I've seen very few of the nominated films (I think the only ones I've seen are animated), so using this as any sort of basis for your own picks is very much contraindicated.

Some notes before the picks:

1. I'm pretty convinced that the song from Moana will win Best Original Song so Lin-Manuel Miranda can wrap up his EGOT. Or PEGOT if you throw in the Pulitzer. Or MacPEGOT if you throw in the MacArthur Grant.

2. My picks may have a slight bias to them as I actually grew up in Manchester, Massachusetts (prior to its official renaming of Manchester-by-the-Sea, which I prefer not to recognize). You would think that would have gotten me out to see the film - but you'd be wrong!  I do still intend to see it... along with all the other movies I've been intending to see.

3. The folks at Five Thirty Eight have put math behind what I did in trying to sort out the most predictive awards (and have yet to acknowledge me, the bastards). Where they're looking at a category I'm picking I'll comment on who they see as the most likely winner as well. They pick one winner in a category I do not, Best Documentary - Feature, which they have as heavily favoring O.J.: Made in America (though 13th got a big boost from winning the BAFTA, the only one of the Oscar nominated feature documentaries nominated).

Anyway, picks!

Best Foreign Language Film - this is where I usually make a pick based on some sort of linguistic or nationalistic quality, which never really works out (were I to do this for this year, the Australian film Tanna would have been my choice for being filmed in the Vanuatuan language of Nauvhal).

But this year, I'm thinking the Academy will make a political point in awarding the Oscar to The Salesman, an Iranian film whose director, Asghar Farhadi, has already said he will boycott the show over the travel restrictions placed on Iranians trying to enter the US. This will be just one of the many times Donald Trump gets a poke in the eye during the telecast.

Best Animated Film - I've only seen one of the nominated films, but it's the one that I've seen the most chatter about being the winner, and I did like the film, so I'm going with Zootopia here. The Five Thirty Eight model concurs, though they have Kubo and the Two Strings as a reasonably close second thanks to its BAFTA win.

Best Original Screenplay - I'm going to go with Manchester by the Sea over La La Land here based on the idea that the writing awards are used to recognize films that won't win Best Picture (though you could use the same theory to say that Hell or High Water will win). 

Best Adapted Screenplay - A pretty stacked category, with four nominees for Best Picture (Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Fences, Lion) and one for a film that many feel got jobbed out of a Best Picture nod (Arrival). All of the films here fit the bill as potential winners in lieu of a Best Picture win, but I'm going to go with Arrival as it would be the biggest make-up of the group.

Best Supporting Actress - Both of the actress awards seem like locks at this point, and the Five Thirty Eight tracker would support that line of thought, which makes me feel extra sure of going with Viola Davis here. Though I do feel badly for Michelle Williams, who is apparently going to be stuck on the verge of winning in perpetuity (maybe she and Amy Adams can carpool).

Best Supporting Actor -I'm also doubling down with Five Thirty Eight to go with Mahershala Ali for his work in Moonlight.

Best Actress - This was looking like a pretty even race between Emma Stone for La La Land and Natalie Portman for Jackie, but things kind of took a turn when Isabelle Huppert won the Golden Globe and Stone won the other major awards. Portman got lost in the shuffle, not helped by the relative low profile of her film. So I'm going with Emma Stone, as is Five Thirty Eight.

Best Actor - In one respect this should be a lock for Casey Affleck, as he's won the bulk of the awards for his performance in Manchester by the Sea. But Denzel Washington won the SAG Award for Fences, and that is a highly predictive award (18 of the last 22 winner went on to win the Oscar), and is heavily weighted in the Five Thirty Eight model (which gives a slight edge to Affleck).

The other thing that may help Washington is the lingering disdain for Affleck given his past legal troubles. I am going to look past them (to the extent one can) and go with Casey Affleck here, mostly to satisfy my blatant homerism.

Best Director - Speaking of troubled pasts, Mel Gibson is apparently back in Hollywood's good graces as evidenced by his nomination for Hacksaw Ridge. Mel will have to settle for the nod, as this is almost certainly going to Damien Chazelle. He's swept all the major awards, so it would be incredibly surprising for him not to win the Oscar.

Best Picture - Everyone seems to love La La Land, and any movie that celebrates classic Hollywood, and the Los Angeles area in general, seems like easy pickings for Oscar voters. The win by Hidden Figures for best ensemble at the SAG Awards is a little surprising (La La Land wasn't nominated), and suggests that it may not be a waltz to the finish line for La La Land (see what I did there?), even if voters may not get behind Hidden Figures for the Oscar.

But they could get behind another movie that's more critically acclaimed and also features an African-American cast. Which is how I got to picking Moonlight as my choice for the top prize. It's also a film that, in a year where people may be looking to make a statement, would make one for both African-Americans and the LGBTQ community. Five Thirty Eight has La La Land as a strong favorite to win this, so it seems like a bad choice to be the only category where we disagree. But I'll do it anyway.



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