Welcome to my annual, very subjective opinion on who should win and who will win this Sunday’s Oscars. This group may be the most diverse ever, with six African-American acting candidates and three nominees for best picture focusing on the Black experience, a sharp reversal after the criticism of last year.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis (Fences) is a pet peeve of mine. I always think she over does it and she didn’t need to in this well-written part. Nicole Kidman wasn’t crucial to the story of Lion. I hate to overlook Octavia Spencer, but the remaining two head the field. Naomie Harris is wrenching as the crack addict mom in Moonlight – no one got deeper in her role. As good as Michelle Williams was in Manchester by the Sea, Harris can’t be overlooked.
Should and Will Win: Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Actor in a Supporting Role
Should Win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Will Win: Dev Patel (Lion)
Actress in a Leading Role
Isabelle Huppert played the most difficult role of the five as the victim of a violent rape in Elle, but the stoicism of her character doesn’t allow for much range. Natalie Portman gave us a new Jackie, an interpretation, not an imitation. This year the Academy should not take Meryl Streep for granted as the flamboyant, sympathetic Florence Foster Jenkins. It’s too bad she will get swept aside by the La La Land wave.
Should Win: Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Will Win: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Actor in a Leading Role
I was expecting very little from Hacksaw Ridge, but found it inspired. Andrew Garfield brought Desmond Doss from naïve bumpkin to lauded hero and was totally credible throughout. You saw his character, not the actor. But two factors will damage him with the voters: it’s a war movie and Mel Gibson directs it. Casey Affleck’s unrelenting depression in Manchester by the Sea couldn’t have been easy to pull off. Ryan Gosling does not deserve to win, but he might.
Should Win: Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Will Win: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Following the five-year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) on his frightening 1000-mile train trip, then through the squalor of the train station and slums of Mumbai was the best film work of the year. You understood exactly how that little boy must have felt. Silence looked beautiful and scary at the same time.
Should Win: Lion
Will Win: La La Land
As authentic as the actors dressed in La La Land, the Academy can’t ignore FFJ.
Should and Will Win: Florence Foster Jenkins
Foreign Language Film
I enjoyed A Man Called Ove and Toni Erdmann more than any other movies I saw this year, but I fear they are not serious enough for the Academy. The Salesman from Iran was personal, moving in spots, but wandered. And I don’t know how you make a film about Iran that barely touches on the political situation. Maybe that was the only way the government allowed it to be released. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the other two, and they may win since they are dramas.
Should Win: Toni Erdmann
Will Win: ???
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The brilliant August Wilson wrote the screenplay from his play. They have to give it to him!
Should and Will Win: August Wilson (Fences)
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Should Win: Manchester by the Sea
Will Win: La La Land (But Manchester has a good shot at it.)
The gory, but immersive battle scene in Hacksaw Ridge was the most difficult challenge a director faced this year, and Gibson nailed it. Too bad the Academy won't recognize that. Being able to stich together the three different age segments in Moonlight was a triumph for Barry Jenkins. Look for him to narrowly beat out Damien Chazelle (La La Land).
Should Win: Mel Gibson
Will Win: Barry Jenkins
I either enjoyed or appreciated every single one of these films. Arrival and Hell or High Water were the most fun. Hidden Figures and Hacksaw Ridge made you cheer. Lion made you cry. Fences made you think. Manchester by the See brilliantly immersed you in the dissolution of contemporary life.
So that leaves La La Land and Moonlight. Both could win but not for the right reasons. Hollywood loves itself, and La La Land is Hollywood. Moonlight is the most unapologetically Black movie nominated, and the Academy is very sensitive to last year’s accusations. There should be some exciting moments as the ceremony rushes to wrap up by midnight.
Should Win: Lion
Long Shot: Hidden Figures
Will Win: La La Land
Now some comments on the less prominent categories, where I can claim very little knowledge!
I Am Not Your Negro is the powerful story of racism in America as seen through the eyes of James Baldwin. As he says it in the film, the last word of the title is not so polite. It may go to O.J.: Made in America.
Documentary (Short Subject)
Saw none of the nominees, but heard great things about The White Helmets.
The structure of Moonlight posed the biggest editing challenge of the five nominees.
Music (Original Score)
No question here: La La Land
Music (Original Song)
"City of Stars" was beautiful and memorable, even with Ryan Gosling singing it!
Probably La La Land, with Arrival a close second
Sound Editing and Sound Mixing
Since I don't know the difference, I shouldn't say a thing, but it's probably La La for both.