Sunday, February 26, 2017

La Dee Da: Oscar Predix, 2016



Tonight's Oscars are generally much less exciting or interesting than last year's, where there was an actual horse race for Best Picture. This year, it's all about La La Land and, to a lesser degree, about the Oscars atoning for last year's #OscarsSoWhite debacle; up to three acting categories could go to actors of color, and this is only the fourth time a black director has been nominated, and potentially the third time a black screenwriter will win.

And in the first months of the Trump administration, there is a good deal of speculation about what this Oscars ceremony "means," to what degree politics will enter the fray, and whether awards shows have the capacity or obligation to discuss larger political conflicts.

With La La Land poised to win over half a dozen Oscars, including Picture and Director, it's worth remembering the last time a musical won the top prize: At the 2003 ceremony, Chicago won Picture and five other Oscars. Those Academy Awards took place five days after the U.S. invaded Iraq. Michael Moore won Best Documentary and ranted against the President; people booed. Roman Polanski surprisingly won Best Director; people gave him a standing ovation (he was of course absent, living as a fugitive in Europe).  It's worth remembering, in other words, that the Oscars' politics are complicated and contradictory; at the end of the day, this is a voting body that still prides itself on making safe choices in the middle, rather than venturing out of its comfort zone.

Should La La Land win the most, and win the show, tonight, it won't be anything new. It will be the Academy doing what it does best: playing it safe, and playing it to be well-liked.

Expect all political interjections to be as awkward and forced as the teleconferencing of First Lady Obama announcing Best Picture in 2013.

Win Summaries:
La La Land: 9, including Picture and Director
Moonlight: 2
Fences: 2
Manchester by the Sea: 1
Hacksaw Ridge: 1
Zootopia: 1
O.J. Made in America: 1
The Salesman: 1


Best Picture

"Arrival" 
"Fences" 
"Hacksaw Ridge" 
"Hell or High Water" 
"Hidden Figures" 
"La La Land" 
"Lion" 
"Manchester by the Sea" 
"Moonlight" 
Will Win: La La Land
Could Win: Moonlight
Reasoning: La La Land won the Globes and the DGA; it has the most nominations, and it has all the buzz. Should it lose, it would be the first time a film nominated for 14 Oscars lost Picture. While there have been some passionate arguments made for Hidden Figures and Moonlight, it's all just in the spirit of drumming up the veneer of a conflict. The more interesting story is how much La La Land will win. Since the Oscars have moved to the weighted ballots in 2010, the film that wins the most usually doesn't win Picture: Gravity won 7, Hugo 5, Mad Max Fury Road 6, Life of Pi 5. The voting body has moved towards giving smaller films (Spotlight, Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, Argo) the top prize, while doting on a "favorite" in the technical categories. This year would potentially reverse, or at least complicate, that recent trend.


Performance by an actor in a leading role
Casey Affleck in "Manchester by the Sea"
    Andrew Garfield in "Hacksaw Ridge"
    Ryan Gosling in "La La Land"
    Viggo Mortensen in "Captain Fantastic"
    Denzel Washington in "Fences"
    Will Win: Denzel Washington
    Could Win: Casey Affleck
    Reasoning: Affleck won the Globe, and Washington won the SAG. Both are in Best Picture nominees; Washington's won two Oscars while Affleck's won zero. Affleck feels like a soft favorite here, but you can really just flip a coin. Multiple Oscar pools will be decided by this category.

    Performance by an actor in a supporting role
    Mahershala Ali in "Moonlight"
    Jeff Bridges in "Hell or High Water"
    Lucas Hedges in "Manchester by the Sea"
    Dev Patel in "Lion"
    Michael Shannon in "Nocturnal Animals"
    Will Win: Mahershala Ali
    Could Win: Jeff Bridges
    Reasoning: As much as I want to see Michael Shannon win an Oscar, there's no real denying the buzz and momentum behind Ali, who is the spiritual glue holding much of Moonlight together (even though he only appears in a small amount of the film). He should easily, and deservedly, win this.

    Performance by an actress in a leading role
    Isabelle Huppert in "Elle"
    Ruth Negga in "Loving"
    Natalie Portman in "Jackie"
    Emma Stone in "La La Land"
    Meryl Streep in "Florence Foster Jenkins"
    Will Win: Emma Stone
    Could Win: Isabelle Huppert
    Reasoning: Stone's win feels weird to me here given the roster of talent, but she's been positioned for this win since before the Globes. Stone's going to get the "breakout Oscar" that often goes to younger actresses.

    Performance by an actress in a supporting role
    Viola Davis in "Fences"
    Naomie Harris in "Moonlight"
    Nicole Kidman in "Lion"
    Octavia Spencer in "Hidden Figures"
    Michelle Williams in "Manchester by the Sea"
    Will Win: Viola Davis
    Could Win: Michelle Williams
    Reasoning: They owe her.

    Best animated feature film of the year
    "Kubo and the Two Strings" 
    "Moana"
    "My Life as a Zucchini" 
    "The Red Turtle" 
    "Zootopia" 
    Will Win: Zootopia
    Could Win: Kubo and the Two Strings

    Achievement in cinematography
    "Arrival" 
    "La La Land" 
    "Lion" 
    "Moonlight" 
    "Silence" 
    Will Win: La La Land
    Could Win: Moonlight
    Reasoning: This category has increasingly recognized complex camera movements (Lubezki's back-to-back wins), rather than composition or lighting. La La Land seems like it will win on the strength of its opening number alone. Having said that, I would be happier to see the beautifully constructed Moonlight or Silence take this.

    Achievement in costume design
    "Allied" 
    "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" 
    "Florence Foster Jenkins"
    "Jackie" 
    "La La Land" 
    Will Win: Jackie
    Could Win: La La Land
    Reasoning: Given the choice between period piece or contemporary piece, always pick period.

    Achievement in directing
    "Arrival" - Denis Villeneuve
    "Hacksaw Ridge" - Mel Gibson
    "La La Land" - Damien Chazelle
    "Manchester by the Sea" - Kenneth Lonergan
    "Moonlight" - Barry Jenkins
    Will Win: Damien Chazelle
    Could Win: Barry Jenkins
    Reasoning: Interestingly, Picture and Director have split: Traditionally united, they have only matched 50% of the time over the last six years. Because of this, some folks see a window for Barry Jenkins to get recognition. I don't really see that happening; unlike last year's The Revenant, La La Land seems to be generally loved by the Academy, rather than "only" respected.

    Best documentary feature
    "Fire at Sea" 
    "I Am Not Your Negro" 
    "Life, Animated" 
    "O.J.: Made in America" 
    "13th" 
    Will Win: O.J. Made in America
    Could Win: 13th
    Reasoning: Giving this to 13th would be perceived as a way to "make things up" to Ava Duvernay after snubbing her for Selma a few years back, but it seems hard to deny the larger appeal and titanic accomplishment of O.J.

    Achievement in film editing
    "Arrival"
    "Hacksaw Ridge" 
    "Hell or High Water" 
    "La La Land" 
    "Moonlight" 
    Will Win: La La Land
    Could Win: Arrival
    Reasoning: The cutting in La La Land doesn't feel nearly as strong as basically every other entry in this category. I would love to see the time-twisting cross-cutting from Arrival win this; this category, if it's early enough in the evening, will be an interesting test to see how wide the support is for La La Land.

    Best foreign language film of the year
    "Land of Mine" 
    "A Man Called Ove" 
    "The Salesman" 
    "Tanna" 
    "Toni Erdmann"
    Will Win: The Salesman
    Could Win: Toni Erdmann
    Reasoning: The Executive Orders on immigration have drastically changed this category, and made it the "political focus" of the evening. Iran's The Salesman will likely win this as the evening's major "statement."

    Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
    "A Man Called Ove" 
    "Star Trek Beyond" 
    "Suicide Squad" 
    Will Win: Suicide Squad
    Could Win: Star Trek Beyond

    Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
    "Jackie" 
    "La La Land" 
    "Lion" 
    "Moonlight" 
    "Passengers" 
    Will Win: La La Land
    Could Win: Moonlight
    Reasoning: Logic holds that if a musical is going to win Best Picture, its Score will win. Something feels off about the assuredness with which everyone agrees La La wins here. I'm not comfortable enough to predict an upset, but I think someone else could sneak away with this one.

    Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
    "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" from "La La Land"
    "Can't Stop The Feeling" from "Trolls"
    "City Of Stars" from "La La Land"
    "The Empty Chair" from "Jim: The James Foley Story"
    "How Far I'll Go" from "Moana"
    Will Win: "City of Stars"
    Could Win: "How Far I'll Go"
    Reasoning: Another semi-interesting category. A win for Moana would put Lin-Manuel Miranda one step closer to that EGOT. It's also weird that "City of Stars" has become the suspected winner here, given that it seems to me the worst song in the whole movie. But hey, that's how campaigns work, I guess.

    Achievement in production design
    "Arrival" 
    "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" 
    "Hail, Caesar!" 
    "La La Land" 
    "Passengers" 
    Will Win: La La Land
    Could Win: Arrival
    Reasoning: La La Land is the one of two here to win a Production Designer Guild Award (the other being Passengers, which likely doesn't have close to enough momentum to win). It's rare that contemporary movies win this, so part of me thinks Fantastic Beasts or Arrival could push through, but La La Land just seems to have enough to grab this one.

    Achievement in sound editing
    "Arrival" 
    "Deepwater Horizon" 
    "Hacksaw Ridge" 
    "La La Land" 
    "Sully" 
    Will Win: Hacksaw Ridge
    Could Win: La La Land
    Reasoning: Usually, musicals do well in Sound Mixing, and war/action movies do well in Sound Editing. The reasons for this are slightly unclear. I do think Hacksaw Ridge can win both of these, given how popular the film seemed to be at the time of nominations, but I think this will be its sole statue.

    Achievement in sound mixing
    "Arrival" 
    "Hacksaw Ridge" 
    "La La Land" 
    "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" 
    "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" 
    Will Win: La La Land
    Could Win: Hacksaw Ridge
    Reasoning: See Sound Editing, above.

    Achievement in visual effects
    "Deepwater Horizon" 
    "Doctor Strange" 
    "The Jungle Book" 
    "Kubo and the Two Strings" 
    "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" 
    Will Win: The Jungle Book
    Could Win: Doctor Strange
    Reasoning: Photorealism has been dominating in this category, which seems to give Jungle Book an edge over the sci-fi duo of Strange and Star Wars.

    Adapted screenplay
    "Arrival" 
    "Fences
    "Hidden Figures"
    "Lion" 
    "Moonlight" 
    Will Win: Moonlight
    Could Win: Arrival
    Reasoning: This seems like the place to expect Barry Jenkins to get recognition for Moonlight, and for the film to really have its biggest moment. 

    Original screenplay
    "Hell or High Water" 
    "La La Land" 
    "The Lobster" 
    "Manchester by the Sea" 
    "20th Century Women"
    Will Win: Manchester by the Sea
    Could Win: La La Land
    Reasoning: La La Land may be popular, but this is Lonergan's to lose. Especially if Affleck ends up losing Actor to Washington, this is the only other place to recognize Manchester, which is obviously well-respected.

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