We’re putting together our Big Bad Predictions Chart (which will be up a bit later today) and for the most part, there is a large consensus as to how Sunday night will go. This same consensus can be found over at Movie City News, and if the Oscars really do genuinely go this way it won’t be a surprising night. It will be raining in Hollywood.
There are two key forces driving the race this year. One is business as usual: a frontrunner built to win that hearkens back to the America of old, the “Pajama Game” as one critic at the LA Weekly nailed it. Not much has changed in the Oscar race in 89 years. It is still a celebration of the white icons whom we’ve built up as gods and goddesses that represent Hollywood glamor. La La Land doesn’t tweak that even a little, it’s right over the plate. In Obama’s last year, and in the era of a nationalist coup, something feels really off about it to some; to others it’s the greatest thing ever that La La Land is going to sweep. They’re happy for the movie. Happy for the publicity team, for the studio, for the stars. People who sit comfortably on the winning side are going to have a wonderful night.
The other force driving this year’s race is equally undeniable. The Academy itself made sweeping changed to their membership after a hashtag that led to a PR tsunami that criticized the Academy for an all-white lineup two years in a row. That story has a broadened perspective of those who help dictate the Oscar machine. Now that the Oscar race is taken out of the public, it is mostly controlled by critics and bloggers who thin the herd long before movies ever get to Oscar voters. Hidden Figures is a film that could have swept this whole season if not for the hurried and tightly controlled selection process that determines Best Picture winners now. All of the winners seem pre-determined under this system. As the ticket buying public’s demographics really change to more and more people of color buying tickets to films they want to see, the “Oscar movie” has had to really pull from industries that still are willing to make the “Oscar movie.”
That two films written and directed by black filmmakers are up for the Best Picture for the first time ever is progress that took way too long to achieve. And even now, you can see the dudebro culture resisting this shift. Why? Because it represents something being taken from them. Nobody can criticize Moonlight, but Fences is sure getting some odd snarking from people which I find horrifying and embarrassing.
Worst of all is the defense of La La Land by usually white men, but some white women, insisting complaints about it from people of color like Kareem Abdul-Jubbar are worthy of their scorn. I thought it was frustrating being a woman and having people treat me with condescension every day online, but the reaction to that piece reminded me that whites will always feel like they have power card to play when someone is taking something from them. How dare he bring up what watching La La Land made him feel? How dare he. His perspective doesn’t matter, after all. There is just the one perspective that matters. That perspective has meant that only one film directed by a black director has ever won Best Picture in 89 years, no black director has ever won, and only one black actress in 89 years has won lead. You made your point, film industry. You definitely have made your point. Those doors, however well meaning, remain slammed shut.
It’s true that La La Land is getting hit harder than any film this year – and that it’s unusual to see such a brutal takedown of what is mostly a light and happy film about musicals. Some of the complaints seem valid to me, while some seem like a primal resistance to Trumplandia overtaking our government in a shocking coup and the wave of right-wing extremism. Why would they come down so hard on this movie? Partly because of Trump, it must be said, but also because of the movies it’s up against – Hidden Figures, Moonlight, Fences…A friend of mine who is black said about Barry Jenkins – “what it’s going to take for a black man to win Best Director?” It’s been 89 years. We very well might get to 100, especially if the film community reacts to the objections to the film as they have this year. I was also struck by this piece written by Amrou Al-Kadhi, an Arab actor trying to break into the business writes:
Moonlight NEEDS to win Best Picture. Not only because it is a cinematic feat that is to La La Land what Frida Kahlo is to paint-by-numbers, but because it sends an urgent message. A message that we’re ready to empathise with any story, no matter how far away they are from us, and how much they defy our systemic misconceptions.
The UK industry, in particular, must similarly do away with its obsession with period dramas. Now is not a time to escape into the “bygone days” of a white imperialist Britain, but to look outwards at the contemporary world, portraying minorities in a way that helps to dispel social prejudices and bring communities closer together.
As an Arab person living in the West today, I feel every Islamophobic utterance by Trump and Le Pen – or Theresa May’s silent apologism – as a personal, frightening blow. Hollywood should not be complicit as well. More than ever before, we need the cinema screen to do its unique job: to illuminate ignored identities, and to challenge the ideas that prejudice and politics would have us believe.
As someone who has been doing this a very long time, and my readers know, these struggles are not new. They go all the way back to 1939 with Gone with the Wind. They pass through to Do the Right Thing and up through Selma and to now. This year, the cumulative effect of April Reign’s hashtag #OscarsSoWhite is decades and decades of near shut-outs. She writes in Teen Vogue:
The Academy can only nominate quality films that are made. The Oscar statue itself is just a physical representation of a lot of years of hard work that have gone into the filmmaking process for every single film. So the onus has to be on Hollywood studios to ensure that theatergoers have the opportunity to see themselves reflected on the screen. The Oscars are the end of the road; we need to start at the beginning and ensure that studio heads are putting aside any implicit bias they have to broaden their frame of reference and provide more opportunities for filmmakers from marginalized communities. That’s why I’m encouraged that we’re seeing new emerging filmmaker programs and fellowships. The Oscars are just the culmination and recognition by one’s peers of a job well done.
These forces in this year’s race can’t be denied. That’s why I do think there is a chance Moonlight could really pull off a Best Picture upset. If it does, it will feel as though the Academy’s efforts to broaden its membership will have not been for nothing. But if it doesn’t, it isn’t the end of the world. It’s business as usual in a town that doesn’t change.
Onward to final predictions.
I really do sense that a Moonlight or Hidden Figures upset could be possible. Moonlight because it will likely be either number one or two on most ballots and will gain votes from Hidden Figures, Fences, Hell or High Water voters, and could also gain votes from Lion and Arrival voters. La La Land has to win on the first round, which we’re all betting it will. If it doesn’t, that means its late game divisiveness made it impossible to win on the preferential ballot. It, like The Revenant, has to hit high on the ballot which it can’t really if people have strong reactions in either direction. So I really want to predict Moonlight but I just can’t bring myself to take the chance.
Best Picture: La La Land
Shocker: Hidden Figures
Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
He doesn’t appear to have any competition and will be the first American born director to win since 2009 and will be the youngest winner.
Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences
Casey Affleck could also win. Their odds are at 50/50. I give the edge to Washington because he’s coming in with a film he also directed. This will make Washington the record holder for African American acting winners with three Oscars, which puts him up there with Meryl Streep – two leads and one supporting.
Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land
Isabelle Huppert appears to be the only challenger. Stone is like the embodiment of a bottle of champagne put inside a girl. She smooths over Chazelle’s thin writing of Mia and is mostly the reason this film works as well as it does: she brings it 100%.
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali
Although I do think his is a smallish role compared to the others, his speech at SAG was incredible. I think it sealed the deal for him. Dev Patel is his only competition and he is amazing in Lion and it would be a well-deserved win.
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
If I hear one more person – Academy member or otherwise – complain about this being “category fraud” I’m going to lose my mind. They thought she was supporting for The Help and that was supposedly why Streep won. Just give the lady her overdue Oscar already. Enough, people. Enough.
Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
I am stubbornly refusing to give way to the La La Land sweep that could take this category – maybe it will or maybe Hell or High Water will upset. I think Manchester deserves it so I hope it wins.
Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
Barry Jenkins will go home an Oscar winner no matter what. Hidden Figures or Lion remain vague threats – but they will have to be among the few who hated Moonlight not to award it here: it’s won the Scripter and the WGA.
Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
It’s hard to deny this film and it has an unfair advantage over the other docs that stuck to the two hour running time. Surely both 13th and I Am Not Your Negro are more culturally important, vital, and activist films but O.J. is right in their wheelhouse.
Animated Feature: Zootopia
Boy it does feel like Kubo could upset here. They made a strong last minute push for the movie that might pay off.
Foreign Language Feature: The Salesman
I don’t feel confident about this – Toni Erdmann is more popular and A Man Called Ove is great. So I have no idea how this will go.
Cinematography: La La Land
I want to go with Arrival, I think it deserves it, but you really remember La La Land’s visual beauty and that usually means a Cinematography win, even though it is odd that Lion won the ASC.
Production Design: Arrival
I’m putting Arrival in three categories and it will probably lose all three. But it might win one because I do think people love the movie. I just don’t know where it will win. I’ll pick it to win there, although Fantastic Beasts could also take it.
Costume Design: Jackie
I do think La La Land could very easily upset here. I pick Jackie because it’s not contemporary. In 1961 it went to West Side Story, which is along the same lines so a La La Land prediction here is not a bad choice at all, but it seems to me like it could go instead to one of the period films.
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Probably Rogue One could upset here.
Sound and Sound Editing: Arrival
I’m departing with my colleagues here in a big way and will probably get all of these wrong. I think Arrival could win one so I’m predicting it in both but most are saying it will split and be La La Land and Hacksaw Ridge. One factor in favor of predicting Arrival: eight of the past nine BAFTA Sound award winners went on to win at least one of the Oscars for sound.
Editing: La La Land
It usually goes with Best Director so it’s probably Tom Cross again for the win.
Arrival, Hell or High Water, or Moonlight could also upset here. Moonlight especially.
Live Action Short: Sing
It’s probably going to be Ennemis Intérieurs or it could be La Femme et le TGV. It’s hard to know which one will be preferred, but I thought Sing was the best.
Documentary Short: 4.1 Miles
Again, I’m way off the general consensus here. I’m voting with my heart. They are all five absolutely remarkable films and any of them could win. Joe’s Violin a really good bet.
Animated Short: Piper
I actually liked Piper the best of these nominees but once again they are all brilliant.
Makeup and Hair: Star Trek
Ordinarily I would not choose this but the makeup is spectacular and if they advertised it heavily enough it could win, otherwise A Man Called Ove will.
Score/Song: La La Land and How Far I’ll Go <---UPDATE - I changed, thinking that how can they pass up this chance? Anyone who has seen Hamilton will vote for Lin. I think that music behind La La Land is great and can't be beat. The songs and the music are just magical. I am so glad this Oscar year is almost over. It was hard going in such a tough election year and however it turns out we know a good movie will win because they're all good. I do hope they spread the wealth both because there are many deserving films but also so that the backlash on La La Land won't be quite as harsh. Can you say massive shitstorm? No Guts No Glory later tonight! As well as a Spirit Awards preview.