By: Daniel Reynolds
If we’re being honest, there are many variables at play with the 89th Annual Academy Awards. This is always the case. Sure, some of the nominations are a lock, and the overall narrative surrounding most of the evening is already set. But that won’t stop us, of course, from settling in this Sunday night and taking in the whole extravaganza. This is what we do every year. Why stop now?
As we also do every year in this space, I’m here to make some predictions. The hope is that I will be able to pass this information on to you, the reader, so that you can look smart, or win some money, or just enjoy being right in the comfort of your own living room. (I’ll be watching the show at the Hot Docs Theatre, by the by, since I don’t have a living room.) But instead of just running through a list, which, while functional, is far from fun, I’ve divided up my picks into categories based on surety. Some things on Oscar night are for certain (La La Land) and others are very much a mystery (the difference between sound mixing and editing???)
In any case, the show is in two days, we’ve had plenty of time to think it over. Here come my predictions for the 89th Annual Academy Awards.
Best Picture: La La Land — Oops, sorry to let this cat right straight out of the bag on the first go but it needs to be said: there is no way La La Land will not win Best Picture. If I had a house to bet, I would do it. This is the lock of the year and we need to acknowledge that right from the get go.
Best Director: Damien Chazelle — Once the La La Land train starts rolling it’ll be hard to stop. Chazelle has a lot of precocious talent, but I’m not sure how he’s beating the likes of Kenneth Lonergan and Barry Jenkins. (To say nothing of the absence of Martin Scorsese in favour of Mel freakin’ Gibson.)
Best Actress: Emma Stone — As the non-smirking heart and soul of La La Land, the favourite of the year, she’s getting the nod here. The best performance of the year was arguably Amy Adams, who didn’t get nominated, so, yeah, sure, fine.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali — It will never not be hilarious that Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe and then didn’t get nominated for the Oscar. Ali wins this award 1,000 times out of a 1,000.
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis — Ditto for Viola. I didn’t love Fences (it’s a play, not a movie) but her performance is why you should go see it. It’s real.
Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea — Kenneth Lonergan deserves something for making a movie as unique and profound and complicated as this one. There are other deserving winners (hello The Lobster!) but Lonergan wins it.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight — Jenkins’ work here is the real deal, and the structure of his film, travelling through time and using visuals over words to tell his story, is powerful. Book it.
Best Animated Film: Zootopia — Disney’s latest captured the most hearts (and money) and has the most potent message. Also, I’m not big on Manuel Lin-Miranda (of Moana fame), but that’s just me.
Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman — This one appears to be on everyone’s mind now due to the, uh, political climate, but also because Asghar Farhadi is a tremendous filmmaker (who can’t travel to the U.S. right now). Me personally, I’m pulling for Toni Erdmann, but the Academy Awards won’t miss a chance to make a statement like this.
Best Original Score: La La Land — What, you were expecting something else?
Best Original Song: La La Land — Obviously the lone musical in the field has this on lock. Will… will Ryan Gosling sing City of Stars on the broadcast?
Best Film Editing: La La Land — You may start to notice variations on a theme here. La La Land is going to win a lot of awards, people.
Best Production Design: La La Land — I’d be fine with Arrival winning this one, but it’s not Denis Villeneuve and crew’s turn this year. The rest of the nominees are way too removed (or just plain bad) to have a chance. Ring it up for La La Land again.
Best Costume Design: La La Land — Are you seeing these nominees? I suppose Jackie has a puncher’s chance, what with its retro 60s look and all. But the only thing Hollywood loves more than an appreciation of the 60s is the appreciation of the 50s. Sorry dudes.
Best Cinematography: La La Land — For my money, no film was more difficult to shoot (and make compelling) than Silence, but it doesn’t have singing and dancing (it shows torture instead) and that’s a tough sell.
Best Actor: Denzel Washington — I thought Casey Affleck had this in the bag, but a late breaking desire to anoint a legendary actor, a more showy performance, and the lack of any lurking sexual assault history (no small thing) are now pointing to Denzel. It does feel vaguely 50/50 though.
Best Documentary: O.J.: Made in America — It’s the best of the field, but also 7.5 hours long. Also working against it: the film was essentially presented to most of us as a TV miniseries. Could Ava DuVernay’s The 13th (which, yes, OK, was a Netflix movie) sneak in?
Best Animated Short: Piper — It’s the only one of the bunch I have seen, and while it is wondrous to look at, I’m not 100 percent confident in it winning.
Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book — For some reason, I’m not ready to call this a safe bet. Yes, CGI animals are nice and everything, but I’m also pulling for some of the gritty style in Rogue One. We’ll see.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond — If only because nobody wants to have to say “the Academy Award winning film Suicide Squad.”
Best Sound Editing: Arrival — Come on, give it one, Academy. (I really have no idea.)
Best Sound Mixing: La La Land — Some are predicting Hacksaw Ridge in either this or the Sound Editing category. I do not know how to make these distinctions so I’m going with the safest pick a person can make.
Best Documentary – Short Subject: Joe’s Violin — My rule is usually to just go with whichever short doc invokes the Holocaust, but there appear to be some fantastic-sounding other short films here so I remain thoroughly undecided. (Or you can just go with Joe’s Violin, the one that involves mention of the Holocaust.)
Best Live Action Short: La Femme et le TGV — Having not seen any of these this year, it’s impossible for me to pick. The usual rule here is to pick the one with the biggest star, so since La Femme et le TGV has Jane Birkin, there’s your winner. (I have no idea.)
We end on a small (and short note) but we end nonetheless. That’s the 89th Oscars. Those are the picks. Good luck and godspeed in your watching. And then we begin the look ahead to the 2018 show. It never actually ends.