Thursday, February 23, 2017

Predicting the 89th Academy Awards [Updated]

If you thought last year's Oscars were politically-charged after the "Oscars So White" controversy... fasten your seatbelts folks, it's going to be a bumpy night. While I hope the ceremony and speeches focus more on celebrating the artistry of film rather than pulling a "Meryl Streep" every five minutes, I'm still excited about this year's Academy Awards - the Super Bowl of the movie business. As per tradition, I'm predicting the winners for not just the popular categories, but all 24 of them! I take no half measures here on Talking the Talkies. While I've given this a lot of thought (maybe too much), the Oscars are always full of surprises and upsets, so we'll see how it turns out Sunday, February 26th!

After the broadcast I will update this blog post with the winners highlighted, my reactions, and my final tally. If you want to play along - leave your predictions in the comments below!

* = I haven't seen it (yet!)


Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

I Predict: La La Land 

Hollywood loves itself! Its biggest competition are the socially-conscious Moonlight and the emotional gut-punch Manchester by the Sea, but La La Land has that same nostalgic Hollywood pizzaz that made movies like The Artist and Birdman Best Picture winners. It's also tied for having the most Oscar nominations ever, with 14 total (though it can only win up to 13, being nominated twice for Best Song). You never know - La La Land could end up totally cleaning the house this year.

OH MY GOD! This was the craziest Oscar moment, like, EVER?!?! Warren Beatty announces that La La Land won Best Picture, the whole team goes up and gives a speech, only for some dude to pop in and announce that there was a mistake... Moonlight is the real winner, and that it's not a joke. Beatty read off the wrong card, pulling a Steve Harvey! I feel bad for the La La Land team having their trophies taken away, happy that Moonlight won, and completely dumbfounded how something like this can happen. Crazy.


Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

I Predict: Damien Chazelle, La La Land 

Just the fact that Chazelle managed to shoot a musical sequence on a closed-off stretch of the Los Angeles freeway is enough to skyrocket his Best Director street cred. Though he's much younger than your average everyday Best Director winner - in fact if he wins he'll be the youngest ever to win the category - he's already made a huge imprint on Academy voters with Whiplash a couple years ago, and since La La Land is the front-runner for best picture, the odds are in Chazelle's favor.

Damien Chazelle: making Oscar history!


Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

I Predict: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight 

Everyone seems to think Ali has this one in the bag for his portrayal of the "drug dealer with a heart of gold" from Moonlight, but don't underestimate the inimitable Jeff Bridges to pop in for the steal. Dev Petel also has a good chance as well considering all the love Lion deservedly got - even though his performance really belongs more in the "lead" category (he plays the main character for crying out loud!). I'll still lean towards Ali though, because his overall "year" has been great (Luke Cage, House of Cards, Hidden Figures), and the Academy will want to recognize that. His role in Moonlight may be minor - but its power lingers throughout the film.

Glad for Mahershala - he's a class act and gave a great speech!


Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

I Predict: Viola Davis, Fences 

In a fight between two multiple-nominees, Davis and Williams, I think the odds tip in Davis' favor for her standout performance in Fences. As good as Michelle Williams is in Manchester, she only has one powerhouse scene in the whole film, whereas Davis is more or less playing second lead to Denzel Washington. Interestingly enough, Davis also won for this same role at the 2010 Tony Awards for the revival stage version of the play - something that's happened a handful of times in Oscar history (including Yul Brenner for The King and I, Rex Harrison for My Fair Lady, and Anne Bancroft for The Miracle Worker).

Davis's speech about the importance of the arts was moving - deserving of an Oscar in and of itself!


Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

I Predict: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea 

After Denzel's win at the SAG awards - voted on by fellow actors, who make up a large chunk of the Academy - many Oscar betters switched over from their original pick, but I'm sticking with Casey Affleck. His performance in Manchester by the Sea as a distraught Boston janitor is complex, emotional, and humanistic, and a win would be well-deserved. While his internal performance may be less "showy" than Washington's in Fences, and picking one over the other is more or less just a guess at this point, my mind's eye is just picturing Affleck winning. That same "gut" feeling led me to correctly predict Spotlight winning Best Picture last year, so I'm going to trust it again for now!

Can't believe I got this right! Denzel was practically in tears when Casey won - not sure if they were tears of happiness or sadness, but Affleck totally deserved this award! In my opinion, it's one of the best performances in years!


Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

I Predict: Emma Stone, La La Land 

Natalie Portman's portrayal of Jackie Kennedy is exactly the type of period-drama show stopper that the Academy loves and Meryl Streep's chances are bolstered by her well-regarded speech at the Globes, but Emma Stone - the "Hollywood ingenue" of the day - seems destined to be swept up in the La La Land tidal wave. I could see her winning as a "Brie Larson" or "Jennifer Lawrence"-type win. She's young, been nominated once before, and her momentum on the Awards circuit seems to indicate she could pull it off.

Does anyone not like Emma Stone?


Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini*
The Red Turtle*

I Predict: Zootopia 

It won at the Globes, it won at the PGA awards, it's even one of AFI's top ten films of 2016 - I'd be a dumb bunny not to predict Zootopia!

Zootopia was one of my favorite movies last year, happy it won!


La La Land

I Predict: La La Land 

While it may be pure fantasy, La La Land's cinematography beautifully captures Los Angeles as a candy-colored dreamland. It's filled with complicated long shots, intricate camera movements, and compositions worth framing on your wall. But, I could argue the same about many of the other nominees, so you never know!

Looks good!


Land of Mine*
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Toni Erdmann

I Predict: Toni Erdmann 

Toni Erdmann
 is a delightful father-daughter comedy that's been lauded by critics and has a distinct comic vision that I'd describe using the vague adjective "Oscar-y." Plus, the news that the proposed American remake will bring Jack Nicholson out of retirement as the lead is probably fresh in the voters' minds. However, after recent events involving director Asghar Farhadi's situation surrounding the US travel ban, his film The Salesman will get a boost in votes for political reasons alone. And then A Man Called Ove was nominated for hair and makeup as well, so it's obviously one Academy voters liked. It might be a mistake to take the political angle for granted, but I'm sticking with Toni Erdmann - The Salesman just wasn't up to par with some of Farhadi's other films, while Erdmann was this totally new thing that leaves you with so many memorable, bizarre, heartfelt moments and images after seeing it.

I should have listened to myself... of course the Academy would go political with this pick.


Hidden Figures

I Predict: Moonlight 

I think if the Academy goes for La La for Best Picture, the supposed "runners up" will be awarded with Best Screenplay wins. While Moonlight's protagonist is a boy/man of few words, those few he does speak, and those spoken from the important figures in his life around him, hold a lot of weight. The screenplay was written by director Barry Jenkins, who based much of the film on his own life, lending the characters a degree of authenticity and multi-dimensionality you don't often see in these types of characters on screen.

Barry Jenkins is such a great filmmaker, glad he was rewarded for his fantastic, extremely personal screenplay!


Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

I Predict: Manchester by the Sea 

La La or Manchester? I can't decide, but I have to pick one - so why not spread the wealth a little? The category says original screenplay after all, and La La Land is more or less piggybacking off other musicals like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, only set in modern day LA. In contrast, Manchester is told from a unique perspective that we, as with Moonlight, don't often see depicted in such a complex way. Plus the film unfolds like a novel, and besides 20th Century Women it's the most dialogue-driven film of the bunch.

While I would've loved to see an upset with Hell or High Water, Lonergan did an amazing job with the screenplay for Manchester so I can't complain!


"Audition (The Fools Who Dream)," La La Land
"Can't Stop the Feeling," Trolls*
"City of Stars," La La Land
"The Empty Chair," Jim: The James Foley Story*
"How Far I'll Go," Moana

I Predict: "City of Stars," La La Land 

I'm bummed out that Sing Street got no love in this category. It's really a sad day when Trolls makes it in over a movie that actually could've used that Oscar love to get more eyes on it. But waving the dirty air of that disappointing snub away, I think it's obvious either one of La La Land's two (TWO!) nominations in this category will win. I'll arbitrarily pick "City of Stars" because it's won awards elsewhere.

Whew, glad I picked the right song from La La Land!


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land

I Predict: La La Land 

There is so much great, nostalgic production design going on in La La Land I can't see anything else beating it. Everything from Gosling's jazz club to a star-lit planetarium, the design work on this film is transportive and magical.

I was getting nervous there for a second, but La La Land deservedly won!


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land

I Predict: La La Land 

You have to go back more than 30 years to find the last costume design winner that was set in a contemporary setting (All That Jazz in 1979). So La La Land shouldn't seem like the frontrunner. However, while it lacks the status of being a frilly period piece, it does have the "musical" factor going for it (Moulin Rogue, Chicago), it's set in Hollywood (The Artist), and in general people are dressed in a heightened and colorful fashion that at least evokes the feelings of the movies of musical past.

I guess it still stands that contemporary-set movies never win this category. I was so misguided in my picks this year, damn!


Fire at Sea*
I Am Not Your Negro*
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America

I Predict: O.J.: Made in America 

I question its legitimacy as a "film" rather than a miniseries, but O.J.: Made in America is definitely the doc to beat this year. It gives such a thorough and engaging look inside the landmark case and O.J. himself, telling a story which remains as relevant as ever today. I just can't see it losing.

Great doc - happy it won, though I would've liked to see an upset with Life, Animated.


4.1 Miles
Joe's Violin
Watani: My Homeland*
The White Helmets

I Predict: Joe's Violin 

I got this category correct in 2014 without seeing any of the nominees because I could sense the emotional power of juxtaposing the beauty of music with the horrors of the Holocaust. Like The Lady in Number 6, Joe's Violin does exactly that, telling the story of a Holocaust survivor passing down his violin to another generation of "survivors," so I have to think the Academy will vote similarly this year as well, even though in a just world The White Helmets - an intense doc depicting the heroes saving civilians during bombings in Syria - would win easily.

I knew as soon as The Salesman won Foreign film that the more politically relevant The White Helmets would win over Joe's Violin.


Hell or High Water
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

I Predict: La La Land 

I literally have no real reason to pick one movie over the other - but I can just picture this category getting caught up in the unstoppable La La sweep. Every one of these movies were brilliantly edited, so almost by default I think it goes to La La Land again. Of note: La La editor Tom Cross also won this category in 2015 for Whiplash, another musical film with a memorably-edited musical montage.

I wasn't confident predicting this award... Hacksaw definitely benefitted from some amazing editing, especially during he war sequences.


A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

I Predict: Star Trek Beyond 

For me, this is one of the harder categories to predict this year. Although I think Suicide Squad deserves to win, the film's negative reputation (and controversial Joker head tattoos) may be enough for it to lose votes. A Man Called Ove is the well-liked Swedish foreign film nominee featuring the same 2015-nominated makeup team as The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window, but it only qualifies due to some old man makeup that's hardly show-stopping. That leaves Star Trek Beyond, which is well-liked and has dozens of cool made-up aliens milling around. The first JJ Abrams' Star Trek won this category in 2009 with far fewer on-screen aliens, so I think of the nominees Beyond has the best chance.

Can't say I'm shocked or displeased - I guess the Academy wasn't so snooty as to snub Suicide Squad after all!


La La Land

I Predict: La La Land 

La La will definitely win both the music-related categories, and deservedly so. It is a musical after all.

Justin Hurwitz's score is among my favorites of last year - very happy with this win!


Blind Vashya
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes

I Predict: Piper 

The academy generally doesn't go super-dark with their animated short winners, so I think the stunningly beautiful, but adorable little tale that played in front of Finding Dory this summer could earn Pixar its first win in this category since 2001 (ironically for another fowl-friendly short, For the Birds).

Pixar may have been snubbed in the Animated Feature category, but this win makes up for it!


Ennemis Intérieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights

I Predict: Sing 

Again, while the Academy likes to nominate some darker flicks, when it comes down to picking a short film winner they generally go for the more "feel good" choice - and there's no better feel good choice than Sing (not to be confused with that crappy animated movie with the British gorilla). It's about a girl in a choir class who's told she's not good enough to sing by her teacher, forcing her to mime the words so they won't lose at the next competition. There's some brilliant child acting on display here, and I absolutely loved the message and elegantly simple story of this short. I liked all the noms and I'd honestly be happy for any of them to win (Timecode is another heartwarming one), but if Ennemis Intérieurs wins it's probably only because of its political message about the dangers of immigration policing.

This was my favorite of the shorts - super glad this one won!


Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

I Predict: Hacksaw Ridge 

I really don't know anything about the sound editing category, and it's one I always seem to make some kind of misguided guess on. Hacksaw Ridge stands out to me for some reason - the Academy clearly loved it (best picture and director), and I think it could take home some of the "techie" awards. Also of note: four out of the past ten years sound editing has gone to a war film (American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, and Letters from Iwo Jima), and only two nominated war films have lost to non-war movies (Lone Survivor to Gravity and War Horse to Hugo).

Good for Arrival, bad for my predictions...


Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

I Predict: La La Land 

When in doubt: pick the musical for sound mixing.

I can't believe I put Hacksaw Ridge under the wrong sound category! So close...darn.


Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I Predict: The Jungle Book 

The Jungle Book broke new ground for photorealistic visual effects in the same way that Avatar pushed the technology forward in 2009. I'd be shocked if anything else won, but the Academy always has tricks up their sleeve!

The visual effects in Jungle Book were mind-blowing - almost everything save for Mowgli was a CGI creation. Another much deserved win!

- - - - - - - - - - - - 

Right now I have La La Land to win 10 out of a possible 13 categories, though it really does have a chance to pick up even more. The only category it doesn't have a chance in is Best Actor for Ryan Gosling (sorry Goz...). So basically, if you haven't seen La La Land it might be a boring Oscar night for you!

...I can hear the wrap-up music now so I'll stop here. Thanks for reading, everyone! Crossing my fingers I get a lot of these right. I may not be betting money on it, but something even more valuable is at stake: my pride. So remember to watch the Oscars this Sunday!

FINAL TALLY: 16 out of 24

This was a particularly tough year for predictions! Not happy with myself, but it's hard to be mad because it's the upsets that make the Oscars so exciting to watch (especially that Best Picture doozy, whoo boy)! I hope my movie blogger street-cred didn't receive too big a blow tonight, but I had fun all the same. Oh well, better luck next year - Happy Oscar Day!

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