Before I dive into detailed discussions of each category and film, let’s start with this: the 2017 Academy Awards will be a sweep for “La La Land.” By taking six Golden Globe awards out of seven nominations in early January, it broke the record for most awarded to a movie. It won seven Critic’s Choice awards out of its 10 nominations, and the list goes on. It goes without saying “La La Land” is this season’s award show favorite, and I do not anticipate that changing on Sunday.
But I do not think it is the best picture of those nominated for Oscars. Lately, the academy has loved films that feature the movie-making process or celebrate the theatre — look at “Argo,” 2012’s best picture and “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” which won in 2014. Certainly this is not true in every case, but when a movie that has excellent production quality, a nice story, and features the magic of film, it stands to reason “La La Land” will be the next Best Picture.
I believe “Manchester by the Sea” deserves the award, and I believe it would win if “La La Land” does not. For those who have not seen it, the movie is an exploration of grief and the toll it takes on humanity. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams deliver amazing performances — more on them later. The writing is wonderful, and the cinematography is gripping. The film has the capacity to cause the audience to feel something deep and yet familiar, and I believe all these things justify “Manchester” for Best Picture.
Another film that will not perform well despite deserving awards is “Hacksaw Ridge.” The academy still dislikes Mel Gibson, and probably have not seen past his outer flaws and into the depth of his movie. It tells the story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to earn the Medal of Honor. Though violent, which is typical of Gibson’s work, it is powerful, and makes the audience wish they had the courage of America’s soldiers. Andrew Garfield, nominated for Best Actor for his performance, will take the category in the unlikely event that the academy has forgiven Gibson.
In the Best Actor and Best Actress categories, my selections are Affleck and Emma Stone, respectively. Besides Garfield, Affleck’s greatest threats are Ryan Gosling and Denzel Washington. Gosling’s “La La Land” is a movie that sets its actors up for an award, and Washington’s acting was wonderful. Of what I have seen of “Fences,” I saw in Washington a great chance to topple Affleck or Garfield, but I still believe Affleck deserves the award. Stone will win because she performed better than the others, and because “La La Land” has a greater hold on the voters. Though I did not see “Elle,” I did read up on it and watch trailers and clips, and I think Isabelle Huppert played too edgy of a character to perform well.
For the Supporting Actor and Actress categories, I pick Jeff Bridges and Octavia Spencer, respectively. “Hell or High Water” itself was not the strongest Best Picture film, but Jeff Bridges — and Chris Pine, who was not nominated for Best Actor — made it worthy of the nomination. Bridges delivered a believable amount of emotion through a tough, Texan law enforcement officer exterior and helped bridge the gap between the film’s comment on big banks and attempt to show how crime impacts us. Octavia Spencer did a wonderful job in “Hidden Figures,” but she is also the best in the category. I believe Michelle Williams, of “Manchester,” did not act well, and have read or heard that the others were not outstanding. If she has competition, it will be against Viola Davis of “Fences.”
I would not ordinarily mention Best Animated Feature Film, except to say Zootopia should not win. It is a horrendous film designed to indoctrinate children into a liberal agenda. That is all.
Best Directing will probably go to Damien Chazelle for “La La Land,” but it should go to Gibson for “Hacksaw Ridge.” With the film, he made a powerful comment on war and the responsibility Americans owe to help fight her battles. His portrayal of a character, who many would think unpatriotic for refusing to fight, as a courageous soldier demonstrates the universality his messages have.
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) will most likely be “Hidden Figures” or “Fences,” and Best Writing (Original Screenplay) will be “Manchester” or “Hell or High Water,” though I am leaning toward “Hell or High Water.” Taylor Sheridan’s writing provokes most of the thought in “Hell or High Water,” while “Manchester’s” seemed to emerge more from the acting.
The technical awards will most likely be divided among “La La Land” and “Arrival” in the categories where they are nominated.
One prediction I will guarantee, however, is that Sunday’s ceremony will be a victory for liberals everywhere.