Far from being #sowhite as it was in 2016, the 2017 Oscars will feature a wider variety of films, but some things about the elitist event remain the same: the Academy will honor good films, snub some of the best ones of the year, and honor others solely for the sake of diversity and political correctness.
It’s never obvious which film will win Best Picture, but this year experts and film critics across the board answer in unison: it’s going to be “La La Land.” While “Arrival” is arguably a better contender for the nomination, and “Moonlight” or “Manchester by the Sea” might cause an upset, “La La Land” is still more flashy, more whimsical, and more charming: the film, its director, and its leads are the newest darlings of Hollywood, and it’s unlikely the Academy will cause public outrage by choosing a sci-fi film or the story of a religious pacifist (“Hacksaw Ridge”) for Best Picture. (Plus, Mel Gibson directed “Hacksaw Ridge,” so the film is unlikely to get an Oscar based on that fact alone.) Among the nominees this year — actively fighting the #oscarssowhite hashtag — are a few films about racial tension and identity: “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” and “Moonlight,” which is based on a play about a poor black gay man struggling to find his place in the world.
While “Moonlight” may not get the award for Best Picture, it will get Best Adapted Screenplay.
Best Actor is going to either Casey Affleck from “Manchester by the Sea” or Denzel Washington from “Fences.” Ryan Gosling of “La La Land” was a hot contender for a while, and his performance was very good, but he’s played similar roles too many times.
Emma Stone of “La La Land” is the favorite for Best Actress, but the Academy rebuffed Amy Adams for that nomination: Adams is an exceptional actress who has played a variety of roles (“Enchanted,” “American Hustle,” “Leap Year,” “Superman”), and her latest performance is by far her most impressive and deserving of the award. Of course, Meryl Streep was nominated because her name is Meryl Streep — if she wins, which is thankfully unlikely, we’ll be privileged with another politically charged acceptance speech challenging us all to be more enlightened about our political choices, just like her.
Critics are pretty unanimous in predicting that Best Director will go to Damien Chazelle for “La La Land.” There’s an entertaining internet debate, however, over which song from “La La Land” will win Best Original Song: “City of Stars” or “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).” While “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” is a more moving composition that serves as the backdrop for one of Stone’s most powerful scenes in the film, “City of Stars” is hummable and more iconic in its representation of the film as a whole. The award will undoubtedly go to “La La Land,” probably for “City of Stars.”
But it is a travesty that none of the gems of “Sing Street” were nominated for Best Original Song. The film, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story loosely disguised as an ode to 1980s rock ‘n’ roll, features original songs based on the main characters’ influences including Duran Duran, The Cure, The Jam, A-ha, and others. Original song “The Riddle of the Model” sounds like a Duran Duran song, but it’s catchy and charming, and absolutely deserving of Best Original Song. But “The Riddle of the Model” isn’t the only work of art that emerged from the film: “Up” and “Drive It Like You Stole It” are also fantastic contenders for the award, and it’s surprising not one was nominated. Perhaps more outrageous is that “Sing Street” wasn’t nominated for a single Oscar, despite its universal critical acclaim.
It’s a fact of life that the Academy insults amazing films every year, and “Sing Street” is just one of many — “Finding Dory,” “Sully,” and “Deadpool,” for example, weren’t nominated for a single award, regardless of their box office success and critical praise.
But perhaps it’s just as well. As “Sing Street” character Brendan (Jack Reynor) insists passionately in the film, “Rock and roll is a risk. You risk being ridiculed.” Every actor, director, and producer risks ridicule by broadcasting their films to the world — and it’s an elite group of critics that chooses who they think is the best.
Sometimes it’s more than enough to make it in the box office and receive mostly positive reviews — that means the majority of the public loves the film, even if the Academy turns up its nose. And if a film garners a cult following, well, that lasts longer than one night of Academy fame, and it means more than a shiny trophy for your desk.