Oscar Predictions, Part 1: The Majors

The FOTS team talks this Sunday’s Academy Awards, with predictions and plenty of griping.

Last year, Chase took the crown with 17 out of 24 categories correct. Infuriated, David swore he’d steal it back.

BEST PICTURE
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Manchester by the Sea

TYLER:  In what may go down as my greatest tweet of all time, I said a few weeks ago that “In a year of social turmoil typified by the magnificent #Moonlight, Hollywood is going to Oscar up a masturbatory white person jazz fantasy,” I’ll stand by that, as I think we might see Hollywood blissfully stick their self-obsessed voting fingers behind a movie that, while suitably fun and well-shot, featured actors that could not sing, a score that didn’t ask them to sing anything interesting, and a second act that essentially wasn’t so much a musical but an advertisement for Los Angeles and a director who really, truly wants you to know that he understands Rebel Without A Cause, and wants to explain it to you. So while of the available choices, I would toss a coin between Arrival and Moonlight for my heart, my head is screaming, in maniacally pragmatic tones, La La Land.

DAVID: First, my complaint: the year’s best film, Silence, isn’t here. If you’re going to pick one movie about Andrew Garfield suffering for his faith in Japan, Academy, don’t pick the one directed by Mel Gibson. Anyway. La La Land is poised to join the ranks of The Artist, Argo, and Birdman in show-biz self-congratulation –can anything stop it? Probably not, but let’s entertain the possibility. We’ve seen at the last few award shows (especially the SAGs) that Hollywood is angry and ready to make “statements” in all directions, so there could be cracks in the lightweight La La‘s momentum. But where would it go instead? Not, despite my preference, the superior Moonlight, a film too personal and intimate to generate the wide support needed for the Academy’s preferential ballot. Not the downer Manchester By the Sea, which many voters plain don’t like. So if I’m naming anything the dark horse, watch out for Hidden Figures. It won Best Ensemble at SAG and is just as much a crowd-pleasing throwback as La La Land, with the added bonus of actually being About Something. (Sorry, Emma Stone: you can’t just retrofit your big song “The Ones Who DREAM” to be about immigration.) I wouldn’t bet my house on it, but it’s a strange year.

CHASE: We all know it’s going to be La La Land. It’s been anointed for over a month now, and nothing that’s ever been nominated for 14 Oscars has lost Best Picture. But is La La Land a film that deserves 14 nominations? Absolutely not. Blame it on a down year. I’d wager I’m the biggest Moonlight advocate among us, and while I’d love to see that masterpiece triumph I think that’s just too much to ask. Give me Moonlight. Give me Arrival. Heck, give me Hidden Figures. But we all know it’s going to be La La Land‘s big night because Hollywood is in love with itself.

SEAN: I would take ANY film to win over La La Land which is the most naive (though accomplished) technical exercise to take the awards landscape by storm since The Artist. It’s a bubblegum musical fantasy that has the audacity to pull a BS bittersweet sucker punch ending in its final 15 minutes while doing nothing to earn said ending in its previous 105. It’s a film that so badly wants to pay homage to the great movie musicals of the past it forgets to blaze new trails of its own. It’s a sophomore college thesis project with the allure of star power and the funding of a minor studio effort . It’s also your guaranteed Best Picture winner.

Denzel Washington

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

TYLER: I can’t, and won’t, back Casey Affleck, not only for his frankly underwhelming performance, but also because of the not-so-widely publicized allegations of harassment against Affleck while he was working on the highly overrated faux-doc I’m Still Here. So I’ll go on a little underdog streak (and I mean, little, since some even consider him a favorite) and say Denzel Washington.

DAVID: I’d also say the pendulum has swung back toward Denzel Washington, and right now it wouldn’t even be an upset. While the chorus of voices against Affleck have gotten louder, Denzel quietly picked up the SAG, and his third Oscar would be well deserved. There’s no question it will be one of those two men. Affleck was stellar, but he’s got too much baggage.

CHASE: While my heart is with Denzel, I’m going to have to take Casey Affleck‘s overrated work in the grief porn that is Manchester by the Sea. It’s a performance that I didn’t even like, but I think it’s too late to pretend that the pendulum has swung Denzel’s way. Does Denzel have an edge in response to last year’s “Oscars So white” controversy? I don’t think so. I expect two other African-American actors will be picking up statues this year, so there’s won’t be any public outcry about Affleck winning. Well, not for that reason anyway…

SEAN: Affleck is excellent in Manchester and would be a deserving winner, but I think this is the year the Academy will be making many a statement come Oscar night. Denzel Washington will be the beneficiary, but it won’t be undeserved. It’s the best performance of his already legendary career. He will also be the first person of color to win three Academy Awards for acting.

Emma Stone

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

TYLER: Sure, lets feel free to ignore Amy Adams in Arrival, since, apparently, that’s Amy Adams’ lot in life. Meryl Streep hasn’t gotten enough attention, after all. And Royalty Hightower’s profile is so blown out of proportion, y’know? Let’s make the easy choice, the whitest choice, the choice that was predetermined once the movie was greenlit and her giant eyes were attached to it. Let’s award Emma Stone for an admittedly excellent solo vocal performance (even though she has a not so excellent voice) and some poorly choreographed soft shoe.

DAVID: I thought Natalie Portman had this in the bag. After I saw Jackie (my other favorite film that didn’t get a Best Picture nomination) I texted Chase, guaranteeing her victory. And then Emma Stone kept winning, and winning, and winning, and Jackie’s courageous artiness proved too polarizing, and Huppert came from nowhere, and a very pregnant Portman was unable to hit the circuit as hard as she did for Black Swan, and then it was over. Stone is good (great, even), and benefits from La La’s rising tide, and will hopefully give a charming speech, but let’s be clear: Natalie was robbed.

CHASE: Amy Adams or GTFO. But we’re not allowed to have nice things so we’ll have to watch Emma Stone pick up a trophy for a performance degrees worse than her work in Birdman instead. Oscar loves giving awards to America’s Sweetheart, and Emma Stone will be no different. There’ll be a lot of articles written about how we’re living in a golden age of young actresses if Stone wins, but the reality is that she’s not in Jennifer Lawrence or Brie Larson’s league.

SEAN: How Portman lost the edge for her career defining performance in Jackie (the best film of the year outside of Silence) I will never understand. I hold out hope that Isabelle Huppert can provide a stunning upset for her work in Elle. Otherwise Stone will win for being a very nice girl who is oh-so charming. That’s not quite the stuff of Oscar legend.

Maherhsala Ali

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

TYLER: Bless the day, the person who deserves to win the award is actually in the category! I wish Jack Reynor’s melancholic older teen in Sing Street would’ve gotten nominated… or Michael Shannon’s understated dad in Midnight Special… or Patrick Stewart for Green Room… or Julian Dennison for The Hunt for the Wilderpeople. There are so many lost nominations here, but Mahershala Ali glides over all.

DAVID: Yo, ditto on Jack Reynor! I’d also have added Alden Ehrenreich, so splendid in Hail, Caesar! Would that it were so simple. It hasn’t been a total cakewalk for Mahershala Ali, who lost the Globe to Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the BAFTA to Dev Patel, but he never lost his frontrunner status from the moment Moonlight debuted. He develops a rich, complicated character in just a few scenes, and is responsible for at least two of Moonlight’s finest moments. An easy call.

CHASE: The Academy has a history of awarding African-American actors for supporting performances that come out of “nowhere.” See: Denzel Washington for Glory and Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Jerry Maguire. Even better, Mahershala Ali really did give the best supporting performance of the year. Dev Patel and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are actually both great in Lion and Nocturnal Animals respectively, but Taylor-Johnson wasn’t nominated and Patel definitely seems like a more British pick. Ali is fantastic, and he deserves to win. He made me feel things, man.

SEAN: Ali is fine, but why not have nominated any of the actors who play Chiron throughout Moonlight’s three chapters? I’ve never understood the accolades being thrown Ali’s way for what essentially boils down to one memorable look in one memorable scene. There were a host of great performances that the Academy could have honored this year, but instead didn’t nominate at all: John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg in Florence Foster Jenkins, Alden Ehrenreich in Hail, Caesar!, Issei Ogata in Silence, Timothy Spall in Denial, Alan Rickman in Eye in the Sky, Mykelti Wilkinson in Fences, Ben Foster in Hell or High Water… the list goes on and on and on.

Viola Davis

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

TYLER: While I feel pretty bad giving the nod to two performances from the same movie that are based on a play, and acknowledging that Naomie Harris deserves a hell of a consolation party, Viola Davis is going to win this one simply because she presumably had to go through the hell of Suicide Squad to get to Fences. Having to deal with Jared Leto for that long is worth a small, slightly heavier than expected gold man, I think.

DAVID: Viola Davis is the biggest lock of the night, and for good reason. Her performance is positively titanic, and you could pick just about any scene to use for her nomination reel (though they’ll use “I’ve been standing with you,” bank on it). If she can’t get her first Oscar for this, cancel the whole thing. And it’s worth mentioning that, by our predictions, three out of four acting awards will go to people of color. #OscarsSoWhite isn’t over, though. Fences and Moonlight had been in development for years, and were specifically cast. So Hollywood shouldn’t rush to pat itself on the back.

CHASE: There’s not even much to talk about here. Viola Davis is going to win. She and Denzel Washington’s chemistry is impossibly lived-in after months of playing their Fences roles on Broadway, and Davis already won a Tony for portraying Rose Maxson. She’ll get an Oscar, too. The only question now is if we can expect an audiobook recording from her every year until she completes her EGOT. Huge shout out to Naomie Harris though. She’s spectacular in Moonlight.

SEAN: Viola Davis gives the kind of performance that awards are made for. The first minute Fences screened there was no denying that Davis would finally have a golden statue of her own. Michelle Williams would be the only spoiler here and in another year in a different field her tragic turn would get the lion’s share of the vote. But not against Davis. Not now. Not ever.

Damien Chazelle

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

TYLER: What do I get if I win this? Because my god, having to select Damien Chazelle for this, despite his overly showy displays of “LA is so grand, look how grand it is you guys my goodness” or his “I’m going to make a musical with two giant first act show-stoppers and then suddenly forget that I’m making a musical and just make a standard, b-grade romantic drama”… well, it just might not be worth it. Feel like I deserve my own small, slightly-heavier-than-expected gold man for picking  La La Land this many times. Sorry Barry. Sorry Denis. Do what you gotta to win.

DAVID: If you’re hoping for a Picture/Director split, what’s the most likely scenario? Chazelle marches to personal glory, but Moonlight pulls the upset? Or does Jenkins get a consolation prize? I used to lean toward that, but now I think La La Land gets both, and Jenkins has to settle for screenplay. In keeping with recent winners in this category, Damien Chazelle’s work is flashy and technically impressive (if ultimately hollow); also many voters will still want to reward him for Whiplash. It’s not ideal, but at least it’s not Alejandro Innaritu.

CHASE: This award usually seems to go to “most technical directing” unless David Fincher is nominated. That means Chazelle even if I hate to say it. Barry Jenkins should win this award, but he won’t have the support to make it happen. Still, there’s something to be excited about in the Academy nominating the hippest slate of directors ever. Four of these directors are first-time nominees…..and also Mel Gibson. If (when) Chazelle wins, he will tie Norman Taurog as the youngest Best Director winner ever at 32. It was just a few years ago that Chazelle was the young gun banging on the Academy door for his acclaimed work on Whiplash. Now he’s going to win. It’s just unfortunate that this young man’s win is going to come for directing one of the most old-fashioned films in recent memory. No matter how gifted you are, it’s old-fashioned films that win Oscars.

SEAN: Chazelle is a real talent there is absolutely not doubt… but La La Land is, again nothing but a shallow technical exercise. I look forward to seeing where his career takes him now that he is Hollywood’s new directorial darling. I just wish he wasn’t winning for this, but then again how often do our favorite directors win Oscars for their best work?

Hidden Figures

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

TYLER: I really hate giving the nod to plays here, since it can be a hop-skip-jump to get from an award-winning play to an award-winning movie. But god, how can you deny Moonlight? So I won’t.

DAVID: Yep. As I said, Barry Jenkins and Moonlight will get thrown this particular bone, and already has a leg up after being shuttled to the year’s weaker category.

CHASE: How weird would it be if August Wilson won for Fences after being dead for over a decade? I’d love to rock the boat a little bit here, but I also think Moonlight is going to win.

SEAN: I think this is where we are going to have our first real surprise of the night. Screenplay is often a category where well-loved films can topple more artistic screenwriting accomplishments. Hidden Figures is that film. It has momentum on its side and I just don’t see it going away empty-handed on Oscar night. Ali’s win could be Moonlight‘s only win.

Manchester By the Sea

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

TYLER: The Screenplay Oscars used to be a place where the Academy could get away with being a little risky: Eternal SunshineAlmost FamousLost In TranslationFargo. Yet recently it’s been very predictive of who is going to win the Best Picture. However, I think that this might be the year the Academy sticks right in between those two paradigms. While I would love to honor something as well-written as The Lobster or Hell or High Water (saying nothing of the other scripts that could’ve been nominated… hey Midnight Special!), and I’m terrified that they’re going to hook up the god-awful Los Angeles Tourism Board Press Release fluff of La La Land, I am going with Manchester By The Sea, almost completely out of process of elimination.

DAVID: Manchester By the Sea is the smart choice, because every major Best Picture threat has to win somewhere, and it’s already been denied for Affleck, Williams, and Director. But boy...The Lobster winning would make me so, so happy.

CHASE: Manchester by the Sea is the smart choice as it will probably win, but I disliked it so much that I can’t bring myself to pick it. La La Land is my choice. It’s never too crazy to take the best picture winner in its respective screenplay category. I wish it could be The Lobster though.

SEAN: Next to La La Land‘s muddy sound design, its screenplay is its most amateurish element. This will be a horribly embarrassing win if its comes to pass. Manchester by the Sea is written with humor, warmth, and great sensitivity. It deserves the win.

Zootopia

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life As a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

TYLER: I would love to actually see The Red Turtle before presuming that it’s the best animated picture of the year, so I can’t say that it “should win.” My opinions on Kubo are well known. I find the critical falling behind of Moana to be very amusing, but I suppose this is just evidence of Disney putting their substantial PR arm behind one film and not the other. Zootopia was quite good — strong message, good voice work, mildly interesting concept. My issue with Zootopia mostly lies in awarding one of the worst songs on an animated movie in history, Shakira’s “Try Everything.”

DAVID: You’re wrong about Moana, Tyler. It’s a wonderful distillation of the modern “Disney Princess Movie,” and as it’s been three months and I’m still not sick of hearing the soundtrack in my minivan, it’s also got the longevity. But while Moana is my favorite of the nominees, Zootopia’s topicality gives it the edge. I’m cool with that.

CHASE: Where is Your Name, the acclaimed and highest-grossing anime film of all-time? When you’re in a club whose only other member is Hayao Miyazaki you should get an animated feature nomination. I feel like this can be a tricky category. Remember when the underwhelming Big Hero 6 won this award two years ago and the spectacular The LEGO Movie wasn’t even nominated? There’s no reason to buck the groupthink, though. We’ll all win this one or lose this one together. Zootopia.

SEAN: Just to be contrary I think they will go with Kubo and the Two Strings. It’s beautiful, technically accomplished, and moving. Plus studio LAIKA has got to win at some point. This could very well be their year.

O.J. Made In America

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made In America
13th

TYLER: The oh-so-rare Oscar category where there are no wrong answers, the Academy really knocked it out of the park with this one. I quibble, a little bit, with O.J.: Made in America being considered a documentary feature – it’s a five part miniseries. So I’m going to buck the trend of who is actually winning the award and say that Ava DuVernay’s going to pull the upset with 13th.

DAVID: Finally, we diverge! Choosing between 13th and OJ: Made In America is like choosing between…well, an extraordinary feature film and an extraordinary miniseries. I guess I don’t have a good comparison. The point is, either outcome is good. But if I’m placing a bet, which I am, the stunning depth and scope of Ezra Edelman’s Made in America will win out.

CHASE: What a great group of nominees! 13thO.J.: Made in America, and I Am Not Your Negro would all be deserving winners. As great as 13th is, I still think that it will rub some voters the wrong way. O.J.: Made in America seems like just the right mix of racial discussion and lack of danger to win.

SEAN: O.J.: Made in America is a fantastic television documentary series. 13th is an extraordinary film documentary. Why don’t we stop muddying the waters and actually give it to the film?

For Part 2, click here!

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