My quick takes on today’s nominations…
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Hell or High Water”
Analysis: It’s a race between La La Land and Moonlight. Now, one wrinkle is that the Academy uses an instant runoff voting system for this category, which could hurt La La Land because it is a more divisive film than Moonlight. (Does anyone HATE Moonlight?) Snubs: Sully, 20th Century Women, The Lobster, Silence, Nocturnal Animals, Zootopia, Jackie.
Best actress in a leading role
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Analysis: This is a tough category to predict. There’s a story for why each of these nominees would win. Ruth Negga’s performance is the least showy, so she probably has the least chance. Meryl has won many times before, so the Academy won’t feel bad avoiding her. Isabelle Huppert’s character in Elle makes no sense, and the film is a professional troll. However, some people seem to be blown away by her performance in it. She certainly commits. She’s also considered the Meryl Streep of European actresses, so I think she may have to be content with her Globe. That leaves Emma Stone and Natalie Portman. Portman seems the clear favorite here. Jackie is basically one long closeup on her emoting visage. But if La La Land is sweeping every category, look for the well-liked Emma Stone (playing an aspiring actor with the majority of Academy voters being actors) to win.
Best actor in a leading role
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Analysis: Affleck is the one to beat. You might see Denzel edge him out if the whisper campaign about Affleck’s treatment of women gains traction and the Academy wants to reward Denzel for starring in and directing his passion project, Fences. Snubs: The little kid from Lion, all the actors who played Chiron in Moonlight.
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Analysis: Anyone other than Chazelle is an upset here. Snubs: Martin Scorsese for Silence, Clint Eastwood for Sully.
Actress in a supporting role
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Analysis: Although Viola Davis seems to have already been crowned here, I could see Michelle Williams with an outside chance. Both have single scenes in their nominated films that will absolutely wreck you.
Actor in a supporting role
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”
Analysis: Mahershala Ali is the one to beat. The Academy members will be looking to reward Moonlight and this is one of the easiest places to do it.
“O.J.: Made in America”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Fire at Sea”
Analysis: I’ve only seen one here, OJ: Made in America, but it is brilliant. It’s also long, so that may turn off Academy voters, who may prefer to award Ava DuVernay, director of 13th, whose Selma the Academy unjustly snubbed a few years back.
Best foreign language film
“Land of Mine”
“A Man Called Ove”
Analysis: I haven’t seen any of these yet, although I love the Iranian director who made Salesman. Toni Erdmann has the most buzz around it, but this category is often the one with the best pictures of the year (as opposed to Best Picture). So it’s anyone’s game.
Best animated feature film
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“The Red Turtle”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
Analysis: Kubo really did it for me, but so did Moana and Zootopia. The Red Turtle is supposed to be a beautiful, almost wordless film. Zucchini aka Courgette seems like the ‘Happy to be here’ pick. Probably the Academy will go with Zootopia, because it managed to put social issues in a kid-friendly form. On the off chance that Moana splits the Disney Animation Studios vote, Kubo could sneak in. Snub: Finding Dory and PIXAR.
Best adapted screenplay
“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins
“Arrival,” Eric Heisserer
“Lion,” Luke Davies
“Fences,” August Wilson
“Hidden Figures,” Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Analysis: All of these are nominated for Best Picture, but Moonlight has the most heat. One thing that might keep Moonlight from winning is that the main character is not very articulate. Unfortunately, the Academy tends to associate these awards with showy dialogue rather than what a screenplay is: the whole story. Arrival is very cleverly constructed. Fences also stands a good chance, since it is from a stage play that is considered modern Shakespeare. And the dialogue is very, very, very good. I’m not sure it was well-adapted into a film, but I don’t get a vote. Snubs: Deadpool, Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Best original screenplay
“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle
“Hell or High Water,” Taylor Sheridan
“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan
“The Lobster,” Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
“20th Century Women,” Mike Mills
Analysis: This one will likely come down to the Best Picture nominee overlappers. La La Land is not beloved for its screenplay (except by the Golden Globes, I guess). So that leaves Hell or High Water and Manchester by the Sea. Writer/director Kenneth Lonnergan is a playwright, and Manchester is the more writerly film, so I’d predict that one. Taylor Sheridan, the (excellent) writer of Hell or High Water, used to be an actor. And as we know the Academy is mostly actors, and may like to vote for their own. So I guess they will be asking themselves: “Which one don’t you want?” Snubs: Kubo, Moana, Zootopia, Green Room, Everybody Wants Some!, Hail, Caesar!
Best original song
“How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”
“City of Stars,” “La La Land”
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” “Trolls”
“The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story”
Analysis: It doesn’t look good for Lin Manuel Miranda’s EGOT. “How Far I’ll Go” is not even the second best song in Moana, in my opinion. There’s a possibility of the La La Land songs splitting the vote, although I’d guess “City of Stars” will be the frontrunner anyway. There’s also a chance the statue will go to “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake, which is a bona fide hit song. Snubbed: Every song in Sing Street.
Best original score
“La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz
“Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell
“Lion,” Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
“Jackie,” Mica Levi
“Passengers,” Thomas Newman
Analysis: La La Land is again the one to beat, since the music in the film is kinda the point. Jackie had a really interesting modern score that I would love to see rewarded, and Moonlight and Lion had very fine scores too. Snub: Manchester by the Sea, Arrival
“Moonlight,” James Laxton
“La La Land,” Linus Sandgren
“Arrival,” Bradford Young
“Silence,” Rodrigo Prieto
“Lion,” Greig Fraser
Analysis: I didn’t like the look of Arrival but I seem to be the only one. Moonlight was good but it seemed like they couldn’t afford a focus puller. La La Land may win for the showy camera movies and (intentionally) artificial lighting, although I think Silence and Lion are the masterworks here. Rodrigo Prieto is the biggest name on this list, and this is the only place where Silence fans can show their love, so I’m guessing he’ll win. But it could be anyone’s ballgame.
Best production design
“La La Land,” David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock
“Arrival,” Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte
“Hail, Caesar!,” Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh
“Passengers,” Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena
Analysis: La La Land is the front runner. Hail, Caesar! could be a surprise winner here, because the production design is outstanding and this is the only place voters who liked that film have a chance to show their love.
Best visual effects
“The Jungle Book,” Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould
“Doctor Strange,” Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
“Deepwater Horizon,” Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton
“Kubo and the Two Strings,” Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff
Analysis: The Jungle Book jumps out at me here, since the film was so beloved and people were really blown away by the quality of the effects. Doctor Strange also is a movie where the effects are a big draw. I think Rogue One also has a shot here, since the effects were outstanding and have an old-school practical look, which I think the Academy would appreciate. Snubs: Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, Passengers, Jason Bourne, Star Trek Beyond
Best costume design
“La La Land,” Mary Zophres
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Colleen Atwood
“Florence Foster Jenkins,” Consolata Boyle
“Jackie,” Madeline Fontaine
“Allied,” Joanna Johnston
Analysis: The costumes in Allied made me, a not fashionable person, go “Wow!” However, I think Jackie could win this one. In some cases the dresses were made with material ordered from the same factories as Jacqueline Kennedy’s real, iconic dresses. Fantastic Beasts also seems to have a shot here, with a combination of period clothes and fantasy clothes.
Best makeup and hair styling
“Star Trek Beyond,” Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
“Suicide Squad,” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson
“A Man Called Ove,” Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
Analysis: The Visual Effects people in my office are crying foul on Star Trek‘s makeup nomination, since many of the makeups had to be touched up digitally. But that’s par for the course any more in big movies. I loved the Killer Croc makeup in Suicide Squad, not to mention Harley Quinn and Joker, but I think the Academy may just hand over the statue to A Man Called Ove, since it also a Best Foreign Film nominee and therefore has more prestige.
Best film editing
“La La Land,” Tom Cross
“Moonlight,” Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon
“Hacksaw Ridge,” John Gilbert
“Arrival,” Joe Walker
“Hell or High Water,” Jake Roberts
Analysis: If the night is going to La La Land, Tom Cross could win his second editing Oscar. However, Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge are ‘cuttier’ films, which the majority of naïve Academy voters tend to prefer.
Best sound editing
“La La Land,” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
“Arrival,” Sylvain Bellemare
“Sully,” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
“Deepwater Horizon,” Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli
Analysis: Likely La La, although the Academy does like to reward war/action films like Hacksaw Ridge in this category. Sully and Arrival actually had some beautiful sound editing, leading into and out of the ‘flashbacks’. Snubs: Silence, Kubo and the Two Strings, Don’t Breathe
Best sound mixing
“La La Land,” Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
“Arrival,” Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth
Analysis: Likely La La, although the Academy does like to reward war/action films like Hacksaw Ridge, Rogue One and 13 Hours in this category. But they will probably split that vote, leaving Arrival as the only possible upset pick.
Best animated short film
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
Analysis: “Borrowed Time” has some heat online. It was made by PIXAR artists but not by PIXAR officially. That’s up against “Piper” which is an actual PIXAR short (and beautifully rendered). Last year I got burned trying to choose short films based on merit, versus who has the most prestige. So at this point, I’d predict one of these two PIXAR-associated films, likely “Piper” because it is more officially PIXAR.
Best live action short film
“La Femme et le TGV”
Analysis: No idea.
Best documentary short subject
“The White Helmets”
“Watani: My Homeland”
Analysis: No idea.