Okay…let’s cut to the chase. As I’ve already covered on various social media outlets, as well as in scores of cities nationally via “America Weekend with Ed Kalegi and Cara Di Falco”, my picks for the 89th Annual Academy Awards, in the top eight categories.
Best Picture: Duh. The winner will be La La Land. Yes, “Moonlight” has a small outside shot for the upset. But its win at the Indie Spirits yesterday, only confirmed its outsider/spoiler status for me. You already know how much I love “Manchester” and “Arrival”, but they don’t have a prayer. “Fences” and “Lion” both have their champions, but would be HUGE upsets. “Hidden Figures”, despite its odd popularity (and SAG victory) would also be a surprise. “Hacksaw” or “Hell or High”? Don’t make me laugh. Hollywood’s love affair with itself insures a La La victory.
Best Director: Duh. Damien Chazelle for “La La Land”. He’ll be the youngest winner of the award ever, plus his only real competition is Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight”–who will win elsewhere. Also, Chazelle grabbed the DGA…an almost certain sign. Honestly, even Villeneuve, Lonergan, and (especially) Gibson, realize that they aren’t standing up when this award is announced.
Best Actor: I’m going to go with Denzel Washington to grab his third Oscar for “Fences”. I don’t think he deserves it, despite the respect I have for him AND his achievement in bringing this stage work to the screen. But, make no mistake, if he actually edges out the astonishing Casey Affleck for this award, it’s due to the years-old sexual harassment claims against Mr. Affleck. And I’m not saying he did, or didn’t, do it. But he’s going to lose because of it, even though he gives the performance of the year. I’m not certain that’s just. I suppose we shouldn’t overlook the possibility of Gosling, especially in the light of La La love, but he’s received no pre-Oscar awards support. Mortensen is fine, and Garfield is solid…but no for both.
Best Actress: Emma Stone is oddly a lock at this point. Portman and Negga are extraordinary, but no one is even talking about them. I could see Huppert getting this if Amy Adams and Annette Bening were in the race (as they should be), and the overload of renowned American actresses canceled each other out. That would’ve worked in favor of the French legend pulling off the upset. Streep? She doesn’t even belong here. Stone will grab this easily.
Best Supporting Actor: Finally! Some “Moonlight” love! Mahershala Ali takes this for his amazingly, charismatic performance. I adore Bridges, Hedges, Patel, and Shannon, but I only see Patel as having any kind of outside chance. Ali it is.
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis for “Fences”. It’s not her best work, but she’s criminally overdue. I found Michelle Williams work in “Manchester” incredible, but it’s a much less substantial role. Davis is really a lead in “Fences”…it happens that way sometimes. Plus, Spencer and Kidman have won before, and Harris is just glad to be included in this mix. Davis is a lock.
Best Original Screenplay: It certainly appears that Kenneth Lonergan is going to eek this out for his superb “Manchester by the Sea” screenplay. That’s my prediction, but the rule for the night is: NEVER COUNT OUT “LA LA”. But Chazelle will win elsewhere, and Lonergan is so highly respected. The writers for “The Lobster” winning would be a MAJOR upset, and it’s one of my favorite films of the year. But I’m NOT crazy. Sorry also to Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Mills, but “Hell or High Water” and “20th Century Women”, respectively, will be shown no love this evening.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney for “Moonlight”, are in perfect alignment for a win, in this rare “La La”-less category. Plus, it’s a deserving one, for one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. This is a sure thing. “Arrival”, “Hidden Figures”, and “Lion” really don’t even have the slightest chance. And August Wilson, the late, great playwright, isn’t about to be recognized by the Hollywood film community.
So, there you have it. As always, I’m very confident in going undefeated, but there’s excitement in an upstart rising to the top. I could’ve gone further in saying I believe “Zootopia” easily grabs Best Animated Feature, and that La La’s “City of Stars” conquers for Best Original Song. But just the “great eight” are represented here today. Enjoy the show!