The Oscars are about to reign awards this weekend upon the best in cinema, and though I haven’t seen a few of the nominees this year (more so than usual, in fact), that’s not going to stop me from throwing out my picks for who will win the top six categories, who should win in those races, and a few awards of my own to lighten the mood for those who just finished watching one of the many dour contenders in the race. Herewith, my predictions for the 89th Academy Awards.
Best Picture (Nominees – Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester By the Sea, Moonlight)
Who Will Win: La La Land
If there was ever a sure thing at the Oscars, La La Land winning best picture is the closest thing to it. That’s not to say there couldn’t be a major upset by Manchester By the Sea, but the odds of that happening are extremely low. After winning the most statues ever at the Golden Globes, La La Land looks to take home the top prize and end its tenure as Hollywood’s darling on a positive note.
Who Should Win: Hell or High Water
Of the movies in this category that I’ve seen, three of them are on my top ten list of 2016, the highest honor of which goes to Hell or High Water, a quiet study of how the government can turn even the most law-abiding citizen into a criminal in order to do the right thing. The ensemble clicks on all cylinders in a modern western that doesn’t drag, doesn’t scream, but sits in the pocket and makes you think hard about what you might do in the same situation.
Best Actor (Nominees – Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield, Ryan Gosling, Viggo Mortensen, Denzel Washington)
Who Will Win: Casey Affleck
Both Affleck and Gosling won Best Actor statues at the Golden Globes, so heading into tonight, the race is all but neck-and-neck. Although a Gosling upset may still be on the horizon due to any residual backlash against Affleck’s personal troubles, I don’t see why Affleck won’t take the win by the tip of his beard.
Who Should Win: Denzel Washington
Coming in just behind the young boys is Academy Award winner Washington, who I believe had the best performance of those nominated (at least of the performances I saw). Gosling did his best Gosling, Garfield was all sweet and stoic, but it was Washington that dug deep with a nuanced performance full of love, hatred, resentment, and despair all rolled into a fight between faithfulness and abandonment.
Best Actress (Nominees – Isabelle Huppert, Ruth Negga, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep)
Who Will Win: Emma Stone
Even though I didn’t feel Stone’s performance was all that groundbreaking, all eyes are on her to win this trophy above her more experienced stalwarts.
Who Should Win: Ruth Negga
I haven’t had a chance to see Loving, but based on Ruth Negga’s other work (and the trailers for the film), Negga is a rising star who will eventually find Academy love.
Best Supporting Actor (Nominees – Mahershala Ali, Jeff Bridges, Lucas Hedges, Dev Patel, Michael Shannon)
Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali
I only saw two of the performances in this category, so based on what’s happened across this year’s award season, I’m predicting Ali makes his way to the podium for a heartfelt acceptance speech.
Who Should Win: Michael Shannon
Of those I did see, Shannon gave the best, most tortured performance. Both his and Bridges’s characters followed a somewhat similar trajectory (old “law dogs” on their last legs, attempting to close one final case before they retire), but where Bridges stuck to the usual gruff politically incorrect ass, Shannon added a bit more depth to his character, the need to do right while giving the finger to the universe.
Best Supporting Actress (Nominees – Viola Davis, Naomie Harris, Nicole Kidman, Octavia Spencer, Michelle Williams)
Who Will and Should Win: Viola Davis
Though Michelle Williams could pull off an upset, Viola Davis is the powerhouse in this category. Her interpretation of a wife trying to keep her oft-tempered husband in check while staying true to her heart is mesmerizing. Even in silence, Davis pulls your attention and breaks your heart with incredible empathy.
Best Director (Nominees – Denis Villeneuve, Mel Gibson, Damien Chazelle, Kenneth Lonergan, Barry Jenkins)
Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle
As much as La La Land is poised to win best picture, Damien Chazelle is a lock to win Best Director for his gloriously colorful ode to Hollywood, jazz and the musicals of yore.
Who Should Win: Mel Gibson
Many may argue the first half of Hacksaw Ridge is a bit too saccharin, but that doesn’t mean it still didn’t include some fine direction by Gibson, building the necessary blocks to show why Desmond Doss was the truest of heroes, holding tight to his conviction even under the most brutal of conditions. Gibson may still be brushing off the dirt of his past scandals, but he still stands in my eyes as one of the greatest filmmakers of our generation.
Best Animated Feature (Nominees – Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life As a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia)
Who Will and Should Win: Zootopia
Moana was fun and Kubo was a visual delight, but no animated feature did more with its characters, story or visuals (and the box office) than Disney’s Zootopia, which should laugh its way to the prize quite handily come Sunday night.
Best Drama Ensemble: Nocturnal Animals
Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon may not always star in the best films, but you can’t say they ever give less than a hundred and fifty percent to their performances. Nocturnal Animals is certainly a hard film to digest, but this deep dedication to the craft forces all of the other actors on screen (including Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Isla Fisher) to raise their game, each baring their souls in a traumatic yet captivating psychological thriller.
Best Action Ensemble: Captain America: Civil War
No superhero film has ever combined as many characters together and made it work as well as Civil War. We already knew the likes of Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Scarlet Johansson and Jeremy Renner worked well together. What we didn’t know was how well Paul Rudd and newcomers Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland would play with everyone else. But when that airport battle scene came to pass, the chemistry between them all is pure magic, making it clear that Marvel Studios is carefully dabling with a Midas touch.
Best Comedic Duo: Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, The Nice Guys
Ryan Gosling may have been nominated for an Oscar for his tortured performance in La La Land, but it was his hysterical turn as a wiseacre private investigator teaming with Crowe’s brutish detective that showcased his talent in all the right ways. The duo works incredibly well together as they not only inadvertently partner up on typical action tropes, but turn everything we know about those tropes on its head, giving us an unpredictably wild buddy-cop romp.
Best Opening Credits Sequence: Deadpool
Breaking the fourth wall is one of the staples of Deadpool’s sardonic and sarcastic wit, so when the filmmakers took that a step further by bleeding that humor into the credits, what we get is an opening credit sequence that tells you exactly what you should expect over the next 100 minutes. If you’re not laughing by the end, the odds of you liking anything that comes after is very low. Proceed with caution.
Best Religious Feature: I’m Not Ashamed
There has been a steady rise in Christian-related films being released nationwide over the last decade, but none have been as emotionally powerful as I’m Not Ashamed. I can’t say that every actor is great (they’re not), or that there aren’t any plot holes or story lines that don’t go anywhere (there are). But Masey McLain delivers an incredibly heartfelt performance that couples a real-life tragedy (the shooting at Columbine high school) with a strong message of what it takes to hold onto faith when everything around you is so dire. I’m Not Ashamed doesn’t try to preach to you, either; rather it introduces a way of life that you can’t help but honor, regardless of whether you except or deny its teachings.
What do you think? Who will win and should win the Oscars this year? Do you have any movies or actors you’d like to give a shout out to for their excellence in 2016?