It was just another year, with "regular" movies such as La La Land and Moonlight suddenly shooting to critical fame ... again. In his recent autobiography, Owen Gleiberman calls this concept "Media Mike": when it seems a mysterious microphone is singing praise of a certain movie into critics' ears all over the country, and critics all just sing along. Happens all the time, and Media Mike lives strong.
But then about a month ago, the President of the United States started persecuting minorities. A few nominees (including Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi) were temporarily banned from attending the ceremony, and since many Academy members are in the habit of showing the middle finger to organizations such as the government ... this changed things. The nominees that addressed the plight of refugees, immigrants and minorities suddenly came to the forefront - because after all, when have the Oscars ever been about art?
So in view of recent turn of events, I'm adding a "Trump Fallout" category to my predictions: movies that suddenly have a better shot at winning in spite of Trump's rescinded Executive Order. Actually, this is my way of chickening out of committing to my predictions, because the recent storm blurred the lines and blew everything out of the proportion, making it extremely difficult to predict an otherwise very predictable year.
(Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight)
The front-runners here are La La Land and Moonlight. While the unwritten rules dictate La La Land should win, I'll go out on a limb on this one, and hope Academy voters will come to their senses, realize that La La Land wasn't actually about anything praise-worthy, then make a stand against current tides, and go for Moonlight - a movie about a black gay boy. Of course, my pick would've been my own favorite of the year.
Should Win: Manchester By The Sea.
Trump Fallout: Moonlight
Will Win: Moonlight
(Denis Villeneuve for Arrival, Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge, Damien Chazelle for La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester By The Sea, Barry Jenkins for Moonlight)
Okay, everything is going for Damien Chazelle here. Compared to Moonlight, La La Land was a much more complicated movie to direct. But when it comes to difficult directorial efforts, none of the nominees beat Hacksaw Ridge in my book.
Should Win: Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge
Trump Fallout: Barry Jenkins for Moonlight
Will Win: Damien Chazelle for La La Land
(Casey Affleck for Manchester By The Sea, for Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge, Ryan Gosling for La La Land, for Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic, Denzel Washington for Fences)
The only element going against a Casey Affleck win is rape allegations that have recently propped up about an incident that occurred years ago. Otherwise, his should be a smooth win. Anti-Trump sentiments make Denzel a close competitor, but while his acting in Fences was superb as always, his attempt at directing it was not. Add to that, he already has two Oscars. Viggo Mortensen's nomination for Captain Fantastic was just an Academy nod to indie film-making, but a win would be a tough act to pull.
Should Win: Casey Affleck for Manchester By The Sea
Trump Fallout: Denzel Washington for Fences
Will Win: Casey Affleck for Manchester By The Sea
(Isabelle Huppert for Elle, Ruth Negga for Loving, Natalie Portman for Jackie, Emma Stone for La La Land, Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins)
The Golden Globes for Best Actress went to seasoned actress Isabelle Huppert, and the younger Emma Stone. Stone has since went on to win the Bafta and the Screen Actors Guild Award. The time-honored tradition has been that when choosing between the young and old, the Academy goes for the young. Ruth Negga, as the wife of a couple fighting for interracial marriage in the 60s, could become the dark horse of the resistance. Me? I pick Meryl Streep every time she's nominated.
Should Win: Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins
Trump Fallout: Ruth Negga for Loving
Will Win: Emma Stone for La La Land
Best Supporting Actor:
(Mahershala Ali for Moonlight, Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water, Lucas Hedges for Manchester By The Sea, Dev Patel for Lion, Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals)
The Force is strong with Mahershala Ali - both because he won the SAG, and because he declared he converted to Islam at the podium after receiving the SAG. That should piss a lot of Trumpsters off. Producers tried to increase Dev Patel's chances by categorizing him as a supporting role, while he actually had a leading role in Lion - a trick that worked at winning him the Bafta. Also, Lion is about immigration, and many Trumpsters, especially immigrant-ancestor Trumpsters (ahem, all of them), don't like immigrants. Strangely, while not a strong movie in itself, among the nominees, Jeff Bridges' act in Hell or High Water stood out the most to me.
Should Win: Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water
Trump Fallout: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight or Dev Patel for Lion
Will Win: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress:
(Viola Davis for Fences, Naomie Harris for Moonlight, Nicole Kidman for Lion, Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures, Michelle Williams for Manchester By The Sea)
The cards are all stacked in favor of Viola Davis. The minority card, the brilliant performance card, the Golden Globe/SAG/Bafta winner card, the three-time-Oscar-nominee-no-win card, and finally, the Mo-View approval card. Especially the Mo-View approval card.
Should Win: Viola Davis for Fences
Trump Fallout: Viola Davis for Fences
Will Win: Viola Davis for Fences
Best Original Screenplay:
(20th Century Women, Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester By The Sea)
Best Adapted Screenplay:
(Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight)
While there's suspicion that Casey Affleck might lose the Oscar to Denzel, there's minimal disagreement that Manchester By The Sea (i.e., Kenneth Lonergan) will at least win for the film's superb screenplay. On the same token, if Moonlight is destined to win only one Oscar, it'll be for its screenplay - especially since Barry Jenkins will likely lose Best Director to Damien Chazelle.
On the other hand, the Greek-written Lobster is the only Original Screenplay nominee that has an anti-establishment message, and Arrival is the only Adapted Screenplay nominee that doesn't have an anti-establishment message (although it can if you try).
Should Win: Manchester By The Sea, Lion
Trump Fallout: The Lobster, all except Arrival
Will Win: Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight
Best Documentary Feature Film:
(13th, Fire At Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life, Animated, O.J.: Made in America)
Life, Animated is the one that has zero chance at winning. All other four nominees have some degree of a winning shot for reasons detailed above: 13th, I Am Not Your Negro and O.J.: Made in America, for elaborating on the plight of African-Americans in the US, and even more applying to Fire At Sea, for detailing the plight of refugees. But the Academy will likely give the Oscar to the (deserving) near-8-hour O.J.: Made in America, for the added benefit of "the longest film ever to win an Oscar" - a cool record.
Should Win: O.J.: Made in America
Trump Fallout: Fire At Sea
Will Win: O.J.: Made in America
Best Animated Feature Film:
(Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life As A Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia)
My Life As A Zucchini is the only nominated feature I haven't seen yet. But again, like in the case of Viola Davis, not much of a contest here. Zootopia predicted and delivered a strong anti-Trump message far ahead of our time, and so far has won the major awards.
Should Win: Zootopia
Trump Fallout: Zootopia
Will Win: Zootopia
Best Foreign Language Film:
(Land of Mine, A Man Called Ove, The Salesman, Tanna, Toni Erdmann)
This is where the the main Trump showdown will take place. Toni Erdmann was the sweetheart up until a month ago, but then Trump's travel ban came along, Farhadi and his film's actress boycotted the ceremony, and suddenly, The Salesman inched closer from second place in the Foreign-Language Oscar race, to first.
To be honest, in my opinion, this is not fair. Farhadi already has an Oscar for A Separation, and while both are brilliant movies, Toni Erdmann was slightly better, because it describes a complicated situation in simple terms, while The Salesman describes a complicated situation in complicated terms. And the Oscars have always been about connecting to the masses.
Should Win: Toni Erdmann
Trump Fallout: The Salesman
Will Win: The Salesman
And for predictions in other categories:
- Best Editing: La La Land
- Best Production Design: La La Land
- Best Cinematography: La La Land
- Best Makeup: Star Trek Beyond
- Best Original Score: La La Land
- Best Original Song: La La Land (for "City of Stars")
- Best Costume Design: La La Land
- Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
It would be interesting to see if the Academy will reward Rogue One's "philosophy" (and not technical expertise) of digitally making old actors young, and bringing dead actors back to life. I'm willing to bet it will not.
- Best Animated Short Film: Piper
- Best Documentary Short Film: The White Helmets (another famous refugee crusader)