Big, bold, beautiful Oscar 2016 predictions

Like Andrew Garfield, I was in the trenches, hair intact! Let’s do this.


Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Mind game: ask Shannon and Bridges to exchange parts. Although I can’t claim they’re slummin’, the actors can play these ornery backwoods cusses comatose under a table. Hedges does unpredictable things with his sullen but quite confident teen in Manchester by the Sea — a welcome relief. Patel bats his eyes and looks soulful. I have no problem with frontrunner Ali, the least complex character in Moonlight (where is Andre Holland?).

WILL WIN: Mahershala Ali, but watch for Patel
SHOULD WIN: Lucas Hedges or Marhershal Ali


Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

I’ve read a few demurrals concerning Michelle Williams’ part in Manchester by the Sea. Her Big Scene is made for Oscar night replay, after all. Better is an earlier scene in which she descends into the basement to tell Casey Affleck and his poker buddies to shut the fuck up. In another sign of his admiration for performers, Kenneth Lonergan keeps his camera in long shot on her tired, annoyed face. I was tempted to rebuke Lonergan for writing only one strong woman part — until I remembered that he populates Manchester with all kinds of sharp supporting players, from the Jewish lady anticipating with dread a car trip and Kyle Chandler’s wife to Chandle’s attending physician in the hospital. Anyway, only Viola Davis comes close to Williams in this category, thanks to her prominent billing. Of course it’s awards fraud, abetted by Denzel Washington himself. At least on stage the audience can see every performer at once; when Davis isn’t show on screen she might as well be offstage.

WILL WIN: Viola Davis
SHOULD WIN: Viola Davis.


Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle”

An unusually fine selection. I haven’t seen My Life as a Zucchini.

WILL WIN: Zootopia
SHOULD WIN: Kubo and the Two Strings or The Red Turtle


Arrival, Eric Heisserer
Fences, August Wilson
Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Lion, Luke Davies
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney

I love when 95-percent-faithful adaptations of Pulitzer Prize-winning plays make the cut. Show no surprise if Hidden Figures wins; the Academy has to recognize its impressive box office somehow. Moonlight’s script is among its least impressive elements, but it gets my vote.

WILL WIN: Moonlight
SHOULD WIN: Moonlight.


20th Century Women, Mike Mills
Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan
La La Land, Damien Chazelle
The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Four of the five nominees impressed me with their wit. The worst of the five will win. It’s possible that Hell or High Water wins as a self-reminder: Hollywood no longer finances pictures like this and has no interest in it, like inviting the gardener to the Christmas party and yelling at him the other 364 days.

WILL WIN: La La Land
SHOULD WIN: The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, or 20th Century Women


Arrival, Bradford Young
La La Land, Linus Sandgren
Lion, Greig Fraser
Moonlight, James Laxton
Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

WILL WIN: Linus Sangren
SHOULD WIN: Rodrigo Prieto


A Man Called Ove, Sweden
Land of Mine, Denmark
Tanna, Australia
The Salesman, Iran
Toni Erdmann, Germany

Perhaps I’m as baffled by Toni Erdmann as the Academy. I’ve seen it twice and haven’t written a review: I’m still sorting it, a plus. I haven’t seen Land of Mine or Tanna. Often populated by flossy pictures as threatening as a kiosk in Epcot’s World Showcase, this category boasts a couple decent selections this year. Trumpian politics make The Salesman‘s win inevitable.

WILL WIN: The Salesman
SHOULD WIN: Toni Erdmann


Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land

James Laxton’s choices, no doubt guided by director Barry Jenkins, are Moonlight‘s sturdiest virtues. But in musicals the Academy confuses movement for editing; besides, Best editing and Best Picture often walk hand in hand. La La Land without a fuss.

WILL WIN: La La Land
SHOULD WIN: Moonlight


Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America

WILL WIN: O.J.: Made in America
SHOULD WIN: I Am Not Your Negro or O.J.: Made in America

The year’s strongest category, and the strongest nominees in this category of my lifetime, I’ll hazard. I Am Not Your Negro‘s weaving of Samuel L. Jackson’s narration and footage of James Baldwin showed a rare comfort with prose and image and how they create history. But O.J.: Made in America‘s prodigious reporting, especially on O.J. Simpson’s rise as avatar of non-blackness for white people, impressed me as much. And after the failure of Selma, 13th showed why Ava DuVernay is too good a documentarian for feature films.

WILL WIN: O.J.: Made in America
SHOULD WIN: O.J.: Made in America, I Am Not Your Negro, Fire at Sea


La La Land

Jackie‘s score work best as discrete music, not accompaniment, by the way. As diegesis, its portentous orchestrations turn a preposterous film into camp.

WILL WIN: La La Land


“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls
* “City of Stars,” La La Land
“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana

About “City of Stars” I have nothing else to say, so I’ll link to Keith Harris: a song “you can recreate on your own by taking piano lessons till you’re twelve, abandoning the instrument entirely for about fifteen years, then sitting down at a keyboard and playing the first few notes that come to mind.”


Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Wanting to marry Ryan Gosling is not the same as wishing he’d win an Oscar, nor is it expressing a desire that he sing more “City of Stars”s. The usually solid Andrew Garfield plays a bowl of unbuttered grits in Mel Gibson’s excuse to film goring and decapitations. Unless voters think Washington deserves a third Oscar for recreating his stage performance, Casey Affleck’s focused, unhistrionic depiction of numbed grief will and should win.

WILL WIN: Casey Affleck
SHOULD WIN: Casey Affleck


Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

The peripatetic nature of Oscar buzz has left Natalie Portman in a cloud of dust, wearing a pill box hat. She’s fortunate that Oscar has no category called Best Impersonation of an ‘SNL’ Sketch by a Mediocre Actress in a Leading Role too. I imagine Ruth Negga’s Mildred Loving looking awkwardly at her shoes as Portman and Streep tear into a gorgeous holiday ham. This award’s been Emma Stone’s too lost for months, and she might have to Isabelle Huppert’s ferocious performance in Elle any other year.

WILL WIN: Emma Stone
SHOULD WIN: Isabelle Huppert


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

Kenneth Lonergan makes rumpled films about families making do; Manchester by the Sea is his third good picture. It has many fine things. Mel Gibson made a comedy called Hacksaw Ridge; his nomination is a reward for keeping his piehole shut for the last two years. But Oscar likes rewarding talented, handsome young men to whom it wants to offer superhero projects. The award is Damien Chazelle’s to lose.

WILL WIN: Damien Chazelle
SHOULD WIN: Barry Jenkins or Kenneth Lonergan


Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

The success of Moonlight represents a triumph for Miami as setting and, importantly, a county where writers and directors can make films. I look forward to Barry Jenkins’ next project. But I had cavils. Four months after my first screening and a few weeks after my second, I can’t accept that the grown Chiron would not so much as touched another man since high school. Filming repression is easy, a concession to audience expectations. Far more interesting would’ve been to show Chiron as an out gay man who nevertheless remained curious about what could have been with Kevin. But, I reckon, that’s not the script that Barry Jenkins wrote.

I won’t contribute to the growing pile of overwrought dismissals of the distressingly okay La La Land

SHOULD WIN: Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight
WILL WIN: La La Land

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