The Concordian’s film critic-in-residence gives his two cents about the upcoming Academy Awards
If you’re like me, there are few things you find as enjoyable as indulging in the entirely pointless, but enormously thrilling game of predicting the Oscars. The nominations aren’t as hard to predict, but only one can win in each category, so you either get it right or you don’t. Nervous? Just think of the eternal glory and bragging rights you will get with every correct guess. So let’s take a brief look at the main categories.
The big winner of the night hasn’t been this easy to predict in years—it can only be La La Land. The picture got a historic 14 nominations, which means that, if a different film were to win, it could be the biggest snub in Oscar history. Just like nothing could sink James Cameron’s Titanic, Damien Chazelle’s musical masterpiece is simply unstoppable. For all other categories in which La La Land is the nominee, it can safely be expected to win.
Although there have been splits between Best Picture and Best Director in the last few years, the incredible support for La La Land could guarantee its success in both categories. That would make Chazelle the youngest Oscar-winning director ever—and he completely deserves the honour.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
This is one category La La Land is unlikely to win. The ongoing race is between Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea and Denzel Washington for Fences. The younger Affleck brother is the current frontrunner for his moving, subtle performance as a man consumed by guilt and internal anguish. But should the Academy go with Washington, he would join a very small club of three-time acting Oscar winners.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
And now back aboard the La La Land train. The competition in this category is absolutely staggering—heavyweight Annette Benning couldn’t even manage a nomination—but Emma Stone, being the emotional anchor of her film, is expected to win. You might also want to watch out for Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie —it’s the type of role the Academy usually adores.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
After two years of noted absence, African-American actors are back in the Oscar race, dominating the supporting categories. Mahershala Ali is the favourite here, for a memorable part in the wonderful Moonlight. While it’s easy to root for this likeable performer, it’s okay to hope the Academy gives due consideration to Jeff Bridges as a sheriff in Hell or High Water, and even more so to Michael Shannon as another, more sinister sheriff in the underrated Nocturnal Animals.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
This Oscar belongs to Viola Davis already. She came close to winning for brilliant roles in 2008’s Doubt and 2011’s The Help, and the third time’s going to be the charm. She outdid herself in Fences, consistently stealing scenes and proving herself to be one of the finest talents of our time.
Best Original Screenplay
For a long time, it seemed like Manchester by the Sea was a sure winner here—musicals don’t win in the screenplay categories, we were told—but La La Land has emerged as the alternative. Here’s to the musical that could.
Best Adapted Screenplay
If there’s one film to even remotely challenge La La Land in the Best Picture race, it’s Moonlight. The movie, after all, comes as a powerful response to the call for diversity that has challenged the Academy in recent years. While its odds of winning in most categories are all but hopeless, the three-part story of a gay African-American young man making his way through life, which is adapted from an unpublished play, deserves to be celebrated for its unique and insightful screenplay.