The 2017 Academy Awards: Thoughts and Predictions

Original Score: Besides an undeserving Thomas Newman for a disgustingly off-kilter score, this is one of the most stacked categories of the night. I encourage you to take a listen to them all. Pencil in Hurwitz here, not just because musicals are so reliant on their music, but because he capably created a memorable tune that I’ve been whistling daily for months now. La La Land is only as great as its music allows it to be.

The Nominees: Mica Levi (Jackie), Justin Hurwitz (La La Land), Dustin O’Halloran & Hauschka (Lion), Nicholas Britell (Moonlight), Thomas Newman (Passengers)

Will Win: Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

Could Win: Nicholas Britell (Moonlight)

Deserved Consideration: Andy Hull & Robert McDowell (Swiss Army Man), Jóhann Jóhannsson (Arrival), Abel Korzeniowski (Nocturnal Animals), Brian McComber (Krisha), Roger Neill (20th Century Women), John Williams (The BFG)

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Original Song: When the likely Best Picture winner is a musical, you choose the best song from said movie. This is one of the night’s rare slam dunks.

The Nominees: “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

Will Win: “City of Stars” – La La Land

Could Win: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – La La Land

Deserved Consideration: “I’m so Humble” – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, “Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street

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Original Screenplay: It seems as if no other guild actually watches as many films as the WGA. To include this lot isn’t just correct…it’s informed. So when the litter doesn’t have a runt to be found, who do you pick? Should the tide sway towards convention, La La Land will be the rare musical winner. I want to go with the likely Best Picture winner – a category rarely won without a leading performer and/or screenplay win. However, I expect history to repeat itself and for the musical to be second thought here, making the winner Kenneth Lonergan for his masterful and achingly written Manchester by the Sea.

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

Will Win: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Could Win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Deserved Consideration: Mike Birbiglia (Don’t Think Twice), Chris Butler & Marc Haimes (Kubo and the Two Strings), Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen), Richard Linklater (Everybody Wants Some!!), Noah Oppenheim (Jackie), Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic)

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Adapted Screenplay: As pure adaptation, and as someone who’s read Ted Chiang’s short story plus the feature-length script it’s been elongated and elevated into, Arrival should be the winner. Screenwriting students need take note of this work. And still, I’m not reticent to disregard the accomplishments of Moonlight. Is it the best scripted film of the year? I don’t think so, but the overall product bleeds worth and value into every second of its run. Moonlight will win by way of overall merit while the only competition for Arrival should’ve been Silence or Nocturnal Animals.

The Nominees: Eric Heisserer (Arrival), August Wilson (Fences), Allison Schroeder & Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), Luke Davies (Lion), Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)

Will Win: Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)

Could Win: Eric Heisserer (Arrival)

Deserved Consideration: Jay Cocks & Martin Scorcese (Silence), Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals), Melissa Mathison (The BFG), Sarah Waters (The Handmaiden)

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Directing: Damien Chazelle’s only real competition here comes from Jenkins, mostly because some true auteurs were glossed over. This looks to be La La Land’s night though, so you can expect to hear the wonderkid’s name for the prize, making Chazelle the youngest to ever win the award. A tip of the cap to a long career ahead for the visionary.

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

Will Win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Could Win: Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Deserved Consideration: Mike Mills (20th Century Women), Andrea Arnold (American Honey), David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), Martin Scorcese (Silence)

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Actor in a Leading Role: There probably won’t be a more contested category during the evening than this coin toss. My gut tells me this is Affleck’s after a sublime performance. My head leans more towards Washington’s ferocity after some important wins in the awards circuit. Take your 50/50 pick. I’m going with Affleck. Either way, I’ll feel wrong until the envelope is opened.

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

Will Win: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Could Win: Denzel Washington (Fences)

Deserved Consideration: Adam Driver (Paterson), Andrew Garfield (Silence), Ethan Hawke (Born to Be Blue), Nate Parker (Birth of a Nation), Sunny Pawar (Lion), Tim Roth (Chronic)

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Actress in a Leading Role: I’m surprised Negga worked her way in here, and disappointed that Streep was nominated at all (Catherine Frot gave a better performance in Marguerite, playing THE SAME ROLE). If the stars aligned, this would be a three-headed race between Huppert, Bening’s fantastic work in 20th Century Women, and Amy Adams’ delicate turn in Arrival. As it stands, your best bet is Emma Stone. La La Land allows her to be funny, raw, naive, composed. It’s a balancing act with song and dance thrown in for good measure, and she’s earned her place among the elite.

The Nominees: Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Will Win: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Could Win: Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Deserved Consideration: Amy Adams (Arrival), Annette Bening (20th Century Women), Krisha Fairchild (Krisha), Royalty Hightower (The Fits), Sasha Lane (American Honey), Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen), Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden), Addison Timlin (Little Sister)

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Best Picture: Do people really think Fences and Hacksaw Ridge are better than the likes of Scorcese’s masterful Silence or Mike Mills’ cultural zeitgeist 20th Century Women? If so, they’re categorically wrong, because the inclusion of those movies while shunning others is insanely illogical. And while some pundits are still trying to predict a Moonlight upset or relying on Hidden Figures’ box office staying power as an indicator for its chances, the Best Picture category has been signed, sealed and delivered for quite some time now. La La Land for the (in my opinion) rightful win.

The Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

Will Win: La La Land

Could Win: Moonlight

Deserved Consideration: 20th Century Women, American HoneyEverybody Wants Some!!, Jackie, Kubo and the Two Strings, Nocturnal Animals, Silence

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