Right or wrong, my 2017 Oscar predictions

Right or wrong, my 2017 Oscar predictions

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for me, anyway. Not the Christmas holidays, but the annual Oscar ceremony coming up this Sunday, Feb. 26, on ABC beginning at 6 p.m. Year after year, I hang in there through the bloated three-hour-plus running time filled with superfluous silliness while celebrities in their designer gowns and tuxedos suck up to one another as the precious gold statuettes are doled out.

The winners might not always be my picks or my favorites, but thankfully those awful obligatory song and dance numbers seem to have faded to black. As if we could ever wipe from our collective memory the horror of seeing Rob Lowe doing the jitterbug with Snow White. Truly one of the Academy’s worst live moments.

Even trimmed down, this special night is a movie fan’s test of endurance, so consider me in training as we recap the Big Six.

Padding out the Best Picture category from five nominees to as many as 10 (this year there are nine) is merely a gesture to increase movie traffic. If there’s a front-runner this year, it is “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s whimsical musical set in L.A. It is surely the most original of those nominated. In this 11th hour, there is a strong push for Barry Jenkin’s “Moonlight,” the powerful story of a young African-American boy growing into manhood in a Miami ghetto, but I really doubt it can overtake the popularity of “La La.” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion,” “Hell or High Water,” “Arrival” and “Manchester by the Sea” can celebrate being nominated, because “La La Land” will win this category and just about every other one it is competing in.

Best Director will dovetail with the Best Picture winner, meaning young Damien Chazelle, who wrote and directed “La La Land,” will win here, as well as – most likely – Original Screenplay too.

For his sheer audacity in making one of the most creative and riskier movies of the year, it seems like the right thing to do. Other nominated directors Denis Villenueve for “Arrival,” Kenneth Longergan for “Manchester by the Sea,” and Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight,” should feel honored to be nominated. Particularly, Mel Gibson ought to be glad just to be in the auditorium after his drunken, anti-Semitic tirade some years ago. His “Hacksaw Ridge” received a fair number of nominations, so that is something for Mel to celebrate — with a non-alcoholic beverage, hopefully.

Best Actor brings the night’s only close race as Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington square off. What’s that you say? Affleck is supposed to be the odds on favorite, but that was before the Screen Actors Guild awards two weeks ago when Denzel Washington won as the washed up ball player in “Fences.” I believe Affleck will still win, although nothing would please me more than to see Washington jump to his feet. Rounding out this category are Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”) and the surprise nominee, Viggo Mortensen for “Captain Fantastic.”

Best Actress could be close, but most likely, Emma Stone will win for “La La Land.” The other contender is French actress Isabelle Huppert, who surprised everyone by winning the Golden Globe for “Elle,” the story of a rape victim who fights back. Stone is such a favorite — on and off screen — that I think it will be her year, although a strong case could still be made for Natalie Portman in “Jackie.” But she’s faded to the back of the pack, as have Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”) and Ruth Negga (“Loving”).

Best Supporting Actor has some strong actors vying for the prize, and the winner is — Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight” as the dope dealer with a tender heart. There really isn’t another nominee in the hunt. Ali has been out front all awards season. His scenes are brief but include some of the movie’s best ones. Still there are some great roles within this category – young Lucas Hedges for “Manchester by the Sea” vies against veteran Jeff Bridges for “Hell or High Water.” Dev Patel carries the last half of “Lion” on his shoulders, and Michael Shannon played his small part in “Nocturnal Animals,” for all it was worth. But most pundits are already giving it to Ali.

Best Supporting Actress also has some great performances represented, including Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures,” Nicole Kidman for “Lion” and Naomie Harris in “Moonlight,” but they are most likely to lose to Viola Davis for “Fences.” She and Washington were a great team in this movie. He probably won’t win, but Davis will unless Michelle Williams rides in on a spoiler for “Manchester by the Sea.”

For fun, I’ll toss in a few more predictions and observations. If you recall this time last year, there was a public outcry about the lack of actors of color in the major categories. There seemed no viable explanation, it was so egregious. But oh, what a difference a year makes. This year there, are actors of color in all major acting categories. Let’s hope this is not just an overt effort to right the wrong of last year. These are all deserving performances and there will be many, many more in the years to come from actors of every color. Hopefully they will be recognized for their work by a more observant Academy.

Having said that, it is beyond me that musician John Legend could have been overlooked in the Best Song category for “Hidden Figures.” Most likely one of the two nominees from “La La Land” knocked him out. In any case, I’m boycotting this category. I’ll be in the kitchen warming up that last slice of pizza when this award is called.

Finally, you can look for that riveting documentary “OJ: Made in America” to take home the Best Documentary award. The winner in the Best Foreign Film category will most likely be “Toni Erdmann,” the German movie about a career woman and her estranged father, who masquerades as a bon vivant to get her attention. The Germans do have a sense of humor, after all.

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I never know if I’ll be right or wrong in my predictions. But it’s fun finding out, and I don’t even mind if I miss a few. I enjoy a good surprise.