Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oscars So Diverse: Predictions

Will Hidden Figures upset LaLa Land at the Oscars?
This year's Oscars did not dominate the national zeitgeist as much as usual. Perhaps it's the Trump circus overshadowing every other event of normal obsession such as the Super Bowl and the Westminster Dog Show. Anyway, I predict the speeches will be more political than usual with many denunciations of the President's fascist regime. The awards will be a repudiation of his racist rhetoric and a reaction to last year's lack of diverse nominees with #OscarsSoDiverse replacing #OscarsSoWhite.

Best Picture
Prediction: Hidden Figures
LaLa Land has racked up a massive 14 nominations, sharing the record for the most ever with the magnificent All About Eve and the bloated Titanic. Normally, that would mean a lock for Best Picture, but there has been serious backlash against the nostalgic musical. While the film is basically a lighthearted tribute to the Golden Age of cinematic tuners such as Singin' in the Rain, An American in Paris and The Bandwagon, many have seen it as a celebration of white culture at the expense of African-Americans. I just read a bizarre LA Weekly column comparing director Damien Chazelle to Leni Riefenstahl for creating a propaganda film by casting white Ryan Gosling as the savior of pure jazz while black characters are shunted to the sidelines. This is a more than a bit extreme but the anti-Trump sentiment might be enough for the majority of voters to pass over the feel-good musical and hand the top prize to Hidden Figures, an Oscar-bait candidate if ever there was one. There is the traditional underdog fighting the power (three real-life African-American female mathematicians battling sexism and racism in 1960s NASA) and an uplifting final triumph, plus it's a great way to say "Screw You, Racist Prez!" Of course Hollywood may want to fete LaLa as a narcissistic hurrah for itself, but I think politics will be stronger than self-love this time.

Best Actor
Prediction: Denzel Washington, Fences
Though he has two Oscar already (for Glory and Training Day), Washington will snatch his third Oscar for two reasons. Casey Affleck, his nearest competitor for Manchester By the Sea, has a bad reputation for alleged sexual assault (Did you see presenter Brie Larsen giving him the stink eye at the Golden Globes?) and it will be another chance to award an African-American actor. BTW, if he wins, Washington will be the first African-American actor to win an Oscar and a Tony for playing the same role.

Best Actress
Prediction: Emma Stone, La La Land
Though Natalie Portman deserves to win for her shattering portrayal of Jackie Kennedy in Jackie, that indie film has not generated much heat and Stone is the hottest young thing right now.

Best Supporting Actor
Prediction: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Not only is Ali African-American but also a Muslim which will really upset Trump. Moonlight was an early frontrunner for top awards, taking the Golden Globe for Best Drama (the GGs divide their categories between Drama and Musical/Comedy, giving the latter to LaLa Land), so they'll want to include it in the main categories.

Best Supporting Actress
Prediction: Viola Davis, Fences
Many have complained Davis should have been nominated for Best Actress as the long-suffering wife Rose in Denzel Washington's adaptation of August Wilson's play. She did win a leading Tony Award for the Broadway revival, but Mary Alice was judged a supporting actress by the Tonys in the original production in 1987. A supporting bid may have increased her chances to win and, like Washington, she join stars like Jose Ferrer, Shirley Booth, Yul Brynner, Paul Scofield, Jack Albertson, Joel Grey, Anne Bancroft, Rex Harrison, and Lila Kedrova for winning a Tony and Oscar for the same role.

Prediction: Damien Chazelle, LaLa Land
Even if they give Best Picture to Hidden Figures, they will reward Chazelle for referencing a bunch of other movies including Rebel Without a Cause, The Umbrella of Cherbourg, The Young Ladies of Rochfort, Swing Time, Sweet Charity, West Side Story, etc.

Original Screenplay
Prediction: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Adapted Screenplay
Prediction: Barry Jenkins, Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight

Score, Cinematography, Editing, Production Costume Design, Song (City of Stars), Sound Editing and Mixing
Prediction: LaLa Land

Prediction: Star Trek Beyond

Visual Effects
Prediction: The Jungle Book

Animated Feature:
Prediction: Zootopia

Documentary Feature:
Prediction: I Am Not Your Negro

Foreign-Language Film:
Prediction: The Salesman. It's from Iran, so it'll win just to piss off Trump.

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