My predictions for the 2017 Oscars

FEBRUARY 25 — It’s finally here, only a few days away, that one prestigious day that never fails to capture the world’s imagination — the Academy Awards or the Oscars.

I’ve tried my best to catch all the major nominees and still didn’t manage to make enough time to catch one of the major films in contention, Hidden Figures, which just opened in Malaysian cinemas this week.

But since it hasn’t really set the pre-Oscars awards alight, then let’s just assume that it’s probably one of those movies for which a nomination can already be considered a win. Not one to waste precious space, let the predictions begin!

Best Picture

There may be nine nominees here, but clearly the fight this year is between La La Land and Moonlight. In any other year, I’d say it’s a lock for La La Land because Hollywood loves nothing more than a film about showbiz, especially when it’s done with as much style and bravura as this (remember Birdman?), but Moonlight might have a “Trump” card up its sleeve as it’s about a poor, black and gay young man and there’s every possibility that liberal America, a lot of them surely living within the ranks of Hollywood and are Oscar voters, might vote for this as a middle finger to the new Administration.

Plus, form also dictates (in three of the last four years, at least) that the Best Picture and Best Director award be split between the two major contenders, and since Damien Chazelle will clearly win (and deserve) the Best Director award, it’s not unthinkable that Moonlight will snatch the big one this year.

Will win: La La Land

Should win: Moonlight

Best Director

Let’s just not kid ourselves. Damien Chazelle won the big prize at this year’s Director’s Guild Awards, and in the past 13 years, 12 out of its 13 winners have gone on to win the Oscar for Best Director. Unless the Academy really wants to give Moonlight director Barry Jenkins something because they gave Best Picture to La La Land, I don’t see anything other than a win for Chazelle here.

Will win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Should win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Actor

All signs point to a win for Casey Affleck for his beautifully heart-breaking turn in Manchester By The Sea, until the resurfacing of sexual harassment allegations against him and Denzel Washington’s surprise win at the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, which has correctly predicted the Best Actor winner at the Oscars for the last 10 years. So if there’s going to be an upset then it’d be from two-time Oscar winner Washington. The SAG Awards haven’t been wrong in a decade now, so I think they’ll be right again this time.

Will win: Denzel Washington (Fences)

Should win: Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)

Best Actress

Emma Stone won the SAG Awards, which has, like in the Best Actor category, been very precise when it comes to predicting the Best Actress Oscar winner. But then again, Stone’s biggest competition here, French legend Isabelle Huppert, wasn’t even nominated there, so all bets might be off here since this is Huppert’s first Oscar nomination, which can also very conveniently serve as a lifetime achievement award for her. The favourite to win is still Stone, of course, but I really do fancy an upset here.

Will win: Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Should win: Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Best Supporting Actor

Everyone loves Mahershala Ali, and with wins at the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes, he’s clearly got momentum on his side so this is his award to lose. If he were to lose it, I’d prefer it going to young Lucas Hedges who was simply brilliant in Manchester By The Sea and showed more technical range. But sometimes all you need is an actor’s presence and his charisma to make the role his, and that’s exactly what Ali did in his very small role in Moonlight. He simply owned it.

Will win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Should win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Supporting Actress

You’d be a fool not to predict Viola Davis to be the winner of this award this year. Never mind the strange fact that hers is actually a lead role, for she has practically won every major award in this category on the road to this year’s Oscars, winning at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Critics Choice and SAG Awards. I may personally prefer Michelle Williams’ brief but highly impactful turn in Manchester By The Sea, but Davis fully deserves the Oscar for her sterling work in Fences.

Will win: Viola Davis (Fences)

Should win: Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea)

Best Original Screenplay

This is a bit of a hard one, although we can surely discount two nominees already – La La Land’s greatness clearly does not come out of its screenplay and Yorgos Lanthimos’ nomination for the brilliantly odd and original The Lobster is already a victory. So that leaves us with three screenplays that are brilliant in their own ways. If this was 1940s or 1950s Hollywood, then maybe Hell Or High Water’s exquisite genre exercise would be capable of a win, but nowadays you don’t win anything with genre stuff, so I’d say it’s going to be a win for Kenneth Lonergan, who’s already won the BAFTAs by the way, for Manchester By The Sea.

Will win: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea)

Should win: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Another hard one, but I’d be really shocked if August Wilson won for Fences because even if it does have a lot of great writing in it, there simply isn’t much of an adaptation going on there. The Writers Guild Awards were won by Moonlight and Arrival, so I think it’s fair to say that these two are the main contenders here. I’m gonna plump for a Moonlight win since it’s really just beautiful to behold, even the very few words that do come out of its protagonist. It made every word count.

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

Should win: Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)

Best Foreign Language Film

I’m just going to shoot blindly here since I haven’t seen one of the two favourites for the award here, which is The Salesman. The favourite that I have seen, Toni Erdmann, is in all honesty a little bit too weird and challenging to stand much chance of winning the Oscar. In fact, this is the one category where previous form and even critical reputation means nothing as plenty of unheralded little films have walked away with the statue, beating better, more awarded and much loved films, to leave cinephiles and film critics stumped. So expect a shock win for something polished and feel-good like A Man Called Ove over an expected win for everyone’s favourite foreign film of 2016, Toni Erdmann.

Will win: A Man Called Ove

Should win: Toni Erdmann

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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