Some years, the Oscars are a challenge to predict. 2017 is not one of those years. Local gay film critic gives us his take on the big categories and the bits of specifically gay interest this year.
By Elijah Sarkesian
Sure, there are some categories where there’s some uncertainty, or where an upset is entirely possible. But for the first time in a while, we’re looking at a year where one film is likely to sweep the night. That film, if you haven’t been following the Oscar race this year, is La La Land, the bright musical that’s both a throwback to the musicals of Hollywood’s past and a sobering twist on those stories.
La La Land isn’t the only film up for some big wins, though. To help you win those ballot contests and chat along at the Ten Atlanta Oscars Viewing Party on Sunday, below, we’re going through the major categories and giving you our guesses for who’s going to win – plus a little dirt on what’s going on in some of the races (Best Actor? Drama).
Here’s the thing: if you aren’t predicting La La Land as the winner in most of the categories it’s nominated in, you’re probably going to lose. With 14 nominations this year, it matches Titanic and All About Eve for the most Oscar nominations ever for a film. There are a few of those nominations it likely won’t win – it’s a double nominee in Original Song, for example, so it’s almost certainly not going to win for both songs in a tie – but it’s the favorite in a lot of categories.
However: if you feel like making a bold and daring pick with your predictions, consider Moonlight, one of the year’s most critically-acclaimed films (and one of the best films ever with a gay character at its center), or Hidden Figures, the biggest box office hit of this year’s Best Picture contenders.
Historically, Best Picture and Best Director go hand-in-hand – 64 times over the course of 88 years, as a matter of fact. While there’s occasionally a split, though, it’s worth noting that three of those splits have occurred in the last four years. Could we see another split this year? Probably not. Damien Chazelle is the frontrunner for his work on La La Land, and while he does face some competition for Barry Jenkins’ astounding work on Moonlight, Chazelle has some great scenes in his own film, including the great opening scene. The Director’s Guild appears to have thought Chazelle’s work was outstanding too; they gave him their top honors.
Of the four acting categories, Best Actor is the most up-in-the-air. For most of Oscar season, Casey Affleck was the frontrunner for his quiet but emotionally devastating work in Manchester by the Sea, one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year. Sexual harassment allegations from a few years ago, though, have been looming for most of Oscar season, especially after rape allegations brought down the campaign for The Birth of a Nation, which started 2016 as a major Oscar contender but ultimately bombed commercially and in the awards circuit.
Affleck still has a shot, but the field’s a bit more open now. Denzel Washington won Best Actor at the Screen Actors Guild for his work in Fences, a Best Picture nominee that he also directed. If he were to win, he’d be in rare company as a three-time acting Oscar winner. Ryan Gosling could also get swept up in a La La Land sweep. I also wouldn’t rule out Andrew Garfield, who’s nominated for his work in Hacksaw Ridge but was also in play for his work in Silence. If I were to bet, I’d lean slightly towards Washington, but at this point, the only potential winner who’d surprise me is Affleck.
This award tends to go to younger actresses with either a breakout role or a role that really utilizes the best of what the actress has to offer. So of course, La La Land’s Emma Stone is the favorite to win in this category. Early in the season, it looked like she could face some challenge from Natalie Portman for her work in Jackie (the Academy really likes biopics), but if there’s anyone at this point likely to take the award from Stone, it’s French acting legend Isabelle Huppert for her work in the controversial Elle. Even then, though, this award is still Stone’s to lose.
Best Supporting Actor
After a few years of all-white slates of acting nominees, which helped trigger the #OscarsSoWhite boycott last year, there are a record number of acting nominees of color in this year’s nomination list. Both Supporting Actor and Actress are likely to go to people of color (and deservedly so), but Supporting Actor is a bit of a tossup. The frontrunner is Mahershala Ali, whose work in Moonlight helps set the tone for the entire film. He’s been a major winner in this category throughout Oscar season, winning a number of critics awards and the Screen Actors Guild award. If he loses, though, look for Dev Patel to take the award instead for his (arguably leading) work in Lion.
Best Supporting Actress
It’s Viola Davis. This is the easiest category of the night to predict.
It’s been a few years since a film swept the entire show. La La Land is poised to do just that, so if you predict it in every other category where it’s nominated, you’re probably safe. Probably. (Though it’s up to you to guess if they’ll go for “City of Stars” or “Audition” in Best Original Song, or if they’ll split votes and let Lin-Manuel Miranda complete his quest for EGOT glory for “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana.)
Best Original Screenplay could go to La La Land, but it could also go to Manchester by the Sea. Best Adapted Screenplay, meanwhile, will likely go to Moonlight, but Arrival could also take the award. Moonlight and Arrival were the two winners at the Writer’s Guild this year, with Moonlight eligible as an original screenplay according to their rules.
Disney’s done well in the Best Animated Feature category in recent years, after years of Pixar dominating the category. Disney will likely win again this year, with Zootopia the favorite to win here (Moana is also nominated). That being said, if there’s an upset here, it could be for Kubo and the Two Strings, the fourth film from Laika Studios, which has seen all four of their films nominated here. Kubo earned a rarity for an animated film: a tech nomination for Best Visual Effects. It also became the first animated film to earn a Costume Designers Guild Award nomination, and won Animated Feature at BAFTA.