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    2017 Academy Awards: Who Will Likely Win but Who Should Win

    GaryKramerbyRyanBrandenbergBy Gary M. Kramer

    The 2017 Academy Awards are this weekend. But who will win, and who should win? Here are some educated guesses.

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

    With 14 nominations, and a wave of critical acclaim, the smart money is on La La Land, another example of Hollywood patting itself on the back. (See The Artist, 2011). But wouldn’t it be fantastic if Moonlight, a little indie film about being a gay African American, created an upset and took home the Big Prize?

    Best Director

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

    As with Best Picture, Damien Chazelle is pretty much a lock in this category for La La Land, and his work was not without merit; the movie musical was gossamer fun. But it would be great to see Barry Jenkins win the Oscar for his sensitive direction of Moonlight.

    Best Actress

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

    Once again, La La Land is the favorite in this category, and Emma Stone is remarkable in the film. But it would be so gratifying to see Isabelle Huppert recognized for her tremendous, fearless performance in Elle, and be awarded for her career as a whole.

    Best Actor

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

    This is the one category La La Land will lose. Not disrespect to Ryan Gosling, but Casey Affleck has been the favorite for Manchester by the Sea for this category forever. That said, there is a groundswell of support for the justly deserving Denzel Washington, and come Sunday night, Washington might just walk home with his third acting Oscar.

    Best Supporting Actress

    Nominees: Viola Davis, Fences; Naomie Harris, Moonlight; Nicole Kidman, Lion; Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures; and Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea.

    Viola Davis is pretty much assured to dominate in this category, and her performance in Fences was indomitable. The only possible upset—and it’s a longshot—could come from Michelle Williams, who makes the most of her brief screen time in Manchester by the Sea.

    Best Supporting Actor

    Nominees: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight; Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water; Lucas Hedges Manchester by the Sea; Dev Patel, Lion; and Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals.

    There seems to be no contest in this category either, with Mahershala Ali receiving all the glory for his stunning turn in Moonlight. In another year, Jeff Bridges or Michael Shannon might have emerged victorious as they deliver outstanding performances, but this year, the prize will go to the knockout performance by Ali.


    Best Adapted Screenplay
    Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight

    This is Moonlight’s other certain victory. The screenplay, adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, has been universally praised, and is emotionally resonant.

    Best Original Screenplay
    Nominees: 20th Century Women, Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea

    One might expect La La Land to take this prize, but Manchester by the Sea seems to be the odds-on favorite in this category. It’s likely to win, but wouldn’t it be a fabulous surprise if The Lobster, easily one of the most inventive, original films of the year, produced an upset?

    Best Cinematography

    Nominees: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence

    The glitzy La La Land will dance and dazzle its way to victory in this category.

    Best Costume Design
    Nominees: Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land

    Again, La La Land will win for its colorful costumes.

    Best Film Editing

    Nominees: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Moonlight

    Step and repeat, La La Land will take home the Oscar for its zippy flash and style.

    Best Makeup and Hair
    Nominees: A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad

    The Academy could go for name recognition with Star Trek, or honor the sentiment of A Man Called Ove, but it could also throw a curveball with Suicide Squad. Stick with the safest bet: Star Trek Beyond

    Best Production Design
    Nominees: Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail, Caesar!, La La Land, Passengers

    Expect La La Land to take this prize too, though this category’s other Hollywood homage, Hail, Caesar!, is actually more deserving.

    Best Score

    Nominees: Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Passengers

    Given that it’s a musical, the score from La La Land is pretty much assured to win this category. Jackie did have a great atonal soundtrack, so it would be nice to see that rob La La Land, but don’t count on it.

    Best Song

    Nominees: “The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story; “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and “City of Stars,” La La Land; “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana; “Can’t Stop the Feeling, Trolls
    While the general rule is that two nominations in a single category means neither will win, “City of Stars” is the favored song in this category. Fans of La La Land may find that surprising, as “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” has more dramatic power in the film. But shoot for “City of Stars.”

    Best Sound Editing

    Nominees: Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Sully
    Mel Gibson’s war drama, Hacksaw Ridge, looks like the one to beat in this sound category.

    Best Sound Mixing

    Nominees: 13 Hours, Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    La La Land is likely to win this sound category.

    Best Visual Effects
    Nominees: Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    The Jungle Book is expected to swing away with this statue.

    Best Animated Feature
    Nominees: Kuba and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia

    Zootopia, a critical and commercial success, has the edge over its competition in this category.

    Best Documentary

    Nominees: 13th, Fire at Sea, I am Not Your Negro, Life, Animated, O.J.: Made in America

    Ava DuVernay’s scathing indictment of the Prison Industrial Complex, and Raoul Pecks’ outstanding cinematic essay, I am Not Your Negro, featuring James Baldwin, would run neck and neck in this category in any other year. But the game changer that is O.J.: Made in America—an 8-hour doc on race, celebrity, media, violence, and justice—will take this category.

    Best Foreign Language Film

    Nominees: Land of Mine, A Man Called Ove, The Salesman, Tanna, Toni Erdmann

    The nearly 3-hour long Toni Erdmann was long expected to walk away with this award, but in recent weeks, The Salesman has grabbed attention and may emerge the victor. (Perhaps out of sympathy for Iranian director Ashgar Farhadi, who is refusing to attend the ceremony because of Trump’s travel ban). So this may be one of the most exciting races of the evening, and what’s more, A Man Called Ove could come in from behind, as it is exactly the kind of film that charms Academy voters.

    Best Animated Short

    Nominees: Borrowed Time, Blind Vaysha, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl, Piper

    Pear Cider and Cigarettes is a really terrific and beautifully made short that deserves an award, but the Pixar entry, Piper, is going to win this category hands down.

    Best Documentary Short

    Nominees: 4.1 Miles, Extremis, Joe’s Violin, Watani: My Homeland, The White Helmets

    This prize will probably go to the sentimental Joe’s Violin, about a Holocaust survivor helping a Bronx schoolgirl. But 4.1 Miles, about refugees being saved off the coast of Greece, really deserves to be rewarded.

    Best Live Action Short

    Nominees: Ennemis Interieurs, La Femme et al TGV, Silent Nights, Sing, Timecode

    This category is a toss-up. Ennemis Interieurs was favored when the nominations were announced, but Timecode won a prize at Cannes, which may give it an edge. La Femme et al TGV could pull the sentimental voters, but it’s likely that Sing will walk away with the award, as viewers find this short the most satisfying.

    © 2017 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer