By Andrew Wittland
As another year has gone by, another fresh batch of cinematic revelations has sent moviegoers flocking to their nearest theatre to immerse themselves in Hollywood’s greatest (and worst) flicks of the year. Only a select few films, however, will be worthy of making the Academy’s coveted nominations list come January. 2016 brought us a very diverse range of nominees, in more ways than one. The Barry Jenkins drama “Moonlight” has broken through the stereotype of the Oscars being the “whitest awards show,” while Damien Chazelle’s smash hit “La La Land” has completely defied the common ideas of a movie musical. Here are my predictions on who should win some of the major categories:
Best Actress in a Lead Role:
- Emma Stone, “La La Land”
- Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
- Ruth Negga, “Loving”
- Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
- Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
My prediction: Emma Stone.
I think this will be one of the closer races of the night. While both Portman and Huppert have received wide acclaim for their respective roles, with Huppert winning the Golden Globe, it was Stone’s portrayal that struck me most. Her character, Mia, is an actress struggling to make it in the bright lights of LA. While her exact situation isn’t as relatable to the average citizen, the trials that she endures to achieve her creative vision pulls the moviegoer towards her character.
Best Actor in a Lead Role:
- Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
- Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
- Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
- Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
- Denzel Washington, “Fences”
My prediction: Casey Affleck.
Affleck is making a bit of an acting resurgence after directing the 2010 flop, “I’m Still Here,” a film that was, in most critics’ opinions, a much better movie in theory. He is also gaining a great deal of negative attention in regards to the same film, as it was reported that he sexually assaulted multiple women on the crew. However, in “Manchester by the Sea,” Affleck turns a new leaf by delivering a heartbreaking performance as Lee Chandler, a Boston janitor who is struck with grief after the sudden death of his brother coupled with the news that he is the legal guardian of his nephew. His portrayal is a solemn reminder of the importance of grief, and how our past can truly haunt us. Amidst the swirling controversy, I stand by my belief that his performance was not tainted by the allegations. For further analysis of the actual controversy, consult the recent article published by staff writer Jack Schocker.
- Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
- Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
- Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
- Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
- Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
My prediction: Damien Chazelle.
If I must say, in my humble opinion, need it be anyone else? With the growing number of directors in this day and age trying to be visionaries of cinematic style, only few can truly perfect this idea. In only his second major motion picture, Chazelle has done just that. From the colorful cinematography, to the stunning musical numbers, to the fact that the film was shot entirely in CinemaScope, Damien Chazelle has transcended not just the cut-and-paste movie musical, but the entire film industry as well.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
- Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
- Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
- Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
- Dev Patel, “Lion”
- Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”
My prediction: Mahershala Ali
This one is all in the Academy’s hands. Many are stunned that Golden Globe winner for the Best Supporting Actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson from “Nocturnal Animals” did not receive a nomination, but nonetheless, this is a worthy batch of actors. It was Mahershala Ali’s portrayal, though, as a drug dealer and mentor for Chiron, the main character portrayed by Alex Hibbert that I chose. Through this role, Ali’s true acting range is expanded, and I am excited to see what projects he has in store for the future.
Best Original Song:
- “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land”
- “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” “Trolls”
- “City of Stars,” “La La Land”
- “The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story”
- “How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”
My prediction: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”
I’m in a pickle here, folks. With the exception of “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” which was ruined for me by the radio’s overplaying tendencies, this year’s list of original songs is quite deep. Everything Lin-Manuel Miranda touches seems to turn to gold, and his work on the “Moana” soundtrack was no different. However, as much as it pains me to say it, I have to go against Lin on this one. Accompanying Emma Stone’s stellar performance was a reflectively beautiful song which she performs towards the end of “La La Land.” The song itself is a memoir of her creative influences, and how they, in turn, can remind us of what we love to do most: create. I’m fairly certain there was no dry eye or jaw that wasn’t on the floor in theater during this scene.
Best Supporting Actress:
- Viola Davis, “Fences”
- Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
- Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
- Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
- Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
My prediction: Michelle Williams
Much like Anne Hathaway in 2012’s “Les Misérables,” Michelle Williams is able to make a huge emotional impact in the short screen time that she had in “Manchester by the Sea.” Portraying the ex-wife of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), Williams continues the movie’s overall theme of dealing with grief, and the trauma that great tragedy can bring into our lives.
- ”Hacksaw Ridge”
- ”Hell or High Water”
- ”Hidden Figures”
- ”La La Land”
- ”Manchester by the Sea”
My prediction: “La La Land”
To answer your question, yes, this move is really THAT good. I truly don’t remember a time when I left a movie feeling joy, heartbreak, exhilaration and motivation all at once. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off the screen for all two hours and eight minutes. If my opinion of this movie sounds overly romantic, then feel free to also consult The New Yorker’s review (who notoriously does not like many modern day movies). All in all, this masterpiece of a film is truly deserving of any award that it wins on Oscar night.