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Three Critics, 22 nominations and over fifty predictions for 2017


The 89th Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 26th at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live on ABC with Jimmy Kimmel as host. As in past years we invited our critics to weigh in with their predictions for this years Oscar race and once again they rose to the task. Joining "Good Old JR" Jim Rutkowski this year is the returning Larry "Bocepheus" Evans and  joining them both is the "Big Tuna" himself Vito Carli. Of the 22 principle categories this year none of our titanic trio of critics tackled every single nomination. However all of this years nominations were addressed by them and in total there are over fifty predictions below.

Enjoy and good luck to all...
The Academy Awards. The show that DVR's were invented for. More specifically, the show that the fast forward button was invented for. Not to sound like a Oscar-pooper, but even as a cinephile, the Oscars can be a slog. This year could prove to be even more awkward given the current political state of things. But I'm not going there. Keeping the focus on the films, it's surprising to see that of the 9 films nominated for best picture, 5 of them ended up on my best of the year list. The other 4 are of varying quality. Can't quibble very much. Audience favorite Hidden Figures is an enlightening true story with solid performances. Even if it feels the most “Oscar-y” of the noms. Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge sticks in my craw a bit. It is the most sadistic film about pacifism that I've even taken in. Yet, Gibson is adept at staging a scene. The biggest strike against the Academy for me, is what isn't nominated. Amy Adams work in Arrival is crucial to that films emotional and intelectual core. They missed the boat on that one. As it is, La La Land is going to have a great night. It could sweep almost all the categories it's nominated for. Deservedly so, in my opinion. Although Moonlight could upset. But that wouldn't rock the boat in the least. It was my second favorite film of the year. On with the prognostications.
This year’s Oscar nominations were actually announced by streaming video instead of by press conference. It was an interesting approach for an interesting slate of films. La La Land had fourteen nominations; Moonlight and Arrival received eight; Lion received seven; Manchester By The Sea and Hacksaw Ridge received six; Fences and Hell or High Water received four; Jackie and Hidden Figures received three. Last year the Oscars were lambasted for a stunning lack of diversity but this year that complaint will not be heard because the slate is diverse.
I have been asked to comment on the Oscar nominations by a shadowy, cosmic figure (Comicbookman). I have been doing Oscar commentary for many years for WZRD on Cathleen Schandelmeier’s show, and I used to do them for the defunct Star newspapers. Here are my predictions and pics for the year’s Oscar ceremonies. If you want to see the real best films, it is better to look up the Cannes Film Festival or Independent Spirit awards or the Sight and Sounds critics poll.  See more of my writing at
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight as Juan
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water as Marcus Hamilton
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea as Patrick Chandler
Dev Patel – Lion as Saroo Brierley
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals as Detective Bobby Andes
And winner is: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight. If you only know Ali from his work in House of Cards and Luke Cage, you haven't seen the breadth of his abilities. This is one of the slam dunks of the night.
Jeff Bridges. His performance in Hell of High Water is another in a long series of incredible ones. Every time he is on screen he takes over. Hedges is also wonderful in Manchester and he has a fine career in front of him but it’s too early for him to get an Oscar.
Will win Jeff Bridges/Should win: Michael Shannon
There are no clear front-runners or favorites in this category. Lucas Hedges could win but he did not even give the best supporting performance in Manchester by the Sea. For me Kyle Chandler was slightly more memorable. Mahershala Ali was wonderful in Moonlight, but he is not a big name and he will not win unless there is an upset. I did not get a chance to see Lion. Michael Shannon is an extraordinary under recognized talent and I have followed him ever since his tremendously affecting acting in Blackboard Empire. He has little box office clout and he will not win. Jeff Bridges is the biggest name here, and he did good work as a shrewd, sympathetic, and unusually perceptive cop in Hell or High Water so I am going with him.

The following actors were robbed for a Best Supporting nomination this year: The recently departed John Hurt for his work on Jackie, Don Cheadle for his work on Miles Ahead and Ethan Hawk for his work on Born to be Blue
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
A Man Called Ove – Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
Star Trek Beyond – Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
Suicide Squad – Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson
And the winner is: Star Trek Beyond. Star Trek boldly goes where it has rarely gone before: to the Oscar podium.
This is the only category here that Suicide Squad deserves to win, but I am sure it will get some Razzies.
Best Costume Design
Allied – Joanna Johnston
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Colleen Atwood
Florence Foster Jenkins – Consolata Boyle
Jackie – Madeline Fontaine
La La Land – Mary Zophres
And the winner is: Jackie. Conventional wisdom is calling for La La Land in this category. But I think the 60's look in Jackie will take the gold.
Colleen Atwood. She’s the major name here and the costume work in Fantastic Beasts was impeccable.
Best Documentary – Feature
Fire at Sea – Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo
I Am Not Your Negro – Raoul Peck, Rémi Grellety, and Hébert Peck
Life, Animated – Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman
O.J.: Made in America – Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow
13th – Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick, and Howard Barish
And the winner is: O.J.: Made in America. There's been some discussion regarding the eligibilty of this film as a feature. It was produced for ESPN. But played in some theaters before it aired. Having watched all 7 hours and 47 minutes, I can tell you that it will make you look at the most famous murder case in United States history with fresh eyes and under a larger prism.
Will win: The 13th/Should win: The 13th
Both the 13th and OJ: Made in America were excellent. The voters might consider OJ a miniseries rather than a comedy.
Best Sound Editing
Arrival – Sylvain Bellemare
Deepwater Horizon – Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli
Hacksaw Ridge – Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
La La Land – Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
Sully – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
And the winner is: Hacksaw Ridge. Evocative work on the devastating sounds of battle.
Arrival. Considering the subject matter of the film the sound quality had to be good. Arrival was perfect.
Best Sound Mixing
Arrival – Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye
Hacksaw Ridge – Kevin O'Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace
La La Land – Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Mac Ruth

And the winner is: La La Land. The sweep begins.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This may be one of the few awards the film will get.
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences as Rose Lee Maxson
Naomie Harris – Moonlight as Paula
Nicole Kidman – Lion as Sue Brierley
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures as Dorothy Vaughan
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea as Randi
And the winner is: Viola Davis. Another first rate performance from Viola Davis. This is one of the nights sure things.

Viola Davis. She gave to me a powerful performance that matches Denzel’s point by point. Spencer is very good in Figures but she has an Oscar already. Williams’ encounter with Affleck in Manchester near the end of the film is incredible but Davis is my pick.

Will win: Viola Davis/Should win: Viola Davis
Most of the nominees are worthy, but Davis gave the most noble and likeable performance plus she was in an important film. Naomi Harris gave a devastating performance in Moonlight but her character is probably too mean, dark and decadent to win.

Greta Gerwig should have gotten a nomination in this category for her work on 20th Century Women
Best Foreign Language Film
Land of Mine (Denmark) in Danish – Martin Zandvliet
A Man Called Ove (Sweden) in Swedish – Hannes Holm
The Salesman (Iran) in Persian – Asghar Farhadi
Tanna (Australia) in Nauvhal – Martin Butler and Bentley Dean
Toni Erdmann (Germany) in German – Maren Ade
And the winner is: Toni Erdmann. Having just seen this film, I can attest to it being a litmus test for your own sense of humor and a touching father-daughter bond story. Excellent!
Should win: Toni Erdmann/Will win Toni Erdmann
This used to be a one horse race but not anymore. The absurdist comedy, Toni Erdmann topped many best films of the year lists, and many critics thought that Peter Simonischek gave the best male performance of the year in that film. The only other choice that has a chance at winning is The Salesman. The director, Asghar Farhadi is a genius, and he just completed a streak of great films including About Elly, The Past and my personal favorite, A Separation. Another reason he might win is because he is boycotting the Oscars to protest Trump’s stance on immigration and this is giving the film a ton of free publicity.
Best Animated Feature Film
Kubo and the Two Strings  – Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner
Moana – John Musker, Ron Clements, and Osnat Shurer
My Life as a Courgette – Claude Barras and Max Karli
The Red Turtle – Michael Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki
Zootopia – Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Clark Spencer
And the winner is: Zootopia. Witty and subversive in equal measure. Imparts a lovely message and is hilarious at the same time.
Will win: Zootopia/Should win: Kubo and the Two Strings
Zootopia was a much bigger blockbuster but Kubo is more exotic, creative and stylish. Where is Sausagefest?
Best Production Design
Arrival – Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock
Hail, Caesar! – Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh
La La Land – Sandy Reynolds-Wasco and David Wasco
Passengers – Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena
And the winner is: La La Land. A love letter to the city of Los Angeles.
Fantastic Beasts. Of this bunch my heart goes with Arrival but I expect Fantastic Beasts to walk away with the award. I know why Passengers was nominated but the film just sort of laid there.
Best Visual Effects
Deepwater Horizon – Craig Hammeck, Jason Snell, Jason Billington, and Burt Dalton
Doctor Strange – Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould
The Jungle Book – Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon
Kubo and the Two Strings – Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould
And the winner is: The Jungle Book. As the end credits begin to roll in Jungle Book, there is a title card stating that the entire film was shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles. Not a single frame was photographed on location. A game changer in CGI effects.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Aside from the weird CGI work with Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher the effects were perfect.
Best Film Editing
Arrival – Joe Walker
Hacksaw Ridge – John Gilbert
Hell or High Water – Jake Roberts
La La Land – Tom Cross
Moonlight – Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon
And the winner is: La La Land. Hold up your brooms!
Joe Walker. The very nature of how the story in Arrival was told meant the film had to fit together seamlessly. It did and then some.
Best Documentary – Short Subject
Extremis – Dan Krauss
4.1 Miles – Daphne Matziaraki
Joe's Violin – Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen
Watani: My Homeland – Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis
The White Helmets – Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
None of the films has been shown in Chicago but they are all playing at the Music Box one day in the near future so readers can judge for themselves.
Best Cinematography
Arrival – Bradford Young
La La Land – Linus Sandgren
Lion – Greig Fraser
Moonlight – James Laxton
Silence – Rodrigo Prieto
And the winner is: La La Land, The use of heightened colors evokes the films of Vincent Minelli and his gorgeous musicals.
Bradford Young. Arrival is a visual marvel. The dark horse here is Prieto for Silence. If the love for La La Land is contagious then Sandgren may win but I am picking Young.
Will win: La la land/Should win: Silence or Moonlight
The Oscars are a popularity contest and La la land is much more popular than the other nominated films
Best Original Score
Jackie – Mica Levi
La La Land – Justin Hurwitz
Lion – Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka
Moonlight – Nicholas Britell
Passengers – Thomas Newman
And the winner is: La La Land. The scores for Jackie or Moonlight could sneak in here. But I don't think so.
Justin Hurwitz. I didn’t even see La La Land but it’s hard to say anyone else will hear his/her name announced.
Best Original Song
"Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" from La La Land – Music by Justin Hurwitz, Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
"Can't Stop the Feeling!" from Trolls – Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster (Shellback)
"City of Stars" from La La Land – Music by Justin Hurwitz, Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
"The Empty Chair" from Jim: The James Foley Story – Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting
"How Far I'll Go" from Moana – Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda
And the winner is: “City of Stars” from La La Land. A song that serves as an anthem for aspiring artists. It can't lose.
Can’t Stop The Feeling. The choices for this category usually include songs that no one outside of Hollywood has heard or remembered. This year we actually have a song that the mainstream heard and enjoyed from Trolls. Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling. It’s possible that the Academy will pick either of the songs from La La Land but I am going with JT.
Best Original Screenplay
Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
20th Century Women – Mike Mills
And the winner is: Manchester By The Sea. Lonergan delivers a screenplay that is achingly tragic, yet insightful. Yet still finds great humor amidst trauma and loss.
Kenneth Lonergan. For those of you that have seen Manchester you know that the film is funny, tragic and insightful at the same time. That’s hard to do but here it’s pulled off. I would be happy if Sheridan won as well.
Will win: Manchester by the Sea/Should win: The Lobster
The Lobster had the wackiest and wittiest script of the year, but hardly any one saw it.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Arrival – Eric Heisserer from "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang
Fences – August Wilson from Fences by August Wilson (posthumous nomination)
Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi from Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Lion – Luke Davies from A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney from In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney
And the winner is: Moonlight. This is a tight race between Fences and Moonlight. For me the edge goes to Moonlight. It is about the struggles and difficulties of a person embracing his culturally reviled sexuality, the story is universal in scope and intent.
Eric Heisserer. Its not often we get a smart and intelligent science fiction film so his work in adapting Arrival is a standout. August Wilson is likely to get the nod but to me it’s easier to adapt your own work.
Will win: Fences/Should win: Fences
Fences was a fine adaptation of a literary classic by a great playwright. But Moonlight is fresher and more topical. Denzel Washington has clout so I am going with Fences.
Best Director
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
And the winner is: La La Land, Damien Chazelle. Chazelle does many things here: he creates a gorgeous flipbook made of dreamy vintage postcards that are somehow about contemporary life in Los Angeles, and asks what the characters of a Cinemascope musical would have to dream about, and answers with a finale that lifts the film to a higher plane of wish fulfillment and melancholy.
Kenneth Lonergan. Hollywood may congratulate itself by picking Chazelle but Lonergan’s Manchester was to me the best film of the year and so he would get my nod.
Will win-La la Land or Manchester/Should win-Moonlight or Manchester
Mel Gibson did a tremendous job on his comeback film, Hacksaw Ridge (which I consider his best film ever) but he is still somewhat unpopular in some circles for his anti-Semitic drunken rant so he will not win. The Arrival was a respectable sci fi flick but the film but it has only a slim chance of winning. There might be a La la land sweep but if the director and picture vote is split Kenneth Lonergan will win for Manchester by the Sea. Although I immensely enjoyed La la land, I do not think that it has the weight of Moonlight or Manchester and those films have far better direction.

Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood should have been nominated for best director, but all of the best director choices had merit, and I would have trouble deciding whom to leave out. I still would have to question the sanity of anyone who thinks the director of La la land is better than Scorsese, also The Silence is more complex and better than The Departed the film for which he won best picture. Chan-wook Park was similarly snubbed for a best director nomination for his work on The Handmaiden
Best Actor
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea as Lee Chandler
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond T. Doss
Ryan Gosling – La La Land as Sebastian Wilder
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic as Ben Cash
Denzel Washington – Fences as Troy Maxson
And the winner is: Casey Affleck. This is the tightest race of the year. It's between Affleck and Washington. Both are fine performances. Personally, I found it a tough call. It's a toss up. But I'm going with Affleck.
I didn’t see La La or Captain Fantastic but it didn’t matter because there was no better performance that Affleck in Manchester. His performance of Lee, a man so haunted by his past that he has shut down was above and beyond any performance I had see all year.
Will win-Casey Affleck/Should win-Casey Affleck.
The only two actors that are still in the game are Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington. Denzel is one of the all-time best screen actors, but Casey is the one who gave a break through, career defining performance. Ryan Gosling is also a terrific actor (see The Believer) but La la la land is not one of his finest performances. He will only win if he rides a unanimous La la land wave to victory. Andrew Garfield was marvelous in Hacksaw Ridge (as well as The Silence) but I do not think the film has momentum any more (perhaps it was released a bit early and Oscar voters have a short memory span.) He is relatively young and there may be other opportunities. I did not see Viggo Mortenson’s performance in Captain Fantastic, but the film’s reviews were not especially fantastic, and it does not have any Oscar buzz.

Victor Lindon should have been nominated for his work in Measure of a Man
Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert – Elle as Michèle LeBlanc
Ruth Negga – Loving as Mildred Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie as Jackie Kennedy
Emma Stone – La La Land as Mia Dolan
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins as Florence Foster Jenkins
And the winner is: Emma Stone, La La Land. Emma Stone has always had charisma to spare. Her anime-like face displays strength and vulnerability. Here, she delivers on this again. Especially in her audition number. Stone sums up not just the film’s underlying message, but the hopes and dreams of ourselves.
Natalie Portman. Her performance as Jackie Kennedy was amazing. She adopted her voice; her poise; her channeling a woman who had to cope with the fact that her husband was shot as she rode beside him makes her my pick.
Will win-Natalie Portman/Should win-Isabelle Huppert
Isabelle Huppert’s performance in Elle was far superior to any other one from 2016, and many thought she was also great in Things to Come, but the Oscars are notoriously Americentric so she is not likely to win. I did not see Ruth Negga’s performance in Loving but I have heard good things about it. The film and performance is probably too obscure to win. I was not the biggest fan of the film Jackie, but Portman was terrific, and this is just the kind of noble character in a heavy film performance that Oscar voters tend to go for. Meryl Streep gave an unimportant performance in an unimportant film , and I think she was nominated more for her anti Trump speech at the Golden Globes than her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins (although I did not disagree strongly with anything she said in the speech.) Emma Stone was better in Birdman than her new movie but she also has a decent shot if there is a La la Land sweep.

Annette Bening should have been nominated for her work on 20th Century Woman.
Best Picture
Arrival – Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder, and David Linde
Fences – Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, and Todd Black
Hacksaw Ridge – Bill Mechanic and David Permut
Hell or High Water – Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn
Hidden Figures – Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams, and Theodore Melfi
La La Land – Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, and Marc Platt
Lion – Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Angie Fielder
Manchester by the Sea – Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, and Kevin J. Walsh
Moonlight – Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner
And the winner is: LA LA LAND. I knew I was in the bag for this movie during the first 10 minutes. As I said in my year end list, there may have been more substantive films this past year, But La La Land is a colorful, energetic, vibrant, heartfelt throwback to this once wildly popular film genre. Yet more then just homage. It begins with such an ecstatic rush of joy -- and ends with such a gloriously bittersweet flourish. For me, it's irresistable.
Manchester By The Sea. I have actually seen most of the films nominated and only passed on seeing the ones that I had no interest in. That left out La La Land (never been a fan of musicals), Lion and Moonlight. To me the best film of the bunch is Manchester due to the skill of the storytelling but I also loved Hell of High Water and Arrival. That said, I choose Manchester even though it may not win.
Will win: La la land/Should win : Manchester by the Sea
La la land clearly has the most momentum. Even I enjoyed it immensely and I am not that big on musicals. Manchester by the Sea is the second most likely winner, but it is probably win in the writing and acting categories. Moonlight also has a chance, and it probably breaks more ground than all the other choices but this is not the Spirit awards. The rest will not win.

I was surprised that Hidden Figures even was nominated. 20th Century Women, The Lobster, and The Silence were better than most of the nominees


JR's total: 21 predictions out of 22 categories. 14 right/7 wrong
BO's total: 17 predictions out of 22 categories. 6 right/11 wrong
Vito's total: 13 predictions out of 22 categories. 7 right/6 wrong

Review © 2017 Alternate Reality, Inc.