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The Grierson & Leitch 2017 Academy Awards Predictions ⋆ Epeak . Independent news and blogs

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Eric Heisserer, Arrival
August Wilson, Fences
Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
Luke Davies, Lion
Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight

Leitch: The late
charge by
Hidden Figures—the film
that has made the most money of any Best Picture nominee—has made this one a
little tighter than most might have thought. For the last few months,
La La Land has been the Best Picture
favorite, with
Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea the two
runners-up. But
Hidden Figures has

passed Manchester by the Sea and is
gaining on
Moonlight. This category
might tell us which film ended up ahead in that race. For all the
Hidden Figures love, though, Moonlight is the most critically adored
film of the year, and Barry Jenkins has been one of the breakout stars of this
award season. He seems certain to give the best, most urgent speech of this lot:
is the pick.

Grierson: Moonlight, which was inspired by Tarell
Alvin McCraney’s unproduced play In
Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue
, was considered an original screenplay by
the Writers Guild of America, but the Academy decided it should
be entered in the adapted screenplay race
. As a result, it’s the shoo-in to
win. Maybe some voters prefer Arrival’s
tricky, emotional structure or want to show respect to the late, great August
Wilson for his Fences script (based
on his Pulitzer Prize–winning play). But Moonlight is the safe pick.

Best Original

Taylor Sheridan, Hell
or High Water
Damien Chazelle, La La
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, The Lobster
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester
by the Sea
Mike Mills, 20th
Century Women

Grierson: Even
though I’ll be rooting for
The Lobster,
the race will come down to
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea. La La Land is going to have a great
night, but my hunch is that this is one category that Damien Chazelle’s musical
won’t win. I can see Academy voters considering Kenneth Lonergan’s film to be
the one that feels more literary. Plus, this might be the voters’ best chance
to show some love to
Manchester by the Sea—especially
with Denzel Washington building some momentum in the Best Actor category in
recent weeks. There’s always a possibility that a
La La Land sweep will affect this category, but Lonergan is a
respected screenwriter and playwright who lost this category (for
You Can Count on Me) in a surprise upset to Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. This time, I think he wins. 

Leitch: All love
and respect for The Lobster—a
nomination that actually made me applaud when it was announced—but this is a
two-horse race between La La Land and
Manchester by the Sea. Manchester is
more traditionally “written”—Kenneth Lonergan looks like what all actors think
all writers look like—but La La Land could
sweep everything this year. As tempting as it is to think Lonergan sneaks one
out, it’s worth remembering that the world of La La Land is a wholly original (while still nostalgic) one that
sprung from the mind of Damien Chazelle. It might be the most polarizing movie
in the country right now, but the respect for that achievement gives La La
the award. 

Best Supporting

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or
High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester
by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal

Leitch: The real
question: Will anyone ever remember any of the nominees who
weren’t Mahershala Ali? (The guess here is no.)

Grierson: If Dev
Patel pulls off the upset, then maybe there’s more Lion love in the Academy than we realized. Jeff Bridges is an
industry fixture, so there’s always a chance he could sneak off with his second
Oscar. But let’s not kid ourselves: This category is Mahershala Ali’s to lose. He beat both of them for the SAG prize,
and since Moonlight probably isn’t
going to win Best Picture, this will be another way for the voters to give the
acclaimed indie some much-deserved adoration.

Best Supporting

Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden
Michelle Williams, Manchester
by the Sea

Leitch: Viola Davis
might be the lead in this movie, but when she fell into this category, it was a fait accompli that she’d be the easy
winner. Maybe in her speech she can explain her character in Suicide Squad for us?

Grierson: Viola Davis
has no major competition for a role that’s already earned her a Tony. I’d be
stunned if she loses—the only real question is whether her acceptance speech
will top the extraordinary one she gave at the Emmys back in 2015.

Best Actress

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

Grierson: Could
the Academy decide that Emma Stone is too young and, therefore, will have
plenty of other chances to win? It’s possible, which makes the upset most
likely to go to Isabelle Huppert, who’s stunning as a rape victim who gets
revenge in Elle. But I just don’t see
that happening: Emma Stone is the
heart and soul of La La Land, and she
sings the pull-out-all-the-stops, tear-jerking song in the movie (“Audition”),
a move that helped clinch Oscars for Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) and Anne Hathaway (Les
). A vote for La La Land
is a vote for her.

Leitch: There was
a time when it looked like this was going to be a thrilling three-way ingenue race between Emma Stone, Natalie
Portman, and Arrival’s Amy Adams. But
audiences were left cold by Jackie,
Adams somehow wasn’t nominated for Arrival,
and all that’s left is Stone.

Best Actor 

Casey Affleck, Manchester
by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw
Ryan Gosling, La La
Viggo Mortensen, Captain
Denzel Washington, Fences

Leitch: Casey
Affleck seemed like the runaway winner three months ago, but his sexual
harassment charge on the set of I’m Still
has not gone away. Plus, the performance is inward and less showy than
the others on this list. So some believe Denzel Washington, who is trying to
win his third Oscar, has caught him from behind with his passion project Fences, which he directed and which he
has already won a Tony for. This might be the tightest race on the board … but this
is one way to honor Manchester, so
I’ll go with Affleck. But if Manchester wins Best Original
Screenplay, this might go the other way.

Grierson: For
much of awards season, the Manchester
star looked like the clear front-runner—and then came the SAG Awards, where
Washington took home the prize. Since then, Washington’s chances have looked
better and better. The lingering stigma of Affleck’s sexual-harassment
may affect his chances, but there are two other reasons why
Washington seems like he’s heading to a third Oscar win. The first is that he’s
a far bigger star than Affleck—and not just a star, but a beloved icon. Second,
his performance is so much bigger in terms of its dramatic fireworks—Affleck’s
equally impressive turn is more insular and constricted, which may make it
harder for voters to fully embrace. Some might argue that Washington has won
twice already, which ought to hurt his odds. But in recent years, Daniel
Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep have won a third Oscar, creating a sense that the
Academy wants to honor its most legendary actors, even if they’ve won before. I
think they’re ready to put Denzel Washington
in that rarefied company. 

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival     
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw
Damien Chazelle, La La
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester
by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Grierson: Three
out of the last four years, there’s been a Best Picture/Best Director split,
but I don’t see that happening this year. The opportunity to give Barry Jenkins
the Best Director prize, which would make him the first African-American to win,
might be enticing, but with this category I always make my prediction based on
one criterion: Which movie looked the hardest to make? As magnificent as Moonlight is, it’s a movie of subtle
performances and nuanced emotional shading—by comparison, La La Land has big musical set pieces with memorable trailer
moments like Gosling and Stone dancing through the sky at the Griffith
Observatory. With none of the other contenders’ films having enough juice to
pull off the upset, I think the prize goes to Damien Chazelle, which would make him the youngest Best Director
winner in the Academy’s history. 

Leitch: Longtime
readers—both of you!—will know that I can’t stand when the Best Director and
Best Picture prizes are split: I’m irritatingly auteur theory about the whole
thing. So if La La Land is the
runaway favorite to win Best Picture, I’m sticking with Damien Chazelle here. Plus, Barry Jenkins will have already gotten
to give a speech. 

Best Picture 

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Leitch: It was
the favorite after its first public screenings in Toronto, and all the slings
and arrows it took from people who just don’t like musicals won’t make a
difference. This movie is about the very reasons people who make movies decided
to start making movies in the first place. It wasn’t made solely to win an
Oscar. But it’s precisely what the movie will do: Congrats to La La

Grierson: If you
want to throw caution to the wind, go with Hidden
. The true story of the unheralded African-American women who helped
get America into the space race won the SAG ensemble prize last month, aiding
its Oscar momentum. But the two most likely winners are La La Land and Moonlight.
La La Land is Academy catnip: It
celebrates dreamers, it’s an old-school musical, it’s set in Los Angeles, and it’s
a throwback to make-‘em-laugh-make-‘em-cry Hollywood productions. Moonlight’s unlikely road to the Oscars
will give that movie a moral victory—but La La Land is your winner.

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