Film Feature:’s 2017 Oscar Predictions

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – When is comes to Academy Award predictions, is second to none. That’s right, nobody does it better, even the approximately 100 million other outlets predicting the Big Night awards. HC film critics Patrick McDonald, Michael “Spike” Walters and Jon Lennon Espino “correctly” predict the major categories.

This year, there are nine films – “Arrival” “Fences” “Hacksaw Ridge” “Hell or High Water” “Hidden Figures” “La La Land” “Lion” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight”  – that will vie for the Best Picture Award, and after last year’s #OscarSoWhite, a much more diverse nominee representation are in the acting categories. The HC team together will opine on BEST Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, Director, Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay. As in previous years, the predictions are broken down into thoughts on who WILL WIN, SHOULD WIN and SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED (for one last gasp of anarchistic dissent). Separately, Patrick, Spike and Jon will comment on a WILD CARD guess for three other categories, and the latest odds on the rest of the field will be highlighted to fill out your ballot for Oscar Night. Happy Oscar Weekend!

PREDICTOR GUIDE: Patrick McDonald = (PM), Spike Walters = (SW) and Jon Espino = (JE)

NOMINEES: “Arrival” “Fences” “Hacksaw Ridge” “Hell or High Water” “Hidden Figures” “La La Land” “Lion” “Manchester by the Sea” “Moonlight” 

Will Win: “La La Land” (PM, SW, JE)

Will Win: “La La Land” (PM, SW, JE)

Should Win: “Moonlight” (PM, JE) “La La Land” (SW)

Should Have Been Nominated: “Jackie” (PM, JE)

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in ‘La La Land’
Photo credit: Dale Robinette for Lionsgate

It’s a clean sweep with all three predictors!…

SW: Sorry Haters, the Best Picture is going to what I thought was one of the best pictures of the year. It may spring from the familiar tradition of the old Hollywood musical, but there is nothing like this beautifully constructed crowd pleaser… with ditties you’ll be humming for days afterwards.

JE: The Academy has very predictable sensibilities, and ‘La La Land’ caters to all of them, which is why it will undoubtedly sweep the Oscars this year. ‘Moonlight’ is the underdog, but it is also the film that has a greater societal impact, and could use that extra boost to rise above the ‘La La’ noise. There was little-to-no love for ‘Jackie.’

PM: Pablo Larrain’s ‘Jackie’ was misunderstood by the voters…LALALALALA, Academy voters can’t hear me. Like the prez campaign, a divisive choice, but ‘La La’ has the mojo to go all the way. ‘Did you see them dance in the sky?’

NOMINEES: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”… Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”… Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”… Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”… Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Will Win: Casey Affleck (PM, SW), Denzel Washington (JE)

Should Win: Affleck (PM), Washington (JE), Ryan Gosling (SW)

Should Have Been Nominated: Peter Simonischek “Toni Erdmann” (PM), Adam Driver “Paterson” (JE)

Casey Affleck and Lucas Hodges in ‘Manchester by the Sea’
Photo credit: Amazon Studios

First split, and all make their case…

JE: Aside from sweeping the awards circuit, Denzel is the obvious choice and a well-deserved one. Say what you will about the overall tone and pacing of ‘Fences,’ but performances outshine the overly-theatrical feel of the film. A noticeably missing performance is Adam Driver’s severely understated one, in the thoughtfully developed ‘Paterson.’

PM: Despite a late backlash, Affleck’s deep performance, alway from the usual norms of such interpretations in loss and mourning, will rule the day. Peter Simonischek WAS Toni Erdmann.

SW: There’s not a bad performance in the bunch. I’m not as big a fan of Affleck’s emotionally shutdown janitor as others out there, but I think he’ll still rule the day. For my money, Gosling provided the most joy and razzmatazz among the Oscar nominees.

NOMINEES: Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”…. Ruth Negga, “Loving”… Natalie Portman, “Jackie”…
Emma Stone, “La La Land”… Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Will Win: Emma Stone (PM, SW, JE)

Should Win: Stone (SW), Natalie Portman (PM), Isabelle Huppert (JE)

Should Have Been Nominated: Rebecca Hall, “Christine” (PM, JE)

Emma Stone in the Climatic Scene in ‘La La Land’
Photo credit: Lionsgate

All together now, again, except in the SHOULD WIN category…

PM: Natalie Portman’s Jackie Kennedy was my favorite performance of the year, followed closely by Rebecca Hall in the criminally underrated “Christine.” As for Emma, did you see her dance in the sky!?

SW: Among the acting nominees Emma Stone is not quite a sure thing, but almost – it’s simply Stone at her most charming and talented, with a fleet foot and quite a voice to boot. Only French legend Isabelle Huppert has the outside chance of an upset, but it’s extremely unlikely.

JE: Emma Stone was the most captivating and emotionally resonant part of ‘La La Land’ and I wouldn’t be too upset if she won. That being said, Huppert’s performance is one of the most complex of this entire year. It is a roller coaster of emotions and confusing feelings, and a cringeworthy delight. Another wonderful performance that was woefully overlooked this year was the devastating performance by Rebecca Hall in ‘Christine.’

NOMINEES: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”… Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”… Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”… Dev Patel, “Lion”… Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Will Win: Dev Patel (JE, PM), Jeff Bridges (SW)

Should Win: Mahershala Ali (JE, PM SW)

Should Have Been Nominated: Gael García Bernal - “Neruda“ (JE), Tracy Letts “Christine”/”Indignation” (PM)

Dev Patel in ‘Lion’
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

Jon and Patrick get on Dev Patel Train, and Spike calls an upset…

JE: Dev Patel became the frontrunner in a category it seemed Mahershala Ali would dominate. Another overlooked performance and film is that of Gael García Bernal in ‘Neruda,’ which gives Bernal one of the best performances of his career.

PM: Where is the love for the great Chicago actor/playwright Tracy Letts? Dev wins in a squeaker (actually a lead role), and I’ve changed my vote from when the nominees were announced. Ali’s performance is the lifeblood of ‘Moonlight.’

SW: The supporting actor category tends to be the one where voters throw predictors a curve, with a bias toward honoring old Hollywood vets over young newcomers. Ali was a force and a presence that can not be underestimated, but Bridges’ Texas lawman might just take home an upset.

NOMINEES: Viola Davis, “Fences”… Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”… Nicole Kidman, “Lion”… Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”… Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Will Win: Viola Davis (SW, PM, JE)

Should Win: Davis (SW, PM, JE)

Should Have Been Nominated: Gillian Jacobs “Don’t Think Twice” (PM), Lily Gladstone “Certain Women” (JE)

Viola Davis with Denzel Washington in ‘Fences’
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

No need to call the ‘smith, because this is a lock from all three…

SW: Viola Davis has this coming to her. She’s been recognized and nominated multiple times before, and this is the closest to a sure thing. Davis makes the most of her screen time and her powerful supporting turn in ‘Fences’ is finally going to bring home gold.

PM: Viola Davis is the only reason to see ‘Fences,’ which I thought under Denzel’s direction was stagey and awkward…Davis transcended it all. I honor one of my top ten 2016 films ‘Don’t Think Twice’ through Ms. Jacob’s performance.

JE: I have been a Viola Davis fanboy since the beginning, and she has earned every bit of my praise in every film – her performances are always mesmerizing, One criminally ignored film in the Oscars is Kelly Reichardt’s film, ‘Certain Women,’ where Lily Gladstone delivers an incredibly nuanced performance.

NOMINEES: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”… Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”… Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”… Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”… Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”

Will Win: Damien Chazelle (JE, SW, PM)

Should Win: Chazelle (SW, PM), Barry Jenkins (JE)

Should Have Been Nominated: Pablo Larrain “Jackie” (PM), Martin Scorsese “Silence” (JE)

Director Damien Chazelle On Set for ‘La La Land’
Photo credit: Lionsgate

More love for LA LA

JE: I can’t argue that ‘La La Land’ wasn’t a great film, and Chazelle’s direction brought the whole technicolor vision together, but Barry Jenkins’ film is much more complex in both the gorgeous technical aspect, as well as the complicated subject matter. For all the hard visual and theological work, Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ deserved at least a nomination.

SW: Although Barry Jenkins makes a strong case for ‘Moonlight’ and his film has its own kind of lyricism, Damien Chazelle will walk out of the ceremony with an Oscar in his hand and a song in his heart.

PM: Pablo Larrain’s ‘Jackie’ was auteur filmmaking at it’s finest…LALALALALA. Seriously, of the nominees, Chazelle masterfully guided a modern musical into public consciousness – it was a marvelous creative and technical achievement.

NOMINEES: “20th Century Women” “Hell or High Water” “La La Land” “The Lobster” “Manchester by the Sea”

Will Win: “La La Land” (SW, PM), “The Lobster” (JE)

Should Win: “20th Century Women” (JE), “Hell or High Water” (PM, SW)

Should Have Been Nominated: Jim Jarmusch “Paterson” (PM, JE), Robert D. Siegel “The Founder” (SW)

Emma Stone with Ryan Gosling in ‘La La Land’
Photo credit: Lionsgate

Jonny goes upset, and finally some love for “Paterson”…

PM: The LALALALA express train keeps a-movin’, and only “Hell or High Water” is better of the nominated scripts. Jim Jarmusch’s understated “Paterson” was truly original.

JE: Any person who has seen “The Lobster” will tell you that it is easily the most original story they’ve ever seen (right after they ask themselves, ‘What the hell did I just watch?’). The completely overlooked ‘Paterson’ deserved to be nominated simply for how creatively Jim Jarmusch took one of the most famous American poets, and used his masterwork to recreate the inspiration behind it through the story of a bus driver.

SW: This is one the categories where we might see a ‘La La Land’ upset, since it’s more the design and the spirit of the movie that captivated audiences rather than it’s relatively simple plot – but I’m not going to bet on it.

NOMINEES: “Arrival” “Fences” “Hidden Figures” “Lion” “Moonlight”

Will Win: “Moonlight” (JE, SW, PM)

Should Win: “Moonlight” (JE, SW, PM)

Should Have Been Nominated: Tom Ford “Nocturnal Animals” (JE), James Schamus “Indignation” (PM), Robert Schenkkan & Andrew Knight “Hacksaw Ridge” (SW)

Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in ‘Moonlight’
Photo credit: A24

Mr. “Moonlight”…

SW: This is likely to be Moonlight’s consolation prize unless it pulls off a Best Picture upset. But it’s deserving of the honor and deserves to be recognized for its beauty and grace.  

PM: ’Moonlight’ is rightfully honored as a nominee in this category, but veteran screenwriter/newbie director James Schamus deserves love for his deep and respectful adaptation of a complex Philip Roth novel.

JE: This one is open and shut – ‘Moonlight” wins, especially since it successfully wove difficult social problems into the timeline of a complex person. Just as complex was Tom Ford’s sleek revenge thriller ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ that created a world within a world.

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