Going for Gold

Making time with Oscar


What: The Red Carpet Affair

When: 4 pm Sun., Feb. 26

Where: Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St.

Cost: $50-$65

Info: http://www.pickfordfilmcenter.org

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

People think the most wonderful time of the year is Christmas, but they are misguided. Truly the most wonderful time of the year is Oscar season, that glorious couple of months when movie houses are flooded with all of the year’s finest films, we all become amateur movie critics and the whole thing culminates in the pomp and circumstance of the Academy Awards.

As with every Oscar season, this one has its narratives. Owing to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy—a storm that had been brewing as long as the Academy has been giving out statues—this year’s field is more diverse, sort of. Notably, four out of the five movies nominated for Best Documentary were made by black filmmakers, setting a precedent for that category that should be followed by the Best Picture category sometime before the end of this century. Maybe.

Per usual, one of the other narratives has to do with the battle for Best Picture. Often this is set up as a sort of David vs. Goliath scenario, in which a big-budget, big-name film squaring off against a Little Film that Could. This year is no different, with La La Land and its record-tying 14 Oscar nominations poised to take home the night’s biggest accolade—provided a little indie film called Moonlight doesn’t steal its thunder.

As ever, some categories are easier to call than others, but when the curtain goes up on the Academy Awards ceremony on Sun., Feb. 26, this is how I think it will all go down.

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

Who Will Win: Usually, the fairly staid voting habits of the fairly staid Academy make for few surprises in the Best Picture category. This year, however, they threw a couple of curveballs. Did you see Hacksaw Ridge or Lion earning Best Picture nominations? Because I sure didn’t. I don’t think anyone foresaw a nod for Hell or High Water. Be that as it may, none of those movies stand a chance of winning. As I mentioned above, this one is all about La La Land and Moonlight, and with so much momentum behind the former, I don’t think we’ll see an upset on Oscar night. Hollywood loves a movie about itself, and La La Land is an all-singing, all-dancing tribute to Tinseltown.

Who Should Win: I’m perfectly happy to see La La Land take this one. It has an abundance of vision and heart, and is polished and perfectly executed. That said, should Moonlight, a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that critics consider to be the year’s best movie, pull of the mother of all upsets, I will cry the happy tears.

Who Was Snubbed: The elephant in this room is obviously The Birth of a Nation, the presumed frontrunner for Oscar’s ultimate accolade until the film’s writer, director and star, Nate Parker, was swept up in a tornado of controversy about a past rape charge and his incredibly poor reaction to inquiries about it. Apparently you can only have a lauded career directing movies amid allegations of sexual assault if your name is Roman Polanski or Woody Allen. Noted.

Best Director
Nominees: Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Who Will Win: Nearly every single critic, pundit, handicapper and armchair expert in the land has Damien Chazelle taking home the little gold guy for La La Land, and I am in agreement with them. He’s just 32 years old and has gifted us with Whiplash and La La Land, both vibrant, stylish, visually stunning and crackling with energy. If he keeps it up, this will not be his last date with Oscar.

Who Should Win: Team Chazelle, all the way.

Who Was Snubbed: Generally speaking, the Academy loves to throw nominations at Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese. Both were blanked this year, the former for Sully and the latter for Silence. An argument could be made that either of those directors could be swapped for Mel Gibson, but I can’t bring myself to get riled up about it.

Best Actor
Nominees: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)

Who Will Win: Casey Affleck has been riding a seemingly unstoppable freight train straight to Oscar Town since Manchester by the Sea first appeared onscreen and in the hearts and minds of the countless critics that have heaped praise upon his performance. Affleck is always a capable actor, but in the role of a man haunted by a tragic past in a blue-collar town outside of Boston, he is the epitome of barely clamped-down rage and crippling regret. His chances have been muddled a bit by Denzel Washington’s award-season success (his turn in Fences was customarily excellent), but Affleck gave the performance of the year, and I believe the Academy will recognize that.

Who Should Win: Casey Affleck. He stood out in a film in which the acting was uniformly superb, and he managed to do it by being a model of dramatic restraint.

Who Was Snubbed: Tom Hanks, who seemed unstoppable back when he was winning back-to-back Oscars during the ’90s, hasn’t been nominated in 17 years. After being overlooked for Captain Phillips and Bridge of Spies, he was snubbed once again for Sully.

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

Who Will Win: This is the night’s deepest category, which means that Hollywood is finally stepping up its game when it comes to writing worthy roles for women. It’s about damn time. As much as I’d love to see the magnificent Isabelle Huppert win an Oscar that would amount to a Lifetime Achievement Award for the criminally underappreciated actress, there’s no denying Emma Stone’s engaging performance or the juggernaut that is La La Land.

Who Should Win: Isabelle Huppert should win every Oscar for which she is ever nominated, but since she’s only ever been nominated for this one, I guess this is the one she should win. She won’t. But a girl can dream.

Who Was Snubbed: I love Meryl Streep. She is our greatest living actor/actress. I don’t know if we’ll again ever see someone amass 20 Academy Award nominations (and counting!), but I think we all know Amy Adams should’ve earned a nod for Arrival or Annette Bening for 20th Century Women, and Meryl could’ve gotten her 20th nomination for another, better film.

Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Dev Patel (Lion), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Who Will Win: Often, the year’s best performances come not in the main roles but in the supporting ones, making these the most stacked categories and therefore the toughest to call. But all of the pre-Oscar hype clearly focuses on Mahershala Ali, and his win is shaping up to be one of the feel-good moments of the night. A small-budget indie flick that was deemed a hard watch as well as a transcendent movie-going experience by nearly everyone who saw it, no one knew to what extent Moonlight would be embraced by the Academy. Ali’s win will validate that a movie doesn’t have to be easy to be loved.

Who Should Win: Everyone nominated deserves to win, but Mahershala Ali deserves it more than the others.

Who Was Snubbed: It is one of my deeply held beliefs that Michael Shannon elevates everything he’s in and therefore should win all of the awards ever. But in the case of Nocturnal Animals, it was actually his co-star, Aaron Taylor-Johnson that deserved Oscar’s attention. While we’re at it, Hugh Grant matched Meryl Streep scene for scene in Florence Foster Jenkins, and anyone who can do that has earned at least a nod.

Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Who Will Win: Viola Davis, incredible actress and gift to us all, nabbed her first Academy Award nomination by appearing in a single scene of 2009’s Doubt, a feat that speaks volumes about how powerful she is onscreen. She’s swept the awards season thus far for Fences, and there’s no reason to think she’ll do anything other than woo Oscar as well. It’s worth noting that the woman who said, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” is sharing this nomination with two other black women in a category in which four out of the five films are about people of color. Opportunity moves slow, but it’s starting to come knocking.

Who Should Win: Give Viola Davis every single Oscar, even the ones that belong to other people.

Who Was Snubbed: Opportunity did not come knocking for Janelle Monae of Hidden Figures, but this snub is more slight than significant.

SVCR Don McLean
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