89th Academy Awards Ceremony predictions

Greetings from the virtual Red Carpet.  The excitement has been building for weeks and the buzz has centered on several smaller movies nominated for Best Picture, including Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” and Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures”. Both are first time nominees.  Chazelle’s “La La Land” has 11 nominations in total.  Will it sweep the awards as some have predicted or will the Academy spread some love, having recognized the social media outcry from 2016’s ceremony.

This is the first year where I have been fortunate enough to have seen all of the nominees in the major categories, with few exceptions.  Below are predictions from the major categories

(* Will Win/** Should Win)

Writing (Original Screenplay):  Although I preferred Lonergan’s screenplay for “Manchester by the Sea”, I found scripts for “The Lobster” and “Hell or High Water” far more original, Chazelle’s “La La Land” is the frontrunner here if only because it sticks to its guns about passion, passionate people and those who follow their dreams.

  • Hell or High Water, Written by Taylor Sheridan
  • La La Land, Written by Damien Chazelle *
  • The Lobster, Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
  • Manchester by the Sea, Written by Kenneth Lonnergan **
  • 20th Century Women, Written by Mike Mills


Writing (Adapted Screenplay):  There is no denying that Heisserer’s script makes for solid mainstream science fiction.  “Fences” translated to the screen exceptionally well, while “Hidden Figures” is a rough diamond.  “Lion” is graceful in portraying its desires for global adoption and poverty.  However, it is Jenkins’ screenplay based on Tarell McCraney’s real-life events that will take this victory.

  • Arrival, Screenplay by Eric Heisserer
  • Fences, Screenplay by August Wilson
  • Hidden Figures, Screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
  • Lion, Screenplay by Luke Davies
  • Moonlight, Screenplay by Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney */**

Foreign Language Film:  Many would have hoped for Paul Varhoeven’s return to cinema to be recognized in this category and I cannot explain why the Academy chose to overlook it.

Unfortunately, not all of the films nominated in this category have been released in Phoenix; we are a week away from getting Zandvliet’s “Land of Mine”, which from the trailers looks exceptional.  Although Farhadi’s “The Salesman” is a brilliant take on “The Death of the Salesman,” it is not as strong as either Holm’s “Ove” or the Australian entry, “Tanna,” a stunning portrait of tribal betrothals, young love and ultimately, respect.  However, it is the dark comedy, “Toni Erdmann” from Germany that will take the honor this evening as it reminds us to stop and smell the roses.

  • Land of Mine, Denmark; Directed by Martin Zandvliet
  • A Man Called Ove, Sweden; Directed by Hannes Holm**
  • The Salesman, Iran; Directed by Asghar Farhadi
  • Tanna, Australia; Directed by Bentley Dean and Martin Butler
  • Toni Erdmann, Germany; Directed by Maren Ade*

Directing:  This is a tough category for me because these five films do represent the best in direction of any film in 2016.  From Mel Gibson’s raw, but heartfelt return to the director’s chair in “Hacksaw Ridge” to Villeneuve’s continued push to cinematic excellence in “Arrival”, both show each director at the top of their game, and neither has hit their ceiling yet.  Lonergan’s eye for detail in the dramatic “Manchester by the Sea” takes grief to new heights while Chazelle continues to find his own beat in “La La Land.”  However, it will be Barry Jenkins’ night this year for masterfully weaving three vignettes together showing one man’s progression on a journey of self-discovery.

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

Actress in a Supporting Role:  This is Viola Davis’s category this year for her performance in “Fences”.  Although each of the other nominees in this category are equally as deserving, Davis, who should have been nominated in the Actress category was the heart and soul of “Fences”.  Each is a testament to the caliber of their respective stories and their roles.

  • Viola Davis, Fences*/**
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nichole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea


Actor in a Supporting Role:  Mahershala Ali has won several other awards for this same role throughout the season, and even though his screen time is extremely limited, he is referenced throughout the entire movie.  Jeff Bridges and Michael Shannon were both nominated for essentially similar roles, and both approached it in the same manner.  Neither of them is any less deserving of their recognition here.  Dev Patel, who won at the BAFTA’s for this award, is underrepresented in this category, as his role truly was lead.  Lucas Hedges has a bright career in front of him and he is very deserved of this recognition for such a difficult role, especially opposite Casey Affleck.

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


Actress in a Leading Role:  Although Huppert is the entire reason for “Elle”, her performance is nowhere near as strong as Natalie Portman as Jaqueline Onassis Kennedy in the first few days following JFK’s assassination, or Ruth Negga in her amazingly strong turn as Mildred Loving.  Emma Stone is gorgeous in “La La Land” and Meryl Streep gives a stunning performance as Florence Foster Jenkins.  This is still Natalie’s to lose, but Ruth Negga’s performance is tops in this category.

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


Actor in a Leading Role:  As Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss, Garfield is electric, but this is not his top role of 2016.  Ryan Gosling is magnetic as a struggling jazz musician trying to hold on to the past, but this was not his best role of 2016 either.  Denzel is electric, but his self-direction focused more on Viola Davis, giving her a significant amount of the spotlight.  Viggo Mortensen is dynamite as a struggling widower father trying to reintegrate his children after the death of his wife and the number of social issues which are brought to the forefront.  It is Casey Affleck’s grief-stricken character who must now forge ahead with responsibilities that he would rather not deal with following the death of his brother.  This is genuine acting.

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea*
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences**


Best Picture:  All of the movies in this category are deserving of the recognition.  They are all seasoned producers, and each of their productions are remarkable for their fiscal sensibilities; each were creative within their respective frameworks.  However, “La La Land” will take the top honors home.  All of this despite the fact that “Manchester by the Sea” was my top film of 2016.

  • 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, Pharell Williams and Theodore Melfi
  • La La Land, Fred Berger, Jordon 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**


We’ll be back after the ceremonies to do a post mortem analysis.

What are your guesses?  Did you have any films that you felt should have been nominated?