Alas for the days when I could do an Oscar preview week. Unfortunately, this year I haven’t been paying much attention. This is probably due to the fact that I haven’t seen a single Best Picture nominee, so I’m really in no place to comment on the merits of the nominated films. All I can really do for a “preview” is recap the guild awards and make guesses.
“The Jungle Book” won the Visual Effects Society Award. While this hasn’t always been the best predictor of the Visual Effects Oscar, I guess it’s the best I can do, since the only nominee I’ve seen was “Rogue One,” and, while its effects were great, they were also pretty standard-issue “Star Wars” effects, which are not very exciting at this point.
I can’t read the tea leaves using the Guild awards here. “Arrival” and “Moonlight” won the Writer’s Guild Awards, but for some reason the WGA thinks that “Moonlight” is an original screenplay and the Academy thinks it’s an adapted screenplay. It’s safe to say that one of them will win for Adapted Screenplay. As for Original Screenplay, I’ll just go with this year’s “probably will win a bunch of awards” movie – “La La Land.”
You usually can’t go wrong with using the SAG Awards as a barometer for picking the Oscars. Actors are the largest voting block after all, so their opinion carries the most weight. This usually holds true more-so for supporting roles than lead roles I think. Although I could be wrong – I say that just because I can think of a few SAG/Oscar differences for lead roles off the top of my head but not for supporting roles. You (probably) can expect Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) and Viola Davis (finally, for “Fences”) to add Oscar-Winner to their resumes.
Emma Stone has been consistently cleaning up for her role in “La La Land.” The safe money is on her. How does she lose? Only if there is a significant hype-related backlash against “La La Land” (perhaps prompted by Aziz Ansari style criticism of the movie).
If Stone loses, the Best Actress race is wide open.
As for Lead Actor, the SAG Awards honored Denzel Washington for his performance in “Fences.” This might be a matter of Casey Affleck (“Manchseter by the Sea”) and Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”) cancelling each other out. A third Oscar for Washington would certainly be earned, however.
Damien Chazelle will probably win if “La La Land” cleans up as expected. If not, then I have no idea how to call this one. No one is an established auteur this year like Spielberg or Scorsese, so there’s no default “if X doesn’t win, Y will win.”
“La La Land” will probably win. First, it’s been winning a lot. Second, it’s made a solid amount of money at the box office ($135M and counting). Third, it’s a movie about experiences that Academy voters can relate to pretty easily (living in Los Angeles, making it in showbiz).
How does “La La Land” lose? Well, “Hidden Figures” won the SAG award for best ensemble so it has a chance. Also “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” got slightly better reviews than “La La Land” so that’s worth taking into account.
What to Watch Out for
How do you know there are cracks in the “La La Land” wall? Check out Original Song. If Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana,” beats out either “La La Land” song, we might be in store for a surprising night.
(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe