Posted Feb 26 2017
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LastWord Calls The Oscars 2017 - Oi, Kimmel, We Got This!!

Isn’t it weird now when Awards Season lasts nearly half the year – and that’s not allowing for the double contributory salvo of January’s Sundance and Cannes in May – to actually be coming to the end? Yesterday evening marked the end of voting. This Sunday marks the beginning and end of presenting. Then it’s – oh, you know, a couple of weeks off – and it’s all up and running again.

So here we are with our yearly call out – designed to make sense of the nonsense, rip apart the hyperbolic speculation and let you, the dedicated reader, know EXACTLY what’s gong to happen this coming Sunday evening. We’re even happy for Jimmy Kimmel to get a bet on based on the below – although we’re equally happy to get a cut of his winnings.

And to think this season started with no clear leader and somehow morphed into the most obvious race in years. And that was even after La La Land debuted all the way back in Venice last August.

As projected class acts came and underwhelmed, it slowly (noticeably not quickly) developed into a three horse race – that of La La, Manchester and Moonlight.  They jockeyed for position for a while – but as La La found its audience, it emerged as a clear favourite. And there’s a reason or that, (and we’ve said this before.) Damien Chazelle’s musical doesn’t have to be the Best Film, it just has to be the Best Film Right Now! It has caught the imagination of the world ($300million and counting at the global BO and nobody saw that coming) in part because it is a delightful antidote to our times. From Trump to Brexit to everything else, it works fantastically well as a cinematic salve. And not an easy one. It is at its finest when drawing us into its most bittersweet moments and intentions. It makes you feel good, but it isn’t an easy film. And that’s what people have responded to. We’re presuming such thoughts have passed through the minds of a certain amount of Academy voters – but, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. With a record-tying 14 nomination, we’re not predicting a record-breaking sweep for La La - it can’t anyway – two of  ‘em are in Best Song and there’s only one Uncle Oscar to take home.

But before we give away our big ending (or even post-credits sting) – as is tradition here at LastWord, we’re saving most of the biggies to the end. (They do it on the night – we can do it right here, right now.)

So here we go – starting like we think they’re going to on the night –

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Really? You have to ask? If there is one undeniable lock this year, it’s Viola Davis in Fences. The woman has been denied on more than one occasion in the past, and they were wise not to play her for Lead. Her work here is simply gobsmacking and the actress is more than due. The others don’t even need to be in the room (and Michelle Williams knows her time will come.) Expect a gracious yet powerful and eloquent speech, and everyone going on about how that whole #OscarsSoWhite thing is now a thing of the past…

…something that will be echoed shortly after with BEST SUPPOTING ACTOR. Dev Patel may have nabbed the BAFTA – unexpected to all but us! – but good as Dev was, there was a feeling of hometown win on that one. Mahershala Ali may only grace Moonlight for its first act, but the man has been having one helluva year – he’s in two Best Film noms (this and Hidden Figures), plus parlayed House of Cards into the big bad role on Luke Cage, and just landed the cover story on The Hollywood Reporter the week of the ceremony. This is his highly deserved moment – and no one’s going to take that from him.

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE is an odd one this year. Odd in that Pixar, despite having an acclaimed box office smash in Finding Dory, is not represented. (Don’t worry Pixar fans, they’re going to pick up BEST ANIMATED SHORT for Piper to make up for it.) The brilliant Kubo usurped expectations at BAFTA a week and a bit ago, but we think the US Academy won’t have warmed to that in the same way. They’re going with Zootopia, which in and of itself is a remarkable movie, a clear example of how the ambition and finesse of Pixar has moved into other (admittedly) related filmmakers. Plus, it’s good to award a film about tolerance in the current climate. Will the winning filmmakers make mention of their President? If they do, it won’t be ironic. It’ll be highly appropriate.

 

Which brings us back to La La Land and just how and where it will seek to stake it’s claim as this year’s biggest success story. So we may as well do this all at once.

Obviously – BEST ORIGINAL SONG – it’s up for two, and it’s set to break the hearts of Justin Timberlake and Lin Manuel Miranda both. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” is not only the better song, but the defining moment of the movie and the one that gets Emma Best Actress (whoops, spoiler!) But City Of Stars is the earworm. It’s the one you find yourself humming the day after on the way to work. So it takes it. And Justin Hurwitz will be very happy to go home with this little golden fellah…But don’t go too far Justin, you get to do one of those photos where you’re double-fisting (!) two awards when you also take home BEST ORIGINAL SCORE. (Which on one level is a shame as Mica Levi’s score for Jackie is a far stronger piece of work.)

While we’re on the subject of how La La Land comes to dominate the evening of the 89th Academy Awards – we’re calling it for the two crucial awards of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY for the luscious visuals of Linus Sandgren (despite his loss at the recent ASC Awards) and BEST EDITING for Tom Cross (echoing his recent win at the ACE Eddies,) this latter win leading us by the nose to Best Picture…

That said how about we take a break from the obvious and move onto a category that La La doesn’t stand a chance in?

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – Much as we were back at the BAFTAS, we’re initially torn here between Rogue One – which broke new ground by bringing Peter Cushing back to life so successfully, and The Jungle Book, which brought just about everything bar the kid to life. On those grounds alone we’re calling it for Favreau and his team for their simply remarkable – and remarkably unobtrusive – work.

We also see La La shut out of BEST PRODUCTION DEISGN and the long due Stuart Craig (a very nice man!)  picking up the gold one for his exemplary work on Fantastic Beasts – or FBAWTFT (as we all used to call it in the old days.)

Similarly, BEST COSTUME DESIGN is a toss up here for Beasts and Florence Foster Jenkins – and we’re going for the latter, despite many of the costumes being worn by that very overrated woman.

BEST MAKE UP AND HAIR meanwhile has to go to Star Trek Beyond, if only so we can live with the phrase “the Oscar-winning Star Trek Beyond” and not “the Oscar-winning Suicide Squad,” which would simply be untenable.

Another category that Chazelle’s movie doesn’t stand a chance at is BEST DOCUMENATRY. It’s a particularly powerful and potent group this year, and while we have a penchant (damn all that alliteration!) for Life, Animated, it’s a clear call between the more politically minded 13th and O.J. Made In America, and whilst we doubt that all those voting will have sat through the entire 7 ½ hour running time of O. J. – most of them saw the other version with Cuba Gooding, so that’ll do. O. J. shoots, he scores. Wonder if they’ll let him watch the ceremony in jail?

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM is a tougher call. If it wasn’t for Trump’s travel ban initially prohibiting The Salesman’s Asghar Farhadi from attending (he’s now not showing up in protest), this looked like a clear win for Toni Erdmann, a film that not only appears to have got Jack Nicholson out of retirement but proved there was such a thing as a three hour German comedy. It’ll be a close call, but we’re saying that acknowledging Farhadi whilst dissing the Prez is just too good a grace note to let slide.

The awards for BEST SOUND EDITING and BEST SOUND MIXING often go hand in hand – and rightly so – and often have a hand in shaping the awards at the top end of the show. If La La Land wins here it will be either a confirmation of the Academy’s overwhelming love for the modern day musical – or just simply unexpected in our book. We’re calling the blistering work of the Hacksaw Ridge teams for both (although we wouldn’t be totally be surprised to see Arrival make a push for these as well.)

Which brings us to the home stretch. BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – whilst we’d love to see Arrival get some love here, it’s really a two-way thing between Hidden Figures and Moonlight. Which brings us to the Moonlight issue. Critics love it. Audiences love it. But, despite all the good intentions that come with the word “diversity” attached to them, it’s still a fact that the majority of the voting members of the Academy are elderly, and male. And white – and not owning up to being gay even if they are. (Not just a Scientology thing!) So we don’t see Moonlight taking this, but Hidden Figures, which has been buoyed in recent weeks by an unexpectedly huge box office, and praised for its delightfully old fashioned approach. This is a movie that a vast amount of those voting can recognise and understand – and don’t get us wrong, this is not us patronising it in any way. We agree – it’s a terrific movie, and if anything seriously threatened an upset in the Best Picture category, this is it, more likely than Moonlight or Manchester. But it will have to settle for this one.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY is also problematic. And also a two horse race. If the Academy is totally ga ga for La La, then it wins here. But we think they’ll want to take a breather at this point and go for the more reserved and supposedly “worthier” Manchester By The Sea. Kenneth Lonergan has a lot of friends in Hollywood and hasn’t had the opportunity to fully prove himself to hem, so this becomes a grief over dancing moment.

For most of the season, the BEST ACTOR race has been Casey Affleck and his own dust. Then SAG threw the proverbial curve ball and gave the gong to Denzel. Then BAFTA threw another and didn’t even nominate Washington. Suddenly, perceived perception was all chaos and confusion, dogs and cats living together. Calm down people – we’re here for you. Now, we love Denzel. Truth be told, we’d rather Denzel take this home (his third!) But the vents of recent weeks have been late minute blips, aberrations in the overall – Casey’s taking this one home. He may even smile. He may even thank his big brother. He may even ask to be the next Batman – to be honest, we don’t really care at this point!

Which brings us to our run through the final three. BEST ACTRESS – to paraphrase our own recent BAFTA comments – if you’re name’s not Emma Stone, it’s not on the inside of the envelope. Some of you may be on the outside of said envelope – but you’re not on the inside! Natalie, Ruth, Isabelle and Meryl – get as dunk as you like. No speech required. And in a star is born move that echoes her A Star Is Born echoing movie – Emma Stone gest gold.

Best Director – unless something has gone hideously wrong, Damien Chazelle becomes the youngest filmmaker to ever win a Best Director Oscar (a fact that could have been equalled had Moonlight won – both gents are 31), and he remains in the wings as the BEST PICTURE goes to La La Land – the season’s leader, the season’s winner. Cut to Mel Gibson in the third row clapping reluctantly.

At which point, Jimmy Kimmel, who will undoubtedly have done a solidly workmanlike job all night (but he’s no Chris Rock) will say something about how late it is and how long it’s gone…and we’ll all go to bed and hibernate until the whole damn ting starts again. Don’t know about you, but we can’t wait!

 

Come back on Sunday night to see how well we did with all this “calling” stuff (and if your bets pay out, don’t forget to cut us in.) We’ll be live-blogging the whole thing, which basically means pizza, wine, a profound lack of sleep and all that la la la…

 

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