The Oscars

The paradox of the Oscars is that no one claims to care about them, yet they spend a lot of time and effort in order to inform you of this. I don't think I'll ever write a better intro to the Oscars as I did a few years ago:
The funny thing about the Academy Awards is that your opinion about them is pretty boring. You think the Oscars are just a cynical circle jerk of self-satisfied Hollywood elites? Boring! You're outraged at [insert snub here]? Super fucking boring! You're genuinely excited about seeing films receive the recognition they deserve? You are both naive and boring! But the one thing that unites us all is the abject hatred of the short films categories. I think we can all agree on that.
This year promises to be vaguely more interesting giving that we're living in the age of Trump and thus celebrities will be falling all over themselves to make "important" statements that will be parsed to death in the following week. I guess this is a good thing, but only in the "May you live in interesting times" curse sort of way.

On a more personal level, I just like to drink a few beers and make fun of celebrities. Making predictions can also be fun, though I do tend to fall right around the same 80% or so success rate every year. This year's picks are below. Back in the before time, the long long ago, I used to do this thing called "liveblogging". For the uninitiated, back in the "dark" days before Facebook and Twitter, people would just update their blog every 2 minutes and we'd just sit there hitting F5 to see what people were saying. A few years ago, I finally got with the times and took it all to Twitter. And to be honest, I'm not that interesting, so I usually end up just retweeting a bunch of people who are funnier and more incisive than I am. But hey, if you want to chat, I'll be on Twitter @mciocco saying dumb things. If, for some ungodly reason, you want to see a decade's worth of previous predictions and commentary on the Oscars, check them out here: [2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004]
  • Best Picture: La La Land. This appears pretty close to a lock. Critics are agitating for Moonlight, but I suspect the Academy will think that throwing it an award in one of the lesser categories will be enough. Still a chance for backlash, I guess, but it's small. Arrival would be my pick, but the Academy famously doesn't go for SF, though this seems better regarded than most. Similarly, Hell or High Water is well liked (including by me!), but is unlikely to really strike a chord with the Academy. Manchester by the Sea and Hidden Figures have some cred, I guess, but their chances seem vanishingly small (and may be rewarded elsewhere). Lion only got the nomination due to customary Weinstein wrangling and will thus probably not have any real chance of winning (regardless of the film's quality). Hacksaw Ridge is just an acknowledgement that Hollywood is giving Mel a chance again. In the end, it's La La Land or Moonlight or bust.
  • Best Director: Damien Chazelle for La La Land. Historically, Best Picture and Best Director tracked together, but they've diverged over the past few years (perhaps because of the expanded Best Picture category). That being said, La La Land has the momentum and will probably run the board. I think we're due to return to these two awards being tied together. Still a chance for Barry Jenkins to take it, though. The other nominees have approximately no chance. Denis Villenueve would be my choice. Mel Gibson and Kenneth Lonergan should just be happy for being out of director's jail.
  • Best Actress: Emma Stone for La La Land. My initial thought was that Natalie Portman would take this for Jackie, but her buzz seems to be waning while La La Land waxes. Moderate chance of an upset here though. Isabelle Huppert rides the dark horse with her performance in Elle and a few wins in other awards this season. Ruth Negga seems a tad behind that, and Meryl Streep is only nominated because she's always nominated. It's Hollywood law, or something. With Streep's exception, it's a pretty strong lineup though. I don't really have a preference.
  • Best Actor: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea. He's been the clear frontrunner for a while, but Denzel Washington snagged a SAG award and has been generating buzz, so he has some momentum. Virtually no chance that the other nominees will win (maybe Gosling, riding on La La Land's momentum), though it's still a decent lineup. No real preference from my perspective.
  • Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis for Fences. Seems like a lock, though I guess Michelle Williams could spoil because she's great in the short amount of time she's on screen in Manchester by the Sea. Naomie Harris is a longshot, and the other nominees are pretty much out of it. Seems like Davis' to lose.
  • Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight. This is a near lock, and it should be.
  • Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea. Welcome back to Hollywood's embrace, Kenneth Lonergan. But don't get too excited, it's eminently possible that La La Land will run away with it on momentum alone. No real chance for anyone else, even if my vote would actually go to Hell or High Water.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight. This is probably a makeup for not giving it best picture (and it's probably not a bad choice). Personally, I'd go with Arrival, but that's just because I'm a nerd and I know how difficult it was to adapt that story...
  • Film Editing: La La Land. Seems like a pretty safe bet.
  • Cinematography: La La Land. Yuuup!
  • Visual Effects: The Jungle Book seems favored and is actually pretty deserving. I can't believe Rogue One: A Star Wars Story even got nominated (most of it is great, to be sure, but zombie Tarkin seems like a pretty clear disqualifier, no?)
  • Makeup: Star Trek Beyond. I guess? I mean, sure, why not?
  • Costumes: Jackie. It's got that iconic flair, I guess. Still can't rule out La La Land though.
  • Musical Score: La La Land, because it's a juggernaut.
  • Best Song: “City of Stars” from La La Land, because it's a juggernaut. I suppose there's fair chance that having two songs from the same movie nominated could split the votes and allow something like Moana to run away with it, but I'm not counting on it.
  • Best Animated Film: Zootopia seems to be the frontrunner, but Moana or Kubo and the Two Strings should probably also contend here (I would probably vote for the latter over the former).
  • Best Documentary: O.J.: Made in America, and it probably deserves it too. The only caveat is that it's so long that maybe the voters will get fed up and go with something else. Don't think it's likely though.
  • Best Foreign Language Film: Toni Erdmann seems to be the thing most critics have talked about, but The Salesman has enough buzz that it might pull through.
That about covers it. There are some missing categories, but these are the ones I pick each year and I don't feel like figuring out which categories I neglected (though I do know that two of them are short film categories, which we've already established are hot garb). Again, follow me on Twitter @mciocco for inane commentary throughout the ceremony.