My 2017 Oscar picks

Wow, what a year for movies. Last year’s lineup was a solid collection of what I would call typical Oscar movies. Good movies, but honestly, I didn’t love any of them all that much, and Spotlight isn’t exactly a film I’m going to run out and watch again any time soon.

But this year? This year is positively overflowing with greatness. La La Land. Manchester by the Sea. Arrival. Moonlight. Hell or High Water. Hacksaw Ridge. Jackie. Florence Foster Jenkins. All world-class movies, and those are just the ones I’ve seen! So yeah, great year for film. One of the best in recent memory.

Which of course, brings me to my standard disclaimer: I pick who I think will win, not necessarily who should win. This year, were it up to me, I’d give everything to Arrival. If you haven’t seen it, go do so now. I can wait.

(Go!)

Anyway, here are my picks.

Best Picture: La La Land.

This is a no-brainer. Huge number of nominations, tons of momentum, it’s a crowd pleasing movie about Hollywood. There’s no suspense here.

Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land.

Again, no surprise. Every nominee here has a lot to be proud of. But Chazelle has this one in the bag.

Actor in a Leading Role: Denzel Washington, Fences

I’ve gone back and forth on this one, and it’s still a tough call. To be clear, Affleck gave an amazing performance, but he’s also been dogged by controversy. Washington is an Oscar favorite (he already has two!), which would discount him, but most importantly, he won the SAG award. That almost always is the biggest predictor of who will win.

So like I said. Tough call here. I’m going with Washington, but it’s a coin toss.

Actress in a Leading Role: Emma Stone, La La Land

Another clear front-runner. I don’t discount Isabelle Huppert here, and good lord, how amazing was Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins? But Stone’s gonna win this.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Mahershala Ali is going to be a star. This guy is phenomenal on the screen, everyone knows it. Jeff Bridges delivered a surprising, terrific performance in Hell or High Water, but Ali’s the new name in this category, and he’s gonna win.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Viola Davis, Fences

Three time nominee Davis is going to edge out four (!) time nominee Michelle Williams here, but I suspect it will be close. I admit to be on the fence here (pun not intended) but I’m going with Davis.

Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

Great lineup, and there’s always the possibility that La La Land carries this away on sheer momentum. But Manchester is a hell of a script, and La La Land’s acclaim doesn’t rest on the words, but in the execution. I don’t doubt that La La Land could sweep everything…but I still think Manchester’s the one to beat here.

The WGA award would usually be the deciding factor here, but boy did that not help this year, as for some reason Moonlight — which is based on a play — won for original screenplay (I’m not too upset though, as it meant Arrival won for adaptation).

Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight

This is going to be a tough one. Could go to Fences or Moonlight. I’m throwing a stake down with Moonlight, but it’s gonna be a nail-biter. And hey, how great would it be if Arrival won? Really great. But I’m betting it won’t, despite that confusing WGA win.

Foreign Language Film: The Salesman

I rarely know much about this category, and especially this year, when the expected front-runner wasn’t nominated (how did Elle not even make the nomination shortlist??). So I’m going with the Iranian Death of a Salesman based entirely on critics I agree with. This could easily go to Toni Erdmann or A Man Called Ove, but I have no insight to add here.

Animated Feature: Zootopia

This is an unusually competitive category this year. While I personally think Moana is the better Disney film, I suspect it will go to Zootopia. There’s always the chance Kubo and the Two Strings will walk away with the statue, but this category is (sadly) never awarded to the best film, but usually the one that makes the most money. Which makes it notable that Pixar’s latest forgettable sequel wasn’t even nominated, seeing as how it was the #2 film of the year after Star Wars: Rogue One.

Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

Lots of great nominees here (look at Kubo showing up!), but the almost entirely green screen film The Jungle Book is the clear front-runner.

Film Editing: La La Land

I would so love Arrival to win here, just so it could win something, but it won’t. 99% of the time this goes to the winner of Best Picture, and in a year with a major front-runner, it’s all but guaranteed.

Original Score: La La Land

Hey, here’s another category that La La Land is the clear favorite. For the record, Arrival should have been nominated here, but I guess people don’t appreciate Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s unusual, at times atonal soundtrack as much as I do (philistines! Philistines, I say!).

Original Song: City of Stars from La La Land

Let’s be clear: I have OPINIONS about this category (shocking, I know). I’m going with the obvious choice, but…I may be wrong here. Everyone (and I mean everyone) is saying it’s going to be “City of Stars”. But…well, I’ve got that buzzing in my head that says it’s all wrong. It’s a fine song, and Gosling does a solid job singing it in the film. But! “Can’t Stop the Feeling” may be from Trolls (remember that? No? Well it was) and it was also a HUGE hit. It was the song of the summer, it makes people feel good. Don’t ever discount that (remember when “Happy” won in 2014?). Then there’s “How Far I’ll Go”, a very traditional belt-it-out musical number. Winning would elevate Lin Manuel Miranda to EGOT (plus Pulitzer!) territory. From Moana, I thought “You’re Welcome” was the better song — it’s clever, funny, and musically inventive (plus The Rock made it work!).

So. My choice is still “City of Stars” but I could see it going to any of these nominees. Well, maybe not “The Empty Chair” — that’s a total long shot.

Production Design: La La Land

All good choices here — I was even happy to see the underrated Passengers nominated here (okay, it wasn’t great, but it was fun! Sometimes I just want to see attractive people in space). La La Land is the clear front runner, despite again, my personal preference for Arrival to win All the Awards.

Cinematography: La La Land

Lion won the ASC award, which shouldn’t be discounted. But I’m going with La La Land carried on the back of its momentum.

Costume Design: Jackie

Easy choice here is La La Land, but I would say that the costumes weren’t all that spectacular, and this category almost always goes to a period (or especially flashy) film. Jackie was a solid film with some great performances anchored by its spot-on costume design. Unfortunately the guild award is split between contemporary and period films, making it hard to predict this one. But I’m going with Jackie. It’s rare I walk out of a film thinking how great the costumes were, and I did here.

Documentary Feature: OJ: Made in America

Lots of good picks, but I suspect it will come down to 13th and OJ: Made in America. The fact that OJ: Made in America has won as many awards as it has, despite its seven and a half hour run time just speaks to how good a film it is (let’s be honest, it’s a mini-series, not a film…that theatrical run was just so it could qualify for this award). So that’s what I’m going with. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Neflix finally win its first Oscar with 13th, but OJ: Made in America is an amazing film. I say that as someone with very little interest in the topic who has been enthralled watching it on Hulu (and I’m only on part two!).

Well there you go everyone! My picks. As always, I will be live tweeting the living crap out of the awards — join me @jasonxbergman for an evening of stupid trivia and live commentary.

And if you’re betting on the Oscars (as I always do with my father) good luck! Should be a great show.

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