Friday, February 24, 2017

One Category at a Time: Best Picture

In just over two days from now the 89th Academy Awards will be underway and everyone will be tuned in to see just how many Oscars La La Land can win on its triumphant march to Best Picture. Anyone predicting an upset in the top category at this point is just looking for attention. This is a done deal. Sure, you could point to its lack of a SAG Ensemble nod, a stamp which every Best Picture winner since Braveheart managed to attain en route to Oscar immortality, but why split hairs? We know why it didn't get that nod (it's far from an ensemble piece), and we know it doesn't matter. A happy ending is coming for the marvelous musical that hit the ground running this season and never looked back.
Best we can do is speculate as to which order the remaining eight Best Picture nominees would finish in the race. I hypothesize that Moonlight -- as the most critically favoured film of the year -- would be your runner-up. It has all the requisite nominations for Directing, Writing and Editing, plus a pair of Acting nods, one of which it looks to win.

Sussing out a ranking for the other seven becomes a bit more varied, depending on who you ask. Arrival also looks strong on paper, having landed as many nominations as Moonlight including those three important ones (Directing, Writing, Editing). But science-fiction is really not the Academy's bag when it comes to declaring something "best". The late-breaking momentum and impressive box office of SAG-winning crowd pleaser Hidden Figures seems a more likely challenger at this stage.

Also surging late in Phase Two is Lion. Never underestimate Harvey Weinstein. You may have spied his latest exploitative campaign ads floating around the last couple of weeks, attempting to guilt voters into protesting the president's Muslim travel ban by way of supporting the film. Best Picture may be too far out of reach, but if it upsets Moonlight in Adapted Screenplay or Supporting Actor (or God forbid, both), we'll know who to blame.

Contenders that seem to have fallen by the wayside are Hacksaw Ridge -- which always felt like it was playing for nominations rather than wins -- and Manchester by the Sea -- which always felt more like a critics pet. They could each manage a consolatory win or two, but it's equally possible they both get blanked, as could Lion, Arrival and Hidden Figures.

And the two which no one seems to be talking about as even the remotest of upset possibilities are Hell or High Water and Fences, but both are already Oscar success stories. The former is the earliest released Best Picture nominee of the year, having ridden stunning summer box office on limited screens to land four nominations, which then attracted a whole new set of eyeballs. Consider the awards-boosted profit margin the reward for this terrific movie. As for the latter, it's looking good to take home at least one, if not a pair of Acting Oscars.

Will win (speculated rank):
1. La La Land
2. Moonlight
3. Hidden Figures
4. Lion
5. Arrival
6. Manchester by the Sea
7. Hacksaw Ridge
8. Hell or High Water
9. Fences

Should win: Moonlight
Should be nominated: 20th Century Women

Predictions in all categories (including those damn shorts) will be finalized tomorrow.

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