We are proud to present this year’s comprehensive Fearless Forecast by our good friend Vidor. Enjoy.
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With so much going on in the real world– recent political upheavals, issues of globalization, the refugee crisis, anti- immigrant sentiment, the never ending attacks and conflicts, I almost forgot that it was time to focus, if only for a while, on movies and the Academy awards. Yet again I considered not doing the Annual Forecast—perceiving it to be trivial. But after careful thought, I realized that movies are important, because movies are slices of reality. They depict current or historical events or social conditions in a way to inform, agitate, or influence moviegoers. To name a few: 1962’s Advice and Consent, on the confirmation process of a Presidential Appointee; 1964’s Dr. Strangelove on nuclear holocaust; 1984’s The Killing Fields on the genocide in Cambodia, and even The Sound of Music on the ascent of unchecked Nazism. The pure entertainment films which offer escape from reality also have a political function; it lulls us into an ignorant bliss thinking all is well in the world.
But not all is well in the world! The problems remain, old alliances are shifting, new tyrants are emerging, and the Academy is getting very political, not just in the choice of nominated films, but in the award ceremonies themselves. With over a billion people watching worldwide, the Academy Awards present an opportunity and a forum from which to speak out. Think of it as a bully pulpit surrounded by a red carpet with protestors decked out in gowns and tuxedos.
Speaking out at the Oscars is nothing new really. Sacheen Littlefeather spoke out for Marlon Brando on the treatment of native Americans when he refused his Oscar for the Godfather in 1973; Al Gore made his “the Academy has gone green” speech in 2007; Michael Moore winning for Bowling for Columbine lambasted President “W” Bush for invading Iraq in 2003; Sean Penn and Best Original Screenplay winner Lance Black both winners for Milk spoke out for LGBT rights in 2009; Hale Berry spoke for every nameless faceless woman of color in 2002, and who could forget the streaker who run across the stage totally naked, flashing a peace sign interrupting David Niven as he was about to introduce Liz Taylor during the 1974 awards?
Surely it has happened before, it has been happening all through this award season, and it will happen again.
So, first fearless forecast: the 89th Academy Awards, this February 26, 2010 will be marked by very political moments. Maybe from host Jimmy Kimmel’s intro monologue, or the acceptance speeches, and maybe even protestors on the side of the red carpet. Remember, Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi director of The Apartment, nominated for best foreign film, couldn’t attend the Academy Awards due to the travel ban. As a protest, he still won’t attend despite the ban being temporarily lifted, and this has tilted his film’s odds of winning over the frontrunner. Also, there’s a large chuck of immigrants, legal, documented, or otherwise that comprise the movie industry, and they have something to say. And who knows, with L.A. as a sanctuary city, maybe ICE will be at the Dolby Theater checking each and everyone for their nationality documents. It’s so Casablanca!
Last year, the Academy faced an equality crisis with #Oscars SoWhite on the underrepresentation of people of color in the award nominations. This year, no such problem. Three of the nine best picture noms have African American stories, and one, Lion, tells the tale of a lost Indian kid adopted by Australians trying to find his birth parents. There’s a person of color in each major category: lead actor nominee Denzel Washington for Fences; lead actress nominee Ruth Negga for Loving; Supporting actor nominees Mahershala Ali for Moonlight, and Dev Patel for Lion; and a trio of supporting actress nominees: Viola Davies for Fences, Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures, and Naomie Harris for Moonlight. Even the animated film nominations have diversity: Kubo and the Two Strings (Japanese); Moana (Polynesian), My Life as a Zucchini (French Algerian); The Red Turtle (Pacific Islander –no, that’s not Tom Hanks decades after Cast Away); and Zootopia (the entire animal kingdom no less). But did the Academy solve its diversity issue to a point of reverse discrimination? Did members vote on merit or as protest to correct past perceived errors? These questions remain –but for now, on to the main event. So, without further ado, here is the FEARLESS FORECAST, and you can bet on it.
La La Land. A homage to old Hollywood films, musicals and otherwise. Casablanca mixed with Umbrellas of Cherbourg, set in L.A. with show stopping dances worthy of Astaire, Rodgers, and Kelly; melodic songs with profound lyrics; and virtuoso piano jazz. A tale of dreamers with their own success goals and how life gets in the way. A happy ending with a touch of sad. In prior years the SAG Best Ensemble winner gets this: remember last year’s Spotlight beating out The Reverent? This year, the SAG cast award went to Hidden Figures, and La La Land was not even nominated. So there is no indication how the Academy/SAG members will go. But given the 14 nominations it has received and its feel good appeal, La La Land should and would win. The added question is how many of the 14 nominations will it win? Since it has two nominations for Best Song, mathematically, and barring an intra film tie, it can only win a total of 13. Read on for how many it will get…
Denzel Washington for Fences. A man coming to terms with what he could have been as he builds a fence to mark his boundary in life and which he imposes on his sons and wife so they know that life may not be fair but we all have to struggle along. Denzel played the same character in the 2010 play, and won a Tony for best actor. He won the SAG award for this, and that’s a major factor; plus, the Academy is trying to right last year’s all white nominations—all at Cassey Affleck’s expense. He has my heart going for him in Manchester by the Sea—a great introspective, transformative performance as he tries to comfort his nephew while coping with his own grief– but allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse in his personal life have eroded his chances of winning. Andrew Garfield, the conscientious objector in Hacksaw Ridge, known for his past roles in Social Network and Spiderman, is worth watching as he tackles on serious roles (he’s also in Silence), but perceived as too early in his career to win. Ryan Gosling in La La Land– quite the looker, charmer, dancer, jazz player and overall entertainer but voters may think his role is all fluff compared to his co nominees. Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic is quirky yet serious in his hippie beliefs, but again a bit lacking in gravitas.
Emma Stone for La La Land. Fresh and real. Not so pretty, not so quirky. A dreamer with her head in the clouds but her feet planted on the ground. She makes it so easy, when it actually is not. Isabelle Huppert is a darling in Europe; luminous and legendary, she plays a famous person who is raped and seeks justice on her own murky way. She could probably win this even if her film is not nominated for anything else. It had happened 13 times before—so who knows? That would be a classy upset. Natalie Portman, with the pillbox hat and the strand of pearls, so very Jackie O not just in appearance but the anguish she holds as she binds the wounds of the nation after JFK’s assassination (a far cry from the current FLOTUS who seems to be turning the white house into a commercial enterprise). Ruth Negga (careful how you pronounce her name) as Mildred Jeter, a Negro woman, who married Richard Loving, a white man; both found guilty of violating Virginia’s law against interracial marriage, are banished; they fight back, and they win. (See Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) for the Supreme Court Decision) Her performance is silent yet steadfast, but lacking outrage as we would expect. Then, there’s Meryl Streep who makes the unlikely tale of real life Florence Foster Jenkins so real that you ask yourself: did that woman really exist or is it just another vehicle to showcase Meryl’s talent? She has won so many; does she need yet another one?
Mahershala Ali for Moonlight. A person perceived as bad teaching a kid how to be good. Calibrated conflict under control; and his presence lingers even when he’s not seen on screen. He won the SAG award so that gives him an edge. Dev Patel won the BAFTA but that has a British bias, and frankly, I think the child Sunny Pawar who Patel portrays as an adult was more worthy of being nominated than him. Just saying.
Viola Davies for Fences. It’s about time. Bravura performance standing up to Denzel frame by frame. She didn’t have to get away with murder to earn this—just like Denzel, she was in the 2010 play, and she won best actress Tony for that. She also won the SAG. So, give her the Oscar now and let’s listen to what she has to say. Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea is exceptionally good despite her short screen presence. Nicole Kidman I remember more for her hairstyle when she first appears in Lion than her overall performance, but probably because her character’s back story was not as fully explored unlike that of her adopted son. Octavia Spencer won this for The Help in 2011. Some think that her other female African American “human computers” should have been nominated as well or that they deserve the nom more than she does. Such thinking l greatly hampers her chances. Naomie Harris, first time nominee, gives an outstanding performance as a crack addicted mother of Moonlight’ main character—a role she initially turned down for being a negative portrayal of women in general and black women in particular. She gets my heart, but Viola gets the Oscar.
Damien Chazelle for La La Land. At 32–will be the youngest winner ever. Fresh face, and with ideas honed in tradition, building on the classics and not just repeating them for current cinema fare. His film has an outstanding 14 nominations tying it with All About Eve and Titanic. Quite an achievement and he will ride that wave to receive his Director Oscar. He’s also nominated for Original Screenplay but you have to read on…
Animated Feature Film:
Linus Sandgren, La La Land beats out Bradford Young for Arrival.
Mary Zophres for La La Land, although Jackie’s Madeleine Fontaine impressed me more. Colleen Atwood was also great for Fantastic Beasts, but she won three times already.
O.J.: Made in America. We lived right through it–but did we really see it the way it happened?
Documentary Short Subject:
Dancing in the night time sky, or while caught in traffic on the 405—Tom Cross for La La Land
Foreign Language Film:
Would win because of protest votes: The Salesman, Iran
Should win: Tony Erdmann, Germany
Makeup and Hairstyling: Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo for Star Trek and Beyond
Music –Original Score Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Music—Original Song Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Sting, and Lin-Manuel Miranda will light up the Dolby Theatre with musical performances of their nominated songs at the 2017 Oscars! City of Stars from La La Land will win this but I like The Fools Who Dream better. Both by Justin Hurwitz (who also has a 3d nomination –Cant Stop The Feeling- for Trolls). Lin Manuel is a strong competitor for Moana, but his appeal is mostly from doing Hamilton the rap/musical play, which does not extend all the way to the West Coast.
Production Design: David Wasco, La La Land. Shooting a film in L.A. about L.A. featuring the actual L.A. The view from Mulholland Drive is real. Even the sunsets are real. Griffith Observatory—outside yes, inside no. But only Angelenos know that.
Short Film—Animated Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer for Piper. A young sandpiper overcomes his fear as he ventures forth into the world.
Short Film—Live Action Selim Azzazi for Ennemis Interieurs. A very grueling naturalization interview.
Sound Editing Hacksaw Ridge. Robert Mackensie and Andy Wright. Too technical for me to understand why it will beat out La La Land, which is a musical.
Sound Mixing La La Land. Makes sense. It’s a musical.
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book. I keep forgetting it’s not an animated film! Rogue One had amazing effects also.
Writing—Adapted Screenplay Moonlight. Basically a lock. Screenplay by Barry Jenkins (also the film’s Director); based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Writing—Original Screenplay Manchester by the Sea. Screeplay by Kenneth Lonergan (also the film’s director). La La Land supposedly has not much character development and was more fiction than real.
So back to the score card. If my forecast is correct La La Land wins a total of TEN Oscars making it tie with West Side Story—another great musical! Bravo!
THAT’S IT FOR THE 89th ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS. THANK YOU and GOOD NIGHT!