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The Oscars 2017: Who Should Win and Who Will Win

This weekend, the 89th Academy Awards will take place in Hollywood, and film fans everywhere will be watching to aggressively root for films as if they were football teams. Truth be told, it’s difficult to whip up much enthusiasm for this year’s ceremony. Not because the films aren’t interesting — many of them are great. But 2017 is off to a very rocky start as far as real-world events go, and a glitzy award ceremony likely won’t do much to distract us from the existential horror that is the modern world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give it the old college try! I’ve gone ahead and broken down the major Oscar categories this year, and attempted to both predict who the winners would be while also highlighting who I think truly deserves the award in question. Let’s dive in, shall we? Don’t forget to tell me how wrong I am in the comments below!


Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel – Lion

Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali
Who Should Win: Mahershala Ali

This feels like the biggest no-brainer award of the night. Mahershala Ali’s performance in Barry Jenkins’ absolutely stunning Moonlight is brilliant, captivating, and truly deserving of the Oscar. There were other great performances in this category: Michael Shannon is predictably wonderful in Nocturnal Animals and Lucas Hedges is quite good in Manchester by the Sea. But this is Ali’s year, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t take home the award.


Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominees

Viola Davis – Fences

Naomie Harris – Moonlight

Nicole Kidman – Lion

Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

WILL WIN: Viola Davis
SHOULD WIN: Viola Davis

Michelle Williams’ screentime in Manchester by the Sea may be brief, but in her one truly big scene her work is emotionally devastating. The same can be said of Naomie Harris, who has a bigger part in Moonlight but gives an equally raw, emotionally wrought performance. But this award absolutely belongs to Viola Davis. Let’s get this out of the way: Davis should really be up for Lead instead of Supporting. But once we put that aside, it’s almost impossible to deny how breathtaking her performance is. Yes, Davis has a huge, tear-stained moment that will knock your socks off, but she also shines in Fences’ quieter, more subdued moments. The simple fact is, Viola Davis is one of the best actresses working today, and don’t be surprised when she takes home this award.


Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling – La La Land

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington – Fences

WILL WIN: Denzel Washington
SHOULD WIN: Casey Affleck (?) 

This is a slightly difficult category, mostly due to personal reasons. Casey Affleck’s performance as the haunted, emotionally damaged Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea is, without question, incredible. It really is the best male performance of the year, and a testament to Affleck’s ability as an actor. That said, it’s become almost impossible to support Affleck in light of truly reprehensible sexual harassment and verbal abuse charges from his past. Earlier in the year I would’ve said Affleck was a shoe-in to win for sure, but it feels like the tide has shifted. Which means Denzel Washington is the likely winner. Let me just state that this isn’t a case of a runner-up prize: Washington’s performance in Fences is towering and fierce, and the actor taking home the award would be much deserved.


Actress in a Leading Role

Nominees

Isabelle Huppert – Elle

Ruth Negga – Loving

Natalie Portman – Jackie

Emma Stone – La La Land

Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

WILL WIN: Emma Stone
SHOULD WIN: Natalie Portman

This is one of the categories where I wish they could just hand every nominee an award and call it a night. Well, almost every nominee: Meryl Streep absolutely should not be nominated. There is no question that Streep is one of our best performers, and deserves all the praise and accolades she’s received over the years. But this is not a performance that deserved a nod, especially when Amy Adams’ subdued, excellent work in Arrival went unnoticed by the Academy. Other than Streep, all of the actresses here are strong to phenomenal. While the majority of the Film Twitter Universe seems to prefer Isabelle Huppert for this award, and while Huppert is indeed dynamite in Elle, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Natalie Portman is the actress who most deserves this award. Portman’s work in Jackie feels like a tragic footnote in the award season shuffle, and that’s a damn shame, because she gives the best performance of her career playing Jackie Kennedy. With that in mind, the actual winner will likely be Emma Stone.


Directing

Nominees

Arrival – Denis Villeneuve

Hacksaw Ridge – Mel Gibson

La La Land – Damien Chazelle

Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight – Barry Jenkins

WILL WIN: Damien Chazelle
SHOULD WIN: Barry Jenkins

Damien Chazelle will likely take home this award, which would make him the youngest person to ever win Best Director. And it certainly wouldn’t be undeserved — La La Land is skillfully directed, and Chazelle shows remarkable talent. Yet the person who truly deserves this award is Barry Jenkins for his staggering work on Moonlight. Jenkins’ direction guides us through a film of enormous sympathy and empathy, and the filmmaker does it all with a gentle touch. Just give him the award, Academy. Please.


Best Picture

Nominees

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

WILL WIN: La La Land
SHOULD WIN: Moonlight

There’s been a bit of unnecessary backlash against La La Land. While I don’t think the film is a masterpiece, I do think it’s a lovely little film that strives to capture the work of Jacques Demy. La La Land is also a movie firmly entrenched in Hollywood, and if there’s one thing Hollywood loves it’s movies about Hollywood. So I’d expect La La Land to walk away with this award. Still, as charming and enjoyable as La La Land is, it doesn’t hold a candle to Moonlight. A rich, compassionate work, expertly told and performed by a marvelous ensemble, Moonlight is indeed a masterpiece. I firmly believe that watching Moonlight has the potential to make you a better person, and that’s the type of film that should be rewarded. I’m just not so sure the Academy agrees with me.

The Academy Awards will be held this Sunday, February 26, 2017, at 8:30 PM EST/5:30 PM PST.

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Chris Evangelista is Executive Editor of Cut Print Film & co-host of the Cut Print Film Podcast. He's also contributed to The Playlist, Paste Magazine, Little White Lies and O-Scope Musings. 'The House on Creep Street' and 'Beware the Monstrous Manther!', two horror books for young readers Chris co-authored with J. Tonzelli, are available wherever books are sold. You can follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413

  • Erebus Escher

    Should/Will

    Picture: La La Land
    Director: Damien Chazelle
    Actor: Casey Affleck
    Actress: Natalie Portman/Emma Stone
    Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali
    Supporting Actress: Viola Davis
    Original Screenplay: The Lobster/Manchester by the Sea
    Adapted Screenplay: Arrival/Moonlight
    Original Score: Jackie/La La Land