Academy Award predictions from someone who cares too much

Erick White '15 running the 400m distance medley relayPhoto by Henry Ainley' 12
Erick White '15 running the 400m distance medley relay
Photo by Henry Ainley' 12

When someone asks me if I’ll be watching the Academy Awards, my left eyelid makes a slightly neurotic twitch as I try to maintain some semblance of casualness and sanity.
        Will I be watching? Will I be watching?! I will be living the Academy Awards!
        If there’s anything that I love, it’s predicting the Academy Awards. I wasn’t good at sports as a child, so predicting the results of award shows became my main means of intense competition. It’s not healthy, but it’s how I cope.
        Here are my official predictions for the main categories of this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. I have made clear distinctions between what I think will win and what I think should win.
Best Picture
Will Win: “La La Land”
Should Win: “Moonlight”
        I would like to start off by saying that my favorite movie of the year, “Zootopia,” was not nominated. I am still recovering. Those animals had some very human things to say.
The Best Picture race this year is led by “La La Land.” Now, as a Los Angeles native, you’d think I’d be doing back flips for Damien Chazelle’s musical tribute to Hollywood. After all, who doesn’t find dancing on a crowded freeway, waltzing in the stars, and singing with strangers exciting?
Me. I don’t. Each of those things is anxiety-producing and can possibly lead to death. While the film has some phenomenal editing, cinematography, and music, I don’t believe it is a true Best Picture winner.
        However, my opinion means nothing in the face of the Academy, who will likely go gaga for “La La.” And if you ask me, the film’s practically-guaranteed victory serves as the ultimate example of Hollywood narcissism. That is because the film has taken the industry by storm for one key reason: it romanticizes Hollywood. The Academy loves this, as seen by the victories of “Argo” and “The Artist” (both films that were love letters to movie-making) in recent years. A quality, such as this, makes it easy for the Academy to overlook the glaring issues of diversity and cultural appropriation throughout the entire movie.
        However, there are plenty of excellent films in this category that will likely not receive the top prize. Chief among these nominees is “Moonlight,” director Barry Jenkins’ adaption of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s look at growing up Black and gay in a struggling Miami neighborhood. The film is absolutely brilliant. Jenkins fills the screen with rich imagery, and the story is aided by commanding performances (particularly those of Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris). So does “Moonlight” have any hope? The answer is yes, especially after its victory at the Golden Globes. However, it still does not have enough steam to pose a real threat to “La La Land.”
        The other films nominated in this category that really do not have any shot at taking home the top prize are “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion,” and “Manchester by the Sea.” Of the group, I personally recommend “Fences” for the powerhouse performances and “Hidden Figures” for the uplifting story.  
        I also would like to comment that if you’ve never heard of “Hacksaw Ridge,” consider yourself lucky.
Best Actress
Will Win: Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Should Win: Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
        Okay, this one miffs me a bit. Natalie Portman — former child star and national treasure — gave the performance of her career in “Jackie.” Her subtle yet powerful take on First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was not a simple imitation, but a masterful interpretation. Portman offers a more controversial portrayal of the widow but still manages to bolster the audience’s respect for her as a historical figure and woman — all while giving us the perfect finishing school accent. The Oscar must practically belong to her, right?
        Emma Stone will likely take home the prize for her bright-eyed and pitchy performance as struggling actress Mia in “La La Land.” I most certainly do not think that there is anything wrong with Stone’s performance — I actually found it quite enchanting at times — but I would not call it Oscar-worthy by any standard. She sings and she cries. If that was all it took to win an Academy Award, the child-pageant girls on “Toddlers and Tiaras” would have more than a few golden statues by now.
        Stone’s odds are helped by the fact that Portman is a previous winner, so the Academy won’t feel inclined to give her anything. Additionally, Stone is young and fresh-faced, and that’s highly appealing to the geezers of the Academy. If a win for Stone will attract viewers to the ceremony, the Academy will certainly follow through.
        The other nominees in this category are all brilliant: Isabelle Huppert for “Elle,” Ruth Negga for “Loving,” and Meryl Streep for “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
        I personally believe that Meryl Streep earning her twentieth nomination this year is the true victory. Meryl Louise Streep is a goddess among humans. I would happily offer Meryl Streep any of my vital organs should she need one.
Best Actor
Will Win: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Should Win: Denzel Washington, “Fences”
        Casey Affleck has been the frontrunner in this category for his performance in “Manchester by the Sea” for a while now. However, with his scruffy beard and unkempt style, it seems he’s more likely to be from “Manchester Under a Bridge.” His turn as Lee, a Massachusetts man struggling to pick up the pieces after his brother’s death, was agreeable at best, in my opinion. But Hollywood loves a good Boston accent, so he was seemingly untouchable for a while.
        However, Affleck’s image has been hurt by the resurfacing of 2010 sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him. As much as publicists for the film tried to keep things under wraps, Affleck has rightfully come under fire for his actions.
        The deserving winner, in my opinion, is Denzel Washington for “Fences,” a film he also directed. Washington plays Troy Maxson, a waste collector and family man in 1950s Pittsburgh. His honest performance is arguably one of his best, which says something considering he has two Academy Awards under his belt.
        Hopes for Washington seemed minimal until his surprise victory at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Could this mean he’ll beat out Affleck for the prize? I’m honestly a little unsure. But on the whole, I think Affleck will still (unfortunately) prevail.
        The other remarkably meh actors in this category are Andrew Garfield for “Hacksaw Ridge,” Ryan Gosling for “La La Land,” and Viggo Mortensen for “Captain Fantastic.” None of them are excellent, but there have to be five nominees.
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win and Should Win: Viola Davis, “Fences”
        I am in love with Viola Davis. I want to be her best friend. I want to go on a tropical hike with her. I want our families to travel together. I want her to tell me fun stories about her Juilliard days while we hang out in her indoor Jacuzzi. Her phenomenal performance in “Fences” is just another reason to love her.
        In the role of Rose Maxson, a poor, devoted housewife, Davis simply brings down the house. The scene in which she confronts her husband with the problems of their marriage is truly transcendent and left me in tears. And thankfully, after being snubbed by the Academy twice (for her work in “Doubt” and “The Help”), it looks like Davis will finally be taking home a golden statue.
        Since the award is practically signed, sealed, and delivered to Davis’ doorstep, the other nominees do not have much of a chance. Having said that, this category has some killer performances in the mix: Naomie Harris for “Moonlight,” Nicole Kidman for “Lion,” Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures,” and Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea.” Each one is well worth seeing, but Viola Davis is the deserving and likely winner.
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win and Should Win: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
        Again, there’s not much competition here. “Moonlight” star Mahershala Ali seems to be a lock in this year’s Supporting Actor race. Despite minimal screen time, Ali’s performance as Juan, the young protagonist’s personal mentor, is subtle and caring. He provides a deep look into a character not often displayed in film. He’ll get you feeling all feels, and the Academy will most likely agree.
However, creating slightly rocky ground for Ali is his surprising loss at the Golden Globes. Still, it seemed to be a “what the fuck?” for everyone, so Ali’s deserved victory should be safe.
        The rest of the performances in the category are respectable: Jeff Bridges for “Hell or High Water,” Lucas Hedges for “Manchester by the Sea,” Dev Patel for “Lion,” and Michael Shannon for “Nocturnal Animals.” But none of them pose a real threat to Ali, so I expect they’ll all be practicing their losing faces in the mirror in upcoming weeks.

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