Dwight Strachan predicts five out of six
Five out of six ain’t bad!
My predictions last week for the 89th Academy Awards were almost spot on this year.
Even with Best Picture — and bucking the trend of most other critics — I firmly believed the Academy would recognize that “Moonlight” was indeed the best film of 2016.
Yes, all the buzz was behind “La La Land”, and by Saturday night and Sunday morning, even I was beginning to doubt my choice. Even worse, on the big night, with the flub heard around the world —arguably the most embarrassing moment ever at the Oscars — there was that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach with the initial proclamation that “La La Land” was the winner. But, vindication! When the shocking correction was made, all was right with the world!
Now that the dust has settled, surprisingly, some are still saying “Moonlight” winning Best Picture was a “huge upset”. But how? This Golden Globe winner for “Best Motion Picture–Drama” topped most critics’ lists for top film of the year.
“La La Land” — a throwback to Golden Age musicals — would have been regarded as a just-mediocre example of the genre had it been released during that era. Nostalgia in today’s dark and uncertain world is probably leading some to see “La La Land” as slightly more special than it is. Yes, it is sweet, innocuous and slightly cute and its stars, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, light up the screen. But it does little to advance the genre. Nor does it make one crave a renaissance of Old Hollywood-style musicals.
“Moonlight” on the other hand, is ground-breaking on countless levels. Rarely are non-documentary motion pictures brave enough to tackle the plethora of often-taboo subjects confronted here. With its win on Sunday, it has now achieved some significant Oscar firsts — first film with an all black cast and first film with a gay protagonist to win Best Picture.
I accurately predicted a split between the Director and Best Picture categories, and that the film winning Best Director would not go on to win Best Picture. This is not without precedent; just last year Director Alejandro G. Inarritu won his second consecutive Oscar for “The Revenant,” while the far less impressive “Spotlight” won Best Picture. This also happened when Ang Lee won Best Director for “Brokeback Mountain”, yet head-scratchingly the Best Picture Oscar went to “Crash.”
From the article last week, I said, “I’ll go out on a limb and predict the Academy will award Damien Chazelle for his bold directing on “La La Land” which would mean “Moonlight” could eke out a win as Best Picture.”
It was the right call. Chazelle did win, and although I was not entirely impressed with the overall movie, I do think Chazelle made some interesting choices and took a risk to make such a throwback musical at this time.
In any event, at the end of the night “La La Land” still went home with the most total wins — six, compared to three for second place “Moonlight,” followed by two each for “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Manchester by the Sea”.
With the other awards, the easiest to predict was Supporting Actress; we knew Viola Davis would win from the day “Fences” opened in theaters at Christmas. Her co-star Denzel Washington probably came quite close to a win for Best Actor, but with two Oscars already, it was clear the Academy would recognize Casey Affleck’s finely layered performance in “Manchester by the Sea”.
While I did think there were stronger performances, I did concede that the smart money would be on Mahershala Ali for his role as a drug-dealer-with-a-good-heart-father-figure in “Moonlight”. And while I didn’t come outright and predict the screenplay winners, I did say “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight” would be the frontrunners for the Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay awards respectively.
So, I got them all right except for one: Best Actress. My favorite performance was Isabelle Huppert’s with the wacky French film “Elle,” though admittedly the movie’s bizarre depiction of rape was probably too unsettling for most Academy voters.
I actually predicted Natalie Portman’s sullen portrayal in and of “Jackie” (Kennedy) would win. But the mind-numbingly dour nature of the film probably hurt her chances against the exuberance Emma Stone exhibits in “La La Land” in what was, without a doubt, the brightest, cheeriest and least depressing of the nominees in the Best Actress category.
But a win for the affable and talented Stone is one with which we can comfortably live.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “ Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter@morningblend969.
List of winners for the 89th Academy Awards
Complete list of winners for the 89th annual Academy Awards presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Best Picture: “Moonlight.”
Actor: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea.”
Actress: Emma Stone, “La La Land.”
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight.”
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, “Fences.”
Directing: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land.”
Foreign Language Film: “The Salesman,” Iran.
Adapted Screenplay: “Moonlight,” screenplay by Barry Jenkins, story by Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea.”
Production Design: “La La Land”, Production Design: David Wasco; Set Decoration: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco.
Cinematography: Linus Sandgren, “La La Land.”
Sound Mixing: “Hacksaw Ridge,” Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace.
Sound Editing: “Arrival,” Sylvain Bellemare.
Original Score: “La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz.
Original Song: “City of Stars” from “La La Land,” music by Justin Hurwitz, lyrics by Ben Pasek and Justin Paul.
Costume Design: Colleen Atwood, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
Documentary (short subject): “The White Helmets,” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara.
Documentary Feature: “O.J.: Made in America,” Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow.
Film Editing: “Hacksaw Ridge,” John Gilbert.
Makeup and Hairstyling: “Suicide Squad,” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson.
Animated Feature Film: “Zootopia,” Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer.
Animated Short Film: “Piper,” Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer.
Live Action Short Film: “Sing,” Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy.
Visual Effects: “The Jungle Book,” Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon.