With the Oscar Awards coming tomorrow February 27, morning Manila time, it is time for me now to make my fearless Oscar predictions. Here is how I would rank this year's 9 nominees for Oscar Best Picture based on my own opinions when I first saw these films.
1. LA LA LAND: 9/10
14 nominations: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Cinematography, Costume and Make Up, Film Editing, Art Direction, Musical Score, Original Song (2 nods), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing.
Mia Dolan is an aspiring actress and writer, who works as a barista in a cafe inside the Warner Brothers lot. Sebastian Wilder is all about jazz, being a down-an-out but talented jazz pianist and jazz memorabilia collector. After a rough start, the two eventually fall in love. Their relationship would face challenges as their respective careers each get opportunities to prosper.
The look and the music were really what made this film special. I really liked it a lot, and I was ready to watch it all over again (which I did). I am looking forward to its win as Best Picture. (MY FULL REVIEW)
2. ARRIVAL 8/10
8 nominations: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
One day, twelve unusual bowl-shaped alien spacecraft appeared in different locations all across the planet. One of them hovered over Montana in the USA near a military camp where linguistics professor Louise Banks was brought in to try and establish communication with the two "heptapod" creatures on board. Louise decodes the strange, seemingly random circular "messages" the aliens send. Meanwhile, Louise is also being unsettled by dreams with her and her daughter.
Its non-linear storytelling, glacial pace, moody look and breathy soundscape may not be for everyone, but I thought its important message about communication that transcends space and time is well worth the 2-hours it takes to watch this film. (MY FULL REVIEW)
3. HIDDEN FIGURES 8/10
3 nominations: Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress
It was 1961 and Segregation was still the norm. Three African American women, math prodigy Katherine Goble and her friends Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, bucked the system and got jobs in a research division for NASA. Goble eventually got assigned to compute rocket flight trajectories for the Space Task Group.
This is currently the biggest box-office hit among the nine Best Picture nominees. It is a more traditionally-executed mainstream feature that is easy for audiences from all walks of life to understand and appreciate. The story being told is very interesting (history of the space race) and inspirational (race and gender-wise). (MY FULL REVIEW)
4. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA 8/10
6 nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay
Lee Chandler was a reclusive, ill-tempered man who worked as a janitor in an apartment building. He was called back to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea because his brother Joe had a heart attack and died. Lee was unsettled when he was named as guardian of Joe's teenage son, Patrick. Lee still could not bear living back in Manchester because of a major family tragedy that haunted and scarred him forever.
This film about the life of a major loser is very depressing and gloomy. The story did not really have a big emotional climax before it ended. The pace was slow and even-keeled. Many people may find this film pointless and boring. But for me, it cast a mesmerizing spell that engaged me to the very end. (MY FULL REVIEW)
5. FENCES 7/10
4 nominations: Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress,Adapted Screenplay
The setting is Pittsburgh in the 1950s. Garbage man Troy Maxson is married for 18 years to his self-sacrificing wife Rose. They have a teenage son together named Cory with whom Troy is constantly at odds. Their marriage itself will later be threatened by a dark secret that cannot be kept hidden anymore.
The awesome acting of the cast is really the best aspect of this film. Denzel Washington became Troy Maxson, embracing all his character's sins and flaws, no matter how despicable. Davis matches Washington's passion scene for scene that they're together. You can sense the theater roots of this film when you hear the overly colorful language and the loud acting styles, but the cast manages to make it all feel so real and relatable. (MY FULL REVIEW)
6. LION 7/10
6 nominations: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Music (Original Score)
Little Indian boy Saroo was looking for his brother Guddu at a busy train station. Unexpectedly, the empty train he boarded began to move and he was not able to get off until it stopped on the other side of the country in Calcutta. Saroo was taken in by an orphanage and was adopted by Australian couple John and Sue Bierly. Twenty years later, Saroo searches for his roots.
The first part of this movie was sweeping and epic, taking us on a train trip across India. The performance of the little child actor Sunny Pawar as young Saroo was so affecting. With his innocent face and imploring eyes, we all wanted to reach out across the screen to help him out. The second half of the movie with Dev Patel as adult Saroo was more confined and sedate, since most of the action happened while he was surfing the net. The conclusion, while expected, was built up very well for full emotional effect. (MY FULL REVIEW)
7. HACKSAW RIDGE 7/10
6 nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
Desmond Doss was not a typical soldier. Being a devout Seventh Day Adventist, he refused to handle a rifle or train on Saturdays. Anyhow, he persisted with his military training despite the bullying of his superiors and fellow trainees. He served as a combat medic during the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.
The second half was an immersive viewing experience right in the middle of the war zone. These scenes were graphically bloody, brutal and horrifying to watch. Recall that Normandy Landing scene from "Saving Private Ryan" and extend it for 30 minutes, and then some more. It was breathtakingly excessive violence in true Mel Gibson style. (MY FULL REVIEW)
8. HELL OR HIGH WATER 7/10
4 nominations: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Film Editing
Serious and pensive Toby Howard and his reckless ex-con brother Tanner launch into a spree of bank robberies, mainly branches of the Texas Midlands Bank. They launder the money at a casino outside the state in order to get a check to be used in paying off the bank mortgage of their family ranch. Meanwhile, senior Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton is hot on their trail, hoping to catch them before his retirement.
Writer Taylor Sheridan's script for "Hell" is very cleverly plotted with a lot of interesting details given for each of the main characters. Overall, the film is really very well done, but I think though it is best watched without knowing that it is an Oscar Best Picture nominee. (MY FULL REVIEW)
9. MOONLIGHT 6/10
8 nominations: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Music (Original Score)
The story about a boy Chiron growing up in a tough neighborhood in Miami with his drug-addicted mother Paula and his close friend Kevin. His life story was told in three chapters: as a young boy nicknamed Little, as a teenager under his own name Chiron, and as a hardened drug-dealer code-named Black.
While I was watching the movie, I confess that was not really impressed with the story and the technical aspects. However as I was reflecting on the film while writing this review, I am eventually seeing several reasons why people may like this, realizing in retrospect that this story was actually well-told. (MY FULL REVIEW)
My bets for each of the other categories:
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Nominees: ; Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge; Ryan Gosling, La La Land; Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic; Denzel Washington, Fences
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Emma Stone, La La Land
Nominees: Isabelle Huppert, Elle; Ruth Negga, Loving; Natalie Portman, Jackie; Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins (My Review)
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Nominees: Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water; Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea; Dev Patel, Lion; Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Viola Davis, Fences
Nominees: Naomie Harris, Moonlight; Nicole Kidman, Lion; Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures; Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Zootopia
Nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings (My Review); Moana (My Review); My Life as a Zucchini; The Red Turtle
CINEMATOGRAPHY: La La Land
Nominees: Arrival; Lion; Moonlight; Silence
COSTUME DESIGN: La La Land
Nominees: Allied (My Review), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (My Review); Florence Foster Jenkins; Jackie
DIRECTING: La La Land
Nominees: Arrival; Hacksaw Ridge; Manchester by the Sea; Moonlight
FILM EDITING: La La Land
Nominees: Arrival; Hacksaw Ridge; Hell or High Water; Moonlight
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Salesman (My Review)
Nominees: Land of Mine, A Man Called Ove, Tanna, Toni Erdmann
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: Star Trek Beyond (My Review)
Nominees: A Man Called Ove; Suicide Squad (My Review)
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE): La La Land
Nominees: Jackie; Lion; Moonlight; Passengers (My Review)
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG): "City Of Stars" from La La Land
Nominees: "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" from La La Land; "Can’t Stop The Feeling" from Trolls (My Review); "The Empty Chair" from Jim: The James Foley Story; "How Far I’ll Go" from Moana
PRODUCTION DESIGN: La La Land
Nominees: Arrival; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Hail, Caesar!; ; Passengers
SOUND EDITING: Hacksaw Ridge
Nominees: Arrival; Deepwater Horizon (My Review); La La Land; Sully (My Review)
SOUND MIXING: Arrival
Nominees: ; Hacksaw Ridge; La La Land; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (My Review); 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
VISUAL EFFECTS: The Jungle Book (My Review)
Nominees: Deepwater Horizon; Doctor Strange (My Review); Kubo and the Two Strings; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY): Arrival
Nominees: Fences; Hidden Figures; Lion; Moonlight
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY): Manchester by the Sea
Nominees: Hell or High Water; La La Land; The Lobster; 20th Century Women
POST- OSCAR SHOW UPDATE:
Acting awardees Ali, Stone, Davis and Affleck pose with their Oscars.
(Photo credit: USA Today)
Of these predictions of mine, i got 13 correct out of 20.
MY CORRECT PREDICTIONS:
Best Supporting Actor: MAHERSHALA ALI
Best Supporting Actress: VIOLA DAVIS
Best Foreign Language Film: THE SALESMAN from Iran
Best Animated Feature: ZOOTOPIA
Best Production Design: LA LA LAND
Best Visual Effects: JUNGLE BOOK
Best Cinematography: LA LA LAND
Best Musical Score: LA LA LAND
Best Original Song: CITY OF STARS
Best Original Screenplay: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Best Director: DAMIEN CHAZELLE
Best Actor: CASEY AFFLECK
Best Actress: EMMA STONE
MY WRONG PREDICTIONS:
Best Makeup: SUICIDE SQUAD (Who would have guessed this?!)
Best Costume: FANTASTIC BEASTS (OK. But I preferred an "Allied" surprise.)
Best Sound Editing: ARRIVAL
Best Sound Mixing: HACKSAW RIDGE (Got the two films right, but in wrong categories!)
Best Film Editing: HACKSAW RIDGE (Those intense graphic battle scenes!)
Best Adapted Screenplay: MOONLIGHT (OK. But I still think "Arrival" is better.)
And, after another unreal Steve Harvey-Pia Wurtzbach moment...
Best Picture: MOONLIGHT! (I could not have called it more wrong. Haha!)