Oscar Predictions: It’s a ‘La La Land’ and we’re just living in it.

Naaim Siddiqi and Brett Starkopf

Oscar season is officially upon us as the nominees were unveiled Jan. 24. “La La Land” led the way with 14 nominations, six more than both “Moonlight” and “Arrival.” While all the so-called “experts” have made their picks, the Independent thought we would do the same. Granted, they are only expert movie-watchers and not film critics but Editor-in-Chief Brett Starkopf and Staff Writer/Copy Editor Naaim Siddiqi compiled a short list of who will win and who should win from the top-five most important categories, according to them: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.


Best Picture

Who Will Win:
“La La Land”
The Academy loves movies written for Hollywood about Hollywood. Not that this movie wasn’t great—which it was—it just has that “it” factor everyone loves, including the voters. This movie will win for the same reason “The Artist” won Best Picture.

Who Should Win:
NS: “Moonlight”
This movie is visually striking even though it is very small, only taking us through the life of one child in one city as he struggles with his identity. Writer/director Barry Jenkins makes you really care for a group of characters that tend to do despicable things, but you find yourself hoping they succeed despite it. Jenkins pours himself into this film and it shows. Even if your experience differs wildly from the characters, there’s common ground to be found with all of them. In any other year, this would win Best Picture.

BS: “Arrival”
Everything about this movie was near perfect: from the sound to the cinematography to the acting. The only unfortunate thing about this movie is its genre. Science fiction movies have been nominated in the past, though none have won Best Picture. Tied with “Moonlight” with eight nominations, the Academy will undervalue the strength of this movie as much as the linguistic field is underappreciated.

Best Actor

Who Will Win:
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”

It’s a classic Academy Award performance: one man has to overcome tragedy and hardship. Affleck’s character has a life wrought with tragedy and the film drops us in as he has to make arrangements for his brother’s funeral while trying to figure out how to raise his son. If anything screams “Academy Award,” it’s this.

Who Should Win:
NS: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”

Affleck nails every beat in this movie: from sadness to emptiness to anger. As life just keeps beating him down, you can’t help but feel terrible for him as he arranges his brother’s funeral and in flashbacks as his marriage falls apart. Everything about this film plays very realistically. It’s not hard to imagine yourself handling situations in the exact same way Affleck’s character does, while hoping you’ll never want to be in that situation yourself. It punches you in the gut many times, and Affleck’s portrayal of the character is a major factor.

BS: Denzel Washington, “Fences”
It’s really not a coincidence that Washington was nominated for an Oscar for the same role he won a Tony Award in 2010. The entire movie is superbly acted and Washington leads the way. It doesn’t feel overly like the stage play but the dialogue is very much the same. Washington has a number of lengthy monologues and his fervent delivery is unmatched by any actors in this category. The film is a complete character study of a man befallen by his ego and Washington captures that mood so convincingly that the cast around him has no choice but to match his intensity. The reason why I think he doesn’t win is because much of the cast was also in the Broadway performance so the ensemble has had close to a decade to prepare, perform and reprise their roles. I will go out on a limb and say this performance is better than “Training Day” which earned him the Best Actor in 2002.


Best Actress

Who Will Win:
Emma Stone, “La La Land”

The actress in the movie about acting. La La Land is going to take home many awards, including this one for Stone, whose character goes through Hollywood hardship before getting her Hollywood happy ending.

Who Should Win:
NS: Annette Bening, “20th Century Women” (snub)

“20th Century Women” is a wonderful movie overlooked for Oscar nominations, receiving only one for Best Original Screenplay. Bening plays a version of writer/director Mike Mills’ own mother and particularly shines as she demonstrates her character’s ability to be both jaded and a free spirit. In any other year, she’d have been nominated, but the crop of actresses was so strong this year that Bening got left off the list.

BS: Amy Adams, “Arrival” (snub)
I’m taking a stand. Amy Adams might go down as one of the most underappreciated actresses of our time. She’s the female DiCaprio. It’s a little difficult to make that assumption considering she’s been nominated five times for an Oscar but has she won yet? No. And this year she was completely snubbed. Her performance in “Arrival” was incredible. Just because she didn’t have any flashy dance numbers or played an historic figure doesn’t mean she should have been forgotten about. If the Academy can change the number of best picture nominations every year, then they should be able to do the same with actress in a leading role. Adams was so moving, so smart, so defiant that I walked out of the theater and immediately wanted to see it again. She absolutely carried what was already a great movie.


Best Supporting Actor

Who Will Win:
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”

Mahershala Ali was all over the place this year with major roles in “House of Cards” and “Luke Cage” for Netflix, and supporting roles in Oscar contenders “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures.” He brought something entirely different to every role. As drug-dealing Juan in “Moonlight”, Ali expertly demonstrates the struggle between acting as a surrogate father and dealing drugs.

Who Should Win:
NS: John Goodman, “10 Cloverfield Lane” (snub)

In 10 Cloverfield Lane, John Goodman gives an absolutely nuanced and terrifying performance that keeps you wondering about his true intentions throughout the whole film, going from caring to terrifying and back in a moment. Goodman is one of the most consistently great actors of this era, but has little to show for it. Unfortunately, he falls victim to the same fate as Arrival, trapped in the underlooked science fiction genre.

BS: Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”

You know a movie is good when it comes out at the end of summer and still gets an Oscar nod. You know an actor is great when he beats out a bevy of talent for the nod and you can hardly understand what he said throughout the entire movie. Maybe I have a soft spot for “The Dude” but critics remarked that “Hell or High Water” revitalized the Western genre and Bridges’s portrayal of a Texas Ranger nearing retirement and looking for two bank-robbing brothers is a large part to the film’s success. Bridges is equal parts haunting and funny as the wisecracking old Ranger. He knows everything the brothers will do and out acts them along the way.

Best Supporting Actress

Who Will Win:
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Let’s get one thing clear: Viola Davis is the lead actress of this film. It’s quite a surprise that she’s considered supporting, she has just as many lines as her counterparts and delivers them with the same tenacity. Davis is good in this film, like really good. I assume she gets the supporting nod because her and Washington literally carry this movie.


Who Should Win:
NS: Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”

Naomie Harris has been a working actress for over 15 years, but her role in Moonlight is a revelation. Playing the drug-addicted mother of the lead character, she too explores a journey, but instead of three actors carrying her through this journey as with the son, she carries the burden of portraying all three periods herself. The fact that she had to play all three versions of the role across the three-day production time of the film should also be considered; dropping in various parts of a character’s life throughout a day is no easy task and Harris absolutely nails it.

BS: Viola Davis, “Fences”
There is no question in my mind that Davis should win. The way she carries herself throughout the movie—delivers her lines, emotes, etc.—is quite the impressive feat. Her character is the only thing keeping the family together as Washington tries to break it apart. For a story set in the 1950s, she plays the mother, the wife, and the hero that every family deserves. She, just like Washington, is so convincing with her monologues that you become invested in this family like it’s your own.