Hello, and welcome to The Oscar Chase: In which Uproxx film and TV editor Keith Phipps and Uproxx senior entertainment writer Mike Ryan discuss the 2016 Oscar season. It’s going to be fun!
Keith: OK, Mike. Sunday’s the big night. Let’s talk predictions. Let’s get the locks out of the way first. If I were a betting man, here are my no-brainers: Viola Davis will win Best Supporting Actress for Fences. And, she should, unless you don’t think that was a supporting performance, which it kind of wasn’t. But she’s Viola Davis and deserves whatever awards she gets. Good call. Mahershala Ali will win Best Supporting Actor for Moonlight. He’s won every award up to this one and he’s great in the movie. Another good call. Moonlight will win Best Adapted Screenplay. That absolutely will happen and it should happen. Moonlight was the best film I saw last year. Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney drawing on difficult shared past and you can see the passion on the screen. I liked Jenkins’ first film, Medicine For Melancholy, a lot, but it was thrilling to watch him really come into his own with this one, as a writer and director. It might, of course, end up being Moonlight‘s consolation prize when La La Land wins Best Picture. Ditto Manchester by the Sea in the Original Screenplay category. These things I know to be true. Am I wrong about any of them?
Mike: Nope. I agree. Is this piece over? Did we complete it already?
Keith: Not yet! Let’s work our way up to the big one and hit some intriguing races down the ballot, too. Like the Best Foreign Language Film race: Toni Erdmann was a hit at Cannes last year and even snuck into the BBC’s best of the century list before most of the world had seen it. But the race has gotten tighter thanks to all the attention Trump’s stupid travel ban brought to the fact that it would preclude Asghar Farhadi, director of The Salesman, from attending. In some ways, that’s not a fair way to frame the conversation. The Salesman is also a great movie, and if it wins I’d hate for the perception to be it won only because of politics.
It feels like the Best Director prize could go either to Jenkins for Moonlight or Damien Chazelle for La La Land. Could we see a Best Picture/Best Director split on Sunday?
Mike: Yeah, I think The Salesman will win an an eff you to Trump. The thing it, it is deserving, but it will also win because of the ban. Both can be true. But If I were a voter I’d probably look at it as some kind of civic duty. And, let’s be honest, most voters don’t watch everything. It would take an enormous amount of time to watch everything. So the voters who didn’t see any films in that category, well, I have a good idea what they will vote for. Actually I don’t think it’s a bad thing if people think it won for its politics. At least if people think that, then they are actually thinking about what’s going on. Any attention that sheds light on what’s happening is probably a good thing. Personally, I would not be upset to win the admiration of my peers because they were rallying around me in defiance of the President of the United States. I’d take it.
And, yes, I could see a split. I think odds are Chazelle wins, but a split wouldn’t surprise me. I wish there could be a tie. That’s my prediction: a tie. It’s so outlandish I will look like a genius if it happens.
Keith: [Pushes up glasses.] Actually, Mike, there have been ties, including one as recent as 2013. But that would be the highest profile tie since Barbara Streisand and Katharine Hepburn both won Best Actress in 1969, for Funny Girl and The Lion in Winter respectively. But the odds are against it. You would make a lot of money with that bet.
Then again, there could be a tie in the same category this year, too, right? It seems like Emma Stone, Isabelle Huppert, and Natalie Portman are all in contention for Best Actress, right? None are bad choices, though I’d love to see Portman win. She’s extraordinary in that film. Meanwhile, Best Actor could go just as easily to Denzel Washington for Fences or Casey Affleck for Manchester By the Sea. Neither would be a bad choice, though I lean a bit toward Affleck for that movie. Where do you land on each?
Mike: If I were voting, I’d vote for Denzel. But Affleck is great in Manchester. This was something that seemed in the bag for Affleck a few weeks ago and now, after Denzel’s SAG win, seems more like a toss up. With SAG, yes, there is real overlap with the voters, as opposed to the critics awards. But there’s not enough overlap to say this is a done deal. The acting branch (where there’s overlap) might vote for Denzel, but all the other branches might vote Affleck. So I still think Affleck wins. And I think Emma Stone is a done deal. And good for her, but I don’t quite get what happened with Jackie. It just kind of got lost in the awards shuffle and it’s the weirdest thing.
Keith: With Jackie I kept hearing from people — and by people, I mean non-press people — that they’d heard the performance was good but the movie wasn’t. Which is crazy. It’s a great movie. Go see Jackie, everyone. But if that kind of talk filtered down to the general public, it had to start somewhere. And the fact that it didn’t score a Best Picture nomination suggests it wasn’t to a lot of people’s taste.
While we’re on the subject, let’s wind down with some talk about the Best Picture race. Let’s pretend it’s not going to come down to La La Land and Moonlight, at least for the moment. It’s an odd crop of nominees this year. I thought Lion and Hacksaw Ridge were both half-good. I liked the first half of Lion and the second half of Hacksaw. Put them together and you’ve got… well, a really weird movie about a boy who gets lost in a part of India where he doesn’t even speak the language and then saves a bunch of American soldiers. I don’t think either are close to contending this year, however. Ditto Fences, which forever preserves a great cast performing a great play without turning into a great movie.
I loved Hell or High Water and Arrival. I don’t think either has a shot, however. And in any other year, we could easily be talking about a race between Hidden Figures and Manchester by the Sea. But we’re not, are we?
Mike: Well… I’ll let you live in fantasy world by mentioning all those other movies. If any have a shot, it’s Hidden Figures. The point you made about Jackie and the “general public” is interesting because the majority of the Academy is just regular people. When we think of the Academy, we think of big movie stars. But most members aren’t big movie stars. Most are just people who work on movies for a living. And a lot of times they vote on the whims of the general public and the whims of conventional wisdom. Want to predict who wins these things? It’s somewhere in-between “what people like” and “what people are being told is good.” This is why experts poo pooed Hidden Figures’ chances at first because it was forgotten that the Academy is made up of a lot of non-famous people, who don’t all go to glitzy parties, and like a good crowd-pleasing movie. So Hidden Figures does have a chance.
But what movie fits in-between “what people like” and “what people are being told is good”? It’s La La Land. And I think La La Land has a serious shot at tying the record for most wins.
The 89th Academy Awards ceremony airs this Sunday at 8:30pm ET on ABC.