For each of the big six categories I’m going to begin listing how many of the nominees I’ve seen. I’ll then list who I think will win. I will then rank each of the nominees from least deserving of a win to most deserving of a win.
Best Supporting Actress-5/5
Will Win-This one is a sure thing, nobody will even come close to…Viola Davis in “Fences”
- Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures”-I love Octavia Spencer and I love the fact that she is now the first black actress to be nominated for an Academy Award after winning an Academy Award. There is nothing wrong with her performance but it lacks a certain punch that is needed to really and truly make an impact.
Beyond my number five pick this category is really, really difficult to rank but I must so here it goes.
- Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea”-I want to rank her higher but the other women are just a bit better. She has more than one scene but the power of her performance really is just one big scene. It’s a great scene but I left like the movie owed her a good follow up scene that she never got. I would love for Michelle Williams to win an Oscar but I just don’t think this is the movie that should do it for her. It is worth noting that with her fourth nomination she is now ahead of Michelle Pfeiffer and tied with Julia Roberts and Jodie Foster.
- Nicole Kidman in “Lion”-Fourteen years ago I thought Nicole Kidman gave the best performance she ever gave in “The Hours” but even with that I didn’t think she deserved to win the Oscar she ultimately won. It is a similar situation here. She is as good as she has ever been in this movie but she is just edged out by the other two women in this category. I’m not expecting her to win but if she does I wouldn’t be upset because it really is a great performance.
The top spot here is a total coin toss. It’s a matter of looking at each performance and not the movie and even then it’s still a very, very tough call.
- Viola Davis in “Fences”-I think she’s going to win and I’m totally okay if she does win. I love her and I love that she is the first black actress to be nominated for an Oscar three times. She gives a great performance. She has that one big scene, just like Michelle Williams does, but she has more than that one big scene. She is the best thing about a movie I didn’t love.
- Naomie Harris in “Moonlight”-This performance has arc. Much like the movie itself there is a beginning, a middle and an end. She never falters and takes on each leg of her journey. It’s a character that is not likable but Harris brings enough humanity to her character that you understand her even while you are nearly hating her.
Best Supporting Actor-5/5
Will Win-This one is a tough call. The Golden Globe winner isn’t even nominated. Which leaves the SAG Award winner and the BAFTA award winner. In the end I think it will be…Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight”.
- Jeff Bridges in “Hell or High Water”-The late career renaissance for Jeff Bridges that began with “Crazy Heart” continues here. His performance is good but not great. I’m not sure I would have nominated him and I certainly don’t think he should win.
- Michael Shannon in “Nocturnal Animals”-I like what Shannon did in this role. In some ways his role is similar to Bridges role in “Hell or High Water” except they find themselves on opposite sides of what they consider justice. It’s a solid performance but it doesn’t deserve an Academy Award.
- Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight”-I like his performance, a lot. But in a movie full of actors giving supporting performances it’s difficult to single out one over the others. I get why many people have singled this one out but I personally preferred any of the performances by the men who played the Chiron at the three different stages of the movie.
- Lucas Hedges in “Manchester by the Sea”-It’s an excellent performance playing a character that could be a douche-bag in the wrong hands. Hedges manages to play the vulnerable scenes beautifully. And more importantly he manages to walk the perfect line between charm and some unlikable actions. I would be totally okay with an upset win by him. I think he is definitely an actor to keep an eye on in the years ahead.
- Dev Patel in “Lion”-It is a great performance. It is a performance that is unlike anything he’s done before. It is a performance with heart and soul. It is a performance that is told vocally and with his eyes. It is a performance that is everything an Oscar winning performance should be.
Will Win-Hollywood loves its ingénues and it loves to give them Oscars and so this Oscar will go to…Emma Stone in “La La Land” (thus officially claiming the last prize in the career that could have easily belonged to Lindsay Lohan if she hadn’t thrown in all away).
- & 4.-Isabelle Huppert in “Elle” and Natalie Portman in “Jackie”-I haven’t seen either of these performances so I have to rank them last. I do think Isabelle Huppert could score an upset win if the Academy has decided the “La La Land” buzz has faded. Since I haven’t seen these performances I can’t argue their merit but I can argue that Amy Adams in “Arrival” or “Nocturnal Animals” or Emily Blunt in “The Girl on the Train” or Sally Field in “Hello, My Name is Doris” could have all been worthy of the Academy’s attention for a Best Actress nomination. Not to mention Taraji P. Henson in “Hidden Figures” or even Renee Zellweger in “Bridget Jones’s Baby”
To be honest I didn’t love any of the three nominated performances that I’ve seen. That doesn’t mean that they were bad performances, it just means that I don’t think I’ll look back on them years from now and marvel at how great they were and how they have stood the test of time. Since I’m not crazy about any of them I’ve gone back and forth in my head about my rankings, which means in the end I’m really fine with any of them winning.
- Ruth Negga in “Loving”-It’s a good performance and it’s a good movie. However, I didn’t love either the performance and I didn’t love the movie, which is too bad because I really wanted to love both.
- Emma Stone in” La La Land”-The movie is light and airy and her performance is light and airy. I mean both in the best way possible. Her performance perfectly fits the film and she does exactly what is asked of her.
- Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins”-As I mentioned before I’ve gone bank and forth with these rankings. At one point I had Meryl in 3rd and Negga in 1st but the longer I think about it the more I’m sure that this is the best performance of the three I’ve seen. It is the one that has the most variety. Streep is Streep so she is always going to be good. But she is more than good here. Looking back I thought the performance was going to be fairly one note but there is more to it. There is a level of depth and humanity and vulnerability that you don’t expect based on the previews. It’s not one of Streep’s best performances but it is the best of the group…On a side note it is truly remarkable but Streep has now been nominated 20 times and that she’s been nominated 11 of those times from the age of 41 onward. Just think about that. She’s been nominated more times post 40 than she was pre 40. There really will never be an actress like her ever again.
Best Actor- 4/5
Will Win-This is a three way race. If the Academy decides to throw everything to “La La Land” then the Oscar will go to Ryan Gosling. I didn’t see Denzel having a chance and winning until he shocked at the SAG awards. Casey Affleck has been in the front runner for so long that it feels like it’s his to loose. The question for Affleck is has the sexual harassment issue hurt his chances? And has the buzz for “Manchester by the Sea” faded? I really think this is the most difficult award of the big six to call but in the end I’m going out on a limb and predicting that for only the 7th time in Academy history an actor or actress will win their third Oscar and the award will go to Denzel Washington in “Fences”, but barely.
- Viggo Mortensen in “Captain Fantastic”-This is the one performance that I haven’t seen and maybe it is truly fantastic but since I haven’t seen it I have to rank it last. Since I haven’t seen it I do need to make a case that his spot could have easily have gone to Colin Farrell in “The Lobster”, Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nocturnal Animals”, Michael Fassbender in “The Light Between Oceans”, Chris Pine in “Hell or High Water” or Hugh Grant in “Florence Foster Jenkins”.
- Ryan Gosling in “La La Land”-Just like Emma Stone his performance is perfect for the movie. His oozes charisma and does a great job. It’s just not the kind of performance that deserves an Oscar.
- Andrew Garfield in “Hacksaw Ridge”-Both the movie and Garfield’s performance were better than I thought they would be. At first I just thought his performance would bean an awe shucks kind of thing for two hours but he brings more to the role than that. It’s a well-deserved nomination but not as good as the two performances above him.
- Denzel Washington in “Fences”-Denzel really good playing a character I didn’t like at all. I’m so happy to see him doing real acting instead of so much of the crap he has done post “Training Day”. I do think his performance is inhibited by his lackluster job as a director. If he had set more of the movie outside of the backyard and moved the camera more his performance would have been able to be even better. I’m totally fine with his nomination and I’ll be okay if he wins because he’s such a great actor but it’s not my number one pick.
- Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea”-Like Washington his character isn’t always likeable but unlike Washington he makes me care about his character. He acts with his voice and his eyes and the way he moves. He take situations that are difficult and not always sympathetic and makes the audience understand them. At the end of the day I’m judging the performance and not on an actor’s behavior off screen. Based on the performance alone this award should go to Affleck, hands down.
Will Win-Damien Chazelle for “La La Land”
- Mel Gibson for “Hacksaw Ridge”-There is nothing wrong with his direction or the film. I liked both a lot more than I thought I would. This is a nice comeback for him after a decade in the weeds. It’s also a nice reminder of why he won Best Director twenty one years ago for “Braveheart”. This nomination is his award.
- Denis Villeneuve for “Arrival”-I liked but didn’t love the film and I feel the same away about his direction. He certainly creates a world and he does have some excellent visuals along the way. I understand why he’s nominated; I just don’t think he should win.
The top three are very tough because all three did a great job of creating the kind of film they set out of create.
- Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight”-Nothing wrong with his direction. I just think that when you really dive deep into the top three here the third act does feel a tiny bit disjointed from the first two acts, no so much that it’s a problem but enough that I can’t rank him 1 or 2.
- Kenneth Lonergan for “Manchester by the Sea”-He knows how to create a subtle and nuanced world set in New England. He makes you feel the cold both physically and emotionally. I think he is a brilliant director but I do think this is once instance where the smaller isn’t necessarily better.
- Damien Chazelle for “La La Land”-He took a gamble and made a big old fashioned 1950s era Hollywood Musical in the year 2016. It could have gone so wrong but instead he got so many things right. It’s not the best film of the year but I do think of the five nominated for Best Director he did the best job in creating the world he set out to create.
Will Win-“La La Land”…Duh
- “Fences”-I feel like there could have been a great movie here. If Denzel the director had decided to not just film the play Denzel the actor and Viola could have been even better and the film itself would have been much better. As good as their performances are the film really shouldn’t be nominated for Best Picture, it is by far the weakest of the group.
- “Arrival”-I love that it make me think afterwards but if you’re competing for the best picture of the year you need to suck me in more while I am watching. It’s good but not great. I get why some people love it, I didn’t.
- “Hell or High Water”-Ever so slightly above “Arrival” because I was more interested in the film while I watched it. I feel like it does speak to certain problems in our society at the moment and in many ways it’s a contemporary western. Again, I liked it but didn’t love it.
- “Hidden Figures”-I enjoyed the movie a great deal. I think it’s an important story that needed to be told and I’m thrilled with both the critical and commercial success that it has had. However, at the end of the day it is pretty much a stock bio-pic. It’s well done with good acting but it really isn’t amazing.
- “La La Land”-I get why many in the industry are crazy over it. I think it is very successful in accomplishing what it sets out to do. It is charming and cute and entertaining…It’s just not the best picture of the year and it’s not even close to my top three.
- “Hacksaw Ridge”-This movie shocked the hell out of me in how much I enjoyed it. I was entertained the entire time. I was invested in the lead character and I cried multiple times. This is by far the most surprising (in a good way) of the entire group.
I would be more than happy if any of my top three managed to sneak in there with a surprise win. They are all wonderful but I must rank them so here it goes.
- “Manchester by the Sea”-A wonderful film that is beautifully acted about family, loss and moving on. This film is super, super close to my number two.
- “Moonlight”-This film is brilliant. It tells so many stories; addiction, complicated parent/child relationships, what it’s like to be poor, what it’s like to be gay, what it’s like to be a person of color. I really thought that this film was going to be number one but one film snuck in towards the end of my viewing to upstage it.
- “Lion”-This film is amazing. I was invested from the second it began. I was entertained, I was moved and I cried multiple times. This film is the sleeper of the group and the one that really should win the prize.
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Justin Gomez and his sister, Terri, have never been close. Separated by nine years and distant in adulthood, Justin and Terri have little in common, except for the love of her three children. In the days before they embark on a road trip to visit the father that once abandoned them and their now deceased mother, both Terri and Justin are dealing with unexpected changes in their lives. Justin surprisingly realizes he might want more than a series of one night stands after a first date goes unexpectedly well. After a lifetime of being a strong type A personality, Terri is forced to confront the reality of the end of her marriage. As they hit the road, with Terri’s children in tow, they find themselves forced to rely on and confide in each other following a devastating event. Confronted with memories from the past and challenges from the present, Terri and Justin must dig deep and unearth the truth about themselves and their parents in order to build a new family based on their love for each other.