The 89th Academy Awards

It’s that time of the year again, as we here at the Epic Film Guys podcast are ready and waiting to celebrate Hollywood’s biggest night! #OscarsSoWhite didn’t rear its ugly head this year, but with the election of Donald Trump, we will instead most likely be subjected to political rants in place of diversity rants from this year’s winners. We can only hope the show focuses on the films, and the amazing artistry on display in them, instead of the politics that seemed to dominate the Golden Globes. If you haven’t yet, we also discussed most of the predictions you’ll see below on episode 86 of the podcast. However, I have had the chance to see the rest of the best picture field and can now weigh in on a few categories, and there are a couple of late changes! Who will win? Tune in Sunday, Feb 26th at 7:00 PM on ABC. Come back after the show for updates on the winners!

After the show, winners will be underlined and I will add final thoughts to the blog.

Best Picture

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land… no, wait a minute…
Manchester by the Sea

Nick’s Pick: I’ve got to go with La La Land for this one. Most years I tend to miss a film or two in the awards season discussion and I am pretty far behind, but this year I am more prepared than ever. That said, none of the other nominees for best picture are really the all-around package that La La Land is. Most of the other films feature better performances, true, and have excellent things about them, but none is quite the package deal that La La Land is. From its brilliant songs and music to the excellent production design and cinematography, Damien Chazelle has crafted a spectacular ode to the glamorous Hollywood musical with a modern twist, and it is exactly the kind of film Hollywood loves to shower with awards. It definitely wasn’t my favorite film of the year, but Fences isn’t winning best picture.
Never underestimate the Academy’s ability to go for the underdog. This, however, was the least-surprising turn of events (minus the dramatics of the ending of the show). If any film could dethrone La La Land, it was Moonlight. Congratulations to Barry Jenkins!

Best Actor in a Motion Picture

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Nick’s Pick: This is really a two-way race, though Mortensen’s turn in Captain Fantastic was really great in a really off-beat quirky film. Garfield’s magnetic performance in Hacksaw Ridge won’t save him here, and Gosling frankly doesn’t belong in the same conversation as the other four. It all comes down to Affleck for Manchester by the Sea and Denzel Washington for Fences, and my pick for who I want to win and who will win is for Denzel Washington. Fences was my favorite film of 2016, and though Affleck’s performance is brilliant in Manchester by the Sea, the momentum seems to have swung away from him, especially after Denzel won the SAG. This is probably the toughest of the acting categories to pick, and while I loved both performances, I give Washington the edge because Fences is, in my opinion, the better film.
My pick here was wrong, but I’m fine with Affleck taking the trophy. Both gave incredible performances, and I had to tiebreak with the film I loved more. 

Best Actress in a Motion Picture

Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Nick’s Pick: This category is a disaster. Meryl Streep and Ruth Negga are both woefully out of place in this category, and frankly so is Emma Stone, who is wonderful and charming in La La Land, but doesn’t deserve a nomination here. Meryl is great as Meryl always is, but Florence Foster Jenkins is an extremely mediocre film and is audibly painful thanks to her squawking. Loving was an extremely dull, plodding film with zero energy and this was also evident with the performances from Negga and Joel Edgerton. Unfortunately I didn’t see Elle, but the category is still a mess. Taraji P. Henson for Hidden Figures belongs in this category as does Amy Adams for Arrival (and should replace Negga and Streep), both criminally snubbed with better performances in better films. This statue could go to Stone, who is the emotional core of La La Land, but the acting in La La is hardly its best feature and it will be widely celebrated elsewhere on Oscar night. All that said, however, I am all aboard the Natalie Portman train for Jackie. While the narrative leaves something to be desired (evidenced by the fact that this is its sole nomination), she utterly transforms into Jackie Kennedy and gave the most immersive performance in this field. The only thing that might hurt her chances to win is the fact that Jackie as a whole just isn’t as good as the sum of its parts, while La La Land is riding a huge wave of momentum. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were wrong on this one.
And color me not surprised. Although with what happened with Best Picture, I know now why Stone won in this category. La La Land needed to win a couple “big” trophies, and since Chazelle missed out on writing as well, this was its easiest bet. Portman still gave a better performance in a far worse, far-less-memorable film. 

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Nick’s Pick: Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. There are some other good performances in this category, particularly Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea and Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals, but Ali’s performance is haunting and some kind of magical. He portrays a crack dealer who becomes something of a father figure for young Chiron early on, only featuring in the first third of the story, but resonating throughout it. If there’s a dark horse here who could steal it in a huge surprise it is Hedges. Bridges is good in Hell or High Water but I’m frankly a little baffled by the praise for his performance, and Dev Patel is in the worse half of Lion.
No one is shocked by this outcome. Not to take anything away from Ali’s performance, but he was nominated here against a pretty weak field. Fantastic work in a fantastic film by Ali.

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Nick’s PickNo one and nothing can stop Viola Davis from taking this award, and she is my pick to win and who I hope to win. Devotees of the podcast know that I am a huge Davis fan anyway, and her performance in Fences is utterly spellbinding. Being honest, Octavia Spencer is kind of an odd choice for a nomination here for Hidden Figures. Not that she wasn’t great, but didn’t give as all-encompassing a performance as Janelle Monáe did in the same film. Nicole Kidman’s turn in Lion wasn’t bad, but it was in the second half of the film which is by far its worse half. If Kenneth Lonergan had written Manchester by the Sea better this could be a real race between Davis and Michelle Williams as she is excellent in the role, but there’s just too little to it since Lonergan barely gives her a second on the screen as it is. If there’s anyone in this category that could remotely challenge Davis it is Naomie Harris in Moonlight, where she gives an absolutely stellar performance, but that film is going to get love with Ali winning the supporting actor trophy.
Literally no one is shocked this came to fruition. What an acceptance speech as well.

Best Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle

Nick’s Pick: ZootopiaThen again, I didn’t see any of the other animated film nominees this year, but the buzz is solidly behind it anyway, and while it isn’t Pixar, it’s still Disney.
Not surprised. 

Best Cinematography

La La Land

Nick’s PickAmy Adams being snubbed for an acting award for Arrival is a huge game changer in terms of what the Academy will likely do to spread around some love for the film. As masterful as Villaneuve’s direction is, Chazelle is a lock for best director, and Arrival didn’t get nearly as much love as it should have, so it has to give it a win here or in the writing department… but it won’t. I think this award goes to James Laxton for the exceptionally beautiful work done in Moonlight, a change from my pick on the show. I had initially picked Bradford Young for Arrival, but seeing the sublime visual perfection of Moonlight was an utterly amazing treat, so I think Laxton edges him. Greig Fraser also did some exceptional work in Lion and could steal a win here, which had some utterly beautiful shots of the Indian countryside and the Tasmanian beaches. La La Land is out of its league here, as with acting, even though it is a beautiful film it’s not winning here. I unfortunately didn’t get to see Silence, Justin’s pick to win this category.
This was one of my “if La La Land doesn’t pick up nearly as many as it is nominated for” awards that I was tossing back and forth when making the pick. I’m honestly surprised it won with the amazing work done by others in this category.

Best Costume Design

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land

Nick’s Pick: An extremely dark horse pick here is Florence Foster Jenkins, as it does have some spectacular costume design, but I’ve gotta pick Jackie for this category. The period setting in the 60s is pitch-perfect for Jackie in terms of production design and costuming, and they absolutely 100% nailed Jackie Kennedy’s amazing wardrobe. Easy win here and nothing else comes close, and especially if they don’t give Portman the love in the acting category like they should.
Kinda shocked that Jackie got shut out, I really am. 

Best Directing

Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Nick’s Pick: Damien Chazelle is a lock here to win after picking up DGA, so the smart money is absolutely on him to win. Not only that, he should win; Villaneuve did a fantastic job with Arrival, but it won’t win. It was amazing to see Mel Gibson return to great form in Hacksaw Ridge, but even if he had won DGA, there’s no way conservative Mel Gibson is winning an award in Hollywood four months after Trump was elected president. Lonergan should be commended for and chastised for his work in Manchester by the Sea in the same breath, a film that is as beautifully acted as it is sloppily written and assembled. The only true contender I think for this is Barry Jenkins for his fantastic work on Moonlight, managing to keep audiences invested in Chiron’s story throughout three different time periods with different sets of actors. That said, Chazelle won DGA. He’s locked.
Easy pick here. Chazelle won DGA and locked this down weeks ago. This was also momentum for giving best picture to Moonlight instead of La La Land. Might this have gone differently if Jenkins had won here? 

Best Documentary (Feature)

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America

Best Documentary (Short Subject)

4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Best Film Editing

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land

Nick’s PickI think that La La Land is going to win this award, but I don’t necessarily want it to. If I am being honest I’d like to see Hacksaw Ridge steal this award. Why? Two reasons: one, it isn’t going to get any other recognition from the Academy, and two, it is really edited perfectly. The battle sequence at the titular ridge is so perfectly shot and cut together that it really evokes the intensity, speed, and fear that must have been racing through the soldiers’ minds. I don’t think it wins this award, though, because it’s from Mel Gibson, and I don’t see any known conservative winning anything in Hollywood in 2017.
I about jumped out of my seat cheering when Hacksaw Ridge picked up this award. Not just because I rightfully picked it as my want-to-win, but because it deserved some kind of recognition. 

Best Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Toni Erdmann

Nick’s Pick: Haven’t seen anything in this category, but Land of Mine did make my most-anticipated of 2017 list and I am extremely excited to see it.

Makeup and Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Nick’s Pick: It is criminal that Jackie’s phenomenal hair and makeup team is not nominated in this category, and they should be the winners here. Without them to pick from, having not seen A Man Called Ove and feeling that Suicide Squad was utterly abysmal, the only sane pick I can make is Star Trek Beyond.
Never forget that the Academy voters in specific categories are members of the Academy under that moniker. I am as shocked as anyone that Suicide Squad won, but voting purely on the make-up and hair I can see why. No way this would’ve won if the Academy as a whole got to vote on it.

Music (Original Score)

La La Land

Nick’s Pick: La La Land wins this effortlessly. Its score is infinitely memorable and impossible not to hum aloud at random. It’s extremely saddening to me that Jóhann Jóhannsson was ignored completely for his excellent score for Arrival as well. I also want to make mention of Nicholas Britell’s brilliant score for Moonlight, which is as haunting as it is beautiful, and supplemented with classical and operatic pieces that make it an incredible experience. That said, I really don’t see anything coming close to the genius of Hurwitz’s incredible work on La La Land.
Never any doubt here. 

Music (Best Original Song)

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls
“City Of Stars” from La La Land
“The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

Nick’s Pick: Again, it’s impossible not to pick La La Land here, but… wait, there are TWO songs nominated from La La Land? Bloody hell! While Justin is picking “City of Stars,” I’m actually on board w/ Netflix n’ Swill host Dan Brenic in saying that “Another Day of Sun” is missing from the nominees list and I would actually replace “City of Stars” with it, though I am still picking “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” to win here. It is the emotional culmination of the entire film and it really picks it back up when the saggy second act comes to an end.
Boo, hiss, boo! I just love “Audition” and feel it is a much better piece than “City of Stars.” 


Production Design

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land

Nick’s Pick: Gotta go with La La Land to win here. The varied use of settings and set designs are amazing, and come on… part of it is set on a Hollywood studio lot, and Hollywood looooooves that stuff. Although Hail, Caesar! did the same and was entirely about Hollywood and paying homage to it, the film came out an eternity ago and probably faded in the minds of Oscar voters. Arrival had some phenomenal design to it (especially the interior of the alien ships), but it won’t win here.

Best Short Film (Animated)

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Best Short Film (Live-Action)

Ennemis Intérieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights

Best Sound Editing

Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

Nick’s Pick: I’m actually going to go away from my pick for La La Land that I made on the show (though I still think it will win), and after seeing Arrival again I’m 100% on board for it to win this award. I really think that Arrival is going to be that heartbreaking flick this year that comes up empty or with one paltry win, and this is probably it; the Adams snub was huge, and Chazelle will take every award that Villaneuve is a contender for. It won’t win for its fantastic score, so it’s very possible it could sneak in a dark horse win here thanks to the amazing sound work done with the aliens. I doubt it will happen, but hey, I’m a fool who dreams.
I am SO GLAD I switched my pick to this, and I am doubly happy that Arrival won something at all. It really deserves to be more than a winner for sound editing, but, it is what it is.

Best Sound Mixing

Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Nick’s Pick: Once again, I’m changing my pick from the show and going with Arrival to win this award for the exact same reasons I listed above.
Should’ve kept changing and went with Hacksaw, damn it.

Best Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Nick’s Pick: The visual effects work done in The Jungle Book is the clear winner here; the film is entirely animated but for Neel Sethi’s performance, but it looks so beautifully photorealistic. The opposite is true of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which tried to resurrect Peter Cushing from the dead as Grand Moff Tarkin and he looked completely dead-eyed the entire time.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Hidden Figures

Nick’s Pick: I’m going with Barry Jenkins here for Moonlight, with a script based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The transformative moments of young Chiron’s life as he grows up are so excellently scripted that the film is positively riveting. I’m also picking Jenkins because this film won’t get much love elsewhere aside from an Ali win. Lion’s script shouldn’t even be nominated, as the second half of the film is a disaster that nearly obliterates the good will imparted to it by the first half. Fences, while my favorite film of the year, is really translated extremely faithfully from August Wilson’s play by August Wilson, and didn’t really require all that much “adaptation” per se. My runner-up here would be Denis Villaneuve’s Arrival, which is really a fantastic script that tries to really turn a dry subject- linguistics- into something tangible and entertaining, and succeeds for the most part. If only he hadn’t cast Jeremy Renner to play a theoretical physicist.
Called it. 

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

Nick’s Pick: I haven’t had the chance to really talk about Hell or High Water in this list, but that’s because it is nominated for one of its least-remarkable aspects (Bridges is great, but far from the best thing about this film). It won’t win here either, but Taylor Sheridan’s fantastic script needs to be noted. This one is going to Damien Chazelle for La La Land as it rightfully should, since it is a masterful script that is overall pretty strong (in spite of some laggyness in its second act). Lonergan did some good things with the script for Manchester by the Sea, but that film’s best aspect by far is its performances.
This is one of the ones that surprised me the most, to be honest. Thankfully Lonergan won for his writing and not his directing, since the former is far stronger than the latter. 


My Final Thoughts:

Last night’s show was one of the better shows in recent history thanks to Jimmy Kimmel keeping it relatively light and keeping the political jabbing to a minimum, and even then it was only playful. The ongoing “feud” with Matt Damon was hilariously played out throughout the night as well, and while some have complained about the “tour bus” gag, it worked for me. There were far too many political shots taken by award winners, though most of them were more glancing blows than straight shots, but even still, Hollywood’s insistence on shoving their hatred of Trump down the rest of America’s throat is a little aggravating and half the reason he won in the first place, because people hate liberals standing on a platform and preaching their superiority at people.

Nothing quite compares to the disaster that unfolded as the show went off the air though in the event that everyone is talking about, when Price Waterhouse Coopers gave presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope and subsequently, La La Land was announced as the winner, only for the acceptance speeches to be interrupted halfway through to correct it and give the award to its rightful winner, Moonlight. Justin Horowitz, one of the producers of La La Land, stepped up and handled the whole thing with grace, but this is an abysmal turn of events and the blame falls squarely on PWC and the show’s producers. The Oscar nominee process is extremely convoluted as it is, with two sets of envelopes for some reason (one on each side of the stage), and honest to god you just have to read the envelope and make sure it’s the right one. Hopefully steps are taken to prevent this kind of mess in the first place, because it was an embarrassing turn of events and soured the ending of an otherwise wonderful show.

Nicholas Haskins