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Oscar Predictions 2017

It’s my favourite time of the year again: Oscar time!

I have just finished reviewing all nine Best Picture nominees for 2017, so it’s time to roll out some predictions. As expected, La La Land leads the way with 14 nominations and is likely to be the big winner of the night, including Best Picture, Best Director for Damien Chazelle and Best Actress for Emma Stone. That said, things aren’t exactly as cut and dried now as they were probably a month or two ago, as there has been significant backlash against La La Land for the usual stupid political reasons and because people just like to criticise. The same thing goes for the Best Actor category, which most pundits believed was a lock for Casey Affleck until unproven sexual harassment allegations from years ago came back to haunt him. I guess we’ll see.

Without further ado, here are my guesses for who will win tomorrow and who should.

Best Picture

Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

Will win: La La Land

Despite the backlash, I think La La Land has enough goodwill left to hold off late charges from Moonlight and Hidden Figures. Knowing the way Hollywood is and the demographic of Academy voters, it will be a bit of a shock if either movie with predominantly black actors ends up topping one with predominantly white actors. Just sayin’.

Should win: La La Land

For the first time in forever, my feeling is that the movie that will most likely win Best Picture at the Oscars is the most deserving one. I never thought it was possible, but I absolutely adored La La Land and think it deserves all the accolades it has been getting. Sure, the singing and dancing is not at Broadway level and the story is seemingly generic, but this film just gave me a magical feeling I seldom experience. By the way, if not for La La Land, my vote would have gone to Arrival.

Best Director

Nominees: Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Will win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Chazelle was tipped as a future heavyweight after Whiplash, and now he will be crowned the top director of 2017. Well-deserved too. Jenkins has an outside chance, but it will be a stunner if Chazelle doesn’t take home the gong.

Should win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

All great directors and great films, but Chazelle pulled off one of the most difficult genres (musical) with spectacular results and got the best performances of out of his leads.

Best Actor

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

Will win: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

I think Affleck, unlike Nate Parker (Birth of a Nation), will escape from his scandal with the acting Oscar his older brother Ben will never get. Affleck’s nuanced performance in Manchester by the Sea was a stab in the heart, and he made audiences shed tears without shedding tears himself on screen, a true testament to his performance

Should win: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

See above, but I wouldn’t mind if Denzel took home the award either. I actually wished Garfield could have gotten nominated for Silence instead, and I think he would have been a deserving winner for that too.

Best Actress

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

Will win: Emma Stone (La La Land)

The stars are aligned this year for Emma Stone, who should sing, dance and act her way to her first Oscar. She is facing tough competition, with Huppert being touted as a serious contender rather than a dark horse. And of course, you can never count out Meryl Streep.

Should win: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Unfortunately, Stone and Portman’s performances are the only ones I’ve seen so far. Portman was good Jackie, but I think Stone blows her out of the water here.

Best Supporting Actor

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

Will win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

A small role that only lasts the first third of the film, but Ali is the odds on favourite to win the award. He was very, very good in limited screen time.

Should win: Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

This is quite a weird category in that there is no clear standout. As I said above, Ali is great in the role, but he’s not in the film much. Jeff Bridges delivers a performance I feel like I’ve seen a few times already (True Grit?), and Dev Patel really should be in the Best Actor category for Lion, while I personally think Aaron Taylor-Johnson would have been a better pick than Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals. So that leaves by default Lucas Hedges, who kind of came out of nowhere to deliver a very powerful performance that boosted Casey Affleck’s.

Best Supporting Actress

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

Will win: Viola Davis (Fences)

Easiest pick of the acting categories. Viola Davis was dynamite in Fences, and though she should have been in the Best Actress category, there’s no denying that she’s absolutely deserving of an Oscar.

Should win: Viola Davis (Fences)

All great performances, but Davis’s stands out head and shoulders above the rest. She gave me the chills.

Best Original Screenplay

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

Will win: La La Land

This is La La’s night, so I’m assuming the big awards are going to all go its way.

Should win: Hell or High Water

I loved Hell or High Water, and the dialogue is huge part of it. The film just felt authentic and managed to flesh out the characters really well.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight

Will win: Moonlight

Moonlight is such a lauded film, one which many think is the best film of the year, and so it should take home at least a few awards in which La La Land has not been nominated.

Should win: Arrival

Have you seen Arrival? Amazing story, insanely good adaptation consider the difficulty of the material.

Best Animated Film

Nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia

Will win: Zootopia

Haven’t seen it yet but the bookmakers seem to have this one ahead.

Should win: Moana

I’ve seen Kubo and Moana, and both are great animated films in their own right. If I were forced to choose, however, I’d go with Moana. Though it doesn’t have the same stunning stop-motion animation, I felt the story and characters were stronger. And the songs are catchy!

Visual Effects

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

Will win: Jungle Book

All fantastic effects this year, with Doctor Strange and The Jungle Book vying for the award. I would be very annoyed in The Jungle Book didn’t win. This was the first time shot entirely in a studio that made me believe everything was real, down to the talking animals.

Should win: Jungle Book

Every nominee had great special effects, but only The Jungle Book‘s was revolutionary.

Cinematography

Nominees: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence

Will win: Arrival

Tempted to go with La La again but I’m guessing that it can’t win everything it’s nominated for. If there’s one category it’s in danger of missing out on, this could be it. Arrival‘s cinematography is breathtakingly good too, and I hope it at least takes home something.

Should win: Silence

Silence should have been nominated for way more categories, including Best Picture, so it’s a travesty that it only has this one nomination to show for it. But this is not a pity vote from me because the cinematography in this movie is absolutely beautiful.

Costume Design

Nominees: Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land

Will win: La La Land

No comment.

Should win: Jackie

Recreating all the classic pieces must have been a lot of work.

Editing

Nominees: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Moonlight

Will win: Moonlight

Another one of those categories where La La might not reign supreme. Just a hunch.

Should win: Hacksaw Ridge

With all those flying limbs and exploding skulls it must have been a difficult task editing this film.

Make-up and Hair

Nominees: A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad

Will win: Star Trek Beyond

I just can’t imagine Suicide Squad winning anything, and A Man Called Ove might not have been seen by enough voters?

Should win: Star Trek Beyond

I just can’t imagine Suicide Squad winning anything

Best Original Score

Nominees: Jackie, La La Land Lion Moonlight Passengers

Will win: La La Land

The best musical absolutely has to win best music right? In all seriousness, I loved the music in this movie and still listen to it regularly.

Should win: La La Land

No brainer.

Best Original Song

Nominees:
“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

Will win: “City Of Stars” from La La Land

Actually think “Audition” is the better song, but the title “City of Stars” is probably enough to sway the voters. Just wonder if the two songs will end up splitting the votes and another film will end up coming out on top.

Should win: “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

I actually like some of the other songs in La La Land more, but of the songs nominated, I liked “How Far I’ll Go” the most.

Production Design

Nominees: Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail, Caesar! La La Land, Passengers

Will win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

JK Rowling should get some love. Fantastic Beasts does have a lot of nice looking sets.

Should win: Arrival

Have you seen Arrival? Those alien ships were mind-blowing. Actually, Passengers wasn’t all that bad either, it’s just that the film was not very well received, so I don’t expect much love from voters.

Sound Editing

Nominees: Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Sully

Will win: Arrival

Have you seeeeeen Arrival?

Should win: Arrival

Have you seeeeeeeeeen Arrival? Those alien ship sounds! They should have dubbed Amy Adams’ Mandarin though.

Sound Mixing

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

Should win: Hacksaw Ridge

Loads of bombs and explosions is all I can remember. Must have been exhausting work,

Will win: Hacksaw Ridge

Yada yada yada.

Note: The rest of the categories are going to be mostly guesses, and I’m assuming no one really cares about them (sorry), so for the sake of brevity it’s just going to be the nominees plus my pick in bold.

Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life, Animated, O.J.: Made in America, 13th

The only one I’ve seen, and given this is OJ’s year, so to speak, my guess is that it will win. The bigger question is: Can a doco with 4 parts and clocking in at around 7 hours be a “film”?

Documentary Short

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

Pure speculation.

Foreign Language Film

Land of MineA Man Called Ove, The Salesman, Tanna, Toni Erdmann

Land of Mine has gotten a bit of buzz around here, so I’m sticking with it.

Short Film (Live Action)

Ennemis Intérieurs, La Femme et le TGV, Silent Nights, Sing Timecode

Like I would have a clue.

Short Film (Animated)

Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear, Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl Piper

Sounds like a winning title.

Movie Review: Manny (2014)

manny

Considering what great material the filmmakers had to work with, Manny, the new documentary on eight-weight-class Filipino world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, should have been a sure-fire KO. Instead of delivering the haymakers fans would have loved to see, however, the film ended up pulling its punches all the way through, resulting in a thoroughly unsatisfying experience that barely scratches the surface of both the man and the sport.

On its face, Manny ticks all the right boxes for a sports documentary. A poor Filipino kid from the gutter is forced to box from a young age to put food on the family table, and in the process develops a talent and ferocity that would take him to the very top of the sport. Amid the career highs (such as his superstar-making pummeling of Oscar de la Hoya in 2008) and lows (his KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012, for instance) there are celebrity interviews and “rare” public and behind-the-scenes footage, all with the familiar voice of Liam Neeson narrating the script.

But despite an explosive start highlighting Pacquiao’s knockout loss to Marquez, Manny soon settles into conventional documentary mode and begins to skim over the stuff that would have made the film fascinating. It touches on all the things we already know about Pacquiao’s life outside of his major fights — the humble beginnings, the rise through the weight ranks, the movies and singing that came with the stardom, the foray into politics, and the apparent “religious awakening” he would experience a few years ago — but without ever getting to the “good stuff” simmering beneath the surface.

Yes, it was cool to see highlights of his training and big fights — Barrera, Morales, De la Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito, Marquez — in high definition, and it was fun to see celebrities like Mark Wahlberg, Jeremy Piven and Jimmy Kimmel talk about him, but all of these things felt superficial.

I wanted to see more footage of Manny’s daily life; I wanted to hear more about the dirty business of boxing and the disputes between his promoter Top Rank and Golden Boy; I wanted to hear about all the venomous groupies that feed of his money and all the cash he literally gives away; I wanted more depth on Manny’s dark side — the gambling and the drinking and the womanizing. It would be unfair to say the film completely ignores these issues, though it barely takes more than a jab at them. The approach by directors Leon Gast (who won the Oscar for the Ali documentary When We Were Kings) and Ryan Moore was to just touch upon all the touchy things and gloss over them quickly before moving onto the more positive aspects of Manny’s existence.

The best parts of the movie are when we see people close to Manny talk about him, from adviser Michael Koncz and ex-conditioning coach Alex Ariza to his long-time coach Freddie Roach and promoter Bob Arum. The bits with the most emotion actually all involve Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee, the only person who appears to be giving it to the viewers straight. But unfortunately, these flashes of genuine insight into Pacquiao are few and far between.

Perhaps it’s because I already know too much about Pacquiao for Manny to teach me anything new. To be honest, even the 24/7 documentaries produced by HBO before each Pacquiao fight offer more about he subject than this documentary. I just think the film would have been so much more interesting had it dared to venture deeper into things such as Alex Ariza’s unceremonious dumping from Pacquiao’s team and the subsequent feud he developed with Roach and Koncz (not discussed at all), questioning how and what really caused the negotiations with Floyd Mayweather Jr to break down multiple times (nothing apart from a couple of clips anyone could have dug up on YouTube), and some sort of definitive statement about all the allegations of performance enhancing drugs (the elephant in the room).

Even the chronological depiction of Pacquiao’s career missed important chunks. Although the footage is out there, the film ignores Pacquiao’s earlier losses before Morales and his world title fights at the lighter weight class, and completely skips his less inspiring bouts against Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley. I know it’s hard to follow every bout of Pacquiao’s long career, but pretending that some important events of his life don’t even exist makes me question the filmmakers’ objectivity and decision-making.

At the end of the day, Manny is a film that’s more hagiography than documentary. It feels like it has been made by the same people who follow Pacquiao around all day telling him how great he is (they’re what netizens described as “Pactards”). Pacquiao is an interesting, charismatic sportsman who deserves a better biography than what he got here, and this was never more apparent when listening him spew out the awkward lines they wrote for him at the end of the movie.

Having said all that, Manny remains in a position to succeed because of Pacquiao’s immense popularity and fortunate timing — as the long-awaited showdown between him and Mayweather appears to be  getting somewhere at last. Maybe after they finally do fight each other someone else can make a more compelling documentary that can do Manny Pacquaio justice.

2 stars out of 5