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The B+ Oscar Ballot: 2016 – The Quick Picks

The giant ballot article went up this morning, and for those who don’t want to have to skim through that, here’s a cliff notes version for easy reference. This is everything you should be taking, and what I’m taking.

And in a bit, I’ll post my Scorecard as well, for those looking to attempt that as well. (Note: The rankings here my not be the ones I put on my Scorecard.)

Here are the quick picks for the 89th Academy Awards:

Best Picture

My personal choice: La La Land

What you should take: La La Land

What I’m taking: La La Land

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Moonlight

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. La La Land
  2. Moonlight
  3. Hidden Figures
  4. Hell or High Water
  5. Manchester by the Sea
  6. Hacksaw Ridge
  7. Lion
  8. Arrival
  9. Fences

Analysis:

This is one of the bigger locks of the decade, guys. Slumdog Millionaire was the last film we had that we could count on winning at least six awards. Even The Hurt Locker wasn’t this much of a lock. La La Land should win this real easily, and there’s no reason to go against it. It’s not if, it’s how much.

Best Director

My personal choice: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

What you should take: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

What I’m taking: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  2. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  3. Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  4. Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  5. Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

Analysis:

The DGA is never wrong. 90% of the time throughout history, they’ve been right. And if you don’t believe the DGA, every other precursor went to Damien Chazelle. Shit’s locked, guys.

Best Actor

My personal choice: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

What you should take: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

What I’m taking: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Denzel Washington, Fences

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  2. Denzel Washington, Fences
  3. Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  4. Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  5. Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Analysis:

This is a straight toss-up between Affleck and Denzel. You are well within reason to take Denzel and a lot of the perception is that Denzel is now the favorite and will likely be winning this. Denzel has SAG, which is the big precursor that has really only missed three times ever. Affleck won everything else. In most cases, I would tell you to stick with SAG regardless of the opposition, but something tells me that this year, in this particular instance, Casey Affleck will end up coming out on top. I can’t guarantee it, and if you think it’s gonna be Denzel you should take Denzel. I am not stopping you or telling you it’s dumb. I just have a hunch that Affleck will win this. And if that’s the case, I’ll explain myself tomorrow. If not, then SAG was right, I was wrong and my hunch didn’t play out. We’ll see what happens.

Best Actress

My personal choice: Natalie Portman, Jackie

What you should take: Emma Stone, La La Land

What I’m taking: Emma Stone, La La Land

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Emma Stone, La La Land
  2. Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  3. Natalie Portman, Jackie
  4. Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
  5. Ruth Negga, Loving

Analysis:

The minute nominations were announced, the downhill started for Jackie. Three months ago, this looked like a walk for Natalie Portman, and then that movie just disappeared. And you felt that it was open for someone else, and that Emma Stone had the inside track. And she ran with it. She won SAG and BAFTA and should cruise to an easy win here. Isabelle Huppert remains the prime spoiler and could happen, but given how few foreign language performances have ever won this award and that the film doesn’t necessarily have a huge following with American audiences and she plays a pretty unlikable character — seems a tall order. I guess you could take it if you think an upset is in order, but Emma Stone is charming, has the precursors, and is in the Best Picture favorite that’s gonna win at least six other awards. Hard to not take her here.

Best Supporting Actor

My personal choice: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

What you should take: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

What I’m taking: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Dev Patel, Lion

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  2. Dev Patel, Lion
  3. Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  4. Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  5. Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Analysis:

If it’s not Ali, then I don’t know who wins. I’m pretty sure it won’t be Michael Shannon. The argument for Bridges is that he’s great and that they love the film. The argument against is that he has no precursors and has essentially played this same character about five times now. Lucas Hedges would be the youngest winner winner if he won. He’s great in Manchester by the Sea. Unfortunately they don’t love voting for people this young and he has no precursors. It seems unlikely. Which leaves only Dev Patel, who did win BAFTA, but BAFTA has a bad track record in Supporting Actor and he just doesn’t seem like he’s gonna galvanize enough votes to win. So you have Mahershala Ali, who is the most captivating person on screen for his section of Moonlight, has a SAG win and a BFCA win, is also in Hidden Figures and has been giving some really highly praised speeches along the campaign trail. Hard to see him not winning this. And if you think he won’t, good luck picking the person who beats him.

Best Supporting Actress

My personal choice: Viola Davis, Fences

What you should take: Viola Davis, Fences

What I’m taking: Viola Davis, Fences

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Viola Davis, Fences
  2. Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  3. Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
  4. Nicole Kidman, Lion
  5. Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Analysis:

This is locked. Viola’s gonna get her Oscar. The end. Don’t take anyone else.

Best Original Screenplay

My personal choice: Hell or High Water

What you should take: Manchester by the Sea

What I’m taking: Manchester by the Sea

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: La La Land

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Manchester by the Sea
  2. La La Land
  3. Hell or High Water
  4. The Lobster
  5. 20th Century Women

Analysis:

You gotta take Manchester, because if La La Land wins this, then it’s a wrap. Sweep’s on, ten wins and they went way all in on the musical. Hell or High Water seems an afterthought in this category, and the other two are just lucky to be nominated. Manchester won the BAFTA and tied with La La Land at BFCA. Neither won the WGA because Moonlight was considered Original there. So taking that out of the equation and knowing that musicals rarely win in the Screenplay categories, you kinda have to take Manchester here.

Plus — they’re not gonna vote for it for everything. How many years do people vote for the sweep and it doesn’t happen? No Best Picture winner has won more than five awards since 2010. The fact that La La Land is winning eight or nine is already huge. Don’t just start giving it extra awards too. Take Manchester, let La La Land beat you.

Unless you’re that person that would rather take La La Land everywhere and be wrong on a few rather than take any chances elsewhere, in which case, have fun with that, pussy.

Best Adapted Screenplay

My personal choice: Moonlight

What you should take: Moonlight

What I’m taking: Moonlight

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Arrival

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Moonlight
  2. Arrival
  3. Hidden Figures
  4. Lion
  5. Fences

Analysis:

Moonlight won Original Screenplay at the WGA, which is arguably the tougher category. A lot of people think this should win Best Picture. They’re going to award it somewhere else, and this is almost always that somewhere else. It makes the most sense. Lion has the BAFTA and I guess you could say that. Arrival makes the most sense, having won BFCA and the WGA Adapted, and being a movie that needs a great screenplay in order to be pulled off. And I also wouldn’t count out Hidden Figures, since people love it. That said, you gotta take Moonlight here. Because again, if it’s not Moonlight, you don’t know what it is. So take the known quantity and let it lose.

Best Editing

My personal choice: La La Land

What you should take: La La Land

What I’m taking: La La Land

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Hacksaw Ridge

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. La La Land
  2. Hacksaw Ridge
  3. Arrival
  4. Moonlight
  5. Hell or High Water

Analysis:

Whiplash won for Editing. This is a musical. It has the Eddie Award, it won BFCA. It’s gonna win Best Picture. This should be an easy win for it. Hacksaw is an alternate, but I’d say it has about a 30% chance at winning. It won the BAFTA, but La La Land is a clear favorite. Arrival should have more of a shot than it does, but it doesn’t have much going for it. I’d stick with La La Land here.

Best Cinematography

My personal choice: La La Land

What you should take: La La Land

What I’m taking: La La Land

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Lion

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. La La Land
  2. Lion
  3. Moonlight
  4. Arrival
  5. Silence

Analysis:

If it’s not La La Land, then you have no idea what it is. It won all the precursors except the guild, which isn’t as accurate as you may think. (Because remember — the guild gave Roger Deakins four awards. The Oscars have not given him any yet.) So stick with La La Land. Nobody knows what wins if it’s not that. I’d wager Lion, but you don’t want to put all your chips on that one.

Best Original Score

My personal choice: La La Land

What you should take: La La Land

What I’m taking: La La Land

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Lion

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. La La Land
  2. Lion
  3. Moonlight
  4. Jackie
  5. Passengers

Analysis:

This is one of the biggest gimmes of all time. Why would you not take the original musical?

Best Original Song

My personal choice: “City of Stars,” from La La Land

What you should take: “City of Stars,” from La La Land

What I’m taking: “City of Stars,” from La La Land

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. “City of Stars,” from La La Land
  2. “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana
  3. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” from La La Land
  4. “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls
  5. “The Empty Chair,” from Jim: The James Foley Story

Analysis:

It’s not a lock. The presence of the second film worries me a bit, but I think it might be a red herring. Stick with the “main” song from the original musical that’s gonna win a bunch of awards. The alternative is Moana, which even if people are en masse aware that Lin-Manuel Miranda is behind it, I doubt even then he gets enough votes to pull off a win. Stick with La La Land, take “City of Stars.” It’s the smart choice.

Can we also appreciate that between all these articles I keep finding different gifs to put up each time? That’s actually not an easy task when one film is gonna win this many awards.

Best Production Design

My personal choice: Hail, Caesar!

What you should take: La La Land

What I’m taking: La La Land

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. La La Land
  2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  3. Hail, Caesar!
  4. Arrival
  5. Passengers

Analysis:

The single weirdest category of 2016. I have no idea. I assume it’s La La Land because I can’t really make legitimate cases for any of the other ones. Passengers — no. Arrival — it’s like The Martian. Sure, it’s fine, but it’s like four locations inside most of the time. Hail, Caesar! has nice sets but this is its only nomination and there’s some crazy statistic I pulled in my giant article that says single-nomination films outside of acting categories don’t really ever win. I think if you go back twenty years and take out all the categories like shorts and documentary and stuff, and discount the acting categories (where single nominees win all the time), you have like five winners where that was their sole nomination. And it’s mostly either Makeup (three nominees), Sound Editing (the one time it happened there were only two nominees), Score (and that was 1999, so not even recently) and once in Costumes. Once. And that was Marie Antoinette, which is costume central. So Hail, Caesar! seems like a longshot at best.

I assume La La Land simply because it’s a musical and they made places look brighter and more fantastical than they would usually look. And I guess the epilogue has a bunch of production design. Plus, the alternative to it is Fantastic Beasts. And I don’t know how many people within the Academy: 1) saw Fantastic Beasts, 2) would vote for it. Harry Potter had eight films before this and won zero Oscars. BAFTA gave Fantastic Beasts the Production Design award, but they gave Harry Potter a couple of awards too. This is their franchise. So I get that. I just don’t know if it gets enough votes.

I would say, if you’re sick of La La Land and don’t think it’ll win, you should take Fantastic Beasts. But, for me at least, hearing myself say Fantastic Beasts could be the vote only makes me more convinced that La La Land is just gonna win this. So my opinion is stick with that and see how it goes.

This is the swing category. If it wins this, you’re looking at 9 wins. If it loses, 7-8. If by the time this is given out, La La Land has already won Screenplay, Costumes and/or Sound Editing, then it’s gonna win this en route to a likely record number of wins all time. Aside from the usual suspects (the shorts), this is the one category of 2016 I honestly have no idea how they’re gonna vote. So safe bet is La La Land.

Best Costume Design

My personal choice: Jackie

What you should take: Jackie

What I’m taking: Jackie

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: La La Land

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Jackie
  2. La La Land
  3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  4. Florence Foster Jenkins
  5. Allied

Analysis:

With Production Design, while I have a hard time on the surface thinking they’ll give it to La La Land, I can look at the category there and become convinced they will. Here, category or no category, I can’t even fathom that they’ll do it. If you asked me point blank what categories La La Land was going to lose, I’d tell you, apart from one of the Song nominations, it’ll lose Actor, Sound Editing and this. And then it will also likely lose Screenplay, but I couldn’t guarantee that one. I see this nominated for costumes and I think, “What costumes?” Not that they didn’t look nice, but they’re contemporary. And everything I know about this Academy and this category — they don’t vote contemporary in costumes.

So assuming La La Land doesn’t win (and knowing full well that it could), I look at the rest of the category and go:

Well Allied has no shot. Who remembers anything about those costumes? Oh, and did anyone even see that movie? I’d be more surprised to see that win than La La Land. So that’s out.

Florence Foster Jenkins? Not a chance. That’s a nominee and not a winner. Clearly. It sort of fits what they do here, but they want something more than this. They’ll definitely vote La La Land over this. So that’s out.

Fantastic Beasts — it could happen. Harry Potter got costume nominations, but this one is straight period. It makes sense, but it doesn’t have any precursors (not even the guild, which gives out a Fantasy nominee) and not even BAFTA went here. If, out of context, I had to say which, if any, award this movie would win, I would say Costumes over Production Design. But in context, Production Design seems like the only place it really has a shot. I guess you could take it here, but…

Jackie is period, it features one of the most famous outfits of the past sixty years, and it won both BAFTA and BFCA. The past seven years, when a film has both of those, it has never lost the Oscar. The guild voted off the board in Period, so when you look at La La Land vs. Jackie Kennedy, and this being costumes, where the quality of the film isn’t actually a part of the voting — I’ll take Jackie.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

My personal choice: Star Trek Beyond

What you should take: Star Trek Beyond

What I’m taking: Star Trek Beyond

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Suicide Squad

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Star Trek Beyond
  2. Suicide Squad
  3. A Man Called Ove

Analysis:

This should be an easy win for Star Trek. When voters look at this category, they’re gonna see a film they’ve never heard of, a film they probably didn’t see and is thought of as a huge bomb, and Star Trek, which either they didn’t see or they thought was okay, and since they generally respect the Star Trek franchise (since it has an air of respectability around it, unlike the DC Universe), they’ll vote for that. It’s a straight 50/50 choice and even if you didn’t have me you’d assume Star Trek won this. If not — Academy Award winner Suicide Squad.

Best Visual Effects

My personal choice: Kubo and the Two Strings

What you should take: The Jungle Book

What I’m taking: The Jungle Book

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Kubo and the Two Strings

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. The Jungle Book
  2. Kubo and the Two Strings
  3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  4. Doctor Strange
  5. Deepwater Horizon

Analysis:

While Kubo has a small, small chance at this — The Jungle Book was created entirely in a soundstage in downtown LA. Everyone’s gonna vote for it. Even people like me, who loved Kubo, think The Jungle Book deserves this award. It’s won every precursor there is to win, and shouldn’t lose this award at all.

Best Sound Editing

My personal choice: Hacksaw Ridge

What you should take: Hacksaw Ridge

What I’m taking: Hacksaw Ridge

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: La La Land

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Hacksaw Ridge
  2. La La Land
  3. Arrival
  4. Sully
  5. Deepwater Horizon

Analysis:

War movies win Sound Editing. If La La Land weren’t here, this would be one of the biggest locks of the night. With it here, it makes you worried they’ll sweep vote it in both sound categories because they don’t know the difference. I’m not gonna let myself be swayed by that. I think they’ll do the right thing here. You could take La La Land, but I think Hacksaw winning both Sound categories is more likely, if you really wanted to get into it. But still, I think Hacksaw wins this. It’s one or the other.

Best Sound Mixing

My personal choice: La La Land

What you should take: La La Land

What I’m taking: La La Land

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Hacksaw Ridge

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. La La Land
  2. Hacksaw Ridge
  3. Arrival
  4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  5. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Analysis:

The way war movies do well in Editing, musicals do well in Mixing. This should win this easily. Again, it’s a 50/50. Either La La Land wins both, Hacksaw wins both or the split happens exactly as I’m telling you to vote. If the split happens the other way, then it’s chaos and the whole thing is a fucking disaster. And I haven’t seen any straight up disasters in the sound categories since they went to five nominees in both. So either take one film in both categories or vote exactly as I’m telling you to. You’re guaranteed to get at least one right regardless (unless you take Hacksaw and La La Land wins both, or vice versa. In which case, HA HA).

Best Animated Feature

My personal choice: Kubo and the Two Strings

What you should take: Zootopia

What I’m taking: Kubo and the Two Strings

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Zootopia

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Zootopia
  2. Kubo and the Two Strings
  3. Moana
  4. The Red Turtle
  5. My Life as a Zucchini

Analysis:

Still holding out hope for a Kubo win, but it seems like this is gonna be an easy win for Zootopia, based on everything I’ve seen in the precursors. You should stick with the favorite, unless you’re gonna be like me and vote with the heart and somehow hope that changes things.

Best Foreign Language Film

My personal choice: Toni Erdmann

What you should take: The Salesman

What I’m taking: Toni Erdmann

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: The Salesman

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. The Salesman
  2. Toni Erdmann
  3. A Man Called Ove
  4. Land of Mine
  5. Tanna

Analysis:

If this was purely about what people thought the best foreign language film of the year was, then I’d tell you to take Toni Erdmann. But this is no longer that. Since President Voldemort tried to put the Muslim ban into effect, Asghar Farhadi said he was gonna boycott the Oscars, and all the press and sentiment went his way. So now, there are people who haven’t seen any of the nominees who are automatically voting for The Salesman just to make a political statement. So at this point, you gotta take The Salesman. There’s no way to quantify how many votes it’ll get because of political reasons, but it’s enough to think it should win this. I can see it winning and a huge standing ovation happening at that moment in support. You gotta take it.

I, personally, am taking Toni Erdmann on my personal ballot because I want to see what happens and still want to have it in case it wins. But I also don’t care about my personal ballot and am assuming I get that wrong. Hell, I already took Kubo knowing I’m gonna get it wrong, so I don’t really care at all about this one. The Salesman is the choice and it should win pretty easily now, I’m figuring.

Best Documentary

My personal choice: O.J. Made in America

What you should take: O.J. Made in America

What I’m taking: O.J. Made in America

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: 13th

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. O.J. Made in America
  2. 13th
  3. I Am Not Your Negro
  4. Life, Animated
  5. Fire at Sea

Analysis:

You take O.J. That’s what you do. 13th could happen, with people not respecting O.J. as being truly a feature (though they nominated it, so at that point, just take it) and Netflix has a lot of money behind it and Ava DuVernay directed it. But honestly, O.J. is so good, it’ll win despite all of that. You gotta take it. Let 13th win. You know it’s going to O.J.

Best Documentary Short

My personal choice: Watani: My Homeland

What you should take: The White Helmets

What I’m taking: Watani: My Homeland

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: The White Helmets

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. The White Helmets
  2. Watani: My Homeland
  3. Extremis
  4. Joe’s Violin
  5. 4.1 Miles

Analysis:

I had a two week stretch where I was convinced Watani was gonna take this down. Now, I’m not so sure. The White Helmets seems like it’ll pull it out in the end. The winner should be one of those two, which is why I prefer my Scorecard Ballot method, since it doesn’t punish me for getting the winner wrong. I’ll actually be helped by knowing that the winner, if it wasn’t one, was the other. But if you’ve gotta pick one or the other, I’d say the safe choice is The White Helmets. Watani is the only nominee that wasn’t readily available online before nominations happened. The White Helmets has been on Netflix for months. That means it has Netflix’s backing, it has more visibility, plus people are aware that it was picked up to be turned into a feature by George Clooney. That to me makes it the safer choice, even if Watani is the more emotional of the two and features children at its center, which you know they love. So, in a 50/50 choice, I say you can take either, but The White Helmets is the safer of the two options.

Best Live-Action Short

My personal choice: Ennemis Interieurs

What you should take: Timecode

What I’m taking: Ennemis Interieurs

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Timecode

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Timecode
  2. Ennemis Interieurs
  3. La Femme et le TGV
  4. Sing
  5. Silent Nights

Analysis:

Live-Action Short is always the one that I expect to get wrong, because honestly I never really have an idea. Most years I can figure what probably is gonna win, but that’s about it. This year — no idea. The one that fits what they most go for is Timecode. Ennemis Interieurs is, in my mind, the best short. But it’s not uplifting. They like cute and uplifting. Then again, Ennemis Interieurs also has some political resonance, despite taking place 20 years ago. That could also help it. I don’t know. I guess La Femme et le TGV and Sing could also win — it is Live-Action Short after all — but if I had to guess which two the category was between, it’s Timecode and Ennemis Interieurs. And since I have a lot of recent history saying they like cute romantic comedies here, I’ll say you should take Timecode. I’ll stick with Ennemis Interieurs just to see what happens, but Timecode seems like the safest choice. Though it goes four deep, this category, since no one ever knows how it’s gonna turn out. My only real advice is not to take Silent Nights. Otherwise, have fun.

Best Animated Short

My personal choice: Pearl

What you should take: Piper

What I’m taking: Pearl

What will win if MY vote doesn’t: Piper

Rankings of likelihood to win:

  1. Pearl
  2. Piper
  3. Borrowed Time
  4. Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  5. Blind Vaysha

Analysis:

Pixar hasn’t won this in fifteen years, and something in my gut tells me that Piper truly won’t win this. I’m still staying it’s the safest choice and almost the one you gotta take, but everything in my gut says Pearl is gonna be the one that wins this. I think maybe you should actually take that instead. I can’t bring myself to actually change it (part of its laziness. I have to go back and rewrite the paragraph in the other article. I’d rather just get it wrong, since it doesn’t mean that much to me in the end). With Pixar never winning (and a lot of times not even being nominated), I can’t imagine that it just wins out of nowhere. The short looks good, but that’s about it. Pearl, if it weren’t part of a 360 thing, I would say it probably wins automatically. But that’s not what we’re dealing with. And then Borrowed Time could sneak in there, though I wouldn’t put it on a ballot just because they never go depressing in this category. So it’s really either Pearl or Piper. Piper seems the safe choice, but my gut says it’s Pearl. Do what you will here.

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