The 2017 Academy Awards Primer


An industry that should be begging you to consume their content is essentially daring you not to watch.

The annual awarding of achievements as determined by The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences is a polarizing affair. Either you are deeply vested in who takes home the Oscar, or you couldn’t give a recycle bin of Buffalo Trace bottles over who wins for “Best Editing”.


It’s the biggest night of the year in Hollywood, when the vanity-rich industry gets to congratulate itself in front of the globe, and if you are driven to apathy by this it is completely understandable. (I cover the movie industry, so I’m quasi-obligated.) Celebrities in the age of Obama became convinced their words drove the national conscience. The failure of Hillary’s inevitability this past November made Hollywood confront an uncomfortable reality – people didn’t listen to them!

Note in the ensuing months how Hollywood has been unable to accept the election reality, throwing tantrums and behaving like unhinged hyenas whose prescription meds were denied by their Affordable Care Act policy. They have taken their emotional torment to the stages and podiums this winter, using the various award shows as cathartic therapy sessions. The Golden Globes featured numerous lectures, and the Screen Actors Guild ceremony was an embarrassing collective meltdown that was a hoot to behold.

As for the entertainment object lessons the Oscars should fall somewhere in between, with the producers actually declaring they will welcome more of the luminary activism. But in between the societal hectoring there will also be awards doled out. In the interest of generating interest I’ll give a category rundown and prediction, presented in ascending order for dramatic effect.



In the battle for special effects supremacy it would seem a close contest between “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, and “Doctor Strange”. Traditionally this category favors sci-fi, while the CGI-rich comic book films usually get shafted  (the last was “Spider Man 2” in 2004). Give it to the droids here.




This is between 3 titles, including a Swedish film no one has seen. “Star Trek” should get edged out, which means it will be giddy to be able to say the horrible “Suicide Squad” is an Oscar Winning film.


Usually this is the domain of period piece costume dramas, however this year sees 5 nominees that fit that description. The edge therefore could go to “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, combining both older fashions with fantasy elements. Also for being the title most voters likely watched.



All the picks here seem valid, with no clear title leaping to the fore. Voters prefer the landslide victor, therefore I’d lean towards the movie with the slew of 14 nominations, “La La Land”.



Many fans are not clear on the differences here. For shorthand, Sound Editing covers the unique sound effects, and the Mixing entails the entire film’s sound effects soundtrack. Action films and/or special-effects extravaganzas normally take Editing. The Mixing frequently can go to musicals, or war epics. The first has no clear winner, the second a mix of favorites. Pure toss-up here.

EDITING: “Arrival”

MIXING: “La La Land”



It’s rather surprising that perennial studio pick Pixar was not included for “Finding Dory”. Two foreign entries divide the rest. “Kubo and the Two Strings” has earned a few guild awards in the past month giving it a serious contender position, so that means “Moana” should finish a distant third. Expect Disney’s “Zootopia” to earn the trophy.






“The Lobster” is the kind of weirdly original tale that can sometimes net the statue, but I feel it is a little too obscure here. This should leave it to either Damien Chazelle for “La La Land” (as an overall favorite) but I sense the support for “Hell Or High Water” is large enough to bring Taylor Sheridan what might be a small upset.



“Hidden Figures” does not have the heft. Eric Heisserer did great work to transfer “Arrival” to the screen. The film was also praised heavily in the fall,  but there are a number of factors making this category nearly a lock. The Academy is working to purge its racial woes, and the fact a film was shot from the late playwright August Wilson’s own script brings highly seductive backstory drama. That should be enough to push “Fences” to the win.



Denis Villenueve (“Arrival”) guided a tough adaptation to raves. Kenneth Lonergan  worked his cast wonderfully in “Manchester By The Sea”, so they are worthy nominees. Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”) is on the redemption route, but too many in Hollywood still harbor resentment for his past social transgressions. Barry Jenkins has received accolades for “Moonlight”, but as a newcomer he may not be considered highly enough. It feels like Damien Chazelle is anointed here for “La La Land. Normally the more heavily nominated a film the more likely it will lead to a directing honor.



Two prominent choices seem to be at the front. Michelle Williams had a good early push as the favorite for “Manchester By The Sea”. The past couple of months have seen a surge, boosted by wins at the Golden Globes and Actors Guild, for Viola Davis from “Fences”. Go ahead and bet the rent on this one.




A very mixed group of strong contenders makes this a wildcard category. Jeff Bridges may not have enough momentum for “Hell Or High Water”. Feels like the biggest challenger would be Dev Patel for “Lion”, but the favorite will probably be Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight.



Natalie Portman, in “Jackie” was tabbed as a favorite coming out of the Toronto Film Festival, but that was back in September and she has since faded. Meryl Streep received her perfunctory nomination for “Florence Foster Jenkins”, but after the raves for her political rant at the Golden Globes she could have shot up the favorites. (Yes, her performance can become “better” due to a speech given over a year and a half after her work.)  Ultimately though, this is Emma Stone’s trophy to lose, for “La La Land”.



This may be the most questionable 2 horse race. Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”) and Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”) are longshots. Ryan Gosling will have some consideration for “La La Land”, but will be out of the money. Casey Affleck was a lock for this as far back as November. However there has been a groundswell of opposition, as he has come under fire for sexual assault allegations. Many Academy members feel this impacts whether or not he did good work in a film last year. That reaction led to Denzel Washington becoming an upset winner at the SAG Awards last month. However I get the feeling that enough voters outside the acting category either cast early votes, or are out of the news loop, to still give enough latent support. I’ll take Casey Affleck in the coin flip.




The nine movies up for the award are a collection of those found from the other categories. Eight of these have no chance. It should be an anti-climactic culmination considering one title garnered 14 nominations. Not only would that make it a lock, but “La La Land” is a movie about Hollywood. When the people who love themselves vote on a movie about themselves well, there just is not even a competition.


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