Music, Movement, & Mathematics Dominate the 2017 Oscars®

Ann Silverthorn

Ann Silverthorn is a longtime Netflix DVD subscriber and writer. We loved her "7 Things I Like About Netflix DVDs" blog post! Ann's a great movie buff, so we're delighted to have her guest write about her awards season predictions.

On Sunday, February 26th, Jimmy Kimmel will host the 89th Academy Awards®. Are you excited to see how your judgment and intuition will match up with those of the nearly 7,000 voting members of the Academy?

Here are my picks for this year's Academy Awards®. How well do they match with yours?

Best Picture

Although La La Land received 14 nominations, Hidden Figures might just have the right combination of factors to take the title from the musical that dominated the Golden Globes. Hidden Figures tells the true story of three female African-American mathematicians who calculated launches and returns for the early U.S. space program (there were more than 50 such African-American women).

Hidden Figures’ message of gender and racial equality—and courage, speaks to a wide, contemporary audience. The film features a strong cast, inspiring story, and the strong direction of Theodore Melfi. It’s currently outperforming La La Land in gross receipts at the box office.

Actor in a Leading Role

It’s been ten years since Ryan Gosling was nominated for an Academy Award for Half Nelson. Gosling has received more than a hundred nominations from various film associations during his double-decade career, and he took the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy, or Musical this year.

It takes courage for an actor to make the leap from drama and comedy to a musical, which necessitates adding to one’s tool belt of talent. Gosling even learned to play the piano in just three months for the film. Taking his place among seasoned actors, Ryan Gosling stands an excellent chance of winning the Academy Award for Actor in a Leading Role for his work in La La Land.

Actress in a Leading Role

For some of the same reasons Ryan Gosling should take the best actor award, his co-star, Emma Stone, stands an excellent chance of picking up an Oscar for her role in La La Land. Taking on a challenging role that required a steep learning curve and doing it well, as she did, merits recognition. Stone has never won an Oscar, although she was nominated in 2015 for her role in Birdman. She has the likability factor, and often takes on controversial parts, such as the southern belle in The Help.

Stone faces strong competition, however, against Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, Ruth Negga’s role as the African-American half of an integrated marriage, and Isabelle Huppert’s lengthy and esteemed credentials. In order to win, Stone’s performance will also have to steal away some of Meryl Streep’s recent Cecil B. DeMille award speech glow at the Golden Globes.

Directing

It’s been quite a few years since Ken Lonergan received an Oscar nomination, the last being 2003 for his Gangs of New York screenplay. Lonergan wrote the screenplay and directed Manchester by the Sea, which grabbed six Oscar nominations this season. Although Lonergan is no newcomer to films, Manchester by the Sea marks his directorial debut.

Is he worthy? For a film that has been called “devastating,” he had to walk a thin line to keep from being accused of creating melodrama. For this reason, he has a pretty good chance that he’ll be celebrating a win on Oscar night. If he doesn’t win the award for directing, he’ll likely win for Writing – Original Screenplay, his other nomination this year.

Music (Original Song)

Should the Oscar go to Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go,” which is probably being sung by more adults than children? This song offers the message to young girls (a demographic that has received much attention recently) of “No one knows how far I’ll go.”

Or perhaps it should go to La La Land’s “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).” The lines, “Here’s to the ones who dream. Foolish as they may seem,” speak directly to people like me, for instance. Don’t forget the sultry and sexy “City of Stars,” also from La La Land, and after all that steam, you might need to get up and dance. So, you probably would like Trolls’ “Can’t Stop That Feeling,” which features Justin Timberlake vocals.

Having said all of that, the original song most deserving the Oscar is “The Empty Chair,” performed by Sting, co-written with J. Ralph. From the documentary, Jim: The James Foley Story, this song was inspired by the tragic story of the public murder of an American journalist. Sting said he was so overcome after watching the film that he didn’t think he’d be able to write the song.

He went home, and surrounded by his loved ones, thought about if such tragedy were to hit his home. Keeping an empty chair for the one they lost would help unify the family, and that concept created a spark. He wrote, “But keep my place and the empty chair, and somehow I’ll be there.”

The above are just some of my picks for the major categories. Here are the rest of my speculations, with a one-word rationale for each:

Actor in a Supporting Role: Mahershala Ali – (Authentic)

Actress in a Supporting Role: Octavia Spencer – (Audacious)

Animated Feature Film: Moana (Inspirational)

Cinematography: Arrival (Ethereal)

Costume Design: La La Land (Movement)

Documentary (Feature): Life, Animated (Uplifting)

Film Editing: Arrival (Sci-Fi)

Foreign Language Film: A Man Called Ove (Friendship)

Makeup and Hairstyling: Suicide Squad (Super-villains)

Music (Original Score): Jackie (Violins)

Production Design: Hail, Caesar! (Difficulty)

Sound Editing: Sully (Recreation)

Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge (Visceral)

Visual Effects: Deepwater Horizon (Explosives)

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Fences (Complexity)