The countdown is on to Hollywood’s biggest night, when film’s top stars hit the Dolby Theatre red carpet for the 89th Academy Awards. Last week we showcased 10 non-nominated films worth a watch, but now it’s all about the contenders. Who will win, who should win, and who was snubbed at a chance to take home the coveted golden man we call Oscar? Here’s our first round of predictions.
Achievement in Directing
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Kenneth Longergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
Who will win? Consider this a lock for Damien Chazelle, who has been sweeping wins throughout award season. He recently took home a Golden Globe and Directors Guild of America award for acclaimed musical “La La Land,” which he also wrote. The film was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, tying the record with “Titanic” and “All About Eve.”
Who should win? It’s hard to argue a loss for Chazelle. While “La La Land’s” storyline isn’t as moving as “Manchester by the Sea,” or as original as “Arrival,” it’s the amalgamation of music, dance and magic that make it the most stunning – all of which can be attributed to his intricate direction. From the opening scene of highway-traffic victims dancing atop their cars and singing through life’s annoyance, you know you’re in for a rare cinematic treat.
Who was snubbed? While the Academy can nominate up to 10 films for Best Picture, only five slots are available for remaining categories. It’s clear Hollywood is welcoming Mel Gibson’s comeback with “Hacksaw Ridge,” but what about Theodore Melfi’s feel-good film of the year, “Hidden Figures”? Five-time directing nominee Martin Scorsese was also shunned for the epic religious drama “Silence,” and Denzel Washington didn’t make the cut for his fierce adaptation of “Fences.”
Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”
Who will win? Though he didn’t win the Golden Globe, Mahershala Ali is still the front-runner for his scene-stealing role in “Moonlight. He plays Juan, a drug dealer who becomes the unlikely mentor for a young black man struggling to navigate his sexuality amid school bullies and his addict mother. Despite his conflicting occupation, Juan is the film’s most endearing character – strong, gentle and protective. Any faults are overlooked by his compassion and warm-hearted guidance for a directionless boy.
Who should win? Ali, hands down. But you can’t discount the always-effective Michael Shannon, who stunned with a nod for “Nocturnal Animals” after fellow cast mate and Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson was left off the ballot. Shannon is snakelike in his roles, effortlessly slithering into wildly different characters with each film – from “Batman v Superman,” “Loving,” to “Elvis & Nixon,” and that’s just 2016. His “Nocturnal” portrayal of a Texas cop on a relentless hunt for a killer, all while battling lung cancer, is just one more gem in his impressive canon.
Who was snubbed? See the above Aaron Taylor-Johnson mention. Also, the wealth of supporting talent in “Fences” likely canceled each other out, but Stephen Henderson, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby and Jovan Adepo are nothing short of award-worthy. And while we’re at it, where is Sunny Pawar for “Lion”? Maybe it’s time to bump the acting nominee count up to 10.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
Who will win? Expect Viola to add an Oscar next to her Golden Globe, Emmy, SAG and Tony awards. While the three-time Academy Award nominee is arguably a lead in “Fences,” placing her in the supporting category slickly secures her win. The trailer alone is enough for voters to check her name, as she emotional lashes about giving 18 years of her life to stand in the same spot as her husband – unabashed tears mixing with her running nose. Remember, Davis was nominated for eight minutes of screen time in 2008’s “Doubt.” With “Fences,” she commands for more than two hours.
Who should win? Similar to Davis in “Doubt,” Michelle Williams tears your heart out with just 11 minutes in “Manchester by the Sea,” playing a grief-stricken mother battling the horrific loss of her children. Naomie Harris also astonishes as a crack-addicted mother spanning 15 years in “Moonlight.” But let’s face it, this award belongs to Davis.
Who was snubbed? Gotta give it to Oscar on this one. He got it right.
The Oscars air Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.