About the only thing you can say about 2016 is: The movies were pretty damn good. So good, in fact, that several of the best weren't even nominated for the top award at this Sunday's 89th Academy Awards ceremony.
Nine films were selected for this year's Best Picture slate, and almost all of them are worthy of consideration. But the list of those snubbed is just as impressive, and twice as long (and that's not even counting Deadpool which, be honest, never had a prayer). Consider — in no particular order: Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Handmaiden, Sing Street, The Nice Guys, Queen of Katwe, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Edge of Seventeen, Weiner, Gimme Danger, Tower...hell, there were arguably ten documentaries alone that could have snagged a BP nom.
But this year's offerings are no slouches themselves, and none are weighed down by the expectations of a certain actor *finally* winning his apparently long-deserved Oscar (*cough* Leo *cough*), unless you count multiple nominees Viola Davis and Michelle Williams going up against each other for Best Supporting Actress.
More significant, this is the first year in Oscar history that there are African-Americans nominated in every single acting category. This is perhaps not as satisfying as having more than one African-American nominated for a Cabinet post, or more than three sitting African-American Senators, but at this point any day that doesn't end in war with China has to be counted as a plus.
So place your bets, everybody. Yes, I said "bets." In these uncertain times, we need all the financial security we can get, so whether you use a sleazy offshore gaming conglomerate or "that guy at the bar your brother-in-law heard about from his mechanic that one time," it's finally time for us to come to terms with the fact that awards shows are meaningless and make some money off of Hollywood for a change.
And Trump's probably too busy on the back nine to enforce the UIGEA anyway.
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 Should Win? Just about every one of these performances was nails, with the weakest split between Williams – her weepy portrayal was pretty par for her entire career – and Kidman, who was perfectly serviceable but not lights out. I’d give the edge to Harris, but that’s largely because I thought Moonlight was the better movie.
Who Will Win? That said, Viola Davis is the true star of Fences, and should win this hands-down.
Who "Really" Wins? Fans of anti-Trump acceptance speeches, which will be the norm for the evening.
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 Should Win? I feel like Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) should have received notice, but he had the misfortune of appearing alongside Bridges in what might be the best role of his career. And Shannon was the best part of a dismal film by a mile.
Who Will Win? Even Bridges at the height of his powers couldn’t eclipse Mahershala Ali this year. Moonlight should win all the awards, but won’t.
Who "Really" Wins? La La Land haters, because this is the last major category it’s not nominated for.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
What Should Win? Stop-motion animation studio Laika is the perennial bridesmaid in this category, which is a (sorry, Mom) real fucking shame. Just about every one of Laika’s releases to date (Coraline, ParaNorman, not so much Boxtrolls) has been incredible. Kubo is a flat-out wonderful movie about compassion and forgiveness and has no chance of winning.
What Will Win? I’ve called this the “Annual Pixar Award” for ten years (they’ve won every year they’ve been nominated since 2007) because I'm a comic genius, but while Moana looks solid, Zootopia is much more complex, and grossed nearly twice as much (shouldn’t matter, but come on).
Who Really Wins? The makers of My Life as a Zucchini and The Red Turtle, movies nobody heard of before now.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Land of Mine (Denmark)
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
The Salesman (Iran)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)
What Should Win? Fun fact: There’s a review embargo on Toni Erdmann until its Houston release date (March 3). It’s sitting at 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is nominated for Best Foreign Film with a not-insignificant chance of winning, but local critics aren't allowed to tell you what *they* think until next Friday. Makes sense.
What Will Win? Not So Fun Fact: Salesman director Asghar Farhadi — who won this very same award in 2012 for A Separation — will not attend the awards ceremony (for another probable win) because of the repercussions of Trump’s
Muslim travel ban. If it's any consolation, Toni Erdmanni was probably going to win this until the ban was announced.
Who Really Wins? Absolutely no one. Your new President is a disaster, in case you haven’t figured that out.
"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
What Should Win? “How Far I’ll Go” is a soaring anthem to empowerment and is probably screwed unless the twin LLL offerings split the vote.
What Will Win? I guess ... “City of Stars?" I promise you this: if that Justin Timberlake atrocity wins an Oscar, I’ll send a brown note back in time via tachyon pulse and make him shit his pants during his N’Sync audition.
Who Really Wins? Everyone who just now Googled “brown note.”
Arrival – Eric Heisserer from "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang
Fences – August Wilson from Fences by August Wilson (posthumous nomination)
Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi from Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Lion – Luke Davies from A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney
What Should Win? Arrival’s complexity and nuance is such that it rewards multiple viewings. It’s a work of great ambition and hope, much like Moonlight, and I'd be good with either.
What Will Win? Honestly, Moonlight is the favorite, but Hidden Figures is, perhaps improbably, the feel-good hit of the season. It’s also a true story (like Lion), but unlike Lion, I think more people relate to it. I know, wager against Gamblor at your peril.
Who Really Wins? Whoever’s taking the prop on someone accidentally saying “Hidden Fences” at some point during the evening.
Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
20th Century Women – Mike Mills
What Should Win? I’ve made no effort to hide the fact I’m a Hell or High Water homer, and I wish Sheridan the best, however…
What Will Win? If Manchester by the Sea takes away anything Sunday night, it’ll be this. Let’s just hope Lonergan accepts the award without clumsily defending Casey Affleck.
Who Really Wins? All of us, because someone is going to have to say the names “Yorgos Lanthimos” and “Efthimis Filippou” without completely mangling them.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences
Who Should Win? This is a rare case where one actor is head and shoulders above the rest (Mortensen was great, but no one saw Captain Fantastic). Denzel Washington for his second Best Actor award.
Who Will Win? See above.
Who "Really" Wins? Brie Larson, who won’t have to say *that name* again.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Who Should Win? About the only nominee I don’t feel belongs here is Streep, who earns a default nomination as soon as her films start pre-production. Hupper and Negga are legit great, Stone was very good, and Portman…well, who doesn’t like Jackie O?
Who Will Win? It'll be Emma Stone, and I won’t even be mad.
Who "Really" Wins? Sadly, the people who called Streep “overrated” after her Golden Globes speech.
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Who Should Win? I can make an argument (with varying levels of sincerity) for everyone here but Gibson. That he was nominated instead of – just off the top of my head – Taylor Sheridan, Denzel Washington, Shane Black (go watch The Nice Guys and get back to me) isn’t a mystery; the guy’s support within Hollywood has always been strong. It’s just…Hacksaw Ridge wasn’t that good, y’all.
Who Will Win? I’m going to go all Phil Collins here and pick Barry Jenkins. Chazelle is the hot favorite, but Moonlight is the movie we’ll still be talking about decades from now.
Who "Really" Wins? Gibson, whose re-legitimization by his peers continues our country’s normalization of cretinous and anti-Semitic behavior. Stay tuned for Trump’s prime-time pardon of Roman Polanski as the highlight of next year’s ceremony.
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
What Should Win? The two movies that don’t belong here are Manchester by the Sea and Hacksaw Ridge (LLL was just fine, people…yes, it was). I’d love it if Moonlight eked out a win here, but other than that, I’m good with whatever. For your gambling pleasure, however…
What Will Win? In news that will surprise only those who’ve remained blissfully unaware of Hollywood’s nearly century-long love affair with itself: La La Land.
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Who Really Wins? The fine people at Price-Waterhouse Coopers and ABC, who put together what I’m sure will go down as one of the greatest televised awards ceremonies of all time.
Let he who has never sold out cast the first stone. [deposits check]
BONUS: BEST SOUND EDITING
Who Should/Will/Really Wins? Kevin O’Connell (Hacksaw Ridge) holds the record for the most Oscar nominations without a single win (this is his 21st). He's the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards, and odds are pretty good he's going home with this one. Finally.