I love the Oscars. Even though the Academy is enormously biased and their choices don’t always reflect the opinions of the American people, it’s exciting to watch my favorite directors, actors, and actresses come together for a night of film appreciation, hilarious comedy, and, of course, political commentary.
There are many theories floating around about who the winners will be tonight, but I don’t want to talk about that. Instead of predicting who I think will win, I’m going to discuss who I think should win. For brevity’s sake, I will only mention five awards: Best Picture, Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. Full disclosure: I have not seen all of the Best Picture nominees (I did see Arrival, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight) nor did I see all of the films that the best actor/actress nominees were in to earn their nominations, such as Elle or Nocturnal Animals. I know it’s unfair because I cannot assess or praise a performance or a film that I have not seen, and I know that the film or performance that wins, or could actually be my favorite, may be one that I have not yet seen. Despite this fact, I would still like to discuss my favorites out of the films that I have seen because, whether or not they win, great performances deserve to be recognized.
Best Picture Nominees:
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I know that La La Land will probably win tonight, and I agree that it is well done and enjoyable, but I don’t think that it is the best film of the year. The Academy will pick it because it’s a film about Hollywood, about the struggles and successes of working as an entertainer, and everyone, the Academy included, likes watching a film that they can easily relate to. However, in my opinion, Moonlight is simply breathtaking and deserves to win. Each shot is carefully crafted and different from the one before. Stellar acting performances (especially by Naomie Harris and Ashton Sanders, who, unfortunately, did not receive any Oscar noms) further strengthen the film and are part of the reason why I think Moonlight should win Best Picture.
Actor in a Leading Role Nominees:
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)
Having only seen La La Land and Manchester by the Sea, my choice comes down to Ryan Gosling and Casey Affleck, and although Gosling delivers a solid performance, Affleck blew me away. Affleck’s sexual assault allegations have recently been discussed and are important; however, since I was not aware of these allegations when I first saw the film, they did not affect my viewing of it, so I would like to focus solely on Affleck’s acting. Affleck is stoic and cold, but we can see his facade slowly cracking as the film progresses. His dialogue with Patrick (Lucas Hedges) is snarky yet emotional, and his performance is powerful, which is why I think that he should win Best Actor.
Actress in a Leading Role Nominees:
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
To be honest, this is an especially difficult one for me to judge because I have only seen La La Land and therefore must pick Emma Stone. To be fair, Stone’s performance is strong. Her character is entertaining and convincing at the same time, and her singing and dancing skills surprised me. However, I still feel that it’s somehow unfair to make her my pick for Best Actress when I’m sure that the other contending actresses also delivered stellar performances.
Actor in a Supporting Role Nominees:
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
This one was tough. I loved watching Dev Patel in Lion, and Mahershala Ali (the favorite in this category) was especially compelling. However, I still have to pick Hedges as my favorite because he was just perfect. Young, relatively inexperienced, and a Brooklynite who successfully pulled off the difficult Boston accent, I was astounded by Hedges’ performance. He perfectly balanced cynical and sassy with vulnerable and uncertain, and the character he created was captivating to watch, making him my pick for Best Supporting Actor.
Actress in a Supporting Role Nominees:
Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
In my opinion, Naomie Harris blew away the competition in this category. Williams, Spencer, and Kidman all delivered excellent performances, and Davis is the favorite to win, but somehow none of them gave me goosebumps like Harris did. Having most recently watched her as Eve Moneypenny in Spectre, I was astonished at how convincing she was as a feverish, drug-addicted mother. She terrified me, with her sweet smile, frenetic eyes, and agitated movements. Every moment that she was on screen, she brought a passionate energy that made each scene uncertain and exciting, which is why she is my pick for Best Supporting Actress.