In Moonlight Oscar Statues Look Blue

As I’m typing this, I have two hours and thirty minutes to write and publish my Academy Award winner predictions.  I didn’t used to wait until the last minute to make my guesses.  I took them seriously.  Like Robert DeNiro’s character at the beginning of Casino, I studied the films and nominees to determine who’d win.  And I was good at it.  I understood the politics of the award and knew that the person or film most deserving didn’t always win.  Somewhere around Brokeback Mountain, though, I began to lose my edge.  A few years later winning a dvd at a friend’s Oscar watch party wasn’t just as thrilling as it once was.  I put away the prediction game, but, just like a criminal looking at one last score, I decided to make predictions this year.

I didn’t decide to make these predictions because there’s going to be a lot of tight races.  Frankly, there have been better years for Oscar horse races.  La La Land will win a lot of awards tonight and, from what I hear/read because I haven’t seen the film yet, some of them will be deserved.  The film that brought me out of retirement is the one I’ll be rooting for (and reviewing in another post): Moonlight.

But you didn’t come here for a long treatise on films.  You want predictions, so I’m going to list them now.  While I’m rusty at this, I’ve always done well so you might be able to impress a few people at whatever watch party you’ll be attending.

Screenplay (Adapted)

Will Win: Moonlight
Should Win: Moonlight

This is a damn strong category this year, which is not usually something you can say about the adapted screenplay category.  Since all five films are nominated for Best Picture and two of the five are also nominated for Best Director, this could easily become the consolation prize for those categories.

In my opinion, though, this is the toughest category of the night because any of the films could be considered worthy of the award.  Even Lion, the film some could consider the weakest, made bold storytelling decisions in adapting the story.  By tapping into multiple choice logic-solving, the field is narrowed down to August Wilson for Fences and Barry Jenkins for Moonlight.  Jenkins should and will win because he adapted a play and real life to bring his Tarell Alvin McCraney’s boyhoods to the screen.

Screenplay (Original)

Will Win: La La Land
Should Win: The Lobster

This is an awkward category for me to talk about because I haven’t seen any of the films.  The only film I’m interested in seeing is The Lobster, but it doesn’t have a chance of winning.  It’s the token “left field” nomination some categories see because of the system the Academy uses to select films.

It’s going to come down to La La Land and Manchester by the Sea.  I went with La La Land because Manchester by the Sea is a downer of a story and Academy voters like fun movies, even if they have bittersweet endings.

Animated Feature Film

Will Win: Zootopia
Should Win: Zootopia

Academy voters love message movies that are also entertaining.  It’s their way of following Mary Poppins’ advice about taking their medicine.  And what better way to take your medicine of the dangers of stereotypes and oppression than Zootopia?

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed Zootopia and believe it deserves the win.  It’s a fine parable for modern times.  It would be nice to see the Academy voters take the category more seriously is all I’m saying.


Will Win: La La Land
Should Win: Moonlight

Don’t give me that look.  I’m not picking Moonlight because it was my favorite film of the year.  I think it should win because it had the highest challenge of the five films in the category.

First of all, even though it’s called Moonlight, a lot of the film is set outside in Miami.  That’s a lot of natural light to control during filming.  And then each of the three acts has significant scenes set at night in actual moonlight.  Filming at night isn’t easy.  A lot of old films look terrible because they do a thing called ‘day for night’ where they film a night sequence during the day and use light and film filters to make it appear as “night”.  Although digital photography has improved the ability to film at night in low light, there still has to be some kind of light. It’s the cinematographer’s job to control the light.

Lastly, as  a film with an all-Black cast, the light used needs to avoid flattening skin tones, which is easy to do for actors of color when most lighting is taught to flatter white skin tones.  Moonlight‘s cinematographer, James Laxton, was able to light and process the film in a way that flattered every actor in the film.

Foreign Language Film

Will Win: The Salesman
Should Win: The Salesman

Another category where I haven’t seen the films, but it would be nice to see this picture win so Iran can add to their rich and amazing filmmaking award cabinet.

Documentary (Feature)

Will Win: O.J.: Made In America
Should Win: The 13th

This is a category where three of the five nominated films deserve to win, so it makes it tough to pick just one.  O.J.: Made In America will probably win, although it would be nice to see Ava DuVernay win for The 13th.

Music (Original Score)

Will Win: La La Land
Should Win: Moonlight

Music (Original Song)

Will Win: La La Land
Should Win: (does anyone care?)

Actor in a Leading Role

Will Win: Casey Affleck
Should Win: Denzel Washington

Actress in a Leading Role

Will Win: Emma Stone
Should Win: Viola Davis

Actor in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Mahershala Ali
Should Win: Mahershala Ali

Actress in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Michelle Williams
Should Win: Naomie Harris


Will Win: Kenneth Lonergan
Should Win: Barry Jenkins

Best Picture

Will Win: La La Land
Should Win: Moonlight

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