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2017 Oscars: If I Picked the Oscar Winners

if-i-picked-the-oscars-moonlight-isabelle-huppert-passengers-deepwater-horizon
Moonlight, Elle, Passengers and Deepwater Horizon
would all have a place If I Picked the Oscar Winners

This will be the inaugural year of ‘If I Picked the Oscars,’ where I will choose from the given nominees and reveal who I think should win. Most of these will come as no surprise to anyone that knows me or follows me. I have an affinity for Moonlight and Isabelle Huppert so that they’re both nominated makes some of my choices rather easy.

BEST PICTURE
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

Outside of Hacksaw Ridge and Manchester by the Sea (for me), this is a really fantastic lineup. That said, it’s not even close. That my personal choice for the best film of the year (Moonlight) is even nominated is amazing, a move in the right direction for the Academy for cinephiles and average moviegoers alike. For me, there wasn’t a film that better gave people representation they never get (black, queer youth) while providing an audience a glimpse of a life they rarely or never get to see.

BEST DIRECTOR
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By The Sea
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Villeneuve’s restraint works perfectly here and he’s an easy second for me. Chazelle’s Hollywood homage is sweet but outside of some well-choreographed sequences doesn’t offer anything much deeper. Lonergan’s directorial choices left a lot to be desired and turned a complicated story into something basic and rote. Gibson’s bombastic and tonally deaf direction is dead last. Not that it matters because what Jenkins does with space, time and humanity is without peer here. In just two films he’s proven himself to be one of the best and most important storytellers we have.

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences

Surprisingly difficult. I hated Garfield so that was easy to remove. Gosling was fine, but better in his other 2016 film, The Nice Guys. Affleck was too understated to be impactful, Washington possibly the opposite. That left me with Mortensen, whose performance and film I really liked. I wish Colin Farrell (The Lobster) had been nominated.

BEST ACTRESS
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Easy choice. Not just the best of this group, the best female performance of the year in any movie.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell Or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester By The Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Ali gives the film and its main character the heart and strength needed to grow. Patel finishes off what young Sunny Pawar started and gives one of his best performances. Bridges is very Bridges but he has an earnestness and humanity that few other actors would be able to pull off so beautifully. Hedges was the best part of Manchester by the Sea for me. That freezer meat scene alone is worth this nomination. Shannon shouldn’t even be nominated.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester By The Sea

There are three very good but one great performance here. Harris, Kidman, and Spencer all shine but what Viola Davis does continues to be on another level.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

Easy choice, although the expansion of ‘Story of Your Life’ to Arrival as a full-length script and film is a massive feat.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Hell Or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester By The Sea
20th Century Women

Elated that one of my top 3 films is nominated, especially here. Esoteric, funny, dark and twisted, The Lobster did more with the concept of ‘original’ than any other screenplay here.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Kubo and The Two Strings
Moana
My Life As A Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

All very good films in their own right but Kubo is a genre-buster and just gorgeous to look at.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Fire At Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
OJ: Made In America
13TH

One of the best lineups in this category in years. The monolith that is OJ: Made in America is a stunning film. 13TH, while a bit basic in terms of filmmaking, is an important piece of history. But I Am Not Your Negro has it all – importance, relevance and a richly and deeply involving ‘lead’ in James Baldwin, a person everyone should know and read. It’s one of the best films of the year.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Land Of Mine – Denmark
A Man Called Ove – Sweden
The Salesman – Iran
Tanna – Australia
Toni Erdmann – Germany

All decent to good films but Toni Erdmann is a bolder and more unique vision of what a film can be.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

Every one of these nominees is fantastic and on many days I could pick any of them. James Laxton (Moonlight) has an incredibly uncanny eye for the right style, colors, and images to capture for each moment, though.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

I mentioned this on the Oscar winner prediction podcast but it wasn’t until having to make the decision for myself that La La Land made so much sense. While Allied, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Jackie all try and recreate a time and Fantastic Beasts, while fantasy, feels very ‘period,’ what La La Land does with very simple silhouettes is evoke. The bold colors take us back not to a specific place but to a feeling. That’s incredibly hard to achieve in any film but even more so for a contemporary one.

BEST FILM EDITING
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

Moonlight wonderfully tells three different stories of a single character in linear fashion. Hacksaw Ridge is just point A to point B. Hell or High Water beautifully tells two stories that converge at just the right time, it’s perfectly paced. La La Land is linear in its storytelling until that whopper of an ending. But Arrival is given the more complicated and difficult task of dropping us into a story at its end at the beginning and not letting on until its finale. There is a beauty and a nuance to being able to pull this off right without being too ‘gotcha’ or self-congratulatory and it does it just right.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

I wish this category would expand to five nominees and not always feel limited to sci-fi and old age makeup like this year is limited to. It makes for boring nominees and boring choices.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

The simple and spare design of Arrival is lucky to be here and deserving of its nomination. Fantastic Beasts cleverly balances real production design with visual effects. Hail, Caesar! feels completely in its period, it nails it. La La Land, while contemporary, never feels ‘real’ but hyperreal, in a good way. Passengers though, finds a way to be sci-fi forward yet utterly retro in its design. It’s impossibly beautiful.

BEST SOUND EDITING
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

La La Land has no business being here. Sully is here less for its work than for who did it. Arrival‘s score is practically sound editing and the alien voices are unlike any I’ve heard in a long time. Hacksaw Ridge is chock full of what makes a nominee here: explosions and gunfire. I chose Deepwater Horizon for a truly immersive experience (it should have been nominated for Sound Mixing, too) and once the pipe bursts it’s all distinctly created sound.

BEST SOUND MIXING
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

No film nominated combines dialogue, sound effects and music as well as Arrival did.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and The Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Yes, The Jungle Book has the most visual effects and they are astonishingly good. So good it should really qualify as an animated film. There seems to be a line that’s now crossed as what makes a live-action film and an animated one. Kubo is such a great nominee here, so deserving. Doctor Strange‘s landscape-shifting technique is cool at first then gets really repetitive, then gets really cool again in the penultimate finale. Rogue One is classic Star Wars, great but expected. But Deepwater Horizon, with its $40M budget and super fast post-production, created the most seamless visual effects of the bunch. Since it’s the only film set in a real-world scenario there was more impact from its effects for me.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

All good scores that serve their films well but Jackie and Moonlight rise far above the fray to elevate their films. Mica Levi (Jackie) and Nicholas Britell (Moonlight) show what a truly original score can be.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Audition – La La Land
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” – Trolls
“City Of Stars” – La La Land
“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

“Audition” does the best job at being integral to the storytelling. “City of Stars” is dreamy and breezy and cool. “How Far I’ll Go” is good but too basic. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” is a good song but feels like it exists outside of the film instead of being a part of it.  “The Empty Chair” feels like a nominee from the 90s.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider & Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Cute and slight but just stunningly gorgeous, Piper is my pick.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Extremis
4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

An extraordinary category will all deserving nominees. The White Helmets is simply too topical and incredible a story to not choose.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Ennemis Interiors
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

Unlike Doc Short, one of the weakest years for Live Action Short in a while. I’m not enthusiastic about any of them, really.

About Erik Anderson

Erik blames his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched them together since he opened his eyes. They also watched Miss Universe religiously every year (the pageantry!) and Erik came to the conclusion that the combination of these two things ultimately led him down the path to obsessing about awards and ACTRESSING. He began at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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