Sunday night (beginning at 7 p.m. on ABC) is Oscar night, and as always, a few questions await their answers:
Which winner will deliver a speech so eloquent that everyone’s talking about it the next day? (My money’s on Mahershala Ali, whose Screen Actors Guild award acceptance speech inspired some tears, but we shall see. Viola Davis, also favored to win, is no slouch at speechmaking either.)
Who will wear the most memorable gown of the night? (I’m thinking it'll be nominees Emma Stone or Ruth Negga, both of whom have been showing a welcome red-carpet playfulness this season.)
Which award will bring with it a bit of Oscar trivia for the history books? (One possibility: If Denzel Washington wins best actor, he will be only the third performer ever to direct himself to an acting Academy Award. The other two: Laurence Olivier for “Hamlet,” and Roberto Benigni for “Life Is Beautiful.”)
Will Lin-Manuel Miranda achieve his EGOT – he’s already won Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards – this year, making him the 13th person in history to do so? (Probably not – I’m thinking one of the “La La Land” songs might win his category. But wouldn’t it be great to see him accept his award in rhyme?)
Will first-time host Jimmy Kimmel distinguish himself, at least enough so no one mistakes him for Jimmy Fallon? (The jury’s still out.)
How many times during the ceremony will the camera cut to a reaction shot of Meryl Streep? (Hey, I think I just invented a drinking game.)
And, who will win? My thoughts on the major categories …
Love it or hate it (and I’ve heard from plenty of readers on both ends of the spectrum), “La La Land” looks likely to take the big prize this year: Not only did it take both the DGA and PGA awards, but it’s hard to imagine Hollywood missing the opportunity to award a movie about movies. (See “The Artist.”) If a surprise is possible here, I’d look to the crowd-pleasing “Hidden Figures.”
Prediction: “La La Land”
My vote: Strong lineup this year – but I have to go with “La La Land.”
Wish you were here: “Loving”
Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) won the DGA award and has to be the favorite – but might this be the year for a director/picture split? If so, look to Barry Jenkins, for “Moonlight”; no one else looks likely. (Mel Gibson, for “Hacksaw Ridge”? Snowball in hell.)
Prediction: “La La Land”
My vote: I’d be happy to see it go to either Chazelle or Jenkins, two young filmmakers who did remarkable work this year
Wish you were here: Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Casey Affleck looked to be cruising to a win here – his performance in “Manchester By the Sea” is a masterpiece of restrained heartbreak – but controversy, in the form of a history involving two settled lawsuits for sexual harassment, may be intervening. Denzel Washington, utterly electric in “Fences,” won the SAG award, generally a good predictor of the Oscar; I think he just might take home his third Oscar this year.
My vote: Washington
Wish you were here: Tom Hanks, “Sully”
Emma Stone has been sweeping up awards right and left for her wistful turn in “La La Land”; a tide that seems unlikely to turn. Natalie Portman, a previous winner whose work in “Jackie” was much admired, could surprise, but the real dark horse is Isabelle Huppert, indelible as a vengeful rape survivor in “Elle.” Don’t rule her out.
My vote: Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Wish you were here: Annette Bening, “20th Century Women”; Rebecca Hall, “Christine”; Amy Adams, “Arrival”
Best Supporting Actor
This is Mahershala Ali’s year – he shone not only in “Moonlight,” but in a small role in “Hidden Figures.” Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”) is beloved by the Academy and could surprise, and I'll confess to a real fondness for Michael Shannon’s oddball turn in “Nocturnal Animals,” but I think the story’s told.
My vote: Ali
Wish you were here: Hugh Grant, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Best Supporting Actress
This category seems a bit off-balance this year: Viola Davis’ role in “Fences” feels like a lead, particularly compared to, say, Michelle Williams’ few minutes on-screen in “Manchester By the Sea.” (The Academy doesn’t dictate categories; studios suggest categories in their pre-Oscar ad campaigns, and voters write in their choices.) Nonetheless, Davis should finally win the Oscar she’s long deserved – in a role for which she won a Tony Award in 2010. Competition? Williams and Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”) might have won in less competitive years, but not this time.
My vote: Davis
Wish you were here: Lily Gladstone, “Certain Women”; Julianne Moore, “Maggie’s Plan”
Elsewhere, I’m thinking the writing awards might go to “Moonlight” (adapted screenplay) and “Manchester By the Sea” (original). And my favorite category – costume design – is a tricky one to call this year, but those ‘60s sheath dresses in “Jackie,” designed by Madeline Fontaine, might prevail.