Can anything beat La La Land in the Best Picture Race? The 2017 Oscar Breakdown for Picture and Director

In probably the most predictable Best Picture race in years, does anyone think LA LA LAND will lose the two major categories of Best Picture and Director? While there is always a frontrunner, recently it’s been a tight battle between at least two.  THE KING’S SPEECH vs. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2011), 12 YEARS A SLAVE vs. GRAVITY (2014), BIRDMAN vs. BOYHOOD (2015), or THE REVENANT vs. MAD MAX FURY ROAD vs. SPOTLIGHT (2016). Furthermore, the winner of director and picture have not always been from the same movie. For the most part I like these nominees, but I don’t really feel passionate about my favorites.  Still, you will find seven of the nine movies nominated mentioned somewhere in my Top Ten Movies of 2016. I’m going to do my best at breaking down the directing and picture categories for who has the best chance at an upset in my 2017 Oscar Predictions. What movies will you be rooting for?

Best Director
Damien Chazelle – “La La Land’’
Mel Gibson – “Hacksaw Ridge”
Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight”
Kenneth Lonergan – “Manchester by the Sea”
Denis Villeneuve – “Arrival”

I cannot complain at all about this group of nominees. I am super thrilled to see Mel Gibson get a nod here for his work on HACKSAW RIDGE when I assumed he would have been snubbed.  Unfortunately the nomination is his win.  Denis Villeneuve has been toying around with close to great movies or at least great ideas that are sometimes too flawed to fully get behind. He finally delivers his best work with ARRIVAL and is rewarded with a nomination, not a win.  Kenneth Lonergan does an amazing job of establishing place, mood and character but his work is a little too beautifully understated to be appreciated.  That may be the same for Barry Jenkins who has a bright future ahead of him.  Some Academy members might be itching to name him the first African American Best Director winner, so I have to put him second in this race as the potential upset win. However, his natural skill, education, and love for cinema makes him a well deserved candidate to win in the future.  But this race belongs to the young Damien Chazelle, who created a film that is more widely loved than any other nominee’s by being enchanting escapism.

Winner: Damien Chazelle – LA LA LAND

Damien Chazelle for La La Land

Best Picture
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Hidden Figures”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”

FENCES – An amazing play, a great cast and a decent movie. A film powered by the actors, I don’t believe is enough to win in any year.

HELL OR HIGH WATER – An exceptional film that is among the best of the year.  But the nomination to be recognized on such a big scale is about as big a win this film could hope for.

HACKSAW RIDGE – It’s a little too polarizing especially with many who might still have difficulty separating the man from the art.  Some of my fellow critics do not like this film at all. It happens to be my personal favorite movie of the year.  But even I recognize its probably not the best.  Simply knowing that type of division, tells me it’s not winning Best Picture.  The film’s six nominations were a very happy win in its own right.

ARRIVAL – Well liked but not well loved.  A thoughtful and interesting perspective, but it’s not even quite as good as recent science fiction contenders GRAVITY or INTERSTELLAR. So that cuts me down to four fairly quickly.

LION – The inspirational true story transcends race and continents.  As soon as I saw it, I knew the Academy would be rightfully drawn to it.  Another one of my favorites that is probably the least known among the nominees. I challenge you to seek this one out.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Out of all the flawed movies of the year, this is the closest to perfection and the one that probably deserves to win. I do hope it’s able to snag at least one award through the process as it is emotional torture in the most loving, humorous, natural way possible.

MOONLIGHT – In the tight race between MOONLIGHT and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, I think MOONLIGHT would have won out.  I always liked it but thought it fell apart in the third act.  I’ve been coming around on my perspective while listening to interviews from director Barry Jenkins.  He is a likable guy and I look forward to his future projects.

HIDDEN FIGURES –  MOONLIGHT vs. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA might have been the headline battle, but I think the widely loved nice movie HIDDEN FIGURES would have been the come from behind sneak win. An important story that is unfortunately delivered too neatly in Hollywood’s cookie cutter package is definitely last on my rankings of the nominees. But I’m sure my parents along with much of the public will be thrilled if it wins.  However…

LA LA LAND – Unfortunately for all the other nominees, LA LA LAND is in the race. And it is far above the rest of the competition. It’s not quite my favorite but for this year, it’s an understandable win. Cinema has always been about the magic.  Sure it would be nice to have something with a little more depth and humanity.  But love and passion are key key components that the film does right even if it does come a bit easier in LA LA LAND.

Winner: LA LA LAND

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