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– Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, an ornery, reclusive janitor who becomes a reluctant guardian for his nephew.
– Andrew Garfield As Private Desmond Doss, a real-life WW2 combat medic who won the medal of honour despite never carrying a gun.
– Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, a struggling jazz pianist who falls for a struggling actress.
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– Viggo Mortensen as Ben, an off the grid father of 10 whose unconventional parenting methods are tested when he takes his kids to their mother’s funeral
– Denzel Washington As Troy Maxson, an ex-ball player turned alcoholic garbage man and resentful family man
Who Will Win?
At the start of this, it seemed like the winner would be Casey Affleck all the way. But now it looks like Denzel Washington will be taking the top spot away from him.
It had to be quite a challenging role for Ben Affleck’s little brother. His character is a withdrawn reclusive who avoids meaningful conversations at all cost. So, Affleck faces the task of making us feel for a character who shuts people out. On top of that, Lee isn’t the most pleasant guy to get along with, often picking fights with random strangers just for looking at him.
Despite his flaws, we still empathize with Lee, thanks to Affleck’s performance. Though he doesn’t show it, he still love his family and is willing to take care of his nephew. But he’s torn between his duty to care for Patrick and his desire to send him to another guardian so he can return to his reclusive life. Through his restrained performance, Affleck still brings out signs of emotions billowing inside of Lee, trying to get out. When someone tries to start a conversation with him, he politely tries to finish the conversation as quickly as possible. Like Patrick, you wish he would break out of his shell and try to connect with people, but he always disappoints you.
What makes it sadder is seeing the man he once was. In the flashback scenes, Lee is a different person; a happy, social average joe who enjoys drinking with his buddies and playing with his children. But then he goes through a tragedy so traumatizing he’s unable to bring himself out of his psychological shell.
Affleck was the frontrunner for winning this award, but some factors have derailed his success. First, there’s sexual harassment allegations made against him by I’m Not There co-workers. The Jury’s still out about whether he’s guilty, but it can still hurt his chances. The biggest factor working against him is Denzel Washington winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor; an award well known for its 90% accuracy in predicting the Best Actor Oscar. So, it looks like Denzel is the new frontrunner.
Denzel seems to be taking roles less squeaky clean then his previous roles. His most recent roles include a paranoid drug kingpin in American Gangster, A manipulative fugitive in Safe House and a drug addicted pilot in Flight. Now he portrays a bitter alcoholic, philandering father, a role he’s portrayed on Broadway.
The power of Denzel’s performance is best conveyed when Troy’s son Corey asks him “How come you never liked me.” Often shown in the trailers, this scene sums up Troy’s complicated relationship with his son. Troy doesn’t hide his contempt toward his son when he demands to know “what law is there saying I got to like you?” He reveals his need for dominance through his interrogation, insisting Corey always put “Sir” at the end of an answer. And yet, he also makes his sense of duty clear when he says he does it because it’s his duty as a father to take care of Troy. When he tells Corey to care more about whether he’s being treated right by others, Troy’s bringing in his experience coping with racism. There’s complex layers of character in these two minutes.
I also admire the fact Denzel chose to make his character look pathetic. He puts on a few pounds to convey Troy having let himself go. He also never hides the fact he’s an unlikable cad who bullies his son and takes advantage of his wife. Though he makes his motivations understandable, Denzel never excuses Troy’s resentful behavior. It certainly doesn’t excuse his drinking or philandering.
So, it looks like Denzel has a high chance of taking home the award, but his success isn’t 100% certain. This could be among the 10% chance the SAGS will get it wrong this year.
– Isabelle Huppert as Michelle Leblanc, a ruthless video-game CEO seeking revenge on her mysterious rapist
– Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving, a real life timid housewife turned reluctant civil rights activist when her interracial marriage was taken to court
– Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, the first lady as she copes with her husband’s assassination
– Emma Stone as Mia, a struggling actress who falls for a failed jazz pianist
In LA LA LAND
– Meryl Streep As Florence Foster Jenkins, real life ailing socialite who achieved her dream of singing for Carnegie Hall, even though she’s one of the worst singers ever.
Who Will Win?
At first, it seemed like Natalie Portman would win a second-best actress Oscar for her play Jackie Kennedy. But two actresses have jumped ahead; Isabelle Huppert and Emma Stone.
Though not a big name in North America, Huppert is an arthouse darling in home country of France. The most obsessed moviegoer will recognize her from such arthouse films as infamous flop Gates of Heaven, Best Foreign Language film winner Amour and The Piano Teacher, a role that earned her a best actress award at the Cannes film festival. Now she’s sure to get more mainstream attention with this performance.
The film literally begins with Michelle being raped by a masked stranger. Actually, it begins with the image of Michelle’s cat watching Michelle being raped. The moment the rapist leaves, Michelle just cleans up the mess and moves on with her everyday life. When asked about her bruises, she claims they’re from a bike accident. She seems completely unaffected by the rape.
Michelle is a rape victim who refuses to play the role of a rape victim. In fact, she is a very unsympathetic person. She’s a video game CEO who creates sexually violent video games. She’s very disrespectful to her co-workers, especially her business partner. She’s only slightly nicer to her friends. Though when you meet her mother, you can understand where she gets her attitude.
You don’t feel any pity for her, and yet she remains engaging throughout the film. If anything, we’re more fascinated by her. Why does she go on with her everyday life? Does she know who the rapist is? Why is this guy still tormenting her? She is an enigma.
But the more popular choice is Emma Stone. While Huppert many have won the Golden Globe award for best actress in a drama, Stone has won award after award for her performance, including the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy/musical. She’s not even thirty yet and she’s set to win her Oscar.
Of the two romantic leads, Mia goes through the most hardship. While Sebastian battles for his artistic integrity, he still catches a couple breaks halfway through the film. Mia isn’t as lucky. Mia dreams of being a movie actress, but the odds are stacked against her. At audition, she’s competing against other actresses “prettier” than her. She finds herself reading for indifferent casting directors more focused on their cell phones than on her performance. The result is rejection after rejection. She’s fortunate to work at a coffee stop on a studio lot, but even the scheduling proves a problem when she gets notification of an immediate audition. She’s torn between the hope of achieving her dream and the doubt that asks if she should just quit and return home. This comes to a head when she hits a soul crushing low point.
As they’ve already proven in Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have great chemistry together. They play off each other beautifully, creating a feeling of genuine love. During dance numbers, they manage to play off each other without ever saying one word. Speaking of dancing, while they aren’t exactly Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, these two are still graceful on their feet, whether they’re tapping on a LA road or waltzing across the night sky. But Stone truly signs in her solo number “Audition.” With a hushed tone, Mia starts out telling a story to some casting directors, but as the lights go out, she sings about the struggles dreamers go through to achieve their goals. She delivers a lot power through her subtle voice.
When in doubt, go for the popular choice. So, Emma Stone it is.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
– Mahershala Ali as Juan, a soft-spoken drug dealer who becomes a reluctant father figure for Chiron
– Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton, an aging Texas Ranger investigating a series of bank robberies during the recession
– Lucas Hedges as Patrick Chandler, a teenager placed in the care of his ornery Uncle Lee
– Dev Patel as Saroo Brierley, a real life adopted son who begins an obsessive search for his biological family
– Michael Shannon as Officer Bobby Andes, a cancer stricken, hard-nosed cop who bends the law to give a father (Jake Gyllenhaal) a chance to avenge his family.
Who Will Win?
My drama teacher would always say “There are no small parts, just small actors.” No performance embodied this mantra more perfectly than Mahershala Ali’s in Moonlight. Though only onscreen for the first third of the film, Ali leaves an indelible impression on the audience.
Going against the stereotypical drug dealer archetype, Juan seems like an everyday nice guy. When he checks up on fellow dealers, Ali portrays it more like he’s having a coffee break with friends. He is especially a gentleman towards Chiron, offering the boy some macaroni while he tries to find out where he lives. He is also very patient to the kid, who starts off too shy to even speak. He shows an excellent skill in his parenting, especially in a scene he teaches the boy to swim. In some time, he seems like the perfect role model for Chiron.
At least, he would be if it weren’t for the fact he’s a drug dealer. This comes to a head when he finds Chiron’s mom Paula smoking crack one night. When he chastises her for it, she points out the drugs came from him, forcing him to confront the consequences of his trade on children.
Ali brings a gentle power to his performance, creating an unforgettable character in Juan. You wish there were more scenes with Juan.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
– Viola Davis for FENCES
As Rose, Troy’s loving, put upon wife
– Naomie Harris for MOONLIGHT
As Chiron’s drug addicted mother Paula
– Nicole Kidman for LION
As Sue Brierley, An Australian step mother who adopts who Indian boys
– Octavia Spencer for HIDDEN FENCES
As Dorothy Vaughan, a brilliant mathematician who led a team of African American women in assisting NASA with their first successful space launch.
– Michelle Williams for MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
As Randi Chandler, Lee’s ex-wife. In a powerful scene, she confesses her regrets to her ex-husband.
Who Will Win?
It’s Viola Davis all the way.
As the film starts, Rose is a supportive wife and mother to Troy and Corey, respectively. Throughout the film, she tries to get Troy to let Corey accept the football scholarship, but Troy keeps refusing. It’s clear she loves Troy, but as the film progresses, she reveals her weariness of putting up with his surly attitude toward life. She tries to get Troy to let Corey accept the football scholarship, but to no avail.
Davis’s really gets her chance to shine when Troy reveals a devastating revelation to Rose. Seeing her struggle to restrain herself in front of guests is devastating. The moment they are alone, she finally lets him have it. When Troy complains about staying in the same place for 18 years, Rose counters with “Well, I’ve been standing with you. I’ve been giving 18 years of my life to stand in the same spot of you.” She tearfully calls Troy out for never taking her feelings into consideration, demanding to know “Don’t you think I have a life? Don’t you think I have dreams?” Just this scene is enough to get her the Oscar. She also has an excellent scene in the end which I won’t give away. Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it.
You can see why Davis won the Tony award for portraying the same role on stage. She’s guaranteed to have this Oscar to place between her Tony and her Emmy win for How to Get Away with Murder. 
 For which he was also nominated for Best Actor.
 And won a Tony award for.
 If only she had a singing career, then she’d probably win a Grammy and become a member of EGOT.