“It’s not about me.”
Say that to yourself. Say it again. Say it a third time and keep repeating it until it sears itself into your brain.
Your favorite film and most-liked director might well be up for a letdown come Sunday…and if that’s the case, there’s no need to get upset.
In the top races, there’s the possibility of surprises…but not a high likelihood. So if the work you want to win in those categories doesn’t involve white folk singin’, then say it again:
“It’s not about me”
Best Director is really a two-horse-race.
Mel Gibson’s award is the return of industry acceptance. He should be practicing his loser’s smile and his after party manners.
Denis Villeneuve might well win a prize someday, but that will not be this weekend. His star is on the rise thanks to films like ARRIVAL – and prior to that, SICARIO and PRISONERS. He’s being offered higher-and-higher profile projects, and right now the cost for that is anything even approaching an Oscar win.
If Kenneth Lonergan is smart, he will strike while the iron is hot. A rather slow worker with only three directing credits under his belt, but two of them were nominated for multiple high-profile Oscars. He’s wrapping work on a television series, but when he’s done with that he should parlay this nomination into some industry clout…lord knows he’s not parlaying it into an Oscar win this year.
My heart wants Barry Jenkins to win this category. Besides the fact that I adore his work on MOONLIGHT, his win would mean so much for directors of colour. What’s more, it would mean a great deal for his individual career. Already, achievements during awards season has raised his profile – how much higher do you think that profile could climb with the words “Oscar Winner” before his credit?
If the swing from last year’s class was aimed at diversifying and being inclusive, nothing would say that more than a man of colour accepting an award for Best Director on Sunday.
But this category is Damien Chazelle’s to lose.
He doesn’t really need the win – not with LA LA LAND’S Best Picture odds and his previous pedigree with WHIPLASH. Already with those two achievements, he can name his tune for at least his next three projects. A trophy would probably double that.
But what’s more, an Oscar win would make him the youngest director ever to take this category, and while his achievements in LA LA LAND are impressive, I defy anyone to tell me they are impressive to the extent that history must be made.
But what I believe is irrelevant, what will happen seems set…barring a big late surprise.
Ryan’s Pick… Chazelle makes history
Like the directing filed, for Best Picture there are two films that stand a chance, and a whole lot of “others”.
FENCES, HELL OR HIGH WATER, LION, and HIDDEN FIGURES failed to land Best Director nominations. In case you’re new here, this is telling. While there is recent precedent for a film taking the top prize without its director likewise being nominated, such occurrences are freakishly rare…like 4-times-in-88-rare.
So while one of these films might be your favorite, and HIDDEN FIGURES won itself a SAG Ensemble award, don’t even think twice about them.
HACKSAW RIDGE and ARRIVAL are the weaker links here, both of which are likely to go oh-fer outside of the tech categories. Their inclusion in this category is a huge get for each project, but again, don’t think twice about them.
Once upon a time, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA could have played spoiler. It could have been that blue-collar drama by a respected storyteller that spoke to many, and moved many more. However, it eventually underwhelmed and became overshadowed. While it might well still walk away with a trophy or two, it could just as easily come up empty-handed at the end of the night; a surprising turn of events for Sundance darling.
MOONLIGHT is the spoiler on the evening – the only film that stands a snowball’s chance of taking the night off-book. It has hit a nerve for many, been widely praised and widely acclaimed, and could even capitalize on the pendulum swing away from #OscarSoWhite. While this would obviously make people like me very happy, it’s still long odds. Not only does this film have to pick up enough second and third place love from those other seven contenders – it has to hope that LA LA LAND doesn’t. A tall order. Perhaps too tall for a small film about questions of identity and masculinity surrounding people of colour.
Which brings us to LA LA LAND…
It’s hard to remember a film that sparked so many arguments. Lovers who wouldn’t hear criticism…haters who didn’t think it was worth all the hype. “It’s derivative” “It’s inspiring” “It’s so white” “It’s so beautiful”.
In the end, I believe LA LA LAND is just a movie – a capable, flawed, interesting, and messy movie. It’s not the greatest thing in the world, nor the worst, but barring a major shift in the voting populace, it is taking Best Picture. It’s a movie about the movies – which Hollywood loves, and it hasn’t faltered yet throughout awards season. Sure, there will be plenty of people who don’t have it at number one…but for those same people not to slot it in at two, or three, or even four? Unlikely.
The thing is, whether a film does or doesn’t take Best Picture means nothing for its ultimate legacy. If you don’t believe me, go back and watch OLIVER! with 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY and let me know which one seems more impactful. It also means nothing for you. If your favorite film wins, awesome! If not, no point in getting mad. You didn’t make the film and you didn’t get a vote. Your film winning or losing reflects nothing about your taste or intelligence…it just means 5000 people in the film industry saw things a different way on a different day.
So on Sunday, put personal feelings aside…and just see how the cards fall.
Ryan’s Pick… LA LA LAND finishes the circuit, and for the record: I’d love it if I was wrong.