Oscar Prediction: Emma Stone Will Trump Ruth Negga

But not for the right reasons! Hot Press film correspondent Roe McDermott looks over the major categories and predicts the winners, losers and controversies in store at this Sunday's Oscars ceremony.

The 89th Annual Academy Awards is taking place on Sunday night, and cinephiles everywhere are preparing for the weekend. Will Jimmy Kimmel be a lovable host like Ellen, or will he rub people up the wrong way like Seth MacFarlane?

Who will make the most cringe-worthy speech? At what point in the night will Jennifer Lawrence fall? How many anti-Meryl Streep tweets will Trump punch out? And of course - what films are going to win big?

Here's the thing about predicting Oscar winners. It's very rarely the people who want to win, or the people who deserve to win. It's all about the politics, baby. Among the 6,000 Academy members, you have to calculate not only who they will vote for - but what films they've actually seen in order to cast a vote. Because Academy members are not required to see all nominated films, even if they vote for them, and so many of them either base their decision on the few films they have seen, or they just go along with whatever films and performances are generating the biggest buzz.

This year, there are a few issues that may cause a bit of an upset. One controversy about the acting categories is that Best Supporting Actress favourite Viola Davis really should have been nominated in the Best Actress category. Davis will undoubtedly win, as her performance opposite Denzel Washington in Fences is a powerhouse of emotion. Michelle Williams also put in an Oscar-worthy performance in Manchester By The Sea and would be a worthy winner, but the sheer brevity of her screen time will dissuade many Academy members from voting for her. Though Anthony Hopkins won for his eight minutes on screen in Silence Of The Lambs, women are rarely rewarded for such brief parts, that are often noticed because of their extremity.

But the Best Actress category has proven contentious too. Though Ireland is obviously crossing its fingers for Ruth Negga, who was subtle and strong in Loving, she's not likely to walk home with a gong. Given the buzz around La La Land, which is up for a whopping 14 nominations, Emma Stone is the favourite to win. However, while La La Land was a delight and will be a worthy winner of many awards on Sunday night, it is facing some backlash - some of it justified, and some just a product of bitterness.

Emma Stone's winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress last month notwithstanding, and while her performance in La La Land is as charming as Stone always is, the truth is that, as a piece of acting, it isn't exceptional or remarkable. Isabelle Huppert is the dark horse in this category, and her role as a stoic rape victim who tries to take back control is compelling and complex. Huppert would be a worthy winner, but the Academy will always favour Hollywood films over foreign productions to both watch and reward, and so her performance in the French film will sadly go overlooked.

The Best Actor category is controversial for different reasons. Casey Affleck has been dominating awards season, sweeping the boards for his layered performance in the emotive and darkly funny drama Manchester By The Sea. He is incredible in the film, putting in a far superior performance than Ryan Gosling's in La La Land (all the gold stars for learning the piano, though Ryan); that is also more nuanced than Denzel Washington's wrenching but occasionally overly-theatrical role in Fences - a fault mainly of the script, not Washington himself.

However, there has been significant backlash against the youngest Affleck brother after it emerged that two women had sued him for sexual harrassment, while he was working on his faux-documentary I'm Still Here with Joaquin Phoenix. Affleck paid the two women an undisclosed settlement. A number of actresses including Constance Wu have spoken out against Affleck's nomination, saying that his performance can be praised without him being institutionally rewarded by the Academy. “The absence of awards doesn’t diminish a great performance… but the choices an awarding committee makes DOES increase the dignity of an award and brings light to the pursuit our craft seeks to honor," tweeted Wu in a lengthy statement. "I’m in this career not for awards, but because the treatment of life matters to me. So I stand the fuck up for it.”

The Best Supporting Actor category is thankfully relatively free from drama - well, as much as an acting award category can be. Mahershala Ali has scooped nearly every substantial award going for his sensitive, stereotype-breaking role in Moonlight, and is on track to win.

The only concern is that the Academy may see Ali's win as an adequate nod to Moonlight, which is one of the most heart-wrenching, original and important films in years. Not only does the film address black masculinity and queerness beautifully - issues so rarely addressed onscreen - but it's also a masterclass of directing from Barry Jenkins, who uses framing, colour, sound and incredible camerawork to create something truly evocative.

Jenkins' work has been overshadowed by Damien Chazelle's La La Land, which is an extraordinary feat of choreography and visuals, though the writing falters in the non-musical portion of this classic Hollywood romance tale. Moonlight is likely to walk away with Best Adapted Screenplay, one of the dew categories La La Land doesn't qualify for.

If La La Land wins in twelve of its nominated categories, it will become the biggest Oscar victor ever - and if it wins 11, it will tie with Titanic, Ben-Hur and Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King No matter what, La La Land is all set to tapdance off with a huge armful of gongs, including Best Picture and Best Director - and you know that cast and crew celebration party is going to be the prettiest, most beautifully choreographed session the world did ever see.

 

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