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2017 Oscar predictions: Academy voters will go gaga over ‘La La’

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With 14 nominations going into Sunday night’s Oscars, it’s pretty obvious that the Hollywood song-and-dance musical “La La Land” has the leg-up, so to speak, on the competition. However, while voters will go gaga over “La La,” don’t expect a clean-sweep and record-breaking number of wins (12). It will have to settle for a record-tying number of most nominations (14) instead.

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Here are my predictions for the top five categories:

Best Supporting Actress nominees

Viola Davis: “Fences”

Naomie Harris: “Moonlight”

Nicole Kidman: “Lion”

Octavia Spencer: “Hidden Figures”

Michelle Williams: “Manchester by the Sea”

WILL WIN: Viola Davis. A veteran performer who should have won for Best Actress for “The Help” in 2012, Davis will easily win in a supporting role this year (she’s already taken the SAG Award in the category) and is the night’s only sure thing.

SHOULD WIN: Viola Davis. Davis’ performance opposite Denzel Washington is so strong that it almost feels like a lead. In fact, she would have probably won the Best Actress Oscar as a lead. It’s the first case of two Oscar races where you would hope for a tie, since four-time nominee Michelle Williams deserves the award just as much, mainly for her heartbreaking scene opposite Casey Affleck in the final act of the film.

POTENTIAL UPSET: Michelle Williams.

Best Supporting Actor nominees

Mahershala Ali: “Moonlight”

Jeff Bridges: “Hell or High Water”

Lucas Hedges: “Manchester by the Sea”

Dev Patel: “Lion”

Michael Shannon: “Nocturnal Animals”

WILL WIN: Mahershala Ali. The veteran actor has won virtual every award up to this point, including the SAG Award in the same category. Plus, he’s been a solid actor in every film and television show he’s appeared in for years.

SHOULD WIN: Michael Shannon. Just as reliable as Ali is Shannon, who clearly gives the strongest supporting performance of the year in the under-appreciated “Nocturnal Animals.” An upset in this category is not entirely out of the question, if you consider Mark Rylance’s stunning upset over Sylvester Stallone last year. At least Ali or Shannon will not have to worry about Bridges, who would easily take this award if not for his Best Actor Oscar win for “Crazy Heart” in 2010.

POTENTIAL UPSET: Jeff Bridges.

Best Actress nominees

Isabelle Huppert: “Elle”

Ruth Negga: “Loving”

Natalie Portman: “Jackie”

Emma Stone: “La La Land”

Meryl Streep: “Florence Foster Jenkins”

WILL WIN: Emma Stone. Stone gives one of the weaker performances out of the Best Actress group, but the fact that Academy voters identify with her actor character will push her over the top.

SHOULD WIN: Natalie Portman. Portman would be a shoo-in if not for the fact that she already won a Best Actress Oscar for “Black Swan” in 2011, and that second Oscar – especially as a lead character – is hard to come by.

POTENTIAL UPSET: Isabelle Huppert.

Best Actor nominees

Casey Affleck: “Manchester by the Sea”

Andrew Garfield: “Hacksaw Ridge”

Ryan Gosling: “La La Land”

Viggo Mortensen: “Captain Fantastic”

Denzel Washington: “Fences”

WILL WIN: Casey Affleck. Affleck gives what is easily the most gut-wrenching performances of the year and has a boat-load of critic awards to prove it, but Washington’s surprise SAG Award-win for “Fences” adds an interesting wrinkle to the competition. Ultimately, Washington will have to settle for the two Oscars he already has, since Oscar No. 3 for any actor – including Meryl Streep – is almost impossible to come by.

LINK:  See Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Francis Ford Coppola and more on  his new YouTube channel.

SHOULD WIN: Casey Affleck and Andrew Garfield. In a perfect world these two actors would tie. Affleck, for the aforementioned reason above, and Garfield for his stunning performance as Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to win a Congressional Medal of Honor.

POTENTIAL UPSET: Denzel Washington.

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Best Picture nominees

“Arrival”

“Fences”

“Hacksaw Ridge”

“Hell or High Water”

“Hidden Figures”

“La La Land”

“Lion”

“Manchester by the Sea”

“Moonlight”

WILL WIN: “La La Land.” Among the most over-rated movies of the year, “La La Land” doesn’t deserve to even be a Best Picture nominee, much less a Best Picture winner. Still, with awards season momentum on its side, Damien Chazelle’s colorful musical about the high and lows of the la-la-life of a struggling actress and jazz musician may be too tough for voters – especially those who have faced the same struggles – to resist.

Chazelle, who really deserved a pair of Oscars for “Whiplash” a couple years back, will also take Best Director after taking the DGA honor earlier this month.

SHOULD WIN: “Hacksaw Ridge.” Any film nominated alongside it deserves the award more than “La La Land,” but nothing more than “Hacksaw Ridge,” the amazing true story of Desmond Doss, which has been buried in history for years. Director Mel Gibson’s first directorial effort in 10 years starts off in grand fashion as a character drama and romance, before shifting into one of the most brutal war films ever to hit the big screen.

The end result of the film about Doss, a battle medic who single-handedly saved 75 soldiers in the Battle of Okinawa in World War II, is a riveting depiction of courage, selflessness and sacrifice. Gibson also deserves the Best Director Oscar, but an upset is unlikely.

POTENTIAL UPSET: “Moonlight.”

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2016 Oscar predictions: Who will win, should win

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By Tim Lammers

The Oscars have attracted a lot of attention this year over the controversy surrounding the lack of diversity among the nominees, but it’s also remarkable in that no clear front-runners have emerged. Since the guild awards – the typical bellwether of what and who will win the Oscar because several guild members are also Motion Picture Academy members – have been all over the place. Sunday’s ceremony could yield a few surprises.

Here are my predictions of who/what will win come this Oscar Sunday in the big six categories, followed by who should win.

Best Supporting Actor nominees: Christian Bale, “The Big Short”; Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”; Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”; Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”; Sylvester Stallone, “Creed.”

Analysis: Bale already has an Oscar, so count him out because winning that second statuette is tough. Hardy was spectacular in “The Revenant” and could pull an upset if “The Revenant” commands the evening. Ruffalo and Rylance gave the best performances in the films they were nominated in, but they didn’t have the wicked, metaphorical left hook that powers this year’s presumptive winner.

Who will win: Stallone. Idris Elba won the SAG award in this category and wasn’t nominated for an Oscar; while Stallone wasn’t nominated for a SAG Award, yet is the front-runner here. No matter the oddity, Stallone is clearly in his element in “Creed.” Not only does he comfortably slip back into the role, the character has matured with “Creed” and Stallone beautifully captures Rocky Balboa in the twilight of his life.

Who should win: Stallone. He is no doubt a sentimental pick, but there’s no question he’s strong in the classic role he created 40 years ago. Besides some less-than-stellar films in-between “Rocky” and “Creed,” there’s no question Rocky Balboa is a career-defining, legendary role, and it should be recognized as such.

Best Supporting Actress nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”; Rooney Mara, “Carol”; Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”; Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”; Kate Winslet, “Jobs.”

Analysis: Leigh gives the performance of her career as Daisy Domergue and was best thing about “The Hateful Eight,” but given the outcry over the lack of diversity of this year’s nominees, it’s very unlikely Academy voters will honor a role about a hateful, N-word slinging murderess. McAdams is good in “Spotlight,” but any number of actresses could have been as good in the role if not better. Mara redeems herself from the dreadful “Pan,” and while the role is risky, the front-runner has too much momentum.

Who will win: Vikander. The Swedish beauty is Hollywood’s co-“It-Girl” along with Brie Larson. She can do it all, from playing the stunning android in “Ex-Machina” to conveying the subtle pain of a woman dealing with her husband transitioning into a woman in “The Danish Girl.” She’s been the busiest actress of the bunch this year, and will benefit from her SAG win and a performance that’s even better than her co-star Eddie Redmayne

Who should win:<

/strong> Winslet. She commands the screen in every film she’s in, and delivers along with Michael Fassbender a powerful one-two punch in one of the most under-appreciated films of the year. If she was Oscar-less going into the ceremony, she would win hands-down, but she already has a Best Actress statuette so count her out.

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Best Actor nominees: Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”; Matt Damon, “The Martian”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”; Michael Fassbender, “Jobs”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”

Analysis: Cranston was The King of the Emmys with four Best Actor wins for “Breaking Bad,” but the Oscar ceremony, as he will find out, is an entirely different animal. He’s great, no doubt, playing blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, but he’ll go home empty-handed. Only two actors have won back-to-back Oscars in history and Redmayne, last year’s winner for “The Theory of Everything,” doesn’t have a chance of becoming the third. Damon played Damon in “The Martian,” and while he is good in the film, he’s the weakest of the five nominees and shouldn’t even be in the category.

Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s shredded by a bear, eats raw buffalo liver and sleeps naked in a dead horse carcass. It’s everything an Oscar-bait role is made of. Besides, after six nominations (five for acting including this one and one for producing), Academy members will finally come to the conclusion DiCaprio has paid his dues. Plus, his SAG Award and other critic  honors is a pretty clear indicator of how things are going to go.

Who should win: Fassbender. Sure, he doesn’t have as rough a go as DiCaprio in “The Revenant,” but he’s compelling in a complex, dialogue-driven role as Steve Jobs and electric in every scene he’s in. Truth be told, though, Johnny Depp should have been nominated and winning this Oscar for “Black Mass.” He’s towers above all other performances this year for his menacing turn as vicious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger.

Best Actress Nominees: Cate Blanchett: “Carol”; Brie Larson, “Room”; Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”; Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”; Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”

Analysis: Jennifer Lawrence was great in “Joy,” but it’s the weakest of all her Oscar-nominated performance and her second Best Actress Oscar will be hard to come by; Ronan has been lauded for years by the industry and critics, but will fall short in her first bid for an Oscar; Rampling’s nomination is clearly for sentimental reasons and to consider it one of the five “best” is really a stretch. She shouldn’t even be nominated.

Who will win: Brie Larson. Hollywood’s new “It Girl” (note again the shared honor with Vikander) is saddled with the difficult task of bringing to the fore the true-life horror of a woman held captive for seven years in a storage shed with a young son who was fathered in a sexual assault by her kidnapper. While it’s not the best performance of the year, the momentum is with her with her SAG win and virtually every other statuette on the planet this awards season.

Who should win: Blanchett. Like Kate Winslet, she’s great in every role and her risky turn has a housewife who has an affair with a younger woman is a head and shoulders above her competition in this category. But having captured two Oscars already – the most recent for Best Actress for “Blue Jasmine” two years ago – getting that third statuette won’t come until years down the road for Blanchett. Look how long the Academy made Meryl Streep wait for No. 3 (and she should easily have a half-dozen).




Best Director nominees: Adam McKay, “The Big Short”; George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”; Alejandro G. Inarritu, “The Revenant”; Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”; Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight.”

Analysis: Four of the five nominees are worthy, with Abrahamson being the head-scratcher of the bunch in favor of Directors Guild of America nominee Ridley Scott for “The Martian.” McKay takes huge strides away from comedy in Scorsese-like fashion and has a great shot sharing a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar;  and McCarthy, as deserving as he is for “Spotlight,” will be honored instead with the Best Original Screenplay Oscar (with co-writer Josh Singer). The race will come down to last year’s Best Director winner Iñárritu and Miller.

Who will win: Miller. This will be the biggest upset of the night because the winner of the DGA Award – this year it’s Iñárritu – almost always goes on to win the Best Director Oscar. Two things are working against Iñárritu, though: winning back-to-back Best Director Oscars is a rare feat; and recognizing Miller (a previous winner for directing “Happy Feet” in 2007) will be a way of the Academy honoring the film with the second-most nominations this year.

Who should win: Miller. It was the most inventive, expertly-directed film of the year. Given the resources to make the “Mad Max” film he’s always wanted to make, Miller brought filmmaking to an entirely new level with his bat shit crazy post-apocalyptic vision.

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Best Picture Nominees: “The Big Short”; “Bridge of Spies”; “Brooklyn”; “Mad Max: Fury Road”; “The Martian”; “The Revenant”; “Room”; “Spotlight”

Analysis: It’s exceptionally rare for a film to win Best Picture without its director being nominated, so you can automatically count “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn” and “Spotlight” out of the race. Academy members will recognize “Room” with Larson’s win, and again, “Spotlight’s” time to shine will come with a Best Original screenplay win. True, it won the SAG Best Ensemble Award – the equivalent of a Best Picture win – and only for that reason does it qualify for a shot at the top prize. The same goes for “The Big Short,” which is a serious contender thanks to its Producers Guild of America win for Best Picture.

What will win: “The Revenant.” It’s the sort of epic Academy voter’s love, and it will have momentum going into the ceremonies with a leading 12 nominations.

What should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Cinematically, it’s far better than any of its contenders, but don’t count on a win because the snobby Academy almost never – apart from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” – recognizes sci-fi or fantasy. It’s too bad, because “The Revenant” is far from being the best film of the year. “Fury Road,” “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” are far more deserving.

2015 Oscars: Tim Lammers predicts who will win, should win

Birdman and Michael Keaton

By Tim Lammers

The 87th annual Oscars are Sunday night, bringing to an end another controversial awards season. At this point with all the guild awards decided, it’s pretty clear who and what film will win the big prize, although I personally hope for some big upsets just to keep the perennial overlong night interesting.

As usual, my predictions aren’t a reflection of who and what I hope will win, but educated guesses based on voting trends throughout the awards season. Of course, no one — no one — is a sure thing (remember Juliette Binoche upsetting Lauren Bacall?), so included in the picks is a wild card in each major category.

Best Supporting Actress nominees:  Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”; Laura Dern, “Wild”; Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”; Emma Stone, “Birdman”; Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods.”

Analysis: This category will likely signal the overrated “Boyhood’s” only big win for the night, but if any categories have upsets, it’s the supporting acting ones. Perennial nominee Streep generally bulldozes everyone she’s up against, and this year is no different. Arquette’s performance is the best of all those in “Boyhood,” but all the awards love for the movie is still mystifying.

Count Arquette’s win as the Academy’s tip of the cap to the year’s most gimmicky movie. A Dern win would be a salute to not one, but three Hollywood acting stalwarts: Dern and her parents Bruce Dern (who should have won for “Nebraska” last year) and Diane Ladd, but don’t hold your breath.

Will Win: Arquette.

Should Win: Streep.

Potential Upset: Dern.

Best Supporting Actor nominees: Robert Duvall, “The Judge”; Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”; Edward Norton, “Birdman”; Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”; J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash.”

Analysis: Not only has Simmons proven to be a great actor who has consistently delivered in his roles over the years, his turn as the vitriolic jazz conservatory conductor in “Whiplash” is hands-down the best nominated performance across all of the categories.

“Birdman” is shaping up to be this year’s awards juggernaut, and Norton — who is brilliant in the movie — could be a benefactor of that. Duvall, who is terrific as usual in “The Judge,” would be a shoo-in as a sentimental winner, but he already has an Oscar thanks to “Tender Mercies.”

Will Win: Simmons

Should Win: Simmons.

Potential Upset: Norton.

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Best Actress nominees: Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”; Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”; Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”; Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”; Reese Witherspoon, “Wild.”

Analysis: With five Oscar nominations (including this year) to her credit, Moore is long-overdue. But this award isn’t being earned by Moore for sentimental purposes: Her turn as an early-onset Alzheimer’s disease patient is heartbreaking and emotionally exhausting, and one that stays with

you long after the credits roll.

Cotillard (who previously upset Julie Christie, oddly enough, in Christie’s Alzheimer’s-themed movie “Away From Her”) and Witherspoon don’t have a chance because they’re won in the category before and it’s hard to repeat, and Jones, while great, is simply over-matched in the category. An upset for Pike’s ultimate ice queen role in “Gone Girl” would be a way to rectify the Academy huge oversights in several categories — including Best Picture and Best Director (for David Fincher) — in what is easily one of the best films of the year.

Will Win: Moore.

Should Win: Moore.

Potential Upset: Pike.

Best Actor nominees: Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”; Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”; Michael Keaton, “Birdman”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything.”

Analysis: Keaton’s career performance in “Birdman” has dominated most of this year’s awards season, and since he’s sidestepped personal controversy (i.e., he’s said all the right things in his acceptance speeches and has been genuinely gracious) the award has been his to lose. Keaton is brilliant in the role with a fine mix of comedy and drama, but Cooper took the biggest risk with his moving, understated turn as late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

It’s not a flashy role, but yet somehow you can sense the inner-turmoil of Kyle as deals with the stress of the battlefield and suppressing his emotions on the home front. It’s an amazingly subtle role and a gutsy move for an Cooper since it flies in the face of Hollywood’s political ideas.

As much as Cooper deserves to win, the only possible person capable of upsetting Keaton is Redmayne, who gives a “My Left Foot” Daniel Day-Lewis-caliber performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” His unlikely Screen Actors Guild upset opened the door for a possible upset at the Oscars, but don’t bet on it. Carell’s and Cumberbatch’s nominations are well deserved, so don’t be surprised to see future noms, especially for the latter.

Will Win: Keaton.

Should Win: Cooper.

Potential Upset: Redmayne.

Best Picture nominees: “American Sniper”; “Birdman”; “Boyhood”; “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; “The Imitation Game”; “Selma”; “The Theory of Everything”; “Whiplash.”

Analysis: The race all along this awards season has appeared to be an even match between “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” but then a surprising surge with “American Sniper” (and a $300 million North American box office) with a strong showing in the nominations suddenly made the race that much more interesting.

Conventional thinking at the moment points to a big night for “Birdman,” since it has taken top honors with the Producers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America (for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – who will also win the Best Director Oscar) and the Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble Award (the equivalent for a Best Picture prize) — so don’t be shocked when it when it wins the Best Picture Oscar.

As refreshing and inventive as “Birdman” is, remember 2015 as the year the chickens come home to roost on Hollywood. The Academy will appear completely out of touch with Middle America for not naming “American Sniper” its Best Picture; even more so if it goes the upset route and names the low-budget, gimmicky “Boyhood” as “the best.”

A film that rightfully puts the focus squarely on the American soldier and his or her families (and avoids the politics of war), “American Sniper” has had a profound emotional experience on viewers, and it will no doubt enrage them when it is passed over (watch out, Twitter!). Ultimately, if one film is going to make Hollywood stand up and listen to its audiences, this is the one, but they’re too afraid to honor a movie with ties to the right wing by default.

Will Win: “Birdman.”

Should Win: “American Sniper.”

Potential Upset: “Boyhood.”

Tim Lammers is a nationally syndicated movie reporter and author of the ebook “Direct Conversations: The Animated Films of Tim Burton (Foreword by Tim Burton).”

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