Friday, February 24, 2017

Oscars 2016: Best Director and Best Picture

Meet your Best Picture winner, America
So far in our Oscars analysis, we’ve looked at the odds and ends, the big techies and screenplays, and the acting categories. Today, we’re wrapping things up with the two big prizes.

For a cheat sheet with all of our predictions, click here.


Damien Chazelle—La La Land
Mel Gibson—Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins—Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan—Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve—Arrival

Gibson. Just kidding. But even if you’re feeling frisky and predicting an upset for Best Picture, it’s extremely unlikely the interloper makes any headway here. Damien Chazelle has this on lockdown.

I don’t believe in just automatically voting for the director of your favorite movie in this category—there are years when the two winners shouldn’t overlap. This isn’t one of them. Chazelle’s complete and versatile command of cinematic language in La La Land is extraordinary. The guy is only 32 years old. With luck, he’s going to keep making great movies for a long time.

Damien Chazelle—La La Land
Yorgos Lanthimos—The Lobster
David Mackenzie—Hell or High Water
Park Chan-wook—The Handmaiden
Jeremy Saulnier—Green Room

Lanthimos shades in his outrageous premise with scrupulous craft. Mackenzie stages his set pieces with élan, which only makes the quieter moments more powerful. Park spins your head around again and again. Saulnier will have you biting your nails and covering your eyes.

The Manifesto’s winner: Damien Chazelle—La La Land.

Honorable mention: Robert Eggers—The Witch; Joe and Anthony Russo—Captain America: Civil War.


Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

If you’re trying to make the case against La La Land, it can be done. Moonlight is the biggest critical hit of the year. Manchester by the Sea is incredibly powerful. Hidden Figures is an inspirational true story that made a pile of money. Arrival and Hell or High Water are awesome.

These are all plausible arguments, but they aren’t probable. There’s simply no reason, when making a pure prediction, to pick against the clear favorite. If somebody gave me 10-to-1 odds on Moonlight, I’d probably take it. But if I’m simply guessing which film is the most likely to win Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, it’s La La Land. Let’s not overcomplicate things.

On a narcissistic note, it’s been eight years since my favorite Best Picture nominee actually won Best Picture, and it’s been a whopping 21 years since my favorite movie of the year won Best Picture. The Academy is doing a good thing here.

For that, you can consult our top 10 list. Or, if you would prefer, you can consult our exhaustive list in which we ranked all 108 movies we saw in 2016. We’re all about customer service here.

That’s a wrap on this year’s Oscar predictions. As a reminder, you can find a rundown of all our picks here. We’ll be back on Monday morning with a quick recap of the show.

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