With the Academy Awards being handed out this Sunday, it’s a popular and appropriate time for Oscar predictions. Any number of determining factors can help narrow down the field to an expected choice, and odds-makers all over the world are weighing in.
Here at Luddite Robot, however, I’m at a disadvantage in making many of these calls, in that I haven’t seen many of the biggest Oscar-nominated titles and don’t really care to delve into the cottage industry of awards-season probabilities. Further, the Academy, in its myopia, continues to restrict Oscar nominees to films that actually came out last year, instead of, say, the 1920s, and seems to have a baffling preference for uplift and biopics over Japanese melodrama, splatter movies, and schlock.
Still, I don’t want to be left out. In the past, I’ve offered up the film I think will win, the film I think should win, and the film I think should’ve been nominated. This year, I’ve decided to play to our strengths here and simply predict the eventual winner, while also suggesting the nominee that would’ve won if the Oscars stacked every category entirely with the Nicolas Cage canon.
This list will presumably come in handy when the Academy finally realizes how things should be run; namely, with more Nic Cage.
Will win: La La Land
Moonlight is the year’s best film, and it would be a tremendous victory for its director, cast, and crew — not to mention diversity and rewarding the most deserving nominee — if it pulled off an Oscar win. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.
La La Land encapsulates many things Oscar voters tend to favor: throwbacks to Old Hollywood, eye-catching direction, doomed love, and mega-stars looking beautiful and occasionally pained. It’s also, we are constantly reminded, a “love letter to the movies”. This, as it happens, is wrong, but it’s a fiction people seem to enjoy. And by now La La Land‘s marched rapturously to award after award, giving it a sense of inevitability. An upset is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely.
Plus, this will give a renewed push to the backlash against this excellent film, which must be music to the ears of freelance writers everywhere. Fate is cruel, but also, in its way, lovely.
Would win, if restricted entirely to the Nic Cage canon: Face/Off
Because Face/Off is the best Nic Cage movie.
Actor in a Leading Role
Will win: Denzel Washington, Fences
Casey Affleck’s performance in Manchester By The Sea had most of the early momentum, but I feel a late-game push for Denzel’s turn in his August Wilson adaptation (a stage role for which he was previously celebrated). Washington’s won before, but it’s been a while, and by all accounts he’s extremely strong here. In a better world, Affleck’s off-screen controversies might imperil his win, but this is not that world. Instead, I’m just playing a hunch here.
Would win, if restricted entirely to the Nic Cage canon: Nicolas Cage, Adaptation
Cage was fantastic in the double-role as Charlie/Donald Kaufman in Spike Jonze’s meta-gonzo Adaptation, and the Oscars — even my imaginary Oscars — love this kind of shit. In fact, he was Oscar-nominated for it in 2002, but lost to 2017’s winner, Denzel Washington, for his performance in Training Day. It all comes back around.
Actress in a Leading Role
Will win: Emma Stone, La La Land
Isabelle Huppert’s surprise win at the Golden Globes ostensibly puts some wind in her sails, but also not really, as it’s the Golden Globes we’re talking about there. Portman’s turn as Jackie O generated huge early buzz, but Stone, who swept up SAG and BAFTA awards, is the Oscar frontrunner for a reason. And she’ll win.
Would win, if restricted entirely to the Nic Cage canon: Holly Hunter, Raising Arizona
The Coen Brothers’ madcap comedic masterpiece boasts great performances all around, but it’s Hunter who helps ground the hijinks in that Coen rarity, actual human emotion. In the manic world of Raising Arizona, she’s its beating heart.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Will win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
As well he should.
Would win, if restricted entirely to the Nic Cage canon: Willem Dafoe, Wild At Heart
Willem Dafoe is allegedly a very nice man in real life, but that is not what his Bobby Peru would lead you to believe. David Lynch’s sex-addled, violent grab-bag of Wizard of Oz and Elvis Presley references isn’t generally considered among his best, despite featuring Crispin Glover’s greatest scene outside of Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter. But the film is compulsively watchable, not least because of Dafoe’s seething malevolence on screen.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Will win: Viola Davis, Fences
Davis has triumphed in most of the big-name awards thus far, and is an actual national acting treasure, so we’ll go with her.
Would win, if restricted entirely to the Nic Cage canon: Ellen Burstyn, The Wicker Man
Although Cassi Thomson would surely win this for Left Behind if Oscars were determined solely by how many times other people shout your character’s name, Burstyn dominates this moderately ill-advised re-make of a horror classic. The Wicker Man isn’t really as bad as its reputation, but Burstyn in particular is better than the whole thing deserves. At one point, she even dons Braveheart face-paint for reasons no one can explain to this day. It’s a riveting turn.
Animated Feature Film
Will win: Zootopia
Faulted from some corners for narrative incoherence and a dodgy metaphor, Zootopia still has a wealth of imagination, a plucky heroine, and some good in-jokes. And sloths. Oh, those sloths.
Would win, if restricted entirely to the Nic Cage canon: The Croods
I don’t know, I guess?
Will win: James Laxton, Moonlight
Barry Jenkins’ film is effective for a number of reasons, not least among them his long-time collaborator James Laxton’s gorgeous images. La La Land could best it here too, if voters are sufficiently wowed by the trip-to-the-stars sequence, but the sustained mood that Laxton creates through melancholy framing and an entire world of blues ought to be enough.
Would win, if restricted entirely to the Nic Cage canon: Simon Duggan, Knowing
While Roger Ebert felt that Knowing was one of the best science-fiction films, not a huge number of people jumped on this bandwagon opinion, presumably because it is obviously untrue. Alex Proyas’ would-be mindfuck does, however, look gorgeous, particularly in its ponderous final moments.
Will win: Jackie
Jackie’s got to win something, and this seems like that something.
Would win, if restricted entirely to the Nic Cage canon: The Cotton Club
Cage hasn’t appeared in a ton of period pieces, and that’s what Oscar voters appreciate most. So Francis Ford Coppola’s strange ode to Harlem fits the bill. (As a bonus, there aren’t all that many Black people around in a film about jazz, so that should go over well.)
Will win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
There is a distinct possibility that the Academy will split the difference here, bestowing best picture on La La Land but recognizing the power and nuance of Barry Jenkins’ profound …
Oh, who am I kidding. Chazelle wins.
Would win, if restricted entirely to the Nic Cage canon: Brian De Palma, Snake Eyes
This is perhaps the most competitive category in the Cagies, as I’ve literally just this moment decided to call them but am too lazy to go back and change the earlier text to reflect.
Nic Cage has worked with a who’s who of modern masters — your Scorseses, Coppolas, Coens, Stones, Lynchs, Jewisons, Roger Donaldsons.
But De Palma’s narrative fuckery, splitscreen aesthetic, and rather bizarre decision to deploy a Rashomon-like structure to this Vegas-set tale of intrigue and conspiracy marks a high point in the Cage canon. It’s not De Palma’s best work — not by a long shot — but it deserves mention for sheer audacity, delivering directorial chops that no one else in their right mind would’ve thought Snake Eyes particularly required.
All The Rest
Tune in next time, when we consider the writing, sound, music, and technical categories, many of which will be dominated by La La Land and Arrival, but all of which will have to contend with the masterpiece that is Con-Air. Happy Oscars! (Which is a thing I think one says.)