The 89th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 26, 0 days from today.

So, the Oscars are happening tonight. The ceremony will be airing on ABC at 5:30 p.m. PST (with red carpet coverage starting about an hour and a half earlier), meaning that, in British time, I get to watch a show derided for running too long starting at 1:30 a.m.

The way the night appears to be going is as follows:

Best Picture
– Will win: La La Land is the huge favorite here, and the only thing that can bring it down is the recent backlash against it. Generally only universally popular films win Best Picture because of the preferential ballot, which is why last year Spotlight managed to beat The Revenant. I think it comes down a bit to whether you think that this backlash has actually filtered into Academy members’ minds or if it has just flourished in Internet think pieces.
– Alternative: Moonlight or Hidden Figures are probably the two spoilers here
– Should win: I’d probably vote for Arrival

Best Director
– Will win: Damien Chazelle for La La Land for the same reasons outlined above
– Alternative: Barry Jenkins for Moonlight
– Should win: I don’t really know what a director does, so I’m going to pass on this one

Best Actor
– Will win: This is one of the biggest open races going into Oscar night. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) led the category all year, but some weird victory speeches, lots of facial hair and digging up of his sexual harassment scandal paved the way for Denzel Washington (Fences) to take home the all-important SAG award. Importantly, this would be Washington’s third award, which may prevent some Oscar voters from leaning his way.
– Alternative: I mean, it will either be Washington or Affleck
– Should win: I’d probably go with Affleck here if we are talking about performance and not, like, who you’d want to marry your daughter

Best Actress
– Will win: Emma Stone (La La Land) leads the Best Picture favorite and is a young, up-and-coming Hollywood ingenue
– Alternative: Isabelle Huppert (Elle), who is basically the opposite
– Should win: I haven’t actually seen Elle or Loving, so I can’t definitively say. But Natalie Portman in Jackie was excellent.

Best Supporting Actor
– Will win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) has been a favorite here all year despite limited screen time. Many people think his great speech at the SAG awards has cemented this for him. I’m skeptical that this category is as sewn up as people claim, especially as Dev Patel (Lion) took home the BAFTA and, again, Ali was on screen for about three seconds.
– Alternative: Patel, or maybe Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
– Should win: None of them. (I was not really impressed with any of this year’s nominees. Give it to Sunny Pawar, guys!)

Best Supporting Actress
– Will win: Viola Davis (Fences) has had this award in the bag for about six months now. She has faced some criticism of category fraud, since she won a leading actress Tony for the role on Broadway, though I’d argue that in the original Broadway staging, the role was billed as supporting, so this doesn’t bother me.
– Alternative: No one, though I will say that Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) has more nominations that David (four vs. three) and is not nearly seen as much as “overdue”
– Should win: Davis

Other tricky categories
The big question at this year’s Oscars is to what extent La La Land will sweep. I remember the year of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, everyone was pretty sure it was going to win a lot of awards. But there was one award that no one thought that it was going to win (screenplay? editing?) that it ended up taking home as well. I remember gesturing to my copy of Entertainment Weekly, which said that there was a 10% chance of that happening, and realizing that people don’t always vote the way they are supposed to. La La Land is not expected to pick up every award (like Best Actor, for which Ryan Gosling is nominated), but the tricky categories are ones that it could win if it starts winning everything. Original screenplay, for example, will probably go to Manchester by the Sea, but it could also go to La La Land. La La Land could take costume design and sound editing from Jackie and Hacksaw Ridge. You never know until you watch the ceremony what’s going to happen.

See you on the other side.

Oscar humor

  • Hater’s guide: This is the best article from the entire year. It’s one guy making fun of every major nominee. To give you a taste, this is what he says about Lion: “What is this? Was this really a movie? Is there a real lion in it? No? Then fuck this.”
  • Oscar bait, the movie: Seth Meyers makes the movie Academy members have been waiting for, about a man overcoming his terrible balloon foot disease and lots of crying.
  • Honest trailers: Screen Junkies put together an “honest trailer” making fun of each of the Best Picture nominees. A highlight was their alternative title for Manchester by the Sea (Manchesta by the Feckin’ Sea).
  • La La Land, but by David Lynch: Yes, it is super creepy.
  • Arrival jokes: So, this exists.
  • Good line about Elle, New York Times: “I’ll tell you this: If you made that exact same script with that exact same director but set it in San Francisco and put Sharon Stone in the lead, women would be picketing it. You buy yourself a lot of wiggle room with a French accent, subtitles, a Parisian locale, the Seine, a few baguettes and Huppert.”
  • Can’t believe I forgot about this: From the New Yorker: “On January 14th of last year, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy’s president, arrived at 2:30 A.M., several hours before she was to announce the eighty-eighth annual Oscar nominations at a press conference. Boone Isaacs, a soft-spoken woman in her sixties, with bangs and chunky glasses, has held her post since 2013. She’d arrived early to get camera-ready and to practice saying the names; the previous year, she had accidentally caused an Internet sensation when she referred to the cinematographer Dick Pope as ‘Dick Poop.'” And here’s Dick Poop.

Other news

  • Brutally honest Oscar ballots: Every year, the Hollywood Reporter interviews Academy members and quizzes them on their choices, aggregating responses into what it calls “brutally honest Oscar ballots.” So far there have been five (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  • Oscars, politics and infographics: A Hollywood Reporter and National Research Group survey looks into Trump and Clinton voters and what they prefer at the Oscars; 79% of Clinton voters and 66% of Trump voters plan to watch this year’s ceremony. 
  • Jimmy Kimmel: This year’s host talked to the Hollywood Reporter about his Oscar night plans (“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that [Matt Damon] doesn’t win or doesn’t know that he won. My goal is to keep him offstage”) and to the New York Times about his ego (“Well, let’s be honest: There’s a good chunk of America that doesn’t know that Jimmy Fallon and I are different people. So I’m not going to go into this presuming that they know me and all my bits. You need to approach this without any ego. If there’s too much inside stuff, it won’t work.”)
  • EGOT: I always thought that EGOT (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) was an established, impressive achievement, but according to this article in the Atlantic, it basically was not a thing until spoofed by the TV show “30 Rock.” (In EGOT news, Ron Howard just won a Grammy, making him a Tony away from the sacred four letters.)
  • Speaking of EGOT: Lin-Manuel Miranda writes a Hollywood Reporter column about the Oscars. He’s clearly, adorably obsessed. I really suggest you read it. A highlight for me was when he talked about watching the Academy Awards with his family: “The Oscars were always a family affair when I was a kid. One sort of unintentional tradition we had every year was during the ‘In Memoriam’ part of the show. My family called it the ‘She died?’ section because my dad, who is pop culture-oblivious, would always go, ‘She died? He died? She died?!‘ the whole time. So, it was very sad and yet also very funny watching my dad catch up.”
  • She’s too pregnant: Natalie Portman can’t make it to the Oscars.
  • Mahershala Ali: The Hollywood Reporter has a great article written by the supporting actor favorite. Good passage from his childhood: “Out of everyone in my life, my grandmother, Mamie Gilmore, my dad’s mom, had the most influence. We spent so much time together. Every Thursday, she would take me to Lucky’s grocery store, which was about a block away from her house, and I remember her putting me in the shopping cart. She would push me around the grocery store, getting her bread and whatnot, and on Fridays we’d go to McDonald’s. And while I ate my fries and my burger, she would tell me that I was handsome, that I was intelligent, that I could do anything I put my mind to. She said, ‘You can be happy or miserable. It’s up to you.'”
  • Isabelle Huppert does not care about you: A few months ago, I had never heard of Isabelle Huppert. Now the New York Times has a profile of her with the headline “The Best Way to Please Is Not to Please.” A highlight: “Would she bring home Oscar gold on Sunday night? ‘Yeah, it’s possible,’ she ventured, adding definitively after a pause, ‘Yes, for me it’s time.'” OK there, Isabelle.
  • Female protagonists: Vulture explores the implications of a year with three movies focused on female protagonists.
  • Fashion over the years: Entertainment Weekly has a gallery.
  • Kids are cute: Here’s a feature on the two boys from Moonlight, a boy and a girl from Captain Fantastic, the girl in Fences and Dev Patel’s personal koala bear, Sunny Pawar.
  • Maps: The New York Times looks into the geographies of who “likes” this year’s Best Picture movies on Facebook. Biggest surprise: apparently people from Massachusetts like Manchester by the Sea.
  • Or maybe they don’t: Link
  • Foreign language directors issue a statement: “On behalf of all nominees, we would like to express our unanimous and emphatic disapproval of the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the U.S. and in so many other countries, in parts of the population and, most unfortunately of all, among leading politicians,” the statement starts. Read the rest here.
  • Red carpet: The Los Angeles Times has an entire article about the red carpet, which is in an “exclusive shade — called Academy Red — [which] is supposed to flatter the A-list actors who are photographed and filmed walking on it. It’s a secret color, one whose precise specifications the show’s organizers won’t reveal for fear of copycats.” That’s not even the best part: “The carpet is only used once and destroyed, in an undisclosed manner, after the show.”

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