Oscar has its quirks, often enough overlooking a truly great film, with the heavy gold statuette going to the film of the moment (at least the Academy’s moment). Perhaps most famously, “Citizen Kane” lost out to “How Green Was My Valley” in 1941. Two Scorsese masterpieces were surpassed by two actors’ first (and very respectable) directorial efforts: in 1981 “Raging Bull” was knocked out by Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People;” and “Goodfellas” was shot down by Kevin Costner’s “Dances With Wolves” ten years later. Sometimes, as in 2005, even a mediocre film triumphs–“Crash,”directed by Paul Haggis, was chosen over Ang Lee’s groundbreaking “Brokeback Mountain.”
In the Oscars 2017 edition of the perpetual will win/should win game, Barry Jenkins’s sublime and deserving “Moonlight” (which swept yesterday’s Independent Spirit Awards) certainly scores in the latter category. But “La La Land” will probably dance away with the little gold man.
I have two other (wobbly) predictions. Maren Ade’s nearly three-hour father/daughter dramedy (in German), “Toni Erdmann” will and should win Best Foreign Language Film. (Ade’s feature is soon to be re-made in Hollywood starring Kristen Wiig and the great Jack Nicholson, possibly miscast. Too old at 80?)
Isabelle Huppert, who, as the film critic Jim Hoberman once wrote, is possibly the most essential actor in the world, should (but will she?) win the Best Actress for her staggering performance in Paul Verhoeven’s nasty, riveting thriller, “Elle.” The Oscar is the rare award that Huppert hasn’t yet won for the roles in her unmatched filmography.