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Few surprises likely at this year's Oscars
AS the 89th Academy Awards ceremony approaches (the results will be announced on Monday morning, Singapore time), expect show host Jimmy Kimmel to trot out some Trump jokes, a few winners to turn the stage into a political platform and someone to take an epic selfie featuring a record number of Hollywood stars.
Most of all, expect La La Land to take home the, uh, lion's share of the Oscars. It would be a major shock - along the lines of, say, Donald Trump winning the US presidency - if this modern-day tribute to the Golden Age of movie musicals doesn't turn the ceremony into a La La procession.
Recent history has proven that anything is possible, of course, but voting patterns at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are slightly more predictable (despite a recent injection of women and minorities) and the majority of its 6,687 members remains white, male and over the age of 60.
The Oscars have always been a numbers game, and the odds appear to be overwhelmingly in favour of La La Land with its 14 nominations. And its wunderkind director, 32-year-old Damien Chazelle, and star Emma Stone should have their acceptance speeches down pat by now, having swept most of the major awards before this one.
Other numbers to note are 20 - the total number of nominations Meryl Streep has achieved in her unparalleled career - and zero, as in the chances of anyone other than Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali winning in their respective categories.
If there are to be any surprises, they will likely be caused by Moonlight in the Best Picture category - it's an achievement any time a US$5 million movie about being poor, black and gay makes it into the Oscar conversation. Also, in three of the past four years, the Best Picture and Best Director winners have been split, meaning Moonlight and its 37-year-old director Barry Jenkins could conceivably put a damper on Chazelle's evening.
The main suspense could be in the Best Actor category, where Casey Affleck's (Manchester by the Sea) stroll to the winner's podium was interrupted by Denzel Washington (Fences) at the Screen Actors Guild awards. Given that the SAG and Oscar winners have been a match for the past 13 years, two-time Oscar winner Washington has a good chance of pipping Ben Affleck's kid brother at the post.
Stone remains the firm favourite in the Best Actress category, but she will be challenged by Isabelle Huppert (Elle), the sentimental pick among members who wish to reward her for a stellar career.
Elle wasn't nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category, however, and Germany's Toni Erdmann is the frontrunner in what has been seen as a diminished field this year - although Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman might make a late run as the beneficiary of liberal- minded voters wishing to make a statement against Mr Trump's travel ban. Yes folks, this is the year where movies and politics are inseparable.
And now, the envelopes please . . .
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Winner: La La Land
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)
Winner: Casey Affleck
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Winner: Emma Stone
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
Winner: Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Winner: Viola Davis
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Winner: Damien Chazelle
Predictions in other major categories:
Foreign Language Film: Toni Erdmann
Animated Feature Film: Zootopia
Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
Original Score: Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)
Original Song: "City of Stars" (La La Land)
- Catch the 89th Academy Awards "live" on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) from 8am on Feb 27, with an encore telecast on the same night at 7pm.
READ MORE: Alt-scar picks