hmv.com previews... Academy Awards 2017
We've had the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, but this weekend – at least as far as Hollywood is concerned – is the big one. Yes, the Academy Awards return for the 89th time on Sunday, where the biggest names in the film industry will arrive dressed to impress and hoping to take home an Oscar to call their own.
With just a couple of days to go until this year's ceremony, we've picked out five thing to look out for at this year's Oscars...
Could Moonlight beat La La Land to Best Picture?
Unless you've been wilfully avoiding all film-related news for the last several weeks, you'll probably be aware that Damien Chazelle's musical La La Land has been on something of a hot streak recently, sweeping the board at the Golden Globes and picking up four awards at this year's BAFTAs. There's no doubt that Chazelle's film is the hot favourite, but some Hollywood insiders seem to think that the Academy could go against the grain and pick Barry Jenkins' powerful drama Moonlight instead.
Why? Well, there are three main reasons why Moonlight is being talked up as a potential winner. The first and most cynical of these has to do with last year's row over diversity, which spawned the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and saw a number of black actors and directors - such as Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett-Smith - boycott the ceremony entirely, leading some to believe that the Academy might feel compelled to redress the balance this year by handing the award to a film which is not only directed by an African-American, but whose subject matter concerns the struggles of a black gay man.
The second theory goes that the Academy, who like to think of themselves as a pretty progressive bunch, might see a win for Moonlight as a way to publicly extend the middle finger to the Trump administration, which hasn't exactly built a reputation for embracing diversity either.
However, the final and by far the most compelling reason that Jenkins' film could win the Oscar for Best Picture is simply this: Moonlight is a stunning piece of work that would be a worthy and deserving winner, entirely on its own merit. It would count as an upset, for sure, but the Academy Awards has a rich history of upsets and we wouldn't bet against Jenkins' film here. We can only hope that, in the event Moonlight does win, it is recognised that it did so because it's a great film.
Casey Affleck looks poised to go three-for-three in the Best Actor category
While the elder Affleck sibling has been generating headlines recently over speculation that he wants out of the Batman franchise, it's his younger brother Casey who has been garnering the adulation of the press in recent weeks for his winning run during awards season this year, picking up Best Actor at both the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes for his role in Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea. With another nomination in the same category at the Academy Awards this year, Affleck could well achieve the hat-trick this weekend.
This one won't be a stroll in the park though and there's every chance that Ryan Gosling could ride the wave of nominations scooped up by La La Land to snatch the golden statuette from under Affleck's nose, but this isn't a two-horse race either. Denzel Washington's performance in Fences, which he also directs, makes him a useful outside bet and in a field that also includes excellent performances from Andrew Garfield and Viggo Mortensen in Hacksaw Ridge and Captain Fantastic respectively, it would be unwise for Affleck to make a space in his trophy cabinet just yet.
Once again, the Best Actress category is a very tough call
Just like we said in our preview of this year's BAFTAs, finding yourself up against Meryl Streep at any awards ceremony is about as tough as it gets for any actress, but this year Streep isn't having it all her own way thanks to some outstanding performances from her fellow nominees Emma Stone (La La Land), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Ruth Negga (Loving) and Isabelle Huppert (Elle). It was Stone that came out on top at the BAFTAs this year, delivering an emotional acceptance speech, but she's far from being a shoo-in at the Oscars this year because the competition is very, very tough. If any proof were needed here, consider the absence of Any Adams, a regular fixture in this category in recent years, who finds herself completely overlooked for her role in Arrival.
We picked Natalie Portman for the BAFTAs and were proved wrong, but we wouldn't rule her out here either and the same goes for Isabelle Huppert's powerful turn in Paul Verhoeven's Elle. This really could go any which way and with the odds so tight on each nominee, we're keeping our money in our pockets and sitting this one out.
This year could see the end of the longest winless run in Oscars history
Before Leonardo DiCaprio finally picked up an Oscar at the sixth time of asking last year for his stunning performance in The Revenant, his habit of missing out on the golden statuette had become something of a running joke, even though his tally of five previous nominations without a win was dwarfed by that of Peter O'Toole, who was nominated no fewer than eight times, losing out on every single one of those occasions. But if you think that O'Toole is the unluckiest man ever to don a tuxedo at the Academy Awards, spare a thought for Kevin O'Connell.
If that name sounds unfamiliar, it's probably because the categories he is usually nominated in – namely Sound Mixing and Sound Editing – aren't usually the ones grabbing the headlines. But O'Connell holds the all-time record with a staggering 21 nominations without a win, a run that stretches all the way back to 1984, the year in which he received his first nomination for his work on James L. Brooks' comedy-drama Terms of Endearment.
However, that could all change this year as the veteran sound man is in the frame for Best Sound Mixing, in recognition of his work on Mel Gibson's highly-rated war film Hacksaw Ridge. The film is currently neck-and-neck with Denis Villeneuve's Arrival with most bookmakers, but O'Connell is hotly tipped to finally get his hands on an Oscar this year and it would take a very cold heart indeed to begrudge him a win.
Look out for a continuation of the Jimmy Kimmel / Matt Damon 'feud'
Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel will make his debut as host of this year's ceremony, taking the baton from Chris Rock, which presents the possibility of more comedy antics between Kimmel and Matt Damon. For those who aren't already aware, the pair have been involved a long-running (and entirely fictitious) feud for years now, a spat which began with a running joke on Kimmel's show where the host would apologise to his 'guest' Matt Damon at the end of each episode because they had run out of time, meaning they had to bump his interview slot from the show (even though no such interview had been booked).
Damon saw the funny side and insisted he keep the gag going, which to date has included Damon staging a tantrum on Kimmel's show, sneaking onto the set twice (once hidden under Ben Affleck's suit, then again in disguise as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady), and as the subject of a song written by Kimmel's then-girlfriend Sarah Silverman, entitled 'I'm F***ing Matt Damon'.
Damon served as producer for Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea and since the film is nominated in the Best Picture category, there's a chance that the pair could end up face-to-face once again this Sunday. Kimmel has already sworn to keep Damon off the stage no matter what, but that's unlikely to deter Damon if recent history is anything to go by. For anyone in need of a primer to bring you up to speed on this, check out the video below...