Penn’s sure-fire Oscar picks

By on February 22, 2017
Penn Ketchum of Penn Cinema predicts that “La La Land” will sweep the Oscars this year. The film, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, has received 14 nominations. (Black Label Media)

Penn Ketchum of Penn Cinema predicts that “La La Land” will sweep the Oscars this year. The film, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, has received 14 nominations. (Black Label Media)


Well, well, well. Here we are. It’s February 2017, and we are but days away from the 2017 Oscars. The ceremony itself is on Feb. 26; coverage begins at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, with the ceremony taking place in Los Angeles. The Oscars are, of course, always held in L.A., but the locale seems especially fitting this year given the high profile of “La La Land,” so let’s start there.

“La La Land” has already made headlines by securing a ridiculous 14 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Actor, Actress and so on. Basically all the cool ones. For some perspective, “Titanic” also got 14 nominations and went on to win 11 of them. There’s no doubt in Hollywood that “buzz counts” and there’s no doubt that “La La Land” has buzz. Lots of it.

With that being said… I predict “La La Land” will win Best Picture. It will also win a bunch of other awards including Best Director. But, alas, I do not think Ryan Gosling or Emma Stone will go home with the little golden man. “La La Land” is a juggernaut, no doubt, but there are some Hollywood debts to be paid and talents to be noted.

Ryan Gosling will get a bunch of votes based, if nothing more, on his incredible craft. What I mean by “craft” is the skills that he reportedly learned insane piano and dance skills “just for this role” (reminds me of what people were saying about Leo last year… “what he did to prepare for his role in “The Revenant.” What, did he like wrestle a bear or something? Anyway, what we do know is that he went on to win. So that will get him some votes. But my boy Casey Affleck will, I bet, take the win for Best Actor. Casey has been great forever. I first really took notice of his roles in the Ocean’s 11 franchise. His bickering brother routine was perfect. With his now “accomplished” brother, Ben, and Casey’s many “serious” credits to his name, Casey’s role in “Manchester By The Sea” will likely get him into the club this year. Again, there was a lot of buzz about his acting in this film. I’m telling you… buzz.

And while Emma Stone was great in “La La Land,” and certainly worthy of the Best Actress nom, she will be hard pressed to beat out Natalie Portman for her role in “Jackie.” But even Natalie, could get beaten out by Ruth Negga. Never heard of Ruth? Me neither. But she was the leading actress in “Loving,” and although “Loving” got no love at the box office, it got a lot of love in Hollywood and it is generally agreed that the film and the cast, were incredible — it just happened that nobody really wanted to shell out $12 to see a challenging film with no “stars” in it. Don’t try to tell me Joel Egerton is a “star.” Not yet he’s not. Anyway, my prediction is Natalie Portman for Best Actress, but Ruth could be a surprise winner.

Natalie Portman embodies "Jackie," and could win Best Actress this year.

Natalie Portman embodies “Jackie,” and could win Best Actress this year.

Viola Davis is a lock for Best Supporting Actress, while Mahershala Ali will duke it out with Dev Patel for Best Supporting Actor. Ali has the buzz for his role in “Moonlight,” but Patel has the love in Hollywood. I think this one is too close to call.

Best Director (or, “ahem, as they say “Best Achievement in Directing” lest they hurt anyone’s feelings) will, in my opinion, go in a landslide to Damien Chazelle. And not just because it’s fun to say his name. Damien wrote and directed “La La Land,” and also “Whiplash.” Hollywood has allowed Mel Gibson to come back into the mainstream with “Hacksaw Ridge,” but they won’t vote for him just yet. Barry Jenkins has a ton of buzz for “Moonlight,” but, again, I don’t think he can stand up against the “La La Land” love. So my pick here is Damien Chazelle for Best Director for “La La Land.” (Freebie pick: he’ll also get Best Writer, since his is an Original Screenplay and so they can vote for him and then vote for Barry Jenkins” Best Adapted Screenplay, so there’s two more picks for ya!

“La La Land” will win all the music awards. I’ll bet it will even win some awards it wasn’t even nominated for. And as for the rest of the ballot, any film having to do with immigration, refugees, or children will win their respective short film, documentaries, etc. categories. And all the rest of the Awards are pretty hard to pick so… you know, pick someone you like or someone with a cool name.

The Academy has promised entertainment, passion, and fun. Obviously, this year will be an exceptionally politically charged ceremony. I really just hope for two things: one, I hope the people who say political stuff are actually smart. I hope they have something intelligent to contribute to the country’s conversation and don’t just stand there saying “now more than ever” or whatever. Be passionate, be specific, have something to say! And two, I hope we get to see the real, raw emotion from someone who is caught completely off guard by their win (like for example, it’d be great if I was wrong and Isabelle Huppert wins for her role in “Elle”). I hope they cry and laugh and go crazy. They’re my favorite. They’re why I watch. They’re what make us all feel the human connection.

And if I can’t have either of those, I hope at least someone trips falling up the steps.

Penn Ketchum is a partner with Penn Cinemas, with locations in Lititz and Wilmington, Del. Visit


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