Can rightful winner Moonlight take out Gosling in Oscars?
IT'S always going to be a tough year for an Oscars lover when one of the Best Picture nominees offers Hollywood the chance to vote on itself.
There is nothing Hollywood loves more than Hollywood, leaving La La Land as the odds-on favourite to win.
The gloves are off in this office as musical-loving Charlotte roots for two hours and eight minutes of Hollywood homages, while I'm holding out for a major upset like last year when Spotlight pipped The Revenant at the post despite all the best predictions.
You couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I tucked into some slightly-warm and completely-dreadful strawberry champers somebody dragged out for the big moment.
While this year I hope the bubbles are better quality, I'm holding out for a repeat experience.
So without further ado, here's my take on what's what in the major categories at the 89th Academy Awards.
One of the better alien contact films I've seen over the years, but I've never been a huge fan of the genre.
I am, however, a bit of a language nerd, so it held some appeal on that level.
Add that to the beautifully crafted screenplay and some stunning cinematography and it seems you really can end up with an intelligent production that still holds some mass appeal.
That's a pretty fine line to walk and I'd like to see this one pick up a gong or two, just not Best Picture.
My annual Oscars buddy Adam reckons it deserves the Best Picture, but doesn't reckon it'll get it.
If there is one thing it definitely deserves though, it will be the Best Adapted Screenplay.
It took years for someone to be able to turn a heavy, thinking person's story into something you could expect to make more than a few bucks at the box office and the results were marvellous.
This one is very much a play turned into a movie, but somehow it doesn't detract.
Denzel Washington is so comfortable in a role that allows him to rail against the world and just about everything in it.
Viola Davis is the perfect foil to his grumpy, disillusioned old man and is my pick for Best Supporting Actress.
Fences ticks plenty of Oscars boxes and is a deserving nominee, but it will likely be outclassed in the Best Picture category, just hopefully not by La La Land.
Gross, gory and action-packed isn't what tends to come to mind when you think of a story about a conscientious objector during the Second World War, but director Mel Gibson managed it.
There were certainly moments where I had to avert my eyes, and other times where it felt a little like I was watching a 90s action film (who doesn't love those?), but there is no denying Hacksaw Ridge is rightfully among the Best Picture nominees.
Andrew Garfield perfectly conveys the hokey, stubborn young man who fought the US Army to be able to head to the front line as a medic without a gun and could well be a sleeper for Best Actor.
It would be a pretty tough race up against Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington, but I wouldn't be disappointed (and I refuse to add that guy from La La Land to this sentence).
HELL OR HIGH WATER
This one's a bit of an onion.
On the surface it's a classic genre film well worth a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, but go a little deeper and you have a fascinating look at issues of masculinity, race, class, crime punishment and family.
I'm a sucker for a Jeff Bridges film and this one didn't disappoint, but I'm pretty sure it's the least likely out of the nine Best Picture nominees to actually nab top spot.
It's pretty darn rare in Oscars World for a genre movie to win anything too significant, so I'll pretty much discount it off the bat.
Having said that, you won't regret watching it.
This one came with very high recommendations, but ultimately when I watched it, it seemed just a little too fluffy to be in serious contention.
While the American civil rights movement in the context of some of the smartest women in the world at the time was some pretty hefty material to work with, it all felt a little bit twee.
I didn't see much in the way of incredible acting, directing or screenplay even though I enjoyed the film immensely.
If it's in serious contention with any main category it would be Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Octavia Spencer's performance, but apart from a few brief and shining moments, I'm not sure she earned it.
LA LA LAND
It picked up a slew of Golden Globes including all the major categories and is absolutely the front runner for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, among others.
The only problem is I strenuously disagree.
The first thing my Oscars buddy Adam asked when we got out of the cinema after watching it was "Do you think it's worthy of Best Picture?" and I didn't even have to think before making a negative reply.
Ryan Gosling spent two hours and eight minutes being Ryan Gosling and the story wasn't that fantastic or original (Charlotte is going to kill me for this).
I could handle it winning best song and best cinematography as it was a wonderful toe-tapper that was beautifully shot, but none of the other majors.
I could even handle Emma Stone picking up Best Actress if I had to, but honestly how could you compare her to Natalie Portman's Jackie Onassis?
It was a wonderful film, but I just don't get the hype.
I'm rooting for the home crowd here.
While I think Lion could have gone a little deeper, I would still rather see it pick up the top gong over La La Land.
It was a beautifully adapted screenplay and the acting was wonderful.
I'm married to a drama teacher who is a complete accent snob and we both gave Dev Patel's Aussie accent the thumbs up.
The story was gripping, the cinematography on point and there wasn't a dry eye in the house at the end.
Even if all it nabs is Best Supporting Actor I'll still be stoked.
Nicole Kidman is also up for Best Supporting Actress on this one, but I think she'll rightly be outclassed by Viola Davis
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
I have mixed feelings about this one.
It took some time to warm up to Casey Affleck's surly character and the story was rather slow-moving, but by the end I was riveted.
It was impeccable performances all 'round coupled with solid cinematography, but I wouldn't want to see it win Best Original Screenplay because I think they could have moved it along a little more smoothly through the first half.
Michelle Williams pulled off enough ugly crying to be a serious contender for Best Supporting Actress, but then so did all the other contenders for that gong, come to think of it.
And if Casey Affleck doesn't beat Ryan Gosling I may have to re-think my Oscars addiction and find a new hobby, like crochet or ugly crying so I can be in contention for a supporting actress award.
This is probably my number one pick for Best Picture, even though I still hold out hopes elsewhere.
It pretty much ticks every Oscars box except for the one where Hollywood loves itself.
Not much could be further from the glitz and glam of Hollywood than this film, which deals with the gritty subject of a gay black man trying to find his place in a world that refuses to accept his blackness or his gayness.
Phew. Heady stuff.
But instead of coming across as a complete pity party, you would have to be pretty stone-hearted not to find it truly inspiring.
Couple it with the incredible cinematography and a score I would love to see pick up an award of its own and you've got an absolute masterpiece worthy of Best Picture.
Unfortunately, while all our Best Supporting Actress nominees this year can be found in Best Picture-nominated films, the Best Actress field is another matter, so we'll have to deal with it separately in its own way or the Oscars'll be over before we get to the end.
We've already talked about Emma Stone's chances of following up her Golden Globes Best Actress with an Academy Award and my general lack of enthusiasm for the idea.
Moving on to other nominees, we're looking at Isabelle Huppert for Elle, Ruth Negga for Loving, Natalie Portman for Jackie and Oscars darling Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins.
It would be easy to just guess it would be Meryl Streep, but this year she has some strong competition.
Isabelle Huppert's performance as a powerful career woman fighting back against an unknown stalker and assailant was a stunner and it was hard to fault Natalie Portman's performance as Jackie Onassis.
Ruth Negga was wonderful in Loving, but I think her performance didn't quite have the range shown by some of the other nominees.
If I had to put my money on any of them, it would be Portman.