Image Credit: ESPN Images
The Silver Lining is back with a look at Florida Gators basketball in Year 2 under head coach Mike White and the 89th Academy Awards set for Sunday night.
What a difference a year makes
Exactly one year ago, in a Silver Lining column listing my Oscars picks and predictions, I wrote about how Gators basketball’s late-season collapse has fans feeling a sense of déjà vu as they had just gone through something strikingly similar a few months earlier with the football program.
Whereas on Feb. 3 last year Florida was firmly in the NCAA Tournament after posting a combined 175 points in consecutive wins over West Virginia and Arkansas, the Gators lost five of their next seven games last February and closed the regular season by dropping six of their last nine. UF then fell in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, ensuring that at 19-14 it would miss the NCAA Tournament, which remained out of reach for the entire career of head coach Mike White.
One year later, a lot has changed for the Gators. While Florida did closed February 2017 with a tough loss at Kentucky, it went 7-0 otherwise and won nine straight games overall, its longest streak since the incredible 2013-14 Final Four season.
The Gators were in the NCAA Tournament at the beginning of the month and only strengthened their resume throughout, annihilating opponents that couldn’t match up and wrecking Kentucky by 22 at home before falling by 10 in Rupp Arena on Saturday. For the first time in his career, White does not need to focus on whether his team will enter the Big Dance but rather what seed it will get and where it will play.
Florida has played so well and been so impressive to this point that many expect the Gators to start out close to home in Orlando, Florida, likely as a No. 3 or No. 4 seed. Before they get the March Madness, though, there are a couple more games to tackle.
Florida has Arkansas on Wednesday at home before hitting the road to take on Vanderbilt, its worst loss of the season, next Saturday in the SEC regular-season finale. Up next is the SEC Tournament, where the Gators will have an opportunity to capture a league crown after one was likely yanked away by the Wildcats in Rupp Arena.
Though Florida has proven to arguably be the best team in the SEC, the remainder of its slate will not be easy with the Gators down one starter while their second-leading scorer has been completely ineffective while playing two games while recovering from a sprained ankle. Florida also saw one reserve pushed out of action for at least two weeks with a foot injury, while another who was blossoming as the season went on got dealt a major setback with a nagging viral infection that has him playing as a shell of his former self.
With the way White has coached the Gators this season — an SEC Coach of the Year nod is almost assuredly in his future, and a national award may not be far behind depending on UF’s close — Saturday’s loss may very well be the kick-in-the-ass moment he needed to get Florida back humming along again. The team has dealt with a rough schedule over the last few weeks but now has two full preparation periods as it tries to close out the regular season on a high note.
Not Only Gators: My picks and predictions for the 89th Academy Awards
The Oscars are set for Sunday, which means it is time for me to share my picks (if I had a vote) and predictions (what I think will win) for the most important awards that will be handed out. Though I am far from a professional film critic, I am an avid movie buff and have watched and dissected every film nominated for the awards below.
For context, you will also find my record in picking and predicting such categories over the last four years, the last two of which were published here on OnlyGators.com. The prior two years were published on my now-inactive-but-still-public Tumblr page. Remember: The picks are opinion; the predictions are what matters.
2016 picks record: 8-1 | Predictions record: 7-2
All-time picks record: 29-7 | Predictions record: 29-7
Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight
Pick: Moonlight | Prediction: La La Land
Pick record: 4-0 | Prediction record: 3-1
For the last two years, there was no obvious winner for Best Picture. That is not the case in 2017. Moonlight was the greatest film-making accomplishment of the year, but those actually voting for the award are obsessed with the combination of acting, directing, cinematography, editing, score, costume design, set design, etc. achieved by La La Land. And I’ll admit, it was a good film, even if not my particular cup of tea. I found Manchester by the Sea to be vastly overrated and both Lion and Hacksaw Ridge to be underrated, while Arrival, Hell or High Water and Hidden Figures were films that may have been able to win this award in different years. With Spotlight beating out The Revenant last year, there is some hope for Moonlight, but La La Land is probably too much to overcome.
Actor – in a Leading Role
Nominees: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)
Pick: Denzel Washington (Fences) | Prediction: Denzel Washington (Fences)
Pick record: 4-0 | Prediction record: 4-0
Affleck is getting a lot of love here, but for me, this is between Washington and Garfield, who I do not believe is getting near enough credit for thriving in a difficult role. If you saw Fences, you understand why Washington is winning this award. He was tremendous flipping his emotions from one second to the next, and the entire film revolves around his performance. If he does win, Washington will become one of seven actors with three or more Oscars in his career. Will the undefeated streak live on?
Actress – in a Leading Role
Nominees: Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Pick: Emma Stone (La La Land) | Prediction: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Pick record: 2-2 | Prediction record: 4-0
Like Brie Larson a year ago, Stone is the latest under-30 actress ready to have her moment. And she deserves it. Huppert was supposedly tremendous in Elle, but since I didn’t see it, my pick can only be based on experience. Gosling could have been replaced in La La Land, but I’m not sure the film works without Stone.
Actor – in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Dev Patel (Lion), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
Pick: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) | Prediction: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Pick record: 2-2 | Prediction record: 2-2
There’s a lot of smoke that Patel could take this, but for me, the award is a battle between Ali and Bridges. Ali’s performance in Moonlight was raw, so much so that it set up the entire film even though he was only in a third of it. The opposite was the case for Lion, where the best hour of the film was the one without Patel on screen. Don’t get me wrong, Patel did a great job — if you don’t cry hard over the movie’s final scenes, you have no heart — but I don’t see him beating out Ali here. Bridges was fantastic in Hell or High Water, but his character was simply not as “important” as the others. Ali should be one of the locks of the night.
Actress – in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Pick: Viola Davis (Fences) | Prediction: Viola Davis (Fences)
Pick record: 3-1 | Prediction record: 4-0
Speaking of locks … hello, Viola. As tremendous as Washington was in Fences, his performance doesn’t ring nearly as true without Davis to play off. She expressed a true vulnerability throughout the film, and when it was her time to shine in the climax, Davis absolutely stole the show. Runner-up for me is Spencer, while Kidman just did not have a large or important enough role to win here.
Nominees: Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Pick: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight | Prediction: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Pick record: 3-1 | Prediction record: 2-2
Jenkins is deserving here, particularly as I feel both Moonlight is going to fall short of a lot of honors it could have brought home in another year. Where Chazelle stands out is that the entire film was his creation, and if you’re going to pick that film to win Best Picture, how can you not choose the director as well? Some may vote for Lonergan, but I think honors for Manchester by the Sea manifest themselves in a different way (see below). Therefore, my pick and prediction stick with my Best Picture calls.
Nominees: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence
Pick: La La Land | Prediction: La La Land
Pick record: 4-0 | Prediction record: 4-0
As you can see, I’ve had no issues picking this category correct over the years, but I’m truly conflicted this time around. Moonlight was tough, gritty and visually compelling. Arrival held your attention throughout with its visual elements and processes, but most of that occurred purely in the alien spaceship. Lion helped viewers achieve a deeper and more profound understanding of India through tremendous visual storytelling. La La Land just checks too many of the academy’s boxes to be ignored here, and I understand why, but it was tough for me to pick it over Moonlight and Lion. Let’s go 10-for-10 all-time.
Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight
Pick: Moonlight | Prediction: Moonlight
Pick record: 3-1 | Prediction record: 4-0
Here’s the strange thing: Moonlight has already won multiple awards for original screenplay, yet it is in the adapted category here. Why? It was indeed adapted … from a stage play that never ran. While fantastic, Fences felt like a play throughout with basically four scenes in the entire movie … so the adaptation there was minimal. With Moonlight potentially falling short for Best Picture, this is where it picks up a well-deserved honor.
Writing – Original Screenplay
Nominees: Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, 20th Century Women
Pick: Manchester by the Sea | Prediction: Manchester by the Sea
Pick record: 4-0 | Prediction record: 2-2
Hell or High Water will be overlooked, and The Lobster was a bit too far out there for most folks, which leaves this between Manchester by the Sea and La La Land. Get ready because La La Land is going to absolutely clean up at the Oscars, potentially this category included. Ultimately though, I think the academy will use this spot to give Manchester by the Sea the loves it supposedly deserves. If you can’t tell already, I think it’s vastly overrated as a film, but the script appeared to be a damn good one.
This Week’s Movie Trailer
The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…
Best Picture winners, 2012-16, ranked:
3. 12 Years a Slave
5. The Artist
Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below.