Like every year, I try to outdo my batting average. I’ve been doing this since about 2003, and in that time I’ve gotten an average of about 70% correct, however I did completely strike out last year. This year should be an easier year to predict except for Best Supporting Actress, Best Animated film, Best Documentary, Visual Effects and the Sound categories. And as for the motto of this Oscar season: when in doubt, always bet on La La Land.
What will win: La La Land
What could win: Moonlight
What should win: La La Land
La La Land will likely be the biggest winner of the night, taking home the most Oscars. Hollywood loves the self-congratulatory types of movies about how awesome Hollywood dreams are, and so La La Land has this edge. However, if there is an upset here, it will go to Moonlight. It is possible that recent political turmoil could push the voters in the direction of Moonlight. They could be voting for a more important movie about persecution of outsiders in Moonlight, or they could give it to a film that is safer, and more gentle in tone in La La Land. Both are great films, and I would be happy if either one won. But if I, myself, were to do the voting, I would actually vote for La La Land as I really do believe it to be the best film of the year. It is the film that I responded to on the deepest emotional level.
Who will win: Damien Chazelle for La La Land
Who could win: Barry Jenkins for Moonlight
Who should win: Damien Chazelle for La La Land
Traditionally, this award goes to the director behind the Best Picture winner. There are rare exceptions, such as last year when there was such a lukewarm reception to the Best Picture winner, Spotlight. That’s not the case this year. There is enough love for La La Land to secure this win for Chazelle. This award is something that really should have gone to Chazelle a few years ago for Whiplash, and now the Academy has the opportunity to give him one. I won’t doubt that Barry Jenkins will win this award too one day, but I don’t think this is going to be the year for him.
Best Leading Actor
Who will win: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea
Who could win: Denzel Washington for Fences
Who should win: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea
I think Casey Affleck has given the best performance of the year in Manchester by the Sea. He has won the BAFTA, and the Golden Globe, while Denzel Washington has won SAG. The SAG award counts for more, as traditionally the winner of SAG will win the Oscar. But I am still going to give Affleck more of an edge here. He’s never won before, but Washington has.
Best Leading Actress
Who will win: Emma Stone for La La Land
Who could win: None. It’s a lock.
Who should win: Had she been nominated, Amy Adams for Arrival
This is probably the biggest snub of any category this year, besides the near shut-out of Silence. Amy Adams would probably give Emma Stone a contentious battle for the prize, but Adams wasn’t even nominated for Arrival. She would be the most deserving. Without her in the race, Emma Stone will likely win.
Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight
Who could win: None other. Lock.
Who should win: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight
This is a spectacular performance by Mahershala Ali. It is nuanced, quiet, and attentive to small, subtle details. His is one of many great performances in Moonlight, but perhaps what gave him the only male actor nomination for the film is the fact that the lead character is played by three different actors. They equally are all deserving of the same recognition, but my guess is that when it came time to nominating, the votes for the three actors playing Chiron canceled each other out. As a standalone character played by one actor, it’s easier to recognize Ali’s performance.
Best Supporting Actress
Who will win: Viola Davis for Fences
Who could win: Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea
Who should win: Naomie Harris for Moonlight
One of the biggest Oscar blunders in the past twenty years is failing to give the Oscar to Viola Davis for her short, brief scene in Doubt. It is one of the great performances of the past many decades. She is one of the greatest living actresses, and this is probably going to be her year of winning. There is some controversy that her role in Fences constitutes more of a leading role than a supporting one, but the Academy has always had wonky rules and inconsistencies about what constitutes a leading role. If there is an upset here, it would go to Michelle Williams for her incredibly brief, heart-breaking scene in Manchester by the Sea. My personal pick that I would vote for is Naomie Harris as the crack-addicted mother in Moonlight, who has a tougher job of convincing us to forgive her character after years of pain and neglect. She succeeds.
Best Adapted Screenplay
What will win: Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney for Moonlight
What could win: Eric Heisserer for Arrival
What should win: Eric Heisserer for Arrival
This is where Moonlight will shine. If it won’t win Director and Picture, it will likely take Writing. If it turns out that Moonlight does take the higher echelon awards, then this award might be spread to honor another great movie that may not win a single other award, Arrival. Arrival would get my vote for this category, as it has an incredibly intelligent script, and it is perhaps the most thoughtful science fiction film in many years.
Best Original Screenplay
Who will win: Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea
Who could win: Damien Chazelle for La La Land
Who should win: Taylor Sheridan for Hell or High Water
Of recent years, the writing categories have been the place to honor the smaller, beloved film favorites of the critics. La La Land will most likely sweep the majority of categories, but the Academy will take this opportunity to recognize something else overlooked. This award will likely go to Manchester by the Sea, as it meets all of the criteria that I just outlined. My personal choice would be to honor Taylor Sheridan for Hell or High Water, as I consider that script to be the best written of any film this year. It’s an extremely sharp and perceptive modern Western, but I doubt that the Academy will honor a modern action movie over a small indie drama about grief.
Who will win: Linus Sangren for La La Land
Who could win: James Laxton for Moonlight
Who should win: James Laxton for Moonlight
I still haven’t gotten over the fact that Cinematography is the only category that Silence got a nomination for, but I digress. La La Land will likely take this category, as it is the flashiest and most vibrant of all the nominees. Plus, it has the winning streak momentum. If there is an upset, it will be Moonlight. I would personally vote for Moonlight as it’s cinematography is the most crucial for its particular brand of storytelling. Each act of that movie is extremely color specific to the violets and blues. But La La Land will win, nevertheless.
Best Production Design
What will win: La La Land
What could win: Arrival
What should win: Hail Caesar!
The winning streak will likely continue for La La Land, but if there is an upset, it will go to Arrival. The Academy members will probably be scratching their heads trying to figure out how to honor Arrival, which could quite possibly walk away without a single win. My personal choice would be to honor the Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! which did an extremely good job of recreating Hollywood of the fifties. La La Land also does something akin to that, but lite. I still think it will win because of its winning streak, and because Hail Caesar! commercially bombed at the box office.
Best Makeup/Hair Styling
What will win: Star Trek Beyond
What could win: Suicide Squad Squad
Star Trek Beyond took the handsome thespian, Idris Elba, and turned him into an unrecognizable alien under pounds of makeup. This movie will win. This is a pretty weak field in this category for this year. It’s main competition would be Suicide Squad. But could you possibly imagine the Academy giving an Oscar to Suicide Squad? No. It will go to Star Trek Beyond.
Best Costume Design
Who will win: Madeline Fontaine for Jackie
Who could win: Colleen Atwood for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
I tend to be really terrible in predicting this category, but given how the Academy loves period specific clothing, and given how Jackie Kennedy was known for a very specific sense of style, I am putting my prediction for Jackie. I do not predict La La Land winning in this category, as it does not use period-specific clothing.
Best Visual Effects
What will win: Doctor Strange
What could win: Jungle Book, but don’t discount Rogue One
What should win: Doctor Strange
This is a tough one. I see something of a three-way race in this category. If you were to judge this category on simply what constitutes the greatest visual feast, then hands-down, Doctor Strange should win. But if you are judging this based on how filmmakers could get CGI to look indistinguishable from real-life, then hands-down, The Jungle Book would win. That movie is astonishing for being nearly entirely green-screened. Then again, if you are awarding the movie that is the most innovative, then it would go to Rogue One. That movie went to great lengths to not film in front of green screens, and instead opted to film the actors in front of giant LED screens. This is simply a tough category, but I will predict that Doctor Strange will win because of that visual frenzy.
Best Film Editing
Who will win: Tom Cross for La La Land
Who could win: Jon Gilbert for Hacksaw Ridge, but don’t discount Joi McMillon for Moonlight
Who should win: Tom Cross for La La Land
Best Picture and Best Editing are tied at the waist. When a movie wins Best Film Editing, you can be quite certain that it will win Best Picture as well. Only on extremely rare exception is this not the case. La La Land will win Best Picture and therefore will most certainly win Best Film Editing. If it does not win this category, be prepared to see Moonlight taking Best Picture.
Best Sound Mixing
What will win: Hacksaw Ridge
What could win: La La Land
What should win: Hacksaw Ridge
The sound categories are tough. They both could either go to La La Land, or to Hacksaw Ridge. Then again, they could be split. If there wasn’t this awareness that Kevin O’Connell has been nominated something like twenty times without a single win, then I think that La La Land would take the award without a fight. But Academy voters are becoming aware that Kevin O’Connell is essentially the Roger Deakins of the Sound category. He has never won, and in all fairness should have won plenty of times by now. I am predicting that the sound categories will be split, allowing Kevin O’Connell to win for mixing while the other goes to La La Land. It would be quite odd if a musical that wins Best Picture did not pick up at least one sound category win.
Best Sound Editing
What will win: La La Land
What could win: Hacksaw Ridge
What should win: Hacksaw Ridge
Same reasons as above.
Best Original Score
Who will win: La La Land
Who could win: None other. Lock
Who should win: La La Land
No commentary needed on this one. If a musical is to win Best Picture, you can be pretty sure it will also win Best Original Score.
Best Original Song
Who will win: “City of Stars” from La La Land
Who could win: “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana
Who should win: “Audition: The Fools Who Dream” from La La Land
This is another tough category, which may come as a surprise being that the likely Best Picture winner, La La Land, is a musical filled with original songs. It’s lead song, “City of Stars” is not a sure-victory. First of all, La La Land has two songs nominated. One is the main theme and the other is an extremely brutal, tear-inducing number from the end of the film. The Academy could actually end up splitting the vote between the two and end up with giving the award to Lin Manuel Miranda for his song from Moana. It would give him an EGOT. It’s a tough field, and it would only get harder to choose if the Academy didn’t snub Sing Street.
Best Animated Feature
What will win: Zootopia
What could win: Moana, but don’t discount Kubo
What should win: Zootopia
This is the category that needs the most reforming, as most animated films go unwatched by most Academy members. There is no rule for requiring all Academy voters to see every film, which then has the result of Academy voters voting for the movies that are the most mainstream. Red Turtle doesn’t stand a chance. Neither does My Life as a Zucchini. That only leaves two Disney films and Kubo and the Two Strings. Zootopia has won the most awards with Kubo trailing behind, but Moana fits the type of animated format that has won the most these past few years. Still, I am giving the edge to Zootopia as it is the most critically acclaimed.
Best Documentary Feature
What will win: 13th
What could win: O.J. Made in America
Speaking of categories that need reforming, here is another prime example. I don’t have much faith in the Academy members to watch every film nominated. O.J. Made in America is the most critically acclaimed documentary from last year, but it stands at over seven hours long. I really do not believe that most Academy members will take the time to see it. 13th would be the next likely contender, and director Ava DuVernay has made an incredibly important documentary that explores the historic context of her previous film, Selma. I am predicting that 13th will win over O.J.. The only other thing to consider is the fact that 13th is a Netflix production, and in years past the Academy hasn’t exactly been that welcoming or open to streaming service material. It comes down to what does the Academy hate more: streaming services or long movies?
Best Foreign Language Film
What will win: Toni Erdmann
What could win: The Salesman
And finally, we have probably the most horrendously broken category of them all, the Foreign Language Film. The rules for how a foreign film is submitted is so staggeringly ill-conceived. Over the past few years, the great films from Asia have been just about entirely shut out. We have yet to see a Korean film even be nominated for this award. For the films nominated, Toni Erdmann is the most critically acclaimed in America, but The Salesman is making more headlines due to the recent Iranian travel ban. The director will not attend in protest. On the one hand, it would make a powerful political statement to have The Salesman win, but I think it would also be an awkward moment at the Oscar ceremony, and I don’t think the Academy would take that on. Toni Erdmann will win it.
La La Land- 9 Wins
Moonlight- 2 Wins
Manchester by the Sea-2 Wins
Everything else should win only one at the most