2017 Oscar Predictions

When the Academy Award nominations were announced last month they came with their expected favorites and a few upsets that weren't completely unexpected, but hey, you can't please everyone.  Maybe the biggest and most noticeable difference from last year was the lack of a complete whitewashing of the nominees. Of course, that problem went deeper than the Academy and more to the type of films that were being funded and heavily promoted. This year, with the release of Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures, and Lion there were plenty of films with diverse casts that were more than worthy of the nominations they received with Moonlight competing heavily for some of the top prizes. Still, this is an article about what and who I think stand the best chances of taking home a statue Sunday evening and fortunately, there actually seems to be some competition this year. Not only in the two major categories of Best Picture and Best Director, but there are a few cases of "your guess is as good as mine" when it comes to Best Actor with both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor holding potential upsets. The juggernaut of the evening is very clearly La La Land which tied Titanic and All About Eve with the most nominations in Oscar history with a total of fourteen. Will the film break or tie the record of eleven wins this Sunday? My guess is that it will likely tie. The film is a love letter to Hollywood musicals of old a la The Artist and we all know how that year turned out. While I don't believe La La Land will be forgotten or overlooked as The Artist now seems to be despite the La La backlash currently in full swing (I've only seen it once and look forward to seeing it again), I do believe there is a limit to how much Hollywood can congratulate and flatter itself. This points all signs to La La Land as the big winner of the night. Still, there is the current climate of the world to take into consideration at the moment and wins for Moonlight would not only be deserved, but arguably important. La La Land has found a wide audience, it has racked up over $340 million in ticket sales worldwide whereas Moonlight has just pushed past $20 million. I'm not saying Moonlight should win for these reasons, I personally think it's the superior film, but I'm saying that if winning brings Moonlight the wider audience it deserves that certainly wouldn't be a bad thing.

As far as Best Director is concerned I think this will be one of the times that the winner of this prize will also take home the award for Best Picture. This typical expectation has been bucked more times than not lately with splits in 2013, 2014, as well as last year when Alejandro González Iñárritu took the prize for Directing, but Spotlight won Best Picture.While I could certainly see Moonlight taking picture with Damien Chazelle taking Director I don't see it going the other way around. If La La Land wins picture Chazelle seems destined to take Director. With La La Land having won Best Picture from the Producers Guild of America and Chazelle aving picked up the Best Director prize from the Director's Guild it seems Mr. Chazelle as his film will undoubtedly walk away with the two biggest honors of the night making Chazelle the youngest recipient of  the award in Oscar history. Further down the line is the Best Actor race which is the tightest of the night as Denzel Washington's turn in his own film, Fences, has quickly rose to give Casey Affleck's performance in Manchester by the Sea a run for its money. Washington has so far picked up awards from the Screen Actors Guild as well as the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture while Affleck has picked up numerous acting honors including the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role, the Critic's Choice for Best Actor and most notably, the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama. Affleck has had the momentum all awards season and while Manchester by the Sea will also likely deliver writer/director Kenneth Lonergan a Best Original Screenplay win I think the Academy will hand the film one of the more major prizes.

La La Land will dominate in some of the smaller categories including wins for Cinematography (which might arguably be the least worthy with Arrival or Moonlight being my personal favorite), Costume Design (which seems like a joke-Jackie should get recognized in some form and this seems a perfect place to do so), Editing (it's a crime Nocturnal Animals wasn't nominated here, but of those nominated it would again seem Moonlight or even Hell or High Water are more worthy than the front-runner though the editing of La La's climactic moment is certainly grounds for an argument), Production Design (seriously? At least acknowledge Passengers looked gorgeous), and of course Score (again a spot where Jackie or Moonlight might shine, but given the musical facet of La La it seems an easy pick) Song for "City of Stars" (I'm still fuming that Sing Street didn't receive a nom), and likely Sound Mixing. Hacksaw Ridge will pick up its only win of the night in Sound Editing (which I'm fine with) while alternative picture categories such as Best Animated Feature will go to Zootopia (my personal favorite of the year was Moana, but I still need to see The Red Turtle and won't mind if Zootopia does in fact take this one home or was upset by Kubo) Best Documentary Feature going to O.J.: Made in America (tough field this year, but pretty indisputable this achievement should take home the prize), with Iran's The Salesman winning Best Foreign Film (having only seen Toni Erdmann in this category I really can't comment). All of this taken into consideration I've laid my picks for who I think will win more clearly below.

Best Picture

Will Win: La La Land

Could Win: Moonlight

Best Director

Will Win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Could Win: Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Acting

Best Actor

Will Win: Casey Affleck
Could Win: Denzel Washington

Best Actress

Will Win: Emma Stone
Could Win: Natalie Portman

Best Supporting Actor 

Will Win: Mahershala Ali
Could Win: Dev Patel

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Viola Davis
Could Win: No one else

Writing

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Should Win: Eric Heisserer (Arrival)

Original Screenplay

Will Win: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Should Win: Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water

Alternate Picture Categories 

Best Animated Film

Will Win: Zootopia

Best Documentary 

Will Win: O.J.: Made in America

Best Foreign Language Film 

Will Win: The Salesman

Music & Score

Sound Editing

Will Win: Hacksaw Ridge

Original Song:

Will Win: "City of Stars" (La La Land)

Sound Mixing: 

Will Win: La La Land

Original Score: 

Will Win: Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

Technical Categories

Cinematography:

Will Win: La La Land

Production Design:

Will Win: La La Land

Visual Effects:

Will Win: The Jungle Book
 
Editing:

Will Win: La La Land

Costumes:

Will Win: La La Land

Make-Up:

Will Win: Star Trek Beyond 

I have unfortunately not seen any of the Oscar-nominated short films in either the documentary or live-action categories and have only seen Piper (your likely winner) in the animated category. And so, I cannot comment on the odds of what I think is deserving and what is not and having not seen them I have not researched enough to make accurate predictions. I look forward to having the chance to see each of them, but was unable to secure a screener of them and my local indie theater will only begin playing the live action and animated shorts this weekend which is obviously too late for this publication. My apologies, but I hope the above predictions suffice.

The 89th Academy Awards air Sunday night, February 26th at 7 p.m. Eastern on ABC and will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.