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2017 Oscar Predictions:

February 26, 2017

How many Oscars will La La Land win? Will we see a split between Best Picture and Best Director? Who will win in some tight lead-actor categories?

 

And for serious Oscar geeks: Will either Kevin O’Connell or Greg P. Russell — soundmen who have a combined record of 0-for-36 at previous ceremonies — finally win an Academy Award?

 

 

 

These are just a few storylines to watch heading into the 89th Academy Awards this Sunday, Feb. 26. Expect La La Land to win a la la lot of trophies, but there could be some surprises in store. We’re calling upsets in Best Director, Best Actor, Best Documentary, and Best Original Song, but who knows what else the night could bring? Here are our 2017 Oscar predictions in every category.

 

BEST PICTURE

 

Nominees:
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

 

La La Land tied an Academy Awards record when it scored a whopping 14 nominations, out-Oscaring Gone With the Wind (13) and taking its place in history alongside Titanicand All About Eve. That put to rest any doubt that director Damien Chazelle’s contemporary musical is far and away the Best Picture frontrunner, a status I’ve been sure about since September. There’s plenty else working in its favor beyond nomination domination: It’s an enchanting love letter to Los Angeles, the metropolis where most Oscars voters live and work; it romanticizes the entertainment industry; it reinvigorates a genre long celebrated on the ceremony’s stage; and it features two of Hollywood’s most popular young stars, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

 

Like any film that popular, though, there’s been some inevitable backlash. That leaves open the possibility that something like Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’s quietly stunning coming-of-age drama could squeak out a win. And if there’s any film whose stock has increased since the nominations, it would be the sleeper hit Hidden Figures, which will pass $150 million at the U.S. box office by the time the Oscars air on Sunday and would make a more populist (if conventional) pick. Still, anything topping La La Land would be a major upset.

 

Will win: La La Land
Don’t be surprised by: Moonlight
Dark horse: Hidden Figures

 

BEST DIRECTOR

 

Nominees:
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

 

The five gentlemen nominated for Best Director should be thankful that Alejandro González Iñárritu didn’t make a film last year and is not a threat to three-peat after consecutive wins for Birdman and The Revenant. (PSA: No woman has been nominated in this category since Kathryn Bigelow won in 2010.)

 

Again, this one comes down to La La Land versus Moonlight. Director’s Guild winnerChazelle is the favorite, no doubt, for his highly stylized, resourceful work. But while Best Picture and Best Director Oscars in most years go to the same film (over a 30-year span from 1983-2012, it’s happened 25 times), splits have been a trend of late, occurring in three of the past four years. I could see Jenkins being rewarded here for his stunning work in Moonlight.

 

Will win: Barry Jenkins
Don’t be surprised by: Damien Chazelle

 

BEST ACTRESS

 

Nominees:
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

 

Of the acting races, this is the category with the most possible winners, at four. (Apologies to Loving’s Ruth Negga.) Stone is the favorite for her emotionally charged performance as Mia, the heart and soul of La La Land. But watch out for Elle’s Isabelle Huppert, who pulled off a surprise win at the Golden Globes and could be a sentimental pick. Streep has to be a contender considering Hollywood wouldn’t mind a repeat of her takedown of Donald Trump at the Globes … and also, she’s Meryl Streep, 20-time nominee. Many critics have called Natalie Portman’s performance in Jackie her career best, but she did win only six years ago for Black Swan. That brings us back to Stone, who you could argue is already “due” at the tender age of 28: She should’ve won two years ago for supporting actress in Birdman.

 

Will win: Emma Stone
Don’t be surprised by: Isabelle Huppert
Dark horse: Natalie Portman or Meryl Streep

 

BEST ACTOR

Nominees:
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

It felt like Casey Affleck had this category locked up earlier this awards season for playing the tormented handyman who assumes custody of his wiseacre nephew (Lucas Hedges) in Manchester. But the tide seems to have turned of late. Voters might be hesitant to reward Affleck given attention to sexual harassment allegations lodged against him by female colleagues in 2010. (The cases were settled, and Affleck has denied the claims.) Now a real possibility is Denzel Washington, who won the Screen Actors Guild Award and could win his third Oscar for playing a Pittsburgh sanitation worker in Fences. While Affleck’s performance is understated, Washington’s is explosive. It’s still Affleck’s Oscar to lose, but I’m going with Denzel.

 

Will win: Denzel Washington
Don’t be surprised by: Casey Affleck

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

 

Nominees:
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Of the four acting categories, this one is by far the easiest one to predict. There is next to no doubt Viola Davis will take home her first Academy Award for her fiery performance opposite Washington in Fences. Davis owns the single greatest moment by any actor this year with her tear-soaked “standing with you” rebuttal of her wrongdoing husband. Any other year, and this prize would have to go to Michelle Williams for her gut-wrenching work in Manchester, but the Dawson’s Creek alum will likely be 0-for-4 at the Oscars after Sunday.

 

Will win: Viola Davis
Dark horse: Michelle Williams

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