2017 Oscar Predictions

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Some of the most fun during the Oscars season comes in the predictions phase. With records tied and broken during nominations morning, the slate of films and talent up for Oscars is as fascinating as it’s been in years. While there is a long wait from the January announcement until the awards in late February, the time in between is actually host to a long set of award ceremonies. Nearly every sphere in the film industry — the Writers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Costume Designers Guild, the American Society of Cinematographers, the Visual Effects Society and more — picks its winners in that period of time, and those picks oftentimes prove to be precursors to the eventual Oscar winners. Taking a look at those winners as well as at the winners at BAFTA — the UK’s version of the Academy Awards — it almost becomes quite easy to see who will win. So, if you’re betting against some friends or in a pool at work and need some advice, check out our predictions for the Oscar winners this Sunday.

Best Picture

Who will win: “La La Land”
Who could win: “Moonlight”
Who should win: “Moonlight”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Nocturnal Animals”

It’s set in stone. Emma Stone. “La La Land” will take home Best Motion Picture of the Year on Feb. 26. The film has won the same award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the Producers Guild of America. The PGA alone is a strong indicator. But with every other accolade, there’s nothing that can stop it. “La La Land,” despite coming under critical derision as of late, is a wondrous film with an unimaginably true heart and cinematic magic on full display.

“Moonlight” has an outside shot. It’s a critical darling and inarguably the most important film of the year. Those aspects give it a string of a chance, but once it lost the ensemble award at Screen Actors Guild, it seemed as if the fire behind its campaign were extinguished. And unfortunately so, as the film has perhaps a more convincing argument for the award. It addresses a specific and underrepresented perspective — the Black queer experience — in such an honest and tender way. And yet, Chiron’s story ends up resonating on a universal scale — we all find parts of ourselves in Chiron, but also grow because of his raw courage. Such a storytelling feat is incomparable, immeasurable and unbounded.

While the Academy’s system nearly prevents 10 nominations in Best Picture — the math of qualifying Best Picture nominees makes it really hard for there to be 10 — it’s always a lot of fun to talk about what film could’ve taken that 10th spot. Many might posit that “Silence,” “Jackie” or “Loving” should be there, and they have reason to do so. But an undeniably inspired nomination would’ve been for Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals.” The film is as sleek and gorgeous as Ford’s fashion lines. But from a purely cinematic standpoint, “Nocturnal Animals” is an astonishing accomplishment, blending genres seamlessly to create a meta-reflection on how storytelling displays and affects human emotions.

Best Director

Who will win: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Who could win: Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Who should win: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Who should’ve been nominated: David Mackenzie, “Hell or High Water”

Damien Chazelle has dominated the pre-Oscar landscape, taking home the best director award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, BAFTA and DGA. At this point, it would be an utter shock if Chazelle loses. His near certain win is not undeserved either. Despite what one may think of the film as a whole, Chazelle’s work in laying out this expansive, magical vision of a colorful world of singing and dancing is beyond impressive.

If anyone were to upset, Barry Jenkins is the guy, and it wouldn’t really be an upset. His achievement is extremely different from Chazelle’s; “Moonlight” is a subtle visionary masterpiece, resonating more and more intensely the more we think about it.

In regard to nominations, the Academy could’ve recognized David Mackenzie for his confident, pulsing vision in “Hell or High Water,” a modern western thriller that shines with themes of brotherhood while also addressing many of the problems — in a nonabrasive and nonargumentative way — of middle America and the South. In its contemplative conclusion, one thinks of masterworks such as “No Country For Old Men,” and that alone is worthy of praise.

Best Lead Actor

Who will win: Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Who could win: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Who should win: Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Who should’ve been nominated: Andrew Garfield, “Silence”

For much of the fall, it looked as though Casey Affleck was set to take home his first Oscar for his subtle yet powerful performance in “Manchester by the Sea.” The critics awarded him in every opportunity that they could. But when Denzel Washington won the SAG for his terrifying turn in “Fences,” the momentum shifted. Since the SAG Awards started in 1995, they’ve predicted about 80 percent of the Best Lead Actor Oscar winners.

Casey Affleck has also slowly been taking a hit in the public eye — and rightfully so — since the surfacing of sexual harassment allegations from his past. That may have tipped SAG voters toward Denzel and may do the same come Oscar night.

As for who missed out, where Garfield was nominated for “Hacksaw Ridge,” there’s a very solid argument to be made that he’s much more impressive, and showcases a wider range of emotion, in Martin Scorsese’s religious epic “Silence.”

Best Lead Actress

Who will win: Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Who could win: Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Who should win: Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Who should’ve been nominated: Viola Davis, “Fences”

Emma Stone has picked up best lead actress awards at SAG and BAFTA, placing her well in front of the rest of the nominees. The brand of “La La Land” gives her chances a huge boost, but regardless, Stone is incredibly impressive in the film many different ways. She balances heart-wrenching dramatic acting, perfect comedic timing and a subtle flair in physicality all while singing and dancing in front of 1 million different colors. While the role had the potential of becoming another overdone, clichéd barista-turned-actress, Stone convinces us of the pains of creativity vulnerability.

The one person that has a slight chance of an upset is Natalie Portman, who won the award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association for her role in “Jackie.” That upset would be well-deserved, as her transformation into the former First Lady is one of the top performances of the year across all categories. Taking on an accent is always difficult, but Portman pulls off Jackie’s very specific and peculiar mid-Atlantic cadence with such gravitas and emotional weight. It’s breathtaking and surreal to watch Portman as she sucks us into the devastating journey of the Kennedy’s loss, legacy and selfhood.

Both Portman and Stone might have had to take back seats if category fraud didn’t occur each year. This year, Viola Davis’ shift to supporting is the latest example. While Davis may not have as much screentime as Denzel, she’s undeniably a lead in “Fences.” Her journey is as thoroughly explored as Troy Maxson’s, and she’s an integral character both in her independence and in her support of every other character. In simple words, she’s the film’s heart. She’s also, quite frankly, the best actor in “Fences.” Her powerhouse scene steals the show, and she would’ve taken home the lead actress award had she been categorized here.

Best Supporting Actor

Who will win: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Who could win: Dev Patel, “Lion”
Who should win: Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”
Who should’ve been nominated: Issey Ogata, “Silence”

Mahershala Ali can start writing his acceptance speech; it might be hard, though, to top his incomparably profound words at SAG. Taking home that award is the biggest indicator of his impending Academy Award win. And his win would be a win that means something. His role in “Moonlight,” as he said at SAG, is one to uplift those who are persecuted. Juan shows acceptance to Chiron, something a young boy exploring his identity can hold close as he grows up.

Dev Patel took home the award at BAFTA, which could be a bump in Ali’s path, but one can write it off as the British awarding the British. Patel’s performance in “Lion,” however, is quite honestly a lead. That much content versus Ali’s short time on screen could be the biggest threat.

Approaching the nominations announcement, many were hoping for a refreshing pick in Japanese actor Issey Ogata’s performance in “Silence.” Reviews have appropriately compared him to Christoph Waltz’ turn in “Inglourious Basterds,” yet less villainizing. We don’t see many East Asians recognized at the Oscars, and Ogata would’ve deserved a nomination.

Best Supporting Actress

Who will win: Viola Davis, “Fences”
Who could win: Nobody else
Who should win: Viola Davis, “Fences”
Who should’ve been nominated: Greta Gerwig, “20th Century Women”

As discussed earlier, Viola Davis is the best actor in “Fences” and would’ve won lead actress had she been submitted in that category. But here she is, sweeping the best supporting actress awards across the Broadcast Film Critics Association, SAG and BAFTA. With that much screentime, it’s hard for many others to compete, and the marketing department of the film knew that. She’ll take home the award this Sunday. Nobody else poses a chance.

While the rest of the field is very solid, the omission of Greta Gerwig is a bit shocking. Her turn in “20th Century Women” as a young woman rebelling against the system and recovering from cancer is electric and alive yet vulnerable and raw. Gerwig convinces us of her character’s truths, of her struggle to find herself, of her difficulty coping with emotional and physical trauma. She should’ve been nominated.

Best Original Screenplay

Who will win: Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Who could win: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Who should win: Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Who should’ve been nominated: Jim Jarmusch, “Paterson”

While the WGA told us nothing about this race as “Moonlight” won its original screenplay award (WGA deemed it original, the Academy deemed it adapted — it was based on an unpublished play, and everyone got confused), Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” script should and most likely will take home the Oscar. The Broadcast Film Critics Association split the award between Lonergan and Chazelle, but BAFTA awarded solely Lonergan, giving him the slight edge. As the year wrapped up, it seemed as though the powerhouse trio at the top were “La La Land,” “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea,” so with the first set to take home picture and director and the second sealing the deal on adapted screenplay, it would make sense for voters to throw some love to “Manchester by the Sea” in the category where it has its greatest argument.

But the goliath of “La La Land” can’t be ignored, and widespread love for the film could carry it to a win here. That win would be a bit disappointing, however. While Chazelle’s script is whip smart, full of heart and hilarious, Lonergan’s exercise on grief — taking a subtle yet immeasurably profound approach to portray a man who’s lost his fight but still holds love and hope — is the stuff of a master.

As far as who should’ve been nominated, the Academy could have taken an interesting turn by recognizing Jim Jarmusch for “Paterson.” While some may watch the film about a normal week in the life of a bus driver/poet and think nothing of it, the true skill it takes to meticulously and poetically write about the blandness of life in a profound way is something that deserves recognition.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who will win: Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Moonlight”
Who could win: Eric Heisserer, “Arrival”
Who should win: Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Moonlight”
Who should’ve been nominated: Tom Ford, “Nocturnal Animals”

As said above, “Moonlight” took home WGA’s Best Original Screenplay award. It’s been gearing up to take home the Academy’s Best Adapted Screenplay award for a while now, but this win is the official stamp. If anything else takes it, it’ll be quite a shock.

Eric Heisserer won WGA’s Best Adapted Screenplay and “Arrival” is the second-most nominated film at the Oscars, tied with “Moonlight,” so the film has an outside shot. But there are a lot of messy things at play here. “Lion” took home the BAFTA in adapted screenplay, but writer Luke Davies is not a WGA writer, so his script was ineligible. Quite obviously, Heisserer didn’t have to go up against “Moonlight” either, so it might be the third best screenplay out of the bunch. Nonetheless, a win for it doesn’t mean nothing, so it can’t be counted out.

In terms of adapting, Tom Ford’s job of turning the novel “Tony and Susan” into “Nocturnal Animals” is stunning. The layers of story and character seem too gargantuan for an adaptation, and the fact that Ford was able to make it all work in a laser focused script is nothing short of spectacular. Such work would’ve been a bit more inspired than some of the choices in this category.

Best Animated Feature

Who will win: “Zootopia”
Who could win: “Kubo and the Two Strings”
Who should win: “The Red Turtle”
Who should’ve been nominated: They got it right

Best Animated Feature, compared to last year, is an incredibly strong field. “Zootopia,” “Moana” and “Kubo and the Two Strings” could all have won in past years, but now find themselves battling out in a fascinating race. After its win at the PGA awards, “Zootopia” seems to be the frontrunner right now. But the Academy has strayed quite a bit from PGA’s picks, most notably when it failed to even nominate “The LEGO Movie” (we’re still hurting from that). “Kubo and the Two Strings,” however, won the award at BAFTA, giving it a little push. Right now, it still seems as though “Zootopia” is the one to beat as it has the racism subtext as part of its campaign narrative. But it wouldn’t be that surprising if “Kubo and the Two Strings” or even “Moana” took home the Oscar.

The battle between those three gets even more interesting when considering the fact that Dutch filmmaker Michaël Dudok de Wit’s “The Red Turtle” is the best of the bunch. The film was never going to win the award; a small, hand drawn movie without dialogue was never going to get the widespread viewership that a Disney film always will get. But “The Red Turtle,” despite the others offering significant and impactful layers to their stories, is visually breathtaking, allowing pure image to create what feels like one of the most tender, honest and true explorations of life in any film this year.

Best Documentary Feature

Who will win: “O.J.: Made in America”
Who could win: “13th”
Who should win: “O.J.: Made in America”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Weiner”

Best Foreign Feature

Who will win: “The Salesman”
Who could win: “Toni Erdmann”
Who should win: “The Salesman”
Who should’ve been nominated: “The Handmaiden”

Best Cinematography

Who will win: Linus Sandgren, “La La Land”
Who could win: Greig Fraser, “Lion”
Who should win: Bradford Young, “Arrival”
Who should’ve been nominated: Seamus McGarvey, “Nocturnal Animals”

Best Film Editing

Who will win: “La La Land”
Who could win: “Arrival”
Who should win: “La La Land”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Production Design

Who will win: “La La Land”
Who could win: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
Who should win: “Arrival”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Best Costume Design

Who will win: “La La Land”
Who could win: “Jackie”
Who should win: “Jackie”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Silence”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Who will win: “Star Trek Beyond”
Who could win: “Suicide Squad”
Who should win: “Star Trek Beyond”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Hail, Caesar!”

Best Original Score

Who will win: Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land”
Who could win: Mica Levi, “Jackie”
Who should win: Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land”
Who should’ve been nominated: Laurent Perez Del Mar, “The Red Turtle”

Best Original Song

Who will win: “City of Stars,” “La La Land”
Who could win: “How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”
Who should win: “Audition,” “La La Land”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Montage,” “Swiss Army Man”

Best Sound Editing

Who will win: “Hacksaw Ridge”
Who could win: “Arrival”
Who should win: “Arrival”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Best Sound Mixing

Who will win: “La La Land”
Who could win: “Hacksaw Ridge”
Who should win: “La La Land”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Deepwater Horizon”

Best Visual Effects

Who will win: “The Jungle Book”
Who could win: “Deepwater Horizon”
Who should win: “The Jungle Book”
Who should’ve been nominated: “Arrival”

Kyle Kizu is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Tweet him at @kyle_kizu.