Awards season is winding down, and it’s almost time for the mother of all awards ceremonies: The Oscars.
The 89th Annual Academy Awards airs on Sunday, Feb. 26, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET with red-carpet coverage. If we’re to gauge this year’s big potential winners by examining the Golden Globe victors, it looks like musical La La Land will be taking all the top honours.
It’s fairly well-known in the industry that the Globes often choose unexpected winners, so it’s not an airtight guarantee that those who won earlier this year will win again.
Who knows? It could be indie favourite Moonlight taking home the statues, or maybe the Viola Davis-Denzel Washington film Fences will surprise everyone. It’s time to think like an Academy Award voter (but here’s an insider tip: when you’re unsure, just tick the La La Land box).
Here are my picks for winners in the major categories, each with a short explanation below the choice.
** DISCLAIMER: Don’t email with rage if you lose your office pool because of me. Feel free, however, to disparage me on Twitter if you must. **
Hell or High Water
*** WINNER: La La Land
Manchester By the Sea
Why: As hard as it is to select the winner from nine nominees, it’s a fairly safe bet to pick La La Land. Its closest competition is Moonlight, which secured the Golden Globe for Best Drama. Now in the same category, the two movies are up against each other fairly evenly. The only reason La La Land has the edge is because of its subject matter: Hollywoodites love nothing more than movies about themselves and their struggle, even if the film is about two beautiful white people trying to “make it.” If the Academy truly wants to break from its stodgy tradition, then look for a Moonlight surprise victory.
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Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
*** WINNER: Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Why: Late last year, it seemed like Portman was a shoo-in for her depiction of Jackie Kennedy, but that hype has dissipated, replaced instead by what seems like Stone’s inevitable win. Stone’s playful, adorable shtick on press tours and in interviews has overshadowed Portman’s dour, dark depiction. Also, Portman has already won the Best Actress statue in the past, while Stone has paid her dues (and received a Best Suppoting Actress nomination) for her work in Birdman, but has never tasted victory. This is her year.
*** WINNER: Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences
Why: In a perfect world we’d see the Oscar go to Gosling, but in light of all of the other nominees’ heavy performances, his seems like a walk (or dance) in the park in comparison. Despite swirling controversy about Affleck’s alleged sexual harassment charges, it has barely made a dent in his momentum. Undoubtedly, his performance in Manchester is stellar, and why would the Academy start punishing actors for their personal lives at this moment in time?
There could be an upset by Washington, who is outstanding in Fences, but this would be his third Oscar win, something you don’t often see — not that he doesn’t deserve it.
Best Supporting Actress
*** WINNER: Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester By the Sea
Why: Davis is such a tour de force, this one’s almost a certainty. Prepare yourself for a killer acceptance speech. There may be tears.
Best Supporting Actor
*** WINNER: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester By the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Why: As with Davis, Ali is almost a certain victor. It’s not that the competition isn’t worthy (especially Patel in Lion and Shannon in Nocturnal Animals), but Moonlight struck a chord with audiences, and people have been raving about Ali’s performance for months.
Arrival, Denis Villeneuve
Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson
*** WINNER: La La Land, Damien Chazelle
Manchester By the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins
Why: This is a very, very interesting category. As with other big awards, it’s pretty much a toss-up between Chazelle for La La Land and Jenkins for Moonlight. It all depends on which way the Academy chooses to go. Most likely, it won’t venture into Gibson-winning territory, and Canadian Villeneuve’s Arrival has seen detractors suck out some of its juice. Lonergan, beloved by the Academy, stands an outside chance, but the two beasts to beat loom too large.
Foreign Language Film
Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
*** WINNER: The Salesman
Why: This is a tough category to predict, but The Salesman received a little publicity boost when the film’s director, Asghar Farhadi, decided he wouldn’t be attending this year’s Oscars after U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial “travel ban.” If the Academy chooses to sidestep controversy, then Toni Erdmann is the second choice.
*** WINNER: Moonlight
Why: A stacked category filled with outstanding films, all of them stand a chance at victory. Moonlight has the slight advantage with its visceral, sumptuous feeling, translated masterfully to the screen by director Barry Jenkins.
Hell or High Water
La La Land
*** WINNER: Manchester By the Sea
20th Century Women
Why: Wait — not La La Land? Nope. It may be a lighthearted, fun musical, but really, the story doesn’t go beyond the bounds of Hollywood. Manchester, by contrast, is a stark, heart-wrenching tale, brought to life by a brilliant script. It’ll win this award, but not many others.
Animated Feature Film
Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
*** WINNER: Zootopia
Why: A fun, smart animated film about many different species of animals functioning together in society, Zootopia is just as much a commentary about humanity. While Kubo and Moana have received accolades, neither of them has the box-office or popular momentum to take home the award.
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
*** WINNER: O.J.: Made in America
Why: As much as I want to predict 13th as the winner (seriously, it was probably one of the most mind-changing documentaries ever made), O.J. is a cinematic beast, with almost eight solid hours dedicated to the O.J. Simpson trial. The doc, which presented never-before-seen info and footage about the case, was addictive, and fed into the current true-crime craze consuming TV. The sheer volume of work involved makes this the winner. It would be a lovely surprise to see a double-winner here, but we all know how rare that is.
“Audition,” La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls
*** WINNER: “City of Stars,” La La Land
“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
Why: In a year of generally unmemorable movie songs, City of Stars has the most appeal. It doesn’t help that Can’t Stop the Feeling was voted worst song of the year by Time magazine, and How Far I’ll Go is far too similar to previous Oscar winner Let It Go from Frozen. City of Stars isn’t exactly something you’d hum to yourself while walking to work, but it seems appropriate that the musical winning most of this year’s Oscars would have the winning song.
The 89th Annual Academy Awards will be broadcast live on Feb. 26, 2017 starting at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.