Oscars 2017 – Final predictions for the 89th Academy Awards

The night is almost upon us. Tomorrow, Hollywood’s brightest and best will pack the Dolby Theater in LA for the Oscars 2017. What looked initially like one of the more open and exciting awards seasons in recent years quickly crystallised into a race pitting runaway favourite La La Land against everyone else. The #OscarsSoWhite rumblings that dogged last year’s ceremony have been largely silenced by the extremely welcome presence of Moonlight, Hidden Figures and Fences as three of the biggest horses in the race to the finish line.

As much as some of the categories seem totally sewn up, there’s still the potential for some major surprises at Oscars 2017. Here are my full predictions for every category…

For more chatter about the race to date and a look ahead to tomorrow’s ceremony, listen to our special Oscars 2017 podcast episode to get yourself in the red carpet mood.

 

Best Picture

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling show off their moves in La La Land
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling show off their moves in La La Land

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

There’s just no escaping the sense of inevitability here. La La Land has been the frontrunner for the entire race and it has picked up the top prize at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, as well as two of the usually reliable and therefore all-important guilds. Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea are both better films, but La La Land is a glossy triumph with the love of cinema at its heart. That’s more than enough to carry it to victory.

 

Best Director

Film director Damien Chazelle pictured in 2014
Film director Damien Chazelle pictured in 2014 (Photo: Isabelle Veronese)

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

This one’s tough to argue with, as far as I’m concerned. Damien Chazelle has, again, always been the frontrunner, but La La Land is certainly an achievement of direction. Chazelle’s camera excels in the extravagant opening musical number and works equally well in the intimate scenes between the two lead performers. There’s an argument to be made for Denis Villeneuve‘s understated work behind the camera of Arrival, but this is the right time to reward Chazelle, two years after Whiplash announced his presence with a crash of cymbals.

 

Best Actor

Casey Affleck is the grief-stricken star of Manchester by the Sea
Casey Affleck is the grief-stricken star of Manchester by the Sea

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

Of all four acting categories, this one is definitely the toughest to call. It’s essentially a two-horse race between Casey Affleck‘s grief-stricken, understated turn in Manchester by the Sea and Denzel Washington‘s verbose, bombastic work in August Wilson adaptation Fences. Affleck was hoovering up momentum like anybody’s business, right up until the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The SAG winner has won the equivalent Best Actor Oscar on the last 12 occasions and, this time around, it was Washington who won. On that basis, Washington could be in for his third Oscar. Affleck’s performance, however, comes with the bonus of being in one of the best films at the ceremony and, in my view, it has a touch more momentum. On the night, though, this one could easily go the other way.

 

Best Actress

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star in musical drama La La Land
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star in musical drama La La Land

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

This is one of the strongest categories at the Oscars 2017, particularly given the high-profile absences of Amy Adams for Arrival and Taraji P Henson for Hidden Figures. Despite that strength, it also feels like a near lock for Emma Stone. She is the anchor at the heart of La La Land and, after years of racking up charming, compelling performances, this feels like the sort of culmination of a journey that will ensure she has the love of the Academy.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali is receiving awards buzz for his work in Moonlight
Mahershala Ali is receiving awards buzz for his work in Moonlight

Nominees: Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Dev Patel (Lion), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
Will Win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Should Win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

This one is another category where the winner has seemingly been decided for months. There’s very little chance that this award is going to anyone other than Mahershala Ali. He only appears in the first third of Moonlight, but his portrayal of a kind-hearted crack dealer reverberates throughout the entire narrative. In a somewhat weak category, Ali’s subtle work is head and shoulders above the rest.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in Fences
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in Fences

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

This is perhaps the most obvious of the acting categories. Viola Davis has dominated the season as a result of her powerhouse performance in Fences, which is showy in all of the best ways and feels heart-breakingly raw and real when it needs to be. My personal preference would be to reward the brief, but hugely significant, work Michelle Williams does in Manchester by the Sea, but there’s no contest for Davis here.

 

Best Original Screenplay

Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck star in Manchester by the Sea
Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck star in Manchester by the Sea

Nominees: Mike Mills (20th Century Women), Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou (The Lobster), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Will Win: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Should Win: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

This is, traditionally, the category where the Academy likes to go a little weird. This is where Quentin Tarantino picks up his prizes and the category memorably rewarded Spike Jonze a few years ago for the wonderful Her. This time around, there’s a chance they just stick with La La Land, but I think this will be a major win for Kenneth Lonergan, whose script for Manchester by the Sea is chilly and cold, with just the right undercurrent of human warmth. I’d be thrilled to see recognition for Taylor Sheridan’s remarkable work in Hell or High Water or even the truly bizarre The Lobster, but neither of those feels as complete and intelligent as Lonergan’s work.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Trevante Rhodes is one of three leading actors in Moonlight
Trevante Rhodes is one of three leading actors in Moonlight

Nominees: Eric Heisserer (Arrival), August Wilson (Fences), Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), Luke Davies (Lion), Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)
Will Win: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)
Should Win: Eric Heisserer (Arrival)

This is the category where Moonlight is going to get its chance. The film has been one of the main competitors at the Oscars 2017 throughout the awards race and so there’s very little chance that it will leave mostly empty-handed. It faces some stiff competition in this category, not least from deserving winner Arrival, but it benefits from the fact that many of its toughest opponents are original screenplays. This one is almost certainly going the way of Barry Jenkins.

 

Best Animated Feature

Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman take on voice roles in Disney's Zootropolis
Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman take on voice roles in Disney’s Zootropolis

Nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootropolis
Will Win: Zootropolis
Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings

There’s some very tight competition in this category. The double Disney big hitters of Zootropolis and Moana have dominated pre-publicity, but there may well be room for the remarkable artistry of Laika’s brilliant Kubo and the Two Strings. Given its political relevance in the age of Trump, it seems likely that Zootropolis will emerge victorious and it’s certainly a worthy winner, even if it isn’t quite as original as Laika’s tale.

 

Best Visual Effects

The Jungle Book has become a massive hit for Disney
The Jungle Book has become a massive hit for Disney

Nominees: Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Will Win: The Jungle Book
Should Win: The Jungle Book

This is an easy one. As much as many of the films on this list showcase very impressive visual effects, it’s predominantly stuff that we have seen before. The gorgeous psychedelia of Doctor Strange certainly merits a mention, but there’s nothing else that can come close to The Jungle Book on this shortlist. Disney’s reinvention of one of their best animated films is an absolute delight, constructing a plausible forest within a computer and plonking a real human right into the centre of it. This is a stunning work of cinema that deserves to be recognised by the Academy.

 

And here are the rest of my predictions…

Best Foreign Language Film: Toni Erdmann
Best Documentary: O.J.: Made in America
Best Original Score: Mica Levi (Jackie)
Best Original Song: City of Stars (La La Land)
Best Sound Editing: La La Land
Best Sound Mixing: La La Land
Best Production Design: La La Land
Best Cinematography: La La Land
Best Film Editing: La La Land
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
Best Costume Design: Jackie

Note: As always, I have abstained from the short film categories.

 

Do you agree with my predictions? Who do you see leaving the Oscars 2017 with statuettes under their arm? Let me know in the comments section and be sure to join us tomorrow night for a live blog and tonnes of coverage of the biggest night in movies.

 

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