2017 Academy Awards predictions: Who should win & who will win

2017 Academy Awards predictions: Who should win & who will win

  Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios/Lionsgate/A24, used with permission.

Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios/Lionsgate/A24, used with permission.

Better late than never.  With the 89th Academy Awards just hours away, here are the obligatory predictions for who will go home with Oscar gold this weekend. 
 
The 89th Academy Awards air live on ABC tonight, 5:30 p.m. PT. 

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“A Man Called Ove" 
“Star Trek Beyond" 
“Suicide Squad" 
 
Should win: “Star Trek Beyond" 
Will win: “Star Trek Beyond" 
 
Well, the only real memorable aspect of the third "Star Trek" film is the makeup – especially with its large cast of alien characters. "Suicide" has no legitimate claim on the award and "Ove" was a stretch even get a nomination.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN

“Allied” 
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" 
“Florence Foster Jenkins" 
“Jackie" 
“La La Land" 
 
Should win: “Jackie" 
Will win: “Jackie" 
 
Knee-jerk reaction says the 1940s era "Fantastic Beasts" should be a lock for this award – but give the edge to the period drama with a stronger dramatic core.


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

“Deepwater Horizon" 
“Doctor Strange” 
“The Jungle Book” 
“Kubo and the Two Strings” 
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” 
 
Should win: “Kubo and the Two Strings” 
Will win: “The Jungle Book” 
 
"Kubo" is a brilliant achievement of visual effects animation – but the seamless melding of live action and CGI makes "The Jungle Book" the likely winner. 


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

“Arrival” 
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” 
“Hail, Caesar!” 
“La La Land” 
“Passengers” 
 
Should win: “La La Land” 
Will win: “La La Land” 
 
About the only thing either "Caesar" or "Passengers" did right is production design. "Arrival" and "Fantastic Beasts" get credit for creative design. But "La La Land" deserves the award for injecting a vibrant palette on what could have been a mundane and dreary Los Angeles backdrop.


BEST SOUND EDITING

“Arrival” 
“Deep Water Horizon” 
“Hacksaw Ridge” 
“La La Land” 
“Sully” 
 
Should win: “Hacksaw Ridge” 
Will win: “Hacksaw Ridge” 
 
War is hell – and "Hacksaw" drops the audience in the middle of grisly World War II combat. It is a sheer cacophony of bullets, explosions and chaos.


BEST SOUND MIXING

“Arrival” 
“Hacksaw Ridge" 
“La La Land" 
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” 
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” 
 
Should win: “La La Land" 
Will win: “La La Land" 
 
"Hacksaw" has a good claim on this award – but the rousing musical set against a jazz-infused backdrop will win out.


BEST DOCUMENTARY - SHORT SUBJECT

"Extremis"
"4.1 Miles"
"Joe's Violin"
"Watani: My Homeland"
"The White Helmets"

Should win: “The White Helmets" 
Will win: “The White Helmets" 
 
Powerful and harrowing, "The White Helmets" follows a crew of first responders in Syria risking their lives to save the innocent victims of violent airstrikes - knowing full well the daily bombardment can kill them or their own families. It is also streaming on Netflix right now - so see it ASAP.


BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

“Blind Vaysha” 
“Borrowed Time” 
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes” 
“Pearl” 
“Piper” 
 
Should win: “Pearl” 
Will win: “Piper” 
 
Ugh. Welp, once again the "cute" animal-centric short will beat a much more deserving animated short. It happened last year with "Bear Story" beating "World of Tomorrow" and the year before that with "Feast" defeating "The Dam Keeper" … and it will happen this year with the "adorable" short about a sandpiper beating out a beautifully moving father-daughter short. This has been the most predictable category that will make any Award Season watcher cynical.


BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

“Ennemis Interieurs” 
“La Femme et le TGV” 
“Silent Nights” 
“Sing” 
“Timecode” 
 
Should win: “Sing” 
Will win: “Sing” 
 
"Ennemis" is the most timely and topical. "TGV" is the most lyrical. "Silent" has the best story arc. "Timecode" is the most generally entertaining. But "Sing" is the best of all of these qualities. It has a universally accessible and uplifting core.


BEST ORIGINAL SONG

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” (“La La Land”) 
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” (“Trolls”) 
“City of Stars” (“La La Land”) 
“The Empty Chair” (“Jim: The James Foley Story”) 
“How Far I’ll Go” (“Moana”) 
 
Should win: “City of Stars” (“La La Land”) 
Will win: “City of Stars” (“La La Land”) 
 
"City of Stars" works as a duet, as a solo and as a hummed tune. This is about as strong of a lock as possible.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

“Jackie” 
“La La Land" 
“Lion" 
“Moonlight" 
“Passengers” 
 
Should win: “Jackie” 
Will win: “La La Land" 
 
"La La Land" has the most engaging soundtrack of 2016 – but the "Jackie" soundtrack absolutely establishes the hypnotic tone of this psychological drama.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

“Arrival” 
“La La Land” 
“Lion" 
“Moonlight” 
“Silence” 
 
Should win: “La La Land” 
Will win: “La La Land” 
 
"La La" doesn't get the credit it deserves for its mesmerizing and beautiful cinematography. So many individual stills can be framed.


BEST FILM EDITING

“Arrival” 
“Hacksaw Ridge” 
“Hell or High Water” 
“La La Land” 
“Moonlight” 
 
Should win: “Arrival” 
Will win: “La La Land” 
 
"Arrival" has a higher degree of storytelling difficulty, but "La La" hits all the right beats and keeps the film humming along perfectly.


BEST DOCUMENTARY - FEATURE

“13th” 
“Fire at Sea” 
“I Am Not Your Negro” 
“Life, Animated” 
“O.J.: Made in America” 
 
Should win: “O.J.: Made in America” 
Will win: “O.J.: Made in America” 
 
Yes, "Made in America" probably shouldn't be eligible for this award (as it was initially produced for ESPN), but that won't stop it from winning the Oscar.  


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“A Man Called Ove” (Sweden) 
“Land of Mine” (Denmark) 
“Tanna” (Australia) 
“The Salesman” (Iran) 
“Toni Erdmann” (Germany) 
 
Should win: “A Man Called Ove” (Sweden) 
Will win: “The Salesman” (Iran) 
 
Once "The Handmaiden" was snubbed, the Academy all but handed the award to Iran's entry in the category. The dark comedy "Toni Erdmann" has the best shot at stealing the award from "The Salesman."


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

“Kubo and the Two Strings” 
“Moana” 
“My Life as a Zucchini” 
“The Red Turtle” 
“Zootopia” 
 
Should win: “Kubo and the Two Strings” 
Will win: “Zootopia” 
 
"Kubo" is a fable brought to life – but the commercially successful, if heavy handed, social justice warrior, cartoon will take the Animated Feature title.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“Arrival” 
“Fences” 
“Hidden Figures” 
“Lion” 
“Moonlight” 
 
Should win: “Moonlight” 
Will win: “Moonlight” 
 
This personal, honest and bold screenplay is essentially a lock. "Fences" is barely adapted for film. "Arrival" and "Hidden Figures" have the best shot at knocking off "Moonlight" - albeit a long shot.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“20th Century Women” 
“Hell or High Water” 
“La La Land” 
“The Lobster” 
“Manchester by the Sea” 
 
Should win: “Manchester by the Sea” 
Will win: “La La Land” 
 
"Manchester" is an unconventional drama that deserves every acclaim – but the equally bold "La La" script, which dares to mix nostalgia with earnest storytelling, will win Original Screenplay. 


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Viola Davis for “Fences” 
Naomie Harris for “Moonlight” 
Nicole Kidman for “Lion” 
Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures” 
Michelle Williams for “Manchester by the Sea” 
 
Should win: Michelle Williams
Will win: Viola Davis
 
The best thing to happen to Emma Stone will end up being the worst thing to happen to Michelle Williams at this year's Academy Awards. Viola Davis is in no way a supporting actress in "Fences" – she is a lead actor in a feature film. And Davis won the SAG award in the lead actress category. Had Davis been entered into the lead actress category, she would have taken it from Emma Stone – but, instead, she'll be taking the award from Williams. What should be Williams' first Academy Award win will instead go to Davis (for her first win in three nominations). 


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight” 
Jeff Bridges for “Hell or High Water” 
Lucas Hedges for “Manchester by the Sea” 
Dev Patel for “Lion” 
Michael Shannon for “Nocturnal Animals” 
 
Should win: Mahershala Ali
Will win: Mahershala Ali
 
First and foremost, thank goodness Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson wasn't nominated. Hedges and Patel are solid in their roles while it was nice just to see Bridges and Shannon nominated. But this is Ali's category to lose. The relatively brief screen time he has in "Moonlight" casts a looming shadow across the film. His performance leaves an indelible mark on the already bold film.


BEST ACTRESS

Isabelle Huppert for “Elle” 
Ruth Negga for “Loving” 
Natalie Portman for “Jackie” 
Emma Stone for “La La Land” 
Meryl Streep for “Florence Foster Jenkins” 
 
Should win: Emma Stone  
Will win: Emma Stone
 
The Academy handed this title over to Stone the minute it nominated Viola Davis in the Supporting Actress category. Huppert has the best shot at supplanting Stone – her performance in "Elle" has been lauded and a win by her would amount to a lifetime achievement award for the respected French actress, as well as recognition for her combined 2016 roles in "Elle" and "Things to Come." 

BEST ACTOR 

Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea” 
Andrew Garfield for “Hacksaw Ridge” 
Ryan Gosling for “La La Land,” 
Viggo Mortensen for “Captain Fantastic” 
Denzel Washington for “Fences” 
 
Should win: Casey Affleck
Will win: Denzel Washington
 
The winner of the Screen Actors Guild in this category has been a perfect bellwether since 2004 – and its only been off three times since 1994. Nevermind that Affleck should win this title – and the fact that he won the honors at the Golden Globes, BAFTA, Critics Choice, National Board of Review and Independent Spirit Awards. If Washington does win, it will be because he gave a very strong performance while pulling double duty as director. All that said, Affleck gave the very best singular performance of 2016.


BEST DIRECTOR

Damien Chazelle for “La La Land" 
Mel Gibson for “Hacksaw Ridge" 
Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight" 
Kenneth Lonergan for “Manchester by the Sea" 
Denis Villeneuve for “Arrival" 
 
Should win: Damien Chazelle
Will win: Damien Chazelle
 
Fun fact: the winner of the Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directing (Feature Film) has gone on to win Best Director all but seven times since 1950. And Chazelle won the DGA title this year – which makes him the frontrunner. But Jenkins should not be considered a spoiler if he wins – he's the best threat to knock Chazelle off the podium.  


BEST PICTURE

“Arrival” 
“Fences” 
“Hacksaw Ridge” 
“Hell or High Water” 
“Hidden Figures” 
“La La Land” 
“Lion” 
“Manchester by the Sea” 
“Moonlight” 
 
Should win: “La La Land” 
Will win: “La La Land” 
 
Chazelle's modern musical isn't just the best film of 2016 – it's the best film of the past several years … and it should and will win Best Picture. That said, a win by either "Manchester by the Sea" or "Moonlight" isn't completely off the table. The "La La"/"Manchester"/"Moonlight" trifecta epitomizes the very best of 2016 – and they are each, in their own way, bold and innovative pieces of brilliant and beautiful storytelling. "Hacksaw," "Hidden," "Fences" and "Lion" are very good films, but they honestly shouldn't have been nominated in the category. 


PROJECTED FINAL OSCAR WIN TOTAL LEADERS:

“La La Land” (10) 
"Moonlight" (2) 
"Fences" (2) 
"Manchester by the Sea," "Hell or High Water" (0) 

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