Oscars 2017 Predictions

I will be incommunicado this year for the Oscars, so I thought I’d get some predictions up there since I won’t have an opportunity to recap this year’s telecast.  Below are my predictions in all categories for which I feel I can offer a prediction. I also like to give percentages of what I think the chances are of any given film or person winning.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

  • “Arrival” (3%)
  • “Fences” (3%)
  • “Hacksaw Ridge” (1%)
  • “Hell or High Water” (1%)
  • “Hidden Figures” (10%)
  • “La La Land” (54%)
  • “Lion” (5%)
  • “Manchester by the Sea” (8%)
  • “Moonlight” (15%)

Although momentum can swing during the nearly three-month marathon of awards season, nothing has been able to unsettle “La La Land” from its perch. The only films to build any kind of momentum since the nominations were announced have been “Hidden Figures” and “Lion,” but these films were more popular successes than critical successes. If a populist pick is going to do it though, it’s “Hidden Figures,” which won Best Ensemble Cast at the SAG Awards. “Moonlight,” however, still has a lot of support even if it hasn’t reestablished any momentum, so that poses the biggest threat to “La La Land’s” big night.

Best Achievement in Directing

  • Denis Villeneuve – “Arrival” (5%)
  • Mel Gibson – “Hacksaw Ridge” (2%)
  • Damien Chazelle – “La La Land” (75%)
  • Kenneth Lonergan – “Manchester by the Sea” (5%)
  • Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight” (13%)
Directing is a veteran’s category, but the one directing veteran this year is the person who snuck in at the end of what was always a four-horse race, and that’s Mel Gibson, so he doesn’t figure to pose any threat to Damien Chazelle, who won the Director’s Guild Award, and though sometimes the Academy diverges, it seems highly unlike to happen this year. If “La La Land” is the runaway best film, it should result in Chazelle winning by a landslide.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

  • Casey Affleck – “Manchester by the Sea” (40%)
  • Andrew Garfield – “Hacksaw Ridge” (5%)
  • Ryan Gosling – “La La Land” (15%)
  • Viggo Mortensen – “Captain Fantastic” (5%)
  • Denzel Washington – “Fences” (35%)

Affleck was rolling until the SAG Awards gave the honors to Washington. The SAG Awards are not the only indicator, but it makes this race extremely close. I haven’t seen “Fences,” but was blown away by Affleck’s performance. I think the safest course of prediction is to guess that the SAG Awards were an outlier considering how Affleck has steamrolled through all other award ceremonies.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

  • Isabelle Huppert – “Elle” (20%)
  • Ruth Negga – “Loving” (5%)
  • Natalie Portman – “Jackie” (15%)
  • Emma Stone – “La La Land” (55%)
  • Meryl Streep – “Florence Foster Jenkins” (5%)

At the start of awards season, this was looking like a race between Huppert and Portman, but buzz for “Jackie” went nowhere, and certainly few Hollywood folks know Huppert at all. That opened up a lane for Stone, an America’s sweetheart type in the year’s most praise-showered movie. She ran right through, winning at the Globes and SAG Awards and it we rarely get big surprises in the Best Actress category.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Viola Davis – “Fences” (75%)
  • Naomie Harris – “Moonlight” (5%)
  • Nicole Kidman – “Lion” (2%)
  • Octavia Spencer – “Hidden Figures” (8%)
  • Michelle Williams – “Manchester by the Sea” (10%)

The supporting actor categories are pretty clearly set this year. Viola Davis has swept every major award, and been a heavy favorite among critics. The popularity of “Lion” and “Hidden Figures” since nominations probably poses no threat, and those who consider Octavia Spencer over Davis will probably recall that Spencer won for “The Help” and Davis did not. Davis is now a three-time nominee and she’s got a lot of respect among her peers.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Mahershala Ali – “Moonlight” (72%)
  • Jeff Bridges – “Hell or High Water” (15%)
  • Lucas Hedges – “Manchester by the Sea” (3%)
  • Dev Patel – “Lion” (8%)
  • Michael Shannon – “Nocturnal Animals” (2%)

For some reason, this category is always a landslide, and Mahershala Ali, despite only appearing in a third of “Moonlight” has been a unanimous choice this year (outside of the Globes, which gave the award to Aaron Taylor-Johnson for “Nocturnal Animals,” whose co-star got a nomination over him …) Other than Bridges, there aren’t any heavyweights in this category (you could argue Shannon, but he slid into this list), and Bridges got his “he deserves it” Oscar in 2010 for “Crazy Heart.”

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

  • “Hell or High Water” – Taylor Sheridan (10%)
  • “La La Land” – Damien Chazelle (40%)
  • “The Lobster” – Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou (3%)
  • “Manchester by the Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan (45%)
  • “20th Century Women” – Mike Mills (2%)

Throwing a huge wrench into predicting this category this year was the fact that the Academy deemed “Moonlight” an adapted screenplay, so the Writers Guild Awards for Best Original and Best Adapted both went to films that are nominated in the adapted category at the Oscars. With “La La Land” expected to walk away with a lot of hardware on Sunday, Chazelle has to be a frontrunner, but voters might see an opportunity to award the more dramatic film and “spread the wealth” by awarding Lonergan, who won the BAFTA over Chazelle. If voters feel “La La Land” is getting way too much attention, this is the place to diverge, and Lonergan would be most deserving. I have him by a slim margin.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

  • “Arrival” – Eric Heisserer (25%)
  • “Fences” – August Wilson (5%)
  • “Hidden Figures” – Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi (5%)
  • “Lion” – Luke Davies (10%)
  • “Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney (55%)

The Writers Guild recognized “Moonlight” in the Best Original Screenplay category and “Arrival” in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Head to head, however, it’s hard to imagine “Moonlight” losing. “Moonlight” is a much-loved film this year, and with no “La La Land” in the way, this is a chance to honor Jenkins’ work, especially if Best Director is already lost to him. Davies won the BAFTA in this category, but that doesn’t seem to pose any substantial dark horse threat.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

  • “A Man Called Ove” (Sweden)
  • “Land of Mine” (Denmark)
  • “The Salesman” (Iran)
  • “Tanna” (Australia)
  • “Toni Erdmann” (Germany)

Asghar Farhadi is well-known and well-respected, and the “A Separation” filmmaker announced he’s boycotting the Oscars becauase of the the administration’s policies. That ought to seal the deal for him.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings” (33%)
  • “Moana” (15%)
  • “My Life as a Zucchini” (3%)
  • “The Red Turtle” (7%)
  • “Zootopia” (42%)

Disney could get its vote split a little here and leave room for “Kubo,” which I would be thrilled with, but “Zootopia” was phenomenal and has been getting most of the awards season love.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

  • “Arrival” – Bradford Young (10%)
  • “La La Land” – Linus Sandgren (40%)
  • “Lion” – Greig Fraser (25%)
  • “Moonlight” – James Laxton (20%)
  • “Silence” – Rodrigo Prieto (5%)

I won’t get into most technical awards in this post, and that’s why I’m picking  Sandgren and “La La Land” in what should be one of many awards. Fraser did win the American Society of Cinematographers award over Sandgren, but most voters will probably err on the side of “La La Land,” which earned the majority of critics awards as well.

Best Documentary, Features

  • “Fire at Sea”
  • “I Am Not Your Negro”
  • “Life, Animated”
  • “O.J.: Made in America”
  • “13th”

This is a controversial category this year given that “O.J.: Made in America” is film that aired in multiple parts. However, it made the cut, and that means it’s most likely to take home the prize. I’ve heard it’s incredible, but haven’t gotten to see it. I also haven’t had a spare eight hours.


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