Make no mistake, the 89th Academy Awards will be a love letter to Damien Chazelle‘s movie musical “La La Land.” The Lionsgate blockbuster has already tied “All About Eve” and “Titanic” for the most nominations for a single film, 14, and now may find itself breaking the record of 11 wins held by “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic” and “The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.” If it comes to pass, it will be a remarkable achievement considering how much the Academy has tended to spread the wealth recently (after ‘Return of the King,’ the Best Picture winner with the most statues this century is “Slumdog Millionaire” with just eight).
Of course, there are 24 categories, which means other nominees from acclaimed films such as “Moonlight,” “Manchester By The Sea,” “Arrival,” “Hidden Figures,” “Fences” and “Hacksaw Ridge” will be battling it out for their own piece of the pie. And, of course, there are interesting races in Foreign Language Film (a potential news story depending on the winner), Documentary Feature and Animated Feature. No, “La La Land” won’t win everything, but you’ll soon see from the predictions below that it’s going to leave the Dolby Theatre with a lot of Academy Awards to place on the mantle.
Note: If you’re looking to make the right picks to win that office or party pool, you should focus on being strategic in the short categories because that will likely make or break your chances this year.
“Hell Or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Manchester By The Sea”
Winner: “La La Land”
Should Win: “Moonlight”
Upset: “Hidden Figures”
Ponder: There won’t be an upset. And if it did happen, it would be one of the biggest in Oscar history. Suspense during the telecast ends at Best Actor this year.
Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester By The Sea”
Winner: Damien Chazelle
Should Win: Barry Jenkins
Upset: Barry Jenkins
Ponder: Again, there won’t be an upset here, but Jenkins has a slim, slim, slim chance. Did we mention it was slim?
Casey Affleck, “Manchester By The Sea”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Winner: Denzel Washington
Should Win: Denzel Washington or Casey Affleck
Upset: Casey Affleck
Ponder: This is probably the toughest one to pick. Affleck won the Globe and BAFTA, but the former is a group of 80+ international press members and the latter didn’t include Washington in the mix. In theory, Washington’s SAG Awards win should give him the upper hand because it was the only guild honor where they both went up against each other. The caveat is that some wonder if the Academy collectively believes Washington should be in the three-timer club (he absolutely should) and others are passionate that Affleck’s performance should get recognized. Again, we’re predicting Washington here, but it could absolutely go either way.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell Or High Water”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester By The Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Winner: Mahershala Ali
Should Win: Mahershala Ali
Upset: Dev Patel
Ponder: This is another close category, but as it traditionally is handed out earlier in the show, the suspense won’t last long. We’re sticking with Ali even though Patel’s win at BAFTA was something of a surprise (then again, his SAG nomination was sort of a surprise at the time, too). A good portion of The Academy clearly love “Lion” as they rewarded it with six Academy Award nominations. If enough voters truly want to reward it, Patel could upset. On the other hand, Ali has charmed the circuit wonderfully this year and ended his campaign with a beautifully shot THR cover story (it’s a great PR reminder). Will it be enough, or will we have another SAG and Academy split in this category like last year?
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Winner: Emma Stone
Should Win: Natalie Portman or Isabelle Huppert
Upset: Isabelle Huppert
Ponder: Huppert has a better chance at upsetting Stone than Jenkins does of Chazelle, but it’s going to be hard for the cinema legend to overcome the “La La Land” train. And considering how competitive Best Actress was overall this year (as noted by the absence of Annette Bening and Amy Adams), you can’t knock Stone. It’s the best performance of her career and worthy of a win (maybe just not as worthy as Huppert or Portman).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester By The Sea”
Winner: Viola Davis
Should Win: Stop
Ponder: A bigger lock than Best Picture. Can’t wait to hear Viola’s final speech. Something suggests she’s been saving the best for last.
“La La Land”
Winner: “La La Land”
Should Win: “Moonlight” or “Arrival”
Ponder: “Lion”‘s Greig Fraser was a surprise winner at the ASC awards (the American Society of Cinematographers), but expect “La La Land”‘s Linus Sandgren to take the Oscar.