Final Oscar Predictions as the Season Hits the Home Stretch

in contention oscars predictions
Variety

Pencils down — the ballots are in. Who will win?

Ballots were due on a rainy Feb. 21 in Los Angeles as the Academy rounds the final corner en route to the 89th Oscars. So…what can we expect to happen?

Barring anything wildly unforeseen, “La La Land” should stay on track to win best picture, as well as director and actress honors following the same wins from the major guilds and the British Academy. Another safe bet is Viola Davis as supporting actress for “Fences,” after she swept through the precursor circuit.

The other two acting races present tighter contests. Lead actor, in particular, feels very much up in the air. But I’ll lean toward SAG winners Denzel Washington (“Fences”) and Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) topping BAFTA winners Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Dev Patel (“Lion”).

In the screenplay categories, the Academy’s shift of “Moonlight” from original to adapted keeps things interesting. I think it was a fortuitous move; Barry Jenkins’ script — which won the WGA’s original prize anyway — has an easier path to victory in the adapted category, with BAFTA winner “Lion” the toughest competition. That leaves original screenplay a two-horse race between presumed frontrunner “Manchester by the Sea” and “La La Land.” Flip a coin — I’ll go with Damien Chazelle as part of a dominant showing for the musical.

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Final Oscar Predictions Rankings in All Categories

In the crafts categories, the easiest pick is “The Jungle Book” for visual effects; any other winner would be a shock. “La La Land” can probably count on original score and original song (“City of Stars”), plus the cinematography prize; the American Society of Cinematographers may have picked “Lion,” but the BAFTA Awards suggested that the “La La Land” aesthetic stands out to a broader group of voters.

After that, there are a lot of question marks. “Arrival,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” and “La La Land” have won editing prizes from the British Academy and the American Cinema Editors organization. My instinct for the Oscar is to go with “La La Land,” despite the fact that the best picture winner hasn’t taken this prize since “Argo.”

The makeup and hairstyling category pits two underwhelming studio blockbusters against a quaint Swedish film that’s also nominated for foreign language film. It depends on which movies Academy voters actually saw. Both “Suicide Squad” and “Star Trek Beyond” won makeup and hairstylists guild awards, but I’ll give “Star Trek” the edge. (BAFTA winner “Florence Foster Jenkins” isn’t even in play.)

“Arrival” won the sound prize at the BAFTAs, but the U.S. Academy splits the field into mixing and editing. It’s difficult to bet against a musical (Cinema Audio Society winner “La La Land”) for sound mixing, while sound editing could come down to the sci-fi drama (“Arrival”) versus a war film (“Hacksaw Ridge”). That BAFTA win has me thinking “Arrival” could walk away with it, but my gut says “Hacksaw Ridge,” particularly after a strong showing with the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ awards.

Finally in the crafts categories, costume and production design are toss-ups all around. “La La Land” is a fierce contender in each, but it’s a relatively modest production overall. I’ll bet on it in production design (which also feels like an interesting, if atypical, place to honor “Arrival”). But I’ll spread my chips over to BAFTA winner “Jackie” for costumes.

Rounding out the feature categories, I expect “Zootopia” to finish strong in animated, “O.J.: Made in America” to fend off competition from “13th” and “I Am Not Your Negro” in documentary, and a photo finish in foreign film between “A Man Called Ove” and “The Salesman.” I’ll take a flyer on the palatable “Man Called Ove” eking it out, despite a headwind of travel ban protest votes on behalf of “The Salesman.”

And to be completist, put me down for “Ennemis Interieurs” (live action), “Piper” (animated), and “Joe’s Violin” (documentary) in the shorts categories.

With all of that guesswork out of the way, questions still remain. How will the injection of nearly 700 new Academy members, many of them international artists, affect the vote this year? How will the #OscarSoWhite narrative continue to play out this season? Will emcee Jimmy Kimmel nail it or bomb?

We’ll get answers on Feb. 26.

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  1. Donna says:

    We still believe that the best performance this year was presented to us by
    Casey Afleck in “Manchester by the Sea.”

  2. Trey says:

    I’m going with La La, Emma (Isabelle upset), Casey, Dev and Viola.

  3. Blake says:

    Any further insight on the shorts? I’ve seen the live action shorts, 3 of the animated, and will seek out 4 of the 5 doc shorts before the ceremony. Right now, I have completely different winners: La Femme, Pear Cider & Cigarettes, Extremis.

    • You can only really go with your gut. Ennemis is a strong favorite among the actual branch members but in the new system you can’t be sure who’s voting. La Femme or Silent Nights would be my back-up. Pear Cider is the best of the animated but I’m not sure if it will pull that off over a very well-regarded Pixar short. Pearl is pulling votes as well. Meanwhile, I feel doc is between Joe’s Violin and White Helmets, with the latter getting a lot of press during voting.

      • Blake says:

        Thanks for your feedback!

        La Femme is really an instinctual pick for me. Despite it being my choice, it has the biggest production value, a very accessible story, and it seemed the audience was most engaged watching that. I think Ennemis has a shot because of its strong performances and writing, but it was the only short in the lineup where the audience didn’t applaud until after the end credits (packed house at the Landmark Nuart). It seems like a respected short, but not one that will get enough passion to win.

        For all the years Pixar has been turning out one great short after another, it’d be really surprising to me to see something as slight as Piper win its first Oscar in the category in 15 years. That being said, the animation is gorgeous. Pear, Cider and Cigarettes feels like a “Ryan” type win.

        I have no idea on doc short. Joe’s Violin feels so contrived, like the documentarians staged the whole plot revolving around the student. Didn’t feel genuine. My instinct is always to go for the most “emotionally draining” choice in the group, but that’s probably the wrong approach.

  4. Dan Matthews says:

    Best actress? Think you’ve missed a category

  5. crossie says:

    I think I’m going to go with ‘Kubo’ for animated, because BAFTA (always predicts the upsets in the category; people saying, yeah, but it predicts upsets for Disney, not against, when, actually, no, ‘Brave’ is Pixar,, which beat Disney’s ‘Wreck-It Ralph,’ and though Pixar is mostly Disney, it’s still not quite as Disney as Disney, you know what I mean, shut up, and this parenthesis is getting away with itself); if it wins, I get the smug self satisfaction of being right. If it loses, well, thank God, actually.

    Unless ‘Moana’ is the upset, which would be about what everyone deserves.

  6. jfafilms says:

    Makes sense on the picks. Fwiw, even tho it didn’t get nominated I think The Witness is by far best doc of the year… Also, agree on A Man called Ove, really solid film right up Acads alley on best foreign.

  7. Je Vizzusi says:

    Well no reason to attend or watch now! So you are saying no bombshells but Oscar always surprises. Who won Best Actor in arguably Hollywood’s greatest year 1939? .. precisely my point. @JEV1A

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