Oscar Marathon 2017: Final predictions in all 24 categories

Posted by Chip Chandler on
The Oscars are ready to hand out Sunday.
Courtesy ABC / Academy Awards

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Filling out your Oscar ballot for Sunday? Here are my picks in all 24 categories.

After seeing all 62 nominees and following the race closely, these are the nominees I think will win, as well as those who I think should win and those who were overlooked.

The 89th annual Academy Awards broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. on ABC, ABC.com and the ABC app. Red-carpet coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. on E! and 6 p.m. on ABC.

If you missed my previous coverage, check these links out:


Best Picture

"La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees:  ArrivalFencesHacksaw RidgeHell or High WaterHidden Figures, La La LandLionManchester by the SeaMoonlight

Will win:  La La Land is still the prohibitive frontrunner here. Aside from its box office success, the fact that it celebrates artists (like Birdman, The Artist and others before it) seals the deal. Any backlash that it has received (the lack of racial diversity, especially in a film about a jazz musician; its allegedly lightweight nature) has been limited and likely won’t sway voters.

Should win:  I’m OK with La La Land winning, but it really only ranks at No. 4 in this category for me (see below). I’d much prefer to see Moonlight take the prize.

Overlooked:  20th Century Women, because once again, films about complicated women get the short shrift (oh Carol, I’m still angry)

Bonus:  Oscar voters are asked to rank their favorites in for this category’s weighted voting system. Here’s how I'd do it (not that they asked): 1) Moonlight; 2) Manchester by the Sea; 3) Arrival; 4) La La Land; 5) Fences; 6) Hell or High Water; 7) Lion; 8) Hidden Figures; 9) Hacksaw Ridge.


Best Actor

Denzel Washington, "Fences"
Courtesy Paramount Pictures

The Nominees: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea; Denzel Washington, Fences; Ryan Gosling, La La Land; Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic; Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Will win: Denzel Washington in possibly the closest race of the night. Affleck has been sweeping up the precursor awards from critics and most other associations, but Washington’s win at the Screen Actors Guild was a huge sign that the race had shifted. Winners in this category at the SAGs have gone on to win the Oscar every year for the last 12 years, and since the SAGs began in 1994, only four actors have not gone on to with the Oscar. Past allegations of sexual harassment have been bubbling under the radar for a while for Affleck, and they might have boiled over. Plus, it may not help that his performance in Manchester was so internal in a race that often rewards fireworks.

Should win: I’d be thrilled to see Washington taking a historic third Oscar (a rarity in itself, plus he’d be the first black actor to do so). If you can separate the artist from the alleged misconduct in his private life, Affleck gave an extraordinary performance, but Washington gets bonus points for directing and for shepherding August Wilson’s masterwork to the screen.

Overlooked: Joel Edgerton’s quiet but passionate turn in Loving didn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserved, and I would have prefered to see Garfield recognized for his work in Silence over Hacksaw Ridge.


Best Actress

Emma Stone, "La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees: Isabelle Huppert, Elle; Ruth Negga, Loving; Natalie Portman, Jackie; Emma Stone, La La Land; Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Will win: Emma Stone has this race locked up, and thinking back to her performance of “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” I’d be hard pressed to argue against it.

Should win: Portman’s chance faded as her film never got any awards traction, but she gave a singularly powerful performance as well. Still, of these nominees, I’d give it to Stone, even despite Hubbert's surprise Golden Globes win. Now, if Viola Davis (see below) had been in this category where she probably belonged, then we’d have a real race.

Overlooked: As I’ve said before, Annette Bening was absolutely robbed of a nomination for 20th Century Women. And though Amy Adams is an Oscar darling, she was somehow skipped over for some of her best-ever work in Arrival


Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali (with Alex Hibbert), "Moonlight"
Courtesy A24

The Nominees: Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water; Mahershala Ali, Moonlight; Dev Patel, Lion; Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals; Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Will win: This one has come down, unexpectedly, to a two-man race between Ali and Patel. I’m giving Ali the slight edge because 1) the film got a lot of nomination love and likely will be rewarded wherever voters can do so away from the La La Land juggernaut, and 2) because his performance was so powerful that his presence lingered long after his character had exited the story. His Golden Globe acceptance speech sealed the deal.

Should win: Ali, without question. Patel gives a strong performance (arguably a lead performance), but Ali edges past him.

Overlooked: Hugh Grant gave one of his best-ever performances in Florence Foster Jenkins (though he was really a lead, he campaigned in this category), and Trevante Rhodes, as the eldest incarnation of Chiron in Moonlight, was magnificent. And Ralph Fiennes gave one of the year’s most spectacular performances in A Bigger Splash which, ironically, made little splash.


Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis (with Denzel Washington), "Fences"
Courtesy Paramount Pictures

The Nominees: Viola Davis, Fences; Naomie Harris, Moonlight; Nicole Kidman, Lion; Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures; Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Will win: Davis, in the easiest-to-call race of the night. As mentioned above, you could make a strong argument that she belongs in the lead actress category (and, in fact, she won the lead actress Tony for this very role), but she’s overdue for an Oscar and voters won’t pass up the chance this time. Plus, she’s going to give one hell of an acceptance speech.

Should win: Take Davis out of the equation and I’d be rooting for Harris or Williams. But there’s no question that Davis fully earns every accolade that has come her way. She’s simply amazing.

Overlooked: Janelle Monáe made her film debut in two films this year, Moonlight and Hidden Figures; both were award-worthy performances. And Molly Shannon’s dramatic turn in Other People was sensational.


Best Directing

Damien Chazelle (with Ryan Gosling), "La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees: Denis Villeneuve, Arrival; Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge; Damien Chazelle, La La Land; Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea; Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Will win: Chazelle will become the youngest-ever winner in this category, and both for the sheer grit it took to get this film to the screen and for his considerable skill in doing so, it will be well deserved.

Should win: And yet, Jenkins also persevered through a world of challenges, including a laughably small budget and remarkably tight shooting schedule, and made a gorgeous piece of art. Either man would be a satisfactory win.

Overlooked: Washington earned a double nod this year for finally bringing Fences to the screen.


Best Foreign Language Film

"The Salesman"
Courtesy Cohen Media Group

The Nominees:  Land of Mine, Denmark; A Man Called Ove, Sweden; The Salesman, Iran; Tanna, Australia; Toni Erdmann, Germany

Will win:  Toni Erdmann, the three-hour awkward-com, has been the frontrunner for months, but Trump’s election and attempted travel ban might have changed the equation. Salesman director Asghar Farhadi (who previously won for A Separationannounced that he would boycott the Oscars because of the ban, even if he had gotten a waiver and before it had been (temporarily, at least) lifted, which was both a principled move and a boon to The Salesman’s chances. Not that I’m saying Farhadi had that motive in mind at all, but Oscar voters looking to send a message to the current occupant of the White House found an ideal vehicle.

Should win: Personally, I preferred The Salesman to Toni Erdmann. In fact, Erdmann comes in third in this category for me.

Overlooked: Elle, especially given Huppert’s nomination, is a pretty surprising omission, but rape revenge comedies are a notoriously tough sell.


Best Adapted Screenplay

Courtesy A24

The Nominees: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight; Luke Davies, Lion; Eric Heisserer, Arrival; August Wilson, Fences; Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures

Will win:  Moonlight in a walk.

Should win:  Arrival boasts an incredible screenplay and is, aside from the late WIlson’s adaptation of his play, the only real competition here. But Jenkins and McCraney’s adaptation of the latter’s unproduced play is pure poetry.

Overlooked:  Whit Stillman, whose Love & Friendship script melded his totally modern voice with Jane Austen’s in an adaptation of her novel Lady Susan.


Best Original Screenplay

Kenneth Lonergan (with Casey Affleck), "Manchester by the Sea"
Courtesy Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions

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

Will win: Here’s one category where I’m hoping against hope that the La La Land train gets derailed. It’s a good script, not an absolutely exceptional one, especially when compared to its competition. I think we’ll see Manchester come out on top here as its consolation prize.

Should win: As marvelously nuanced and humane as Lonergan’s script is, Mills’ intensely personal work is probably my preference.

Overlooked: Actor/director Matt Ross’ script for Captain Fantastic got lots of buzz this season, and Zootopia surely could have broken out of the animation ghetto.


Best Animated Feature Film

Courtesy Disney

The Nominees:   Kubo and the Two StringsMoanaMy Life as a ZucchiniThe Red TurtleZootopia

Will win:  Zootopia, as direct a rejection of the current administration as any film in the whole bunch.

Should win: Others will make an argument for Kubo, which very well could benefit from a splitting of votes among Disney loyalists, but not me. Zootopia all the way.

Overlooked:  Sausage Party had one of the year’s most unexpectedly cogent philosophical discussions (yes, really), and if you want to get even more unexpected, the documentary Tower used rotoscope animation in a thrilling manner.


Best Production Design

"La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees:  ArrivalFantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemHail, Caesar!La La LandPassengers

Will win: In this category, which you can generally think of as rewarding set design, La La Land will probably pick up the award for its sunny view of L.A. (I’m thinking that the giant poster of Ingrid Bergman in Emma Stone’s bedroom gets bonus points.)

Should win: But if you want to really honor some old-school Hollywood glory, Hail, Caesar!’s multiple, meticulous recreations of studio backlots should get the vote. It was glorious.

Overlooked: The recreations of feudal Japan in Silence and the Camelot-era White House in Jackie both were highly commendable.


Best Cinematography

"La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees: Bradford Young, Arrival; Linus Sandgren, La La Land; Greig Fraser, Lion; James Laxton, Moonlight; Rodrigo Prieto, Silence

Will win: Another win for La La Land, almost certainly. Those golden-hour shots of Mia and Sebastian tapping around in Los Angeles, not to mention the unlikely dance floor of the sunny freeway, were exquisite.

Should win: Fraser won a surprise victory from the American Society of Cinematographers, and it’s hard to argue against it. Except for the fact that every other nominee (all first-timers except for Prieto) in this category is equally deserving. Prieto’s work is stunning, but my favorite is Laxton’s luxurious work on Moonlight.

Overlooked:  Nocturnal Animals was both sumptuous and gritty, and the sun-dappled camerawork in American Honey was absolutely dreamy.


Best Sound Mixing

"La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees:  ArrivalHacksaw RidgeLa La LandRogue One: A Star Wars Story13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Will win: As a musical, La La Land already had the advantage going in to the ceremony, but given the dominance of the film overall, it’s a sure bet to win now.

Should win:  Arrival should win somewhere, right? OK, probably not here either. But those aliens sounded so great.

Overlooked:  The Jungle Book or Captain America: Civil War were surprising omissions given that blockbusters usually do well here.


Best Sound Editing

"Hacksaw Ridge"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees:  ArrivalDeepwater HorizonHacksaw RidgeLa La LandSully

Will win: The pitched battles of Hacksaw Ridge would make for a likely winner in any other year. La La Land is dancing around there on the edges, lording over the category with its 14 nominations. But let’s say Hacksaw just to mix things up.

Should win:  La La Land’s sound work wasn’t really all that flawless. Hacksaw has the advantage, I think.

Overlooked: I would have sworn The Jungle Book would have been nominated here, the category that recognizes work in the creation of sound effects. The visual effects behind all the CGI animals and junglescape weren’t the only bits of movie magic: They did make a lot of noise too, after all.


Best Original Score

"La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees: Mica Levi, Jackie; Justin Hurwitz, La La Land; Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka, Lion; Nicholas Britell, Moonlight; Thomas Newman, Passengers

Will win: Hurwitz’s work, even if it’s confused with the individual songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, is probably an automatic win here. I mean, it’s a musical, after all?

Should win: Britell’s score in Moonlight helps bring us into the head of the introspective Chiron, melding Southern hip-hop techniques with classical instrumentation. It's my favorite, but I also love how Levi’s jarring work for Jackie sets the title character in grim relief.

Overlooked: Not that I’m complaining, but it was unusual not to see frequently nominated Alexandre Desplat (The Light Between Oceans) and John Williams (The BFG) not make the cut.


Best Original Song

"La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” from La La Land; “Can't Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls; “City of Stars” from La La Land; “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story; “How Far I'll Go” from Moana

Will win: “City of Stars,” in both its tinkly piano and full vocal versions, is the tune picked to carry most of the marketing load for La La Land, so if the film’s dual nominees don’t split the vote, it’s the one that voters will likely be most familiar with.

Should win: “Audition,” in which Emma Stone breaks your heart with ease, is the more thematically vital song in the film, though. (And I do hate that Lin-Manuel Miranda won’t get his EGOT this year, but it’s surely still to come, and soon.)

Overlooked: “Drive It Like You Stole It” from Sing Street is sheer perfection, the ideal pastiche that would have been a huge hit in the ‘80s. And “I’m So Humble” from Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a pitch-perfect parody of both Bieber-style pop hits and faux celebrity humility. Maybe it cut too close to the bone.


Best Costume Design

"La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees: Joanna Johnston, Allied; Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins; Madeline Fontaine, Jackie; Mary Zophres, La La Land

Will win:  La La Land’s sweep will most likely continue here, and sure, it’s a nice thought that something contemporary might win in a category that so often rewards historical epics ...

Should win: ... but ever since fashion bloggers Tom & Lorenzo described Zophres’ work as “primary-colored Garanimals,” I can’t see anything else. My vote would go for Fontaine’s referential but not copycatting work in Jackie.

Overlooked: It sounds obvious, but The Dressmaker should have been a shoo-in here.


Best Documentary Feature

"O.J.: Made in America"
Courtesy ESPN

The Nominees:  Fire at SeaI Am Not Your NegroLife, AnimatedO.J.: Made in America13th

Will win:  O.J.: Made in America is truly a monumental work, and it’s unlikely that voters really care much that it was made for TV but got a cinematic release specifically to win big awards like this.

Should win:  13th is such a fiery, impassioned work, and I Am Not Your Negro is so incredibly powerful, too. And Fire at Sea takes risks formally that most documentaries don’t. I can’t choose between any of the four. (Life, Animated — while heartwarming — is the outlier here.)

Overlooked:  Weiner is disturbingly compelling, a slow-motion trainwreck of the queasiest kind, while Tower is so wonderfully inventive and experimental.


Best Documentary (Short Subject)

"The White Helmets" trailer

The Nominees:  Extremis4.1 MilesJoe's ViolinWatani: My HomelandThe White Helmets

Will win: The general rule of thumb in this category is that a film about the Holocaust will win, and sure enough, Joe’s Violin (watch it here) focuses on a Holocaust survivor who donates his beloved violin to an inner-city school instrument drive. I mean, dang, that just says shoo-in all over the place. But the, shall we say, heated political environment of the moment could allow voters to make a statement here, giving advantages to both Watani and White Helmets, given that both deal with the Syrian crisis. The opportunity to recognize the civilian heroes of White Helmets will be too much to resist, though.

Should win: If I have to choose one, it’s Watani because it tells such a complete story about a Syrian family caught in the nightmare of war and relocation.

Overlooked: It’s hard enough, usually, to see all five of the films nominated in this category, much less any also-rans. So I’ve got no opinion here.



Best Film Editing

"La La Land"
Courtesy Lionsgate

The Nominees: Joe Walker, Arrival; John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge; Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water; Tom Cross, La La Land; Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, Moonlight

Will win: It’s not always true — just mostly — that the Best Picture winner and this category’s winner always coincide. In fact, it hasn’t happened for the past three years. But La La Land’s momentum and Cross’ skill in putting together the musical should put it on top.

Should win: But man, Walker’s work on Arrival really is fantastic and absolutely essential to the success of the film.

Overlooked: You know what would have made a great nominee? The eight-hour O.J.: Made in America. No, really. Yes, it’s by far the longest nominee of the year, but the film was entirely made in the editing bay, after combing over countless hours of clips and news footage.


Makeup and Hairstyling

"Star Trek Beyond"
Courtesy Paramount Pictures

The Nominees:  A Man Called Ove, Star Trek BeyondSuicide Squad

Will win: Star Trek Beyond’s Joel Harlow (who won for the original 2009 reboot) added 50 new alien species to the Trek universe, but even if he just did the designs on Karl and Jaylah, he’d more than earn the win.

Should win:  Star Trek Beyond. And not just because Suicide Squad was such a steaming pile of dreck. Squad’s creature designs were quite good, really. But Trek was better.

Overlooked:  Florence Foster Jenkins should have gotten the making-people-look-old slot.


Best Animated Short Film

Courtesy Disney/Pixar

The Nominees:  Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl, Piper

Will win: Pixar hasn’t won this award for 15 years, but Piper’s mix of charming storytelling and technical innovations should break that streak.

Should win:  Pearl Cider is even more ambitious, and its dynamic animation and meaty storyline make it a tempting pick. But I’m still partial to Piper.

Overlooked: See “Documentary Short,” above.


Best Live Action Short Film

"Ennemis Intérieurs"
Courtesy Qualia Films

The Nominees:  Ennemis IntérieursLa Femme et le TGVSilent NightsSing (Mindenki)Timecode

Will win:  Ennemis Intérieurs has all of the political advantages of Watani and White Helmets (it’s about a restrictive immigration policy lording over an innocent man), plus it’s got great acting, to boot.

Should win:  Sing has the feel-goods working for it, but I think Ennemis Intérieurs still deserves to take the trophy.

Overlooked: See “Documentary Short” and “Animated Short,” above.


Best Visual Effects

"The Jungle Book"
Courtesy Disney

The Nominees:  Deepwater HorizonDoctor StrangeThe Jungle BookKubo and the Two StringsRogue One: A Star Wars Story

Will win: In The Jungle Book, an entire CGI world was created, virtually seamlessly. It’s probably the easiest non-La La Land or Viola Davis pick on the whole ballot.

Should win:  The Jungle Book, definitely. But Kubo was stunningly gorgeous, and Doctor Strange thoroughly realized the imaginative world of artistic creator Steve Ditko. Great nominees, both.

Overlooked:  Arrival’s aliens and unusual starship design were brilliant.





Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.

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