Final Oscar Predictions: Who Will, Could and Should Win

The big night is just hours away, and I have to say I’m happy this long awards season is finally over. What started out as a promising year for awards season turned into a dull steamroll for La La Land, which confuses me given its competition. Then again, we are talking about the Oscars after all, so maybe it’s not all that shocking. 

So yeah, La La Land will probably win everything it’s fun to think about Moonlight or Arrival upsetting in a few of the major categories. So while I’ve tried to be “realistic” and predicted Damien Chazelle’s movie musical to win just about everything from Picture, Actress to Editing and Production Design, I’m holding out for some surprises. 

But aren’t we all? 

Best Picture:

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The Field:

  • Arrival 
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge 
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures 
  • La La Land 
  • Lion 
  • Manchester By The Sea 
  • Moonlight

Who Will Win: La La Land 

Who Should Win: Moonlight

Should Have Been Here: Jackie

I think it would be pretty foolish to bet against La La Land at this point. It’s pretty hard to argue that it doesn’t have its Best Picture Oscar all wrapped up after sweeping the Golden Globes, the BAFTA’s, DGA and PGA, the only thing against the film’s chances are its omission from the SAG Ensemble category, which Hidden Figures won. Perhaps if there was more time for voting that win would mean more. It’s true that there is a lot of enthusiasm for Hidden Figures, especially after it just became the most financially successful of all the films nominated in this category, including La La Land. But with only two other nominations besides its Best Picture win, it doesn’t seem to have the same sort of broad support throughout the Academy that Moonlight has. 

And speaking of Moonlight, it’s the film that should undoubtedly be walking away with this prize. But we’ve debated that fact to death; the Academy prefers the Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling led homage to old school Hollywood musicals, and that’s probably too much for Moonlight to overcome here.

Best Director

Director Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone on the set of LA LA LAND.

The Field

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge 
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight 
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival 

Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle

Who Could Win: Barry Jenkins

Who Should Win: Barry Jenkins 

Should Have Been Here: Pablo Larraín, Jackie

Much like La La Land in Best Picture, Damien Chazelle has a considerable lead over his fellow nominees after winning the Golden Globe and DGA. After making a name for himself with Whiplash a few years ago, he’s once again impressed Oscar voters with a film tailor made for their interests, something that is probably going to result in his name being called out on Sunday evening. That being said, watch out for Barry Jenkins. It’s probably a fool’s dream, but I still think he can pull out a win here.

For one thing, Best Picture and Best Director haven’t matched up since the year The Artist won. Ang Lee, Alfonso Cuaron, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu (x2) all won while their films did not. Jenkins also was the leader in this category for awhile, sweeping many of the early critic’s prizes. He’s shaken a lot of hands and rubbed elbows with a lot of important people who have found themselves beguiled by him, and when you put that into the context of his achievement with Moonlight, that means even more. It’s true that his better shot at winning is over at Best Adapted Screenplay, but I think a win here would be even more special, and deserved. 

Best Actor:

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The Field

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge 
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic 
  • Denzel Washington, Fences 

Will Win: Denzel Washington 

Could Win: Casey Affleck

Should Win: Denzel Washington 

Should Have Been Here: Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash

Denzel Washington’s win with the Screen Actor’s Guild means a lot more than Casey Affleck’s sweep of the critic’s prizes and win at the Golden Globes. It’s true that he did prevail at the BAFTA’s where Washington was not nominated, but I think his towering performance will be enough to earn his third Academy Award. It certainly deserves to; along with his co-star Viola Davis (more on her later), it’s the best performance of the year. 

Best Actress:

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The Field

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle 
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Will Win: Emma Stone 

Could Win: Isabelle Huppert

Should Win: Natalie Portman 

Should Have Been Here: Amy Adams, Arrival & Annette Bening, 20th Century Women

Emma Stone started this season as a really shaky frontrunner after losing the bulk of the precursor awards to Isabelle Huppert and Natalie Portman, but more than made up for lost ground with a sweep of the televised awards: Golden Globes, SAG and BAFTA. She’s almost assured a win here, and I say almost because Huppert could pull this out. She’s a legend, regarded in the same category as her fellow nominee Meryl Streep and has never won an Oscar (this is actually her first nomination). And not only has she won the most prizes, but she also won at the Golden Globes over Portman, in a bit of an upset. While I think it’s not as close as some would have you think, all I’m saying is that this race isn’t wrapped up in the same way as something like Best Supporting Actress is. 

Speaking of… 

Best Supporting Actress

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The Field

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight 
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea

Will and Should Win: Viola Davis

Should Have Been Here: Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures or Moonlight

Easiest race to call of the night, Viola Davis will finally be an Oscar winner. 

Best Supporting Actor

Moonlight

The Field

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight 
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester By the Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals 

Will Win: Mahershala Ali

Could Win: Dev Patel 

Should Win: Mahershala Ali 

Should Have Been Here: Tom Bennett, Love & Friendship

Mahershala Ali has been the leader all season, but curiously lost 2/3 of the major awards: the Golden Globe (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the BAFTA (Dev Patel). He did, however, win at SAG which is more important in hindsight, which is why I’m comfortable he will win on Sunday night. But watch out for Patel, who has also been working for a long time and was the star of a Best Picture winner (Slumdog Millionaire). Lion is really popular with the Academy, and has the force of Harvey Weinstein behind it. Patel also has a role that’s walking a very thin line between lead and supporting (he’s the narrative focus of the film but appears in the last half of the film) but ultimately has more screen time than Ali which could push him over the edge. I still think Ali takes this. He’s had a huge year with Luke CageMoonlight and Hidden Figures. Not only is his work as Juan an incredible performance, but it’s one that is felt throughout the following 2/3 of the film without him ever having to appear onscreen after his character exits.

Best Original Screenplay

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The Field

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land 
  • Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou, The Lobster 
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Mike Mills, 20th Century Women 
  • Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water 

Will Win: Kenneth Lonergan

Could Win: Damien Chazelle 

Should Win: Mike Mills

Should Have Been Here: Noah Oppenheim, Jackie

The WGA didn’t help clear up the confusion about this category given that Moonlight was considered Original there, and is Adapted here. Without Moonlight, it’s a race between Chazelle and Lonergan. I’m throwing my chips behind Lonergan who is a very respected playwright who hasn’t won an Oscar yet despite being highly regarded as one of the greats. And if Manchester isn’t going to win over in Actor, this is a great way for the Academy to honor the film and Lonergan as a whole. 

That being said, if voters just check all the boxes for La La Land then Chazelle could repeat his win at the Globes here. It’s unfortunate that the best of the group, Mike Mills, doesn’t have a chance in hell in winning; the nomination itself is the reward. 

Best Adapted Screenplay:

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The Field

  • Luke Davies, Lion
  • Eric Heisserer, Arrival
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Theodore Melfi & Allison Schroeder, Hidden Figures 
  • August Wilson, Fences

Will Win: Barry Jenkins & Tarrel Alvin McCraney

Could Win: Eric Heisserer

Should Win: Barry Jenkins or Eric Heisserer

Moonlight‘s win for Original Screenplay at the WGA assures me that it will probably win here; it’s a great way to honor the film outside of Supporting Actor, and Barry Jenkins directly since he will probably lose out on Director. But don’t rule out the WGA’s winner in this category, Arrival, which tied with Moonlight as one of the nomination count leaders. Eric Heisserer’s adaptation is masterful, and would not be a bad winner at all. I would be truly elated with either Jenkins or Heisserer taking this prize. 

Animated Feature

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The Field

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life As A Zucchini 
  • The Red Turtle 
  • Zootopia 

Will Win: Zootopia 

Could Win: Kubo and the Two Strings 

Should Win: Zootopia 

Zootopia has been the dominant force all season long, and it’s bound to win the Oscar. Not only did it make a ton of money at the box office, but it was one of the most critically acclaimed films of last year. The brilliant blend of political commentary, solid animation and an entertaining story will probably push it over the finish line. But watch out for Kubo and the Two Strings, which has its passionate defenders. This category has been prone to upsets before (see: Brave). 

Best Documentary Feature

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The Field

  • Fire At Sea
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • O.J.: Made In America 
  • 13th

Will Win: O.J.: Made In America

Could Win: 13th

Should Win: I Am Not Your Negro or 13th

O.J.:Made In America has won just about everything thus far, and will probably win the Oscar. But its loss to 13th at the BAFTA’s gives me pause… there has been a lot said about the running time of OJ, to the point where it does almost feel like a television mini-series. Will the Academy rebuke the consensus and go with something different? As much as I enjoyed OJ and found it tackled many different subjects beyond “The Juice,” I’m holding out hope for 13th or I Am Not Your Negro, two films that work amazingly inside much less expansive running times without sacrificing power. Both are timely portraits of the African American experience, and would be better choices. 

That being said, this really is one hell of a line up.

Best Foreign Language Film

Salesman

The Field

  • A Man Called Ove
  • Land of Mine 
  • The Salesman
  • Tanna
  • Toni Erdmann

Will Win: The Salesman

Could Win: Toni Erdmann 

Should Win: The Salesman

Toni Erdmann is the critical favorite, but the buzz is louder for The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi’s latest which would be my personal choice for this category. 

Best Cinematography

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The Field

  • Greig Fraser, Lion
  • James Laxton, Moonlight 
  • Rodrigo Prieto, Silence
  • Linus Sandgren, La La Land
  • Bradford Young, Arrival 

Will Win: Linus Sandgen

Could Win: Greig Fraser

Should Win: James Laxton or Bradford Young

Should Have Been Here: Stéphane Fontaine, Jackie

It’s pretty safe to bet that this will be one of the many prizes La La Land wins tomorrow night, and I say pretty only because Greig Fraser picked up the prize at the American Society of Cinematographers over La La Land. We know there’s enthusiasm for Lion, but it’s hard to say if that enthusiasm lays in Supporting Actor, Screenplay or here. I do think that this is Lion‘s best shot at winning, but I’m sticking with La La Land for obvious reasons. 

That said, the great Bradford Young made history this year and finally got his due with a nomination, and it should be him walking away with this award tomorrow night. Arrival is a great movie for many reasons, and one of them is Young’s striking choices and jaw-droppingly good shots throughout the film. If not him, then I’d go with James Laxton whose stunning work hasn’t left my mind since I first saw Moonlight last fall. 

Best Costume Design

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The Field

  • Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  • Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
  • Joanna Johnston, Arrival
  • Mary Zophres, La La Land

Will Win: Madeline Fontaine

Could Win: Colleen Atwood

Should Win: Madeline Fonatine 

Colleen Atwood is a big favorite in this category, but I think Madeline Fontaine’s beautifully intricate work on Jackie will be victorious here. It’s true this category goes for the more obvious choice here most times, which means the contemporary designs from La La Land are probably at a disadvantage here. 

Best Film Editing

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The Field

  • Tom Cross, La La Land 
  • John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Joi McMillion & Nat Sanders, Moonlight
  • Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water
  • Joe Walker, Arrival 

Will Win: Tom Cross

Should Win: Joi McMillion & Nat Sanders 

Should Have Been Here: Sebastián Sepúlveda, Jackie 

Tom Cross won the ACE Eddie for his work on La La Land which means he’s probably a safe bet to win here, even if this prize doesn’t go to Best Picture winners as often as you’d think it would. The real winners of this category are Joi McMillion (the first black woman ever nominated for editing) and Nat Sanders, whose brilliant work on Moonlight is beyond words and accolades; far and away the best of the bunch.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

STAR TREK BEYOND

The Field

  • A Man Called Ove
  • Star Trek: Beyond
  • Suicide Squad

Will Win: Star Trek 

Should Win: Star Trek 

I pray we don’t have to live in a world where Suicide Squad is an Academy Award winning film. That said, Star Trek has won this prize before and I think it has the best shot of the choices here. 

Best Original Score:

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The Field

  • Nicholas Brittel, Moonlight 
  • Dustin O’Halloran & Hauschka, Lion
  • Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
  • Mica Levi, Jackie
  • Thomas Newman, Passengers

Will Win: Justin Hurwitz

Should Win: Mica Levi

Should Have Been Here: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Arrival 

Easy win for La La Land, even if Mica Levi’s work stands head and shoulders above everyone else nominated here. 

Best Original Song

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The Field

  • “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

Will Win: “City of Stars”

Should Win: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”

Should Have Been Here: Anything from Sing Street

I’m running out of pictures to use for La La Land

Best Production Design

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The Field

  • Stuart Craig & Anna Pinnock, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  • Guy Hendrix Dyas & Gene Serdana, Passengers
  • Jess Gonchor & Nancy Haigh, Hail, Caesar! 
  • Patrice Vermette & Paul Hotte, Arrival 
  • David Wasco & Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, La La Land

Will Win: David Wasco & Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

Should Win: Patrice Vermette & Paul Hotte

Blah Blah Land, again! Seriously though, give it to Arrival for that alien chamber alone. 

Best Sound Editing

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The Field

  • Sylvain Bellemare, Arrival 
  • Ai-Ling Lee & Mildred Iatrou Morgan, La La Land
  • Robert Mackenzie & Andy Wright, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Alan Robert Murray & Bub Asman, Sully
  • Wylie Stateman & Renée Tondelli, Deepwater Horizon

Will Win: Robert Mackenzie & Andy Wright

Could Win: Ai-Ling Lee & Mildred Iatrou Morgan

Should Win: Sylvain Bellemare

The sound categories usually lean towards war films, which is why I think Hacksaw has the best shot, in addition to their obvious love for the film. Though if this is going to be a La La Land sweep, it is possible that it could just win here, even though musicals are usually regulated to winning Sound Mixing (more on that in a second). But if we’re being honest, it’s Arrival‘s Sylvain Bellemare that deserves to win here. The creation of all those new sounds (the Heptapods) is more than deserving of this prize. 

Best Sound Mixing

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The Field

  • Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie & Peter Grace, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee & Steve A. Morrow, La La Land
  • Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush & Mac Ruth, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
  • David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio & Stuart Wilson, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Bernard Gariépy Strobl & Claude La Haye, Arrival

Will Win: Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee & Steve A. Morrow

Could Win: Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie & Peter Grace

Should Win: Bernard Gariépy Strobl & Claude La Haye

Musicals have faired much better in this category in the past, so I’m giving the edge to La La Land. I wouldn’t be shocked if Hacksaw swept both Sound categories either, I guess it will really depend on just how in the mood voters are to award La La Land

Best Visual Effects

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The Field

  • Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli & Paul Corbould, Doctor Strange 
  • Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean & Brad Schiff, Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton, Deepwater Horizon 
  • John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel & Neil Corboul, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones & Dan Lemmon, The Jungle Book

Will and Should Win: The Jungle Book

This category is open and close, when you read about the insane work that went into making The Jungle Book you’ll understand why. 

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