Predicting the 2017 Oscars

La La Land

Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

Aren: When it comes to predicting the Oscars, I’m as conservative as they come. Even if I have a gut instinct about a particular nominee, I’m going with the film that has won the most awards and garnered the most momentum. In this case, La La Land has won the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, most of the Critics groups and tied the record for the most Oscar nominations ever. Only two other films have scored 14 Oscar nominations: All About Eve and Titanic. They both won Best Picture. Unless Moonlight or Hidden Figures rides a groundswell of liberal discontent at the white establishment, La La Land is taking home the big prize. This is fine by me. It’s a great film, although I’d be equally happy if Arrival or Hell or High Water took it all home.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: Hell or High Water

Anders: 2016 was a down year for me in terms of the numbers of new films I saw. I haven’t seen more than half of the films nominated, though I’m hoping to catch up with a couple more before Sunday night that are now on streaming rental. Like Aren, I’ll stick with predicting the film that has all the momentum right now, though I see a possibility of Moonlight eking out a surprise win here ala Spotlight last year. I’m less enthusiastic about La La Land than Aren is, but I understand its appeal. My personal favourite film of the year is at least nominated, so I do think Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival should win. Though, given the track record, for a science fiction film to even be nominated is pretty good.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: Arrival

 

Best Actor

Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling for La La Land

Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington for Fences

Aren: This is the single most difficult category to predict. Casey Affleck has won the most precursor awards, but Denzel Washington won the award that has most-often coincided with Oscar. I genuinely believe it’s a toss-up. I’m going with Washington only because the SAG is more often the predictor than the Globes and the Critics Groups which Affleck has won, but don’t blame me for sabotaging your Oscar pool if Affleck wins. It’s truly too close to call. Andrew Garfield should be here for giving the best performance of the year in Silence, although he’s very good in Hacksaw Ridge.

Will Win: Denzel Washington for Fences

Should Win: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea

Anders: In this category I’ve only seen Gosling’s performance in La La Land (he’s better in Shane Black’s The Nice Guys). I thought Garfield should have been nominated for his performance in Scorsese’s Silence. A massive snub. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Washington win, as Aren notes his SAG award, but he’s also won two Oscars before. I’m thinking Affleck takes this one as the major award for Lonergan’s film.

Will Win: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea

Should Win: Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge [and by that I actually mean Silence]

 

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert for Elle

Ruth Negga for Loving

Natalie Portman for Jackie

Emma Stone for La La Land

Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins

Aren: The actress whose film also lands Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay nominations usually wins this category. This year, that actress is Emma Stone. She’s genuinely great in La La Land, probably the best she’s ever been because she’s working with material, a director and a co-star that matches her talents. She’ll follow in the footsteps of Jennifer Lawrence and fellow nominee, Natalie Portman. Even if I’m lukewarm about Elle, I’d be tickled if Isabelle Huppert blindsided everyone and won. She’s the dark horse. Also, why the hell isn’t Amy Adams nominated?

Will Win: Emma Stone for La La Land

Should Win: Emma Stone for La La Land

Anders: Once again, my lack of catching up on films means I can’t really say who should win, but I agree with Aren, I think this is Stone’s to lose.

Will Win: Emma Stone for La La Land

 

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali for Moonlight

Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges for Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel for Lion

Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals

Aren: Mahershala Ali is wonderful in Moonlight. He’s carried the momentum throughout the awards season, even if he missed out on earlier indicators like the Globes and BAFTAs. I think the affection for Moonlight–likely in the top two or three films on most voters’ ranked ballots–will spill over to this category as voters look to reward the film by honouring a great performance from a rising star. If Ali doesn’t win, look for Jeff Bridges or Dev Patel to take home the statue. I feel like this category is missing a lot of other performances that would’ve made for more interesting nominees, such as Liam Neeson and Issey Ogata for Silence and Patrick Stewart for Green Room.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight

Should Win: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight

Anders: Bridges is a Hollywood favourite, but his character in Hell or High Water was pretty much a modern day take on his Rooster Cogburn from 2010’s True Grit. I expect Mahershala Ali to take this, as his star has been on the rise since his supporting role in Netflix’s House of Cards.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight

 

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis for Fences

Naomie Harris for Moonlight

Nicole Kidman for Lion

Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea

Aren: I haven’t seen Fences, but since Viola Davis is the co-lead of that film and since her inclusion in this category is clearly awards-season fraud, she’s guaranteed to win. Last year, another co-lead (Alicia Vikander) slunk down to supporting category and won. Also, Davis has been a near-miss for many awards in the past so I can see many voters rewarding her this time round. If I could choose, I’d give it to Michelle Williams. Her conversation with Casey Affleck late in Manchester by the Sea is devastating.

Will Win: Viola Davis for Fences

Should Win: Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea

Anders: The method by which the Academy determines performance eligibility remains opaque to me, so I agree with Aren that once again a lead performance will take it in this category.

Will Win: Viola Davis for Fences

 

Best Director:

Damien Chazelle for La La Land

Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge

Barry Jenkins for Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea

Denis Villeneuve for Arrival

Aren: There have been years where Best Director and Best Picture have split, such as last year, but in those years, the film that won Best Picture was more subdued in terms of filmmaking. If Manchester by the Sea were to win Best Picture, I could understand the argument that Barry Jenkins or Damien Chazelle would then win Best Director, since their films are more aggressively directed than Kenneth Lonergan’s. That being said, the likely Best Picture winner is also a kinetically-directed film. I believe Chazelle will win his first Best Director Oscar, although Barry Jenkins could make history and become the first black director to ever win.

Will Win: Damien Chazelle for La La Land

Should Win: Denis Villeneuve for Arrival

Anders: I’d be very shocked if Chazelle didn’t win for La La Land. It’s a textbook example of packing each and every camera movement and filmic element with significance, even if I found it a bit strained at times. It’s a bit eager, but I admire the kid’s chutzpah. I’d be happy to see Villeneuve win, as the French-Canadian director has established a strong directorial voice over his last few films. In Arrival he pushes it further, but he doesn’t overshadow the work of a strong screenplay and cinematographer.

Will Win: Damien Chazelle for La La Land

Should Win: Denis Villeneuve for Arrival

 

Best Original Screenplay

20th Century Woman by Mike Mills

Hell or High Water by Taylor Sheridan

La La Land by Damien Chazelle

The Lobster by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou

Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan

Aren: If La La Land wins in this category, expect the film to sweep every single award of the night. It actually has a chance of doing that, but I believe the voters will reward Manchester by the Sea with its lone statue. There’s no argument that this film is wonderfully written. Lonergan clearly is a writer-first and director-second, so it makes sense to reward him for his screenplay. Hell or High Water ought to win for how every single character in the film breathes a life of their own. Few films convey such lived-in lives just outside the frame.

Will Win: Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan

Should Win: Hell or High Water by Taylor Sheridan

Anders: I think La La Land is going to win here, even if I think it’s “originality” isn’t the film’s selling point. At times the screenplay is a bit laboured and heavy-handed (see for instance, Mia’s speech about her aunt in Paris). I’d be fine with Hell or High Water taking this one instead.

Will Win: La La Land by Damien Chazelle

Should Win: Hell or High Water by Taylor Sheridan

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Arrival by Eric Heisserer

Fences by August Wilson

Hidden Figures by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

Lion by Luke Davies

Moonlight by Barry Jenkins

Aren: Since Moonlight was shifted from its preferred category of Best Original Screenplay to Best Adapted Screenplay, I expect it to handily win. People love this movie and the triptych structure is a bold gambit that mostly pays off. Arrival ought to win for how it beautifully pulls the rug out from under the audience and delivers an emotional wallop.

Will Win: Moonlight by Barry Jenkins

Should Win: Arrival by Eric Heisserer

Anders: I think they will give this one to Moonlight, since it’s the film in this category with the most momentum. However, Eric Heisserer’s adaptation of Ted Chiang’s masterful novella/short story “Story of Your Life,” manages to preserve the core of the original while making it work for the big screen.

Will Win: Moonlight by Barry Jenkins

Should Win: Arrival by Eric Heisserer

 

Best Cinematography

Arrival

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

Aren: La La Land is dynamic. The camera swoops around and follows the characters and seems to never stop moving. With all the infatuation over the film, it’s likely to win this category. I believe that Silence deserves it for its haunting images and spare frames. But all the nominees are strong. Even Lion is beautifully shot.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: Silence

Anders: I expect La La Land to win, because as in many categories, “best” is often a code for “most,” as in the most noticeable camera movement. The opening dance sequence of La La Land is indeed good, as is the aping of classic movie musical moments. Arrival and Silence are both more to my taste however. As much as I’d love to see the powerful Silence take this (which would be my second favourite film of the year were I to redo my top 10), Arrival’s cinematography is equally remarkable. Note: Bradford Young would be the first African-American to win in the category.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: Arrival

 

Best Costume Design

Allied

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

Aren: In the case of a likely La La Land sweep, I expect it to pick up the Best Costume Design award, even if it’s a contemporary film. No movie costumes from this past year stuck out more than Emma Stone’s canary yellow dress in the film. That kind of memorable imagery is what wins Oscars. However, don’t count out the period costumes of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or Jackie. The Academy loves a period dress.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: La La Land

Anders: I expect La La Land to win this because the costumes speak to the character’s personalities and role in the film, rather than just recreating period detail.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: La La Land

 

Best Sound Mixing

13 Hours

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Aren: Since it’s a musical and it’ll win Best Picture, I expect La La Land to win Best Sound Mixing, which describes the capturing of sound on set and the balance of the overall sound mix. It does a beautiful job of combining the musical numbers with the sounds and textures of the environments in which they take place.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: La La Land

Anders: Musicals and war movies have the hardest time in keeping the sound elements balanced and are often rewarded for it. Expect La La Land to add to its tally in this category.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: La La Land

 

Best Sound Editing

Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Sully

Aren: La La Land could win this one if there’s a total sweep, but war and action movies usually win Best Sound Editing, which refers to the creation of sound effects in post production and their incorporation into the film. Hacksaw Ridge is a Best Picture nominee and it’s unlikely to win any of the major awards, so I could see it find traction here for its effects of bullets and explosions. The film’s sound effects contribute largely to its immersive recreation of the Battle of Okinawa. However, I think Arrival should win for its inventive alien sound effects.

Will Win: Hacksaw Ridge

Should Win: Arrival

Anders: I agree with Aren that the creation of sound effects in Arrival has the most significant impact on the story, but that fellow Best Picture nominee Hacksaw Ridge could take this. I’ll split with Aren and go with my favourite film.

Will Win: Arrival

Should Win: Arrival

 

Best Editing

Arrival

Hacksaw RIdge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

Aren: La La Land is precisely edited and the musical sequences often incorporate editing rhythm as much as camera movement, so I expect this to win. As well, Tom Cross won for Whiplash so I expect him to pick up another win here. If I had my say, I’d award the editor of Arrival, Joe Walker, who does a beautiful job of shifting between timelines and emotional states.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: Arrival

Anders: Once again, I feel like Arrival deserves this award for how well it handles the intercutting of timelines and delivery of information. But I expect La La Land to take it, since editing is often an indicator of Best Picture (or is it the other way round?).

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: Arrival

 

Best Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Aren: The Jungle Book wowed critics and audiences (even if I was unimpressed) and most of that kudos was directed towards its uncanny recreations of wild animals. I expect it to win for that reason, but I adored Kubo and the Two Strings. Even though it’s unconventional to nominate an animated film for Visual Effects, Kubo and the Two Strings did the year’s best job of seamlessly incorporating computer generated images into physical footage. It’s stunning.

Will Win: The Jungle Book

Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Anders: Visual Effects is always an interesting, as a lot of work is put into something that is only honoured in this one category. I’d love to see a Star Wars film pick up the award for the first time since 1983’s Return of the Jedi, as I thought Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had incredible special effects.

Will Win: The Jungle Book

Should Win: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad

Aren: This is probably between Star Trek Beyond and Suicide Squad, which both had very good makeup effects, even if you can argue over their quality as films. I think Star Trek Beyond is clearly the better film and its makeup effects were solid so I expect it’ll come out on top.

Will Win: Star Trek Beyond

Should Win: Star Trek Beyond

Anders: I kind of hope Suicide Squad doesn’t win anything, even if the make-up was pretty decent on characters like Killer Croc. But it loses points for the lameness of Jared Leto’s Joker. Yikes!

Will Win: Star Trek Beyond

 

Best Original Song

“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

Aren: If a musical is winning Best Picture, then a song from that musical is going to win Best Song. “City of Stars” provides the musical skeleton of the film and is the better song, so it’ll win. “How Far I’ll Go” is pretty great as far as Disney empowerment ballads go, so I wouldn’t be too sad if there was a major upset.

Will Win: “City of Stars” from La La Land

Should Win: ‘City of Stars” from La La Land

Anders: Any other year, “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana would win, but I can’t see La La Land winning best picture and not getting the musical categories. That said, the presence of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton-mania could provoke a shocking upset. I also think it would be fun to say “Oscar-winner Justin Timberlake.”

Will Win: “City of Stars” from La La Land

Should Win: “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

 

Best Original Score

Jackie

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Passengers

Aren: Again, the musical winning all the awards is going to win best music. Lion and Moonlight both have very good scores, but the La La Land score is far and away the best here so it’ll deservedly win. Again, the best scores of the year, including Dario Marianelli’s Kubo and the Two Strings score, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’s Hell or High Water score and most significantly, Johann Johannsson’s Arrival score are all bafflingly absent.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: La La Land

Anders: I agree. No Johann Johannsson? Scandal. I don’t share Aren’s La La Land love, and honestly wasn’t blown away by the score for the film, though I do enjoy it’s jazzy pep and piano melodies. I’d be fine with it winning.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: La La Land

 

Best Short Film, Animated

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Ciders and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper

Aren: I’ve only seen Piper but since it’s the Pixar, it’s the likely choice.

Will Win: Piper

Anders: Piper looks beautiful, and from Pixar, so it’ll probably win.

Will Win: Piper

 

Best Short Film, Live Action

Ennemis interieurs

La femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing

Timecode

Aren: I have no idea, but this one seems to be getting the consensus bets.

Will Win: Ennemis interieurs

Anders: A shot in the dark guess.

Will Win: Timecode

 

Best Documentary Short

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets

Aren: Since it’s about the ongoing conflict in Syria, The White Helmets might win, but again, I’m shooting in the dark. Joe’s Violin is about the Holocaust, a subject that often gets accolades, so that’s a safe bet too.

Will Win: The White Helmets

Anders: Extremis is a Netflix produced film about end of life decisions and likely a tear-jerker.

Will Win: Extremis

 

Best Documentary Features

13th

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America

Aren: People may be skeptical about whether it even counts as a film, but O.J.: Made in America is the kind of towering achievement that nearly everyone has gotten behind. It ought to win, even if 13th or I Am Not Your Negro might outstripe it in terms of being a political statement.

Will Win: O.J.: Made in America

Should Win: O.J.: Made in America

Anders: O.J.: Made In America should win, because it isn’t just one of the best documentaries but one of the best films of the year. Period. But I’m guessing 13th will win because of it’s Netflix availability and director Ava DuVernay. I really need to see I Am Not Your Negro.

Will Win: 13th

Should Win: O.J.: Made in America

 

Best Foreign Feature

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Tanna

Toni Erdmann

Aren: Toni Erdmann is a very fine film with a lot of critical love and it might win, but I suspect The Salesman will pull off an upset. It’s a near-great film that has been made extra topical in the wake of Donald Trump’s travel ban. It offers an opportunity for voters to make a political statement by awarding an Iranian filmmaker who would be banned from the country under the executive order’s legal framework.

Will Win: The Salesman

Should Win: The Salesman

Anders: Haven’t seen any of these. It’s hard to say whether the ecstatic raves for Toni Erdmann (which is even getting a Hollywood remake) or the political points for rewarding an Iranian film will win the day. I will say that I believe Asghar Farhadi is a master of contemporary world cinema and I’m looking forward to seeing his film and would be pleased to see him win, but have a feeling this is Toni Erdmann’s award.

Will Win: Toni Erdmann

 

Best Animated Feature

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

Aren: Zootopia will win because of its attempts at social commentary, which the directors have been leaning on hard during their awards campaign. If a Disney film had to win, I’d prefer Moana, which has some lovely music and animation. The Red Turtle is a great little film, but I doubt most Oscar voters have even seen it. Kubo and the Two Strings should be nominated for Best Picture and ought to win this contest, but it likely won’t in the night’s most egregious misstep.

Will Win: Zootopia

Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Anders: I really liked Moana, and I’m looking forward to seeing Kubo and the Two Strings and The Red Turtle. But, I concur with Aren, I think Zootopia will take it.

Will Win: Zootopia.

Should Win: Moana

 

Best Production Design

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Passengers

Aren: Best Production Design might go to fantasy and period pieces more often that contemporary films, but La La Land offers enough variation and fantasy to qualify for the award. That final epilogue sequence at the end is gorgeously designed. However, Hail, Caesar! had the best design in this category. It perfectly apes several Classic Hollywood genres as well as the location of 1950s Hollywood itself. If the design weren’t phenomenal, the film would not work.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: Hail, Caesar!

Anders: La La Land and Arrival each had distinctive and carefully constructed designs, from the fantasy sequences and nightscapes of Los Angeles of the former to the heptapod language and ships from the latter. Aren is right that Hail, Caesar! works in large part because of its impeccable and exacting design. It’s a conflict between accurate recreation and imagining something new. I think La La Land will take it, but I’d be happy giving it to either of the other two films I mentioned. Arrival gets the edge from me for the challenge of visualizing an alien language.

Will Win: La La Land

Should Win: Arrival

About Aren

Aren likes big movies and he likes small movies. He'll sing the praises of the latest Hollywood sci-fi epic while simultaneously lambasting people for not getting into Hong Kong cinema. He detests egotism in film and film criticism, but is a sucker for earnest spectacle. While he tends to skew more modern in his viewing choices, he thinks film looks best in black and white, especially when directed by Akira Kurosawa. His favourite genres are science fiction and animation, but he'll watch anything so long as it's interesting. He's a prairie boy, born and raised. When he's not writing about movies, he's making them. You can watch his 2013 sci-fi short QUANTOM here: http://vimeo.com/66512643. His email is arenbergstrom@gmail.com. His favourite movies are 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), BEN-HUR (1959), BLUE VELVET (1986), THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001), MINORITY REPORT (2002), PSYCHO (1960), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), SEVEN SAMURAI (1954), SPIRITED AWAY (2001), and STAR WARS: EPISODE VI - RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983). His favourite directors are Hayao Miyazaki, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, James Cameron, David Cronenberg, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Terrence Malick, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and Johnnie To.