Final Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win, Should Win, and Should’ve Been Nominated

The most important event of 2017 is almost nigh, which means it’s time for final Oscar predictions! In all seriousness, given everything that’s going on right now it seems silly to watch Hollywood celebrate itself in a grand ceremony. But the Oscars have never really been that important. They’re fun! And while who wins and who loses doesn’t necessarily mean anything (The Social Network and Inception lost Best Picture to The King’s Speech, but who’s still talking about The King’s Speech today?), the Oscars do have the ability to highlight films and performances worth seeking out that audiences may have missed the first time around. This year, indies like Moonlight and Hell or High Water had their profiles raised tremendously, leading folks who maybe wouldn’t necessarily feel inclined to see them to seek them out. And cinematographers like Bradford Young and Greig Fraser get pushed into the limelight for phenomenal work. That’s a good thing!

But in the end the Oscars are a contest, and as I’ve been covering this year’s race for what feels like an eternity, it’s nice to finally be able to come down on who I think will win. There have been plenty of ups and downs over the past few months, but as opposed to years where there was a clear X vs. Y contest (Birdman vs. Boyhood; 12 Years a Slave vs. Gravity), this year a trifecta emerged with La La Land, Moonlight, and Manchester by the Sea leading the pack. Of course, it turned out not to be that big of a contest as the La La Land train has been rolling since September and thus far, nothing’s knocked it off its perch. But there are some tight races to be found elsewhere, so below I run down my picks for who’s going to win every category while also offering up who could win, should win, and should have been nominated.

Now I’m not merely guessing here—this is based on a mix of statistics, precedent, and gut-instinct. You’d actually probably do fine if you picked La La Land to win every category in which it’s nominated, but that’s no fun. So while stats can get you so far, ultimately some categories just come down to a feeling. Without further ado, I present to you my 2017 Oscar predictions.

Best Picture

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

This race hasn’t been tight for some time now, and any inkling that maybe Moonlight could pull off the upset was dashed when the film lost the SAG Best Ensemble award to Hidden Figures. Now that NASA true story certainly picked up more votes with the SAG win, but I don’t think it has the momentum needed to carry it to a Best Picture win. Ultimately La La Land tied for the most Oscar nominations for a single film ever, which means there is broad support for this movie in almost every single branch of the Academy. It’s a film that celebrates dreamers and Hollywood itself—which as we’ve seen with wins for The Artist, Birdman, and Argo recently is a plus—and ultimately it’s uplifting and fun, which counters the dour national mood of the moment. For all of these reasons and more, I will be absolutely shocked if La La Land doesn’t win this award.

Will Win: La La Land

Could Win: Hidden Figures (but probably not)

Should Win: La La Land

Should Have Been Nominated: Silence

Best Director

  • Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
  • Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
  • Damien Chazelle – La La Land
  • Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
  • Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Ditto to everything I said about La La Land for its Best Picture win. Plus the fact that Damien Chazelle won the DGA Award for Best Director—only once since 2002 has the winner of the DGA not won the Best Director Oscar. Moreover, nine of the last 10 DGA-winning films went on to win Best Picture. Chazelle is poised to make history as the youngest recipient of the Best Director Oscar in history, but for good reason. La La Land is a miraculous tightrope walk between this love letter to Hollywood musicals and the crushing reality of life, and Chazelle navigates that tone expertly. It’s a shame Martin Scorsese didn’t crack the category (and more of a shame that Silence was shunned elsewhere), but this is a formidable bunch—Barry Jenkins and Kenneth Lonergan are just as deserving as Chazelle, if not moreso. La La Land has the momentum though, and that should carry Chazelle to the stage.

Will Win: Damien Chazelle

Could Win: Barry Jenkins

Should Win: Barry Jenkins

Should Have Been Nominated: Martin Scorsese – Silence

Best Actress

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

If Amy Adams had landed a nomination here it might be a trickier category, but Emma Stone has had the momentum for a long while now and Jackie lost a lot of luster upon release. So unless a huge amount of voters put Meryl Streep on top due to her Golden Globes speech, or there’s a groundswell of support for Isabelle Huppert, Stone should walk away with this one easily.

Will Win: Emma Stone

Could Win: Isabelle Huppert

Should Win: Emma Stone

Should Have Been Nominated: Amy Adams – Arrival

Best Actor

  • Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling – La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington – Fences

This is one of the closest races of the night. It’s down to Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington, and while Affleck had the momentum throughout December and January, Washington’s surprise win at the SAG Awards threw everyone for a loop. You have to go back to 2003 to find an instance where the winner of the SAG Best Actor didn’t also go on to win the Best Actor Oscar, and given Washington’s stature and, you know, the fact that he turns in a phenomenal performance in Fences, I’m giving him the edge.

Will Win: Denzel Washington

Could Win: Casey Affleck

Should Win: Casey Affleck

Should Have Been Nominated: Andrew Garfield – Silence

Best Supporting Actress

  • Viola Davis – Fences
  • Naomie Harris – Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman – Lion
  • Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

This is the easiest prediction of the night. Viola Davis has won nearly every single Best Supporting Actress award under the sun, and while we can argue whether she should’ve been in Best Actress or not, the bottom line is one of our finest performers is finally getting that Oscar.

Will Win: Viola Davis

Could Win: Ha, please.

Should Win: Viola Davis

Should Have Been Nominated: Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women

Best Supporting Actor

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

This is where we could see something of a surprise. Similar to Davis, Mahershala Ali has won quite a few Best Supporting Actor trophies for his terrific turn in Moonlight, but surprises tend to happen in the supporting categories, and Dev Patel’s win at the BAFTAs could signal an upset. It’s clear the Academy loved Lion a lot more than critics did, so this could be where the Lion contingent coalesces into a win for that film. Or Ali may continue his deserving run, as his genuinely passionate SAG speech is no doubt stuck in the minds of quite a few voters.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali

Could Win: Dev Patel

Should Win: Mahershala Ali

Should Have Been Nominated: John Goodman – 10 Cloverfield Lane

Best Original Screenplay

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

Here’s where the “La La Landslide” mentality comes into play. La La Land’s script is solid, and while the screenplays for films like Manchester by the Sea and Hell or High Water are possibly more deserving, if I’m predicting La La Land to win Best Picture and Best Director, the thinking goes that anyone voting for the film in those categories may also consider its screenplay as tops. For the Best Picture winner not to win a screenplay award would be a surprise, and as much as I’d like to think that voters might go for something else, wins like Birdman over The Grand Budapest Hotel and Nightcrawler, or The King’s Speech over Inception, are still fresh in my mind. Of course it’s also possible I’m wrong as I’m picking kind of an upset here, and I’ll no doubt regret this choice as soon as I hit “post”, but this is what I’ve got right now.

Will Win: La La Land

Could Win: Manchester by the Sea

Should Win: Manchester by the Sea

Should Have Been Nominated: The Nice Guys

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Arrival – Eric Heisserer
  • Fences – August Wilson
  • Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
  • Lion – Luke Davies
  • Moonlight – Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney

This one should hopefully be a very deserving win for Moonlight. The film was shifted to Best Adapted Screenplay due to a technicality, but that likely works in its favor as it’s not directly up against La La Land and Manchester. The Lion contingent could come out strong, or Arrival could pull off an upset, but I’m thinking this is the category where voters can safely show Moonlight some love without usurping their preference for La La Land or Manchester by the Sea.

Will Win: Moonlight

Could Win: Lion

Should Win: Moonlight

Should Have Been Nominated: Indignation

Best Animated Feature Film

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

Disney has the two frontrunners in this category, but Zootopia’s billion-dollar box office and critical raves should launch it into the winner’s circle. If Kubo and the Two Strings pulls off an upset, though, I won’t be mad.

Will Win: Zootopia

Could Win: Moana

Should Win: Zootopia

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Land of Mine – Denmark
  • A Man Called Ove – Sweden
  • The Salesman – Iran
  • Tanna – Australia
  • Toni Erdmann – Germany

The epic German comedy Toni Erdmann has been the frontrunner here for quite some time, especially since The Handmaiden wasn’t submitted, but there’s now the possibility that Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman wins in a sort of protest vote. The Iranian filmmaker has made clear that he won’t be attending the ceremony in protest of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, and it’s possible Academy voters might feel compelled to make a statement here by giving Farhadi’s absence the spotlight. Of course it’s still entirely possible that Toni Erdmann still takes it, but I’m going with an upset here.

Will Win: The Salesman

Could Win: Toni Erdmann

Best Documentary Feature

  • Fire at Sea
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • O.J. Made in America
  • 13th

This is one of the most formidable Best Documentary Feature lineups in recent memory. There’s a bounty of substance to be found here, but the epic O.J.: Made in America is an out and out masterpiece that’s been running away with this award for months now. Plus, its availability on ESPN as part of the 30 for 30 series means it’s possible a large swath of Academy voters have seen it.

Will Win: O.J. Made in America

Could Win: Life, Animated

Should Win: O.J. Made in America

Should Have Been Nominated: Weiner

Best Cinematography

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

Talk about a tough choice. Do you go with the long-take-filled La La Land? The strikingly naturalistic Arrival? The intimacy of Moonlight? The masterful composition of Silence? Or the impressively dynamic Lion? In concert with the “La La Landslide” as well as the fact that the cinematography is genuinely terrific, I’m thinking Linus Sandgren takes it, but Greig Fraser’s ASC win could signal a Lion boost here.

Will Win: La La Land

Could Win: Lion

Should Win: Silence

Should Have Been Nominated: Manchester by the Sea – Jody Lee Lipes

Best Original Score

  • Jackie – Mica Levi
  • La La Land – Justin Hurwitz
  • Lion – Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
  • Moonlight – Nicholas Britell
  • Passengers – Thomas Newman

This one’s pretty easy, even as the category is stacked. La La Land is a musical with a fantastic score, so chalk this one up to Justin Hurwitz.

Will Win: La La Land

Could Win: Lion

Should Win: La La Land

Should Have Been Nominated: Swiss Army Man – Andy Hull & Robert McDowell

Best Original Song

  • “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

Barring some kind of split-vote situation, I think La La Land takes this pretty easily. The omnipresence of “City of Stars” throughout the film, both in song and score form, makes it mighty memorable, and voters will no doubt want to give the original musical an original song award.

Will Win: “City of Stars”

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

Should Win: “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”

Should Have Been Nominated: “Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street

Best Production Design

  • Arrival
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • La La Land
  • Passengers

This one’s actually kind of tricky, but I’m thinking Harry Potter production designer Stuart Craig will win a well-deserved fourth Oscar for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The craftsmanship is undeniably tremendous, and it’s a blockbuster that’s worthy of acknowledgement.

Will Win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Could Win: La La Land

Should Win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Should Have Been Nominated: The Handmaiden

Best Costume Design

  • Allied
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Jackie
  • La La Land

I could really see Fantastic Beasts or La La Land taking this, but on account of indecisiveness I’m going with the BAFTA-approved Jackie here for the film’s sole Oscar win.

Will Win: Jackie

Could Win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Should Win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Should Have Been Nominated: The Handmaiden

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

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

Can voters really bring themselves to give Suicide Squad an Oscar? I’m thinking not.

Will Win: Star Trek Beyond

Could Win: Suicide Squad

Should Win: Suicide Squad

Best Film Editing

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • Moonlight

Best Editing has quietly become one of the most exciting categories in recent years. Wins for Mad Max: Fury Road, Whiplash, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo signal a desire to acknowledge the actual editing rather than simply matching this category up with your Best Picture pick, and with a BAFTA win in tow, it’s looking like the action-heavy editing of Hacksaw Ridge could take this. In fact I had Hacksaw Ridge as my pick for a while, but I’m pulling a last-minute audible and going with La La Land as a sort of gut feeling. Hacksaw doesn’t have the urgency or striking quality that Mad Max and Whiplash had, and those films won in the face of much more subdued Best Picture winners editing-wise (Spotlight and Birdman, the latter of which wasn’t nominated for Editing). So I’m going with La La Land here as editing is key to that film’s tight narrative.

Will Win: La La Land

Could Win: Hacksaw Ridge or Arrival

Should Win: Arrival

Should Have Been Nominated: Manchester by the Sea

Best Visual Effects

  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The Jungle Book should take this in a cakewalk. Moving on.

Will Win: The Jungle Book

Could Win: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Should Win: The Jungle Book

Should Have Been Nominated: Warcraft

Best Sound Editing

  • Arrival
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Sully

Here’s where I explain the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Sound Editing is the creation of sounds that did not exist on the day the scenes were filmed, and Sound Mixing is the mixing of sounds captured on set. The guttural and slightly terrifying soundscape of Arrival seems like an easy win here, but this award has gone to an action-heavy films in recent years, so it’s also possible it goes to something more showy like Hacksaw Ridge. Or, if voters aren’t entirely sure on the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, it might just go to the musical—although a musical hasn’t won this category in a very long time. Action movies tend to do well here, so I’m going with Hacksaw Ridge.

Will Win: Hacksaw Ridge

Could Win: La La Land

Should Win: Arrival

Should Have Been Nominated: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Sound Mixing

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

It’s ironic that one of the biggest complaints lodged against La La Land is its low/off sound mixing and yet it might win the Oscar, but here we are. Les Miserables took this trophy in 2012, as did Dreamgirls in 2006 and Chicago in 2002, so musicals certainly have the edge here.

Will Win: La La Land

Could Win: Hacksaw Ridge

Should Win: Hacksaw Ridge

Should Have Been Nominated: Silence

Best Live-Action Short Film

  • Ennemis intérieurs (Enemies Within)
  • La Femme et le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecode

Some of this year’s Best Live-Action Short Film nominees are solid, while others are absolutely atrocious. Ennemis intérieuers feels like the winner though, not only because it’s well made, but because the film is essentially an interrogation story between a French investigator and a French-Algerian man accused of socializing with terrorists. If voters want to go with something lighter, however, the flighty La Femme et le TGV or the banal Timecode could take it.

Will Win: Ennemis intérieuers

Could Win: La Femme et le TGV

Should Win: La Femme et le TGV

Best Animated Short Film

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  • Pearl
  • Piper

A couple of these nominees are downright depressing, which doesn’t tend to win this category. And while Pixar hasn’t won this category since 2001, Piper is undeniably adorable and impressive. The emotion of Pearl could push it into the winner’s circle, which I wouldn’t be mad about, but an overall fairly weak category signals to me that Piper has the edge. For a much more in-depth look at this year’s Best Animated Short Film nominees check out Dave’s full review,

Will Win: Piper

Could Win: Pearl

Should Win: Piper

Best Documentary - Short Subject

  • Extremis
  • 4.1 Miles
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani: My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

This year’s batch of documentary shorts is a formidable bunch, but the Holocaust survivor tale Joe’s Violin is likely to take it.

Will Win: Joe’s Violin

Could Win: The White Helmets

Should Win: Joe’s Violin

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