Final Oscar Predictions: Who Should and Will Take Home the Golden Statues?

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The 2017 awards season will be at its peak this Sunday, February 26, as the Oscars are set to be presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). The 89th Annual Academy Awards will honor the very best in films of 2016 and will, as usual, take place at the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center, California.

‘La La Land’ is the obvious favorite to win the top prize, Best Picture. The film garnered a record-tying 14 nominations, including all major categories and 8 out of 10 technical categories, signaling a universal support across the branches.

But if there’s one thing we can all learn from 2016, that would be, anything could happen. So, who knows, that ‘Moonlight’ might end up winning Best Picture. Or Isabelle Huppert could bring her Golden Globes win to pull off an upset against favorite-to win, Emma Stone. Or that Donald Trump would *NOT* end up as the punching bag of the night.

I’m 100% sure that last one will go the way it did at the other award shows, but for the rest, let’s take a look at what could happen:

A. BEST PICTURE

La La Land (courtesy of Lionsgate)

Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight.

Should Win: Moonlight. Sure La La Land is the real masterpiece of 2016 — no question about it. But if we’re talking about the power of stories — human stories, and storytelling (which for me are the most important elements of a film), Moonlight is the one to beat.

Will Win: La La Land. Like I said, this film is as a true masterpiece on so many levels. I’ve watched it three times—once in New York, twice in Jakarta — and I still can’t get enough of it. It really is the ultimate love letter, to Los Angeles, Hollywood, actors, dreamers, movies, and of course, Jazz.

Dark Horse: Hidden Figures. If you want to put your money on which film could pull off an upset against La La Land, that would be Hidden Figures. Not only did this wonderful film rule the box office for weeks, the cast also won the top prize at the SAG Awards which usually signals a Best Picture-lock.

B. BEST ACTRESS

Emma Stone in ‘La La Land’ (courtesy of Lionsgate)

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

Should Win: Emma Stone. All the nominees are wonderful actresses with terrific performances over the past year. But it was Emma Stone who was truly memorable by any objective measure. She gave us a triple threat of charm for god’s sake: acting, dancing, singing and some of it even LIVE in the film. She richly earned it.

Will Win: Emma Stone. It’s just hard to imagine that the Hollywood Foreign Press, BAFTA voters, all the way to the majority of Oscar voters at the SAG Awards, have given Emma all of her wins so far, but not for the Oscar.

Dark Horse: Isabelle Huppert. I’ve watched ‘Elle’ twice, only because it’s a French film, and one thing was certain, Isabelle was such a badass, and she richly deserves her nomination (or even if she wins). She really is and has always been one of the all-time great screen actresses, and had she sung or danced in ‘Elle’, she’d easily beat Emma Stone for sure!

C. BEST ACTOR

Denzel Washington in ‘Fences’ (courtesy of Paramount)

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

Should Win: Casey Affleck. Hold on, Constance Wu and friends. You may dislike Casey for his alleged personal problems in the past against women, but in all fairness, his raw performance as a deeply damaged man in ‘Manchester by the Sea’, was just undeniably stunning. And for me it was simply THE VERY BEST of 2016.

Will Win: Denzel Washington. Just like in many of his other films, he was so wonderful in ‘Fences’. He won the leading role at the SAG Awards which usually repeats at the Oscars. Unless, the academy voters pull a Meryl Streep-Viola Davis, like they did in 2012, meaning Casey might still win after all.

Dark Horse: Ryan Gosling. I know this sounds like a long shot, but like I said, anything could happen. And to be fair, just like Emma, Ryan did such a tremendous job — acting, dancing, and singing in ‘La La Land.’

D. BEST DIRECTOR

Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone (courtesy of Lionsgate)

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

Should Win: Damien Chazelle. IT WOULD BE A CRIME if he loses this. Damien managed to perfectly blend the elements of acting, singing, and dancing in what could be the most entertaining and universally well-received modern musical ever.

Will Win: Damien Chazelle. He already got the votes from the press, critics, BAFTA voters, and of course, the Directors Guild, which simply signals an Oscar-lock for him. After all, the academy wouldn’t want to kill a potential historic moment as Damien is on the verge to become the youngest director to win this, in more than 80 years. 80 YEARS!

Dark Horse: Barry Jenkins. His work in ‘Moonlight’ was brilliant. And speaking of historic moment, if Barry could make a surprise (a very long shot), he’d become the first black person to win this.

E. SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Viola Davis in ‘Fences’ (courtesy of Paramount)

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

Should Win: Viola Davis. First of all, looking at her performance, she’s already winning. Second, she already won the Tony Award for the same role. That’s how great she is. Finally, it’s just her time! Though to be fair, she should have been in the leading role category instead of supporting.

Will Win: Viola Davis. She already won all the major awards for this, including the SAG Awards, which majority of Oscar voters are also members of the actors union.

Dark Horse: Michelle Williams. I loved Naomie Harris’ performance in ‘Moonlight’ so much. I thought it was electrifying, intense, and very compelling. But Michelle Williams’ vulnerability in ‘Manchester’ really broke my heart watching that film. It was just very memorable.

F. SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali in ‘Moonlight’ (courtesy of A24)

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

Should Win: Mahershala Ali. One of the great things about ‘Moonlight’ is that it delivered some very unexpected depths of human’s character which I think what the film intends to do. And Ali’s brilliant, subtle performance made that possible. Even more impressive considering he was only in the first third of the film.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali. He won the SAG Awards which is usually more consistent to be repeated at the Oscars rather than any other major awards like Golden Globes or even the BAFTAs.

Dark Horse: Dev Patel. When Dev won the BAFTA this year for his wonderful work in ‘Lion’, it reminded me of Jake Gyllenhaal when he won his BAFTA for Brokeback Mountain over then the favorite-to win, George Clooney (Good Night, And Good Luck). If Ali doesn’t win, Patel will likely be the one.

G. BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Damien Chazelle (photo: Getty Images for AFI)

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

Should Win: La La Land. Many critics said that Kenneth Lonergan’s work in ‘Manchester’ was such a profound original writing that encapsulated extremely raw fundamentals of his main characters, and I totally agreed with that. But the idea of making a modern musical, which takes place in a long traffic in L.A., is just mind-blowing.

Will Win: Manchester by the Sea. If we’re talking about original writing, we’re actually talking more about words than music. In that sense, Manchester by the Sea deserves this. And also for the reason I previously mentioned above.

Dark Horse: The Lobster. All I can say if you haven’t seen this film, GO SEE IT. This is the definition of unique, rare, or in this case, VERY original.

H. BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Moonlight (courtesy of A24)

Nominees: Arrival (Eric Heisserer), Fences (August Wilson), Hidden Figures (Allison Schroeder & Theodore Melfi), Lion (Luke Davise), Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney)

Should Win: Moonlight. For all the many reason I’ve mentioned above, no film (ALL FILMS nominated this year) deserved writing nomination more than Moonlight. This was the year’s most humane story. PERIOD!

Wil Win: Moonlight. While the Writers Guild and BAFTA consider this film as original, the academy qualified this film as adaptation. It just won the Writers Guild (but for original screenplay), and the USC Script Awards, which both are highly strong indications for an Oscar win.

Dark Horse: Arrival. It won this category at the Writers Guild Awards.

I. Other Predictions:

  • Donald Trump will be the ultimate punching bag for the host, Jimmy Kimmel, the presenters, and of course the winners (enjoy the acceptance speeches, Trump voters!)
  • Donald Trump will, of course, tweet something about the Oscars since he’s gonna be the punching bag.
  • ‘La La Land’ or ‘Arrival’ will take home many awards in technical categories, while for music and score, ‘La La Land’ will sweep it all.
  • The presenters as well as the winners will be very political, considering Trump is in the white house now, and what he’s been doing so far.
  • The Oscars live-same day ratings are going to increase this year, since the same trends have been happening since the Globes, the SAGs, all the way to the Grammys this year.

ABC, per usual, will kick off the Oscars coverage at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT with the red carpet arrivals. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel will host the ceremony for the first time, while John Legend, Justin Timberlake, and Sting are all set to perform their original song nominees.

And if you can’t attend the celebration of Hollywood’s biggest night, or if you happen to be outside the U.S. this Sunday, you can head to The Hollywood Reporter page where you can find its complete guide to where the Oscars will air in some international markets.

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