Yep. It’s upon us. The red carpet is returning from the dry cleaners and a small army of event staff are unfurling it as we publish this. The 89th Academy Awards will be broadcast live on the 27th of February at 9:30am SGT. Though predictions abound on the internet, guest contributor to The Eye and one of SAS’ primary cinema scholars, relentless film-fans, and self-proclaimed clairvoyants — Aryan Varma — takes a stab at the winners, simultaneously offering some intuitive rationale to back up his predictions:
It will be a fascinating ceremony to watch play out, which could hold historical status. Not only has La La Land received a record-tying fourteen nomination, it could possibly win a record-tying eleven wins. There is also the possibility for a ground-breaking reversion from last year’s polemic #oscarssowhite controversy, with three non-white actors potentially nabbing the trophies in the same year. A perfect response to two consecutive years of only white actors being nominated.
Not every competition is a landslide, of course. There is a lot of tension in several categories, namely the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor races, and I will also convince you that La La Land isn’t the surefire lock to win Best Picture as the press would have you believe.
Note that I don’t assess the likely winners by the merit of the work itself, but rather by looking at probabilities based on what other awards ceremonies (leading up to this one) and general trends that seem to repeat themselves with the Academy itself.
Anyhow, it is going to be a fascinating ride, and without further delay, here are my predictions for the 89th Academy Awards.
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
- Kubo and the Two Strings
- My Life as a Zucchini
- The Red Turtle
Contrary to what you might be thinking, Zootopia isn’t a surefire win. In fact, I don’t think it will even win. I’m looking at Kubo and the Two Strings to win this one. It won at BAFTA, and in the past, every BAFTA winner for Animated Film with a corresponding Oscar nomination has eventually won the Oscar as well. I don’t see why it will differ this year. In addition to that, Kubo is the first animated film since The Nightmare Before Christmas to have been nominated for Visual Effects. This could potentially increase its attractiveness in winning the Oscar within this genre’s category. But will the Zootopia hype lead it to win the Oscar?
Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings / Could Win: Zootopia
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
- Mahershala Ali, Moonlight as Juan
- Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water as Marcus Hamilton
- Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea as Patrick Chandler
- Dev Patel, Lion as Saroo Brierley
- Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals as Detective Bobby Andes
Mahershala Ali is the logical candidate to grab the Oscar. Having won a SAG Award, his Oscar chances are raised. There are four precursors to determining an actor’s win at the Oscars (Golden Globes, SAG Awards, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice Awards). Golden Globe champion Aaron-Taylor Johnson isn’t nominated, and Ali won at both SAG and Critic’s Choice. His competition comes from Dev Patel, who won at BAFTA. These two will go face to face at the Oscars, with Ali having the upper hand. I’m personally rooting for Patel, as a win would represent only the second time that an actor of Indian descent to take home an Oscar in the acting categories.
The Academy is familiar with Jeff Bridges. He won an Oscar seven years ago and has been nominated for six times (including this nod). This gives him an advantage over the twenty-year-old Lucas Hedges, who is receiving his first Oscar nomination with Manchester by the Sea. Although being a newcomer doesn’t necessarily give Hedges a disadvantage (take a look at last year’s Mark Rylance vs Sylvester Stallone race), it is safer to say Jeff Bridges has a better chance than Hedges.
Will Win: Mahershala Ali / Should Win: Dev Patel
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
- Viola Davis, Fences as Rose Lee Maxson
- Naomie Harris, Moonlight as Paula
- Nicole Kidman, Lion as Sue Brierley
- Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures as Dorothy Vaughn
- Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea as Randi
Write it in stone: Viola Davis has this in the bag. This is one of the few categories with such a surefire winner. She won at the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, BAFTAs, and Critics’ Choice. The hype for a Davis win has been mounting, and all the Oscar precursors have given her this award.
Will Win: Viola Davis
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
- Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea as Lee Chandler
- Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond Doss
- Ryan Gosling, La La Land as Sebastian Wilder
- Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic as Ben Cash
- Denzel Washington, Fences as Troy Maxson
Due to his win at the SAG Awards, Denzel Washington is the most likely to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. If he wins the Oscar, he will be the seventh actor to win three Oscars, and the first African-American actor to do so. Prior to Washington’s win at the SAG Awards, Casey Affleck was the frontrunner to win the Oscar. Affleck won a Critic’s Choice Award and a Golden Globe, and although he lost out at SAG, he later won at BAFTA. Affleck has won every precursor, beside the SAG, which happens to be the most significant precursor. Although one could argue that his wins give Affleck the upper hand, I choose to disagree.
It’s a competition reminiscent of the race for Best Actor at the 81st Academy Awards, where Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn were going toe to toe for the Oscar for The Wrestler and Milk, respectively. While Rourke won at BAFTA and the Golden Globes, Penn won at the SAG Awards and at Critic’s Choice, and ultimately, Penn won the Oscar. Although Washington doesn’t have a Critic’s Choice win, a win at Critic’s Choice won’t matter. Keep in mind that BAFTA and SAG voters will be voting at the Oscars, and Washington wasn’t nominated at BAFTA. This gives a chance for BAFTA voters to vote for Washington, which they couldn’t do at BAFTA. And there will be many more BAFTA and SAG voters voting for the Academy Awards on top of those Golden Globes and Critic’s Choice voters that also join the jury.
Ryan Gosling could snatch the Oscar from both Washington and Affleck. If the voters want to jump on the La La Land bandwagon and award it with several Oscars, Gosling might reap the benefits.
Will Win: Denzel Washington / Could Win: Casey Affleck
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
- Isabelle Huppert, Elle as Michèle Leblanc
- Ruth Negga, Loving as Mildred Loving
- Natalie Portman, Jackie as Jackie Kennedy
- Emma Stone, La La Land as Mia Dolan
- Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins as Florence Foster Jenkins
Of the five nominees, only three have won a precursor: Stone, Huppert, and Portman. Stone has the upper hand, as she won at SAG, BAFTA, and at the Golden Globes (for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical). Huppert won at the Golden Globes (for Best Actress in a Drama), and Natalie Portman won at Critic’s Choice. As discussed with the Best Actor race, Stone’s BAFTA and SAG wins give her the upper hand. While not impossible, it is unlikely for either Huppert or Portman to take this one from Stone.
Will Win: Emma Stone / Could Win: Isabelle Huppert or Natalie Portman
Best Achievement in Directing
- Arrival, Denis Villeneuve
- Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson
- La La Land, Damien Chazelle
- Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan
- Moonlight, Barry Jenkins
This is another of the few categories with a surefire winner: Damien Chazelle is going to win, no question about it. For directors, the precursors remain the same as actors, with the only difference being that directors have to win at the Director’s Guild of America Awards, not at the SAG Awards.
Chazelle has won the Golden Globe, the DGA Award, the BAFTA, and the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Director. If (when) he wins, he will be only the fourth director to win all five major awards in Directing for one film, and, more significantly, he will become the youngest winner to ever win the Oscar for Best Directing.
Will Win: Damien Chazelle
Best Motion Picture of the Year
- Hacksaw Ridge
- Hell or High Water
- Hidden Figures
- La La Land
- Manchester by the Sea
La La Land isn’t the sure thing here that you are made to believe it is. However, it is the most likely to win amongst the nominees. I will not be surprised if it doesn’t. All Best Picture winners since Braveheart have been nominated for the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture, Director’s Guild Award for Best Directing in a Feature Film, and the Producer’s Guild Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture. This year, only two Best Picture nominees have been nominated for all three awards: Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. La La Land lost a nomination at the SAG Awards for Best Ensemble Cast, which, ironically, was the nomination Braveheart lost back in ‘96.
Last year’s Best Picture race was intense, as no one could confidently predict who would win. There was a split: SAG awarded Spotlight, the DGA awarded The Revenant, and the PGA awarded The Big Short. There was no general consensus of a predicted Best Picture due to the various guilds voting differently. Eventually, Spotlight won Best Picture, proving how important the SAG Awards are when it comes to predicting the Oscars.
La La Land could be the first film in 21 years that won Best Picture without a corresponding nomination at the SAG Awards for Ensemble Cast. If not, what other film could steal the coveted title?
As mentioned earlier, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight have all of the right precursors in order. Of the two, Moonlight has been garnering more hype, and has already won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama. We should give Moonlight the slight advantage.
I still believe La La Land will be walking away with the big one. Everyone besides the SAG Awards have been giving La La Land their biggest prize. Be it DGA, PGA, the Golden Globes, or BAFTA, La La Land has been walking away with trophy after trophy. This is what gives La La Land the upper hand against Moonlight. Voters have voted for La La Land several times across the various awards institutions, and they have no reason not to vote for La La Land once again.
Will Win: La La Land / Could Win: Moonlight
So those are the BIG ones, but several other categories deserve a quick prediction. Here is the way I see things falling:
- Best Writing, Original Screenplay: La La Land, Damien Chazelle
- Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney
- Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: Toni Erdmann, Germany
- Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score: La La Land, Justin Hurwitz
- Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song: “City of Stars” from La La Land, Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul
- Best Achievement in Sound Editing: La La Land, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou
- Best Achievement in Sound Mixing: Arrival, Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye
- Best Achievement in Production Design: La La Land, David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
- Best Achievement in Cinematography: La La Land, Linus Sandgren
- Best Achievement in Film Editing: La La Land, Tom Cross
- Best Achievement in Visual Effects: The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon
- Best Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
- Best Documentary Short Subject: Joe’s Violin
- Best Live Action Short Film: Ennemis intérieurs
- Best Animated Short Film: Piper
We will be eyeing the clock in our first-period class when the Oscars kick off… but if you play your cards right (and keep that phone cleverly hidden), you might be able to follow the action in real-time. Anyone up for a movie marathon this weekend? It’s your last chance to make some predictions of your own!