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Predictions Friday: Voters to Stay the Course or Shift with the Wind

It’s crazy to think any film can beat La La Land. We’re either in a predictable race or we’re in an unpredictable one and at the moment no one really knows what might happen. After all, this time last year The Revenant was expected to sweep – not only did it not win Best Picture, but Mad Max: Fury Road ended the night with the most Oscars. That surprised everyone, up to and including Alejandro G. Inarritu, who scowled as Mad Max’s total began to grow throughout the night.

But last year, stats wise, WAS unpredictable. Three different movies won three different guilds, and once again the SAG Ensemble stat came into play. That stat said that only Spotlight or The Big Short could win Best Picture. This year that stat is expected to fall because La La Land’s steam, despite the backlash (which is par for the course), began to grow with its box office. It seeped into the public consciousness so that it turned into street art in London, it is on late-night comedy, and has its own fan following with people dressing up like the characters and holding La La Land themed parties, etc. There is no reason to think it won’t take its place in Oscar history next week.

But here’s an interesting tidbit, take it for what it’s worth because it probably isn’t worth much. Last year I did a Facebook poll of the three movies. No matter how I asked people to respond – first ranking all of the titles and then ranking the top three – the winner was, without a doubt, Spotlight. It didn’t come in at number one but it far outnumbered its competition during a recount because it was a competitive year. More so than this year, which isn’t really seen as competitive at all. The funny thing was my experiment this year both times produced Moonlight, not La La Land, as the runaway winner. Okay, fine, so you say that my Facebook followers are more Moonlight-friendly and that’s probably true. But Moonlight benefited from the other two films that were based on African American stories so that when they were cut, Moonlight benefited. It also benefited, strangely enough, from guy-friendly films like Manchester by the Sea, Lion, and Hell or High Water. Those voters tended to like La La Land less. So Moonlight was ahead and stayed ahead. Arrival came in third on each of these experiments and its second choice voters split between La La Land and Moonlight. La La Land is more female friendly, where Moonlight is both female and male friendly. So that for people who didn’t like either of them enough to make them their top two or three, Moonlight edged out La La Land in the rankings.

The bottom line for me out of that was this: if Moonlight is the surprise winner I will not be all that surprised. It will then say that the Globes and the SAG Ensemble stat were somewhat reliable predictors. Moonlight hasn’t really had much an Oscar campaign. They were not aggressively challenging the frontrunner, probably because the box office couldn’t match it – either way, it does have momentum and word of mouth without one. It would be unusual but not unheard of for it to pull in a surprise win without that. But I would not count on that if you’re betting money.

Here are a few things to consider about this year.

  1. We’ve never had a year like this one that came out of the previous year with a hashtag and a boycott of the Oscars and an overhaul of membership, not in recent years anyway. Generally speaking, the members are easy to predict because their demographic hasn’t changed in 89 years. Could the influx of new female members actually help La La Land? It’s possible. It’s also possible that they could help Moonlight. Those new voters, I suspect, will be more careful with their choices than the old hats. It might change the outcomes in some categories.
  2. We can’t escape from it being a season of traumatized American citizens after a brutal election and the rise of white nationalism in our government. We’re freaked out. Voters will be freaked out. I don’t know what that will mean, but it is a change.
  3. The BAFTA can’t be entirely ignored and there is no doubt that Lion seems to have momentum heading out of it. The BAFTAs also did not favor a record-breaking sweep for La La Land as the Golden Globes did. That doesn’t mean the Academy won’t.

I do think that La La Land’s final take will be between five and eight total Oscars. But given the amount of other films in the race, there is always that chance that they will want to spread the wealth. Let’s get on with predictions.

Best Picture
La La Land – the frontrunner
Moonlight – the challenger
Hidden Figures – the surprise
Manchester by the Sea
Arrival
Lion
Fences
Hell or High Water
Hacksaw Ridge

Best Actor
Denzel Washington, Fences – frontrunner
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea – other frontrunner
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge – The surprise
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Best Actress
Emma Stone, La La Land – frontrunner
Isabelle Huppert, Elle – the challenger
Natalie Portman, Jackie – the surprise
Ruth Negga, Loving
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight – the frontrunner
Dev Patel, Lion – The challenger
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals – the surprise
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Supporting Actress
Viola Davis, Fences – The frontrunner
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Best Director
Damien Chazelle, La La Land – frontrunner
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight – the challenger
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival – the surprise
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

Original Screenplay
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea – the frontrunner
Damien Chazelle, La La Land – the challenger
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water – the surprise
Yorgos Lanthimos/Efthimis Filippou, The Lobster
Mike Mills, 20th Century Women

Adapted Screenplay
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight – the frontrunner
Luke Davies, Lion – the challenger
Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures  – the surprise
Eric Heisserer, Arrival
August Wilson, Fences

Editing
La La Land – the frontrunner
Hacksaw Ridge – the challenger
Arrival – the surprise
Moonlight – the other surprise
Hell or High Water – the shocker

Cinematography
La La Land – the frontrunner
Lion – the ASC winner and challenger
Arrival – the surprise
Moonlight – the other surprise
Silence – the shocker

Production Design
Arrival – the frontrunner
La La Land – the challenger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – the other challenger
Hail Caesar – the surprise
Passengers – the shocker

Sound Mixing
La La Land – the frontrunner
Arrival – the challenger
Hacksaw Ridge – the other challenger
Rogue One
13 Hours

Sound Editing
Hacksaw Ridge – the frontrunner
Arrival – the challenger
La La Land – the shocker
Deepwater Horizon
Sully

Costume Design
Jackie – the frontrunner
La La Land – the challenger
Fantastic Beasts
Florence Foster Jenkins
Allied*

Original Score
La La Land  – the frontrunner
Lion – the challenger
Jackie
Moonlight
Passengers

Original Song
City of Stars – the frontrunner
How Far I’ll Go – the challenger
Audition – the shocker
Can’t Stop the Feeling
The Empty Chair

Foreign Language Feature
The Salesman (Iran) – frontrunner 
Toni Erdmann (Germany) – other frontrunner
A Man Called ove (Sweden) – challenger
Tanna (Australia)
Land of Mine

Documentary Feature
OJ: Made in America – the frontrunner
13th – the challenger
I’m not Your Negro – the shocker
Life, Animated
Fire at Sea

Animated Feature
Zootopia – the frontrunner
Kubo and the Two Strings – the challenger
Moana – the shocker
The Red Turtle
My Life as a Zucchini

Visual Effects
Jungle Book – the frontrunner
Kubo and the Two Strings – the challenger
Deepwater Horizon
Rogue One
Doctor Strange

Makeup and Hair
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond – most are predicting
Suicide Squad

Live Action Short
Ennemis Intérieurs – the frontrunner
La Femme et le TGV – the challenger
Sing (Mindenki)
Silent Nights
Timecode

Animated Short
Piper – the frontrunner
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Borrowed Time
Blind Vaysha
Pearl

Documentary Short
4.1 Miles – possible winner
The White Helmets – possible winner

Joe’s Violin – possible winner
Extremis – possible winner
Watani: My Homeland – possible winner

Sorry, the shorts don’t really seem to have a consensus yet about which one will win.