2017 Oscar Predictions

We make our final predictions before the big night.

Predicting the Oscars is one of our favorite things to do here at Film School Rejects. And we’re not too shabby at it, if we do say so ourselves. In years past, we’ve been close to perfect, often only missing on one or two categories. So if you’re betting on The Oscars, we offer our record as an example of why you should take our picks into consideration. That said, we’re not responsible if we’re wrong. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a big, increasingly diverse body of film industry people that has, at one time or another, surprised us with something out of left field. Though the more likely scenario is that they’ll be very traditional and predictable. That’s why a bunch of rejects can get inside their collective head year after year.

The 89th Academy Awards come to pass this weekend with a number of interesting narratives surrounding them. It’s the first year after the huge #OscarsSoWhite scandal of last year. In the intervening time, The Academy has taken great strides to make its membership more diverse and bring in a number of new members. They’ve got plenty more work to do, but they’ve already made some headway. On the film side, we have a big clash between two major contenders. At almost every turn, it’s the vibrant, poppy Hollywood musical La La Land against the contemplative, richly crafted Moonlight. Will Hollywood’s propensity to pat itself on the back for movies about movies win out over jumping all the way into the diversity of voices pool? That’s one of the many big questions we address as we predict this year’s Oscar winners…

Best Supporting Actor

Tomris Laffly: Yes, BAFTA preferred Lion’s British Dev Patel over Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali, but despite what the pundits are saying (calling this category a close call), I will personally be surprised if the SAG-winner Ali walks away empty handed on Oscar night. Even though this category gave us some surprises in the recent years (last year’s Mark Rylance comes to mind, when many of us predicted Stallone), I am not really feeling that it’s that close a call. Moonlight clearly resonated with The Academy, scored 8 nominations and is likely winning the Adapted Screenplay. Mahershala Ali is likely to be its second win that night. (But note that it means Lion will close the season with 0 Oscars out of 6 nominations, which is something to think about.)

Who Will Win? Mahershala Ali *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Mahershala Ali

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Neil Miller: This is always a fun, sort of random category that could be a well of surprises. The front runner appears to be Star Trek Beyond, which had both scope and creativity. Suicide Squad is a strong contender for similar reasons. A Man Called Ove is the second consecutive nomination for Eva Von Bahr and Love Larson, the brilliant Swedish team that did The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared last year. The question is: will The Academy be bored enough with the two big-budget noms to allow Bahr and Larson to break through? Not likely, but there’s hope.

Who Will Win? Star Trek Beyond *Nope.*
Who Should Win? A Man Called Ove

Best Costume Design

Tomris Laffly: This is a slightly frustrating category for me to write about. Part of the reason is, I love and adore La La Land. But I am not sold on its costumes, though it has a real shot at winning. On the whole, its candy-colored clothes (with a touch of vintage flair) work beautifully and are in synch with the film’s vibrancy and nod to the olden days. But when looked closely, they do lack a certain level of sophistication. So, yes – La La Land is a serious challenger here. Unfortunately, the Costume Designers Guild Awards don’t offer any clues, as those separate between Fantasy, Period and Contemporary film (as I sometimes wish Oscars also did.) Having noted all this, I’m going to predict Madeline Fontaine/Jackie as the winner here. Recreating and reimagining the wardrobe of Jackie Kennedy is no small task and AMPAS members are likely to be on board with it too.

Who Will Win? Jackie *Nope.*
Who Should Win? Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Documentary Feature

Christopher Campbell: Ever since voting for this category was opened to the entire Academy, the winner has typically had the lighter subject matter compared to its competition. Usually the Oscar went to the music doc among the nominees, or one of them if there were multiple. This year there is no music doc. There’s also feel-good underdog sports film. And against the norm, there’s no sure thing like there was with Citizenfour. There’s O.J.: Made in America, which has won the most accolades so far, but I just don’t see a majority of Academy members sitting through such a long film (467 minutes). They also aren’t going to pick the foreign-language doc, Fire at Sea. Then there are two films with pretty much the same issues, addressed very differently, and those, 13th and I Am Not Your Negro may cancel each other out. What’s left? A feel-good feature about an autistic boy who opened up thanks to the magic of Disney animated classics. There’s a chance enough voters with Netflix and a desire to be topical will push 13th to a win, but it’s doubtful.

Who Will Win? Life, Animated *Nope.*
Who Should Win? Anything else, but above all O.J.: Made in America

Best Sound Editing

Christopher Campbell: While the other sound category is primarily about authentic sounds recorded, usually during filming, this one focuses on sound effects, including foley work, and sound design. It can be considered a more creative craft. The category is also not really a musical’s category, and it’s very surprising that La La Land even managed a nomination here where others of its kind in the genre pretty much never have. Instead, the award tends to go to something loud and action-heavy, often a war movie. If there’s one most deserving, design-wise, it’s Arrival, and that’d sure make up for its related score being disqualified. If there’s a dark horse, it could be Deepwater Horizon considering Wylie Stateman has been nominated so many times and has never won, but he can just keep on being the Roger Deakins of sound editing because there’s a World War II movie in the mix.

Who Will Win? Hacksaw Ridge *Nope.*
Who Should Win? Arrival

Best Sound Mixing

Christopher Campbell: These days, the musical, if there is one, will win the Oscar for sound mixing. Here’s a reminder of what this category honors, basically: on-set and in-studio sound recording and mixing. Interestingly, the contenders that aren’t La La Land this year all seem to be big sound effects movies, not authentic-sound movies. Whereas with La La Land you’ve got pre-recorded music, you’ve got sung-live-on-set songs such as the two Original Song nominees “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – this was also a big selling point on the recognition of 2012 winner Les Miserables – and you’ve got a lot of other general sounds recorded in the physical space of the filming. Damien Chazelle’s last movie, Whiplash, also won in this category.

Who Will Win? La La Land *Nope.*
Who Should Win? La La Land

Best Supporting Actress

Tomris Laffly: It would be a genuine shock if anyone other than Viola Davis for Fences wins in this category. She won the Screen Actors Guild award. She won at the BAFTAs as well as the Golden Globes. Next stop is surely Oscars. We have heard from a couple of anonymous voters (one over at The Daily Beast and one in Scott Feinberg’s infamous “Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot” series) that they will protest the so-called “category fraud” and not vote for her. But let’s get real. She is winning, as she should.

Who Will Win? Viola Davis *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Viola Davis

Best Foreign Language Film

Rob Hunter: A Man Called Ove was a front-runner for a short while before it was overtaken by the deliriously wonderful Toni Erdmann, but while Land of Mine and Tanna sit quietly in the wings the politics of the real world have thrown a wrench into the race with Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. The acclaimed director won’t be attending the Oscars due to you know who’s Muslim travel ban, and a movement to award the film has sprung up as a form of protest. Will it be enough to pull the lead away from Toni Erdmann? Maybe.

Who Will Win? The Salesman *Bingo!*
Who Should Win?
Toni Erdmann

Best Animated Short Film

Tomris Laffly: Conventional wisdom says: go with Pixar’s Piper. It’s adorable and touching. AMPAS does make bolder choices here every now and then, so I’d normally predict something else just to give them a bit more credit. But it just might be safer to stick with conventional wisdom after all. My favorite, Blind Vaysha, isn’t likely to happen, and both Borrowed Time and Pearl give me a pause. But…Piper it is.

Who Will Win? Piper *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Blind Vaysha

Best Animated Feature

Neil Miller: The unfortunate narrative of the Best Animated Feature category is that even though The Academy got their nominations right (resisting the urge to give a pedestrian Pixar effort in Finding Dory a nom over more deserving smaller pictures like The Red Turtle and My Life as a Zucchini), the ultimate result is going to be about the same: everything gets consumed by the Disney machine. The fight here is between Moana and Zootopia, with Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings as the first bridesmaid. And while Moana is a strong contender in the Original Song category, it doesn’t quite tread water against its in-studio sibling, the billion dollar behemoth of Zootopia. The equality-espousing, Sloth-delighting film will also give The Academy its social justice warm and fuzzies, which I’m sure will help them feel better about choosing La La Land over Moonlight… (Oops, spoiler alert.)

Who Will Win? Zootopia *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Production Design

Neil Miller: This year’s production design nominees are varied in scope and degree of difficulty, two important factors for this particular category. Passengers made it this far with its sleek, futuristic space ship designs. Fantastic Beasts is a delightful period piece that also had to vibe on the same wavelength as the rest of the Harry Potterverse. And Arrival nailed that industrial, unnerving otherworldly inside the ship setting. But this is really going to come down to the sprawling period fun of Hail, Caesar! and the colorful modern zip of La La Land. The Art directors guild liked La La Land, which may be the only edge it needs here.

Who Will Win? La La Land *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Hail, Caesar!

Best Visual Effects

Neil Miller: Here’s the overwhelming question in this category: does Rogue One: A Star Wars Story get points or get penalized for the Peter Cushing/Carrie Fisher digital recreations? If it’s points, it’s going to win. As well it should, but for other reasons. The space battle at the end of that movie is one of the finest ever committed to film in any era. If it gets penalized, however, it will get leap-panthered by The Jungle Book, which pushed Jim Cameron’s Avatar technology further than ever before in the realm of photo-realness. Two of the other nominees, Doctor Strange and Kubo, are just here for the free drinks. And Deepwater Horizon is here because… well, I’m not sure. Maybe one of its producers has a lot of dirt on the members of the nominating committee. In the end, I must make a go-for-broke, Hail Mary suicide mission prediction for this one…

Who Will Win? Rogue One *Nope.*
Who Should Win? Rogue One

Best Film Editing

Neil Miller: File Editing under the list of technical awards likely to be swept up the technical love-fest for La La Land, which scratches the “we love movies about movies!” itch in a big way for The Academy’s membership. That said, even though La La Land is the odds-on favorite here, there are other interesting wrinkles. War films often do well in the editing category, giving Hacksaw Ridge one of its best chances for an upset (alongside Sound Editing). Arrival may sneak in and steal one technical award, but I doubt it’s this one. And Moonlight’s nom is the first ever for an African American woman (Job McMillon, nominated with Nat Sanders). Also, have you seen Moonlight? The editing is pretty spectacular. Alas, this one is going to be La La Land’s to lose, and for very good reason.

Who Will Win? La La Land *Nope.*
Who Should Win? Moonlight

Best Live Action Short Film

Tomris Laffly: Take a look at Gold Derby, and you’ll see that Ennemis Interieurs has the clear lead there. No wonder. This tense French short is on an important and current topic, when the entire world is focused on immigration and our collective eyes are on the Muslim ban. Frankly, it’s a tough call. My favorite in this category, Sing, is the sharpest, wittiest entry. It’s also the most engaging. Silent Nights, another film that focuses on immigration, is arguably the most cinematic one. Timecode is the dreamiest and La Femme et le TGV brings plenty of whimsy to the group. I will reluctantly predict Sing here. Just last year, Stutterer beat Day One and Shok, proving “important” doesn’t always mean “winner”. True, the world today feels different than last year. But I will stand by this prediction. Just don’t bet a lot of money on it. You’re safer with Ennemis Interieurs, it sounds like.

Who Will Win? Sing *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Sing

Best Documentary Short Subject

Christopher Campbell: We haven’t had a batch of doc short contenders this good in years, maybe decades. They’re all of commendable quality, and for the most part they each have a relevancy that makes them collectively an important crop of films. The least of them, Joe’s Violin, is still good enough to be a clear winner in many other years. But this Oscar will have to honor one of the films involving Syria and the refugee crisis. And they will not cancel each other out. The White Helmets is, even in this group, a tremendous standout, and even the voters not considering the powerful, endangered lens of those chronicling the work of Nobel Prize-nominated first responders in war-torn Aleppo have to recognize the subjects as the most deserving of recognition on the Oscars stage.

Who Will Win? The White Helmets *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? The White Helmets

Best Cinematography

Christopher Campbell: This should be a difficult category to vote on for members, considering each of the five contenders is uniquely exquisite in its design and capture of sublime visuals. And some in the Academy ought to feel the burden of only having this option for an Oscar for Silence. But there is a frontrunner, one not exactly undeserving, and that’s the film with a lot of pretty visuals, a ton of perfectly mapped out camerawork, and a consistent yet not uniform aesthetic that is quite significant to the meaning of the film. That’s right, another win for La La Land.

Who Will Win? La La Land *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? La La Land

Best Original Score

Rob Hunter: Hmm, one of the nominated films is a musical. I wonder if it will win Best Score? Sadly yes, it will as part of La La Land’s probable sweep this year, but a just world would award Mica Levi’s off-kilter but mesmerizing work on Jackie instead. Sorry Lion, Passengers (?), and Moonlight… you should have moved your story to Los Angeles and added a planetarium scene.

Who Will Win? La La Land *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Jackie

Best Original Song

Tomris Laffly: Sure, I would’ve liked to see a track from the “Sing Street” soundtrack here, but it’s still nice and rare to have a year when “Best Original Song” category has legitimately good original songs. When the La La Land trailer dropped (and stole our hearts) last summer, it was scored to “City of Stars”. Then this song became the first single released from the soundtrack, becoming almost synonymous with the film, even before many had a chance to see it. And thus “City of Stars” (Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) is likely to win on Sunday night. It needs to be noted though; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s nomination here (for “How Far I’ll Go” in Moana) gives me the slightest pause. I mean; he is Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. But this is AMPAS, not Broadway. Plus, I bet it won’t be too long a wait until we see Lin-Manuel back at the Oscars, and complete his EGOT (Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony) wins. In any case, this year’s darling musical has the clear edge here. If only its win was for the film’s best track “Another Day of Sun.” Oh well.

Who Will Win? “City of Stars” (La La Land) *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? “City of Stars” (La La Land)

Best Original Screenplay

Rob Hunter: 20th Century Women and Hell or High Water both feature brilliant ensemble acting, but if you remove those performances the scripts themselves lack the same power and reveal dialogue that “feels” written. Like Ryan Gosling’s nomination, La La Land’s script seems to have gotten a nod simply for being associated with La La Land. It’s a terrific film, but it has little to do with its mostly generic story and exchanges. Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By the Sea will most likely take the prize, and happily it’s more than deserving as his screenplay is a masterful collection of character, wit, and observations on the human spirit’s capacity for love and grief. That said, The Lobster is the freshest and most original nominee. Obviously the category doesn’t refer to that meaning of “original,” but a script this smart, creative, and dually capable of inflicting both pain and laughter should be rewarded.

Who Will Win? Manchester by the Sea *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? The Lobster

Best Adapted Screenplay

Rob Hunter: Fences began life as a play, and the screenplay does little to expand that, while Hidden Figures tells an incredible and necessary story despite its otherwise generic script. Lion is one of the few that I haven’t seen yet, but I feel pretty confident it’s not a player in this category all the same. I’d be happy with either of the two remaining films taking home this prize as both do acts of magic in adapting their respective source material to the screen. Eric Heisserer crafted a masterwork from Ted Chiang’s excellent short story that became Arrival, but Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight script is just pure beauty even in written form.

Who Will Win? Moonlight *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Moonlight

Best Director

Neil Miller: This year’s Best Director buffet is all sausage, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t tasty. There are some great efforts in here, including Manchester by the Sea’s Kenneth Lonergan and Arrival’s Denis Villeneuve. Also, The Academy appears to have forgiven Mel Gibson, but only to a point. He ain’t getting up on that stage on Sunday night, that’s for sure. The real battle here, as is the case with a number of other awards, is between Moonlight and La La Land. Unfortunately for Barry Jenkins, who is absolutely the most deserving of this award, Damien Chazelle has ridden La La Land to wins on every other critical awards night – Critics Choice, Golden Globe, DGA, and BAFTA. This one appears to be a lock. But I’m not going there – this isn’t a moment to give in to the obvious consensus pick. Let’s be bold and predict an upset. Why? Because Best Director and Best Picture are the most likely categories that will get split amongst the two big movies – La La Land and Moonlight. We’ve seen this happen a lot in previous years. Last year Spotlight and The Revenant split the awards. Two years ago it was Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. How about Life of Pi and Argo in 2013. Prior to that it was pretty consistent: if you won Best Picture, you were probably going to win Best Director, too. I’m going with the rising trend of splits.

Who Will Win? Barry Jenkins *Nope.*
Who Should Win? Barry Jenkins

Best Actor

Rob Hunter: Andrew Garfield and Viggo Mortensen both give strong performances in their respective films this year, and Ryan Gosling is nominated as part of the La La Land tidal wave, but the only two real contenders here are Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington. The former seems poised to take the prize after multiple wins elsewhere for his emotionally devastating performance in Manchester By the Sea, but in a perfect world Washington’s angry and tortured turn in Fences would be enough to earn him the win. If nothing else, maybe the lack of sexual harassment accusations against him will push him over the top.

Who Will Win? Casey Affleck *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Denzel Washington

Best Actress

Rob Hunter: Isabelle Huppert gives one of the year’s bravest performances – in as much as acting can be considered brave – but not enough people have actually seen Elle to make her a player here. By contrast, Ruth Negga does tremendous work in Loving, but it’s with a character who’s perhaps a bit too obvious and safe. Meryl Streep meanwhile acts loudly and still landed a nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins leading us to suspect that she has dirty photos of half of Hollywood. As with the Best Actor category, this race comes down to two – Jackie’s Natalie Portman and La La Land’s Emma Stone. Stone is good in a fun, musically-inclined role, but Portman is an absolute stunner with a performance that finds the humanity amidst a stylized exploration of grief and loss. So obviously the Academy will be awarding the girl who giggles and sings.

Who Will Win? Emma Stone *Bingo!*
Who Should Win? Natalie Portman

Best Picture

Tomris Laffly: Ah yes. Best Picture. It’s La La Land. And turns out, it’s been La La Land since Venice and Telluride. Currently, I can’t see any reason why its stars should shine any less brightly on Oscar night after 14 record-tying nominations. Sure, several less than favorable takes have been thrown at it (it happens to any Oscar frontrunner), but La La Land danced its way around all of them and sailed through the season confidently. It’s not my favorite of the nominees (well, it’s my second favorite), but I won’t be upset for this win. As Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone often points out, we will finally have a Best Picture winner with a Best Actress nominee (well, maybe even winner if frontrunner Emma Stone indeed beats dark horse Isabelle Huppert) after 12 years of no such luck. (Last film that won Best Picture with a female lead nominee/winner was Million Dollar Baby in 2004.)

If anything can give La La Land a run for its money, it’s the SAG ensemble winner and crowd pleaser Hidden Figures (but remember, the two-hander La La Land wasn’t nominated there.) And if this no-chance-in-hell, miraculous scenario happens, I will forever demand credit for pointing out its AMPAS-friendly qualities. But come now. We do need scenarios to speculate on and thing to write about, but this is the year of La La Land.

Who Will Win? La La Land *Nope.*
Who Should Win? Manchester by the Sea

Individual Ballots

Tomris Laffly

Best Picture: La La Land
Best Director: Damien Chazelle
Best Actor: Casey Affleck
Best Actress: Emma Stone
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis
Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
Cinematography: La La Land
Costume Design: Jackie
Film Editing: La La Land
Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
Original Score: La La Land
Original Song: “City of Stars” – La La Land
Production Design: La La Land
Sound Mixing: La La Land
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Animated Feature: Zootopia
Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made In America
Documentary Short: The White Helmets
Animated Short: Piper
Live-Action ShortSing

Christopher Campbell

Best Picture: La La Land
Best Director: Damen Chazelle
Best Actor: Casey Affleck
Best Actress: Emma Stone
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis
Adapted Screenplay: Arrival
Original Screenplay: La La Land
Cinematography: La La Land
Costume Design: Jackie
Film Editing: La La Land
Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
Original Score: La La Land
Original Song: “City of Stars”
Production Design: Arrival
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Sound Mixing: La La Land
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Animated Feature: Zootopia
Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
Documentary Feature: Life, Animated
Documentary Short: The White Helmets
Animated Short: Piper
Live-Action ShortTimecode

Neil Miller

Best Picture: Hidden Figures
Best Director: Barry Jenkins
Best Actor: Ryan Gosling
Best Actress: Emma Stone
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis
Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
Cinematography: Arrival
Costume Design: Jackie
Film Editing: La La Land
Makeup and Hairstyling: A Man Called Ove
Original Score: La La Land
Original Song: “How Far I’ll Go” – Moana
Production Design: La La Land
Sound Mixing: La La Land
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Visual Effects: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Animated Feature: Zootopia
Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
Documentary Feature: 13th
Documentary Short: The White Helmets
Animated Short: Piper
Live-Action ShortSing

Rob Hunter

Best Picture: Moonlight
Best Director: Damien Chazelle
Best Actor: Casey Affleck
Best Actress: Emma Stone
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis
Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
Cinematography: Arrival
Costume Design: Jackie
Film Editing: La La Land
Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
Original Score: La La Land
Original Song: “City of Stars” – La La Land
Production Design: La La Land
Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Animated Feature: Zootopia
Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made In America
Documentary Short: The White Helmets
Animated Short: Piper
Live-Action ShortSing

What are your Oscar predictions? Feel free to leave them in the Responses below.

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