Flavorwire’s 2017 Oscar Picks and Predictions

Our best guesses at who will win, alongside a quiet vote for who SHOULD win.

I know, I know. Every year, we rant and rave about the Oscars: the drawn-out discussion of them, the dubious impact of them, their long history of ignoring the right people and rewarding the wrong ones. But at the end of the day – and this case, “the day” is the Friday before the ceremony – it’s difficult not to give in to the spectator sport of it all, to the pools and prognostications, so here we are: time to unveil our carefully considered guesses as to who’s going to win Sunday night, and who we’d hand it to if we were in charge. Adjust your ballots accordingly.


BEST PICTURE

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

PICK: Moonlight.

PREDICTION: Everyone agrees that this one has come down to La La Land vs. Moonlight, and nothing less than the fate of our civilization rests upon the outcome, or something. Hot take: they’re both pretty good! Moonlight is better! There are plenty of reasons to believe either one could triumph: La La Land is the kind of valentine-to-Hollywood that Academy voters just can’t resist (see Birdman, The Artist, Argo); Moonlight is the moving story of a young, poor, gay black man, and its triumph would be a stirring response to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy (and a testament to the power of the huge new, and more diverse, voting bloc). But this critic has read enough of those horrifying “Honest Oscar Voter” pieces, and is aware enough of the industry’s casual racism and general lack of self-awareness, to figure La La Land is going to take the prize. (Disclaimer: while my prediction accuracy ratio is pretty damned impressive overall, I’ve been wrong on Best Picture for the last two years running. So, even more than the rest of these, grain of salt.)


lalaland-sunset

BEST DIRECTOR

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

PICK: Denis Villeneuve.

PREDICTION: These first two prizes used to be fairly inseparable (as recently as 2012, the last of six straight years in which the same film won Director and Picture), but that trend has shifted over the past few years, with the prize in 2013, 2014, and 2016 going to a more technically showy/ambitious title than the Best Picture winner (Life of Pi, Gravity, and The Revenant, respectively). Which is a long way of saying that if Moonlight pulls Best Picture, Damien Chazelle will probably win this. But if La La Land takes Best Pic, it probably won’t split the other way (unfortunately, as Jenkins would be the first black director to win the prize, and is only the fourth to be nominated); the exception to the recent rule was 2014, when Best Picture winner Birdman was also (on the surface, anyway) the most directorially challenging of the Best Director nominees.


la_la_land-stone

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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

PICK: Ruth Negga.

PREDICTION: The lead-actor races tend to be pretty well settled early on, but this year’s Oscar-night drama mostly comes in the form of two races that, for once, are very close indeed. Most agree that this one is down to Stone, the popular favorite, and Huppert, the critical darling. Huppert would be a big deal – the French acting legend has never been up for an Oscar before – but a win for her would mean Oscar voters a) not only watched but understood the very challenging Elle, and b) didn’t succumb to the charms of Stone, a young ingénue up for a prize that has lately gone to the likes of Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, and returning nominee Portman. So yeah, Emma Stone wins it.


denzel-washington-fences

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

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

PICK: Casey Affleck.

PREDICTION: The night’s other most closely-watched race, with early favorite Affleck winning most of the bellwether prizes, but coming into the night battered by ongoing and troubling allegations of previous sexual harassment. And thus, the tide seems to have shifted to two-time winner Denzel Washington, who took the reliably predictive SAG Award in this category; his win here may also be seen by some as a nod towards his (un-nominated) direction of Fences.


viola

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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

PICK: Viola Davis.

PREDICTION: The surest thing of the night is Viola Davis. Mark it down, take it to the bank, move on.


Moonlight

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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

PICK: Mahershala Ali.

PREDICTION: Mahershala Ali isn’t quite as sure a thing as Davis – Patel, for example, won the BAFTA for Supporting Actor – but it’s pretty damn close, and as Moonlight seems less likely to win Picture or Director, this is a nice high-profile prize for that very good film.


zootopia

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

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

PICK: Kubo and the Two Strings.

PREDICTION: This is not a category where voters tend to get all that daring – except in the nominations, which customarily include a couple of surprisingly tiny titles (this year, to the exclusion of the juggernaut Finding Dory). But the big Disney or Pixar movie has won the award eight of the last nine years, so while it’d be nice to see LAIKA finally get their due, the megahit Zootopia is the most likely winner.


la-la-land-goslingstone

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

PICK: 20th Century Women.

PREDICTION: There was a time, not that long ago, when the Original Screenplay trophy was something of a consolation prize, given to a film that didn’t win Best Picture, but was perhaps more daring (and, often, longer-lasting) than the film that did; previous Original Screenplay winners include Thelma & Louise, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Fargo, Almost Famous, Talk to Her, Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Juno. So by those standards, it’s easy to figure this one’ll go to the wise and witty script for Manchester by the Sea (I harbor no illusions that my beloved 20th Century Women will win this, its only nomination). But that pattern has shifted in recent years – in 2014 and 2015, the award went to Best Picture winners Birdman and Spotlight, while the two years before that, the Best Picture winner also won the Best Adapted Screenplay trophy. So based on these new patterns, I’m gonna call it for La La Land, though Manchester could still pull it out.


moonlight

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

PICK: Moonlight.

PREDICTION: The late August Wilson would seem a sentimental favorite for his Fences script, but that’s a risky call – contrary to popular opinion, they don’t always go for the sentimental favorite. (Ask Sylvester Stallone or Mickey Rourke.) I’m more inclined to believe that this will be seen as the consolation prize for Moonlight, which won the WGA award (albeit for Original Screenplay, which was how that organization classified it, for reasons too complicated to get into here).


LLL d 35_5707.NEF

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

PICK: Arrival.

PREDICTION: Arrival’s Bradford Young has been doing terrific, textured work for years now (his other credits include Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Selma, and A Most Violent Year), and if there were any justice, he’d pick up his first Oscar. But it seems unlikely, particularly if it’s a big night for La La Land, that voters will be able to resist Linus Sandgren’s candy-coated photography.


salesman

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Tanna
Toni Erdmann

PICK: The Salesman.

PREDICTION: It was a two-way race from the beginning between the sleeper hits Toni Erdmann and The Salesman, but the word on the streets is that Academy members are seeing a vote for The Salesman as a fuck-you to Donald Trump, whose travel ban prompted Salesman director Asghar Farhadi to decline the opportunity to attend the ceremony. If it weren’t the best film of the bunch, maybe that’d be unfair. But it is the best film, so no biggie.


oj

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

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

PICK: I Am Not Your Negro.

PREDICTION: A particularly juicy crop of documentaries reflects a very good year for nonfiction film – and an encouraging one for representation, as four of the five nominees are people of color, three of them tackling issues directly related to the struggles of African-Americans in our country’s past, present, and future. Of those three, O.J.: Made in America seems most likely to walk away with the statue – but don’t count out the possibility of the notoriously persnickety documentary branch getting hung up on O.J.’s television origins and going with 13th or I Am Not Your Negro instead.


jackie

COSTUME DESIGN

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

PICK: Allied.

PREDICTION: Again, don’t rule out La La Land taking it as part of a wider sweep, but it seems more likely that the voters will go for Jackie’s Madeline Fontaine, who won the BAFTA and (among many achievements) faithfully and convincingly reproduced one of the most iconic dresses of the modern era.


la-la-dance

FILM EDITING

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

PICK: Moonlight.

PREDICTION: A tricky category, and one most folks don’t quite get; “Best Editing” is sometimes confused with “Most Editing.” This one’s sort of wide open, so when in doubt, bet on La La Land.


PRODUCTION DESIGN

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

PICK: Hail, Caesar!

PREDICTION: The general aesthetic pleasantness of La La Land will go a long way here – that, and the credit to David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, a team with a long list of much-loved previous films, but no previous nominations.


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

PICK: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).”

PREDICTION: I still can’t believe that a) “Can’t Stop The Feeling” is a song that people willingly listen to and enjoy (full disclosure: I am a parent with a Trolls screener DVD, and that song is the fuel of my nightmares), and b) that Disney decided to push the “Colors of the Wind”-Lite “How Far I’ll Go” over the far superior “You’re Welcome.” Anyway. “City of Stars” is the most memorable and widely-sung song from a big-screen musical, so that win feels like a pretty easy call.


ORIGINAL SCORE

Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

PICK: Moonlight.

PREDICTION: While I’d love to see the daring experimentation of Nicholas Brittel’s Moonlight score or Mica Levi’s Jackie music take this one, who’re we kidding; again, La La Land is a movie musical, so it’s hard to imagine the Academy not honoring Justin Hurwitz’s music.


white-helmets-ft-article-header

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

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

PICK: The White Helmets.

PREDICTION: The White Helmets seems like the safest bet – it’s one of three doc shorts dealing with the Syrian crisis, but it’s far and away the most widely seen and discussed, thanks to its availability on Netflix.


LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

Ennemis Intérieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

PICK: n/a

PREDICTION: I would love to tell you that I did my due diligence and saw all of theses, but that would be a bald-faced lie. However, my go-to experts, Variety’s Kris Tapley and Indiewire’s Anne Thompson and Jude Dry, both selected Ennemis Intérieurs, and that’s good enough for me.


ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

PICK: n/a

PREDICTION: Piper, for the above-stated reasons.


VISUAL EFFECTS

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

PICK: Doctor Strange.

PREDICTION: All the prognosticators seem to agree that The Jungle Book is the one to beat here, though frankly, the line between that film and an animated feature seems mighty thin to me. I’d hand it to Doctor Strange for showing me something I’d never seen before, as opposed to a convincing sorta-live-action recreation of a classic cartoon, but what the hell do I know.


star-trek

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

PICK: A Man Called Ove, just because I’m delighted that for the second year in a row, a tiny Swedish movie was nominated alongside mega-budget Hollywood behemoths.

PREDICTION: Star Trek Beyond, mostly because I don’t think anyone wants to contemplate the phrase “Oscar winner Suicide Squad,” technical prize or not.


SOUND EDITING

Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

PICK: Arrival.

PREDICTION: One of the oldest saws of Oscar prediction – and even voting, according to those stupid “Honest Oscar Voter” things that it’s hard to resist hate-reading, but you should – is that no one knows the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing (below). Our friend Tim Gray at Variety laid it out very simply last year: “E comes before M in the alphabet, so sound editing occurs before mixing.” Sound Editing is the assemblage of elements, some existing, some creating; they put together the dialogue (live and post-recorded), sound effects, atmosphere, etc. But the films that are most sound effects-heavy tend to do well here, so the battlefield-porn Hacksaw Ridge probably wins.


SOUND MIXING

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

PICK: La La Land

PREDICTION: Sound Mixing, on the other hand, is one of the final elements of post-production; as Mr. Gray puts it, “after the sound editor has assembled what the audience hears, the sound mixer determines how they hear it.” So that means determining levels, intensity, and the like, for those original Sound Editing elements as well as musical score and other additions. So La La Land is a pretty easy pick here, combining as it does the studio and location soundscapes with the aforementioned songs and score.

 

And there you have it, your Oscar predictions; if you use them in your office or Oscar party pool and win, hey, feel free to send us a little taste. Meanwhile, be sure to join us Sunday night, where your film editor will be live-tweeting the big show (follow us, if you aren’t already, @flavorwire).