Here it is, folks: the night we spend all year preparing for. The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards represent a wonderful mix of styles, voices and perspectives, which is exactly what a good film awards ceremony should be about. Actually, it might be the best they’ve been in years (but then, we say that every time). As always, we’ll be liveblogging the ceremony from the moment red carpet coverage begins; before then, we have our predictions below (keep scrolling to see our big hot take). Do read on, do stay tuned, and do enjoy the night!
There’s no denying there’s been a large groundswell for Moonlight, which many people are voting first place and really responding to, but La La Land remains the consensus choice. It is true that Moonlight has done very well at things like critics’ awards and the Independent Spirits, and received the Golden Globe for Best Drama, but La La Land has done better across the board.
As for the others? Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge are too divisive; Lion and Manchester by the Sea are both very well-liked but haven’t been talked up enough; Hidden Figures is poised for a solid third-place after its SAG win, but can’t realistically steal Best Picture with its lack of major nominations; Fences simply isn’t regarded as good enough, its nomination largely an acknowledgment that its performances alone make it a must-see; Hell or High Water seems to be loved by everyone though, so somewhere there’s a bizarro universe where it actually nips in, especially if it causes an Editing upset. What a world that would be.
Some commentators think Moonlight can steal it; but while it’s incredibly well-liked and well-regarded by seemingly everyone that sees it, La La Land‘s Oscar has been etched for ages despite all those little controversies about whitewashing and jazzsplaining. Like Trump and Brexit, outside the naysaying bubbles it’s more inevitable than you may think.
Whatever happens to Best Picture, though, Damien Chazelle is the easy winner for Director. He’ll be the youngest winner of all time at 32 years and 38 days old; the previous record holder, Norman Taurog, was just 222 days older than Chazelle when he scooped the award in 1931. Barry Jenkins is the most likely to spoil, but given the amount of work that went into Chazelle’s film on every possible level, this will essentially line up with the past five years of flashy Director wins (The Revenant, Birdman, Gravity, Life of Pi and The Artist).
For reprising his Tony-winning role in Fences, Denzel Washington now has 1/1 odds from many places, though it must be said that Casey Affleck still has the distinct advantage of having won 28 notable awards on the awards trail vs. Washington’s five-ish. Thing is, Washington’s most major award yet – beyond an NAACP Image Award – was the SAG Award for Best Actor, which is an historically near-foolproof predictor of the Oscar. So while he greatly deserves his third Academy Award, particularly having spent the 15 years since his second cementing himself as a confident, blockbusting part of the Hollywood firmament, this category remains arguably the most nail-biting of them all.
Emma Stone will win, for doing that thing where she smiles but also looks utterly destroyed, and genuinely gobsmacked that her co-star’s being such a dick to her. You know the one. The tears start appearing; she’s still just about smiling. She’s holding it together. Her voice cracks a little. Come on! It’s Emma Stone’s thing! It’s tremendous, but it never changes! Much like her hoovering-up of every award on the road to Oscar. Even Isabelle Huppert isn’t close enough. No one’s voting for Streep; Ruth Negga’s too quiet; no one’s talked about Natalie Portman for months. Here’s to the Stones who dream (and do incredible single-take closeups).
Best Supporting Actor
BAFTA and the Globes have poised us for an upset, but it’ll be a yuge surprise if Moonlight‘s Mahershala Ali doesn’t win, in a role everyone loves, in a film they all adore, in a year where he’s won double SAGs for two movies that got Best Picture nominations (the other one was Hidden Figures). Dev Patel and Jeff Bridges are jointly hovering around second place; Michael Shannon and Lucas Hedges haven’t picked up the momentum. Elements of the race make it look shaky for Ali, but it really isn’t.
Best Supporting Actress
From January 2016 to October, this was Michelle Williams’. Since October, it has been Viola Davis‘. By far the acting category with the least uncertainty.
Best Original Screenplay
Like Birdman beating The Grand Budapest Hotel two years ago, there could be a major debacle tonight as La La Land sweeps in over the far more accomplished script for Manchester by the Sea. But we still (just about) give the edge to Manchester, and its highly respected scribe Kenneth Lonergan. People do really like that movie, and it would be surprising to see it shafted in favour of a screenplay that, though very good, simply doesn’t deserve to win however you slice it. It helps Lonergan that this is his third writing nomination, while Chazelle – himself once favourite for Whiplash, upset last-minute by The Imitation Game – will be assumed to win his own Oscar tonight regardless.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Keep an eye on Eric Heisserer’s beautiful work on Arrival, which won at the Writers Guild Awards, but it’s a practically guaranteed slam-dunk for Moonlight. The award will go to Barry Jenkins, for writing the version we saw on screen, and Tarell Alvin McCraney, credited here for “Story” but essentially as important as Jenkins for having written the whole thing as a play in the first instance. It’ll be a grand moment, not just for the whole “#OscarsSoWhite” issue but because both men used a great deal of their own experiences in a frank, and refreshingly collaborative, way.
La La Land, again with Moonlight a second placer. Linus Sandgren has not just created indelible images and clever, memorable camera movements; he has captured the beauty of the city in which most of the voters live. Lion clicked with the American Society of Cinematographers voters, but here we’ve got actors, publicists, songwriters and more voting – as with other more subtle, specialised nominees across the board, it won’t upset at Oscar.
Best Film Editing
And again, La La Land. We may see a surprise – again, from Moonlight – simply because Tom Cross’ work on the musical is so seamless; voters not in-the-know may assume those one-shots to be real. That said, La La Land and its technical achievements have been talked up like anything, so the Whiplash champ’s second Oscar should be locked up.
Best Original Score
Literally only La La Land, as composed by Justin Hurwitz. It certainly helps that it’s a musical, but this goes beyond genre: it is simply the film with the most score. Moonlight yet again has popular work from rising-star composer Nicholas Britell, and Jackie‘s breathtaking Mica Levi score is winning votes, but as with the Lion score the work is not as ubiquitous onscreen. It also helps that La La Land is by far the most straightforwardly catchy, and is emotionally varied besides. One final note: in last place, somewhat sadly, is Thomas Newman, on his fourteenth nod with no wins – this time for surprisingly rote work on the maligned Passengers. At least they’re thinking of him.
Best Original Song
Our crystal ball foresees the two La La Land picks splitting votes down the middle and resulting in an EGOT for Lin-Manuel Miranda (for Moana), but ‘City of Stars’ has been confidently gathering awards on the circuit so far: the Globe, Critics’ Choice and Satellite. Its competition, ‘Audition’, is an effective piece, one which effectively clinched Emma Stone’s win; but ‘City of Stars’ recurs as a motif throughout, and gets two vastly different airings during the film plus a neat, hummed closing-credits version. Plus, when it closes Hurwitz’s supreme ‘Epilogue’ suite at the end? That’s the chills moment. Sorry, Justin Timberlake. Sorry, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Sorry, Sting and (mysterious but brilliant three-time nominee) J. Ralph.
Best Foreign Language Film
It’s tempting to say that the “protest vote” won’t be as widespread as some pundits think; we may joke about the Academy, but many do respect the actual work over the political statement it can be used for. Therefore we’d like to stick with Toni Erdmann, which is simply more garlanded already, is by far more beloved, and has an American remake keeping everyone buzzing. It just seems unrealistic that a few thousand people will sit down and vote for The Salesman – fairly mid-level Asghar Farhadi, let’s be honest – simply to discourage Donald Trump from pursuing his embattled Muslim ban, or whatever achievement they think this Oscar vote represents.
Of course, if this whole entanglement splits voters – and it’s not like Toni Erdmann is everybody’s favourite – there’s always Sweden’s A Man Called Ove, which is also nominated for Makeup.
Best Documentary Feature
Easily O.J.: Made in America. It’s just the largest achievement, drawing so much attention to itself with that gargantuan running-time and starry, endlessly intriguing subject. It helps that 13th and I Am Not Your Negro are more essay-like, Fire at Sea is a little elliptical, and Life, Animated is seen as simply too lightweight. All are excellent; O.J. stands above.
Best Animated Feature
Kubo and the Two Strings could steal it for being different, and finally rewarding Laika Studios after four nods for their four releases to date (I know; that’s amazing), but the clever, hilarious and meaningful Zootopia is the easy favourite. It’d be sweet to see Michael Dudok add a second Oscar to his mantelpiece though, this time for the painstakingly crafted The Red Turtle.
Best Production Design
Hail, Caesar!, Arrival and Passengers don’t have enough support; nor, admittedly, does Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, though it does boast utterly lavish, extraordinarily imaginative work blending magical stylings with a beautifully Deco 1920s Manhattan, which puts it in line for a win. It is still likely to come up short against La La Land though, which if you hadn’t yet noticed is pretty much just creating its own genocide of an Oscars sweep. But the work here is clean, clever, and culminates in that same finale sequence that’s cementing things in other categories. So it’s hardly undeserving.
Best Costume Design
A surprisingly difficult one to predict this year, but La La Land again edges it. The difficulty comes from this sweeping frontrunner’s relatively straightforward-seeming costume work (probably the most ostentatious costuming sequence comes during the finale), against the more blatantly rewardable work of Fantastic Beasts (a fantasy dressed by triple winner Colleen Atwood), Florence Foster Jenkins (a period piece dressed by the prolific Consolata Boyle), Allied and Jackie. The two major things in favour of La La Land‘s Mary Zophres, however, are pretty major: it’s the only Oscar-nominated film to have won at the Costume Designers Guild Awards, along with Hidden Figures and Doctor Strange; and Emma Stone’s yellow dress is already among this year’s biggest film icons. Plus, my God does Zophres know how to dress Ryan Gosling.
Best Hair & Makeup
Star Trek Beyond would be a logical favourite, but a Suicide Squad win suddenly seems destiny. Many detractors of this admittedly terrible film like to pretend the makeup work is simply as ugly and grotty as the rest of it, but from Killer Croc to, yes, the new Joker, it’s a singular and well-designed piece of work. It’s quite likely that voters will reward that and, specifically, its well-respected makeup team. Don’t forget, the 2009 Star Trek already won; though this threequel’s character work is stunning, there’s always the sense that the franchise doesn’t need another win yet.
The final nominee is, of course, A Man Called Ove, but like The 100-Year-Old Man… two years ago, it’s really only hinging on its aging makeup. And hasn’t been seen by enough people.
Best Sound Editing
Hacksaw Ridge, with its creative sound design, should logically take this-
Best Sound Mixing
-and La La Land should logically take this, unless a confusion over the categories’ purviews leads to one of the films sweeping both. This seems unlikely though, particularly as the sound categories only double-up in years where big high-tech effects films are doing well: Mad Max: Fury Road, Gravity, Hugo and Inception are recent examples. 2017 will more likely reflect other years where a musical has won the mixing category – broadly rewarding effective sonic storytelling – while a war film has won editing – for creation and design of sounds. We’ve seen Letters from Iwo Jima take editing while Dreamgirls got mixing; Les Misérables win mixing with Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty tying on editing; and Chazelle’s own Whiplash taking mixing while American Sniper took editing.
Your predictions therefore are Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge, and Sound Mixing: La La Land.
Best Visual Effects
The Doctor Strange effects have a special place in our hearts, and we really really love Deepwater Horizon, but the world and the characters created for The Jungle Book – in which every single shot, let’s not forget, is an effects shot – was nothing short of breathtaking. Nay, overwhelming. It just doesn’t seem close this year.
Best Picture: La La Land
Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Best Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences
Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
Best Cinematography: Linus Sandgren, La La Land
Best Film Editing: Tom Cross, La La Land
Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Best Original Song: ‘City of Stars’ (Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul), La La Land
Best Foreign Language Film: Toni Erdmann (Germany)
Best Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
Best Animated Feature: Zootopia
Best Production Design: La La Land
Best Costume Design: La La Land
Best Hair and Makeup: Suicide Squad
Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Best Sound Mixing: La La Land
Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Tallies: La La Land – 10; Fences and Moonlight – 2; Manchester by the Sea, Toni Erdmann, O.J.: Made in America, Zootopia, Suicide Squad, Hacksaw Ridge and The Jungle Book – 1.