Best Picture – With 14 nominations, “La La Land” is a shoo-in. I prefer the artsy “Moonlight” and the moody “Manchester By the Sea,” but if anything is going to pull off the huge upset, my sleeper choice would be the crowd-pleasing “Hidden Figures.”
Best Director – Damien Chazelle. Even if you don’t love La La Land, you have to admit it’s a major feat, creating a Hollywood musical from scratch. My preference is Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight.”
Actor in a Leading Role – This the closest contest of the night. For weeks, nay, months, Manchester By The Sea’s Casey Affleck was winning everything but the recent Screen Actor’s Guild award to Fences’ Denzel Washington changed everyone’s expectations. I predict Denzel but prefer Casey.
Actress in a Leading Role – Emma Stone is benefiting from being the star of Hollywood’s favorite film. She’ll win easily, but Isabelle Huppert deserves to win for the dark complexity of her performance in “Elle.”
Actor in a Supporting Role – Mahershala Ali gives the most unexpected performance in the most unexpected film of the year. His closest rival is Dev Patel in “Lion,” but Ali is much more affecting.
Actress in a Supporting Role – Next to Best Picture, this is the most slam-dunk pick: Fences’ Viola Davis. Her ferocious performance is so good that she would have won in the Best Actress category, which is where she belongs. That would have cleared the way for the deserving Michelle Williams from “Manchester By The Sea.”
Writing (Adapted Screenplay) – “Moonlight” is as delicate a piece of writing as I can imagine in a screenplay. “Arrival” could be the surprise here, given its Writers Guild award, but this will probably be Moonlight’s consolation prize for not winning Best Picture.
Writing (Original Screenplay) – “Manchester by the Sea,” unless La La Land’s popularity steamrolls this category as well. Personally, I’d vote for “The Lobster” (my favorite narrative film of the year) but Kenneth Lonergan’s depiction of grief is worthy of an Oscar.
Music (Original Song) – “City of Stars” featured in “La La Land.” It’s only competition is another song from the same movie, “Audition.”
Best Animated Feature Film – Inexplicably, “Finding Dory” was not nominated. “Zootopia” is the prohibitive favorite, thanks to its heavy reliance on message, but I prefer all the other nominees.
Best Foreign Language Film – Ever since “Elle” unexpectedly didn’t make the cut, the offbeat German film “Toni Erdmann” was seen as the frontrunner. But thanks to Donald Trump’s botched travel ban policy, which would have prevented the Iranian director of “The Salesman” from attending the Oscars, “The Salesman” is now the slight favorite. Luckily, it’s a very good movie.
Question: Out of its 14 nominations, how many Oscars will “La La Land” win?
Make your picks for the 89th Annual Academy Awards. Play here.