It's a truth universally acknowledged that it's insanely easy to predict who'll win at the #Oscars.
There are definitely never any shock wins, and every actor who goes home with gold does so on the basis of one performance, not as a de facto lifetime achievement award. Politics certainly don't play a part, as we all know — and if you're suggesting for one second that the Academy would nominate Meryl Streep simply because she's Meryl Streep and that's the bare minimum recognition she deserves for getting out of bed in a morning, I suggest you take your cynicism and swallow it down with a large glass of salt water, fire up The Devil Wears Prada, and think on your sins.
Anyway, this year's #Oscars race will finally reach a climax on Sunday night when the 89th Academy Awards ceremony is held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, and due to the aforementioned fact that only an idiot could fail to accurately predict the winners with a 100% success rate, I have no fear about making a final set of predictions for each of the major categories. What could go wrong?
Best Supporting Actor
Who's favorite? Mahershala Ali is only in about a third of Moonlight, but then the award is given for a supporting performance, and it's to Ali's major credit that he makes such an impact with limited screentime. 2016 was the definition of a breakthrough year for the House of Cards regular, and a win would be a much-needed boost for the profile of actors of color from the Academy.
So it's on lock, right? You'd think so, but out of nowhere Dev Patel suddenly feels like a real contender, mainly thanks to a win on home turf at the BAFTAs this month. Traditionally those awards can be a precursor to an upset at the Oscars, and Lion is a feel-good movie which has almost no chance of winning Best Picture — instead, the Academy might recognize it in Supporting Actor. Patel is the main character for most of the film, too, so he has more to work with than the others on this list.
So, who'll win? I think this race is much tighter than most people believe, but ultimately it's Mahershala's moment and he'll be going home with that statuette, hopefully laughing manically to himself for several weeks thereafter in the manner of his terrifying Luke Cage villain, Cottonmouth.
Best Supporting Actress
Who's favorite? Viola Davis is the overwhelming favorite for her powerful turn as the wife of a jaded former Negro League baseball player in 1950s Pittsburgh. Davis's rise to superstardom has been achieved as much on television as the big screen (although she's a double Oscar nominee), and now feels like the perfect moment to recognize one of America's current greatest talents with the most prestigious prize of all, even if Fences itself isn't a great movie.
Who'll win and why? If you put Viola Davis on the podium, you know some serious truth tea about the state of racial politics in Hollywood is gonna get spilled, and that's great PR for the Oscars. The inevitable reaction shots of the audience being moved to tears by Viola will be getting gif'd all over Twitter for weeks. This is a one-horse race.
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Who's favorite? Even if #LaLaLand doesn't go home with Best Picture (something I wouldn't call a guarantee at this point, despite the odds), an upset in Best Director is almost impossible to picture. Damien Chazelle made this passion project on a relatively small budget, and from the movie's breathtaking opening musical number on a jammed LA freeway and Weekend-inspired tracking shot, it's clear that this is a technical tour-de-force which none of the other nominated movies can match.
Does anyone else have a shot? Moonlight's Barry Jenkins is second-favorite, but Chazelle and La La Land have this one in the bag.
Who's favorite? There isn't one! Best Actor is by far the most open of the major categories at this year's Oscars, and nobody seems able to decide whether twice-nominated Casey Affleck or seven-time nominee, two-time winner Denzel Washington has this.
Washington is incredible in Fences, obviously, but Viola will win for that film and his performance lacks the sheer emotional gut-punch of Affleck's work in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
Who'll win and why? There's actually a slim possibility that Denzel and Casey could split the vote to such a degree that the door opens for a third contender — most likely Ryan Gosling (La La Land) or Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge). But that's a seriously long shot — I'll be putting my money on a win for Affleck, in a rare male performance of a huge outward emotion. It's a pure showcase for Affleck's talents, and he'll be rewarded with a first Oscar win this Sunday night.
Who's favorite? Emma Stone has been the runaway favorite in Best Actress for so long now that the very idea of anyone else sweeping in to steal the gong from Hollywood's favorite redhead seems completely insane. But France has a redheaded weapon of its own. She's called Isabelle Huppert, she's widely considered one of the best actresses living today, she's never been nominated for an Oscar before, and she is phenomenal in the provocative rape-aftermath Elle from Paul Verhoeven.
These two performances couldn't be more different, making it hard to judge how much of a chance Huppert really has at pulling off a massive upset, but there has been a definite swing of momentum in her favor. A few weeks ago, she was third with no hope. Now, she's pulled ahead of Natalie Portman in the odds. Huppert won Best Actress at the BAFTAs, which can hint at a shock result at the Oscars, and snobby Academy voters will be a pitching a tent at the chance to give an award to a controversial French movie which was snubbed in Foreign Language Film.
So who'll win, and why? I'm going to be bold and call this one for Isabelle Huppert. Most years, the Oscars produce a major shock somewhere, and considering La La Land will win either Best Picture, Director or both, I'd pin Actress as the category in which that shock might manifest. Gold for Huppert would be a true victory for international cinema and a nice reminder that there's talent outside Hollywood, too.
Which film is favorite? Best Picture can throw up some serious shocks from time to time, so La La Land being the huge favorite for the ultimate statuette doesn't rule out its closest competition — but after Spotlight stunned by beating out The Revenant last year, a second consecutive upset would be almost unheard of. If any other movie can do it, it's Moonlight, and the Academy might want to prove how woke they are by giving the win to a more socially-important piece of cinema. Just don't bet on it.
What will win, and why? Let's be real, it's going to La La Land.
The 89th Oscars air Sunday night at 8pm Eastern on ABC.
How many of the above picks do you agree with, and which shocks will the 2017 Oscars deliver?