I know, I know–we’re all just a little tired of the image above. Even if you haven’t seen any of this year’s Best Picture nominees (you’re not alone), you’ve surely heard about La La Land, and have seen that picture, a hundred times since awards season began last fall.

Well, I got news for you–you’re gonna be seeing La La Land a lot on Sunday. It’s up for a bunch of prizes and stands to win several, Return of the King-style. Roll with it, or, rather, tap with it. And then it’ll be gone forever. OK–not really, but you won’t be reading as much about Ryan, Emma, and the canary dress anymore. That thing needs cleaning.

You will be reading about representation, as Hollywood struggles with diversity. True, #OscarsSoWhite has been replaced by #GrammysSoWhite, and everyone’s happy that so many black artists are in contention. Will it stick? Did calling attention to the problem last year earn dividends this year, or did it just happen that Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight appeared on the scene to change things up? Anyway, there’s a sense of satisfaction–at least through Sunday.

And the nominees are

Best Picture

Prediction: La La Land

Choice: Hidden Figures

I have no major complaints about any of the nine Best Picture nominees. It’s a decent list and all have found an audience. In boxoffice totals here in the US, Hidden Figures has squeaked past La La Land to be the movie you might have seen if you don’t ordinarily see “Oscar movies.” But its success is about more than money–it’s a fine history lesson, a fine movie about race, and a fine movie about women in the workplace. It pushes lots of buttons. But don’t underestimate Hollywood’s love of itself, its artists, its strivers–Birdman, Argo, and The Artist all fit into this category. Neither #OscarsSoObama (Moonlight) nor #OscarsSoTrump (Hacksaw Ridge), La La Land is for Oscar voters apolitical, inoffensive, and catnip in an industry town. I’ve heard talk of a late surge for Hidden Figures, and I wouldn’t mind an upset; don’t think it’s on the cards, though.

Best Director

Prediction: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Choice: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Jenkins made history as the first black filmmaker nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Screenplay. He’ll go 1-3 on Sunday. The La La sweep continues.

Best Actor

Prediction: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Choice: Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic 

I’m thinking Denzel Washington’s surge for Fences came too late–if he does win, he’ll be in that small category of actors to win an Oscar and a Tony for the same part. Why Mortensen? When I saw the film last spring, I thought, “That’s an Oscar part!”–and after it came and went, why, it was. (In terms of wide release, it’s the oldest film nominated in any of the main categories, “old” being last July.) It’s also a role with all the colors, all the richness and stuff of life–but Affleck’s miniature of grief and sorrow has held an edge since Sundance last January, and I expect that to finally pay off for this consistently excellent actor on Sunday.

Best Actress

Prediction: Emma Stone, La La Land

Choice: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

The sweep resumes. Still, Huppert’s sensational turn (and quietly sensational career) was recognized. Note to the president: Tweet your anger that enemy Streep’s familiar, if record-breaking, turn deprived Amy Adams or Annette Bening of a deserved honor.

Best Supporting Actor

Prediction and Choice: I’ve heard rumblings that Mahershala Ali is vulnerable for his much acclaimed role in Moonlight, an unusual characterization beautifully played, then gone. But I’m not hearing how any of the contenders, good as they are, are going to break the spell he casts in purposedly limited screen time. Certainly not Patel–Lion belongs to Sunny Pawar, the achingly wonderful boy he shares the characterization with. Snubbed.

Best Supporting Actress

Prediction and Choice: What determines Lead and Supporting? Three things:

  1. Hollywood politics
  2. Journey–whose journey are following throughout the story, from beginning to end? That’s the lead.
  3. Hollywood politics

Viola Davis is unquestionably the lead actress in Fences. It’s her character’s journey. But Hollywood politics has decreed otherwise. And it’s put her in the sweet spot for Oscar, after two previous nominations (for a record three for a black actress.) She’ll join the Oscar-Tony pantheon, and edge closer to EGOT. Does she sing?

Best Adapted Screenplay

Prediction and Choice: Here’s where Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) gets his due–though, curiously, the playwright behind the concept says the film wasn’t really adapted from anything, just rough outlines and ideas. (I expect it will become a play, or, hey, a musical, why not?)

Best Original Screenplay

Prediction and Choice: Screenplay is La La Land‘s weakest core element. Still, it has enough adherents, and enough tidal momentum, to win. But I’m thinking Kenneth Lonergan, with two prior nominations under his belt, has enough industry respect (for a writer, anyway) to win for Manchester by the Sea.

Best Animated Feature Film

Choice: With Pixar safely out of the way this year, the creative geniuses at Laika, who surpass themselves with the origami-like textures of Kubo and the Two Strings, should win. But…

Prediction: Zootopia, the overelaborate premise of which I never bought into, has the edge, as if Disney needs another Oscar.

Best Foreign Language Film

Prediction: Immigrant politics give Iran’s noteworthy The Salesman a leg up.

Choice: I prefer Germany’s sprawling, hilarious Toni Erdmann, which is tapped for a Hollywood remake. That might help it, in a different, less politicized year.

Best Documentary Feature

Prediction: O.J.: Made in America is like the director’s cut of a doc that would have been stronger had its second part concentrated on the parts of the trial salient to its thesis about race in America. We didn’t need the whole thing again, least of all in the wake of a miniseries. Still, it’s hugely compelling overall, and will make a little history as the longest movie to win an Oscar.

Choice: That said, the 93-minute I Am Not Your Negro packs tremendous punch, will lead you to James Baldwin’s work, and is a gratifying success in actual movie theaters, which O.J. largely bypassed.

(Uh-oh, here we go, your best guess is as good as mine…I long ago concluded that actually seeing these films, in those popular packages that play theaters every year, doesn’t help you pick the winner.)

Best Documentary Short

Prediction: The White Helmets. Syria.

Best Animated Short

Prediction: Piper. Pixar.

Best Live Action Short

Prediction: Ennemis IntÁ©rieurs. French, Algiers, terrorism.

Best Cinematography

Prediction: Lion won the guild award; La La Land has those dreamy magic hour moments that Angelenos usually miss when they’re in their cars trying to get home at a reasonable hour. Advantage La La.

Choice: The smoky, spooky, colorless sci-fi look of Arrival.

Best Costume Design

Prediction and Choice: What the hell, that canary dress again. Needs cleaning. (The competition, historical and fantasy, shortfalls, giving a modern look that rare advantage.)

Best Film Editing

Prediction: La La Land, for elevating enthusiastic amateur efforts in musical film.

Choice: No nominee was more concisely edited than Moonlight.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Prediction: Sweet Jesus, not Suicide Squad, a movie so dank and squalid I wasn’t sure there were actors up there, let alone in makeup and hairstyles. Can you imagine that turning up on TCM Oscar month some year? I guess it still will, shudder

Choice: Anywho, Star Trek Beyond, unless A Man Called Ove, one of those subtle efforts, pulls enough votes.

Best Original Score

Prediction: Musicals scores aren’t typically nominated…unless they are, which I think is bending some rule or another. So, La La Land.

Choice: My favorite score (certainly the one I’ve had on iTunes the most) is Lion‘s. Try it. (Moonlight is basically variations on a single, poignant theme, and Jackie‘s, while gripping, is too tumultuous for much repeat listening.) Winless Thomas Newman (14 nominations) loses again for his spacy Passengers score, as winless cinematographer Roger Deakins (13 nominations) gets a year off from public humiliation.

Best Original Song

Prediction: Sorry, LMM, EGOT will have to wait. It’s La La Land‘s to lose, and I think “City of Stars” will win.

Choice: If La La Land‘s two nominations cancel out each other, I’d be happy to see the award go to “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” which has been rattling around my ears since I took the kids to see Trolls three months ago. (We somehow missed Moana, sorry, LMM!)

Best Production Design

Prediction: La La Land. Dream ballet.

Choice: Arrival. Dreamscapes.

Best Sound Editing

Prediction and Choice: Hacksaw Ridge, a typical winner in this category. This award has never gone to a musical. There’s always a first time.

Best Sound Mixing

Prediction and Choice: Hacksaw Ridge, a real powderkeg of a movie once Okinawa is reached. But there is a history of musicals winning here, and Chazelle’s Whiplash won, too. La La Land‘s chances hinge on whether or not Mel Gibson’s overpowering sonic palette deafened voters before they had a chance to see any of the other nominees, or if voters just got lazy and voted for Hacksaw Ridge twice.

(Sweet Jesus, that stone cold dull Benghazi movie, a nominee in this category, may be haunting TCM too!)

Best Visual Effects

Prediction and Choice: Without outstanding visual effects, there would be no Jungle Book, just Bill Murray and Christopher Walken in suits made up of little green dots. Which, come to think of it, would be fun, too. Let’s see that version.

About the Author

Bob Cashill

An Editorial Board Member of Cineaste magazine, Bob is also a member of the Drama Desk theatrical critics society in New York. See what he's watching on Letterboxd and read more from him at New York Theater News.

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