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Bell's Oscar predictions

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Hollywood’s biggest night of the year has finally arrived, and it's ready to celebrate a year where there was a little something for everybody. Audiences have fallen head over heels for La La Land, you’ve taken your grandma to see Hidden Figures twice, and your dad won’t stop raving about that Hacksaw Ridge. 

While the former is expected to sweep the ceremony, there are still a few questions nagging every Oscar enthusiast: Just how big will La La Land be, and will it beat the record for most Oscars won by a single film (11)? Will the allegations against Casey Affleck affect his chance at winning Best Actor? How many acceptance speeches will follow Meryl Streep’s lead and tackle our current political climate? And will host Jimmy Kimmel attempt to outdo Ellen’s infamous “Oscars selfie”? 

These any many more will all be answered come Sunday night when the 89th Academy Awards are broadcast at 7:30 PM CST on ABC. And after a year spent tucked away at the movie theater, indulging in double features, and scrambling to watch every nominee before the big night, here are my bullish Oscar predictions on who’s bound to win (and who should win). 

Best Picture

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

Who Will Win: Is there really any question that La La Land isn’t going to win by this point? There’s still a chance that Moonlight could pull an upset given the intense adoration and cultural significance surrounding it. But even if La La Land’s suffered a bit of backlash these past few weeks (it’s overrated, it’s too white, the stars can’t even sing or dance), it’s tied for the most Oscar nominations for a single film ever for a reason. Plus the Oscars love nothing more than awarding a film that serves as a love letter to dreamers, Hollywood, and art itself (see: The Artist, Argo, Birdman). 

Scene from La La Land.

Who Should Win: While La La Land is certainly an intimate masterpiece, no film from 2016 feels more essential than Moonlight. It might sound chintzy to say you enter the theater one person and leave another, but Moonlight is an intensely powerful piece of filmmaking that wraps itself around your psyche and refuses to let go until the very last frame. It’s as perfect as movies get. 

Best Director

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

Who Will Win: Since 2002, there’s only been one director who won the Director’s Guild of America Award for Best Director who didn’t win the Best Director Oscar. By that logic, Damien Chazelle’s win at the DGA almost ensures his victory Sunday night. La La Land walks a fine line between being a joyous tribute to classic Hollywood musicals and a modern-day drama about the harsh realities of life, and Chazelle crafts a masterful balancing act. 

Who Should Win: Chazelle is certainly worthy of that Best Director award, but Barry Jenkins did something truly miraculous with Moonlight. He makes weaving three generations of a young man’s life together so seamlessly poetic that it becomes a masterclass in directing. 

Best Actor

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

Who Will Win: If you’d’ve asked me a month ago who was going to win Best Actor, it would’ve easily been Casey Affleck. But the sexual misconduct allegations surrounding Affleck from 2010 have started to overshadow his performance, and Denzel Washington’s been building momentum. Washington’s win at the SAG Awards were a bit of a shock, and not since 2003 has an actor won the SAG Award for Best Actor and not go on to win the Best Actor Oscar. It could honestly go either way, but I’m betting on Washington. 

Scene from Fences.

Who Should Win: If Andrew Garfield was nominated for his far superior work in Silence, the decision would be easy. But of the nominated actors, Affleck had a role worthy of incredibly brave acting and he hit all the right notes in Manchester by the Sea. He may be a scummy human being, but you can’t deny the artistry and nuance of Affleck’s work in that film. 

Best Actress

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

Who Will Win: While Emma Stone’s performance isn’t as gimmicky as the other actresses on this list, it takes real acting prowess to make her role in La La Land look so effortless. Stone’s been the darling of Hollywood for a long time now, and between her countless other award wins this season and her intense lovability, she’s bound for her first Oscar win. 

Who Should Win: Given that the two best female performances of the year (Amy Adams in Arrival, Annette Bening in 20th Century Women) weren’t even nominated, I’ve gotta give credit to Stone. All of these actresses are outstanding in their respective films, but Stone’s performance in La La Land is the ultimate charmer. 

Best Supporting Actor

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

Who Will Win: The supporting categories are often trickier to predict because they don’t get nearly as much attention as the lead acting categories. But Mahershala Ali has won a ton of awards for his performance in Moonlight, and it looks like he’s set to continue that trend. 

Scene from Moonlight.

Who Should Win: Mahershala Ali gave the type of performance that makes you want to look him up when the credits roll. I can’t think of the last time an actor made such a huge impact with such a short amount of screen-time. 

Best Supporting Actress

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

Who Will Win: There are only three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and show-stopping Viola Davis performances. Fences is an okay film that’s made great by Davis in a performance that might just be the best acting showcase of 2016, male or female. She’s nabbed every other award this season and there’s no way she’s stopping now. 

Who Should Win: As much as I adore Davis, I can’t get past my annoyance that she’s a co-lead in Fences and only campaigned in the supporting category because it was a less crowded field. While Nicole Kidman and her wigs are emotional backbone of Lion, Naomie Harris is a revelation in Moonlight. When you take into account that she filmed her generation-spanning, emotionally-charged performance in only three days, it makes her all the more deserving. 

Best Original Screenplay

  • Taylor Sheridan, Hell of High Water
  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, The Lobster
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Mike Mills, 20th Century Women 

Who Will Win: One of the biggest criticisms of La La Land is that its powers lie more in the visuals, stars, and music than in its story. But La La Land is pretty much an unstoppable force at this point so don’t be shocked when it nabs this award as well. 

Who Should Win: Each of the nominees are worthy in their own ways, from the kooky world-building of The Lobster to the intimate drama of Manchester by the Sea. But Mike Mills crafted one of the most elegantly-written screenplays of the year with 20th Century Women, a film that deserves far more love than its received. 

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Eric Heisserer, Arrival
  • August Wilson, Fences
  • Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
  • Luke Davies, Lion
  • Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight

Who Will Win: Moonlight’s a film that relies more on what’s seen than said and the power of silence over words. But it’s screenplay is still a technical marvel that injects fresh life into its barebones source material. 

Who Should Win: Science fiction still gets overlooked far too often during awards season, which is why I’m just grateful Arrival got nominated in the first place. While the special effects and acting are impressive, it’s the beautifully poignant screenplay that holds the film together. 

Scene from Arrival

Best Animated Feature Film

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

Who Will Win: Zootopia is the rare film that works as both a crowd pleasing hit and a sneakily-intelligent social commentary. The fact that it’s an animated film just works in its favor, so it should have no problem taking home the gold. 

Who Should Win: Kubo and the Two Strings is a technological marvel and Moana is certainly cute, but Zootopia deserves this award more than anyone. 

Best Foreign Language Film

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

Who Will Win: Toni Erdmann looked like it was going to nab this award up until Iranaian director Asghar Farhadi, nominated for The Salesman, was revealed to be unable to attend the Oscar ceremony due to Donald Trump’s immigration ban. It’s a powerfully deserving film in its own right, but the added politics surrounding this category almost ensures its win. 

Who Should Win: Toni Erdmann, a nearly three-hour long absurdist German “comedy,” may not be everybody’s cup of tea. But once you let the bizarreness wash over you, it makes for a strangely compelling viewing. 

Best Documentary 

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

Who Will Win: The Best Documentary Oscar tends to go to films with a prominent subject, with past winners including films over Amy Winehouse and Muhammad Ali. Aside from 13thO.J.: Made in America is certainly the most high-profile of the bunch so I’d consider its win a given.

Who Should Win: O.J.: Made in America isn’t a straightforward documentary more than its a wide-reaching epic. At 467 minutes over five parts, it tells the story of O.J. Simpson while encompassing themes such as race relations, celebrity culture, and true crime. It’s ridiculously entertaining, but insightful to boot. 

Best Original Score

  • Mica Levi, Jackie
  • Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
  • Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, Lion
  • Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
  • Thomas Newman, Passengers

Who Will Win: If you’re going to bet money on any category, Best Original Score’s probably the safest choice. Oscar voters are bound to have that beautiful melody behind “City of Stars” stuck in their heads as they fill out their ballots, so La La Land can definitely count on taking this one home. 

Who Should Win: I’m definitely torn in this category, primarily because La La Land’s score is just the perfect mix of nostalgic and romantic. But Mica Levi’s music for Jackie turned what could’ve been a fairly standard biopic into a masterful horror film, elevating tension and conveying complex emotions with a minimalist sound. I won’t be angry if La La Land wins, but I’d be especially excited if Jackie ended up nabbing the honor instead. 

Best 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

Who Will Win: There’s no doubt that La La Land, an original music that’s swept this awards season, isn’t going to win Best Original Song. The only question is which song it’s gonna go to. “City of Stars” has become La La Land’s unofficial theme song of sorts, and I feel its dreamy whistling has gotten stuck in enough Oscar voters heads to sway them its way. 

Scene from La La Land

Who Should Win: Even the most hardened La La Land detractors should give credit where it’s due: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” is a sucker-punch of a song. While certainly not the most fun number in the film, it’s the emotional centerpiece and an absolute stunner at that. Just try watching Emma Stone bare her soul as she sings this ode to dreamers without shedding a tear. 

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About the Author

Keaton Bell

Born in Minnesota but raised in Oklahoma, Keaton is a senior at the University of Oklahoma...

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