Predicting who’s going to win at the 89th Academy Awards is kind of like predicting the weather after looking at the five-day forecast. We’re at the end of awards season, and so many prizes have already been given out that Sunday night’s ceremony should offer very little in the way of surprises, especially when La La Land, a movie that’s tied the record for most nominations with 14, is expected to sweep most of its categories. For that reason, the Oscars can often feel anti-climactic. But, the Academy has been known to be unpredictable in the past *cough* Crash *cough*, which means Sunday night won’t be without the occasional upset. Here then, are our predictions for who’s going to win the major awards at the Oscars. Trust us on these.
ArrivalFencesHacksaw RidgeHell or High WaterHidden FiguresLa La LandLionManchester by the SeaMoonlight
Ignore the backlash. This category is the reason God invented the words “sure” and “thing.” Not only hasLa La Land racked up a record-tying 14 nominations, but it’s also won every major award it’s been up for in the lead-up to the Oscars. But despite those signs, there are hot takes being written at this very second about how Moonlight might be able to pull an upset—that’s how loved, and how good, that movie is—but despite the urgency and social relevance of Barry Jenkins’ remarkable feature, Hollywood loves nothing more than a movie about what a magical place it is, and, on that note, Damien Chazelle’s zeitgeisty musical more than delivers.
Denis Villeneuve, ArrivalMel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle,La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
There is rarely a year where pundits don’t discuss the possibility of a Best Picture and Best Director split. It’s the Academy’s stealthy way of rewarding two deserving movies with top prizes. See last year, when the more traditional Spotlight took home Best Picture over The Revenant, but Alejandro G. Iñárritu won Best Director for helming a film that only he alone could have made. It’s somewhat trickier this year. La La Land defied all the odds as an original, old-fashioned musical to become a monster hit, thanks to the dizzying vision of its writer and director, Chazelle (with maybe just a little help from a couple of very well-matched movie stars). Moonlight, which is even more universally loved than La La Land, is a more vital film, which is why shutting it out of the top two categories feels like a crime. That’s why we’re giving the edge to Jenkins.
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences
Affleck, who delivers a shattering performance as a grieving husband and brother in Manchester By the Sea, has been the favorite to win this award since the movie premiered at Sundance over a year ago. But thanks to the sexual assault allegations from his past that have swirled around the reclusive actor (he settled out of court with his accusers), Denzel Washington has been able to steal some of the momentum, which culminated in his surprise victory at the S.A.G. Awards for his towering and classical performance in Fences, which he directed himself. And while this is probably the closest call of the night, it still feels like Affleck’s to lose.
Ruth Negga, Loving
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep,Florence Foster Jenkins
Emma Stone has won every major award she’s been up for and is both the clear-cut and sentimental favorite going into Sunday’s ceremony. Like the character she plays in La La Land, Stone grew up wanting to be an actress and is fulfilling those dreams before our eyes. A win on Sunday would be a fairytale moment for the actor. The only competition in sight comes in the form of legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert, who took on a daring role that several major Hollywood actresses shied away from, and who’s cold and ambiguous performance is the opposite of Stone’s warm and evocative one. Still, the Academy loves nothing if not a coronation—and Stone is its new queen.
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
In a movie filled with standout performances, MahershalaAli’s soulful portrayal of a drug dealer was one of the most powerful of the year. Although he missed out on a Golden Globe and came up short at the BAFTAs, Ali is the undisputed breakout of awards season (his stirring speech at the S.A.G. awards solidified that). Plus, with La La Land sure to dominate the night, the Academy will want to give Moonlight as many awards as it can.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Besides La La Land for Best Picture, this is the night’s other lock. The second it was revealed that Davis would be campaigning for best-supporting actress, even though she is ostensibly a lead opposite Denzel Washington, this award was hers. Davis, a three-time nominee, gives a towering performance as an aggrieved wife, and the other actresses in this category, while dutifully campaigning for their movies, seem to acknowledge that this award already belongs to Davis. As an added bonus, look for Davis’ speech to be an all-timer.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Hell or High WaterLa La LandThe LobsterManchester by the Sea20th Century Women
Our gut is saying La La Land, but Kenneth Lonergan is one of the titans of American letters, and this marks his third screenwriting nomination after You Can Count On Me and Gangs of New York. The Academy might be looking to finally reward him for his contributions to cinema, as opposed to the boy wonder Chazelle, whose already going to win big tonight and whose career is just getting started. Plus, the Manchester screenplay is a wonder, managing to somehow be devastating, funny, depressing, and life-affirming, all at the same time. This one will be close.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
We’re going out on a limb here, just for the hell of it. Moonlight, which most people don’t realize was adapted from a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, will probably win this award, but if there’s one script which might be more deserving, it’s Eric Heisserer’s adaptation of Ted Chiang’s short story Story of Your Life. Heisserer brilliantly blended genres, writing a mournful drama that was cloaked as a brainy sci-fi movie, and played with temporality in such intricate and subtle ways that they only become apparent after multiple viewings, which we highly recommend. Again, this award likely belong’s to Moonlight, but if Arrival wins, we get bragging rights.
Fire at SeaI Am Not Your NegroLife, AnimatedO.J.: Made in America13th
One of the strongest categories of the night, simply because at least two of these movies could have ended up in the best picture category and no one would have made a fuss. I Am Not Your Negro and 13th should be taught in American classrooms until the end of time, and each of them would be deserving winners. ButO.J.: Made in America—Ezra Edelman’s five-part, 467-minute documentary about the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson—is one of the most awe-inspiring cinematic achievements of the last decade. Full stop.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Kubo and the Two StringsMoanaMy Life as a ZucchiniThe Red TurtleZootopia
We’re not quite sure how Finding Dory, from perennial Oscar winners Pixar, failed to notch a nomination here, and its exclusion is arguably the biggest snub from all the categories (shout-out to Amy Adams). But even if Dory did score a nom, the prize would likely still go to Zootopia, with its incredibly current message of inclusion in the face of bigotry. Expect the directors to give one of the night’s most political speeches.