They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?
Final Predictions for the 89th Academy Awards
By J. Don Birnam
February 25, 2017

These are all for La La Land.

Another year another…day in the sun? As the La La Land Oscars come to a close, it’s time to put up or shut up and lay our stakes into what we think are the likely winners.

Every year has safe categories and iffy ones. This time around the main races are locked but there are serious doubts about two acting races and, unlike last year, the screenplay races seem up for grabs.

So, as usual, I don’t want to bore you with a recap of the whole year, as fun as it’s been from when everyone thought The Birth of a Nation was going to win Best Picture until today. You can read all of it in its gruesome gory details here.

Instead, last minute reminders about how to win your Oscar ballot.

Rule No. 1: They vote for what they like. I type this every year and people don’t listen to me. They don’t vote for what they think is Best, they don’t vote for what they think sends a message. They walk into that theater or pop in that screener, watch a movie, and if it makes them cry or laugh, they like it, and they click it. The Academy members are no different than, say, American voters in election. Simple, straightforward. If the message is too complicated, they likely won’t like it.

Rule No. 2: (A corollary) Your Worst Ballot-Filling Enemy is an Oscar Prognosticator. I see this every year. The Oscar blogosphere decides Sylvester Stallone is going to win—because they like him. How could Lady Gaga lose Best Song? They’ll say. Be careful with “sure things” that are wholly made up. This year, I wonder, for example, if they illuminati has overstated the love for Moonlight and underappreciated other things.

Rule No. 3 Don’t Sweat the Surprises. You’re never really going to guess right that Ex Machina wins Visual Effects or Girl With Dragon Tattoo Best Editing. Don’t try to. If you go out on too many limbs, you’ll do poorly. Be careful with which ones you pick.

Beyond those general rules, here are the questions you’ll have to ask yourself this year.

Question 1: How strong is La La Land?. This is the key question of the night. Does it win everything? Twelve Oscars and breaks the record? Even silly things like Costumes and Sound Effects (LOL!!!)? Or is it a strong but nuanced sweep. Tough. You’ll see from the below that I’m leaning towards nuanced and not absolute but I’m also not the movie’s biggest champion. Be careful with following my bias.

Question 2: Which of the beloved movies goes home empty?. This is like a math problem. Hidden Figures is well liked, but it can realistically only win Best Adapted Screenplay. If it steals that from Moonlight and Lion, what about those two? One of them can win Supporting Actor and the other Cinematography, I suppose, but La La Land seems impossible to defeat in that race. So maybe don’t pick Hidden Figures. But it still doesn’t tell you what award those other two will win. Fences won’t go away with nil thanks to Viola, and Hacksaw likely does win either Sound or Editing, with maybe one of the other going to Arrival. Hell or High Water seems in most peril of pulling up a goose egg, and that also seems impossible. Am I nuts to think Jeff Bridges has a chance?

Question 3: How political are we going to get? After the controversial Executive Order on immigrants, can Iran’s The Salesman really oust the critical favorite from Germany, Toni Erdmann? Will they stick with undoing the #OscarsSoWhite damage not just by nominating black actors but also by giving it to Denzel over Casey? Will Zootopia withstand Kubo’s furious attack because of its message of diversity and inclusion? Will this affect Ali in some way?

These are some of the questions you’ll have to decide on if you’re going to have a successful night. As usual, I feel queasy about a lot of this, and I’m indicating as much when that is the case. I would stake my prognosticator reputation on the ones with “high” degree of confidence, but anything else is educated guesses up for grabs.

Take a look and have at it, mock me when I mess it all up!
Note: Best Actor pick changed from Affleck to Denzel Washington at 1:30 E.T. Sunday