They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Directing and Supporting Acting Races

By J. Don Birnam

February 16, 2017

Look! The saints are marching in!

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Oscar voters have had their ballots since Monday, and the Oscar race is in its last ten days. Today we look at the Supporting Actor and Actress races, as well as the singularly uninteresting Best Director race.

Let me know if you have differing thoughts on these three races: Twitter and Instagram.

Best Director: Boring

Best Director has become a very uninteresting race since the Best Picture expansion in 2009 simply because the winner of the Director’s Guild Awards has been the winner of the Oscar each and every single time, except the year that Ben Affleck won, when he was not nominated for the Oscar. That is how powerful their predictive power is, and I do not expect this to be the year that this statistic is broken, not even close.

This year the nominees are Damien Chazelle for La La Land, Denis Villeneuve for Arrival, Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea, and surprisingly, Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge.

We can discard Mel first, as he did not receive notices from almost anyone else, with the DGA preferring Lion’s Garth Davis and the Globes Nocturnal Animal’s Tom Ford. The comeback story for Gibson is interesting, and the branch has always loved to welcome former actors here. But he will not win.


Really, you card easily discard the other three. Although the trio has shown up in essentially every race this year, none have been able to break through. For Villeneuve, it is a quick ascension to the top, after lauded work in Sicario. The swift rise is perhaps matched only by that of the eventual and young winner. For Lonergan and Jenkins, meanwhile, it is great recognition for brilliant filmmakers who do not work often and that bring their signature styles to their films - the projects they led this year are both very much creatures of their imagination in many ways, and benefit tremendously from their guiding hands.

But, you can say the same thing for the young man who will actually win this award. As you know, La La Land’s Damien Chazelle won the DGA, so that stat alone should be enough to tell you what is going to happen here. But consider also the “Oscar story” that makes him an irresistible winner. Chazelle wanted to make this movie for a long time, and could not get it financed. So he did, what else?, Whiplash, a wildly successful movie that out of nowhere won three Academy Awards.

Clearly the young director, whose vision and creativity made this movie possible, has a lot of good will in Hollywood. There is no way anyone upsets him.

Check out our updated Best Director Power Rankings, which will not change until the big night.

Will Win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Could Win: N/A

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