89th Academy Awards Predictions: Who Will, Could, and Should Win 

The 89th Academy Awards are less than a week away, so naturally it’s time to predict them. This year things are more up-in-the-air than usual, with only one essential lock, although betting your mortgage on “La La Land” winning multiple awards is the closest thing to a safe bet as they come nowadays. Here, I’ll list who I think has a chance of winning, who I think deserves to win and who in all likelihood will win. So without further ado, let’s get these predictions started.


It’s pretty much a lock that “La La Land” is going to win as it’s won every precursor award, including the BAFTA and Golden Globes, and it is (likely) going to take home the most awards of the night. “Manchester by the Sea” seemed like the frontrunner until “La La” burst onto the scene (more on the collapse of that film in a second) and it, along with “Moonlight,” has an outside chance of winning, but “La La Land” was the best film of 2016 so it deserves to win Best Picture, and it should.

COULD WIN: Moonlight


WILL WIN: La La Land

LLL d 37 _6000.NEF
“La La Land”


Again, it is all but a lock for “La La Land” with Damien Chazelle likely to take home the trophy. Kenneth Lonergan or Barry Jenkins could win for “Manchester by the Sea” or “Moonlight,” respectively, but that would mean that Best Pic is also up for grabs, and there is very little to indicate any of that is going to happen. I personally didn’t love Lonergan’s direction for the entirety of “Manchester” and Chazelle was able to keep up the fun and honest feel of “La La” for its full runtime, so he can, should and will win here.

COULD WIN: Barry Jenkins

SHOULD WIN: Damien Chazelle

WILL WIN: Damien Chazelle

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Damien Chazelle


This is where things get interesting. For almost the entirety of 2016, this was Casey Affleck’s award to lose for his work in “Manchester,” and when he won the Golden Globe and BAFTA and things still looked like they were falling in his favor. However then Denzel Washington won his first-ever SAG award and suddenly things are murky because the SAGs often line up with the Oscars, with Leonardo DiCaprio winning last year for “The Revenant”” and Eddie Redmayne winning the year before for “The Theory of Everything,” and both men went on to Academy glory. The momentum is in Denzel’s favor and he would get my personal vote, but my gut says Affleck still wins. But this is going to be the most interesting moment of the night.

COULD WIN: Denzel Washington

SHOULD WIN: Denzel Washington

WILL WIN: Casey Affleck

Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”


Emma Stone is the favorite here and I love her, but I wasn’t wowed by her in “La La Land,” in the sense she and Gosling just play themselves (even if they’re fantastic and charming at it). My vote would go to Isabelle Huppert or Natalie Portman (who like everything in “Manchester” was the frontrunner until “La La Land” came out), and both of them have slight chances of winning here, but Stone has won near every other award so it’s hers to lose.

COULD WIN: Natalie Portman

SHOULD WIN: Isabelle Huppert

WILL WIN: Emma Stone

Emma Stone, “La La Land”


As with every year, this is the category with the most amount of deserving people in it. Since its premiere, “Moonlight” actor Mahershala Ali was considered a lock, but he didn’t win the Golden Globe or BAFTA and the doors have since been blown open. His closest competition is “Lion’s” Dev Patel, who won the BAFTA and has, seemingly in the past week, picked up momentum. Jeff Bridges has an incredibly small darkhorse chance to pull the massive upset, same with Lucas Hedges (my vote), but it will come down to Ali and Patel and I think, just like with Best Actor, the recent upswing momentum will fall to the long-time favorite.

COULD WIN: Dev Patel

SHOULD WIN: Lucas Hedges

WILL WIN: Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”


It’s going to be Viola Davis. If there was ever lock for an Oscar, it would be this. If anyone has anything resembling a chance here, it would be Michelle Williams, but that won’t happen.

COULD WIN: Michelle Williams

SHOULD WIN: Viola Davis

WILL WIN: Viola Davis

Viola Davis, “Fences”


“Moonlight” should win here, if for no other reason than the Academy giving it an award because it will likely lose Picture, Director and possibly Supporting Actor. I didn’t love “Moonlight’s” script, much like “Arrival” it relied on characters explaining away problems instead of coming up with creative narrative solutions, and my vote would go to “Fences,” which has some fantastic dialogue and created an atmosphere of a play on the big screen, and “Lion” won the BAFTA so look out for that.



WILL WIN: Moonlight



Much like Best Picture and Actor, this was a lock for “Manchester” for the longest time…and then, you guessed it, “La La Land” happened. I loved “La La Land” but actually hope it doesn’t win here, for parity’s sake if nothing else. It’s also worth noting that just like with “Moonlight,” “La La Land” and “Manchester” were both written by their directors, so the Academy may want to share the love and not give Chazelle both trophies. Both “Manchester” and “Hell or High Water” created fantastic moods and atmospheres with some darkly funny dialogue, and both of them could win and deserve to. I think “Manchester” is going to pull it off, but Chazelle’s “La La Land” script could get caught up in the La La Landslide.


SHOULD WIN: Hell or High Water

WILL WIN: Manchester by the Sea

“Manchester by the Sea”


“La La Land” has two song nominated (“City of Stars” and “Audition”), so the only way it doesn’t win is if they cancel each other out. I personally liked “Another Day of Sun,” “Someone in the Crowd” and “Lovely Night” more than those two songs, but it wouldn’t have been fair for one film to get all five nomination slots. In the unlikely occurrence that “La La Land” doesn’t win here, look for “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana” to get the W, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame.

COULD WIN: “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana

SHOULD WIN: “City of Stars,” La La Land

WILL WIN: “City of Stars,” La La Land

“La La Land”

The Palmers

Now a few quick blurbs on how the Oscars would have looked if I ran them:

Aaron Taylor-Johnson would have earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in “Nocturnal Animals.” He won the Golden Globe (which was a massive upset) but Michael Shannon slipped into the Oscars in his place (in my fantasy Shannon also earns a nod). Also Ryan Reynolds, whom I’ve loved for a long time, would have gotten a Best Actor nomination for his dedicated work in “Deadpool.”

“Sing Street” would have earned a Best Picture nomination, along with one or two Best Original Songs (“Brown Shoes” and “Drive it like You Stole it” are both fantastic). “No Dames” from “Hail, Caesar!” would have also gotten a nomination, and “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” would have also earned a nom for one of its many great songs. In case you aren’t catching onto the trend, this was a great, and underappreciated, year for Songs in film.

Ben Affleck would have earned his first ever acting nod for his work in “The Accountant.” It’s a fun film and a darkly amusing performance. I enjoyed it. Sue me.

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” would have earned a Best Documentary nod, and “Sausage Party” a Best Animated Feature nomination (and, maybe, a Best Original Song to go with it for its opening number).

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”

The Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, air on February 26 at 8:30pm EST on ABC.

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