Oscars Season: Our 2017 Academy Award Picks and Predictions

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Ahead of the Academy Awards this Sunday, GeekDad film writers Tony Nunes and Rob Huddleston make their picks and predictions for this year’s key Oscar races.

Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay

Tony’s Predictions — Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight; Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

In the Best Adapted Screenplay category, I’m going to predict that Barry Jenkins will take home the prize for Moonlight. Deservedly so. Adapted from the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight is perhaps the year’s most challenging film, a story that eloquently tackles identity at a time when the very idea of identity is being simultaneously celebrated and challenged on a daily basis. Cinema is at its best when it is relevant and pure, and Moonlight, more than any other nominee in this category, is true and pure cinema. In the Best Original Screenplay category I predict that Kenneth Lonergan will take home the prize for Manchester by the Sea. My personal pick, however, is Taylor Sheridan for his incredible, modern take on the Western genre with the gripping Hell or High Water.

Rob’s Predictions — Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight; Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

I personally didn’t really like either of these movies, but without a doubt the writing was one of the strongest points for both. Moonlight’s writer/director Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote but never produced the stage play upon which the movie is based, nicely handle the three time frames and the powerful storyline. In Manchester, director Kenneth Lonergan covers the touching story of a broken man returning to his home, and slowly reveals the truths about his past over the course of the film. Hedging my bets, I will say that there’s a chance that Sunday might be a very good night for Hidden Figures, and if that’s the case then it might nose out Moonlight in the Adapted category. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any way that my “should win” pick, Arrival, will win. There’s also a possibility that the Academy could go crazy on handing out statues to La La Land, in which case it might have a shot in the Original category, but I think the writing was far and away the weakest part of the movie so I don’t think that’s nearly as likely. My “should win” pick for the Original Screenplays would be Hell or High Water.

Animated Feature Film

Tony’s Prediction — Zootopia

My prediction for the win is Zootopia. Zootopia is the most critically acclaimed animated film of 2016. In fact, it’s tied on Rotten Tomatoes with Moonlight as the highest rated film of any genre in 2016. I adore Zootopia and admire its complex message about race and prejudice, but my personal pick would be Moana, one of my top-ten films of 2016 and a pivot point in Disney’s long history of cornering the Disney Princess trope in stories dictated by the admiration and pursuit of a man. If this award was based solely on visuals, however, the award would go to The Red Turtle, hands down!

Rob’s Prediction — Kubo and the Two Strings

I’m going to possibly let my optimism here run free and say that the movie that should win will also be the one that does win. There’s no question that more voters likely saw Moana and Zootopia, but I think that Kubo got enough buzz and a long enough release cycle to pull out the win here. I just saw The Red Turtle this week, and while I enjoyed it I think it’s likely a bit too out there for a lot of the voters, assuming they were able to find it at all. And My Life as a Zucchini is this year’s Anomalisa–a film apparently loved by those who loved it, but far too niche to beat the much more mainstream entries in the category. (Although I should mention that I haven’t seen that one, simply because it has yet to play anywhere near me.)

Documentary (Feature)

Tony’s Prediction — I Am Not Your Negro

What a year in documentary film! I’m still stunned that Weiner didn’t get nominated. As a Disney nerd and parent, I loved Life Animated, but race and the refugee crisis were the major themes in 2016, and yielded the greatest documentary stories. Three of the five nominated films deal with race. While O.J.: Made in America plays out as a complete, historically long, racially telling story, 13th and I Am Not Your Negro stand out as frontrunners. I have a hard time picking between the two, but I would give I Am Not Your Negro and edge for its riveting, revolutionary clips of James Baldwin alone.

Rob’s Prediction — I Am Not Your Negro

I’m very much at a disadvantage picking this category, as I haven’t seen any of these movies, but based on the buzz around it (and the overall mood of the country), I think there’s a very good chance that this film, which one of our fellow GeekDads recently reviewed, will win.
Actor in a Supporting Role

Tony’s Prediction — Mahershala Ali for Moonlight

Certainly a great field of actors, including legends Jeff Bridges and Michael Shannon, but my pick and prediction is hands down, without a doubt, Mahershala Ali for his inspired portrayal of a surrogate father to a bullied young man in Moonlight. No contest!

Rob’s Prediction — Lucas Hedges for Manchester by the Sea

Another category that’s kind of tough to call this year. I suspect that Mahershala Ali might have been in too little of Moonlight, although the part he was in was the best part of the movie. Dev Patel did a great job in Lion, as did Bridges in Hell or High Water, but at the end of the day I think that Hedges’ performance opposite Casey Affleck will win the day. My “should win” pick here is easy, though: Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals. I’m surprised that the movie was pretty much ignored overall, so I don’t think Shannon will win, but his performance in the movie (along with those by also-ignored Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal) was one of the best I saw all year.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Tony’s Prediction — Viola Davis for Fences

Going off the Golden Globe and SAG winning wave of Viola Davis, I predict that she will win the award for Fences. This is a solid group of actresses though, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset. My pick for an upset would be Manchester by the Sea’s Michelle Williams, who is long overdue for a win after past nominations for Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, and My Week with Marilyn.

Rob’s Prediction — Viola Davis for Fences

I didn’t find much to like in Fences, but Davis was without question the bright spot of the movie. She delivers one of the more powerful performances of the year, and she’s already racking up wins in other shows, giving her a lot of momentum. My “should win” pick here is tougher, but if I were an Oscar voter I most likely would have punched my ballot (is that even how that works? I have no idea) for Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures.

Directing

Tony’s Prediction — Damien Chazelle for La La Land

Were I a gambling man, I’d put money on La La Land director Damien Chazelle as a sure-bet to take home the award for directing. My own selfish fandom however hopes that Denis Villeneuve takes home the award for his beautifully unspooled directing of Arrival. Villeneuve is one of my favorite directors working today, and Arrival is one of the most gorgeous and emotional science fiction films of the past decade.

Rob’s Prediction — Damien Chazelle for La La Land

I’m going with Chazelle here based entirely on Oscar history: while it happened as recently as last year, it’s still the exception and not the rule that Best Picture and Best Director go to the same film, so I think Chazelle will be able to ride the La La Land train all the way to the win. There’s a decent chance that Lonergan might pull off the upset, though, with Manchester. My should win pick is an easy one: Denis Villeneuve for Arrival.

Actor in a Leading Role

Tony’s Prediction — Denzel Washington for Fences

This is the hardest of the year’s categories to predict. Denzel Washington took home the Best Actor award from the Screen Actors Guild for Fences, Casey Affleck won the best dramatic actor Golden Globe for Manchester by the Sea, and Ryan Gosling took home the best comedy/musical Golden Globe for La La Land. I’ll say Denzel will win, but who can’t tell? This category could really go to any of those three. I don’t really see Captain Fantastic’s Viggo Mortensen or Hacksaw Ridge’s Andrew Garfield as a dark horse. For some reason, I also don’t have a personal preference in this category.

Rob’s Prediction — Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea

Despite the backlash over his past, I think that Oscar voters are still going to finally let Casey have a statue to match his brother’s. As I’ve said elsewhere, Manchester didn’t personally move me, but there’s no doubting that Affleck did a stellar job as the movie’s emotional center. I think there is an outside chance that the backlash and a very good night for La La Land could see Gosling slip past Affleck here, but overall my money is still on Affleck. As for my should win pick? I honestly don’t know. I didn’t see Captain Fantastic, and didn’t love any of the other nominees here, so in the end I guess I’d probably vote for Affleck as well, but I won’t exactly be crushed if he doesn’t win in the end.

Actress in a Leading Role

Tony’s Prediction — Emma Stone for La La Land

This race is also super interesting to predict. Isabelle Huppert (Elle) won the Golden Globe in a shocker. Elle, which may be the most challenging film of 2016, was also one of my favorites, but it wasn’t even nominated for the Foreign Film Oscar. In my mind, that doesn’t bode well for Huppert’s chances. Emma Stone won the SAG award and Best Actress in a comedy/musical Golden Globe for La La Land, so I’d give her the edge in this race. Huppert would be my pick, though I’d also like to see Loving’s Ruth Negga win partially because I’m such a Preacher fan.

Rob’s Prediction — Ruth Negga for Loving

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make my guess for a performance I didn’t actually see, but that’s partially based on buzz and partially based on the overall weakness of the other nominees here. Isabelle Huppert did a fine job in Elle, but I think the movie’s odd twists might be enough of a turn-off for a lot of voters to keep her off the stage. A La La Land sweep might see Emma Stone win this, but I didn’t think there was anything particularly memorable in her performance. And as much of a fan as I am of Natalie Portman, I didn’t like her portrayal in Jackie at all. It’s always tough when playing a real person to walk the line between a performance and an outright impersonation, and I think Portman went way too far into impersonation. Honestly, I was shocked to even see her get a nomination, particularly considering that she edged out Amy Adams’ two spectacular performances in Arrival and Noctural Animals. And Streep? Well, it’s another Streep nomination.

Best Picture

Tony’s Prediction — La La Land

La La Land is definitely the frontrunner here, though Moonlight, which won Best Drama at the Golden Globe’s has a decent shot as well. Historically, the Academy loves movies that play homage to the genres and films that celebrate Hollywood’s Golden Age. La La Land certainly does that, bringing back the musical genre in a big, crowd-pleasing way. Look back to 2011, when The Artist, an homage to silent films, was the big winner, or, to 2002 when Chicago was the Oscar darling. I thought the best Hollywood homage of 2016 was the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, but that film wasn’t even nominated. My personal pick this year would be Hell or High Water. No matter who wins though, remember, the Best Picture winner is rarely reflective of the true best film of the year, something I wrote about last year on GeekDad.

Rob’s Prediction — La La Land

Again, I’m just going to go with history here. Only two prior films have picked up as many nominations as La La Land did, and they both won Best Picture. Despite a lot of recent talk about the movie’s pretty obvious flaws, I think it’s still going to walk away with a armful of statues, including the big prize at the end of the night. Only one of the other nominees really has enough momentum to possibly overtake it, but Hidden Figures has one giant thing going against it: it’s not about Hollywood. And there are very few things Hollywood loves more than itself. My should win pick here is my number 1 film of 2016: Arrival. There’s no chance that it will win, which is a shame, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Get the Official GeekDad Books!