Breaking Down The Oscars, Part One: Almost Definitely Correct Predictions

This started out as a drinking game post, but I realized I couldn't throw out a drinking game for the Oscars without first predicting what will happen. Therefore: a predictions post, guaranteed to be nigh-foolproof. Feel free to use it in any office pools you do. My vig is 10%.

Every Oscars broadcast has some sort of narrative to it – a neck-and-neck race for Best Actor, a possible surprise for Best Picture, a “will the Academy stay conservative or make the daring choice?”* conversation. So what’s the conversation this year?

*The answer to this is always – always - “go conservative.”

Last year, we assumed this year’s Oscars would be about reacting to the #oscarssowhite controversy. Every branch added new members, pushed out old ones, increased diversity, etc. That had to affect things, right? Maybe we’d get some unusual choices this year!

Nope! We got exactly what we expected (though the nominations are much more diverse this year than last, there just aren't any surprises). But all the diversity directives will affect what is certain to be the theme of this year’s broadcast: this year’s overarching story is going to be “how much will people talk about Trump?” That’s right, guys, this year’s broadcast is going to be about the speeches! What a lot of fun we’re all gonna have.

The reason for this is obvious (besides the political climate and the chance for celebrities to grandstand on a stage while clutching a golden trophy) - basically all of the big categories are decided. I haven’t even been following things – haven’t read a single article on the Oscars, haven’t glanced at the odds, nothing – and I bet you I can nail 20 out of 27 categories without even trying.

All right, here we go. Put 10 minutes on the clock. I’m doing this.

Flawless Oscar Predictions

Okay, starting with the big ones: La La Land has Best Picture locked up. Emma Stone will win Best Actress, and Denzel Washington should sneak past former favorite Casey Affleck to win Best Actor (I just think that the Academy wants to vote for Denzel and wants to avoid voting for Casey and his millstone of sexual harassment lawsuit if they can find a way). Meanwhile, Viola Davis, deliberately slumming into the Best Supporting Actress category in order to pick up an easy win (she’s so obviously the female lead in that movie, it’s insulting to pretend otherwise), will get her way. Mahershala Ali will snag Best Supporting Actor for Moonlight, giving us three of four African-American winners. There’ll be a photo op with Denzel, Viola, Mahershala, and Moonlight director Barry Jenkins all holding Oscar statues at some point that’ll make the rounds on Twitter and receive Beyoncé-level adulation.*

*I am so certain of this I’m putting it in the drinking game somewhere.

Speaking of Jenkins, he’ll get his Oscar for writing Moonlight, which will win Best Adapted Screenplay as a door prize for missing out on Best Picture. Meanwhile, La La Land is probably the favorite for Original Screenplay, but I would bet on Manchester By The Sea getting the award just so that it’s not a complete runaway for the musical.

Let’s fly through a bunch of the others: no one is beating Zootopia for Best Animated Feature, and Pixar’s gorgeous photo-realistic bird-on-the-beach short, Piper, will win Best Animated Short. La La Land will win for cinematography easily (the combination of the brilliant colors and whizzing camera tricks should be more than enough to defeat more traditionally shot films like Lion or Arrival).

In terms of costume design, I figure that La La Land is gonna be the favorite again, but let’s go outside the box and pick the exacting design on display in Pablo Larrain’s visually opulent Jackie. There’s much more interesting work on display there.

In terms of documentaries, it’s safe to pick OJ: Made In America as an easy winner, with 13th and I Am Not Your Negro as possible spoilers. Any other year, both of those would have a much better shot at the crown. 2016 ended being a remarkable year for exceptionally well made documentaries about being black in America.

Documentary Short is always a random guess, so let’s look at the subject matter of each. Extremis is about a doctor working with terminally ill patients and their families as they transition to death. Joe’s Violin is about a Holocaust survivor who donates his violin to a Brooklyn school district and becomes friends with the girl it is given to. Then we have THREE documentaries on refugees – 4.1 Miles, about a ship’s captain who decides to rescue drowning refugees crossing into Greece, Watani: My Homeland, about a refugee family leaving Aleppo, and The White Helmets, about the men and women who race into Syrian bombing sites to rescue people from the rubble.

All of the last three look exceptional, and all three seem to have filmmakers who planted themselves right in the middle of danger in order to tell their story. Still, you have to figure that the three of them cancel each other out, and Extremis ends up with the win. If I had to pick one of those three to steal it, I’d pick The White Helmets – both it and Extremis are made by Netflix, and that’s a company that’s willing to spend whatever money necessary to win an Oscar.

Best Film Editing will go to La La Land – editing almost always pairs with Best Picture, and there isn’t a showy enough contender to fight it off. Best Foreign Language Film will be either Toni Erdmann or The Salesman – the former already has an American remake being made, with Jack Nicholson playing his first role in 10 years as the lead, while The Salesman is by the same guy who directed A Separation five years ago, which is one of the most acclaimed movies of the decade.

Watching all of the foreign language films is a bit of a slog, so let’s say that Toni Erdmann wins it because it’s actually somewhat comedic.

This is, apparently, one of the best films of the year. I can't explain it, either.

Best Live Action Short is gonna be too random a category to call, so let’s see how many are about refugees (two!). So our choice will be between Ennemis Etreniers and Silent Nights. Since Ennemis Etreniers looks like it has battle footage, let’s go with that.

Best Makeup is between Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad, and A Man Called Ove. I’ll assume that Swedish Best Foreign Film nominee A Man Called Ove has some aging makeup in it. Yawn. Let’s pick Star Trek Beyond, since the Academy voters will rip out three feet of their intestines before they give an award to Suicide Squad.

Best Original Score goes to La La Land, of course, as does Best Original Song for “City of Stars” (there was a brief worry that the two La La Land songs would split the vote, but it seems clear now that “City of Stars,” with its haunting deep piano tones, is the breakout from the film).

Normally I’d push against La La Land for Best Production Design, since there are really only a few showy moments of design in the whole movie, and a big, colorful period piece could trump it. But the only one that qualifies is Hail! Caesar, which is too silly, and the others are too simple (Arrival), too generic (Passengers), or built on existing production design (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them). You’d think that last one would have a chance, but the original series never won any awards in this area, so don’t expect this one to.

The Sound categories usually go together, but Sound Editing is about special effect sounds, which means it usually goes to a war movie, and we have one this year – Hacksaw Ridge. It’s possible for La La Land to sneak in here and continue their near-sweep, but I’d bet against it. In Sound Mixing, though, I’d be stunned if anything comes near La La Land. This is a category that favors musicals anyway, so that’s an easy win for them.

Well… that was entirely too easy. What a boring year for Oscars. If I get more than 6 wrong this year, I’ll be well and truly shocked.

We’ll have to rely on the drinking game to keep us entertained, instead. I’ll have that post up for you guys before Sunday’s show kicks off.