by Jacob Jones, Contributing Writer

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts the annual Academy Awards to honor the best work in film from the previous year, and every year there are snubs, surprises and predictions for how the night will shake out. This year, many are wondering how one of the year’s most critically and commercially praised films, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, will fair in comparison to the rest of the nominees. These are my predictions as a theatre student and film enthusiast for the 89th Annual Academy Awards in all major categories.

 

First up: Best Picture.

The Nominees:

-Arrival

-Fences

-Hacksaw Ridge

-Hell or High Water

-Hidden Figures

-La La Land

-Lion

-Manchester by the Sea

-Moonlight

Given its record 14 nominations (tying All About Eve and Titanic), it is entirely possible that La La Land could set the record for the most Oscar wins of all time, surpassing Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, with 11 each. Though its strongest competition stands in Moonlight, a film about a young black man discovering his identity and sexuality in the rough streets of Miami, Chazelle’s original musical is still poised and ready to snag the big award of the night. Hell or High Water is an Academy favorite, but hasn’t won many Picture awards during this season, and Manchester by the Sea is generally more praised for its performances than as a movie itself. Best Picture prediction: La La Land.

 

Next up: Best Director.

The Nominees:

-Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

-Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

-Damien Chazelle, La La Land

-Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

-Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Barry Jenkins has a stronger chance for winning Moonlight a big award here than for Picture, given the film’s social and cinematic impact. However, since the Academy loves films about Hollywood and both writing and directing an original musical is no small feat, I can’t see Chazelle losing out on this award. Best Director Prediction: Damien Chazelle, La La Land.

 

Next up: Best Actor.

The Nominees:

-Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

-Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

-Ryan Gosling, La La Land

-Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

-Denzel Washington, Fences

It’s an Affleck vs. Denzel shakedown. Affleck still holds the higher cards, winning all but two Best Actor awards on the awards circuit, but recently faced some allegations of sexual assault and harassment after some Hollywood actresses have come out against him. The Academy could give dark horse Ryan Gosling the award for his impeccable chemistry with co-star Emma Stone in La La Land, or there could very well be a Denzel upset but as of right now, it goes to Affleck. Best Actor prediction: Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea.

 

Next category: Best Actress.

The Nominees:

-Isabelle Huppert, Elle

-Ruth Negga, Loving

-Natalie Portman, Jackie

-Emma Stone, La La Land

-Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

This is Emma Stone’s award. Her strongest competition so far in the awards race was Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy (and it could still be a come-from-behind win), but talk of Pablo Larraín’s biopic of the first lady has fallen into Oscar obscurity and isn’t likely to resurface. Stone’s relatability and nuanced performance in La La Land is her best work yet and is almost sure to garner some gold. Best Actress prediction: Emma Stone, La La Land.

 

Next category: Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees:

-Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

-Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

-Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

-Dev Patel, Lion

-Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

While I’m happy to see Michael Shannon get some love for his excellent work in Nocturnal Animals, his chances of winning are slim and it’s Mahershala Ali that will most likely walk away with the trophy. Occasionally the Academy will give someone a win more for their body of work than for their work that particular year (see: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant), and although Ali’s performance in Moonlight was one of the best of the entire year, he’s also had great turns in Hidden Figures, another Best Picture nominee, and Marvel’s Netflix series Luke Cage. Bridges and Shannon turned in some of their best work, and newcomer Lucas Hedges proved he’s ready to act with the big dogs, but Ali’s performance brings a heartbreaking humanity to his character not often discovered or matched. Best Supporting Actor prediction: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight.

 

Next category: Best Supporting Actress.

The Nominees:

-Viola Davis, Fences

-Naomie Harris, Moonlight

-Nicole Kidman, Lion

-Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

-Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

All of these actresses turned in fantastic performances. Harris and Williams stand strong chances as well, but Viola Davis managed to do something very few actors or actresses do: outperform Denzel Washington. This will likely propel her over the top and land her the award. Best Supporting Actress prediction: Viola Davis, Fences.

 

And the final major category: Best Animated Feature.

The Nominees:

-Kubo and the Two Strings

-Moana

-My Life as a Zucchini

-The Red Turtle

-Zootopia

This is an exceedingly strong year for Disney animation, as they’ve landed two nominations in this category with both Moana and Zootopia. The Academy loves their Disney princesses, but given Zootopia’s awards track record, it’s more likely the Oscar would go to the latter of two films. However, don’t count out Kubo and the Two Strings. It has a second nomination for Visual Effects, so it’s not unlikely that the Laika stop-motion animation could also take the trophy. I’ll stick with the Academy’s habits though and take the film that tackled real-life issues and controversies in a witty animated medium. Best Animated Feature prediction: Zootopia.

The 2017 Academy Awards take place on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m.