by Chris Corbellini

Oscar Predictions: La La Land for the win

I asked myself a simple question when compiling this year’s Oscar predictions: How did that movie make you feel when you exited the theater? 

I walked out of La La Land glowing. It’s a cure for the blues. I think Academy voters will agree that was what the movie set out to do, and not only does it have the bells and whistles that make the working production folks elbow each other in admiration, on a bigger scale it’s a celebration of a business that since the silent era has attempted to make people exit a theater in an emotional state. Yep, it’s not the money that drives all of that make-believe; rather it’s the stories that inspire us all. A happy fiction.

La La Land. 

It’s winning big tonight.

Below are my predictions on exactly how big.

And is there still time to put Bill Paxton in the “In Memoriam” segment?

Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

 Winner: Casey Affleck. Steely Denzel might wrench this one away from him, particularly after Affleck’s two settled sexual harassment lawsuits came to light.

Actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Winner: Emma Stone. The Academy is putting this smiling and dancing sprite up on stage. It’s happening.

 Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Winner: Mahershala Ali. Not a lot of screen time, but he made those moments count. There are great things ahead for this actor. He knows it, and he seems humbled by it.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Winner: Viola Davis. This was the easiest category to handicap.

Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Winner: Zootopia. Also an easy one.



La La Land




Winner: La La Land. There’s some lovely magic hour scenes in this, but the shot that really dazzled me came early, during a Hollywood party, when the camera followed Stone, then captured a stunt man jump from a roof into a pool — following him under water — and then spun around that pool as partygoers jumped in with him.

Costume Design


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins


La La Land

Winner: Jackie. She was a fashion icon and a graceful figure, so costume design was nearly as important as the script. Of course Fantastic Beasts could take this one, too.

  Documentary (feature)

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America

Winner: O.J.: Made in America. ESPN wins its first Oscar.

 Documentary (short subject)


4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

 Winner: White Helmets. A dart throw, admittedly. There was some buzz to it.

Film Editing


Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land


Winner: La La Land. There are elegant edits from start to finish in the movie — a late-movie cut from Gosling’s piano in his nightclub to the one in the restaurant where he and Stone first meet, for instance.  In fact the entire final sequence is terrific, as Stone and Gosling dance through a life they could have had. That’s simple to nail down in a script. But giving those moments verve is all in the edit bay. Tom Cross will win back-to-back Oscars, after taking one home for Whiplash last year.

Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove
The Salesman

Toni Erdmann

Winner: The Salesman. The director is boycotting the Oscars, giving this category a political edge.

 Makeup and Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Winner: Star Trek Beyond. Suicide Squad had four headliners: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie … and Margot Robbie’s butt. It’s an awful movie, and I can’t see Academy voters rewarding the filmmakers in any fashion. But if it pulls off the upset, said voters were swayed by Robbie’s posterior. It was prominently featured.

Music (Original Score)


La La Land




Winner: La La Land. Child, please.


Music (Original Song)

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”: from La La Land
“Can’t Stop The Feeling”: from Trolls
“City of Stars”: from La La Land

“The Empty Chair”: from Jim, The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go”: from Moana

Winner: Audition (The Fools Who Dream). I don’t agree that La La Land will lose out in this category due to splitting votes — there’s a good chance “City of Stars” takes this. But Audition is the standout moment of the movie – a scene that connects with every dreamer in the audience, which is to say, everyone in the audience.

Production Design


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!

La La Land


Winner: Arrival. The great challenge of this movie was to make an alien species and the world of academics and military leaders trying to understand them look completely original, and not a 21st Century reboot of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. They did it. That said, Fantastic Beasts could take this category as well.

Short Film (Animated)

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes


Winner: Piper. Everyone loves Pixar.

Short Film (Live Action)

Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights


Winner: Ennemis Interieurs. Just in case you were really struggling with your Oscar pool here, I think this one is the safest bet.

Sound Editing

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land


Winner: La La Land. There are some beautiful out cuts right before a title cards pop up (WINTER, SPRING, etc). The one that really stands out is an abrupt one during the rock-jazz concert, when the Stone character believes Gosling’s jazzman has sold out — a sound outcue to the beginning of the end of their relationship. Still, you could make a case for any of these movies. That’s a lot of sound to cull together: Hacksaw (war), Horizon (chaos), Arrival (alien life), and Sully (air disaster), and each overcame their respective editing challenges. Hacksaw could easily take this. But that’s overthinking this one. Again, how did the movie make voters feel?

Sound Mixing


Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Winner: La La Land. Arrival’s sound was its own character … there was a sense of dread leading up to first contact, and that’s all in the mix. I will hate myself if Arrival pulls off the upset because it deserves this one, but again, I’m predicting no voter is over-thinking this, and will award Oscar to the musical in the field.

Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Winner: The Jungle Book. A few years ahead of its time with a child actor and that animal planet of FX reacting back at him. And it answered the question my eight-year-old self wanted to know: Who would win in a fight, a black panther or a tiger?

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)



Hidden Figures 



Winner: Moonlight. The film’s condolence prize for not winning Best Picture.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

Winner: Manchester by the Sea. This would also be a signal to the filmmakers involved in Manchester that they were worthy of winning Best Picture … if not for a movie that honors the very town they live in. It took Kenneth Lonergan three years to write the script for Manchester, and from that grind came a story of unthinkable grief with the most natural dialogue of the year. It’s a lot of work to make it all three acts seem so true-to-life. Every character involved is someone you run into when the death of a loved one forces you into action, or into seclusion.


Arrival, Dennis Villeneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson
La La Land, Damien Chazelle

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Winner: La La Land. With this and the critically-lauded Whiplash, the happiest person in the room is the 32-year-old Chazelle’s agent, 32-year-old Roger Green.

Best Picture



Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land


Manchester by the Sea


Winner: La La Land. Beautiful on the inside and out — a story not about whom you step over to become famous, but how you can’t realize a dream without some help along the way.  I visited Hollywood last month and amongst working professionals in that business, the feeling is La La Land is not even the third-best movie among the nominees. And more than a few people are put off by the white savior jazzman element to the musical (with a mansplaining segment, no less).

 I don’t care. I know how I felt leaving the theater.

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