The B+ Movie Blog Guide to the 89th Academy Awards

This is what you’ve all been texting me about for the past two weeks. This is all the info you wanted so you could win your Oscar pool. I probably should charge for this. But I’m stupid. So here you are. Hope you’re not all in the same pools!

As is always the case, in order to get the simple answers — what I think is gonna win and what you should pick — you have to deal with all the extra shit that only I’m interested in. But you know, at least I’m having fun, right?

Simply guessing the Oscars used to be fun for me. Betting people dinner in college if they could outguess me. (They couldn’t.) Now I’m on some next level shit. I’m not even about picking winners anymore. Now I’m all about picking nominees, and diagnosing the categories. I’m on a whole other scale of grading myself. Which means I’m gonna write a whole lot of nonsense here, and you can read as much or as little of it as you want. I make it as easy for you to ignore me as you possibly can. And then you have to live with yourself, you callous monster.

This article is both my personal ballot (an extension of all my Oscar Quest articles) and a full on analysis of Oscar night for everyone. That’s really the part you’re here for. You don’t care what I think. You wanna know what’s gonna win.

How this works is, I run down every category, get my personal opinions out of the way first so that way it doesn’t impede the guessing, break down the category from nominations day to now, giving you all the precursors and how they went, tell you what’s most likely to win, what its biggest competition is, and what, if anything, can sneak up and win outside of those two. I link you to all the category breakdowns I’ve written up over the past three weeks as well (which you can see by clicking the name of each category). Oh, and my Oscar Central page is also there to give you all the precursors, though most of those I’ll be writing into my analysis here anyway. I also straight up tell you, “This is what I’m taking” and “This is what you should take.” Oh, and all the films are color coded for easier reference when scrolling. (I’m not sure if that part really helps, but it makes me feel good, so it’s staying.) I’m also straight up including gifs this year to really make it easy for those skimming through to see what I think the top contenders are.

I don’t think anyone gets this crazy with their coverage. You might get most of the same picks, but you won’t get as in-depth reasoning as to why those are the picks. So basically if you want the same stuff you can get everywhere else, but with an extra dash of crazy, you’ve come to the right place.

As always, I cannot guarantee that you’ll win your Oscar pool. Typically I end up around 18/24 straight up, which is about average. For me, a good year would be 20/24. My personal best is 2013, where I went 22/24. (I only missed Editing and Animated Short. But who’s counting?) My way of thinking is — assume 16, take 18, hope for 20. It’s like blackjack, except here you double down on the movie about white people.

My strengths lie in diagnosing the categories more than straight up guessing. That’s the part I’m more interested in anyway. I’ll tell you right out, “If this doesn’t win, this one will.” It’s rare that something below a second or third option wins a category. Hell, it’s usually rare for something below a second happens unless it’s a shorts category. I can think of about three categories in recent history where I was straight up wrong. Best Editing 2011, Best Production Design 2012, and Best Visual Effects 2015. And almost all of us were wrong on all of those. Otherwise, I’ll guarantee most #1s or #2s will win, and the occasional #3. That’s why I’ve started doing something I call the Scorecard Ballot.

This is how the Scorecard Ballot works: take every category and rank the winners based on their likelihood of winning. 1-9 on Best Picture, 1-3 on Makeup and 1-5 on everything else. If the #1 on your ballot wins the category, you get 1 point. 2 points for #2, etc. A perfect score is 24. It’s like golf. You want to get as close to par as possible. Obviously you can’t go under par here, but if you hit that magic number of 24, you were perfect. Similar to a confidence pool.

For reference, 2011, I was +14, 38. 2012, I was +10, 34. 2013, I was +5, 29. 2014, I was +8, 32. Last year, I was +9, 33. I feel like if I can get around 30, +6, that’s a good year for me.

Think about it this way: I could guess Best Original Song wrong, but if the film I had second wins, I’m only getting 2 points instead of 1, and that rewards the fact that I knew what was gonna win if my choice didn’t. This system benefits the people who can correctly analyze a category, rather than the rigid “right or wrong” scenario. I like to use both. One for you guys, one for me. You’re free to use whatever you want.

This year, I think we can all feel pretty confident about a lot of the categories. This is the biggest Best Picture lock we’ve had in a while. It’s going to win at least seven awards. This will be the closest thing we’ve had to a relative sweep since 2009. The Hurt Locker and Slumdog Millionaire were the last times you could count on a Best Picture favorite to win at least 7 or 8 awards. Since then, 5 was a big year. Most have been 4 or less. 2013, Gravity wasn’t necessarily going to win, but there, we knew it would win a bunch of awards, which helped you do really well since it was #1 a lot of the time, and even when it wasn’t, it was #2 and you knew what was gonna win otherwise.

However, despite La La Land being right there, there are still a handful of categories that feel like they could be open to surprises. I can think of three off the bat that feel way more open than usual this late in the game. That seems like a lot, though I’m sure I say that every year. This is where the fun comes in. This is when someone like me earns his keep, figuring out what the hell they’re gonna do in those categories.

Let’s just get into it all. No use in spending too much time now when we’ve got 24 categories to deal with.

Best Picture



Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land


Manchester by the Sea


My Rankings:

  1. La La Land
  2. Moonlight
  3. Arrival
  4. Hell or High Water
  5. Hidden Figures
  6. Lion
  7. Hacksaw Ridge
  8. Manchester by the Sea
  9. Fences

My Thoughts: Most years, I typically agree with all the nominees and don’t really out-and-out have a problem with any of them. Last year, all the nominees were top 15 films for me. This year, we didn’t get that strong, though most of the list did appear in my top 20. I have no gripes about any of the choices, and don’t really have many alternatives to offer. I’d have voted differently, but I’m okay with the list we have.

As for my rankings — La La Land was my favorite film of the year, so that’s my #1 and that’s my vote. I’m aware many people disagree with this sentiment, and I will not and cannot argue with that. I think it’s been well established here after six years that La La Land is exactly the kind of movie that appeals to me specifically, so it was pretty much predestined to be my favorite movie of the year. The same way The Artist was. I’m not gonna argue if they’re gonna vote for it, but I’m also not gonna make any claims about how it “should” be the winner. I’m just gonna let things happen as they will.

Otherwise — Moonlight and Arrival were top tens for me, Hell or High Water barely missed the top ten and seems like it’ll end up there within the year, and Hidden Figures was amazing. Those are my top five in the category. The other four I just put in the order I liked them. Not a whole lot to get into here. I liked what I liked.

My Vote: La La Land

If I Had a Ballot: La La Land

Should Have Been Nominated: I’m good. I really loved Kubo and the Two Strings and Moana, but I’m cool with them staying in Animated Feature. I don’t have any real gripes with the category they chose this year.

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The Analysis

This is the first year since 1996 that the PGA guessed all the nominees correctly. Somehow I had that, despite going against all logic. These nine plus Deadpool were their nominees, and it was pretty clear Deadpool never had a shot. These nine made the most sense. The only other fringe contenders were Nocturnal Animals, Jackie, Silence and Sully. The latter two never gained any traction in the precursors, Jackie visually had no support and turned a large amount of voters off, and Nocturnal Animals really only had BAFTA support. The Academy has a track record (Nightcrawler, Gone Girl) of ignoring darker nominees. The nine they chose made the most sense and really weren’t that difficult to guess. I also felt pretty good about the whole thing, since I didn’t fall into the usual traps I normally would have and cut through the noise to go 9-9.

In order to guess this category, you have to understand how they vote for it. This is the only category that isn’t about voters circling a winner and tallying up the results. The voting for Best Picture works as follows:

Everyone is told to rank all nine films from 1-9, in order of their preference. Unless someone refuses to cast a vote for Best Picture, then there will be a #1 vote on every ballot. If one film gets more than 50% of the first place votes cast (50% + 1), then it wins Best Picture then and there. That’s a very unlikely event. The last consensus #1 I can think of is probably Return of the King. But even there, if we had more than five nominees and a preferential ballot, even that would have had trouble getting half the #1s in one go. So assuming we don’t get 50%+1, we’re tallying up all the first place votes.

There are about 6,000 members in the Academy, so let’s use 6,000 just to figure out the math. This scenario assumes everyone in the Academy casts a vote, which is never the actual case. We’re also assuming there is also no hacking involved or voter fraud. Though we all know PricewaterhouseCoopers has strong “hacking defense” and wouldn’t let that happen.

So 6,000 votes are cast for Best Picture and no film gets 3,001 #1 votes. One film has 1,800 votes, one has 1,650. One has 750. Whatever film is ninth on that list, with the least number of purely #1 votes, is out. That movie cannot win Best Picture. And say it had, I don’t know… 200 first place votes. Whatever film is #2 on those ballots now gets those votes. So that’s another 60 votes for the current first place film with 1,800 votes, and so on. If that round puts the first choice over the top, then we’re done. Otherwise we continue.

Now we have 7 films left. Whatever’s got the second lowest amount of #1 votes is now out. Say that had 320 votes. Those 320 votes go to the #2 choice on those ballots. If the #2 choice on some of those happens to be the film that was already eliminated, then the #3 choice gets the votes. And the tallies for the 6 films left go up. And this continues until one nominee has 50%+1. In this case, 3,001 votes.

The one thing to take into account is the people who will try to game the system. The person who only votes for a #1 and leaves the rest blank. Well, the minute their #1 gets eliminated, then their vote is gone. And that’s one less overall vote, and it actually makes it easier for the film they don’t want to win to win Best Picture. Now, there’s a chance they say, “I only want this film to win and if it doesn’t win, I don’t care what wins.” Well, then they get their wish.

Theoretically they could vote 1-5 and not rank the rest. That is an option and technically that does game the system a little bit, but really the way they do their film the most service is by legitimately ranking all the nominees. If you really wanted to do damage to another film, you rank it #9 rather than not at all.

Also, the thing to note here — and it’s impossible to know how many times it’s happened (though I’d wager it happened last year): a film can win Best Picture without getting the most #1 votes. Say one film has 27% after round one and another film has 24%. If the 24% film appears on the most ballots as #2 or #3, it’ll end up getting more votes overall than the other one, especially if the other one gets a lot of #8s and #9s.

The idea is for the film that the most people like wins Best Picture. So the odds favor not the film that gets the most #1 votes, but the one that has the most #2, #3 and #4 votes on top of their #1 votes, with the least last place votes. Theoretically, a film could still place fourth on a lot of ballots and still win, even if another film had more #1 votes, if enough people had that other film toward the bottom of their ballots. You always have to keep that in mind when looking at Best Picture. It does take into account what people liked the most.

What you have to look at, that means, is what films are going to rank highest on the most ballots. And also look at the precursors. They help too. The order of those is gonna be: PGA, then BAFTA, then BFCA, then the Golden Globes. SAG a little bit, but not so much.

The PGA has been around since 1989. Since then, they’ve matched Best Picture all but eight times:

  • 1992, The Crying Game wins the PGA, Unforgiven wins the Oscar.
  • 1995, Apollo 13 wins the PGA, Braveheart wins the Oscar.
  • 1998, Saving Private Ryan wins the PGA, Shakespeare in Love wins the Oscar.
  • 2001, Moulin Rouge! wins the PGA, A Beautiful Mind wins the Oscar.
  • 2004, The Aviator wins the PGA, Million Dollar Baby wins the Oscar.
  • 2005, Brokeback Mountain wins the PGA, Crash wins the Oscar.
  • 2006, Little Miss Sunshine wins the PGA, The Departed wins the Oscar.
  • 2015, The Big Short wins the PGA, Spotlight wins the Oscar.

Last year was the first year since the inception of the preferential ballot that the PGA winner differed from the Oscar winner.

To save time, rather than give you what won BAFTA and BFCA in those eight years, I’ll just tell you which years either of them had the winner:

  • 1998, BAFTA had Shakespeare in Love
  • 2001, BFCA had A Beautiful Mind
  • 2006, BFCA had The Departed
  • 2015, BFCA had Spotlight

What this tells you is that BAFTA almost never gets it right if the PGA doesn’t, and that BFCA can occasionally get it right if we’re dealing with a film generally liked by the most amount of people. Though 2001 was a weird one, given that Fellowship was almost deliberately not being voted for. We don’t really need to get deep into it this year, since we pretty much know what’s going to win.

I’m gonna do what I always do and show you the last 20 years of precursors, just because this does highlight something in particular I want to mention. (Best Picture winners are in red.)

Year PGA BAFTA BFCA SAG Ensemble Golden Globes
2016 La La Land  La La Land La La Land Hidden Figures Moonlight (Drama)

La La Land (Comedy)

2015 The Big Short The Revenant Spotlight Spotlight The Revenant (Drama)

The Martian (Comedy)

2014 Birdman Boyhood Boyhood Birdman Boyhood (Drama)

Birdman (Comedy)

2013 12 Years a Slave and Gravity 12 Years a Slave 12 Years a Slave American Hustle 12 Years a Slave (Drama)

American Hustle (Comedy)

2012 Argo Argo Argo Argo Argo
2011 The Artist The Artist The Artist The Help The Descendants (Drama)

The Artist (Comedy)

2010 The King’s Speech The King’s Speech The Social Network The King’s Speech The Social Network
2009 The Hurt Locker The Hurt Locker The Hurt Locker Inglourious Basterds Avatar
2008 Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire
2007 No Country for Old Men Atonement No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men Atonement
2006 Little Miss Sunshine The Queen The Departed Little Miss Sunshine Babel
2005 Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain Crash Brokeback Mountain
2004 The Aviator The Aviator Sideways Sideways The Aviator (Drama)

Sideways (Comedy)

2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2002 Chicago The Pianist Chicago Chicago The Hours (Drama)

Chicago (Comedy)

2001 Moulin Rouge! The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring A Beautiful Mind Gosford Park A Beautiful Mind (Drama)

Moulin Rouge! (Comedy)

2000 Gladiator Gladiator Gladiator Traffic Gladiator
1999 American Beauty American Beauty American Beauty American Beauty American Beauty
1998 Saving Private Ryan Shakespeare in Love Saving Private Ryan Shakespeare in Love Saving Private Ryan (Drama)

Shakespeare in Love (Comedy)

1997 Titanic The Full Monty L.A. Confidential The Full Monty Titanic
1996 The English Patient The English Patient Fargo The Birdcage The English Patient

The one year I’d like to highlight is 2011. A lot of people made that comparison going back to nominations, and I think it’s an apt one. The Artist is the comp here. It’s the film that charmed audiences and critics en route to a Best Picture win. (The big difference being that The Artist didn’t make $300 million worldwide.) I also may start using that as my rationale as to why a true sweep vote for La La Land won’t quite happen in the end, and that it will end up winning all the categories that “make sense.” The Artist didn’t win Screenplay because it didn’t necessarily need to. I think this will be something similar to that.

La La Land has hit every precursor except SAG, and typically when that happens, the film goes on to win Best Picture pretty easily. I think we’re all expecting that to happen. And we all see Moonlight as the secondary choice if it’s not La La Land (nominations total, etc). The real key here isn’t so much having those there — it’s guessing what the potential upset choices are, if it’s not them. You got your pick, but if you’re doing the Scorecard, the #3 and #4 are the keys to not having things go off the rails if shit gets crazy.

Usually you look to what films have the Best Director nominees. Those other three this year would be Arrival, Manchester by the Sea and Hacksaw Ridge. And when you cross list with Best Editing, the other key category, you have Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge, but also have Hell or High Water instead of Manchester. That’s usually how this goes. But when you try to simulate how voting is gonna work, you don’t always come down with those as the top choices. Let me show you my boat simulated ballot:

Given the nine nominees, I think we can all figure the first film likely to be eliminated in voting is Fences. I can’t see that getting nearly enough #1 votes to contend. Which isn’t a knock against the film, it’s a judgment based on the kind of support each of the film has based on overall nominations, precursors, general word of mouth and just thinking about how people are gonna vote. I think we can all respect Fences but most of us wouldn’t take it as our #1. I think it’ll have the least amount of #1s and be off first. And if it isn’t off first, I guarantee you it’ll be off second.

Next off — you figure based on the nominations it will be something else, but I’m thinking it’s actually Arrival. I know it’s tied for the second most nominations, but I don’t see it getting votes. It’s a film everyone likes a lot, but at best it’ll be #3 on a lot of ballots. I have it as my #3. And my top 2 are the same top two that are in contention for the win. I don’t know how many ballots are gonna have it high enough to siphon votes directly from the main two films to keep it going through a lot of rounds. People don’t always vote based on what was nominated in the other categories. Not anymore. This ranking business changes things. I feel like Arrival is gonna get a lot of #4s and #5s. Some people won’t have it above #6. That’ll take it out of contention real fast.

Oh, and let’s not also forget the other thing Best Picture winners generally need in order to contend — acting nominations. Arrival is the only Best Picture nominee this year without a single acting nomination. In the past 60 years, that’s only happened five times. Around the World in 80 Days, Gigi, The Last Emperor, Braveheart and Slumdog Millionaire. And only 11 times total ever. Every other time, the Best Picture winner has managed at least one acting nomination. I think we all can agree and understand that Arrival will not win Best Picture, but now you have all the evidence to prove why. Maybe it’s not off the voting as early as I’m suggesting, but however you slice it, it’s coming off at some point.

Third off — it’s gonna have to be Lion. It has 6 nominations, and could have swung its way into Director and Editing with just a bit more support, but I can’t see it getting enough #1s to stay afloat past more than two rounds of voting, and it definitely won’t be #2 or #3 on enough ballots to stay up too long. If it’s not off second, it’ll be off third. Harvey gets votes, but he can’t work miracles. Not anymore.

Next, I’m thinking Hacksaw Ridge goes off. It’ll get a handful of #1s, but how many ballots are gonna have it fifth, sixth or seventh? Maybe it can get as high as fifth place, since Manchester by the Sea is the one that’s gonna be hovering around the same territory. Both of those will get their #1s to hold serve for a while, but there’s gonna be a lot of #3s for them, specifically on ballots with things like Moonlight at #1 or #2, meaning it’ll never see those votes, and a lot of ballots where they’re one of the bottom four choices. That’s not enough to get you through to Best Picture. So sixth, fifth, however you want to split them, those two come off next.

I’m also not completely convinced that La La Land doesn’t straight up win on points by the time we get this far. So theoretically the others don’t come off so much as the fight ends there. But we’ll keep going regardless.

I think, with La La Land as your #1 and Moonlight as your #2, the two films most likely to benefit from the preferential ballot system are Hidden Figures and Hell or High Water. Those will get a lot of #2, #3 and #4 votes, along with their fair share of #1 votes. If voting gets into the fifth and sixth round, these films will accumulate enough votes to hang around.

The question is, which of the two is gonna end up with more votes in the end. I feel like Hell or High Water will get less overall #1s, but may end up overtaking Hidden Figures by strength of secondary votes coming its way. Though I feel more overall support for Hidden Figures, which might make that the surprise potential winner if for some reason our top two contenders don’t pan out. But I don’t think we’re gonna see that this year.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: La La Land. PGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globe. Only twice have the PGA and BAFTA matched and the film lost Best Picture. One was the Brokeback Mountain/Crash debacle, and the other was 2004, where The Aviator won everything and lost in the end to Million Dollar Baby. There’s really no precedent where something has won this many precursors and lost Best Picture, unless it’s Brokeback Mountain and there are other factors playing into it. Not to mention, this movie is tied for the most nominations ever. Of all time. They’re going to vote for it. It’s the favorite, and it cannot be argued that it’s the favorite.

Biggest Competition: Moonlight. It’s the second most nominated film, it’s the film with a lot of passionate support behind it, and I’ve seen nothing that tells me this isn’t the second choice behind La La Land. Hell, even people like me, who are in for La La Land — Moonlight is my second choice. It’s not a “choice,” as they’d say. I’m not deliberately not voting for Moonlight. And I don’t think a lot of people will deliberately not vote for Moonlight. Probably only about as many as will deliberately not vote for La La Land. This seems like an easy second choice here, if La La Land doesn’t win.

Spoiler Alert: This is a tossup between two films. I’m gonna end up siding with Hidden Figures over Hell or High Water. I just feel like that’ll get enough passionate support to give it the #1s to hang around, plus the #2s and #3s to hang around as well. Think about the Moonlight ballots. A lot of the time, Hidden Figures will be the #2 on those ballots. Not to mention, it’ll be #2 and #3 on a lot of ballots too because it’s so liked. Hell or High Water will also be right there with a lot of #2s and #3s, but I’m ultimately worried about how many #1s it’ll ultimately have. The less #1s it has, the further down the list it starts and the more ground it has to make up. Plus, there will be people who think that it was good, but put it fourth or fifth because it doesn’t feel like it should win Best Picture. You know, the old school purists. Those will be the ones with Hacksaw and La La Land at #1.

So I’m thinking if anything has the possibility to score an upset, Hidden Figures is the one. Though I think we also fall too quickly into that trap of overthinking it and convincing ourselves things have a legitimate chance at winning when they really don’t. Keep it your spoiler, don’t vote for it and let it upset if it’s gonna. Let’s also use another simple test as to why this is the only third choice — only twice since 1995 has a Best Picture winner won zero of the precursors. Braveheart and Million Dollar Baby. So unless you think we’re looking at one of those (very, very, very unlikely), this has SAG Ensemble, the only precursor not won by La La Land or Moonlight, meaning it’s all around the choice as #3 over anything else.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. La La Land

2. Moonlight

3. Hidden Figures

4. Hell or High Water

5. Manchester by the Sea

6. Hacksaw Ridge

7. Lion

8. Arrival

9. Fences

If I Were a Betting Man: La La Land. Sometimes I say to go with the PGA. But this time, I’m saying go with all logic. Not only do all the precursors tell you this is gonna win, but you straight up have history on your side telling you this is gonna win. The Artist was the same deal. Think about what all those old white people are gonna vote for. Things are changing, but there’s no real history that says anything else can really win except this movie. This is the total package for Oscar voters, and that’s why it has the most nominations ever. Why would you take anything else?

You Should Take: La La Land. Are you really gonna spit in the face of one of the biggest gimmes of the past six years? Hell, not even Birdman was this big a lock. Go back to The Artist. The King’s Speech. You know what they like to fall back on. This is that movie. I honestly don’t know what more to tell you. You should already know that this is gonna win Best Picture. The question for me isn’t “is this going to win,” it’s “how much is this going to win.”

On My Ballot: La La Land

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Director

Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

My Rankings:

  1. Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  2. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  3. Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  4. Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
  5. Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

My Thoughts: There weren’t an abundance of directorial efforts that I straight up loved this year. So I don’t have any real issues with the category. It’s pretty much a wrap for me too. I’m taking Damien Chazelle. I don’t think he necessarily would be an automatic for me, but La La Land is my #1 for the year and he’s got Whiplash going for him too. Barry Jenkins is my second choice and he’d have had much more of an argument for my vote had I not had Whiplash to also take into account. I know I shouldn’t necessarily be taking it into account, but this is real life and not a vacuum, and these things happen. I liked the other nominees, but none of them come close to being my choice over Jenkins, let alone Chazelle. Villeneuve has both Prisoners and Sicario going for him, but even those aren’t enough to make me want to take him over the other two. So we’ll go all in on La La Land and just go with what the heart wants.

My Vote: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

If I Had a Ballot: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Should Have Been Nominated: I really liked what Pablo Larrain did with Jackie and also Andrea Arnold for American Honey. And between Midnight Special and Loving, Jeff Nichols deserved some love too.

– – – – –

The Analysis

The DGA’s the thing, and I don’t think you need to tell me that.

69 DGA Awards have been given out (yeah, ha ha 69! We’re all immature!), and the winners have differed from the Best Director winner only 7 times. That is 10% of the time. Meaning if you just listen to the DGA, you have a 90% chance of being right.

Oh and by the way, here are those seven times:

  • 1968, The Lion in Winter won the DGA, Oliver won the Oscar.
  • 1972, The Godfather won the DGA, Cabaret won the Oscar.
  • 1985, The Color Purple won the DGA, Out of Africa won the Oscar. (Spielberg wasn’t even nominated.)
  • 1995, Apollo 13 won the DGA, Braveheart won the Oscar. (Howard wasn’t even nominated.)
  • 2000, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won the DGA, Traffic won the Oscar.
  • 2002, Chicago won the DGA, The Pianist won the Oscar.
  • 2012, Argo won the DGA, Life of Pi won the Oscar. (Affleck wasn’t even nominated.)

(Note: Joseph L. Mankiewicz won the DGA in 1948 for A Letter to Three Wives and won the Oscar in 1949. So technically the years were wrong, but he did win. It was also the first DGA awards. In a way, it’s happened eight times, but in a way, not. It’s worth mentioning.)

So of those 7 times, three of them were instances where the DGA winner wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar. Which, if we take those three times out and assume we knew who was gonna win because the DGA winner wasn’t nominated, then that basically brings us up to 94% accuracy. But even if you don’t want to do that, then you’re still at 90%.

This year, the DGA gave their prize to Damien Chazelle for La La Land. Chazelle also won the BAFTA, the BFCA and the Golden Globe for Best Director. I’m not getting into the specifics of how many times that hasn’t worked out — he’s gonna win. I think we all understand this.

I can’t even put forth an argument as to how he’s gonna lose. You know they’re not voting for Mel. The fact that he was nominated is big for them. And Villeneuve — I don’t think they’re gonna go that far in on sci-fi to give it to him. And Lonnergan… highly doubtful. Jenkins is a tall order, since he, like Chazelle, is a first time nominee. I think this is an easy win for Chazelle, making him the youngest Best Director winner ever.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land. Everything points to him. DGA is a 90% predictor. Every other precursor says he’s gonna win. Vote against him if you want, he’s still the most likely to win.

Biggest Competition: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight. If it’s not Chazelle, it’s the film most likely to win Best Picture that isn’t La La Land. That’s Moonlight, and that’s Jenkins. I don’t see him being very close competition either. But since we have to list a second choice, he’s it.

Spoiler Alert: No one? I mean, I guess I do have a potential option. And it’s actually now who I expected. It’s Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge. I don’t think people liked Arrival enough to straight up vote for Villeneuve, and voters are savvy enough to not take Lonergan for what is clearly a script-heavy film. It’s like Spotlight. Even if you’re gonna vote for it for Best Picture, you’re not voting for it here. I was gonna make the case that the picture had more overall support, but the reason I think Mel is the third choice is because — he does have some support within the Academy as a person, and he always did. Forget the “he’s back” narrative. In some people’s minds, he never left. Oh, and, what’s the most directed film of the category? Those battle scenes — he’ll get votes for that. So he’s your spoiler. Though I doubt the voting gets this far. Chazelle should win in a landslide, and if he doesn’t, it’s almost certainly gonna be Jenkins who wins. At this point, make #3 whoever you want. I’d be really surprised if it happens.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Damien Chazelle, La La Land

2. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

3. Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

4. Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

5. Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

If I Were a Betting Man: Damien Chazelle, La La Land. Shit’s locked, man. If you get it wrong, so does everyone else. And there’s less of a 10% chance of that. So let’s stick with him. That’s the smart choice.

You Should Take: Damien Chazelle, La La Land. Do what you want, I’m just trying to help you get it right. He’s the choice.

On My Ballot: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Actor

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

My Rankings:

  1. Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  2. Denzel Washington, Fences
  3. Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  4. Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  5. Ryan Gosling, La La Land

My Thoughts: I’m not in love with this category. But it makes sense. It was the same five all throughout the process. There wasn’t a whole lot I loved this year, so I’m fine with these nominees. I don’t really have a #1, either. The two performances I liked the best were Casey Affleck and Denzel. And having watched them both again over the last week, I gotta take the performance I felt was best. And that was Casey Affleck.

My Vote: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

If I Had a Ballot: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Should Have Been Nominated: No one I really needed to see, but I did really like Cliff Curtis’s performance in The Dark Horse and also Joel Edgerton in Loving and Chris Pine in Hell or High Water. But again, nothing that needed to be nominated, so I’m good.

– – – – –

The Analysis

Best Actor has been pretty boring the last couple of years. This is the most interesting race I’ve seen since…2008? Bridges was locked in ’09, Firth was locked in 2010. Dujardin was a clear favorite over Clooney in 2011 based on the evidence. Day-Lewis was one of the biggest locks of all time in 2012. McConaughey was locked in 2013. Redmayne was a clear favorite over Michael Keaton in 2014, though that was slightly up for debate. And last year was Leo all the way. So maybe you can point to 2014, but I don’t consider that much of a real race. 2008 is the last time it felt like a solid toss-up choice between two people. (Though there, there was a clear “this is your likely winner” situation. This… not so much.)

This was the most locked category of any of the acting categories in terms of who was gonna be nominated, maybe even more so than Supporting Actress. These five were the five all the way. So nothing much to say about that part of it. Except maybe — how did enough people see Captain Fantastic to get Viggo Mortensen nominated and how did that stick for the entire race? It just never seemed like that movie had any visibility throughout the year, so to see him show up on every precursor was surprising. That’s the only thing about the race that was of interest to me. Since it was pretty easy to figure these were the five to be nominated all the way.

SAG is the major precursor for the acting categories, though the way SAG has been voting these past couple of years, it’s quite possible that they might lose that title in a few years. We’ll see how it goes. For now, SAG means a lot.

SAG Best Actor has matched the Oscar Best Actor 18 out of 22 times. The four misses are:

  • 2000: Benicio Del Toro wins for Traffic and Russell Crowe wins the Oscar. (It should also be noted that Benicio won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars for Traffic. So in a way, SAG wasn’t entirely wrong.)
  • 2001: Russell Crowe wins for A Beautiful Mind and Denzel won the Oscar.
  • 2002: Daniel-Day-Lewis wins for Gangs of New York and Adrien Brody wins the Oscar.
  • 2003: Johnny Depp wins for Pirates of the Caribbean and Sean Penn wins the Oscar.

That’s four in a row. Every other time, they straight up matched. And one of those four was a category swap. So technically the only really got three wrong. And one of them was Johnny Depp, who you knew had no chance at winning. So you’re left with the Adrien Brody shocker of 2002 and Denzel winning in 2001, which was a surprise, but also a culmination that kind of felt like it was coming down the pike a little bit. Though that was before my time, so I can’t say for certain. The point here is — SAG Clearly Rules Everything Around Me (S.C.R.E.A.M.).

The precursor splits are as follows this year:

  • Denzel won SAG
  • Affleck won the BAFTA, BFCA and the Globe
  • Gosling technically has the Globe too, but… yeah.

This is an interesting one, in that usually you have SAG going one way and one or two of the others going another way, and SAG is the one that tells you which way the compass is pointing. This year, the compass is pointing one way, and SAG is pointing another. What do you want from me? Something’s gonna give. Though as I said, based on how I see SAG going the past three years, I’m thinking SAG is actually the red herring. But I’m not convinced.

To cut to the chase — Viggo Mortensen has no shot, Ryan Gosling has no shot. Andrew Garfield has a theoretical potential shot, but also no one believes that either. Garfield could catch votes because of the Hacksaw/Silence combo and Gosling because La La Land is such a favorite. Trust me when I say neither of them have any chance.

This category will either be won by Denzel Washington or Casey Affleck. And all evidence and logic seems to suggest that Casey Affleck will probably win this. Maybe Denzel pulls it out in the end on veteran status. The argument for him is that BAFTA didn’t nominate him, the way they didn’t nominate Matthew McConaughey. So he could have won there and become the favorite. Since the Globe — whatever. And BFCA — they’ve been wrong two out of the past five years.

It’s a nice toss-up. The veteran/actor side goes to Denzel, and the performance aspect goes to Affleck, seemingly.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea. I just feel like he’s the favorite. Right now, empirically, BAFTA and BFCA and the Globe give a slight edge over just SAG, even though SAG means a lot. I just feel like the SAG voting is potentially leading people down the wrong path. So I’m gonna make my stand here and see where it leads me and then know from here on which way to go. Either I’m wrong and SAG remains gospel, or I’m right and SAG voting has to be questioned in certain instances. You’re free to do what you want, but my instincts tell me to question this SAG win. Also — look at the two performances. This is the more acclaimed one and the one that seems most likely to win. So that’s why this is here.

Biggest Competition: Denzel Washington, Fences. It’s a 50/50. He could win easily and then we look at the lack of a BAFTA nomination (and assumed win) as the reason why he wasn’t an automatic favorite and choice. He joins a very exclusive club if he wins — only Katharine Hepburn, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis, Ingrid Bergman and Walter Brennan have three Oscar wins. That doesn’t affect voting or picking in any way, that’s just the reality. Did enough people see this movie and love this performance enough to vote for it? Is Denzel’s popularity enough to push this through? Is Casey Affleck’s… history… enough to take him out of this? These are legitimate questions. I’m not sure who I’m ultimately gonna take, but for now, I feel like Denzel is not the favorite but is the competition. In most other categories that means I don’t take him but respect his chances at winning, but I’m still legitimately considering taking him. This is one of the bigger tossups of this year.

Spoiler Alert: Ryan Gosling, La La Land. It should be Andrew Garfield, since he’s at least got two films and two solid performances. But honestly, at this point, you gotta assume sweep if anything. We’re not gonna get this far, but if it’s gonna be anyone, Gosling seems the most likely bet. I guess. If we get this far, there’s a huge problem, so let’s assume we don’t and not think about it too much.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

2. Denzel Washington, Fences

3. Ryan Gosling, La La Land

4. Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

5. Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

If I Were a Betting Man: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea. I just feel like it’s gonna be him. I can’t explain the SAG loss (yet. If he wins, I’ll be able to expound further), but with a BAFTA win (admittedly Denzel wasn’t nominated there) and a BFCA and Globe win (both of which were over Denzel, albeit less important awards overall), he seems like the obvious choice. This is the most acclaimed performance of the year, while Denzel is beloved as an actor and the big knock is me not knowing if people are gonna go all in on that performance. It might just be “we’re voting for Denzel” and that’s that (or “we’re not voting for Casey Affleck, and that’s that”). If that’s the case, then so be it. But everything I’m seeing and feeling says he’s the one to take.

You Should Take: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea. I feel bad about this but, hey, this is why you read the fine print. If you’re gonna go simply based on what I said and not read the rest, that’s on you. I think that Denzel has as good a chance to win this as any alternative in the past decade. I can easily see him getting as many votes as Casey Affleck and even overtaking him for a lot of reasons. So yes, you can take Denzel. I’m still telling you that you should take Casey Affleck because I think he’s the smart and safe choice here. I just think it’s going to happen. My gut says stick with Affleck and let Denzel win. I think if you felt strongly enough about it, or put all your faith in SAG the way the numbers say, or in the “momentum” idea, then absolutely take Denzel. 100% I would not disagree. But I still feel like Affleck is the choice. I may be overthinking myself, but for me it’s not worth tying my brain into knots. I honestly don’t even care if I’m wrong because I know if I am, the second choice is winning. So it’s all good for me.

On My Ballot: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

My Rankings:

  1. Natalie Portman, Jackie
  2. Emma Stone, La La Land
  3. Ruth Negga, Loving
  4. Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  5. Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

My Thoughts: I’m not a huge fan of this category. Meryl — she’s nominated for anything at this point, and most of the time, I’m okay with it. But this I truly feel is one of her weakest nominations ever. She’s got 20. They’re not all gonna be winners. This is one of the not great ones. I liked Isabelle Huppert in Elle, but I wouldn’t have nominated her. And then no Amy Adams in Arrival — what? I like the Ruth Negga nomination, but she’d have been a #4 in a stronger category. So without even really trying at all, I boil it down to Natalie Portman and Emma Stone for the vote. And at that point, it’s a no contest. Natalie all the way. She’s incredible in that film. Not my favorite performance of the year (we’ll get to that in a second), but my favorite performance in the category and an easy winner for me.

My Vote: Natalie Portman, Jackie

If I Had a Ballot: Natalie Portman, Jackie

Should Have Been Nominated: Rebecca Hall, Christine. Hands down the best performance I saw in 2016. Also Sasha Lane was utterly captivating in American Honey. And let’s not forget the obvious snub here, Amy Adams in Arrival. I definitely have a few questions about the decision-making in this one.

– – – – –

The Analysis

This category still surprises me. No Amy Adams at all. Who saw that coming? We figured Isabelle Huppert would make it on despite no SAG nomination, which happens for some foreign nominees. Ruth Negga was the one who made it on over Amy Adams, and I’m happy she made it, but I question why Meryl wasn’t the cast off here. It’s not like she needed the extra nomination. Did the Globes speech matter that much? Emma Stone and Natalie Portman were locks from the jump, so no surprises there. The Amy Adams snub is the big one. Outside of that, four of these made sense. I also feel obligated to mention that both SAG and BAFTA nominated Emily Blunt for The Girl on the Train. I hope people who guess nominations like I do didn’t fall for that obvious trap.

SAG, again, is the thing. They’re not as automatic as Best Actor usually is, but they are 16/22.

  • Jodie Foster won in ’94 for Nell and Jessica Lange won the Oscar for Blue Sky.
  • Annette Bening won in ’99 for American Beauty and Hilary Swank won the Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry.
  • Renee Zellweger won in ’02 for Chicago and Nicole Kidman won the Oscar for The Hours.
  • Julie Christie won in ’07 for Away from Her and Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for La Vie en Rose.
  • Meryl Streep won in ’08 for Doubt and Kate Winslet won the Oscar for The Reader. (Note: She won SAG Supporting Actress for the same performance.)
  • Viola Davis won in ’11 for The Help and Meryl won the Oscar for The Iron Lady.

One category swap, so only five misses. Cross-listing those results with BAFTA and BFCA…

  • 1994 is too early for BFCA and BAFTA went to Susan Sarandon for The Client (they were weird before the late 90s).
  • 1999, Hilary Swank won BFCA while Annette Bening won the BAFTA.
  • 2002, BAFTA had Nicole Kidman while Julianne Moore won BFCA for Far from Heaven.
  • 2007, BAFTA had Cotillard and BFCA had Christie.
  • 2008, BAFTA had Winslet and BFCA had her win Supporting Actress.
  • 2011, BAFTA had Meryl and BFCA had Viola.

So basically BAFTA backs you up when SAG is gonna be wrong. SAG and BAFTA have not collectively been wrong since 1999. Which brings me to…

  • Emma Stone won both SAG and BAFTA this year. And the Globe for Comedy/Musical.
  • Natalie Portman won BFCA.
  • Isabelle Huppert won the Globe for Drama.

It’s not the conventional choice, but it looks like we’ve got a big favorite this year. Who’d have seen that one coming at the beginning of the race?

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Emma Stone, La La Land. SAG and BAFTA. That combination has come through every time since 1999. And BAFTA’s not that reliable before that. So based on that alone, this should be automatic. Whether you go against her or not, she’s the most likely to win this award. And honestly, given how the race has gone, I can’t really see it going any other way.

Biggest Competition: Isabelle Huppert, Elle. If it’s anyone, it’s her. Natalie Portman lost every major award since nominations happened and what looked like a prime prestige picture has all but disappeared since it came out. Without a Globe win, it would still be Natalie in this spot, but here, you can actually say that if it’s gonna be anyone but Emma who wins, it’ll be Isabelle Huppert. She’d have been the savvy upset pick regardless, but having won the Globe and getting a big boost there, and then not being nominated for SAG and BAFTA, she’s entering without any real blemishes on her record. Ruth Negga has no visibility enough to get votes, and any support Meryl was gonna get for that Globes speech only helped her get the nomination and that’s about it. Doubt she’s remotely a favorite or even the vote for most people, but if anyone’s gonna upset Emma, Isabelle’s the one.

Spoiler Alert: Natalie Portman, Jackie. She should have been the favorite or even the primary competition. But after a BFCA win (which came a month before Oscar nominations) and then goose eggs at the Globes, BAFTA and SAG, it’s hard to think she’s gonna get anywhere in the voting. Which is crazy when you think about it. She’s playing Jackie Kennedy! And she’s terrific in the film. But at this point, she’s nothing more than a spoiler. And to see her come back and win this would be a statistical upset of gigantic proportions. It would actually be as big a spoiler as 1999 (precursor-wise). Which makes it rare but not impossible. Though at this point, she seems a pretty distant third choice, based on the momentum.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Emma Stone, La La Land

2. Isabelle Huppert, Elle

3. Natalie Portman, Jackie

4. Ruth Negga, Loving

5. Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

If I Were a Betting Man: Emma Stone, La La Land. How can she lose? She’s got SAG and BAFTA, and she’s in the most nominated film of the year. Oh and she’s been promoting like crazy, she gives a really good interview and is actually one of the most charming, down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet. Can’t see that not winning her enough votes to put her over the top. Natalie Portman will still get a lot of votes for her performance. But have you seen her on the campaign trail for that movie? Not really. And the movie didn’t go over as well as was anticipated. It turned a lot of people off. So, while I’m not gonna be surprised if Natalie takes it in the end, all the smart money has to be on Emma Stone, with her having won all the awards that truly matter. Though this could be like 2011 where Viola was a popular vote and Meryl had the inside track and the electoral college. She was playing Margaret Thatcher there. Natalie’s playing Jackie Kennedy. I know I’m talking myself out of this, but Emma has to be considered the likely winner. It’s not even close.

You Should Take: Emma Stone, La La Land. SAG, BAFTA, people liking her and the film being what it is. It’s 75/25 she wins at this point. This isn’t as open as Best Actor seemingly is, but this isn’t a done deal either. It feels like it’s probably a done deal, but I’m only like 95% on that. Still, Emma’s the choice. Take the points. Typically the feeling you get is the way it goes. The momentum is all here and Natalie’s had nothing since nominations were announced.

On My Ballot: Emma Stone, La La Land

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

My Rankings:

  1. Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  2. Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  3. Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  4. Dev Patel, Lion
  5. Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

My Thoughts: I really like this category a lot. For the second year in a row, there were an abundance of choices for this category so it was bound to be strong no matter which way they went. Surprisingly, for me, the weakest nominee is Michael Shannon. He’s great in everything and he’s great in this, but I couldn’t help but like Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s performance in the movie better than his. I know that’s probably a shortsighted assessment and that over time I’ll grow to love his performance more and see it as the better nominee, but for now, I think he’s weakest in the category for me, despite being absolutely terrific in the film.

Dev Patel, meanwhile, really, really impressed me in Lion. He’s the epitome of a #4 nominee though. He’s good enough to be a #3 or even a #2, but he just ends up #4 because, while I liked his performance a lot (like, a lot a lot), I just liked the other three better for various reasons. So he ends up #4, even though in another year, he’d be as high as #2 for me. Jeff Bridges, at first, was just decent for me. But I watched Hell or High Water again for yesterday’s articles, and I was really, really impressed with his work in that. There are such beautiful moments he has that really work for me on second and third viewings. That overcomes a lot of the whole, ‘him doing the same grizzled voice and character he’s been doing since True Grit’ thing. Which is why most of you wouldn’t vote for him and have him ranked low in the category.

And then Lucas Hedges — so fucking good in Manchester by the Sea. I wouldn’t want to vote for him, but he’s so good I almost had to. This might be his Ordinary People, this movie. Which brings me to Mahershala Ali. He’s so commanding in this movie that you actually get upset when he’s not in it anymore. And you feel his presence long after he’s gone. What better argument is there than that to vote for him? So he’s my choice.

My Vote: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

If I Had a Ballot: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Should Have Been Nominated: Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash. He’s so good in that movie. Also, Craig Robinson for Morris from America. Oh, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals. There’s a lot of great stuff here, so let’s leave it to those three.

– – – – –

The Analysis

Somehow, despite the potentially myriad possibilities, this felt like six choices vying for five spots. Though I’m conflating both Nocturnal Animals nominees into a single choice, since we all generally felt it would be one of the spots. The other choice that hit precursors was Hugh Grant for Florence Foster Jenkins, who never felt like he was actually gonna be nominated, even though he was terrific in that movie (and was also kind of the lead). But he was left off. Oh well. We ended up with what’s probably the best possible category, given everything we could have had.

SAG, again, is the one to look at. They are the weakest, historically, only going 13/22. But they are 7/10 the past decade, so there’s that.

  • Ed Harris in 1995 for Apollo 13. Kevin Spacey won the Oscar for The Usual Suspects.
  • Robert Duvall in 1998 for A Civil Action. James Coburn won the Oscar for Affliction.
  • Albert Finney in 2000 for Erin Brockovich. Benicio Del Toro won the Oscar for Traffic. (He won Best Actor for SAG that year.)
  • Ian McKellen in 2001 Fellowship of the Ring. Jim Broadbent won the Oscar for Iris.
  • Christopher Walken in 2002 for Catch Me If You Can. Chris Cooper won the Oscar for Adaptation.
  • Paul Giamatti in 2005 for Cinderella Man. George Clooney won the Oscar for Syriana.
  • Eddie Murphy in 2006 for Dreamgirls. Alan Arkin won the Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine.
  • Tommy Lee Jones in 2012 for Lincoln. Christoph Waltz won the Oscar for Django Unchained.
  • Idris Elba in 2015 for Beasts of No Nation. Mark Rylance won the Oscar for Bridge of Spies. (Elba wasn’t nominated for the Oscar.)

No need to get into specifics this year, but the Golden Globes were the answer almost religiously when SAG got it wrong. They missed twice before 2000 and then last year, but other than that, they hit it. BAFTA and BFCA combined only picked up 50% of the incorrect ones. This isn’t the most helpful of years to try any form of statistics with. The Globe winner wasn’t nominated for the first time in over 40 years. And the same person won almost every precursor. So it’s pretty locked.

  • Mahershala Ali won SAG and BFCA.
  • Dev Patel won BAFTA.
  • The Globe went off the board for the first time in 41 years.

All the evidence points to Ali winning the Oscar pretty handily.

Though, because I like throwing in that monkey wrench right before we move past it (kind of like, “Hey, by the way, I fucked your wife. And… action!), the last time a Golden Globe winner wasn’t nominated for the Oscar, the person who won the Oscar was an actor from the same film. So just saying there, Michael Shannon…

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight. Anyone gonna argue with this? He’s got the big precursor plus another, and the only one he missed is wrong a bunch anyway. Everything is pointing to him taking this down, and even if I wanted to say he’s not gonna win, I legitimately can’t pick an alternative. I think this is one of the easiest decisions of the night, to be honest with you.

Biggest Competition: Is there anyone? I mean, I guess I technically need to say Dev Patel, Lion. Since he’s the only one with any sort of precursor, but I already know that won’t happen. It should probably be Jeff Bridges or Lucas Hedges. But Bridges has zero precursors and not even any real secondary awards that I could point to. He won NBR, but who cares about that? All he has is love for his film and respect as an actor/veteran. (Though he has an award already. Had he not had an Oscar, this would be a completely different conversation.) Michael Shannon has no shot. Overcoming no other visible support for a film and no precursors is a big hill to climb. Dev Patel has BAFTA and nothing else, which technically makes him a second choice, but I honestly don’t believe that. I just feel like, between the veteran status of Jeff Bridges and the love for the Manchester acting all around, the next three contenders are all bunched up together, which only highlights the distance between Ali and the field.

Spoiler Alert: Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea. I think the performance is strong enough that he’s a legitimate spoiler in this category. I can’t see that actually happening, since he’s someone they don’t know and some people deliberately won’t vote for someone so new to them, but he’s a legitimate spoiler who may actually be the second choice her. But I’m going to (potentially foolishly) put all my chips in on the #1 winning, so I’m not gonna worry about it.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

2. Dev Patel, Lion

3. Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

4. Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

5. Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

If I Were a Betting Man: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight. How can he lose? You have him as the major favorite, and everyone else struggling for second place. I honestly couldn’t tell you who I would take if not him. So let’s just take him, and his SAG and BFCA wins and call this one a pretty easy lock.

You Should Take: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight. Because if you can mount a legitimate case for anyone else (and I imagine that anyone else would most likely be Lucas Hedges, though Dev Patel seems like the obvious one), feel free. But I think you’re looking at the second most locked acting award of the night. Even more so than Best Actress, which actually has more evidence to suggest a lock than this does.

On My Ballot: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

My Rankings:

  1. Viola Davis, Fences
  2. Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
  3. Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  4. Nicole Kidman, Lion
  5. Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

My Thoughts: Didn’t love a whole lot of supporting female performances this year. I had the same four they had and didn’t even care about the fifth spot. Spencer didn’t need to be here, but sure. Kidman was solid, but I wouldn’t vote for her. Harris was good but feels like a “nomination only” sort of deal. Williams is very good but wouldn’t be my vote unless I had to. Fortunately there’s Viola Davis here, who delivers a powerhouse performance, is awesome, and is generally thought of as being overdue. So she’ll get my vote. This is almost like Patricia Arquette two years ago, only there, I didn’t actually vote for her. (Humorously enough, I voted for Emma Stone.) She checks enough boxes to get the win here for me. Plus she’s Viola Davis and she’s great. So I’m fine with this.

My Vote: Viola Davis, Fences

If I Had a Ballot: Viola Davis, Fences

Should Have Been Nominated: I’m good. Not a whole lot else I really liked. Though, if I were voting, I’d have put Janelle Monae on instead of Octavia Spencer, just to keep things interesting.

– – – – –

The Analysis

This category was as locked, if not more so, as Best Actor was all season. These were the only five choices there could have been in the category. (Janelle Monae was a tall order.) Sometimes it’s just that easy.

SAG, again, is the one to look at. They’re 15/22 all time, which is solid. One of the seven misses was the Kate Winslet category swap and another was Jennifer Connelly’s category swap. Five misses isn’t awful, especially since they haven’t missed since the Kate Winslet one.

Here are all their misses:

  • 1995: They had Kate Winslet for Sense and Sensibility. Mira Sorvino won the Oscar for Mighty Aphrodite.
  • 1996: They had Lauren Bacall for The Mirror Has Two Faces. Juliette Binoche won the Oscar for The English Patient.
  • 1998: They had Kathy Bates for Primary Colors. Judi Dench won the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love.
  • 2000: They had Judi Dench for Chocolat. Marcia Gay Harden won the Oscar for Pollock.
  • 2001: They had Helen Mirren for Gosford Park. Jennifer Connelly won the Oscar for A Beautiful Mind (she won SAG Best Actress).
  • 2007: They had Ruby Dee for American Gangster. Tilda Swinton won the Oscar for Michael Clayton.
  • 2008: Kate Winslet (who won Best Actress at the Oscars) for The Reader. Penelope Cruz won the Oscar for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Aside from the Marcia Gay Harden year (where she’s the only person besides Christoph Waltz to not be nominated at SAG and actually win an Oscar), only Tilda Swinton didn’t win either BAFTA or BFCA. The other times, the winner hit at least one of them. But that’s the kind of thing that implies that this category needs the analysis. Which it doesn’t. This is the biggest acting lock of the year.

Viola Davis has won every precursor there is to hit, and she’s not going to lose this. The most I’m gonna have to do in this next part is figure out how the rest of the category gets drawn up below her.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Viola Davis, Fences. SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, the Globe. That’s as close to 100% as you’re gonna get. Oh, and she also won SAG Best Actress and lost the Oscar in her last nomination. She. Isn’t. Losing.

Biggest Competition: Naomie Harris, Moonlight. Because I’m still holding out hope for Moonlight? She’ll get votes. But this is her first nomination, and something tells me in the end Michelle Williams should probably be the alternate. But there’s no chance we get down here, so, like the Bard said, “in the end, it doesn’t even matter.” Nobody will remember how I put 2 and 3 when 1 wins. But, you know, the double Moonlight wins were a possibility at one point. Without any precursors, a second choice is just guesswork. So at least go with the most nominated film in the category and the one with the most acclaimed acting. Plus I do vaguely remember winning some big critics awards at the start of the season. So let’s say she’s second choice.

Spoiler Alert: Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea. Because it’s not Nicole Kidman, and it’s not Octavia Spencer. Hidden Figures might get Spencer some votes, but she’s not contending against Viola. Michelle Williams is in what is considered the most memorably acted scene of 2016, and she’ll get votes the way the film will get votes. Though again she winds up a spoiler who has no real shot at actually pulling off a win. She’s starting to get to Amy Adams levels of snubbing. Though Amy’s now gone out of that level and is now starting to approach Leo territory. Michelle is still in the unfortunate “damn shame” territory. That Michelle Pfeiffer territory. (“We’d like to get you one, but it hasn’t made sense yet.”) Which was Julianne Moore territory for a while. That was, until it became “her time” to win. I’m not sure if Michelle Williams will get a time, but she’s definitely in that position now.

Oh, yeah, this has nothing to do with the logic of putting her as the spoiler. Doesn’t matter. Viola Davis is winning this category.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Viola Davis, Fences

2. Naomie Harris, Moonlight

3. Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

4. Nicole Kidman, Lion

5. Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

If I Were a Betting Man: Viola Davis, Fences. Every. Single. Precursor. And it’s Viola Davis. This is a lock.

You Should Take: Viola Davis, Fences. Even the people who don’t know anything about the Oscars couldn’t fuck this one up.

On My Ballot: Viola Davis, Fences

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Original Screenplay

20th Century Women

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

My Rankings:

  1. Hell or High Water
  2. La La Land
  3. Manchester by the Sea
  4. The Lobster
  5. 20th Century Women

My Thoughts: I thought The Lobster was the most original script of the year, but I wouldn’t vote for it. 20th Century Women is a nice nominee, but it feels like filler. Fifth choice. Manchester was solid, but I wouldn’t vote for it. I loved La La Land and I appreciate how much of that he had to write around the music, but I would only vote for that if I had to. Hell or High Water is the vote for me. It felt like the best original script I saw this year. It took something that could have been straight to VOD level and turned it into a Best Picture nominee. That’s my vote. Easily.

My Vote: Hell or High Water

If I Had a Ballot: Hell or High Water

Should Have Been Nominated: The Nice Guys, Christine

– – – – –

The Analysis

This was a category without a whole lot of options. They took two of the big scripts and designated them as Adapted, leaving us with basically only six or seven choices, one of which being something that rarely happens (animated). So you pretty much had these five along with Captain Fantastic as the real contenders. The first four made the most sense and then they went with 20th Century Women as the fifth choice. Seems perfectly logical.

Here, there are no real precursors. It’s pretty much just the WGA. BAFTA, BFCA and the Globes announce a winner, but the Globes combine them into a single category and the other two aren’t generally that helpful. Usually it’s WGA and then straight logic. You have to use the logic because the WGA often has a lot of scripts ineligible that end up winning.

Your 20 previous WGA winners are:

  • 2015: Spotlight
  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel (Birdman was ineligible)
  • 2013: Her
  • 2012: Zero Dark Thirty (Django Unchained was ineligible)
  • 2011: Midnight in Paris
  • 2010: Inception (The King’s Speech was ineligible)
  • 2009: The Hurt Locker
  • 2008: Milk
  • 2007: Juno
  • 2006: Little Miss Sunshine
  • 2005: Crash
  • 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • 2003: Lost in Translation
  • 2002: Bowling for Columbine (Talk to Her was ineligible)
  • 2001: Gosford Park
  • 2000: You Can Count on Me
  • 1999: American Beauty
  • 1998: Shakespeare in Love
  • 1997: As Good As It Gets
  • 1996: Fargo

14/20 isn’t bad, especially with four ineligibles and the fact that the last time they straight up got one wrong was 2000. Kenneth Lonergan, coincidentally.

BAFTA is 11/20 the past 20 years. They did have Django and The King’s Speech, Talk to Her, Almost Famous and The Usual Suspects in those years. They did not have Birdman, however. Nor did they have Good Will Hunting. So when the WGA is wrong, BAFTA is right most of the time.

BFCA had one combined Screenplay category for ten years, so they’re not as helpful. Though they have gotten Original Screenplay right for six years in a row now. And overall, Original/Adapted, they have gotten a Screenplay winner correct 17 times, and only missed three times (they had Inglourious Basterds, which shockingly lost to Precious in 2009, they had In America in 2003, which Lost… in Translation (I’m the best), and they had Memento in 2001, which lost to Gosford Park).

The Globes, with their one Screenplay category, have hit 15/20 the past twenty years. Meaning their winner has won in one of the categories.

The precursors this year are:

  • WGA — Moonlight (nominated in Adapted)
  • BAFTA — Manchester by the Sea
  • BFCA — La La Land & Manchester by the Sea (tie)
  • Globe — La La Land

One other thing to mention — only 31 times did a Best Picture winner lose Best Screenplay, and 11 of them happened in the past 40 years. So about only a third. And only four times since 2000. In the past decade, only The Artist didn’t win. So odds favor a Best Picture winner winning Screenplay. But, typically when a Best Picture winner does lose, it’s because it’s a big epic or a musical. So we’re not beholden to this statistic this year. It’s just worth mentioning.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Manchester by the Sea. Since the WGA went off the board, giving it to a script nominated in Adapted Screenplay here, we have to glance at the other awards, and then use straight logic. BAFTA went Manchester, Globes went La La Land, and BFCA had a tie where they both won. Great. But you look at it — musical scripts don’t do well at the Oscars. Gigi is the last original musical to win at the Oscars. Technically this could win, but when you look at Manchester by the Sea — you have Kenneth Lonergan, a respected playwright, who has been nominated before… it just feels like this is the favorite, doesn’t it? When I think about what categories “make the most sense” for La La Land to win… this isn’t one of them. This looks like 2011, where you respect the Best Picture favorite, but they’re also up against a purebred “writer” (The Artist lost to Woody Allen). This seems like the favorite, regardless of La La Land’s nominations.

Biggest Competition: La La Land. No, it’s not Hell or High Water. This could legitimately win here. It would take the sails out of the night a bit, since it winning here when it doesn’t necessarily need to would signal a major sweep and possibly ten overall wins (the record being eleven). It would just feel like overkill. But either way, with this not winning WGA or BAFTA, and really only winning one award that doesn’t matter and another one that it tied for… it just doesn’t logically seem like it should be the favorite here. At all. Respect it, believe it could win, but I don’t think this is the favorite. Why should it be? Musicals don’t do well at the Oscars historically. Unless this category was really weak (which it’s not at all), I wouldn’t think of any reason to ever consider this a favorite.

Spoiler Alert: Hell or High Water. The fact that this isn’t a favorite or alternate is crazy. This should have won this category. I understand how well Manchester was written, but this script was so good. But honestly, no precursors and the two films it’s up against — it’s a spoiler at best. That’s just how this category worked out. Don’t let the love for the film throw you. This realistically doesn’t seem like it’s remotely anywhere near a win except from a populist perspective. But as evidenced by all your responses to the Academy’s choices each year — populist ain’t mean shit with them. So this is a third choice at best. Wouldn’t shock me, but it would surprise me if it won. (For the better, but still… surprise.)

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Manchester by the Sea

2. La La Land

3. Hell or High Water

4. The Lobster

5. 20th Century Women

If I Were a Betting Man: Manchester by the Sea. You gotta take it. I just refuse to think that they’re gonna vote La La Land for everything. There are only four films in the past thirty years that have won 8 or more Oscars. FOUR. Titanic, The Last Emperor, The English Patient and Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog won eight, Titanic won 11, the other two won 9. A sweep for most films is 6 or 7 wins. So for La La Land to win 8 is a big deal. And right now — Picture, Director, Actress, Score, Song, Sound Mixing. That’s six right there. And then Editing and Cinematography is 8. So of Actor, Production Design, Costume Design, Sound Editing and this — every one it wins puts it higher and higher. I just can’t see them going that all in for it. It just doesn’t make sense. I’m thinking they’ll give it what makes sense, those six, and then the other two could happen, and the other five… it doesn’t need to win. And this is one of the ones it doesn’t need to win. So they’ll look elsewhere. And Manchester is the most likely winner. I’m taking it.

You Should Take: Manchester by the Sea. You wanna take La La Land, be my guest. But the likelihood is that it doesn’t win Screenplay. For so many reasons. You should take Manchester.

On My Ballot: Manchester by the Sea

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Adapted Screenplay



Hidden Figures



My Rankings:

  1. Moonlight
  2. Arrival
  3. Hidden Figures
  4. Lion
  5. Fences

My Thoughts: Solid category. Can’t vote for Fences because it’s the text of a play. I get the nomination, but not gonna vote for it. Lion was very well-written, but it’s a “nomination only” deal for me. Hidden Figures was great, but I think it was a bit too safe in the way they played it so ultimately that wouldn’t be my vote. Arrival was incredibly written and was a real high wire act that was pulled off beautifully. Most years, that would be my vote. But Moonlight — holy shit, man. That’s hands down my winner. I know there’s not an abundance of dialogue in the script, but trust me, the writing is there. This will win, and this deserves to win.

My Vote: Moonlight

If I Had a Ballot: Moonlight

Should Have Been Nominated: Loving, maybe? Otherwise, I’m cool with this.

– – – – –

The Analysis

This was a pretty easy category to guess. It was these top four and you had to guess what the final one was gonna be. Fences made a lot of sense, even though I figured there’d be more love for Nocturnal Animals than there was. Still, Adapted Screenplay is one of those categories that’s pretty locked most years because of the Best Picture race. So it was mostly straightforward all around.

We’re back to the WGA again. Here are their last 20 winners:

  • 2015: The Big Short
  • 2014: The Imitation Game
  • 2013: Captain Phillips (12 Years a Slave was ineligible)
  • 2012: Argo
  • 2011: The Descendants
  • 2010: The Social Network
  • 2009: Up in the Air
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire 
  • 2007: No Country for Old Men
  • 2006: The Departed
  • 2005: Brokeback Mountain
  • 2004: Sideways
  • 2003: American Splendor
  • 2002: The Hours (The Pianist was ineligible)
  • 2001: A Beautiful Mind
  • 2000: Traffic
  • 1999: Election
  • 1998: Out of Sight
  • 1997: L.A. Confidential
  • 1996: Sling Blade

They’re 14/20 with 2 ineligibles. American Splendor clearly wasn’t beating Return of the King at the Oscars, and the other two were pre-2000. The only shocker was the Up in the Air loss, which no one saw coming. The point is — they’re worth listening to.

BAFTA… not great over the past 20 years. 7/20. Which will be something to take into account in a minute.

BFCA… tough because they had a combined category for a while, but 3/7 since they split the category. Typically they don’t do that well.

This year doesn’t matter so much because of some weird logistical things. But still, precursors are:

  • WGA + BFCA — Arrival
  • BAFTA — Lion

Moonlight wasn’t in these categories. So big fish just entered little pond. All the precursors are rendered moot at this point.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Moonlight. They’re gonna look here to reward it since it’s not gonna win Best Picture. That’s how that works. Don’t get all hung up on the precursors. This script was tailor made for this category, and it is a clear favorite. I don’t see how anything else can remotely be considered a favorite.

Biggest Competition: Arrival. I probably shouldn’t have this here, but the precursors are the precursors. Plus the film only works because of the strength of the script. This is a really tough category. I’ll put this second choice, but this could be as far as fourth. If Moonlight doesn’t win this, all bets are off as to what does.

Spoiler Alert: Hidden Figures. Because people really liked it, and it might get enough votes. The fact that I don’t even have Lion here is crazy to me. That could be a second choice in this category. They’re all bunched up. But I’m assuming fortune favors the Best Picture films people really liked that they want to reward elsewhere. Which leads me to believe this and Moonlight and Lion are the ones that stand to benefit the most. Arrival is there purely because the script is great. Honestly, this category goes four deep. This is just a feeling based on overall film support.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Moonlight

2. Arrival

3. Hidden Figures

4. Lion

5. Fences

If I Were a Betting Man: Moonlight. Because it’s it not Moonlight, I don’t know what the hell it is. Hidden Figures doesn’t feel like a winner as much as Lion does. But even that I can’t see really being a favorite. And Arrival is there, but it just doesn’t seem like a winner in the end. Moonlight has it all, and in my mind, it should win this category easily.

You Should Take: Moonlight. Because again, if it’s not Moonlight, what the hell is it? Good luck trying to make that distinction. Take the favorite and let something else beat you. This should be an easy winner.

On My Ballot: Moonlight

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Editing


Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land


My Rankings:

  1. La La Land
  2. Arrival
  3. Moonlight
  4. Hacksaw Ridge
  5. Hell or High Water

My Thoughts: All well edited. I’m perfectly fine with this list. Hell or High Water falls to the back of the pack. Hacksaw is very edited, but doesn’t automatically get my vote because of that. Moonlight is fantastically edited and I wish I had it higher, but couldn’t because I loved the other two so much. Arrival is all about the editing and just misses a vote for me, but… La La Land guys. I can’t help it. The heart wants what it wants.

My Vote: La La Land

If I Had a Ballot: La La Land

Should Have Been Nominated: This was actually the list I’d have nominated.

– – – – –

The Analysis

This category made the most sense. I figured Manchester by the Sea would get on instead of Hell or High Water simply because it would be a bigger favorite for Best Picture, but apparently it wasn’t and they went for the more action-heavy film instead. I’m fine with this. The other four were gonna be the nominees all the way through.

We also should mention here that the only films to win Best Picture and not be nominated for Best Editing are:

It Happened One Night, The Life of Emile Zola, Hamlet, Marty, Tom Jones, A Man for All Seasons, The Godfather Part II, Annie Hall, Ordinary People, Birdman

It’s happened once since 1980 and that film was one that hid all of its edits and deliberately tried to make it seem like it wasn’t edited. So, pretty much anything not nominated here won’t win Best Picture. Of course, all the longstanding stats are going down in flames the past couple of years, so nothing is automatic anymore. Still, it’s best to go with things when you have them.

The ACE (American Cinema Editors) Eddie Awards are the major precursor. They’re 23/30 the past 30 years, and are 38/55 overall since 1961 when they started. That’s 69% (hooray, immaturity!) all time and just over 75% the past thirty years.

The 17 they’ve gotten wrong are:

  • 2014: Boyhood wins ACE, Whiplash wins the Oscar.
  • 2013: Captain Phillips wins ACE, Gravity wins the Oscar.
  • 2011: The Descendants wins ACE, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wins the Oscar.
  • 2000: Gladiator wins ACE, Traffic wins the Oscar.
  • 1995: Braveheart wins ACE, Apollo 13 wins the Oscar.
  • 1989: Glory wins ACE, Born on the Fourth of July wins the Oscar.
  • 1988: Rain Man and Mississippi Burning tie for ACE, Who Framed Roger Rabbit wins the Oscar.
  • 1984: Amadeus wins ACE, The Killing Fields wins the Oscar.
  • 1983: WarGames wins ACE, The Right Stuff wins the Oscar.
  • 1977: The Turning Point wins ACE, Star Wars wins the Oscar.
  • 1974: The Longest Yard wins ACE, The Towering Inferno wins the Oscar.
  • 1971: Summer of ’42 wins ACE, The French Connection wins the Oscar.
  • 1969: Hello, Dolly! wins ACE, wins the Oscar.
  • 1967: The Dirty Dozen wins ACE, In the Heat of the Night wins the Oscar.
  • 1966: Fantastic Voyage wins ACE, Grand Prix wins the Oscar.
  • 1962: The Longest Day wins ACE, Lawrence of Arabia wins the Oscar.
  • 1961: The Parent Trap wins ACE, West Side Story wins the Oscar.

Of those 17 years specifically, BAFTA only had it right three times, while BFCA, which only started handing out awards for Editing in 2009, had 2011 and 2013 right. They’ve also only been right three times out of the seven they’ve been handing out.

This year, your precursors break down as such:

  • Eddie Comedic + BFCA: La La Land
  • Eddie Dramatic: Arrival
  • BAFTA: Hacksaw Ridge

This is pretty much how this category breaks down even if you didn’t have the precursors to guide you. So let’s just break it down.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: La La Land. With a likely Best Picture win, an Eddie win and a BFCA win, it’ll probably win this pretty handily. Whiplash won this category too, remember. I can’t really call anything else the favorite, though I’m not also calling this a lock by any stretch. I think it’s a pretty handy favorite as things stand. Logic points to this one as your likely winner.

Biggest Competition: Hacksaw Ridge. It’s the most edited film. War films tend to do well here, and if La La Land loses to this, no one would really be that surprised. I don’t think it’s necessarily gonna happen, but if La La Land does lose, this should be what it loses to. Hell or High Water has no shot, Arrival is a dark, dark horse, and Moonlight I guess could happen, but when you look at what wins this category, if it’s not a Best Picture winner, it’s a highly edited piece of work. Moonlight isn’t that. So this is your alternate. It could win, it has a BAFTA, though BAFTA’s not the biggest of help, and it’s a war film. La La Land is the 2:1 favorite and this is the second choice. It’s pretty straightforward.

Spoiler Alert: Arrival. Savvy voters might vote for this one. The entire film is built around editing. That’s why the narrative works as well as it does, and it won a richly deserved Dramatic Eddie for its work. I don’t think it’s anything more than a spoiler in the end, but it will get some votes by those people who recognize the amount of craft that went into the editing of this movie. Theoretically you could put Moonlight here, but that’s only if you truly think it’s gonna win Best Picture. And even then, it’s a long shot at best.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. La La Land

2. Hacksaw Ridge

3. Arrival

4. Moonlight

5. Hell or High Water

If I Were a Betting Man: La La Land. No reason not to take it. Logic supports this winning. American Sniper didn’t win this, neither did Zero Dark Thirty. They vote for Best Picture winners more than anything else here. So while Hacksaw does stand a legitimate chance, I’m sticking with the obvious choice. You gotta edit those musical numbers too, guys.

You Should Take: La La Land. Take Hacksaw if you want, but smart money’s on this. The most precursors, a Best Picture favorite, and a musical. This is the total package for them, and I wouldn’t get so hung up on the war film aspect and stick with what’s already in front of you.

On My Ballot: La La Land

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Cinematography


La La Land




My Rankings:

  1. Moonlight
  2. La La Land
  3. Silence
  4. Arrival
  5. Lion

My Thoughts: You know, I don’t really have a #1 in this category. I thought they all did a great job. Lion was gorgeous, but I wouldn’t vote for it. Arrival was also really nice, but no. Silence is the classical choice and I get that a lot of people would take it. Fine by me, but I’m not going there. La La Land, to me, had a lot of great things in it, but it’s really just the one skyline shot and the freeway. It’s almost enough to get me to vote for it, but in the end, Moonlight really blew me away with its camerawork and shot framing. So I’m gonna take that. I have a feeling this isn’t the way the Academy is gonna go, but I was most affected by how they shot Moonlight, so that’ll be my choice.

My Vote: Moonlight

If I Had a Ballot: Moonlight

Should Have Been Nominated: Jackie, American Honey

– – – – –

The Analysis

This was the obvious category. There were other alternatives for the fifth spot, but these five made the most sense.

ASC, The American Society of Cinematographers, is the big precursor. But given that Roger Deakins has at least three of those and zero Oscars, even they can’t be fully trusted when it comes to picking this category. They’re 13/30 all time.

  • 2015: The Revenant
  • 2014: Birdman
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Skyfall
  • 2011: The Tree of Life
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: The White Ribbon
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
  • 2007: There Will Be Blood
  • 2006: Children of Men
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: A Very Long Engagement
  • 2003: Seabiscuit
  • 2002: Road to Perdition
  • 2001: The Man Who Wasn’t There
  • 2000: The Patriot
  • 1999: American Beauty
  • 1998: The Thin Red Line
  • 1997: Titanic
  • 1996: The English Patient
  • 1995: Braveheart
  • 1994: The Shawshank Redemption
  • 1993: Searching for Bobby Fischer
  • 1992: Hoffa
  • 1991: Bugsy
  • 1990: Dances with Wolves
  • 1989: Blaze
  • 1988: Tequila Sunrise
  • 1987: Empire of the Sun
  • 1986: Peggy Sue Got Married

They are 11/20 and 6/10, so they are getting better recently. Still, they’re not perfect and shouldn’t be treated as scripture.


  • 2015: The Revenant
  • 2014: Birdman
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Life of Pi
  • 2011: The Artist
  • 2010: True Grit
  • 2009: The Hurt Locker
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
  • 2007: No Country for Old Men
  • 2006: Children of Men
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: Collateral
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • 2002: Road to Perdition
  • 2001: The Man Who Wasn’t There
  • 2000: Gladiator
  • 1999: American Beauty
  • 1998: Elizabeth
  • 1997: The Wings of the Dove
  • 1996: The English Patient
  • 1995: Braveheart
  • 1994: Interview with the Vampire
  • 1993: Schindler’s List
  • 1992: The Last of the Mohicans
  • 1991: Cyrano de Bergerac
  • 1990: The Sheltering Sky
  • 1989: Mississippi Burning (won Oscar for 1988)
  • 1988: Empire of the Sun
  • 1987: Jean de Florette
  • 1986: Out of Africa

14/30 the past 30 years, 10/20 and 5/10. They’re hovering around the same as ASC.


  • 2015: The Revenant
  • 2014: Birdman
  • 2013: Gravity
  • 2012: Life of Pi
  • 2011: The Tree of Life / War Horse
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: Avatar

At least BFCA has a good track record. They’ve only missed once ever. And they had a tie that year yet still managed to be wrong. Go figure.

This year, BAFTA + BFCA both went to La La Land and ASC went with Lion.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: La La Land. It’s got everything but ASC, and with ASC a less than 50% all-time precursor, that pretty much positions it as a likely winner. You have to take personal preference out of it when you get to this part of the picking. It’s not about what you want to happen, it’s about what’s most likely to happen. And based on what I see, and this being a big Best Picture favorite, it pretty much has to be considered the favorite in this category. Definitely not a guaranteed winner. I’d say, of La La Land’s 13 categories, this is one of the few that’s legitimately up for contention. Though a bold musical that does a lot of cool lighting tricks and has that opening number. How is this not a likely winner?

Biggest Competition: Lion. It won ASC, which helps, and it’s gorgeously shot. If it’s anything, I’m figuring it’s likely this. This is another one of those categories that’s bunched up beneath the favorite. If the favorite doesn’t win, I can’t really parse this one out. Lion makes the most sense, Moonlight makes some sense. The other two seem very unlikely all around, but I also wouldn’t be shocked. So let’s take the one that the guild went for as the likely alternative. With the guild and clear Brit support (Supporting Actor and Screenplay wins there), it seems like a good second choice.

Spoiler Alert: Moonlight. I’m not really sure what else it’s going to be. I don’t think enough people saw Silence/would vote for it to get it as high as a third choice. This is a category where anything is theoretically possible, but I’m gonna stick with my gut and say that won’t happen. Your Cinematography winner has been a Best Picture nominee nine out of the past ten years, with the only outlier being Pan’s Labyrinth exactly ten years ago. It’s only happened twice in 20 years (2005 being the other time). It’s a very high percentage thereafter. Oh, and, you know the last time a movie won for Cinematography without being nominated for any other Oscars? 1949. You know how many times it happened before that? Three. And they were all 1931 or earlier. My point is, without any precursors or other nominations, Silence has the entire weight of history going against it. So it behooves you not to guess it as the winner.

That leaves Arrival or Moonlight as the two remaining choices. Theoretically either could be the spoiler, and with La La Land poised to win a bunch of awards, this could be one category where they decide to go another way. If that’s the case, it goes four deep. Lion with the precursor is the logical alternate, but the other two could easily potentially win as well. But at this level, I’m thinking if it’s not La La Land and it’s not Lion, then stick with the contender they will actively look to get an award to, and that’s Moonlight.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. La La Land

2. Lion

3. Moonlight

4. Arrival

5. Silence

If I Were a Betting Man: La La Land. How about that stat pull, huh? 1949? That’s wild. Never realized how locked this category usually is in favor of Best Picture nominees. Winners, though, not always a lock here, which is why I’m not saying this is automatically your winner. But all logic seems to point to this as a likely choice. Maybe Lion or Moonlight gets “tired” votes here. Meaning “I’m tired of taking La La Land in everything else, so I’m going elsewhere.” Could happen. At this point, if it’s not La La Land, I can’t call it. So I’m taking La La Land and waiting to see which way they go. Lion seems to be the only other logical choice.

You Should Take: La La Land. Because can you really make the call if it’s not that? ASC is not automatic, and neither are any of the precursors, really. Though BFCA has only missed once ever, and they gave it to La La Land. Plus, Best Picture favorite, musical and all that — it makes the most sense and is the safest choice. But if you’re convinced it’s gonna be Lion or Moonlight, I can’t tell you it’s a dumb move. It could happen. But the safe pick is La La Land, so that’s the one I’m telling you to make. You gotta know when to play it safe and when to take a chance. For me, this isn’t one to take a chance on because I’m not confident enough about the other nominees’ chances to actually win.

On My Ballot: La La Land

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Original Score


La La Land




My Rankings:

  1. La La Land
  2. Jackie
  3. Moonlight
  4. Lion
  5. Passengers

My Thoughts: I can’t believe Thomas Newman got nominated, but here’s here. I voted for part of this score 8 years ago when it was called Wall-E. So he’s fifth for me. Lion I liked but didn’t love, so that’s fourth. Moonlight was really great, but I felt there wasn’t enough of it for me to vote for it. Jackie is strong and would have been more of a contender in other years, but La La Land is an original musical complete with great songs and a fantastic original score. This is one of the biggest gimmes you’ll ever see.

My Vote: La La Land

If I Had a Ballot: La La Land

Should Have Been Nominated: The Light Between Oceans, Nocturnal Animals

– – – – –

The Analysis

Not much to analyze here in terms of how the category came about. They vote for composers, which is why Thomas Newman got on. I thought it would be John Williams, who has been until this point automatic, especially for a Spielberg score, but I guess this is the passing of the torch. Thomas Newman is now the guy who gets nominated for anything. So with Passengers as the only head-scratcher, the other four were really good scores that deserved to be here.

I’d give you the whole spiel about the precursors and how often they match and the whole table breakdown like I have in years’ past, but we don’t really need any of that this year, do we? This category is one of the biggest locks you’ll ever have.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: La La Land. It’s going to win. I’m not even going to waste my time justifying it with precursor wins and all that. It’s going to win, and we all know it’s going to win.

Biggest Competition: Moonlight. Because it’s gotta be something. And if they look to get it something, maybe they give it stray votes. This would never be a second choice in any other year, but hey, when you have a lock, who really cares what the rest are?

Spoiler Alert: Lion. Technically this would be my backup choice most other years, but trust me, it ain’t happening.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. La La Land

2. Lion

3. Moonlight

4. Jackie

5. Passengers

If I Were a Betting Man: La La Land. The lock of the year. You automatically have +1 right with this category.

You Should Take: La La Land. You can tell how locked a category is by how little I write about it.

On My Ballot: La La Land

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best 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

My Rankings:

  1. “City of Stars,” from La La Land
  2. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” from La La Land
  3. “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana
  4. “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls
  5. “The Empty Chair,” from Jim: The James Foley Story

My Thoughts: Solid category overall, despite my feelings of a snub for “Drive It Like You Stole It.” “The Empty Chair” is everyone’s #5 in this category, which is what it was destined to be the second it was nominated. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” is catchy, but “Happy” it’s not. Fourth choice. No way. “How Far I’ll Go” would be my choice in just about any other year, but this year it went up against an original musical with great songs, so unfortunately that ends up third choice. Which is a damn shame, because it should win an Oscar. Put any of the top three in last year’s category and they win by a mile. But that’s life. As for the two La La Land entries… I love them both and it’s a veritable toss-up. Since “City of Stars” is the signature song of the film, we’ll go with that one. But I’d be happy taking either.

My Vote: “City of Stars,” from La La Land

If I Had a Ballot: “City of Stars,” from La La Land

Should Have Been Nominated: “Drive It Like You Stole It,” from Sing Street

– – – – –

The Analysis

We’re all in the same boat here. It’s pure guessing. Fortunately this year is basically a 50/50, with a clear favorite.

The Empty Chair” is nice and all, and it’s J. Ralph’s third nomination (second in a row), but there’s no chance in hell it wins. All his nominations were #5s in their categories. The rule of thumb for Original Song is — if you’ve never heard of it, it won’t win.

Can’t Stop the Feeling!” is also very cute. Timberlake campaigned hard to get this. But does anyone think it’s seriously in contention for the win? Maybe without the Disney song here you could call this the alternate choice, but Disney is in this category. And if “Happy” couldn’t get anywhere against a Disney song, what’s a knockoff version gonna do? This feels like an afterthought.

Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” does much better if it’s not the second of two songs from the same film. But this isn’t the song of the two that people vote for. They either vote for the one song from the film that they know is going to be the one that wins or they deliberately go against the film and vote elsewhere. I don’t see this being a second choice. I think people know which of the two La La Land songs is more likely to win and they’re gonna go that way or neither way.

City of Stars” is the song that’s almost assured to win this category. But it’s not locked. Trust me. People know. They’re gonna vote this one over the other one. They just are. My contention is that either it’s gonna be this over “Audition” or neither. They’re gonna know enough to take this or they’re gonna vote elsewhere. I’d say at most 5-10% of people voting are gonna say, “No, ‘Audition’ is better and I’m taking that.” I just can’t see that happening.

How Far I’ll Go” is the song that benefits most from La La Land backlash and theoretical vote split. If it’s not “City of Stars,” it’s this. This has the bonus of Lin-Manuel Miranda and all his outpouring of love from Hamilton. He’s EGOT if he wins this. The downside to this is that Moana apparently hasn’t really caught on anywhere. It actually did soft box office for Disney, comparatively. I’m wondering how many people have actually heard this song enough to vote for it.

It’s pretty much 50/50 this year, with a probably 75/25 percentage favoring La La Land over Moana.

They also announced that Gosling and Stone won’t be performing. Looks like Sting will be, looks like Timberlake will be. Looks like the girl from Moana will be. Which is awesome. Hoping for some Polynesian dancers there. And then for La La Land, I see they announced John Legend and Sara Bareilles. So she should be doing “Audition” with him playing and then it’ll segue into a duet with the two of them doing “City of Stars.”

Also, since this is fun for me — Sting ends up in the middle. Probably the second performance. You gotta figure they start with Timberlake to get energy up, the way they started with Pharrell three years ago. The real question is what they put last. You generally end with the most powerful. That could be Moana, though I’d imagine the double La La Land performance ends up last. But we’ll see.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: “City of Stars,” from La La Land. It’s an overwhelming favorite. Let’s not pretend like it isn’t. Not locked at all, but I’d feel pretty good about my chances with it. The only concern for me is actually the second nominee from the film. But even that doesn’t feel like too much of a concern. I think voters are either gonna take this or not vote for the film at all. And I think more are gonna vote for this than not, so this is an easy favorite.

Biggest Competition: “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana. Look at the other nominees. This is the only one that stands to benefit from “City of Stars” not getting votes. They’re not taking the song they don’t know, and almost every time there are multiple nominees from the same film, all the votes are filtered through the logical choice. That leaves either Disney or Timberlake. Which do you think is more likely? Especially with Lin-Manuel Miranda behind this. He’ll get votes, but will he get enough votes? That’s why he’s the competition and not the favorite.

Spoiler Alert: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” from La La Land. Theoretically it could happen. I wouldn’t put any money on it, but it’s theoretically possible. There are only four choices here in the end, and I just can’t see it being Timberlake, though I guess if you really thought he was gonna make a legitimate play you could put it here. But since I don’t, it’s gotta be this. I’m looking at 50/50 with this as the only real other option. This is both filling out space and taking overflow votes from “City of Stars.”

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. “City of Stars,” from La La Land

2. “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana

3. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” from La La Land

4. “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls

5. “The Empty Chair,” from Jim: The James Foley Story

If I Were a Betting Man: “City of Stars,” from La La Land. An original musical is going to win Best Picture and you’re not also voting for it in Original Song? Be my guest. This comes down to how much you think a vote split matters and how much you think they’re truly gonna backlash against this/how much they want to get Lin-Manuel that EGOT. (And also I guess, how much they even know that he wrote the Moana songs.)

You Should Take: “City of Stars,” from La La Land. Like I said, this comes down to whether or not you want to go against the original musical that’s going to win Best Picture. If it comes out, you’ll look smart. Otherwise, it’s one of the dumbest decisions you could make in a year where so much stuff is up on a platter for you. Could go either way. Your call.

On My Ballot: “City of Stars,” from La La Land

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Production Design


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land


My Rankings:

  1. Hail, Caesar!
  2. Arrival
  3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  4. Passengers
  5. La La Land

My Thoughts: This Passengers nomination is the one where a lot of people went “Is this a joke?” I mean, it’s not the worst decision they could have made, but it’s certainly not great. Otherwise, La La Land — what production design? They shot on real locations and dressed them up a bit. Sure it made things seem fantastical, but let’s not pretend like they created worlds for it. Definitely wouldn’t vote for that. Fantastic Beasts was nice and should have been nominated, but I wouldn’t vote for it. Arrival was nice but I wouldn’t vote for it. Which leaves only Hail Caesar! Fortunately that did have some great sets and Old Hollywood studio stuff, so I’m all for that.

My Vote: Hail, Caesar!

If I Had a Ballot: Hail, Caesar!

Should Have Been Nominated: Kubo and the Two Strings, to make it interesting. Oh, wait, Jackie. Jackie’s the film that should have been nominated here. That’s a weird snub.

– – – – –

The Analysis

Welcome to the most interesting category of 2016. This is the only category where it’s not immediately apparent what the favorite is. The last time I saw something like this was 2012, when Lincoln shocked us all in the only surprise of that night. This is shaping up to be another interesting choice. One that can make or break your ballot.

The nominations process — I can’t even get into that. I have no idea how this category came about. It’s a weird one. It’s so weird that it might lead to La La Land winning another Oscar. One that it arguably shouldn’t win.

Contemporary films don’t do well in this category. The winners are usually period or fantasy, skewing very heavily toward period. I’d say about 80-20 period over fantasy. Though you could make a case for some overlap in a few of them. The last contemporary film to win was… well it was a musical, at least. All That Jazz. In 1979. But at least that had some elements of fantasy to it. But the fact that you have to go back to 1979 to get anything remotely contemporary set is a big red flag for this category.

But let’s unpack all the historical data we have, because we’re gonna need everything we can get for this one.

ADG is our precursor:

  • 2015: Mad Max: Fury Road (Fantasy)
  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel (Period)
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby (Period)
  • 2012: Anna Karenina (Period)
  • 2011: Hugo (Period)
  • 2010: The King’s Speech (Period) / Inception (Fantasy)
  • 2009: Avatar (Fantasy)
  • 2008: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Period)
  • 2007: There Will Be Blood (Period)
  • 2006: Pan’s Labyrinth (Fantasy)
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • 2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • 2001: Moulin Rouge!
  • 2000: Gladiator
  • 1999: Sleepy Hollow
  • 1998: What Dreams May Come
  • 1997: Titanic
  • 1996: The English Patient

12/20 all time. Not great, not terrible.

BAFTA, meanwhile:

  • 2015: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby
  • 2012: Les Misérables
  • 2011: Hugo
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: Avatar
  • 2008: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • 2007: Atonement
  • 2006: Children of Men
  • 2005: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • 2004: The Aviator
  • 2003: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • 2002: Road to Perdition
  • 2001: Amelie
  • 2000: Gladiator
  • 1999: Sleepy Hollow
  • 1998: The Truman Show
  • 1997: Romeo + Juliet
  • 1996: Richard III

8/20 the past 20 years. Whoo, boy. Even worse, they hit pretty much everything ADG hit, only getting The Aviator when they were wrong.

BFCA, meanwhile:

  • 2015: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby
  • 2012: Anna Karenina
  • 2011: Hugo
  • 2010: Inception
  • 2009: Avatar

Quietly 5/7. What’s impressive to me is that the two they missed — everybody missed. Alice in Wonderland was a surprise winner in 2010, and Anna Karenina losing to Lincoln was a huge surprise in 2012. So BFCA is on point.

Here’s what we have in the way of precursors this year:

  • ADG Period — Hidden Figures
  • ADG Fantasy — Passengers
  • ADG Contemporary + BFCA — La La Land
  • BAFTA — Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

So you can see why this category is driving me up a wall. I have no fucking clue what they’re gonna do with it. You have a major Best Picture favorite. Usually a sure thing. But it’s a musical. A contemporary musical. No real fantasy elements to it at all. Contemporary never wins. Meanwhile all the precursors are either unhelpful or very, very unlikely.

I can diagnose this category about as far as — Passengers will not win. Why? Because no one saw it, it’s thought of as a bomb, and they don’t just randomly vote for shit like that. It’s not like it’s Tim Burton and they’re gonna remember that the sets looked like that. It’s just a spaceship. I’d be really shocked if that won. But past that — fuck if I know.

You’d think Arrival stands a shot simply by being a Best Picture nominee tied for the second most amount of nominations overall, and them maybe wanting to get it something. But either they think “Oh it’s just some tents and a ship” or they think “They accomplished a lot with those locations.” Seemingly it’s the former, since this has no momentum anywhere and feels almost like an afterthought in the category. Either this is the Lincoln of 2016, the Best Picture nominee they’re gonna look to give something, or it’s The Martian, and it’s something they won’t vote for because there aren’t really that many locations. It’s feeling a lot like the latter.

Then you have Hail, Caesar! I’m assuming people saw it and remember it. But doesn’t it just feel like something they’re not gonna vote for? You can’t have a lot of confidence in that winning at all, can you? No precursors, and the only real thing going for it is “old Hollywood sets.” Plus this is its only nomination. Tough to say that’s a big favorite based on that alone.

Minus Original Song (and the obvious other categories like Documentary, the shorts, Animated Feature and Foreign Language), guess how many films won an Oscar for their only nomination in the past 20 years? 11. You know how many of them weren’t acting-related? Five. And you know what categories those were? Makeup twice, Sound Editing once, Score and Costume Design. Sound Editing was 1996, back when there were only two nominees, Score was 1999, and Makeup only ever has three nominees. So really you’re looking at only one semi-major category — Marie Antoinette winning Costume Design in 2006. That’s in 20 years. And that — big garish costume affair. It makes total sense. Getting the point here? I highly doubt Hail, Caesar has the history to be considered a favorite.

So you’re left with La La Land and Fantastic Beasts. Fantastic Beasts, meanwhile, is part of a franchise that’s had eight films in it previously and came away with no Oscar wins. I know it’s a spinoff of that, and period, but voters still consider that part of it. So it’s hard to really consider that a favorite, especially with only a BAFTA win and BAFTA’s low ratio of getting it right without other precursor help over the years. (Not to mention Harry Potter being a quintessentially British franchise. So how much of that win is owed to that?)

Meanwhile, with an ADG win, a BFCA win (and their 5/7 overall ratio) and a tie for the most nominations all time, you gotta figure La La Land is your probable favorite and winner here, right?

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: La La Land. I got nothing else. BFCA is fairly reliable, it does have ADG (albeit contemporary), it’s gonna win Best Picture and is clearly the most lauded film of the year. I have to consider it most likely to win. But most likely this category is like 4:3:3:2:1. You know what I mean? It’s all bunched up. I don’t feel great about it as a favorite, but at least I can feel okay knowing it stands the most chance among the other nominees, with seemingly have more drawbacks than this. Here the drawback is history. Contemporary films not doing well in this category. Plus the possible backlash/”Aren’t the other categories enough?” situation and people thinking about what this category is all about. Is that enough to take it down? Probably, but also probably not. I honestly don’t know. This is the category most throwing me for a loop this year.

Biggest Competition: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The problem with that is, the minute I say it, that’s the minute I become convinced that La La Land is gonna win the Oscar. The BAFTA win doesn’t mean as much as you think it does and also means enough that you can claim it as a legitimate precursor. However — and here’s why I think it stands a legitimate shot: it’s the Alice in Wonderland argument. People look at this category and go, “No Passengers. Arrival — ehh. Hail, Caesar, maybe. I don’t really remember it. Not La La Land again. Well, Fantastic Beasts, at least I know what they’re doing.” You know what I mean? It’s like, “I can count on those sets looking pretty good.” They might throw this enough blind votes to get it a win. Don’t rule that out. It’s not the BAFTA that makes this dangerous, it’s people knowing exactly what they’re gonna get, even if they didn’t see or like the movie. This is a legitimate alternative.

Spoiler Alert: Hail, Caesar! It’s certainly not Passengers, and Arrival I have no idea about. This has 1950s Hollywood sets and sound stages. And while nothing is particularly garish and glaring, it does look appropriate and nice. I feel like if it were to stand out a bit more, it would be much more of a favorite or contender than it is. Even though this fits the category pretty well, has well respected auteurs at its helm, why is it none of us can make anything more than a “It could happen” case for this movie? Probably because there’s only one major tech category that was won by a film with only a single nomination over the past twenty years. I can’t say anything for this except that it’s a dark horse. It can win, but I don’t feel any particular strength here. I can’t call it a legitimate favorite or secondary choice. It’s a spoiler. That’s what it is. What a weird year.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. La La Land

2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

3. Hail, Caesar!

4. Arrival

5. Passengers

If I Were a Betting Man: I’d take La La Land. It’s the smart play. You can’t bet everything. If there were a choice that said “La La Land or The Field,” I might take the Field. But I can’t do that. So I’m taking La La Land, since the only argument against it is that it’s not gonna win everything and contemporary films never win here. If it wins this, it’s tracking at around 9 Oscars. (Picture, Director, Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Score, Song, Production Design, Sound Mixing.) And that’s before some other tossups (Original Screenplay, Costume Design) happen. That’s a feat that’s only happened 7 times, ever. The last time a film won 9 or more Oscars was Return of the King. Slumdog won 8. I can’t really see this happening, but I have no other recourse here than to take it, and to assume I will either get this wrong or it will lose one of the other categories where I see it as a favorite (presumably Editing, Cinematography, Sound Mixing or Song). Unless they’re that enamored with it to where it’s just gonna win everything. It makes sense. Gigi was an original musical. That went 9 for 9. We’ll see.

You Should Take: I’m gonna tell you to take La La Land but you should probably take something else. The problem is, I don’t know what that something else is. I can’t make a case for Arrival outside of “8 nominations, they have to give it something, right?” (See: American Hustle. 0-10.) I can’t make a case for Hail Caesar except “Well… they fit the category and people liked that movie, right?” (Only five non-acting wins for films with single nominations over the past 20 years, with only one being in a category I’d truly consider as counting toward a tally.) And Fantastic Beasts, my case is “I guess a BAFTA win, but also when they don’t want to vote La La Land, this seems a likely choice.” So really, you have a Best Picture favorite that’s got the precursors and is a safe choice, or you have one of three (one of four even, if you legitimately think Passengers has a shot) alternatives, none of which has particularly stood out in any way or really seems like the kind of film that would win this category any other year. So I’m just gonna tell you to lay the favorite and see what the hell happens. If you’re gonna take something else, I’d say make it Fantastic Beats. Though honestly, it’s all fair game in this one. Good luck.

On My Ballot: La La Land

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Costume Design


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins


La La Land

My Rankings:

  1. Jackie
  2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  3. Allied
  4. Florence Foster Jenkins
  5. La La Land

My Thoughts: This is a particularly underwhelming category. Only one movie really had memorable costumes, and that was Jackie. So I’m taking Jackie.

My Vote: Jackie

If I Had a Ballot: Jackie

Should Have Been Nominated: I wish they had the stones to nominate Kubo and the Two Strings. Otherwise, I’d have liked something interesting, like Hail, Caesar! or Hidden Figures. Something that would make this seem more interesting than it is.

– – – – –

The Analysis

CDG is our main precursor:

  • 2015: Mad Max: Fury Road (Fantasy)
  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel (Period)
  • 2013: 12 Years a Slave (Period)
  • 2012: Anna Karenina (Period)
  • 2011: W.E. (Period)
  • 2010: Alice in Wonderland (Fantasy)
  • 2009: The Young Victoria
  • 2008: The Duchess
  • 2007: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • 2006: Curse of the Golden Flower
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • 2002: Chicago
  • 2001: Moulin Rouge!
  • 2000: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • 1999: Sleepy Hollow

10/17. Solid, but not lock-worthy.


  • 2015: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby
  • 2012: Anna Karenina
  • 2011: The Artist
  • 2010: Alice in Wonderland
  • 2009: The Young Victoria
  • 2008: The Duchess
  • 2007: La Vie en Rose
  • 2006: Pan’s Labyrinth
  • 2005: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • 2004: Vera Drake
  • 2003: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • 2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • 2001: Gosford Park
  • 2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • 1999: Sleepy Hollow

Eight in a row and 10 of 11. Not bad.


  • 2015: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013: The Great Gatsby
  • 2012: Anna Karenina
  • 2011: The Artist
  • 2010: Alice in Wonderland
  • 2009: The Young Victoria

BFCA has never been wrong in this category.

BAFTA and BFCA both went to Jackie.

CDG gave two two nominees off the board and then La La Land won for Contemporary. Odd that knowing what the nominees were, they still went with Doctor Strange and Hidden Figures. Well, they’re always off doing their own thing, it seems. I’m not surprised.

I won’t put a table in here, since we don’t really need it. Since 2009, BAFTA and BFCA have matched every year and that film has gone on to win the Oscar. CDG has matched all but two of those times. So that means in the past seven years, the one most likely to get it wrong is the guild. Otherwise, it’s been unanimous all around.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Jackie. BAFTA and BFCA have matched and guessed this category correctly for seven straight years. Hard to not call this a favorite off that alone. Plus, it’s the most iconic set of costumes on the list. And when you look at the rest of the category, I don’t see anything else as being likely to jump up and beat it. This is one of those categories where it doesn’t matter what people think of the film, it’s about the costumes and the costumes alone.

Biggest Competition: La La Land. Because some people might vote for it anyway? Allied and Florence Foster Jenkins don’t seem to have a shot, and we’ll get to Fantastic Beasts in a second. This is the only other non-Jackie nominee that seems capable of truly galvanizing enough votes to win this. I could be wrong, but if I’m gonna pick an alternate here, it’s gonna be the film that wins at least 6 Oscars on the night and could win as many as 12. That makes it competitive all around.

Spoiler Alert: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Because what else could it be? Allied, nobody even really saw, and they’re not gonna blind vote for it. And Florence Foster Jenkins won’t really get votes, will it? I don’t think we’re getting this far. Jackie will win or La La Land will beat it in a sweep. It’s one or the other. If it’s not, take the big fantasy costume fest and play the Alice in Wonderland card. That’s the only alternative if it’s not one of those two. This will catch stray votes for people who are aware that La La Land just has regular clothes in it and who don’t want to vote for Jackie for whatever reason. It’s a prime spoiler. I guess it could happen, and based on “costumes” alone it should be the second choice. But I feel like we should just go with the obvious choice and assume the big player is its main competition.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Jackie

2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

3. La La Land

4. Florence Foster Jenkins

5. Allied

If I Were a Betting Man: Jackie. Take Jackie. It’s the smart choice. La La Land could happen, but if I’m really gonna vote somewhere other than Jackie, it’ll be Fantastic Beasts. That’s the one that fits the mold of the category best. Still — Jackie Kennedy’s suit should carry this to a win.

You Should Take: Jackie. BFCA + BAFTA haven’t been collectively wrong in seven years, and the guild went off the board. So it’s not like this has really lost any precursors. The sight test should bring you to this as a choice pretty easily. Go with that. Don’t overthink it. Fantastic Beasts maybe, and La La Land if you’ve just given up and put it down for everything, assuming you’ll get most of them right.

On My Ballot: Jackie

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad

My Rankings:

  1. Star Trek Beyond
  2. Suicide Squad
  3. A Man Called Ove

My Thoughts: This is the ultimate blank category. Kind of like 2009, the last time Star Trek won. That’s my vote. Not a whole lot to say here.

My Vote: Star Trek Beyond

If I Had a Ballot: Star Trek Beyond

Should Have Been Nominated: From the shortlist, Hail, Caesar! Just to get it another nomination.

– – – – –

The Analysis

There’s a Makeup & Hairstylists Guild, but who cares, really? The category is its own weird entity. They have their own shortlist that’s always full of odd choices, and then they nominate whatever they want. A Swedish entry two years running. Which basically leaves you with a 50/50 choice. And I think you know which way this one is going.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Star Trek Beyond. Because how could it not? One nominee they don’t even know what it is, and the other is a giant disaster that has Batman v. Superman stink all over it. At least here, they kind of respect the Star Trek franchise. Not enough over a Best Picture nominee, per se, but in this category, it easily becomes the class. It should win this handily.

Biggest Competition: Suicide Squad. If it’s not Star Trek, it’s gonna be this. That you can be assured of. I can’t see this getting anywhere near enough votes. Think about how they’re gonna vote. If they even saw the nominees, what are they gonna do? Star Trek has been around fifty years and has been nominated in this category I think three other times total. Maybe four if I’m missing one. It won for the first entry in the current iteration. I think that’s probably the winner. This is just an alternate that I wouldn’t take because I can’t see a reality where the majority of voters take it.

Spoiler Alert: A Man Called Ove. There’s only three films in the category. Obviously this is the spoiler. It’s not gonna win at all, but you know, it can. Because numbers. I’d be surprised if 50% of voters even know what this is. And I’d be surprised if more than 30% of voters saw it. That’s not a good recipe for vote-getting. Don’t be the person who listened to a film critic who says this could win any awards. I know there are people out there. They’re not right. This won’t win. Here or in Foreign Language. Don’t take it.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Star Trek Beyond

2. Suicide Squad

3. A Man Called Ove

If I Were a Betting Man: Star Trek Beyond. This should be one of the biggest locks of the night. I can’t see anyone voting for a film they didn’t see, and then Suicide Squad? Doubtful. It’s a 50/50, but I think you can safely take Star Trek and assume you’ll get it right. Otherwise, Academy Award winner Suicide Squad.

You Should Take: Star Trek Beyond. You wanna take the other two, be my guest. At least they have some sort of respect for Star Trek as a franchise. That should be enough.

On My Ballot: Star Trek Beyond

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

My Rankings:

  1. Kubo and the Two Strings
  2. The Jungle Book
  3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  4. Doctor Strange
  5. Deepwater Horizon

My Thoughts: The Jungle Book deserves this, but I’m voting for Kubo, because I can. Rogue One did a nice job, and the other two were fine, but Kubo is my vote.

My Vote: Kubo and the Two Strings

If I Had a Ballot: Kubo and the Two Strings

Should Have Been Nominated: From the shortlist… probably Arrival. The effects were really seamless there.

– – – – –

The Analysis

Do we need analysis here? It would have only gotten tricky if a Best Picture nominee got on here. But when that didn’t happen, this was pretty assured. This is a commanding favorite and a clear alternate. I’m putting zero thought into this. My Scorecard is automatic for a 1 or a 2 with this one.

Normally I start this with the “Best Picture nominee has never lost” spiel, but not only is that now out the window, we don’t have one in the category, so we’ll just gonna run down precursors quickly, since I think we all know what’s winning this.

VES, the Visual Effects Society, are the major precursor here. They have a lot of categories, but the big one is one called FX in a Photoreal Feature. That one, and four other smaller awards, went to The Jungle Book. Deepwater took two smaller awards for them, Doctor Strange took one and Kubo won an Animated award from them.

The Jungle Book also won BAFTA and BFCA. BAFTA’s only missed four times since 2000. They even got The Golden Compass right!

The point is, when all three of the precursors agree, you’re dealing with a big favorite. So let’s just leave it at that and cut to the chase.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Jungle Book. How can it lose? They created the entire film in a soundstage in Downtown LA. That’s impressive as shit. I’d have straight up thrown the Best Picture rule out the window had Arrival been nominated and the stat not went down last year. This movie’s gonna win, and it deserves to win. There’s not a whole lot to say. It’s a lock.

Biggest Competition: Kubo and the Two Strings. Because people love it and some idiots like me will vote for it regardless of The Jungle Book’s merit. Doubt that’ll be half enough to overtake Jungle Book, but if there is a second choice to be had, this is it.

Spoiler Alert: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. If Force Awakens couldn’t do it, this seems unlikely. But it’s the only other film likely to get votes. Deepwater’s not getting any traction, and Doctor Strange will not be the film that wins. No Marvel film has ever won, and the visual effects they prominently displayed in trailers and such only got it so far as the nomination. It’s not happening. Star Wars will catch stray votes, but that’s it. This is Jungle Book 85%, Kubo 15%. Nothing else. Don’t just assume because it’s Star Wars it can win. That’ll only get you another category wrong.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. The Jungle Book

2. Kubo and the Two Strings

3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4. Doctor Strange

5. Deepwater Horizon

If I Were a Betting Man: The Jungle Book. Every precursor went its way. You rarely get a non-Best Picture nominee lock in this category. Take it when you can.

You Should Take: The Jungle Book. One of the bigger locks of the night. Don’t be shocked if Kubo somehow pulls it out, but also don’t expect it enough to let it sway your decision-making. This is a big favorite.

On My Ballot: The Jungle Book

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Sound Editing


Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land


My Rankings:

  1. Hacksaw Ridge
  2. Arrival
  3. Deepwater Horizon
  4. Sully
  5. La La Land

My Thoughts: No real problems with this category. It’s Sound. I trust that they generally know what they’re talking about here. And for me, the two films where sound is most important to the finished product are Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival. And since this is Editing and not Mixing, I have to take Hacksaw. The amount of war sounds they had to compile and coordinate always makes that a favorite. Though Arrival is a close second, with the creation of all the alien sounds and such.

My Vote: Hacksaw Ridge

If I Had a Ballot: Hacksaw Ridge

Should Have Been Nominated: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Or maybe The Jungle Book.

– – – – –

The Analysis

We begin with the mantra I repeat to myself every year. Which is, “Don’t split the Sound categories, Mike.” But fortunately, this year, we can not only split them, but we can feel pretty good about doing so. Because there’s something else that takes precedent over sound — and that’s music.

We normally have to treat both sound categories as one, because typically what wins one is going to win the other. Unless we’re in a situation just like this. For some reason, all the odd years have had big war movies and all the even years have had musicals. I don’t know why it works out that way, but it has for much of the past decade.

We’re technically doing these backwards, since Mixing is the one we already know and Editing is the one we need to talk about, but since Editing is the creation and compilation of sounds that go into a finished film and Mixing is the actual blending of those sounds into an audio mix, technically you need editing in order to get to mixing. So this comes first.

I will recommend, however, that you skip on down to Mixing now and then come back up here once you’re done.

I’ll wait.

Okay, cool. Now we’re on the same page and I’ll just go shorthand from here.

So since the musical rules all in Mixing, and you know what the obvious second choice is there, we’re gonna use that to form the basis of how we look at Editing.

The big precursor here is MPSE, the Motion Picture Sound Editors. They go back to 1991, but there have only been five nominees in this category for a decade. 2006 was the first time that happened. So really, all we gotta do is look at the past decade, especially since we’re likely not dealing with a film winning both sound categories (and even if we are, we’re gonna get the same result looking at the past ten years that we would if we went back 25).

  • 2006 – Letters from Iwo Jima wins both MPSE awards and the Oscar.
  • 2007 – The Bourne Ultimatum wins both MPSE awards and the Oscar.

In 2008, MPSE introduces many of the awards we see now. They get much more specific.

  • 2008: MPSE: SFX + Foley and Music go to Dark Knight. Dialogue + ADR goes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue + ADR (all one category that’s essentially Sound Mixing) goes to Slumdog MillionaireThe Dark Knight wins the Sound Editing Oscar (Slumdog wins Sound Mixing).
  • 2009: MPSE: Avatar wins for Music and SFX + Foley. Dialogue + ADR goes to Inglourious Basterds. (If you’ve noticed, Dialogue + ADR tend to go to well-written, dialogue-heavy films.) Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR (Sound Mixing, basically, again) goes to District 9 (un-nominated for Sound at the Oscars). The Oscar goes to The Hurt Locker (both categories).
  • 2010: MPSE: Music and SFX + Foley go to Inception. Dialogue + ADR goes to The Social Network. (See what I mean about Dialogue + ADR?) Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR goes to Toy Story 3Inception wins the Oscar (both categories).
  • 2011: SFX + Foley goes to War HorseHugo wins for Music, Super 8 took Dialogue + ADR. Hugo won the Oscar (both categories).
  • 2012: SFX + Foley went to Skyfall, Life of Pi won Dialogue + ADR and Music (though Les Mis won for Music in a Musical). The Oscar was a TIE between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty.
  • 2013: SFX + Foley went to GravityCaptain Phillips won Dialogue + ADR, The Great Gatsby won Music, and Epic won for Animation. Gravity won the Oscar (both categories).
  • 2014: SFX + Foley went to American SniperUnbroken won Dialogue + ADR, Birdman won Music. American Sniper won the Oscar.
  • 2015: SFX + Foley was a TIE between The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury RoadBridge of Spies won Dialogue + ADR and The Force Awakens won Music. Mad Max: Fury Road won the Oscar (both categories).

Cool? Cool. That was a lot of information that meant absolutely nothing to you. I know. Bear with me. I’m the one that finds this shit interesting, so I’m the one that can make sense of it for you.

Here are the times when a film won both Editing and Mixing:

  • 1966, Grand Prix
  • 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Not really, since the Editing award was a special achievement, but that just means they didn’t have a category that year. It would have won if there were other nominees.)
  • 1982, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • 1983, The Right Stuff
  • 1991, Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • 1993, Jurassic Park
  • 1994, Speed
  • 1997, Titanic
  • 1998, Saving Private Ryan
  • 1999, The Matrix
  • 2005, King Kong
  • 2007, The Bourne Ultimatum
  • 2009, The Hurt Locker
  • 2010, Inception
  • 2011, Hugo
  • 2013, Gravity
  • 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road

It’s really not that often. You’d think it would happen more. But what does that tell you? Look at the names of those films. They’re all major films. That tells me there’s likely going be a split this year, though maybe it doesn’t say the same to you.

Also, those years in between, going back a bit — 2014, 2012, 2008, 2006, 2004 — they’re all musical years. (We covered that in Sound Mixing already. Hopefully you scrolled down to get all that info.) This is your classic Oscar Sound splitting scenario. But yeah.

MPSE this year went as follows:

  • SFX + Foley and Dialogue + ADR: Hacksaw Ridge
  • Music: La La Land

And BAFTA gave their sound award (single category) to Arrival. Which will help us, but not immediately.

I think we know where this is headed.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Hacksaw Ridge. It’s the war movie. It should win for Editing. This would be a clear favorite any other year and the only thing here to give you pause is the presence of La La Land in the category. Saving that, this should be considered a huge favorite. Doubtful one film wins both, and typically when you win the two major of the three sound editing categories at the guild, you’re on pretty solid ground. That’s not happened yet. Usually something wins FX + Foley and Music. It’s never Foley and Dialogue. That tells me this is probably gonna win here.

Biggest Competition: La La Land. It really shouldn’t be the second choice, but you underestimate how little people understand the Sound categories. Theoretically Arrival should be the second choice here (if not the first). But what La La Land being here tells me is twofold — they really liked it and could sweep vote it, and also, people don’t know these categories. I mean, sure, the sound branch was the one that nominated it. But now you opened the door for people to blindly vote for it because they can’t tell the difference. You guys had to be the ones to make that distinction! So now we’re left with a legitimate chance that La La Land joins a list of only 15 other films to win both Sound categories. Because — well, we’ll get to that in a second. Let’s call this a second choice and finish the rest of it below.

Spoiler Alert: Arrival. If it’s anything, it’s Arrival. Deepwater won’t get votes and Sully may get a few votes, but with that being its only nomination, that’s a token nomination and nothing more. Drive only got a Sound Editing nomination. Those films never get anywhere. You know the last time a film not nominated for anything else won Sound Editing? 1996. Why? Because there were only three nominees and the category barely meant anything. (Which is kind of how Makeup & Hairstyling feels now. Maybe they should overhaul that one too. Though I guess it’s better if they don’t, because it’s so easy to pick the way it is.) But yeah, Sully has no shot and Deepwater barely has any better of a shot. Arrival is the third choice because of all its nominations and the fact that it legitimately has great sound design. And it won the BAFTA for Sound, so at least you could point to that. Still only a third choice and shouldn’t win at all, but it’s definitely in that conversation. Theoretically this should have been your second choice, but they went and nominated La La Land. What can you do?

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Hacksaw Ridge

2. La La Land

3. Arrival

4. Sully

5. Deepwater Horizon

If I Were a Betting Man: Hacksaw Ridge. Why would you not take a war film in Sound Editing? Because you assume La La Land is gonna win both? Don’t. Birdman got us all in trouble for that same reason. Think logically. It’s not gonna win everything, and if there were two categories I could assure you that it won’t win (aside from that second Song nomination), it’s Actor and this. I can guarantee you that La La Land will lose at least three awards, and one of them will almost certainly be this one. Don’t feel obligated to vote for it at all. If you’re gonna take the same film in both categories, it should be this one. Not La La Land. This won the two major MPSE awards and is a war movie. Those win here. American Sniper won here, and that’s got way less battle scenes than this has. If La La Land wasn’t here, this would be considered a lock. So I’m gonna ignore all the noise and say to take the obvious choice.

You Should Take: Hacksaw Ridge. Seriously, if La La Land wasn’t nominated here, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. You’d have circled this on your ballot yesterday. And all I’d be saying is, “Arrival could happen, but Mixing seems more likely.” This is automatic if not for that, so let’s just keep it as the choice and assume this is one of La La Land’s losses on the night.

On My Ballot: Hacksaw Ridge

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Sound Mixing

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi


Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

My Rankings:

  1. La La Land
  2. Arrival
  3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  4. Hacksaw Ridge
  5. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

My Thoughts: The musical always wins this, so La La Land is the clear and obvious vote. However, Arrival — that would be my vote any other year. What they accomplished there is going to unfairly lose the Oscar. Because they created an entire alien language and the sound mix in that film is — keep an ear out for it next time you watch that film. It’s incredible. And then, while Hacksaw is great, I prefer the audio symphony of Star Wars. So that’s how 3 and 4 worked out. But the choice is still La La Land.

My Vote: La La Land

If I Had a Ballot: La La Land

Should Have Been Nominated: Nothing immediately jumps to mind. Silence, maybe?

– – – – –

The Analysis

The two Sound categories almost always match 3/5. A lot of the time it’s 4/5. There’s always one difference because one film is more music oriented and another is clearly all about editing. So of course Hacksaw and Arrival went on both. La La Land wasn’t supposed to get on both, but it managed to get on Editing too. Okay. Rogue One we figured for both, but it made Mixing only, which is interesting. And then 13 Hours was a nominee that really nobody could guess outside of ‘Hey, it’s Greg P. Russell, who has never won in 16 previous nominations’. I guess the guild actively looks to reward him each year.

Even crazier is that Kevin O’Connell, for Hacksaw Ridge, is on his 21st nomination without a win. Damn shame about that. Dude worked on Top Gun 30 years ago. (His first nomination was also for Sound Mixing in Terms of Endearment. What?)

Anyway, yeah, so the big guild here is CAS, Cinema Audio Society. But while most years I’d give you the breakdown and how closely the categories match — I don’t need to do that this year. Because there’s one fact that trumps everything and makes this category almost automatic — musicals win. Especially Best Picture-nominated musicals. (Or movies with a lot of music in them.)

Here’s every movie that could be considered a musical and how its fared in the past… handful of years. I’ll stop when I feel the point was made:

  • 2014 — Whiplash wins
  • 2013 — Inside Llewyn Davis nominated, loses to Gravity
  • 2012 — Les Miserables wins
  • 2008 — Slumdog Millionaire wins
  • 2006 — Dreamgirls wins
  • 2005 — Walk the Line nominated, loses to King Kong
  • 2004 — Ray wins
  • 2002 — Chicago wins
  • 2001 — Moulin Rouge! nominated, loses to Black Hawk Down (not even Fellowship)

So we have to go back 15 years to where a Best Picture nominated musical lost the Sound Mixing award. And it was to a war film. But I think you see the point. Musicals win this.

So right there, I just gave you one of the biggest locks of the night and the argument for not taking it. Ain’t I great?

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: La La Land. Yeah. Musicals don’t lose this. It could, since — war film. Lot of nominations. But the smart money is always on the musical in this category. And it has CAS’s backing. Were it to lose that to Hacksaw, then I’d say we might have something brewing. But it didn’t, so it’s business as usual until it loses. This is your overwhelming favorite and theoretically one of the biggest locks of the night. Were it to lose this, that would bring its final Oscar total back down to reasonable levels. We’ll see if it happens. I don’t think so.

Biggest Competition: Hacksaw Ridge. This is the alternate. This is the only thing that could beat La La Land. Nothing else is gonna galvanize enough support to matter. It’s either La La Land or this. Precursors don’t matter. It’s one or the other.

Spoiler Alert: Arrival. It’s a Best Picture nominee. It could happen. Rogue One and 13 Hours will get no votes. This legitimately is a spoiler here and could happen. Your logic for taking it is a BAFTA win, but BAFTA has Sound as one category. So it’s not the biggest help or the best justification. But I’m just helping you out, were you to go this route. I don’t think you could consider it anything more than a third choice.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. La La Land

2. Hacksaw Ridge

3. Arrival

4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

5. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

If I Were a Betting Man: La La Land. This should be one of the biggest locks of the night. I’m not saying it’s 100%, but when you have a 14-nominee musical that’s gonna win Best Picture, that should make it a shoo-in for Sound Mixing. Maybe people sweep vote Hacksaw in the Sound categories, but theoretically they could also sweep vote La La Land there too. It goes both ways. I’m taking the obvious choice and letting the war film beat me. In this case, you split the categories knowing that you won’t miss them both. That’s the worry most years. You take one for Mixing and one for Editing and they both win the opposite award and now you have nothing but your dick in your hands. That won’t happen here, unless something insane happens. So you’re good to take La La Land here and not feel bad about it.

You Should Take: La La Land. It’s the smart choice, it’s the safe choice, and unless something weird happens, it really should be one of the biggest locks of the night. You’re free to take Hacksaw and assume the war film wins both, that’s fine.

On My Ballot: La La Land

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Animated Feature

Kubo and the Two Strings


My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle


My Rankings:

  1. Kubo and the Two Strings
  2. Moana
  3. The Red Turtle
  4. Zootopia
  5. My Life as a Zucchini

My Thoughts: This is easy. Kubo was my #2 film of the year and Moana was my #3 film of the year. And The Red Turtle made my top 20. That’s about a cut and dry as you’re gonna get in an Animated Feature category. My Life as a Zucchini was fine and I liked Zootopia even though I thought it was highly overrated by people. Kubo is one of the easiest votes I’ll ever have in this category.

My Vote: Kubo and the Two Strings

If I Had a Ballot: Kubo and the Two Strings

Should Have Been Nominated: They did pretty well. I mean, I enjoyed Finding Dory, but I’d rather see the hand drawn nominee get on instead of that, even if I didn’t love My Life as a Zucchini. So I’m good.

– – – – –

The Analysis

I guess we actually need to do some analysis for the first time in… well not a while. 2014 was open too.

We’ve had 15 Best Animated Feature categories thus far. Pixar has won 8 times. Disney has won twice. So 2/3 of the time, Disney or Pixar has won. The other five are — two DreamWorks (Shrek and Wallace and Gromit), one Ghibli (Spirited Away), one Paramount (Rango), one Warners (Happy Feet). In those five cases — with Shrek it was the first one and Monsters Inc lost. Wallace and Gromit was not up against Disney or Pixar. Neither was Rango. Happy Feet beat Cars (which… yeah) and technically Spirited Away beat Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet (but… yeah). So pretty much, when Disney/Pixar’s here, they don’t lose.

Pixar’s out this year, since Finding Dory wasn’t deemed strong enough to get in. They tend to do this with Pixar sequels now, preferring foreign hand-drawn or stop-motion entries instead. Makes sense.

Your ultimate category is My Life as a Zucchini, the foreign entry that won’t win, The Red Turtle, the other foreign entry that won’t win, Kubo and the Two Strings and two Disney entries, Zootopia and Moana.

So the first thing we need to do is split the Disney entries. You’d think Moana would be the traditional choice, but Zootopia took everyone by storm in March and made a billion dollars worldwide. And it’s sustained itself throughout the year and Moana ended up opening soft by Disney standards and has basically been ignored. So the split takes care of itself pretty easily.

That leaves you with Moana as a third choice and the ultimate decision between Zootopia and Kubo. But you didn’t need me to tell you any of that, because you could just look at this category and know that.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Zootopia. It’s your favorite. In Animated Feature, the favorite is almost always readily apparent. This is it. Whether it wins or not is a different story, but it’s clearly your favorite through and through.

Biggest Competition: Kubo and the Two Strings. It’s got the support and it will get votes. But will it get enough votes? I sure hope so, but even I’m not bold enough to claim this as a favorite going in. It’s the clear competition and maybe it can win, maybe it can’t.

Spoiler Alert: Moana. Because it’s the only other film left that will get any legitimate support. We’d all be shocked if it won, which is why it’s the spoiler.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Zootopia

2. Kubo and the Two Strings

3. Moana

4. The Red Turtle

5. My Life as a Zucchini

If I Were a Betting Man: Look, I vote with the heart, so I’m taking Kubo and the Two Strings. I don’t care about my ballot as much, so I vote what I want to see happen. For me it’s all about the Scorecard anyway, so my ballot can do 15/24 no problem. All I care about is doing as well as I can for everyone else, and getting my Scorecard as close to 24 as possible. So since Kubo was my favorite animated film of the year, has a legitimate chance at the category and because I truly don’t want to vote for Zootopia, I’m taking Kubo. I think you know by now it’s not likely to win at all, but that’s what I’m doing, because sometimes you gotta represent.

You Should Take: Zootopia. You should. It’s 85% for sure to win this category. Moana hasn’t made any sort of noise anywhere, and Kubo, while loved, doesn’t seem like it’s gonna take it down. This has all the Annie Awards (which aren’t the end-all, be-all for anything), a Globe win (they’re 7/10, so that’s something, right?) and a BFCA win. That last one is the one that means a little something. BFCA is 12/15 overall in this category and the three misses are Happy Feet (arguably a 50/50 tossup), Wreck-It Ralph losing to Brave (which was 50/50 and a lot of us got wrong) and The Lego Movie (which wasn’t nominated and would have won if it had been). So I think we’re all pretty set taking this as the safe choice. You can take a shot like I am and go Kubo, but I’m doing it purely for sentimental reasons, not because I think it’s actually going to happen.

On My Ballot: Kubo and the Two Strings


– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman


Toni Erdmann

My Rankings:

  1. Toni Erdmann
  2. The Salesman
  3. A Man Called Ove
  4. Land of Mine
  5. Tanna

My Thoughts: Toni Erdmann is the best film in this category, even though I also loved The Salesman. Tanna was fine, Land of Mine was fine, and I liked A Man Called Ove. But this is clearly Toni Erdmann by a head over The Salesman.

My Vote: Toni Erdmann

If I Had a Ballot: Toni Erdmann

Should Have Been Nominated: From the shortlist? I think they picked the right five. After that, there are so many potential options you could say. But since they narrow down to a shortlist, there’s not a whole lot of recourse with this.

– – – – –

The Analysis

I’d tell you what they’re all about, but you don’t know and you don’t really care, do you? Do you care that Tanna is Romeo and Juliet with indigenous peoples? I don’t think you do. Land of Mine is about German POWs forced to dig up land mines. A Man Called Ove is about an old mean bastard who loosens up around his neighbors. The Salesman is about a husband and wife putting on Death of a Salesman when the wife is attacked and the husband becomes obsessed about figuring out who did it. Toni Erdmann is about a retired man with a penchant for practical jokes who tries to get his daughter to loosen up and finds his relationship with her improving when he dons a fake persona and pretends to be her “life coach.”

What you really need to know here is — Tanna and Land of Mine have no shot. A Man Called Ove has a tiny shot, since it has another nomination. But that’s all. Tanna is 1%, Land of Mine is 3%, A Man Called Ove is 8%. The rest of the votes are all going to Toni Erdmann and The Salesman.

We’re in an interesting situation, because if this were just a regular category, straight up, I’d feel pretty good about one film’s chances over the other. But now, given the specific political climate and Hollywood’s penchant for wanting to make statements, that could change how voting goes down.

What I mean is — when the Muslim Ban happened, it was announced that Asghar Farhadi, director of A Salesman (who won this category for A Separation in 2011), was going to boycott the Oscars. And right there, you felt all the momentum shift. You just knew people were gonna vote for it to make the statement and get him the win. Now, the ban has been lifted and he can attend the Oscars. But is that enough to sway the voting back, or is it now in

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Salesman. At this point, it has to be considered the favorite. Maybe in the end, they vote with their feeling of what was best, which up until now was clearly Toni Erdmann. It won basically every precursor there was to get that matters and was the most lauded film in the category. But with the political climate and the huge amount of press and notoriety this got because of the Trump thing, you gotta consider this the likely winner at this point

Biggest Competition: Toni Erdmann. It could still win. I might still vote for it. I’m good either way, since I know what 1 and 2 are, but in trying to truly guess what’s gonna happen, I couldn’t really tell you. Because you’re not just dealing with people voting. It used to be people had to see all five to vote. Now anyone can vote for anything. So how many people who would have normally sat this category out went and voted for The Salesman just to make a statement? That matters in a category like this, which probably only gets about 75% of people voting for it because they haven’t seen anything. Hard, despite everything going for it, to consider this anything more than the second choice at this point.

Spoiler Alert: A Man Called Ove. It’s the only other choice. It has a second nomination and it’s the only other film that they’d spark to. Tanna looks nice and all, but that’s a film they rush to nominate, not vote for. Land of Mine has no chance. It has no emotional resonance at all. This at least, while it could be seen as saccharine, it at least will reach some voters. It won’t get this far, but if there is a third choice that can win, this is the choice.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. The Salesman

2. Toni Erdmann

3. A Man Called Ove

4. Land of Mine

5. Tanna

If I Were a Betting Man: Toni Erdmann. I think, in the end, the best choice will win. I know a lot of people are going for the “political statement,” and that’s the safe and smart choice. I’m gonna stick to my gut and say this weathers the storm by being the best film in the category. I will likely be wrong, which is why it’s only appearing on my ballot and my scorecard has this second and not first, but I’m gonna take it just so I can feel like I somehow knew all along in my gut that this would happen. And if not, well, that makes sense and what seemed the likely scenario. This is more of a “Kubo” choice more than anything, though I think this probably has a more likely shot at winning than that does.

You Should Take: This is one where you should trust your gut and go with what you truly think is going to happen. If you think they’re going to make the political statement, then take The Salesman. If you think the voting wasn’t completely affected by the ban, then take Toni Erdmann. I think you should take The Salesman and play it safe. You just know that’s how they’re gonna vote and the damage was done. So stick with that and take the film that is good enough to have won on its own anyway.

On My Ballot: Toni Erdmann

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– – – – –

Best Documentary


Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J. Made in America

My Rankings:

  1. O.J. Made in America
  2. Fire at Sea
  3. I Am Not Your Negro
  4. Life, Animated
  5. 13th

My Thoughts: It’s O.J. That’s not even up for discussion. As for the rest — I really liked Fire at Sea a lot. I Am Not Your Negro was solid but wouldn’t be more than a fourth or fifth most other years. Probably fourth because the overly political stuff never goes over well for me. I did not like 13th at all and Life Animated was cute but of so little substance that even I wouldn’t put it more than a fourth or fifth choice. I wish some other stuff got on here, but with such a towering achievement at the top, it doesn’t really matter.

My Vote: O.J. Made in America

If I Had a Ballot: O.J. Made in America

Should Have Been Nominated: From the shortlist… Weiner, The Eagle Huntress. Those are the two I’d have put up over two of these.

– – – – –

The Analysis

I guess there are some precursors here, but does it even matter this year? There’s one towering favorite and one clear alternative. It’s straight up one or the other. You can almost not go wrong in this category.

But quickly —

Life, Animated is about a kid with autism who used Disney movies to learn to communicate with the outside world. It’s cute and uplifting and there’s a lot of Gilbert Gottfried in it.

I Am Not Your Negro is based on James Baldwin’s novel and is about the history of the black man in America. It mostly focuses on Martin, Malcolm and Medger, but it also has a lot of the man’s personal stories and how his life interwove with theirs. It’s very well done and Samuel L. Jackson provides excellent narration. If this came out earlier than it did, it might have stood more of a chance than it does.

13th is about the injustice in the criminal justice system in this country, and how there’s a disproportionate amount of black people in prison and how the police seem to kill more black people than white people. It was directed by Ava DuVernay, who did Selma, and was released on Netflix and has them promoting it.

Fire at Sea is a documentary about a small island off the coast of Italy. It focuses on the daily lives of its inhabitants, mainly a small boy with eyesight issues, but is really about Aleppo and the Syrian refugee crisis. And it’s really fascinating. But unfortunately no one even knows about this and it’s so well done that it’s almost not even about the subject it’s about, which is a no-no in this category.

O.J. Made in America is an eight hour chronicling of O.J. Simpson. It originally aired on ESPN as part of a giant 30-for-30 thing, but it got a theatrical release and is considered a feature by the Academy, so here we are.

Let’s get into it. We all know what it is.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: O.J. Made in America. I mean, come on.

Biggest Competition: 13th. If it’s not O.J. It’s gonna be this. There’s a big argument to be made that this will win. The rejection of the eight hour TV series they’re passing off as a documentary and Ava DuVernay and Netflix’s deep pockets. Legitimate case to be made. But it’s also up against O.J. So do with that whatever you like.

Spoiler Alert: I Am Not Your Negro. It’s not getting this far. But I assume it’s this. Fire at Sea probably hasn’t been seen enough and Life, Animated, while the “lighter” choice, is… well, lighter. In more ways than one. I’m gonna say no on that and let that one play out how it’s gonna play out. That would be really telling if that ended up winning. So we’ll stick with this, because I don’t think anything but those first two have any chance at all in this category.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. O.J. Made in America

2. 13th

3. I Am Not Your Negro

4. Life, Animated

5. Fire at Sea

If I Were a Betting Man: O.J. Made in America. I’m not putting my money anywhere else. Let it lose. I’m good on the Scorecard. I have a 1 or a 2. I don’t think this loses.

You Should Take: O.J. Made in America. You wanna take 13th, be my guest. But you have to know what the score is on this one.

On My Ballot: O.J. Made in America

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Documentary Short


4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets

My Rankings:

  1. Watani: My Homeland
  2. The White Helmets
  3. Extremis
  4. Joe’s Violin
  5. 4.1 Miles

My Thoughts: Funnily enough, my rankings just might be the likelihood of each of the films winning the category. But we’ll get to that after. I didn’t much care for 4.1 Miles when I first saw it, and the second time I watched it, it still didn’t do much for me, so that’s fifth. Joe’s Violin is a good story in theory, but watching it unfold, it feels so staged. It just feels like they wanted it to move you and actually wasn’t all that moving. Extremis is interesting and I like the subject matter, but it didn’t engage me as much as I’d hoped. Might have been a #4 other years, but for here it’s a distant third. The White Helmets is a great subject and an interesting documentary. It was my #1 for a while, but I saw Watani late and that really won me over. The stuff that happens in that documentary — we’ll get into it after, but yeah, that’s my number one. I think it might win, too.

My Vote: Watani: My Homeland

If I Had a Ballot: Watani: My Homeland

Should Have Been Nominated: N/A

– – – – –

The Analysis

Since there are no precursors and this is one of the categories everyone hates going over, I’m gonna make it as easy as possible. We’re gonna go over what each of the nominees is about, and then we’ll get into how this category usually goes.

Extremis is about people dealing with end-of-life decisions. Their loved ones are in a situation where they will never recover from their ailments, so the people must decide whether or not to pull them off life support. So there are scenes of people either accepting this and spending their last days with their loved ones, or refusing to take them off life support, believing they can get better despite being told by the doctors they will not. It’s all framed around the doctors and their close proximity to people having to make these decisions every day.

This short is available to watch on Netflix.

4.1 Miles is about a Greek coast guard captain who is suddenly charged with saving a bunch of refugees as they try to get to safety. It’s a lot of scenes of his boat pulling a bunch of people on board so they don’t die at sea.

This short is available to watch from the New York Times.

Joe’s Violin is about a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor who decides it’s time to give up the violin he had all throughout his life and donates it to a school music drive, and the young girl who is chosen to be the recipient of the violin.

This short is available on YouTube.

Watani: My Homeland is about a family trying to survive in Syria. A mother decides the best thing for her children’s safety and future is to get them out of there and they flee to Germany.

This is the only short not readily available.

The White Helmets is about a group in Syria that goes in after bombings to help rescue people trapped in the rubble of buildings.

This short is available on Netflix.

– – – – –

Okay, so now, before we get into diagnosing how this is gonna go, let’s talk about what they usually go for in this category. Here’s a list of previous winners going back about a decade:

  • 2015: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness — about honor killings in the Middle East and the injustice and gender inequality therein.
  • 2014: Crisis Hotline: Veteran’s Press 1 — about a veterans suicide hotline and the stuff they have to deal with from veterans (the implication being how poorly they are treated by their country after returning from war with trauma)
  • 2013: The Lady in Number Six: Music Saved My Life — about a woman who got through the Holocaust by playing music who was at the time 109 years old.
  • 2012: Inocente — about a homeless girl who rose above her situation in order to become an artist.
  • 2011: Saving Face — about doctors who perform plastic surgery on women who were the victims of acid attacks in the Middle East
  • 2010: Strangers No More — about a school in Israel where all the students are from different countries, backgrounds, races and cultures who are learning together.
  • 2009: Music by Prudence — about a girl with a deformity who overcomes it (and her culture’s fear of disabilities) in order to become a musician.
  • 2008: Smile Pinki — about an Indian girl with a cleft lip who goes to get corrective surgery
  • 2007: Freeheld — about a dying police officer who wants to get her health benefits given to her wife after she dies.
  • 2006: The Blood of the Yingzhou District — Chinese kids with AIDS

So you get the general idea. People from third world countries or impoverished situations overcoming disability, disease or whatever to make art. Gender injustice in the Middle East/horrible things being done to women. The Holocaust occasionally. Or just a subject that is a big issue, like veteran treatment.

Typically just by looking at the nominees, you know immediately what the favorites are. Funnily enough, they tend to conform to the same general category each year. This year is heavily slanted toward Aleppo, with three entries there. Then you have your standard feel good/Holocaust entry, and the harrowing medical type one. Last year was the Ebola team.

Fortunately you can’t just look at this and say, “They’re gonna vote for the Aleppo one,” because there are three. I’d have been so mad at people simplifying this category down to a single Aleppo nominee and assuming that will win because of the subject matter. It wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to do, but it diminishes the category to just assume that and dismiss the other nominees.

Looking at the ones this year… I can’t see it being 4.1 Miles. Between the three Aleppo ones, 4.1 Miles has the least going for it. I’m surprised it was nominated. But I guess Aleppo is the subject du jour. There’s not a whole lot here aside from people screaming and being picked up from rafts. I know you’re basically taking my word for it, but I feel very confident that this is your fifth choice this year and that you shouldn’t even consider it for a vote. Of course, my luck, it’ll win and I’ll look stupid. But hey, it’s Documentary Short. All we have to go by is the history of the category and our own experience picking it. And something’s gotta be fifth, so for me, that’s fifth.

Most people, by simplifying the category, might say, “They’re gonna go with the Holocaust one.” But they don’t always do that. Claude Lanzmann would have won last year if that were the case. This one theoretically could win based on the “them wanting to go lighter” theory, but picking something like this would be pretty bad, even for their standards. It’s like when you see a movie so Oscar bait that even the Oscars are like, “Nah, that’s too much.” Like, you know… The Danish Girl. They don’t actually then vote for it. I’m treating this as a fourth choice. Let them vote for it if they’re gonna. But believe me when I say — if it wins, they’ve actually jumped the shark in this category, the likes of which I haven’t seen from them. I don’t mean that in the way that this is a bad film in any way. It’s just — voting for this would make them become their own stereotype.

The next film we have to deal with is Extremis. It could win. It’s about end of life decisions, and that is harrowing. I’m not sure they get the full emotion out of it, since they focus on the doctors and not one of the loved ones. I feel like the two things they respond to in this category are either ones that could easily be turned into films (Freeheld) or ones that elicit some sort of emotion when you watch them (Saving Face). This feels like it doesn’t quite hit either of those boxes. I’d give it a shot at a win, but it doesn’t feel like anything more than “spoiler territory,” the third choice that could happen but that you don’t pick because it just doesn’t feel like it has a chance. The odds favor this not only not winning but probably the fourth choice being more likely to win than this.

I think your two favorites here are The White Helmets and Watani. Syria is the big issue, as evidenced by the nominees, and it just feels like this is the way they’re going.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The White Helmets. That is to say, it seems like the favorite to win. You never really can tell with this category. My way of judging is always by what emotional resonance each of the shorts has. If it affects you while watching it, then that’s probably a good sign for a lot of the other people who also deigned to sit down and watch them. Now take that emotional resonance and add visibility (it’s on Netflix and has Netflix backing it, plus it’s been picked up to be turned into a feature by George Clooney), that adds up to a favorite to me.

Biggest Competition: Watani: My Homeland. This might be the most emotionally affecting of the shorts, therefore it may actually surprise you and win this. And by “surprise,” I mean you have no idea. Nothing should surprise you with this category. Even with me as deep as you can go with this category without being involved directly with the branch, the only thing that would surprise me here is if 4.1 Miles won. And to an extent, Joe’s Violin because that would really be them sinking to a low. My point is — this is really an emotional short, it’s got a human element and kids, which they like, and the mother from this short is going to be at the ceremony supposedly. That could add up. I wouldn’t consider it a favorite, but I’m not ruling out a win here.

Spoiler Alert: Extremis. It’s missing the emotional element. The subject matter is emotional, sure. But you’re dealing with other people’s problems. It’s not something that directly confronts the viewer unless they themselves are going through it. I don’t know how to explain it. It just doesn’t feel like it strikes that chord that’s required to win this. The other two are about Aleppo, which put them a leg above this. Though this has Netflix backing it, which is a plus, and also is about some harrowing shit. So keep it the spoiler. It could win. Maybe pick it if you’re really inclined to, but I don’t think this is anything more than a third choice going into the ceremony. I’m not feeling it. This feels like Body Team 12 last year. I don’t think it wins.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. The White Helmets

2. Watani: My Homeland

3. Extremis

4. Joe’s Violin

5. 4.1 Miles

If I Were a Betting Man: I think I’m going with Watani: My Homeland. I just feel like it’s gonna win this. I’m probably wrong, which is why I’m keeping it on my ballot. This is a category that used to feel automatic yet also always feels like it goes four deep. I could as as far down as my fourth choice winning and me not being surprised. In actuality? I think we’re dealing with a 50/50. I think you have a legitimate 50/50 chance here on Watani and The White Helmets. I’m siding with the one that had the more emotional impact on me than the one with more visibility. That usually does well for me here. But not always.

You Should Take: The White Helmets. It’s the safest choice. It’s on Netflix, Netflix has money to burn for these categories and it makes a lot of sense. About Aleppo, about people going into bombed out buildings to saved people — it’s got everything you want out of a winner here. I’m probably overthinking it with Watani. I think if you want the most likely winner, this is probably it. But again, it’s not a given. The shorts categories never are. So while Watani or Extremis or even Joe’s Violin could win this and you could take them with perfect justification, I feel like the safest choice that will most likely come in for your ballot is this one. Something tells me most of you have no idea and are just gonna go, “If you like it, that’s good enough for me.”

On My Ballot: Watani: My Homeland

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Live-Action Short

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights



My Rankings:

  1. Ennemis Interieurs
  2. Timcode
  3. Sing
  4. La Femme et le TGV
  5. Silent Nights

My Thoughts: Most years, I’m all for the ‘cute’ nominee. Like last year. Stutterer was cute. Boy with a stutter starts a Facebook relationship with a girl, and is worried about what she’s gonna think of him when they meet in public. Turns out, she’s deaf. It’s cute. It’s confectionary. I’ll admit to, more often than not, siding with those choices. But this year, I wasn’t particularly swayed by much of anything. Silent Nights was meh. La Femme et le TGV sounded terrible at the outset, then got my attention for a large part of it before completely losing me at the end. Sing was nice, but left a bad taste in my mouth. Timecode was cute, but I wanted more. Leaving me with Ennemis Interieurs, which is really well done and gripping. It’s not exactly feel-good, but in my mind it was the best short in the category, so that’s what I would take. I know this means nothing to anyone now, but we’ll go over all of them in a minute and it’ll hopefully make more sense then.

My Vote: Ennemis Interieurs

If I Had a Ballot: Ennemis Interieurs

Should Have Been Nominated: I haven’t seen the other nominees from the shortlist, but Graffiti sounded interesting. I’d wager I’d have liked that better than at least two of these nominees.

– – – – –

The Analysis

This is the one category you should expect to get wrong every year. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some years you can be savvy and have the inside track for what’s going to win. But you still should never assume you know what’s gonna happen here. It can only lead to sadness. Lately, I’ve been pretty good. Usually you can get it down to a 50/50 choice and be right most of the time. 2011 was the last category that completely threw me for a loop. Then again, that’s the last year I wasn’t able to see any of the nominees. So that also might have had something to do with it.

Anyway, this is a category where you’re completely blind and have to reason your way through it. There’s no methodology here, just guesswork based on how they’ve voted in the past. It helps if you’re able to see all the nominees, because at least you can sort of put yourself in the position of a voter and figure how they’re gonna vote. The best we can do here is look at what each of the films is about and go from there.

Ennemis Interieurs is mostly a two-hander. An Algerian man is applying for French citizenship. He’s lived in France for most of his life, but is only now applying for citizenship. What starts out as a routine interview — What’s the French motto? What are the main rivers in France? What is July 14th? — quickly turns serious. The man is asked about his past in Algeria, and his days when he used to attend a muslim mosque. And about the “meetings” that were held afterward. First it seems as though he’s being interrogated for simply having been a muslim at one point, but then we realize it’s because they want him to name the names of those who attended the meetings. If he does that, he’s in. If not… his status in the country is threatened — he has a police record, and if he doesn’t name names, he’ll be put on a list of potential terrorist suspects and, essentially, deported. The man calls the officer out on the scare tactics and says this isn’t something people should have to do in order to become citizens. He tells the man off and storms out… or so we think. After seeing the man stand up for principles and for people he says were simple religious family men attending innocent social gatherings, we fade back to reveal that he said and did none of that, and that he meekly gives all the names of the men who were at those meetings in exchange for citizenship.

It’s not the happiest of nominees, but it is the most powerful emotionally. And it’s politically charged, which could be two points in its favor when it comes down to voting.

La Femme et le TGV is apparently based on real events (they show footage of the real woman at the end). A woman wakes up every morning as a train passes by her house. It’s a cross-Europe train that’s come by the same way at the same time every morning for over thirty years. As it passes, she waves a flag and greets the passengers as they drive by. One day, she notices a letter on her property, written by a man who says he’s ridden on that train for years, and seeing her waving that flag is one of the few things that makes him happy each day. The pair begin a correspondence. And she finds herself filled with more energy than she’s had in years. All this plays throughout her experiences with her son, who wants to move her into a home, her failing bakery, which has not had more than one customer for several years, and a younger man who parks his car in front of her shop and is dating a dancer whose studio is across the street from the bakery. She and the man become close via letters, and they exchange gifts and chocolates via mail. (Well, she sends the mail. He drops it out the window of the train as it passes by her house.) One day, the train doesn’t come. And she finds out the route has been changed. So she travels all the way to Zurich, the new destination of the train, in order to find the man and see him one last time. There, she sees the man, on the train with his family. And I guess that, along with the experience, reinvigorates her, and it gets her to hire the young man with the car and reopen her bakery anew.

It’s got its moments. I’ll admit to being invested during the correspondence portion. But the beginning didn’t much grab me and the ending seemed weird. She races all the way to the station and then walks up to a train like a crazy person. It doesn’t come off like the grand romantic gesture we see in romantic comedies, nor does it come off the way I think it was intended to — the failed romantic gesture. I’m not really sure what the point of it all was. I could see them maybe voting for this. It has the cutesy factor going for it that they respond to. But it just felt weird and didn’t amount to much overall, so I’m not sure how much I like it’s chances. But it’s Live-Action Short, so it’s all fair game.

Silent Nights is about a woman who works at a homeless shelter and a Ghanan immigrant. He’s in Denmark to try to raise money for a wife and three kids he has back home. He’s unable to find work (it’s more than implied race and his immigrant status has something to do with it) and instead finds himself homeless and resorting to petty theft to send money back home. One day he is attacked by some men in the park and the woman comes to his aid. She takes him to the shelter and fixes him up. He helps them by working and also stays there a few days. He and her begin a relationship. Though when his family situation gets worse (one of his children contracts malaria), he is forced to steal from the shelter in order to send money for medicine, causing him to be fired and banned from the shelter. The woman continues seeing him after this despite knowing he stole the money. She meanwhile is dealing with an alcoholic mother who makes a scene when she meets the man for the first time. Eventually the woman simultaneously learns that she is pregnant and that the man has a wife back home. She ends up giving him money to go back to his wife and kids without shame and then goes off to have the child on her own, all while her mother dies.

It’s — fine. I didn’t love it. It felt too short and too all over the place. It covered a lot of ground in 30 minutes, not all of which I was interested in. It doesn’t feel at all like the kind of thing voters will spark to, and I imagine it will likely end up as it was for me — a fifth choice.

Sing is about a girl who transfers schools and joins her new school’s choir, which is renowned and constantly wins competitions and gets to go compete in the European finals each year. She forms a fast friendship with another girl, who is the “star” of the choir, so to speak. Though quickly after joining the choir, she learns the choir’s big secret — the teacher, who everyone really likes, doesn’t actually let all the kids sing. She takes the ones who aren’t the best aside and tells them they’re not yet ready to sing. So they “mime” the songs, pretending to be singing but not actually making noise. She does this to our main character, who is disheartened. Eventually her new friend finds out about this and sees that it’s not just her friend that was told this, it’s about 40% of the entire choir. The teacher basically shamed them into not saying anything. The girl calls the teacher out on this, and the teacher says, “That’s life.” Basically — this is what has to be done to keep the choir great. Some people can’t sing. But everyone loves the choir, so they get to be a part of the choir and the choir gets to be good. She basically tells them to “grow up” and accept it. The girl threatens to walk out on the choir, but the teacher manipulates her into staying. The group then travels to Sweden for the choir finals, and, as they’re starting their piece, the entire choir simultaneously “mimes” the song. Their mouths move, but no sounds come out. The teacher is humiliated and storms off, at which point the entire choir, as one, begins singing in unison.

It sounds like the fun kind of short they usually go for, but I don’t know. It rubbed me the wrong way and I’d wager it might do the same for a lot of voters. You don’t really get the sense of comeuppance for the teacher or the satisfying conclusion of the kids getting to sing. You’re mostly left with that harsh reality bomb the teacher drops on them. That’s the standout scene of the short. It’s not a bad moment at all. I’m just saying — that’s the lasting feeling you get from this, not the “aww, isn’t that nice” feeling. It’s “life is harsh, so grow the fuck up and get used to it.” Which is why I’m feeling dubious about this one’s chances at winning. It’s 75% of the way to what they like, but it’s not quite there. So I don’t know. We’ll see.

Timecode is just about exactly what they’ve been going for recently. Even on paper, you pretty much knew this was what they’d go for. After seeing it — yeah, this is what they go for. It’s about a female security guard at a building where people live. She sits in the booth all day, making sure people get out okay with the automated ticket window and, you know… securing things. Every morning, when she arrives, she switches places with the night guard, and vice versa. One day, she gets a call that one of the tenants found a broken tail light on their car and swears it was fine the day before. She checks the security footage and notices the night guard, while patrolling the parking levels, dancing. He dances up the aisles. And as he passes the car in question, he accidentally bumps into it and knocks the tail light off. She covers for the guy and tells the supervisor that nothing happened. When she swaps places with the night guy, she leaves a sticky note for him with a time stamp. He checks the footage at that time and finds her, next to the car with the broken tail light. She does a little dance into the camera, mimicking the one he did. The next morning when she arrives, they have their brief small talk and he leaves. And she finds another timecode on a sticky note. She pulls up the footage and sees him deliver a dance into the camera. And this continues for several days. Their relationship basically grows through these recorded dances. The film does a nice job of using repetition to enhance the story. For example, we see several shots of the woman putting on her uniform and clocking in. And eventually, as she clocks in, she uses the desk to stretch, basically warming herself up for the dance. It’s a nice touch. Anyway, one day, she arrives and there is no timecode note anywhere. She wonders what’s going on. He leaves without a word, and the two share a moment of sexual tension. She then looks up a moment later to see that he, on his way out, stuck the timecode note on the glass as he left. We then cut to a new guard being hired and being given the rundown of how the job works by the supervisor. He shows him how to look up the security footage and pulls up a random timecode. It just so happens to have both guards on it at the same time (both referred to as “former guards”). The two dance across various security cameras. And it ends with a joke of the new guard saying “I can’t dance.” (You know, like, “I hope you don’t expect that as part of the job.” Ba dum chish.)

It’s funny, it’s cute and it gets the point across. I wish there were a bit more. The relationship is more implied than anything and I feel some more minutes would have really made this sing and made it a surefire winner. But even so, it’s still very likable and is right up their alley. If I’m voting based on how they usually pick, this would be my favorite.

And since I don’t have any more analysis to get into, let’s get right into that part.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Timecode. I assume. I honestly have no idea. The thing with them is — most years you can gauge really well. Other years it’s complete mayhem. This is one of the years of complete mayhem. It feels like we might get a winner here like The Shore in 2011. Which means nothing to almost everyone, I understand. It’s shorthand for me. Look — based on what they have typically went for in this category the past few years, this seems like the most obvious choice. Stutterer — cute romance between a guy with a stutter and a woman online. Helium — dying kid being told magical stories by the hospital janitor. Curfew — suicidal man has to babysit his niece and has his will to live reaffirmed after spending time with her (includes a musical number). The only out and out sad/dramatic one they’ve gone with recently was The Phone Call. More on that in a minute. They like cutesy romances, and this fits the bill, even though I don’t know if it fully gets where it needs to get to be considered a big favorite in this category. So we’ll call it the most likely to win, but I’m not bullish on its chances at all. Though it did win the Palme D’Or for shorts last year. Which means little, as nowhere in recent history was one of those even nominated at the Oscars, but that can be used for justification, right?

Biggest Competition: Ennemis Interieurs. This is arguably the best short in the category. It’s very emotional and has a political relevance. They don’t necessarily care for that in this category, but I feel like the people voting here will have at least seen all or some of the nominees. And this being what is generally considered the best one, it should allow for it to get a lot of votes. Will that be enough? I don’t know. Either they double down on what they usually do and that tells us something, or this wins because it was the most affecting short (a la The Phone Call, which was up against Boogaloo and Graham, which was cute, but wasn’t fully all the way there, paving the way for what was generally considered the best short to win in the end). Feels like a clear alternative to the likely choice.

Spoiler Alert: La Femme et le TGV. A lot of people would have Sing here, which I get. It has kids, it feels like it might be what they usually go for. I can’t necessarily argue against that. But what I can tell you is that I watched that short and was left with a bad taste in my mouth. They wanted to leave you feeling happy but instead I felt put off by the message given by the teacher before the so-called “comeuppance” moment. Something tells me they won’t respond to that. Plus, and I know this doesn’t hold water as an argument, but I feel like the name “Sing” is really generic and people skimming through won’t stop and randomly click on it. This has a title that some people might say, “Sure, why not?” Plus it’s a cute movie about a woman having a bit of a romance with a train conductor. Somewhat in the style of Amelie. I think there are enough elements to put people off, which is why I’m only calling it a spoiler, but I could see this winning. I wouldn’t love it as a choice, but I wouldn’t be surprised either. You can legitimately go four deep in this category, even though I feel like the likelihood is one of the top two choices winning.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Timecode

2. Ennemis Interieurs

3. La Femme et le TGV

4. Sing

5. Silent Nights

If I Were a Betting Man: I’m taking Ennemis Interieurs. Screw it. I think it was the best short and I think that this is a year where you can safely take the best one even if it’s not as uplifting as they usually go in this category. Kinda like The Phone Call. Though that one had big actors in it. This one has the political relevance, which I think makes up for that. I think that political nature of it will actually help it and not hurt it. But it’s Live-Action Short, what do I know? Timecode feels like the safe choice, but I’m just not interested in taking that on my ballot. It’s not interesting. So we’ll take another chance because I’ve reached the point where I don’t give a fuck if I get 9 wrong on my ballot. The Scorecard will keep me on balance.

You Should Take: Timecode. Since I don’t know and don’t feel confident enough in any of the nominees, I’m gonna say stick with how they usually vote. This is like Documentary 2011. Where I had no real idea what to do, but I doubled down on their penchant for likable documentaries and took Undefeated, which ended up winning. I think in the Live-Action Short category, based on how this typically goes, the smart money is always on the cute, likable nominee. And that’s this. So I’m saying this is the safest choice Ennemis Interieurs is, for my money, the best short and the one that is most emotionally effective, thereby potentially making it the choice. But since Live-Action Short is such a crap shoot, Sing or La Femme et le TGV could also take it down. I mean, you’re free to go wherever you want here, really. I’d caution against Silent Nights, but that’s about it. For my money, it’s either Timecode or Ennemis Interrieurs. And since I’m usually pretty good with all this, I’d say your ballot should probably have one of those two on it. But honestly, nobody has any idea what this is gonna be. You’re going on what the best ones are and what the history is. The safe choice is to play the history.

On My Ballot: Ennemis Interieurs

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Animated Short

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes



My Rankings:

  1. Pearl
  2. Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  3. Blind Vaysha
  4. Borrowed Time
  5. Piper

My Thoughts: This is an interesting category. One of the most fun shorts I saw this year was Inner Workings, and I thought for sure they’d go for that over Piper, which is a pretty unremarkable entry into the Pixar short film oeuvre. But I guess the Inside Out comparisons were too great to overcome. The other short that seemed really interesting was Sous tes doigts, but that wasn’t nominated so, so much for that.

We’re left with an interesting category. As I said — Piper is a pretty standard Pixar entry. Cute and charming, but not particularly great or memorable. We’ll get to my feelings on that in a minute in terms of its likelihood to win, but as a short, I think it’s perfectly fine, though not something I’d think to vote for here. It rates near the bottom of the category simply because it’s the same Pixar formula I see constantly. Usually I’d want to vote for them only if they do something really fun or really inventive. Thinking back — Sanjay’s Super Team was okay. Lava I didn’t like. The Blue Umbrella I thought was fantastic. La Luna looked really nice. Day & Night might be their best short in the past fifteen years. Partly Cloudy is more of the same. And Presto was a lot of fun and I liked it a lot. So they’re hit and miss with me. This one — ehh. Not totally for me.

The Pixar (of sorts) short I did like this year was Borrowed Time. These are two Pixar animators who went and made a decidedly non-Pixar short film. This is a dark and sad story, and while I wish there were more of it, it’s a really strong little film. We’ll get into specifics after, but I thought it was solid.

Blind Vaysha isn’t at all what I was expecting. The animation style drew me in immediately, but it’s the way they structured it that made it so odd to see it on the nominees list. After they set up the story and the character, they end the film by confronting the audience. They address the audience directly and ask a question that has much deeper meaning than you usually get in a short film. It’s different, but I liked it.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes is a film that I didn’t think they’d ever nominate, but then they did. And I thought I wouldn’t like it, I guess because of that inherent bitterness you have when something you think won’t be nominated is. But I saw it, and I liked it a lot. The animation style is bold and memorable, and the story feels pretty personal. This is actually a really strong nominee.

And that leaves us with Pearl. I fucking loved Pearl. It’s part of a Google 360 project, designed for you to be able to rotate the video 360 degrees at any point while watching it. It’s really cool. It totally works without it, though. The short is online, so you can watch it. It’s really good. It’s a simple story about a father and daughter, and a car they share. Over the course of one song and six minutes, we get everything we need to know about their relationship. And it’s beautiful. My favorite short of the year, and definitely the film I’d vote for.

My Vote: Pearl

If I Had a Ballot: Pearl

Should Have Been Nominated: Inner Workings

– – – – –

The Analysis

Well, since there are no precursors here and most people won’t have seen many of the nominees, you’ll just have to hear me talk about them and go based on that.

The good news about this year is that you can definitely find Pearl and Piper online, and probably Borrowed Time too, if you looked hard enough. The good news is, Pear Cider and Cigarettes is one where all you need to see is the two minute clip that’s online to get everything you need to know about it, and Blind Vaysha, if you watch the short clip online and read a synopsis (which I will provide), you’ll have everything you need to know.

To start, here’s what the films are about:

Blind Vaysha is about a girl born with one eye that can only see into the past and one that can only see into the future. From the time she is born, people try to cure her of this and bring her vision together so she can see the present. But nothing works. So she’s unable to live in the present. When she grows up, she becomes beautiful, but every man she sees looks like both a child or an old man. She can only see trees as sprouts or dying trunks. You get the idea. She considers ripping one of her eyes out, but she can’t decide which one. The film then turns the question onto the audience. Asking them to close their right eye. Half the screen is taken away, and you can only see one half of the screen. They ask you to close the other eye, and the entire film goes black. And it asks you if you yourself possibly see life like Vaysha the blind girl, unable to see the present in front of you.

Borrowed Time is such a dark film. There’s really nothing happy about it. We follow a grizzled sheriff returning to a cliff where some obviously painful memories took place. He looks down at his pocket watch, and we flash back to years earlier, as he rides on a wagon with his father, the sheriff. His father gives him the watch. Then later on, they are being chased and the wagon ends up flipping over, sending the boy’s father over the side of the cliff. The boy tries to reach out and pull his father up, but cannot reach that far. His father raises up his gun so the boy can use that to pull him up. Only, with one slip of the wrist, the boy ends up pulling the trigger, shooting his father and watching him fall to his death. And we return to the present, where the sheriff is wracked with guilt, despondent and possibly contemplating taking his own life. The whole thing is really bleak and doesn’t much leave you feeling particularly good about yourself.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes is a story of the filmmaker’s friendship with a man who is completely charming, charismatic, and one of those people destined to live a hard, short life. The man recounts how he became friends with the guy, the guy’s history, including several motorcycle accidents and hard partying years. Eventually he is tasked to find his friend in China and get him to stop drinking long enough to get a liver transplant. He gives the story of how the transplant went down, the weird hospital where he had it, dealing with Chinese doctors, money transfers and visas. There’s such rich detail here and such little things that make it feel so authentic and just like life. It also really draws the friend character really, really well. It’s also by far the longest of the nominees. It’s been over a decade since something this long won the Oscar.

Pearl is a beautiful story about a father and a daughter. It’s a 360 film, meaning you can rotate it and see any angle you want while the film plays. I recommend playing it in 4K and experiencing it. However, and I’ll get into this more later, I’m concerned that will hurt its chances in the end. But it’s about a father and daughter, as told through their car and a song. We watch as her dad would travel around the country, busking for tips, with his daughter in the back. Eventually he decides, for her sake, to settle down and get a real job. And we watch as she grows up and rebels the way all teenagers do, and eventually goes out on her own and starts her own journey. It’s a really beautiful film. If it weren’t for the method by which this was created and shown, this would have been a shoo-in for the win. It still might.

Piper is the Pixar short that played in front of Finding Dory. Pretty much everyone has seen this one by now. It’s about a little bird whose time has come to come out of its nest and learn to find food for itself. Its mother leads it to the shore, where a wave crashes over it. It gets scared and doesn’t want to go back, until eventually it learns a different way of doing things, which ends up helping all the other birds. It’s a short about finding one’s own way. It’s very cute and shot almost photoreal, which is really impressive. Though it also features the murder of a lot of clams. But I guess that’s okay? What this bird learns to do is the equivalent of going hunting in The Oregon Trail. You murder like six buffalo even though you really only need one in order to make it through the next leg of the trip.

But yeah, those are your five. There’s nothing else to do here except reason through how the category is gonna go. Fortunately for this one — most years, at least — you typically know just by seeing them what the winner is going to be. Last year, you knew immediately Bear Story was the one. Or that Fantastic Flying Books short a few years back. You just know. I’ve missed this category once in the past five years, and that’s purely because they opened voting up to everyone in 2013 and I overestimated the notion that people would just vote for the most visible nominee. Usually it’s pretty obvious what wins. Though the problem here — what’s obvious is also what doesn’t happen. Pixar hasn’t won this in 15 years and yet they’re the obvious choice. How does one reconcile that?

The problem with this category is always that you never know who has seen what and who is gonna vote. Will people who’ve only seen one or two of the nominees vote? How many people are voting in total? That’s why the way to do this is to figure not everyone is gonna vote, but that the people who are gonna vote will either have seen all the nominees or at least be informed as to what the most likely winner or best short is by someone who has. So it comes back again to — which is the short that’s going to affect the most people? And that’s why I’m not so sure this is as easy as it might seem. I can straight up tell you what they won’t vote for. But I’m not 100% certain on a winner. And I think it’s because of that whole VR/360 aspect on Pearl.

Okay, look at this — Blind Vaysha is never gonna happen. The animation looks nice, but the story doesn’t grab anyone, and it directly confronts the audience without any sort of narrative or emotional resolution. They’re not gonna go for it, and as uncertain as I am about the winner of this category, I’m certain that this is the fifth choice. So believe me on that one.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes — I would be shocked if this won. Legitimately shocked. It’s a very good short and straight up my second favorite. But I know them enough to say that I would not in a hundred years see this one coming. There is nothing in their history says this will come close to a win, so my advice is don’t talk yourself into it and let it win if it’s going to. Anyone picking this to win is doing so based on their own feelings about it and not on anything else. Anyone with any knowledge of how this category usually goes down wouldn’t pick this as a winner. Maybe a long shot third choice, but that’s about it. Trust me on this. Don’t take it, be just as shocked as the rest of us.

The three with any real shot based on what we know about this category (which is all we ever have to go on) are Piper, Pearl and Borrowed Time. So let’s get into it.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Piper is the only one that comes to mind. It’s gorgeously animated, and despite the story being slight, at least it’s the one that everyone knows. Nothing else jumps out as being “the one” that they’re gonna vote for. Like, last year. Sanjay’s Super Team was the most well known, but when you watch the shorts, you know immediately which way they’re gonna vote. Bear Story immediately jumped out at you as the obvious winner. This year, I’m not feeling that. Or maybe it’s because the obvious choice has some limitations to it that make me think it’s more likely to lose than win. I don’t know. Pixar hasn’t won in 15 years, so I’m not certain this is your winner, but based on not really seeing an alternative, I have to list this the favorite. I feel like this is the safest choice, even though I’ve got a hunch that says the one that has the most upside to taking it is this next film.

Biggest Competition: Pearl. I know he won for Feast two years ago, but that doesn’t factor into this at all. No one voting (or at least, less than 10% of them) are gonna know anything about that. Here, it’s purely about the short. And this is a perfectly drawn short that hits the right amount of emotional notes. I feel like if you gave all five to everyone, this and Piper would be the two that came out as a favorite the most times. And that’s usually how one goes about picking this category. It’s not about guessing so much as it’s about simply seeing all the nominees. Once you watch them all, you should know almost immediately what the choice is. Sure, sometimes you go, “This is the choice, but this is the one they’re gonna vote for.” That does happen. My gut tells me this is the one most people would respond to, but not enough that I’m gonna make it the automatic winner.

Spoiler Alert: Borrowed Time. I actually still feel like there’s a legitimate chance this comes out on top. Now, when it doesn’t, it’ll be business as usual and ‘of course it didn’t win’. But now, I legitimately feel a scenario where this comes out on top. It’s strong filmmaking and it’s got some powerful emotions on it. That said… it’s really depressing. And I don’t think they’ve ever really gone for depressing in this category. Which is the major caveat and why I’m ultimately going to leave this as a spoiler. But if it happens, I’m not gonna be surprised. Because I truly feel like there’s gonna be a sort of rejection of Piper in the end and that something else is gonna come out of here. But I don’t know what it’s gonna be, which is why Piper still might slip through in the end.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Pearl

2. Piper

3. Borrowed Time

4. Pear Cider and Cigarettes

5. Blind Vaysha

If I Were a Betting Man: Pearl. I just feel like, in the end, you take the one that’s the most emotionally appealing. I’ve been around this category enough to know that they’re just not gonna take Pixar for the sake of taking Pixar. Pixar hasn’t won since 2001, and they’ve been nominated for much better and more memorable shorts than Piper. Pearl is the film that makes you feel the way they like to feel when they vote for this category. The downside is the VR thing, and how people saw this short. If they saw it on the screeners pack they sent out to all Academy members, then perhaps that’s enough to take it. They made it look like a regular short, though they did move the camera about to simulate camera movement/moving the 360 around so you could see all there is to see. I’m worried that people will think less of it because they either don’t approve of the way it was made or don’t get it. But since I really don’t see enough out of the other nominees, I still feel like this best fits what they usually go for, so I’m gonna take it.

You Should Take: Piper. It’s the safe bet. I truly think this won’t win and that Pearl is more likely to win, but if you want to play it super safe and go with what the logical choice is that most people will have, this is the way to go. You’re basically 50/50 most years when picking this category, so you could go either way. I certainly wouldn’t tell you, for safety reasons, not to take this one, but I also don’t really believe it’s going to win. So ultimately I’m leaving this one up to you. I’m not gonna not put it on this ballot because I don’t want to feel like an idiot when it doesn’t win, but I also still feel like Pearl is the likely winner here. (And no matter how you slice it, Borrowed Time is still the legitimate spoiler that could jump up and take it too.) Whatever wins, it’s gonna seem like it was the obvious choice when we look at it in the future, but this is honestly the first time I’m truly not sure what they’re gonna do. Which I think is why I’m gonna trust my gut and take Pearl on my ballot but tell everyone else to play it safe with Piper because it just feels like that’s what they’re gonna do. But we’ll see. I still think Pearl’s gonna win. So maybe you should just take that.

On My Ballot: Pearl

– – – – – – – – – –

Here’s how I see this all shaking out:

La La Land

  • Will win: Picture, Director, Actress, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing
  • Will likely win: Editing, Cinematography, Production Design
  • Could win: Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Sound Editing
  • Won’t win: Original Song (second nomination), Actor

That’s minimum six wins, maximum 12. 12 is a record, so I don’t see that happening. 7-8 seems likely, 8-9 seems probable. 10 seems like a lot. I’m thinking we’re in the 8-9 territory, with Production Design the swing.

I’m penciling it in for eight for sure and then maybe Production Design. If it starts to win either Screenplay, Costume Design or Sound Editing, then we’re either in for a really weird year, or this movie is gonna set some records. So let’s call it 8 wins, possibly 9.


  • Will likely win: Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay
  • Could win: Editing, Cinematography
  • Likely won’t win: Picture, Director
  • Won’t win: Original Score, Supporting Actress

Two wins seems like all this is gonna end up with. I feel like it should get more, but I can’t see it coming through in any category except maybe Best Picture, which seems like a huge long shot at this point.


  • Could win: Adapted Screenplay, Sound Editing
  • Likely won’t win: Sound Mixing, Editing, Cinematography, Production Design
  • Won’t win: Picture, Director

I see this one going home completely empty-handed. Adapted Screenplay or Sound Editing seem like the only real bets it has to get anything. Maybe Cinematography or Editing, but those are real long shots. It won’t win any of the big ones, and the rest are long shots at best. Very likely this ends up with nothing.

Hacksaw Ridge

  • Will likely win: Sound Editing
  • Could win: Editing, Sound Mixing
  • Likely won’t win: Director
  • Won’t win: Picture, Actor

At best this gets two wins. Sound Editing should be a lock, so at minimum I think it gets one. If it gets two, that means it wins both sound awards or it sneaks in an Editing win. Both could happen but seem unlikely. Thinking this ends up with 1 win.


  • Could win: Supporting Actor
  • Likely won’t win: Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography
  • Won’t win: Picture, Score

This likely goes home empty-handed. If it wins, that means it’s a surprise winner in Supporting Actor or Cinematography. A Screenplay win would be very surprising. Likely nothing, and any win would be a surprise.

Manchester by the Sea

  • Will likely win: Actor, Original Screenplay
  • Likely won’t win: Supporting Actor
  • Won’t win: Picture, Director, Supporting Actress

This should win one award, be it Actor or Original Screenplay. Two is very possible as well. Doubt this goes home empty-handed. To do that means La La Land neared some sort of record and three of the acting awards went to black actors. It could happen, but I’m thinking this walks home with 1-2 awards.


  • Will win: Supporting Actress
  • Could win: Actor
  • Won’t win: Picture, Adapted Screenplay

This is simple. It’ll win one for sure, and might well win two as well. Either one acting award or two acting awards. That’s all this can do.

Hell or High Water

  • Could win: Original Screenplay
  • Likely won’t win: Supporting Actor
  • Won’t win: Picture, Editing

Very likely this ends up with nothing. An Original Screenplay win would be a bit of a surprise, but the most likely award for this to take home. A Supporting Actor win would be really surprising and seems very unlikely. So, likely nothing, but a slim chance it could sneak away one in the end.

Hidden Figures

  • Likely won’t win: Picture, Adapted Screenplay
  • Won’t win: Supporting Actress

Very likely this gets nothing. It has to climb a couple of big hills to win any awards, the two most likely of which would put it directly over Moonlight in the end. Hard to see that happening, but anything’s possible.


  • Will likely win: Costume Design
  • Likely won’t win: Actress
  • Won’t win: Original Score

Costumes seem to be the only place for this to get a win. That seems likely, though not a lock. If it loses, that probably means La La Land added yet another one to an ever-increasing tally, inching closer to that all-time record.

Those are the films with more than two nominations.

Of the rest: Zootopia should end up with one win. If it doesn’t, that means Kubo and the Two Strings will end up with a win. The Jungle Book should easily get one win from its only nomination. Fantastic Beasts could end up with one, possibly two wins, though it’s very likely it ends up with none. Hail, Caesar! could win its only nomination, but that seems unlikely. Moana could sneak in as an Original Song winner if La La Land unexpectedly falters. The others — Deepwater Horizon, Florence Foster Jenkins, Passengers and Rogue One should end up with nothing.

Final tally as I see it likely happening:

  • La La Land — 9 wins
  • Manchester by the Sea — 2 wins
  • Moonlight — 2 wins
  • Fences — 1 win
  • Hacksaw Ridge — 1 win
  • Jackie — 1 win
  • The Jungle Book — 1 win
  • Zootopia — 1 win

No matter how many La La Land ends up winning in the end, nothing else is gonna end up with more than 2 awards. There’s really no way, unless Moonlight wins Best Picture. That’s the big takeaway from this. There’s really no way for them to spread the wealth with this one, so expect the sweep either way. The only question is if it’s 7, 8, 9 or more. If La La Land wins more, than expect to see this list more thinned out than it is. If it wins 8, then either Fantastic Beasts or Hail Caesar gets one. If it wins 7, then I’m assuming that last part plus either another win for Hacksaw. I don’t see many more Permutations that make a whole lot of sense. No matter how you slice it, La La Land cleans up.

Face it, guys. The musical is winning. And with that in mind…

– – – – – – – – – –

One response

  1. Dana

    I still can’t believe Moonlight got it. Honestly. Was it good? It was just OK. No more. I think I, Daniel Blake should also be in the list ( ). It’s so good!

    June 13, 2017 at 12:57 pm

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