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2017 Academy Awards: What are the Hardest Categories to Predict?


The Academy Awards, I don’t believe I’m typing this, are next weekend, if you can believe it, so I thought I’d take a minute and isolate the hardest categories to predict.  The BAFTA’s were last weekend, and the results there have caused a couple of shake-ups in some categories.  So here’s a rundown of what I think the hardest categories to predict are.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

This is a mano y mano between Casey Affleck, who swept the board until late January when competitor Denzel Washington won the SAG Award, which has correctly predicted Best Actor at the Oscars since 2003.  One other thing to consider, Manchester by the Sea seems like a film that reached its high point in popularity when nominations were announced.  Since then, Fences seems to be the more popular film between the two, and with Viola Davis guaranteed a win for her work in the film, it feels like you can’t award one performance with award the other, yet Casey won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor, which has gotten 8 out of the last 10 Best Actors correct at the Oscars.  Man, this one will come down to the wire, but I’m sticking with Denzel until I see some more evidence that Casey’s coming back out front.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Early on the favorite in the category, Mahershala Ali went out front and he got all the nominations he could, but at a few key precursors, like Golden Globes and BAFTA, he lost the category.  Well, the Globe went to non-nominated Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals, and the BAFTA went to nominee Dev Patel for Lion.  This reminds me of last year when we had the Globe go to Sylvester Stallone for Creed (2015), then the SAG award, which Ali won this year, went to non-nominee Idris Elba for his work in Beasts of No Nation (2015), and then BAFTA went to Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies (2015), and he went on to win the Oscar over heavy favorite Sylvester Stallone.  When the precursors are all over the place, and in this category the year before was the only time in recent memory this has happened, sometimes it helps to just go with the most recent winner, so I have Dev Patel winning, but I am not 100% convinced of that.  I might switch back to Mahershala before Oscar night.

Best Adapted Screenplay

This one is kind of still being determined.  The big precursor hasn’t happened yet, the WGA’s, which are this weekend.  The Oscar-frontrunner, Moonlight, is nominated in the Original category at WGA, so that doesn’t help us, and the WGA will be between Hidden FiguresArrival, and Fences.  Lion also has an outside shot of winning and it did win at BAFTA, so we have that to consider.  For now I’m thinking the eight nominations Moonlight has gives them the advantage in this category, and if Mahershala does lose that Best Supporting Actor category, it could end up being the only place they award the film, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.

Best Original Screenplay

This is another one where WGA might influence my opinion.  Both La La Land and Manchester by the Sea have been in a back-and-forth battle over the season.  La La took the screenplay prize at the Golden Globes in a 7-award sweep, then Manchester won at BAFTA.  This kind of reminds me of Birdman (2014), which won the Oscar and the Globe but lost WGA and BAFTA to The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), and one thing we also have to remember: the last Best Picture winner to lose its screenplay category was The Artist (2011), so we might be due for another case where they don’t match, and frankly speaking Manchester by the Sea has the superior script, but like I mentioned back with Best Actor, if the support for the movie is waning, La La Land might end up winning this.  Man, I thought the BAFTA win was a comfortable one that guaranteed my pick was right, but I might have to switch to La La Land.

Best Costume Design

This and a few other categories fall under the same boat: either the Academy is in a generous mood where a lot of the technical categories are split apart to different films, which happened at BAFTA, or they’re in a sweep mentality and La La Land wins just about everything.  This category in particular has seemed to be one that everyone has two minds about.  Since La La isn’t a period musical and the costumes are kind of just a harkening back to the 50’s and 60’s musicals, an actual period piece like Jackie, which won at BAFTA, might steal this one.  But since Jackie only has two other nominations in places where La La is almost guaranteed victory, I don’t know if it has the full support it needs.  I’ll stick with La La picking this one up, but the last film to really sweep the Oscars in a way that lead to more than 6 wins was Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

Best Film Editing

Oscar winning editor Tom Cross might pick up his second win for La La Land, and fort the most part the winner for Best Picture usually picks up Best Film Editing.  True, the last three Best Pictures have all lost or not even been nominated in the category, and there are two very viable winners in this category: Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge.  The latter won the editing prize at BAFTA with the former winning the ACE Eddie for Best Editing in a Drama, which sometimes wins at the Oscars, too.  At the moment Hacksaw doesn’t really have a winning category anywhere, and it does have six nominations in total, and like Lion it reminds me last year of Bridge of Spies, which had the same number of nominations and ended up winning in one category.  Sure, films like American Hustle (2013) can have more nominations, in that case 10, and lose everything, but still, I’m sticking with La La winning this one.

Best Sound Editing

This is the one place I’m convinced La La Land won’t win, well both this and Best Actor, but still, it’s rare for musicals or music related films to be nominated in this category, and usually war films or action movies win this one.  So that leaves two options: Hacksaw Ridge or Arrival.  The former has been my pick from the get-go, but still at BAFTA, which only has one sound category, the winner was Arrival, and like Moonlight it has a ton of nominations.  Arrival has also won several guild awards, which director Denis Villeneuve’s films usually are nominated or win with the guilds, like Sicario (2015).  That all being said, last year’s BAFTA winner for Best Sound was The Revenant (2015), which lost both sound awards at the Oscars to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).  So really, this award could go to any of the three films, because if the sweep vote happens with La La, the Academy might just pick it here too and not think twice about it.

I thought this would be a short one, but man there is a lot to talk about in these categories.  For sure next week I’ll have a final prediction blog for the winners, and as mentioned earlier, this weekend sees the WGA Awards, which might make those screenplay categories easier or harder.  Depending on what happens, I might also have a follow-up blog on that.  Either way, it’s almost Oscar time, and we’ll have tons to talk about.


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I am a gigantic movie nerd who spends his free time memorizing Oscar winners and nominees and seeing as many good movies as I can. I have always wanted to write about films, review films, and speculate on films, and hope that this site helps me get a couple of people who can agree or disagree with me.