Predictions for the 89th Academy Awards

By Vincent Abbatecola
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Viola Davis in “Fences”

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis – “Fences”; Naomie Harris – “Moonlight”; Nicole Kidman – “Lion”; Octavia Spencer – “Hidden Figures”; Michelle Williams – “Manchester by the Sea”

Will Win and Should Win: Viola Davis – “Fences” – Up until now, Davis has won most of the awards for which she has been nominated, including the Critics’ Choice Award, the Golden Globe Award, and the Screen Actors Guild Award. It also helps that she has the biggest performance in this category. As a wife and mother who’s trying to hold her family together in the midst of household tension, Davis provided one of the most emotional performances of 2016, especially in the film’s climactic “what about me?” scene between her and Denzel Washington’s character. The emotions elicited throughout “Fences” course through you long after it’s over, and it’s Davis’ work here that helped make that possible.



Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight”

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”


Will Win and Should Win: Mahershala Ali – “Moonlight” – Throughout this awards season, Ali has won the Critics’ Choice Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award, as well as recognition from many critics groups. Although Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe for his performance in “Nocturnal Animals,” he wasn’t nominated by the Academy, and Patel’s win at the BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) shouldn’t put much of a dent in Ali’s chances, so this race should be pretty much open for him. As a crack dealer who becomes a father figure for the film’s main character, Ali provided a deep warmth and sense of comfort that embraced the viewer whenever he was on screen, a guiding light for the protagonist as he made his way through a challenging life. What made his performance so memorable was how understated it was, yet impactful, and that spoke to his power as an actor, and Ali’s work in this film will hopefully give him the movie career he deserves.



Emma Stone in “La La Land”

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert – “Elle”; Ruth Negga – “Loving”; Natalie Portman – “Jackie”; Emma Stone – “La La Land”; Meryl Streep – “Florence Foster Jenkins”


Will Win: Emma Stone – “La La Land” – At first, this category seemed like a bit of challenge to predict because Portman won the Critics’ Choice Award, Huppert won Best Actress from several top critics groups and the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama, and Emma Stone won the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Later on, Stone won the Screen Actors Guild Award and BAFTA Award. These wins have only strengthened her chances at the Oscar, and seeing as her performance as a struggling actress was in one of the most celebrated films of the year, Stone has plenty of momentum to be the winner come Oscar night.


Natalie Portman in “Jackie”

Should Win: Natalie Portman – “Jackie” – Having seen this film twice, I can’t call Portman’s performance anything less than transformative. She has been named Best Actress by a few critics groups, with the biggest award she has received being the Critics’ Choice Award. After that, however, Portman didn’t have much luck. She hasn’t been given a lot of memorable roles since her Oscar-winning work in 2010’s “Black Swan,” but this film finally let us see the full range of her talents once again. In a film that delved deep into the psyche of Jacqueline Kennedy in the days between her husband’s assassination and funeral, Portman brought everything to the screen when showing the emotional toll the tragedy had on Jackie and her dedication to preserving her husband’s legacy. Portman displayed a new depth to her acting abilities, and even though she may not be called to the stage on Sunday, you can’t deny that she gave one of the most triumphant performances of 2016.



Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Actor: Casey Affleck – “Manchester by the Sea”; Andrew Garfield – “Hacksaw Ridge”; Ryan Gosling – “La La Land”; Viggo Mortensen – “Captain Fantastic”; Denzel Washington – “Fences”


Will Win: Casey Affleck – “Manchester by the Sea” – While the other three acting categories are easy to predict, this is the one that presents a little difficulty. For his performance as a man trying to cope with his tragic past, Affleck won Best Actor from several major critics groups, as well as the Critics’ Choice Award, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, and the BAFTA Award. However, what makes Washington a possibility is his surprise win at the Screen Actors Guilds Awards. And with the BAFTAs, you can’t tell if Washington would have won against Affleck, seeing as the former wasn’t nominated. But, at this point, Affleck is the frontrunner and could possibly join his brother as an Oscar winner.


Denzel Washington in “Fences”

Should Win: Denzel Washington – “Fences” – When it comes to Washington and Affleck, I would be pleased if either one of them ended up winning. But, despite loving both performances, I have to say Washington slightly edges out Affleck. As a father dealing with broken dreams in 1950s Pittsburgh, Washington delivered one of the most volcanic performances of 2016. He portrayed a character who made you boil with anger over the way he treated his family, but made you sympathize with him over the opportunities he lost through the years. It was a heartbreaking and blistering performance that reminded you why Washington still remains as one of the most respected actors working today and a true force to behold.



Best Director: Damien Chazelle – “La La Land”; Mel Gibson – “Hacksaw Ridge”; Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight”; Kenneth Lonergan – “Manchester by the Sea”; Denis Villeneuve – “Arrival”


Damien Chazelle

Will Win: Damien Chazelle – “La La Land” – After gaining recognition two years ago for “Whiplash,” Chazelle exploded onto the scene last year with his latest film. He has won Best Director from a handful of critics groups, at the Critics’ Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, and the Directors Guild of America Awards for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film. Although I can maybe see Barry Jenkins receiving a surprise win, it’s almost impossible to think Chazelle will lose this race. The Oscar is his.







Barry Jenkins

Should Win: Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight” – Although Jenkins has won Best Director from some prominent critics groups, including the National Board of Review and National Society of Film Critics, he hasn’t had much fortune in the main awards circuit, but he should have. With a film that was hard-hitting without resorting to sentimentality and a winning combination of acting, editing, music, and cinematography, Jenkins allowed us to follow the life of his protagonist as a child, teenager, and adult in a rough Miami neighborhood as he came to understand his homosexuality. A memorable aspect of Jenkins’ directing is how he can present the emotions and thoughts of the characters every bit as well in moments without dialogue as scenes with it, displaying a true talent of being able to navigate the minds and feelings of those on screen. Coming-of-age stories may seem very common these days, but Jenkins offered a singular experience with his latest endeavor.




Best Picture: “Arrival”; “Fences”; “Hacksaw Ridge”; “Hell or High Water”; “Hidden Figures”; “La La Land”; “Lion”; “Manchester by the Sea”; “Moonlight”


“La La Land”

Will Win: “La La Land” – Damien Chazelle’s musical came into command of awards seasons ever since it brought home eight wins from the Critics’ Choice Awards. It then achieved a record of seven awards at the Golden Globes a month later, winning in all of its categories. If this success didn’t already make it the frontrunner for Best Picture, its win from the Producers Guild of America Awards for Best Theatrical Motion Picture (an award that’s usually an indicator of who will receive the Oscar for Best Picture) has guaranteed the film will win the biggest prize of the night. The film’s story of a hopeful actress and jazz pianist falling in love in Los Angeles has been embraced by both critics and audiences, and it’s pretty much guaranteed this will win the most coveted prize of the night.



Should Win: “Moonlight” – This year, I had a lot of trouble deciding which movie I feel should win Best Picture, with “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and “Arrival” all pulling me in different directions. So much so, that I attended additional screenings for those films, which allowed me to have them fresh in my mind and compare my thoughts between them. In the end, though, “Moonlight” is who should win. Aside from winning Best Picture from various critics groups, its only big Best Picture win for the major awards shows was at the Golden Globes, where it was named Best Motion Picture – Drama. After that, the chances of “Moonlight” winning Best Picture at the Oscars have dwindled, which is a shame because it was one of the most intimate moviegoing experiences of 2016, with so many factors that worked together flawlessly to bring this story to realization. Just like with Best Director, there’s an outside chance this could win Best Picture, but it’s not very likely. In the end, however, this is the film that deserves the top honor.



The 89th Academy Awards will air this Sunday, February 26, on ABC at 8:30 p.m.



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