With a little more than a week to go until Oscar night — and voting for Academy members set to close Tuesday — EW is here to provide our best guesses for how things are going to shake out come Feb. 26. Now that most of the guilds (Producers, Directors, and Actors) have voted, we are expecting few surprises on the big night. Fourteen-time nominee La La Land should wind up the big winner, with a lot of love going to the performances from Fences. Read on for our take, and download our ballot here to cast your own votes.
Best Picture: La La Land
One could argue that La La Land was crowned the Best Picture winner back in September when Tom Hanks told a crowd at the Telluride Film Festival that the movie was “brand new” and something “that you can’t imagine.” Since then, the $30 million musical has raked in more than $125 million in North American theaters and danced its way into almost every chamber of the Academy’s heart, scoring trophies from the Directors Guild and the Producers Guild. There is some red on the La La Land ledger — it failed to land a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Best Ensemble, a nominal requirement for best picture winners over the last two decades, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has some issues with it — but that probably won’t stop its waltz to the podium.
Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
His visual storytelling prowess, the authentic performances he culled from stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and the ability to cut between soaring musical numbers and grounded emotional moments make Damien Chazelle’s work on La La Land worthy of a Best Director statuette. Though there’s strong work from each nominee, they are unlikely to top the 32-year-old wunderkind, who would become the youngest Best Director winner ever. The only real threat is Barry Jenkins for his rich, restrained Moonlight.
Best Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences
Casey Affleck’s poignant restraint in Manchester by the Sea was easily the performance of the year. But the continued headlines and questions about his past sexual harrassement allegations (which Affleck has denied) may have caught up with the star in 2017. His Oscar chances took a big hit after Denzel Washington won best actor at the SAG Awards last month, and while Affleck rebounded slighty with a win at last weekend’s BAFTA Awards (albeit not against Washington, who failed to earn a nomination for best actor from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts), the Fences star has all the momentum heading into Feb. 26.
Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land
It’s been a fine year for women in film. From Ruth Negga’s quiet resolve in Loving to Natalie Portman’s searing anguish in Jackie, the Best Actress field is packed with complex, nuanced characters. But the real race is between Isabelle Huppert for her dark, morally murky role in Elle and Emma Stone for her bittersweet, love-affirming performance in La La Land. Stone has the edge. There’s been a growing appreciation from the Academy that what she made look easy demanded real talent and precision. Plus, she’s the only actress whose movie is also nominated for Best Picture. And this year, that should matter.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Lucas Hedges felt brand new in Manchester By the Sea. Jeff Bridges played a racist old cowboy with aplomb in Hell or High Water. Michael Shannon stole every scene he could in Nocturnal Animals. And Dev Patel was riveting in Lion. But the statue is going to Mahershala Ali. Not only did he infuse Moonlight’s Juan with warmth and humanity, but his presence is felt long after he’s left the screen.
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
Viola. Viola. Viola. She might have won in the Best Actress category had she gone for it, but running in this field may ensure her the win. The three-time nominee never makes a false move as the heart of Fences. Her biggest competition comes from Michelle Williams’ equally heartbreaking performance in Manchester by the Sea, whose brief moments on screen ache with long-lived loss.
The 89th annual Academy Awards will take place in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 26.