Surprise, stunner, upset — those are three words you probably won’t hear much at this year’s Oscars. Here are three words you’ll probably hear a lot: “La La Land.”
Since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last August, “La La Land” has been hailed as a shoo-in for the Academy Award for best picture. Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as two starry-eyed Los Angelinos, “La La Land” went on to become a critical smash, a $290 million success worldwide and an awards-season juggernaut, earning a record-breaking seven Golden Globes in January. It goes into the Oscars with an impressive 14 nominations — one of only three films ever to do so.
Alright, but what about the other movies? There are nine best picture contenders, you know, and many other acting nominees besides Gosling and Stone. “Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins’ film about a gay African-American man growing up in Miami, has an impressive eight nominations, as does “Arrival,” a science-fiction drama starring Amy Adams as a translator for an alien species. “Jackie,” starring Syosset’s Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy, and “Manchester by the Sea,” starring Casey Affleck as a troubled loner, could each steal an Oscar from “La La Land.” There’s also some unusual excitement in the foreign language category, where the Iranian drama “The Salesman” has become a political football. Its director, Asghar Farhadi, is boycotting the Oscars to protest America’s recent travel ban against his country and others.
Here’s our list of this year’s likely winners, along with shout-outs to the ones who may not get the gold they deserve. It’s “La La Land’s” world — we just live in it.
- “Hacksaw Ridge”
- “Hell or High Water”
- “Hidden Figures”
- “La La Land”
- “Manchester by the Sea”
WHO SHOULD WIN “Moonlight.” It’s become known as the year’s “other” movie — meaning, it’s about someone other than most of us — but it’s really a universal story about growing up, searching for happiness and finding love.
WHO WILL WIN “La La Land.” There’s certainly no arguing with this nostalgic musical’s visual panache and charismatic stars. Having won almost everything else, it seems sure to grab the top Oscar as well.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
- Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
- Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
- Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
- Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
- Denzel Washington, “Fences”
WHO SHOULD WIN Affleck. This is one of those how-does-he-do-it performances, thoroughly convincing and seemingly effortless.
WHO WILL WIN Affleck. Unflattering headlines about past sexual harassment charges won’t be enough to stop the actor’s momentum in this category.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
- Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
- Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
- Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
- Dev Patel, “Lion”
- Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”
WHO SHOULD WIN Ali. This slender, distinctive-looking actor is on-screen only briefly in “Moonlight,” but his character — a drug-dealer with a paternal streak — haunts the entire film.
WHO WILL WIN Ali.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
- Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
- Ruth Negga, “Loving”
- Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
- Emma Stone, “La La Land”
- Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
WHO SHOULD WIN Negga. The little-known Irish-Ethiopian actress is quietly convincing as an American Southerner fighting anti-miscegenation laws during the 1960s. She’s the heart and soul of a very underrated movie.
WHO WILL WIN Portman. Though not all reviews for “Jackie” were positive, the consensus seemed to be that Portman delivered a powerful performance as one of America’s most beloved figures.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
- Viola Davis, “Fences”
- Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
- Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
- Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
- Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
WHO SHOULD WIN Davis. As the long-suffering wife of an overbearing patriarch, Davis gives “Fences” its most emotionally resonant moments. In some ways, she’s the real star of the movie.
WHO WILL WIN Davis.
- Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
- Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
- Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
- Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
- Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
WHO SHOULD WIN Jenkins. Just about everything in “Moonlight” — the moody visuals, the sensitive performances, the evocative soundtrack — points back to Jenkins’ personal vision.
WHO WILL WIN Chazelle. Is it a race thing? Perhaps, but it’s mostly a Hollywood thing. “La La Land” is a young filmmaker’s salute to old-fashioned entertainment, and it’s done with great skill and imagination. You can’t say Chazelle didn’t earn the gold.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
- “Land of Mine,” Denmark
- “A Man Called Ove,” Sweden
- “The Salesman,” Iran
- “Tanna,” Australia
- “Toni Erdmann,” Germany
WHO SHOULD WIN “Toni Erdmann.” This wonderfully weird comedy about an impish father and his uptight daughter has beguiled critics, but it hasn’t been a big seller in the United States. Maybe that’s because it’s in German. And three hours long.
WHO WILL WIN “Toni Erdmann.” Though there’s been some buzz about voting for “The Salesman” as a form of political protest, the German film is simply too audaciously good to ignore.
- “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”
WHO SHOULD WIN “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” The exclamation point tells you how hard this song is trying — and it totally succeeds. With a smooth beat and slick vocals by Justin Timberlake (who wrote it with Max Martin and Shellback), it’s an irresistible disco-pop gem.
WHO WILL WIN “City of Stars.” This yearning, ethereal ballad — an ode to Tinseltown and the young dreamers who call it home — will chalk up yet another win for “La La Land.”