MOVIE BUFF-ET: Oscar Predictions: La La Land set for a big night at the Oscars

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in “La La Land”

Photo: Dale Robinette / Lionsgate

The 89th Academy Awards ceremony will likely be a coronation for director Damien Chazzelle’s “La La Land,” based on much of the buzz surrounding the event.

The event will be televised by ABC at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The Oscar preshow airs at 6 p.m.

The musical, featuring the love story of a jazz musician and an actress attempting to make their career dreams come true in Los Angeles, garnered 14 Oscar nominations, tying it for most in the Academy Award history with 1950’s “All About Eve” and 1997’s “Titanic.”

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Neither of those films swept all their categories, and “La La Land” probably won’t either, but it will be interesting to see how well the film does, and what other movies vie for the spotlight.

“Ben-Hur” (1959) “Titanic” (1997) and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003) each won 11 Oscars to tie for the most wins by a single movie. With a big night “La La Land” could challenge or even top those totals.

Last year was solid for movies at the box office and in terms of quality, but according to Academy nominations, the highest grossing films weren’t among the best.

The top-five highest grossing films domestically — “Star Wars: Rouge One,” “Finding Dory,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “The Jungle Book,” — last year only received a total of three nominations and none in the major categories.

So if you haven’t seen some or any of the nominated films, you’re not alone.

The highest grossing film domestically nominated for Best Picture is “Hidden Figures,” which ranked 18th at the box office. “La La Land” ranked 20th. If it does as expected at the Oscars, “La La Land” should get a box-office bump to push it past “Hidden Figures.”

Well, enough with the facts and stats, and on with the Predictions.

Best Picture

“La La Land” / Lionsgate

“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Hidden Figures”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”

“La La Land” is a well-made movie about Hollywood up for an award voted on by people who work in Hollywood. It’s a shoo-in. I thought the movie was only O.K. Of the nominated films, “Hidden Figures” and “Hell or High Water” are my favorites, but I also like all the other films except “Arrival” better than “La La Land.”

Will Win: “La La Land”
Should Win: “Hidden Figures”
Dark Horse: No use in mentioning one


“La La Land” / Lionsgate

Denis Villeneuve for “Arrival”
Mel Gibson for “Hacksaw Ridge”
Damien Chazelle for “La La Land”
Kenneth Longergan for “Manchester by the Sea”
Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight”

Chazelle’s going to win for “La La Land.” If someone were to edge him out, I’d have to pick Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight.” However, of the five nominated, my pick would be Kenneth Longergan for “Manchester by the Sea.”

Will Win: Damien Chazelle for “La La Land”
Should Win: Kenneth Longergan for “Manchester by the Sea”
Dark Horse: Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight”

Actor in a Leading Role

Denzel Washington in “Fences” / Paramount Pictures

Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

It’s Denzel Washington’s year to win, and he was great in “Fences,” a film he also directed. I personally think Casey Affleck’s performance in “Manchester by the Sea” was slightly better. I would be disappointed if Ryan Gosling wins for “La La Land,” but he is a fine actor.

Will Win: Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Should Win: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dark Horse: Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”

Actress in a Leading Role

Emma Stone in “La La Land” / Lionsgate

Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Natalie Portman has the showiest and juiciest part in “Jackie,” portraying Jacqueline Kennedy during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and in the days leading up to and just after his burial. However, I really didn’t care for the performance. Emma Stone’s performance was the best thing about “La La Land.” This could be a toss-up.

Will Win: Emma Stone for “La La Land”
Should Win: Emma Stone for “La La Land”
Dark Horse: Natalie Portman in “Jackie”

Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight” / Plan B Entertainment

Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

This may be the best category. I wouldn’t be disappointed whatever happened, but Mahershala Ali is very talented, and he shines in “Moonlight.” There also seems to be a lot of talk around Michael Shannon in “Nocturnal Animals.” He’s good in the film, but I think he’s been better in others. Watch out for young Lucas Hedges who is very good in “Manchester by the Sea.” He doesn’t have a chance this year, but maybe some day.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Should Win: Mahershal Ali, “Moonlight”
Dark Horse: Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”

Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis in “Fences” / Paramount Pictures

Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

This is another solid category. Viola Davis is a force of nature in “Fences,” and I think it’s her night. However, Michelle Williams in the perfect counterpoint to Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea,” and she really makes the movie pivot. Octavia Spencer is also very good in “Hidden Figures.”

Will Win: Viola Davis, “Fences”
Should Win: Viola Davis, “Fences”
Dark Horse: Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”

Animated Feature Film

“Zootopia” / Walt Disney Animated Studios

“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”

Some would argue that Best Picture is Best Picture, and there shouldn’t be categories like Best Animated or Best Foreign films. I get that, but I like the categories, and I’d add awards for best comedy, and best male and female comedy performance too. But I digress. “Zootopia” is my pick, and it seems to be a slight favorite over “Kubo and the Two Strings.” “Zootopia” had a solid detective story, a lot of heart, and a social conscience. And, oh yeah, it was funny. But “Kubo and the Two Strings” is a beautifully animated adventure movie that is well deserving of any and all accolades it receives. It’s a difficult choice, but I think “Zootoptia” pulled off the tougher task by making a compelling animated mystery.

Will Win: “Zootopia”
Should Win: “Zootopia”
Dark Horse: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Music (Original Score)

“La La Land” / Lionsgate

“La La Land”

Come on, “La La Land” was made for this category. How can it not win?

Will Win: “La La Land”
Should Win: “La La Land”
Dark Horse: Not worth mentioning

Music (Original Song)

“La La Land” / Lionsgate

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from “Trolls”
Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
“City Of Stars” from “La La Land”
Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story”
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting
“How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”
Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

I contend the best original song of the year wasn’t nominated in “You’re Welcome,” written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and sung by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson from “Moana.” But it doesn’t really matter “City of Stars” from “La La Land” is going to win.

Will Win: “City Of Stars” from “La La Land”
Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Should Win: “City Of Stars” from “La La Land”
Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Dark Horse: “Can’t Stop The Feeling” from “Trolls”
Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster