by Jason Koenigsberg

If the nominations for this years Academy Awards are any indication, we are all going to get exactly what we expect at this years Oscars. We will probably see La La Land‘s cast and crew dance on stage to accept about 8 or 9 Awards including the top prize of Best Picture. We will see a lot of liberal messages from celebrities followed by applause and safe pot shots at the current politicians in power. However, we are living in a world where in the past year the Cubs have won a World Series, the Cleveland Cavaliers are NBA Champions, The Patriots won the Super Bowl coming back from a 25 point deficit, and Donald Trump is our President. Surprises and upsets have practically become the norm for our nation. That being said, I still think it is highly unlikely we will see an upset at the Academy Awards like we did last year when Morgan Freeman opened the envelope and Spotlight won Best Picture, but you never know. 

So without any further ado, here are Pan and Slam’s predictions for the 89th Academy Awards…


BEST PICTURE la-la-land-reviews



Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land


Manchester by the Sea


What will Win: La La Land

What Should Win: Moonlight

What Could Upset: Nothing…maybe Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea.

With a total of 14 nominations, tying the record set by All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997), it is highly unlikely anything will stop La La Land from winning Best Picture of the Year. If there is an upset, the only films I could foresee pulling off a big shock would be Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea. They are the two most critically acclaimed films of the year and are kind of like the Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential‘s of 2016. Both of those films were heavily praised and won well deserved Oscars in the screenplay and acting categories, yet neither were a realistic challenge to dethrone Titanic from the Academy’s highest honor. La La Land is more of a sure thing than any Best Picture contender of recent years. 


Damien Chazelle


Arrival-Denis Villeneuve

Hacksaw Ridge-Mel Gibson

La La Land-Damien Chazelle

Manchester by the Sea-Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight-Barry Jenkins

What will Win: Damien Chazelle-La La Land

What Should Win: Barry Jenkins-Moonlight

What Could Upset: Barry Jenkins-Moonlight

Winning the DGA Award for Best Director solidified that 32 year old Damien Chazelle will win the Oscar for Best Director, something Martin Scorsese had to wait until his sixties to achieve. Look at him. Doesn’t he look like a kid that just got out of high school? Well he is on the cusp of immortality in the movie industry after making the most crowd pleasing film of 2016 that has been a dominant force during this awards season. The Academy loved his previous film Whiplash (2014) but they seem to love La La Land even more. Plus, it would be a nice gesture for the Academy to honor a young, fresh filmmaker and not the usual older established directors. This can inspire more youthful directors to pursue their art similar to when a young William Friedkin won Best Director for The French Connection back in 1971, helping to usher in a new era in Hollywood. I guess we can mention the other nominees. Barry Jenkins has a shot since Moonlight is unanimously acclaimed and if there is an upset it will go to him. So there is a very small chance we could see the first African-American Academy Award winner for Best Director. Kenneth Lonergan is more likely to win for his screenplay for Manchester by the Sea, and Arrival is probably going to be relegated to winning some of the technical categories. That leaves Mel Gibson and it is ironic that in the year Donald Trump was elected President, the Academy found it in their hearts to publicly display their acceptance to Mr. Gibson by honoring Hacksaw Ridge with Best Picture and Best Director nominations. The nomination itself is his absolution, he has no chance of winning. 


Casey Affleck


Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

What will Win: Casey Affleck-Manchester by the Sea

What Should Win: Casey Affleck-Manchester by the Sea

What Could Upset: Denzel Washington-Fences

Despite recent accusations coming to light of Casey Affleck involving lewd behavior and sexual assault, they do not seem to be growing to the point of concern in the general public consciousness enough to prevent him from losing his front runner status.  He will most likely be taking home Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea. The only real threats that could prevent him from winning are Denzel Washington who directed himself to his best performance in years, or Ryan Gosling if La La Land is so universally loved that it results in him taking home an Oscar for some rather mediocre singing and dancing, but I guess that was part of the charm of his performance in La La Land


Emma Stone


Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

What will Win: Emma Stone-La La Land

What Should Win: Isabelle Huppert-Elle

What Could Upset: Meryl Streep-Florence Foster Jenkins

I would love to see French Actress Isabelle Huppert win for her bold and daring work in Elle, which I thought was the best performance by any actor in 2016, but I know that is not going to happen. Her character was too unlikeable and it is the foreign films only nomination. The Academy loves giving Best Actress to ingenues. Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love, Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook and last year Brie Larson for Room. They all won in their twenties and the stars seem to be aligned for Emma Stone to follow in their path. She was perfectly charming in La La Land so much so that I think it would have been hard to imagine another actress in that part. Ruth Negga could benefit if there is still some backlash from last years #Oscarssowhite movement, but I think all of that went to Hidden Figures with its Best Picture nomination. Natalie Portman already won Best Actress and Jackie does not seem to be generating much buzz among voters. That leaves Meryl Streep and another very dark horse shot at winning her fourth Oscar in a record twenty nominations. The only reason I say she could upset is if liberal Hollywood wants to send a message to Donald Trump and wants to hear her give another politically charged acceptance speech. It’s possible, but not very probable. 


Mahershala Ali


Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

What will Win: Mahershala Ali-Moonlight

What Should Win: Jeff Bridges-Hell or High Water

What Could Upset: Michael Shannon-Nocturnal Animals

Speaking of great acceptance speeches, I think Mahershala Ali confirmed his front runner status with a very memorable acceptance speech at the SAG Awards where he won Best Supporting Actor and talked about love, tolerance and acceptance as a Muslim American actor. His win would send enough of a message to Trump if he gives a similarly themed speech. I would love to see Jeff Bridges win for his heartfelt and surprisingly hilarious turn as a Texas sheriff after bank robbers in Hell or High Water. Since he is the only previous winner in this category and judging by the nominations and front runners the Academy is probably going to want to honor fresh talent that is new to the winners circle. Lucas Hedges stole a lot of scenes in Manchester by the Sea, but most of the conversations seem to be focused on Casey Affleck. I would not mind seeing Lucas Hedges win but it seems unlikely. Dev Patel had his breakout role in Slumdog Millionaire (2008) which was an Oscar favorite and took home Best Picture. This is his first nomination and he has a slight chance to become the first Indian actor to win an Oscar (Ben Kingsley won for 1982’s Gandhi but he is half Indian and half British). That leaves Michael Shannon who again not only stole the show in Nocturnal Animals as he did in his previously nominated performance for Revolutionary Road (2008), he practically saved another mediocre melodrama from being an afterthought in most Oscar voters minds. Many people agree Michael Shannon is one of the best actors working today and they could choose this years Oscars as a chance to honor him. 


Viola Davis


Viola Davis, Fences

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

What will Win: Viola Davis-Fences

What Should Win: Naomie Harris-Moonlight

What Could Upset: Michelle Williams-Manchester by the Sea

Viola Davis is the front runner here and if you follow the whole “it’s their time” theory, with previous nominations for Doubt (2008) and The Help (2011), she could win for her outstanding work as a long suffering wife in Fences. That same theory could also apply to Michelle Williams who has three previous nominations for Brokeback Mountain (2005), Blue Valentine (2010) and My Week with Marilyn (2011). However, I think race will actually be a factor in this category with three of the nominated actresses being African-American, the Academy may want to select a winner of color and that will play heavily in the favor of Viola Davis. Also, Michelle Williams was impeccable in her role in Manchester by the Sea, but it was possibly too brief to win recognition. Her part basically boiled down to one heart-wrenching scene and she nailed it. I do not know if that will be enough for her to take home an Oscar on the big night. Nicole Kidman and Octavia Spencer already have bald gold men on their shelves at home, I do not think that the Academy will choose to honor them a second time. That leaves Naomie Harris who was incredible and barely recognizable in her small role. But even though she might have race on her side, she has a similar problem to Michelle Williams. Her part in Moonlight might have been too small to compete against some of the heavy lifting Viola Davis had to do carrying scenes on her own in Fences

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY) manchester-by-the-sea_poster_goldposter_com_1

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

What will Win: Manchester by the Sea

What Should Win: Hell or High Water

What Could Upset: La La Land

This is a two way race if there ever was one. As much as I would love to see Hell or High Water take home this award, its chances of winning are very slim. At least it has a Best Picture nomination. The Lobster and 20th Century Women do not even have that. The nomination is their award. So that leaves the dramatic and depressing Manchester by the Sea versus the feel-goodness of all the singing and dancing and bright colors in La La Land. Plus when was the last time an original musical motion picture dominated the American consciousness? Kenneth Lonergan’s script for Manchester by the Sea was the front runner back  when it first premiered in theaters. But then La La Land started dominating every category at every award show. I still think Manchester by the Sea has a slight edge to win, but it is ever so slight. I also realize it is very silly calling La La Land the pick to upset with its fourteen nominations. Let’s put it this way, Manchester by the Sea has a 51% chance of winning here and La La Land has a 49% chance of taking home the gold. 

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)moonlight-quoteposter-web-768x1112



Hidden Figures



What will Win: Moonlight

What Should Win: Moonlight

What Could Upset: Lion

This is Moonlight‘s award to lose. Granted it is up against four other Best Picture Nominees, however none are as universally acclaimed as Moonlight. They all have a chance to win but I think each one has something holding it back. Arrival will suffer from being labeled a sci-fi film and that seriously hinders its chances of winning. Fences and Hidden Figures could both benefit from being predominantly African-American pictures but so could Moonlight. Unless the Academy becomes homophobic during the voting process I think Moonlight will most likely win over those two films even though Fences has the prestige of being an award winning play and Hidden Figures has the biggest box office total of all the nominees. Lion could sneak out from under and win but the script was a fairly straight forward narrative of an incredible true story. Lion seems like more of an accomplishment of directing and acting than writing. 

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM movie_poster_zootopia_866a1bf2

Kubo and the Two Strings


My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle


What will Win: Zootopia

What Should Win: Zootopia

What Could Upset: Kubo and the Two Strings

They all have a chance to win except for the Zucchini movie. The Red Turtle is building up a lot of love from audiences in limited release right now. Moana was a big hit, but Zootopia was an even bigger hit with children and adults alike. Kubo and the Two Strings was a smaller hit but is certainly beloved by those that have seen it. Zootopia is the safest bet to win here, but is very far from a sure thing. 



La La Land




What will Win: La La Land

What Should Win: Moonlight

What Could Upset: Arrival

I would love to see Silence win its sole Oscar nomination but there is a better chance of Hillary Clinton winning the presidency in 2020. All of these films had outstanding cinematography, except for the ugly and muddled dark look of Arrival, yet even here in a technical category it could easily win. I thought the blue essence in Moonlight‘s cinematography was outstanding and would select that if I had a vote, but I know some that thought it was too heavy handed. Lion also featured beautiful cinematography but it is tough to pick any of these against the Academy favorite La La Land

COSTUME DESIGN la-la-land-poster


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins


La La Land

What will Win: La La Land

What Should Win: La La Land

What Could Upset: Jackie

The same could be said here for La La Land. The colorful costumes and cinematography complemented each other so well. It is hard to tell if it was an accomplishment of great photography, great costumes or both. I could possibly see the Academy being swayed by Jackie with its realistic replication of costumes that most Americans remember and are familiar with. 

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)oj-made-in-america-30-for-30

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America


What will Win: O.J.: Made in America

What Should Win: O.J.: Made in America

What Could Upset: 13th

Another category that is racially charged. Three of these documentaries deal with racism in America. Of those three, O.J.: Made in America is clearly the best. It was on many film and television critics best of the year lists and provided tremendous insight into the trial that gripped a nation as much informing us about everything leading up to the Simpson case and its aftermath. The Academy could also decide to honor Ava DuVernay after they shut her out of the Best Director category two years ago for Selma with her powerful documentary 13th

FILM EDITING la-la-land-reviews


Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land


What will Win: La La Land

What Should Win: Hell or High Water

What Could Upset: Moonlight

Hell or High Water, La La Land and Moonlight all have superb editing. I would go with the one that was edited at a riveting pace (that would be Hell or High Water). But that is not what always wins the Oscar. La La Land is the safe bet but I would not be surprised if any of these films take home the Oscar. 


Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman


Toni Erdmann

What will Win: Toni Erdmann

What Should Win: Toni Erdmann

What Could Upset: The Salesman

A shame that Elle was not eligible to be nominated in this category. Toni Erdmann is clearly the best of the nominees especially considering how original and unique it is. The recent announcement that Jack Nicholson will be coming out of retirement for the American remake of this film boosts its chances. But The Salesman could win because of the political tensions surrounding it and how Trump’s travel ban prevents its Iranian director from coming to the Awards. 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING star-trek-beyond-poster-fan-screening

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad

What will Win: Star Trek Beyond

Could easily be any one of these. 

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)la-la-land-poster


La La Land




What will Win: La La Land

It would seem foolish that the Academy would honor another movie in this category, but stranger things have happened. 

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG) la-la-land-reviews

“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

What will Win: La La Land (either one)

Does it really matter which song from La La Land wins? The same people are nominated for both of them. As much as America loves Lin-Manuel Miranda and he can win Tony’s for Hamilton, he is not going to win an Oscar, at least not yet. 

PRODUCTION DESIGN la-la-land-reviews


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land


What will Win: La La Land 

Once again La La Land is the favorite, but I would not be surprised if any of the other nominees except for Passengers takes home this award. 

SOUND EDITING arrivalteaseronline


Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land


What will Win: Arrival

I think this is Arrival‘s best chance to take home an Oscar and stop the dominant La La Land.

SOUND MIXING la-la-land-reviews


Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

What will Win: La La Land 

Sound Editing Oscars usually go to big blockbusters. Sound Mixing Oscars usually go to the film where musical harmony is key. If that trend continues, La La Land is a lock to win here. 

VISUAL EFFECTS jungle-book-2016

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

What will Win: The Jungle Book

Even though it came out last spring and is up against another more recent Disney movie with bigger box office totals, I think The Jungle Book with its stunning effects is likely to emerge victorious over Rogue One which went minimal on the effects for a Star Wars movie. 



4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets

What will Win: Extremis

No idea here. Your guess is as good as mine.

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED) piper-pixar-short

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes



What will Win: Piper

I’ll go with Pixar here. It is the one most people have seen since it came before Finding Dory

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) sing-live-action-short

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights



What will Win: Sing

I picked this because maybe some Academy voters will think it was the animated feature Sing that came out in December. 

So there you have it. Watch the Oscars Sunday Night Feb. 26th to see how well my predictions were. 

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