Who will win at the 2017 Oscars?
This is the third iteration – the third edition, if you will – of our predictions, and there have been certain… recalibrations of opinion. That’s because we’re allowed to change our mind about 2016’s best films – we’re entitled to make use of the perspective that a few months has afforded us.
The Academy is not allowed. The Academy is not entitled. Any piffling mistake they make is enshrined forever in their own archives; any major mistake discredits them forever and ever. It’s this possibility for eternal humiliation that makes the Oscars such high-stakes viewing. For those who can stay awake.
So it’s with the inestimable benefit of future retraction and erasure that we give you our ‘final’ predictions for the Oscars 2017. This is exactly how the world’s glitziest and most expensive awards show will pan out. Unless it doesn’t, in which case we reserve the right to change our minds again.
Who will win... Emma Stone
We've been banging on for ages about how Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are the best onscreen couple in recent years, and if we're being honest (sorry Ryan) that's mostly due to Stone's performance. The fact that she's not quite as accomplished a singer as Gosling – her husky voice can't reach the high notes – matters not at all. She's never less than lovely to watch.
Why she'll win: Because her eyes are approximately 1/5 bigger than standard human eyes, and the effect on Academy judges is potent and possibly subliminal.
Who should win... Natalie Portman
We'll forgo any major tantrums if Emma Stone takes Best Actress. We'll be happy for her (and genuinely so, not like the other nominees, applauding with venomous enthusiasm). But if there's any justice in this crazy world, the statuette should end up in Natalie Portman's downstairs loo.
Portman has a perfume-advert prettiness that sometimes borders on the simpering, but throughout a varied career she's done an impressive job of finding roles that justify her talents rather than her looks – for every No Strings Attached and Thor, there's a Closer or a Black Swan. Her Jackie Kennedy is her greatest achievement, a mercurial performance that naturally dominates Pablo Larraìn's biopic.
Why she should win: Because she does something that's managed by very few biopics of iconic figures – she convinces us that her character (Jackie Kennedy) is a three-dimensional human being rather than a public entity to be impersonated.
Who will win... Casey Affleck
Casey Affleck is essentially a tough, mean-looking version of big brother Ben, and apparently this has been enough to propel him to critical acclaim instead of terrible superhero films and mocking Internet LOLs. Perhaps he'll win by simply glaring at the Academy's voters until, cowering, they relent. In any case, Affleck 2 is a determined-looking man, and we'd be surprised if he didn't manage to wrestle himself a statuette on the evening in question.
Why he'll win: Because he's genuinely good, even if sexual harassment allegations mean that victory will be unquestionably tainted.
Who should win... Denzel Washington
What can't Denzel Washington do? He can't tap dance, like Ryan Gosling sort-of can. He can't pout like Natalie Portman, probably. But – by god – he can do everything else. Top of his CV is acting and directing, and the super-serious Fences demonstrates these skills to the highest degree, with perhaps the former ability slightly topping the latter. Mr Washington's film might be a smidge worthy, a dash stagey, but the man himself is nothing less than ultra-magnetic whenever he's onscreen.
Why he should win: The last Oscar won by Denzel was in 2002, for Training Day. Before that, he won a 'Best Supporting' for Glory in 1990. Like a San Francisco earthquake, the man is simply overdue. He's a fiery mountain-god that needs appeasing every few decades. Give this acting titan the gold, Academy Awards, before he wreaks titanic thespian justice down upon us all!
Who will win... La La Land
What else could it be? Sure, LGBT masterpiece Moonlight has received incredibly strong praise, and Manchester by the Sea is the kind of good all-rounder that Spotlight was last year, but we'd be reluctant to put our money behind anything other than Damien Chazelle's musical.
You could point to 2012 winner The Artist and argue that Hollywood loves a playful movie about Hollywood – 'La La Land' itself – but that doesn't entirely explain the gut feeling we have that La La Land is going to pirouette away with the evening's most coveted award; there's something terribly infectious about it, something so clever, captivating, and (dare we say it) magical, that we're more sure about this prediction than any other on this list.
Why it will win: Because Hollywood loves a movie that 100% reinforces its own myths of self-reinvention and eternal glamour. And it's super super hummable.
Who should win... Moonlight
You don't watch Moonlight. You catch it, like the flu. On your way out of the cinema you feel basically fine, but complain of a mild dizziness and aching bones. That night you suffer from extraordinary dreams that you mostly forget by morning. Over the next few days, though, you feel heavier and heavier until you call in sick to work, and spend all afternoon looking at your own hands. Your mother phones to ask if you're all right, but you don't remember calling her (she says you were in tears). By the end of the fortnight you're forced to admit that Moonlight may have taken some emotional toll on you.
Why it should win: We've been cheerleading pretty hard for La La Land, and its victory is more or less assured. But a 'Best Picture' win for Chazelle's film won't shift the world on its axis one damn inch, and in these dark days some world-axis-shifting is probably needed. Moonlight is the film for the job. It's also effing brilliant.