And the Oscars (could) go to…

By: Taylor DeVille, Associate Arts & Life Editor

Compared to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite, this year’s nominations are a marked improvement in diversity. Say what you want about Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs (although I can’t help but wonder what took so long)—she delivered on her promise to select more diverse Academy membership, bringing in 683 new Academy members (46 percent women and 41 percent people of color). If you’re like me, you haven’t had the time (or money) to see most of the Oscar nominations—but that’s okay, because political analyst Nate Silver’s polling aggregation website FiveThirtyEight has an algorithm to predict the most likely winners—personal feelings about Emma Stone’s mediocre performance and Casey Affleck’s history of alleged sexual assault aside (who says journalism’s not objective), here are the most likely winners of the 89th Academy Awards.


Best Motion Picture
Most likely to win: “La La Land”
Arguably the whitest of the nominees, this modern musical has been sweeping awards this season–it made history by tying with “All About Eve” (1950) and “Titanic” (1997) for the most nominations ever for one film–14. “La La Land” follows aspiring actress Mia and struggling jazz musician Sebastian chasing their dreams in present-day Los Angeles with a vintage, old-Hollywood style.

Best Director
Most likely to win: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”

According to FiveThirtyEight, 84 percent of the winners of the “feature film” category at the Directors Guild awards have gone on to win the Academy Award for best director over the past 25 years. At 31 years old, Chazelle is the youngest person ever to win Best Director at the Golden Globes. His second film “Whiplash was nominated for five Academy Awards last year and won three.

Best Actor
Most likely to win: Casey Affleck, “Manchester By the Sea”
Despite sexual harassment allegations, Affleck won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for Best Actor. The most accurate predictor for this category is the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) pick for best actor, who has won the Academy nomination for 18 out of the past 22 years, according to FiveThirtyEight–which Denzel Washington won.

Best Actress
Most likely to win: Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Stone’s wins at the Golden Globes, SAG and BAFTAs have stirred criticism online about her “mediocre” performance. If the Academy wanted to shake things up, they might select French actress Isabelle Huppert for her role as Michele Leblanc in “Elle.” Although the movie was snubbed for a Best Foreign Film nomination at the Oscars, Huppert has been receiving recognition for her stunning performance as a complex businesswoman who hunts down her rapist.  

Best Supporting Actor
Most likely to win: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Although Ali is the projected winner, FiveThirtyEight admits that Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Golden Globes win “threw a wrench” in their predictions, seeing as Taylor-Johnson didn’t even get an Oscar nomination. You might have seen Ali in “Hidden Figures,” as the infamous gangster Cottonmouth in Marvel’s Netflix series “Luke Cage,” or in his Emmy-nominated role as lobbyist-turned-White House Chief of Staff Remy Danton in “House of Cards.” In “Moonlight,” Ali moved audiences as Juan, a drug dealer who takes the fatherless young boy Little under his wing.

Best Supporting Actress
Most likely to win: Viola Davis, “Fences”
According to FiveThirtyEight’s scoring algorithm, Davis is the projected winner by over 150 points. I’m not sure anyone would argue that Davis didn’t deserve every one of her Critics’ Choice, SAG and BAFTA wins for her role as the dutiful but tough Rose Maxson (alongside Washington, who played her husband Troy) in Washington’s “Fences,” based on playwright August Wilson’s play by the same name.

Best Animated Feature
Most likely to win: “Zootopia”
This one might be tough to call between “Zootopia” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.” “Zootopia,” a story with notable (but somewhat confusing) social commentary about discrimination, follows anthropomorphic bunny Judy Hopps and fox Nick Wilde as they track down missing animals and uncover a nefarious plot to make predators “go savage.” “Zootopia” was awarded Best Animated Feature by American Cinema Editors and the Annie Awards, but “Kubo” won the BAFTA category.

Best Documentary
Most likely to win: “OJ: Made in America”
This category is hard to call because pre-Oscar awards don’t work well as a predictor. The Producers Guild and American Cinema Editors awarded best documentary to “OJ: Made in America,” directed by Ezra Edelman about the life and career of OJ Simpson. Although it might be just as likely that BAFTA category winner “13th,” about the intersection of race and mass incarceration in the U.S and directed by Ava DuVernay, could just as easily win.

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