Predicting the Oscar winners

PHOTO: A scene from "La La Land," released by Lionsgate, featuring Ryan Gosling, right, and Emma Stone.PlayDale Robinette/Lionsgate via AP Photo
WATCH Big night Oscar Buzz

"La La Land" is the first film in years to dominate Academy Award nominations with a record-tying 14 nods, but the question remains how many Oscars will the film take home when the awards are handed out Sunday.

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"One of the big questions of the night will be how many Oscars is it going to win?" Yahoo! Movies senior editor Kevin Polowy told ABC News. "Could it break the record at 11?"

"La La Land" is one of only three films, along with 1950's "All About Eve" and 1997's "Titanic," to earn 14 nominations. As for the most Academy Awards won by a single film, three films are tied with 11 Oscars each: "Titanic," 1959's "Ben-Hur" and 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Whether it breaks the record, Polowy predicts that "La La Land" will definitely be the night's big winner, scooping up music and technical awards as well as some of the major categories.

Another sure bet Sunday night will be some winners of color in the acting categories.

"After two years of #OscarsSoWhite, you're going to see a much different Oscars this year," he said. "This was a really good year for films with people of color."

It's also possible that for the first time, there could be three black winners in the acting categories.

"It's going to be very refreshing to see at least two of the four acting races are going to be black winners," Polowy said, predicting that Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis will take home statuettes. "I also think Denzel Washington is going to pull an upset. We could see some history being made."

The other thing we should see plenty of are political speeches.

"If people thought the Oscars were political before, they haven't seen anything yet," Polowy said. "It will be surprising when there's a speech without some mention of Trump or politics or what's happening in the U.S. or abroad."

With a number of films that deal with major social and political issues, and some nominees affected by Trump administration policies, Polowy said the political speeches will probably happen "pretty organically."

Besides world and social politics, Oscar politics are likely to be at work as well when Sunday's winners are announced.

Take a look at Polowy's predictions for who will win the Oscar when the 89th Academy Awards are broadcast on ABC Sunday night:

Best actor

Here is a category where Oscar politics could play a role. Affleck was the early favorite for most of the award season, but Polowy thinks the "tide has turned" away from him.

"I've seen a quiet build of backlash against Casey Affleck because of these charges [of sexual harassment] lodged against him," Polowy explained, referring to the 2010 lawsuits brought against Affleck by two women who worked with him on the film "I’m Still Here."

Affleck, who denies the allegations, ended up settling the suits for an undisclosed amount the same year, but the issue resurfaced last year during the awards season. "From what I've gathered a lot of voters will have a tough time voting for him," Polowy said.

For that reason, Polowy gives the edge to Washington, who is beloved in Hollywood and gave one of the year's top acting performances in "Fences." He was also the surprise winner at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

"That helped us gauge that Affleck was susceptible to losing the Oscar," Polowy said.

PREDICTED WINNER: Denzel Washington

Best actress

Even with Stone going in as the favorite, Polowy said there are at least four actresses in this category who stand a "halfway decent chance" of winning. The fifth, Negga, gave an amazing performance in "Loving," but Polowy said she was "already on the bubble to begin with."

Meanwhile, Huppert, the Golden Globe winner, probably stands the best chance of upsetting Stone for the win. He cites other actors in foreign language films who have had surprise wins at the Oscars: Roberto Benigni, Marion Cotillard and Jean Dujardin.

Portman also stands an outside chance for "Jackie," though she did win an Oscar just six years ago. Then again, you can't count out Streep or "call her underrated," Polowy said, referring to President Trump's description of her after she criticized him during her Golden Globes keynote speech.

"Meryl Streep might just get some votes because people want to see her take down Trump again," he said.

In the end, though, he believes Stone will prevail. "She is the heart and soul of 'La La Land.' She leaves her comfort zone to sing and dance and gives an emotionally layered performance," he said. "And she's actually due. She should have won for 'Birdman' a few years ago."


Best 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"

Polowy calls Shannon his personal pick. "It was one of my favorite performances of the year, but the movie fell under the radar a bit," he said of "Nocturnal Animals." "Michael Shannon steals the whole movie."

That said, it's Ali's year, Polowy said. "He's not in 'Moonlight' for that long, but he has this lasting presence over the film." He also left a lasting impression on academy voters when he won the SAG award and gave an emotional, introspective speech about playing an unconventional character and being a Muslim.

"That night I think he locked up the Oscars," Polowy said.


Best actress in a supporting role

  • Viola Davis — "Fences"
  • Naomie Harris — "Moonlight"
  • Nicole Kidman — "Lion"
  • Octavia Spencer — "Hidden Figures"
  • Michelle Williams — "Manchester by the Sea"

Polowy calls this the easiest of the four acting categories to predict. After three Oscar nominations, Davis, who has been scooping up awards all season, will take home her first Oscar.

"She owns the single greatest acting moment of the year," he said.


Best directing

  • Damien Chazelle — "La La Land"
  • Mel Gibson — "Hacksaw Ridge"
  • Barry Jenkins — "Moonlight"
  • Kenneth Lonergan — "Manchester by the Sea"
  • Denis Villeneuve — "Arrival"

In 25 of the last 30 years, the best director and best picture Oscars have been in tandem. In other words, the best director Oscar usually goes to the person who directs the best picture Oscar winner. But in recent years there has been a split, and Polowy predicts that will happen again Sunday with the year's two best films, "La La Land" and "Moonlight."

While Chazelle did wonders bringing the musical back to the big screen, Polowy believes Jenkins will win the Oscar for best director for his "beautifully shot, wistful and tender" "Moonlight."

Whether it's Chazelle or Jenkins who wins, both could make history: Jenkins as the first black person to win the Oscar for best director and Chazelle as the youngest to win.


Best picture

  • "Arrival"
  • "Fences"
  • "Hacksaw Ridge"
  • "Hell or High Water"
  • "Hidden Figures"
  • "La La Land"
  • "Lion"
  • "Manchester by the Sea"
  • "Moonlight"

That leaves "La La Land" as the favorite for best picture. "You have to assume with that many nominations, it's going to win best picture," Polowy said. "It's still considered the movie of the year."

There's always the possibility that "Moonlight" could win, or even that "Hidden Figures" would pull an upset. "If there's any film's stock that has raised the most since the nominations, it's 'Hidden Figures.'"