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2017 Oscars: Ballots Are Open, Here are the Close Races

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With nearly all of the major guilds (SAG, DGA, PGA) and industry awards (Golden Globes, BAFTA) under our belts all that’s left is the big one, The Oscars. Voting officially begins today (and lasts for eight days) yet there are still a lot of questions about certain races. Some that seemed solid have opened up, others just don’t have a consensus like the two actress categories.

Best Actor

Early in the season (really early) Denzel Washington (Fences) seemed pretty good on paper to earn his third Oscar. With a Tony for the same role, a push for diversity among nominees and winners and a film legacy unmatched by any other black actor, Washington was the go-to winner. Then critics awards started unrolling and went almost entirely to Manchester by the Sea’s Casey Affleck, despite much-talked about reports of his settled out of court sexual assault history. After earning more than two dozen wins, including when the two went head to head at the Critics’ Choice and the Golden Globes, Affleck swept in and became unstoppable. Until SAG, that is. It’s hard to know how much to read into Washington’s SAG win. Amazingly, despite being a two-time Oscar winner, he had never won there before. His first Oscar win (1989’s Glory) came before the SAG awards and for his second Oscar win (2001’s Training Day) he was bested by Russell Crowe. At first, this reminds me of Meryl Streep winning SAG for 2008’s Doubt. She also had never won there before despite being a two-time Oscar winner (both long before the SAG awards existed) and it was a moment in which to reward her. Hers was an exceptional year of category confusion for Kate Winslet in The Reader who was in supporting at SAG and lead at the Oscars, where she beat Streep. Getting back to Affleck vs Washington, we also have the fact that Affleck just added to his awards’ shelf the BAFTA. Washington wasn’t even nominated there (he’s never been BAFTA-nominated). It nearly looks like another 2008 race, the Best Actor race between Oscar-winner Sean Penn (Milk) vs Hollywood bad boy Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler). Rourke won the Globe and BAFTA, Penn won SAG and then the Oscar. That’s why I keep coming back to the fact that SAGs correlation in the Best Actor race with Oscar is really solid. It’s matched with Oscar 18 out of 22 times so far, including the last 12 in a row. That is a really tough statistic to break but it’s still going to be a nail-biter right until the envelope is opened.

Here’s where The Gold Rush Gang sees the Lead Actor race: http://awardswatch.com/2017-oscar-winner-predictions/

Best Supporting Actor

Everything seemed to be going the way of Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) during critics’ season. Winning over two dozen awards put him in frontrunner status like few others this year. Then that weird win from Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals) happened. We didn’t see it as that big of a deal, the group loved that film. Then SAG happened and Ali won, everything goes back to normal. Then BAFTA happened this weekend and Lion’s Dev Patel upset both Ali and Taylor-Johnson. Now we’re in a slightly similar situation as last year where the top three televised awards went to three different actors. There’s even one of them not nominated for the Oscar (last year, SAG-winner Idris Elba, this year it’s Globe-winner ATJ). Last year, BAFTA proved to be the signifier of where Oscar was going by rewarding Brit Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies). Another Brit won this year, and for a film that was mostly written off until it started hitting guild after guild and its box office went from nothing to noticed. Lion is peaking at exactly the right time for Oscar voters where Moonlight’s has mostly plateaued. SAG isn’t as good as Best Actor, they’ve matched with Oscar 13 out of 22 years So while it feels like Ali is still the leader there’s no discounting that Patel could absolutely come in and take this.

Here’s where The Gold Rush Gang sees the Supporting Actor race: http://awardswatch.com/2017-oscar-winner-predictions/

Best Original Screenplay

This is a fight between La La Land and Manchester by the Sea. No musical has won this category since 1951’s An American in Paris but the clear and overwhelming support of La La Land can’t be underestimated to upend that. With nearly 20 screenplay wins (including BAFTA this weekend), Manchester by the Sea has been the favorite since Moonlight moving to Adapted made it a non-factor. It’s talky and dialogue-heavy, which is what the Academy often likes in their screenplays. The Writers Guild of America makes their decision next weekend but with Moonlight in the mix there, it muddies the waters a bit. What happens if that wins? Barring a full La La Land sweep, Manchester should be able to get this, especially if most voters go with Washington in Actor but want to give something to the film and Kenneth Lonergan.

Here’s where The Gold Rush Gang sees the Original Screenplay race: http://awardswatch.com/2017-oscar-winner-predictions/2/

Best Sound Editing

Again, unless there is a total sweep for La La Land (which really isn’t out of the question) this race is between Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge and it’s a close one. In thinking about the other races these two films, which are both nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, are likely to find Sound Editing their sole win. Meaning, one of these two films will likely go home empty-handed on Oscar night. BAFTA, which only has one sound category, opted for Arrival over Hacksaw Ridge and La La Land (one of its many BAFTA misses). The Motion Picture Sound Editors guild announce their winners on the 19th, which might give us a good idea where this award is headed, especially since both films are nominated in all three MPSE categories. War and sci-fi films tend to do well in sound editing, genres that Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival each represent. War films do a bit better here, though (American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, Letters from Iwo Jima) and that should give Hacksaw Ridge the upper hand.

Here’s where The Gold Rush Gang sees the Sound Editing Race: http://awardswatch.com/2017-oscar-winner-predictions/3/

Best Foreign Language Film

This is tough. Until two weeks ago, Toni Erdmann felt like the safest pick among the nominees. It earned the most recognition of the nominees and even at a length of 162 minutes it still felt like the favorite. Then President Trump’s controversial and unlawful travel ban hit the world, could prevent director Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman) and his cast unable to even attend the Oscars (even with the ban temporarily lifted, travel for many remains difficult). In a year of Hollywood is having to try and secure its own safety as well as be a voice for diversity worldwide, rewarding The Salesman might be exactly a way to do both. Considering that the foreign language film winner is decided on by the entire academy and not just a small committee as it used to be, this makes it even more of a possibility.

Here’s  where The Gold Rush Gang sees the Foreign Language Film race: http://awardswatch.com/2017-oscar-winner-predictions/4/

About Erik Anderson

Erik blames his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched them together since he opened his eyes. They also watched Miss Universe religiously every year (the pageantry!) and Erik came to the conclusion that the combination of these two things ultimately led him down the path to obsessing about awards and ACTRESSING. He began at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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2 comments

  1. ”Original Screenplay: No musical has won this category since 1958’s ‘Gigi’ …”

    ”Gigi” wasn’t up for Original Screenplay; it won for Adapted Screenplay. It’s based on a 1944 novella by Colette. The last musical to win Original Screenplay at the Oscars was ”An American in Paris” (1951). Notably, Alan Jay Lerner wrote both of these MGM classics.