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Oscar Land: Predicting winners on Hollywood’s big night

‘La La Land’ is poised for a big night at Sunday’s Academy Awards, but will it be crowned Oscar’s all-time champion?

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Come Sunday, we’ll all be in “La La Land.”

The enchanting movie musical is the most nominated film heading into Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, and barring any epic shockers, it will likely be the big winner at the end of the night.

With 14 nominations, it is tied with “Titanic” and “All About Eve” as the most nominated film in Oscar history, and it needs 12 wins to become the academy’s biggest winner of all time.

Will it get there? That remains to be seen. While it is the favorite in most of its races, nothing is certain until the envelopes are opened and the names are read.

Elsewhere, Casey Affleck will likely earn an acting Oscar before his big brother Ben; “Zootopia” could become an Oscar winner (let’s hope for expediency’s sake those sloths aren’t the ones sent to the awards podium); and “O.J. Simpson” may become an Oscar winner (the movie, not the person).

Here’s a breakdown of every race on Sunday night. Consider it a cheat sheet for your Oscar pool.

Best Picture

Nominees:“Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Moonlight”

Favorite:“La La Land.” Though detractors have circled around it in recent weeks, knocking its whiteness and its treatment of jazz music (and even its stars’ dance skills!), the delightful, brightly colored musical was far and away the year’s best film, delivering everything we love about the movies in a tidy, handsome package. Anything other than a “La La Land” win would be a shocker.

Potential spoiler: “Hidden Figures.” “Moonlight” was thought to be the one title that could give “La La Land” a run for its money, but in recent weeks that momentum has shifted to “Hidden Figures,” which picked up a key Screen Actors Guild win for its ensemble cast and has surpassed “La La Land” at the box office. The race comes down to politics and perception: Can a musical about two white people claim the Best Picture prize a year after the Oscars So White controversy, or will the academy find other places to correct that issue? We’ll find out late Sunday night.

Best Actor

Nominees:Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”; Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”; Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”; Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”; Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Favorite:Affleck. As Lee Chandler, a man burying insurmountable guilt following an unspeakable tragedy, Affleck is all quiet, simmering, suppressed emotions, and gives the performance of his career in Kenneth Lonergan’s heavy drama. Nominated once before, for Best Supporting Actor for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” Affleck is poised to pick up an acting Oscar even before his big brother Ben, which we suspect he’ll hold over him at their next family get-together.

Potential spoiler:Washington. In “Fences,” Denzel is loud and outward, the opposite of Affleck’s bottled up emotional vault. But the two-time winner (and seven-time acting nominee) could surge ahead and capture his first Best Actor trophy since his win for “Training Day,” especially if those ugly sexual harassment allegations against Affleck hurt the “Manchester” star’s front-runner standing (which, so far, they haven’t, although they’ve put a dent in his armor).

Best Actress

Nominees:Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”; Ruth Negga, “Loving”; Natalie Portman, “Jackie”; Emma Stone, “La La Land”; Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Favorite:Stone. Nominated once before, for Best Supporting Actress for “Birdman,” Stone gives a bright, buoyant, emotionally resonant performance, especially in her moving scene when she sings “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” in one marvelous unbroken take. Should she win, she’ll become the seventh Best Actress winner under age 30 crowned in the last 20 years (compared to just one under-30 Best Actor winner in Academy Awards history).

Potential spoiler:Huppert. She’s French royalty and gives a tough-as-nails performance in director Paul Verhoeven’s bonkers “Elle.” A Golden Globes win and several awards from critics groups have made her the dark horse in this category, and have given Stone a reason to look over her shoulder.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”; Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”; Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”; Dev Patel, “Lion”; Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Favorite:Ali. As a drug dealer who takes the film’s young subject under his wing, the veteran character actor’s presence is felt far beyond his limited screen time. After winning everything in sight during awards season, he’s as close to a slam dunk as there is this Oscar night.

Potential spoiler:Shannon. The kooky scene-stealer is known for his unkempt performances but is uncharacteristically low-key in Tom Ford’s shaky noir. Nominated once before (for “Revolutionary Road”), he’ll likely win an Oscar at some point in his career, but a Shannon win in this category would register as the night’s biggest surprise.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:Viola Davis, “Fences”; Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”; Nicole Kidman, “Lion”; Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”; Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Favorite: Davis. She’s already won a Tony for her performance in the Broadway version of August Wilson’s play, and she’s poised to add an Academy Award to her trophy case for her emotionally wrought portrayal of a devoted wife and mother, the meatiest role in the field (it’s really a lead performance but was packaged as a supporting role in a clear case of category manipulation).

Potential spoiler:Williams. It’s her fourth Oscar nomination, and a scene in which she runs into Casey Affleck’s character on the street is one of the single most affecting scenes of the year, fully worthy of its praise (and a win).

Best Director

Nominees:Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”; Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”; Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”; Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”; Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”

Favorite:Chazelle. Having won most of the prizes leading up to Oscar night, this one is all but in the bag for the “La La Land” wunderkind, who turned 32 last month and is on his way to becoming the youngest Best Director winner in Oscar history.

Potential spoiler:Jenkins. A win for “Moonlight” would make Jenkins the first black director to capture the Best Director trophy, although Chazelle will be almost impossible to beat in this category.

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:“Kubo and the Two String,” “Moana,” “My Life as a Zucchini,”; “The Red Turtle,” “Zootopia”

Favorite: “Zootopia.” The box office favorite ($341 million!) delivered cute animals and clever social commentary to boot. What else do you want from a ’toon?

Potential spoiler:“Kubo.” The offbeat animation house Laika (“Coraline”) wrapped this story of a one-eyed boy in ancient Japan in lovely stop motion animation that enhanced the delicacy of its storytelling.

Best Documentary

Nominees:“Fire At Sea,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” “Life, Animated,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “13th”

Favorite:“O.J.” The nearly eight-hour documentary plunged into every facet of the O.J. Simpson saga, which absorbed our country in what now, rather oddly, feels like a much more innocent time for America.

Potential spoiler:“13th.” Ava DuVernay’s fiery documentary explored the origins of the Constitution’s 13th Amendment and tied it to race, mass incarceration and America’s prison system.

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: “Land of Mine,” “A Man Called Ove,” “The Salesman,” “Tanna,” “Toni Erdmann”

Favorite:“The Salesman.” The acclaimed Iranian film — about a young couple starring in an adaptation of “Death of a Salesman” — made waves when its star said she’d skip attending the Academy Awards over President Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban.

Potential spoiler:“Erdmann.” The German comedy-drama was one of the year’s most celebrated films, period, and an American remake is already in the works.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:“Hell or High Water,” “La La Land,” “The Lobster,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “20th Century Women”

Favorite:“Manchester.” Only once since 2005 has a film won Best Picture without a screenplay win, but the last musical to win Best Picture — “Chicago,” in 2002 — also was overlooked for its script. A win here for Kenneth Lonergan — twice nominated in this category before — would honor one of the year’s richest, most wrenching screenplays.

Potential spoiler:“La La Land.” If everything is falling “La La Land’s” way, this will too.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:“Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion,” “Moonlight”

Favorite:“Moonlight.” Look at this as a consolation prize for writer-director Barry Jenkins, whose quietly triumphant film is up against the “La La Land” machine in most other categories.

Potential spoiler:“Fences.” Denzel Washington’s film is nothing if not a love letter to the penned words of August Wilson, who authored this screenplay and fought for years to get the film made before his death in 2005.

Best Score

Nominees:“Jackie,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Moonlight,” “Passengers”

Favorite:“La La Land.” It’s the music that makes it sing.

Potential spoiler:“Jackie.” Mica Levi’s jarring score set the tone for the off-kilter biopic, and played a key role in helping sustain its uneasy mood.

Best Original Song

Nominees:“Audition” (from “La La Land”); “Can’t Stop the Feeling” (from “Trolls”); “City of Stars” (from “La La Land”); “The Empty Chair” (from “Jim: The James Foley Story”); “How Far I’ll Go” (from “Moana”)

Favorite:“City of Stars.” The touching duet between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone became the centerpiece of “La La Land’s” marketing campaign.

Potential spoiler:“Can’t Stop the Feeling.” If the two “La La Land” songs split the vote, Justin Timberlake’s No. 1 hit from “Trolls” — which re-teamed him with Swedish hitmaker Max Martin for the first time since his *NSYNC days — could come out a winner.

Best Cinematography

Nominees: “Arrival,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Moonlight,” “Silence”

Favorite:“La La Land.” “Moonlight,” which is absolutely stunning looking, may give it a run for its money, but when in doubt, go “La La Land.”

Best Editing

Nominees:“Arrival,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “La La Land,” “Moonlight”

Favorite:“La La Land.” Tom Cross, who won an Oscar for his work on director Damien Chazelle’s previous film, “Whiplash,” will likely add another Oscar to his mantle here.

Best Costume Design

Nominees:“Allied,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Florence Foster Jenkins,” “Jackie,” “La La Land”

Favorite:“Jackie.” “La La Land” had some bold looks, especially in those primary color dresses favored by Emma Stone’s Mia, but “La La Land” may be pushed out here. Go with “Jackie” and its immaculate period costumes and its re-creation of Camelot.

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: “Deepwater Horizon,” “Doctor Strange,” “The Jungle Book,” “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Favorite:“The Jungle Book.” The seamlessness of the film’s special effects, especially the mouths of the talking animals, are what make this film work so well.

Best Production Design

Nominees: “Arrival,, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Hail, Caesar!” “La La Land,” “Passengers”

Favorite:“La La Land.” The rich look of “Fantastic Beasts” was the best thing about it, but count on a “La La Land’s” momentum to help carry this category.

Best Sound Editing

Nominees:“Arrival,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “La La Land,” “Sully”

Favorite:“Hacksaw Ridge.” This award has a tendency to go to action fare — previous winners include “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “American Sniper” and “The Hurt Locker” — so look for the frighteningly realistic battle scenes and those whirring bullets to give “Hacksaw Ridge” the edge.

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees:“Arrival,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “La La Land,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

Favorite:“La La Land.” Damien Chazelle’s previous film, “Whiplash,” won this category two years ago, so look for “La La Land” to repeat over its same-y action-themed competitors, which will likely cancel each other out.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees:“A Man Called Ove,” “Star Trek Beyond,” “Suicide Squad”

Favorite:“Star Trek Beyond.” Look at it this way: They’re not giving it to the Swedish movie and there’s no way the words “Academy Award winner” and “Suicide Squad” will ever sound right together. “Star Trek” it is.

Best Animated Short

Nominees:“Blind Vaysha,” “Borrowed Time,” “Pear Cider and Cigarettes,” “Pearl,” “Piper”

Favorite:“Piper,” which played before “Finding Dory,” would give Pixar its first win in the category in 15 years. Bank on it.

Best Short Film

Nominees: “Ennemis Interieurs,” “La Femme et le TGV,” “Silent Nights,” “Sing,” “Timecode”

Favorite:“Timecode,” in a nail-biter over “Ennemis Interieurs.”

Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Nominees: “Extremis,” “4.1 Miles,” “Joe’s Violin,” “Watani: My Homeland,” “The White Helmets”

Favorite:“The White Helmets.” Sorry to Joe and his violin, but this story of volunteer workers for the Syrian Civil Defense, has the edge (and the timeliness, politically).

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The 89th Academy Awards

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel

8:30 p.m. Sunday