2017 Oscars Preview: Who will win, who should win, who to bet.

Disclaimer: Betting on the Academy Awards is technically illegal in the United States. The following words are in no way an admission of guilt or a suggestion of any illegal activity. Zakkondratenko.com, its parent company Zak Kondratenko LLC, and any current or future subsidiaries operate within the confines of the law and do not support illegal activity. It’s all hypothetical, man.

The posturing and campaigning have concluded. Ballots are in. Sunday night will see the 89th Academy Awards take place. This has, frankly, been a boring Oscar season. It’s not that I don’t love the films. In fact, this year’s crop of Best Picture nominee is probably my favorite of the decade so far. But a lot of the major races felt locked up weeks ago, and not just the ones favoring La La Land.

Anyways, here are my final predictions along with some betting advice. Things highlighted in green are what I consider value bets, but again, this is a dull year. Your best route is to be safe and go with mostly favorites.

Best Picture

  1. La La Land (-700)
  2. Moonlight (+550)
  3. Hidden Figures (+1800)
  4. Manchester by the Sea (+2000)
  5. Fences (+6600)
  6. Lion (+6600)
  7. Hacksaw Ridge (+7500)
  8. Arrival (+7500)
  9. Hell or High Water (+12500)

Will win: La La Land

Personal Choice: Hell or High Water

Should’ve been nominated: Silence

Listen, La La Land  is winning this Oscar. The critically-acclaimed, commercially dominant L.A.-set musical love story tied a record with 14 nominations and is the clear frontrunner in the majority of those categories. For all that’s been written about La La Land backlash, there’s no tangible evidence that it actually exists.. Precursor awards have shown us the industry loves this film even more than we expected it to. Is it the best film of the bunch? No. But La La Land will in no way be one of the weaker best picture winners, historically.
There’s been a lot of word regarding late surges for Hidden Figures and Lion, as well as the critics being behind Moonlight all season. But if you’re looking for a dark horse to throw a few bucks on for the hell of it I have a different suggestion. Manchester by the Sea picked up nominations in director, screenplay, and three acting categories. It’s also a film that figures to benefit from the preferential balloting system the Academy uses. Voters rank their top five of the nominees and points are determined that way. A film that may not get a ton of first place votes but appears in nearly everyone’s top five (like Manchester figures to) CAN beat a film that has more vocal supporters but is also a bit divisive (this is probably what happened last year with Spotlight beating The Big Short and The Revenant). Nobody really dislikes Manchester. Again, I don’t believe that La La Land has as many haters as some are making out, but if does, Manchester is the film that could benefit.

Best Director

  1. Damien Chazelle – La La Land (-3000)
  2. Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea (+1000)
  3. Barry Jenkins – Moonlight (+1000)
  4. Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge (+4000)
  5. Denis Villeneuve – Arrival (+5000)

Will win: Damien Chazelle

Personal Choice: Mel Gibson

Should’ve been nominated: David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water

Chazelle has picked up nearly every precursor and his film having support from so many branches makes him close to a lock here, even if the La La Land party doesn’t end up being as big as projected. There was some early talk about Barry Jenkins possibly surprising here and representing Moonlight as a whole, but nothing has indicated that’s anything more than a pipedream for those of us who love the film. He has a much better shot in Screenplay. Chazelle, at the age of 31, appears set to be the youngest winner ever in this category.

Best Lead Actor

  1. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea (-160)
  2. Denzel Washington – Fences (EVEN)
  3. Ryan Gosling – La La Land (+2000)
  4. Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge (+4000)
  5. Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic (+10000)

Will win: Denzel Washington

Personal Choice: Denzel Washington

Should’ve been nominated: Adam Driver – Paterson

This has turned into arguably the most interesting race. Affleck picked up nearly every critics award and was seen as the frontrunner for 90% of the season. But then the late-to-the-party Fences emerged, and legendary actor Denzel Washington won SAG (which is huge, as the last leading man to win SAG but not Oscar was Johnny Depp for Pirates in 2003). This is pretty much a toss-up, but gamblers have made betting Denzel a slightly more potentially profitable move. Gosling at +2000 is enticing given the overall love for La La Land but it’s hard to see him winning over much more serious work.

Best Lead Actress

  1. Emma Stone – La La Land (-650)
  2. Natalie Portman – Jackie (+450)
  3. Isabelle Huppert – Elle (+900)
  4. Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins (+4000)
  5. Ruth Negga – Loving (+4500)

Will win: Emma Stone

Personal Choice: Natalie Portman

Should’ve been nominated: Amy Adams – Arrival

A pretty brilliant campaign has been run for Emma Stone, resulting in her dominating precursors. It really looked like Natalie Portman was even with her for a while but Jackie clearly didn’t land with the Academy outside of a select few branches (costume designers, composers). The legendary Isabelle Huppert actually has the best chance to beat Stone despite what Vegas says, but did enough voters bother to watch her French language film? Like Chazelle in director, this seems like a spot destined for La La Land, with any other ideas being over-analysis.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Mahershala Ali – Moonlight (-700)
  2. Dev Patel – Lion (+600)
  3. Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water (+1400)
  4. Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals (+1800)
  5. Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea (+1800)

Will win: Mahershala Ali

Personal Choice: Mahershala Ali

Should’ve been nominated: Ben Foster – Hell or High Water

For his minimal but powerful work in Moonlight, Mahershala Ali has finally received the attention he deserves, including basically every award that exists. I’m not buying the late momentum for Dev Patel and Lion despite his BAFTA win, at least up against Ali. Ali is this year’s Alicia Vikander. If anyone can pull of a major upset here, it’s veteran character actor Michael Shannon. People love him inside and perhaps some will throw him a vote for Nocturnal Animals as a whole, a film a lot more people enjoyed than its number of nominations would indicate.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Viola Davis – Fences (-3000)
  2. Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea (+800)
  3. Naomie Harris – Moonlight (+1500)
  4. Nicole Kidman – Lion (+3300)
  5. Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures (+5000)

Will win: Viola Davis

Personal Choice: Viola Davis

Should’ve been nominated: Janelle Monáe – Hidden Figures

Queen Viola likely began preparing her speech months ago. That’s really all I have to say. She is the biggest lock of the evening.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea (-135)
  2. Damien Chazelle – La La Land (-110)
  3. Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water (+1600)
  4. Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou – The Lobster (+4000)
  5. Mike Mills – 20th Century Women (+6000)

Will win: Manchester by the Sea

Personal Choice: The Lobster

Should’ve been nominated: Jim Jarmusch – Paterson

Manchester vs La La Land in what likely comes down to just HOW much the entire Academy loves the latter as a whole. Even if you love La La Land, its script isn’t something that exactly stands out. The opposite can be said for Manchester. It’s a film whose delicate script is so noticeable even if the overall product bores you a bit. That’s why I’m going with it. Also, it has to win somewhere, right? And this is its best shot. But it’s one of those two, neither are dumb bets.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Barry Jenkins & Tarrell McCraney – Moonlight (-700)
  2. Eric Heisserer – Arrival (+700)
  3. Allison Schroeder & Theodore Melfi – Hidden Figures (+700)
  4. Luke Davies – Lion (+1500)
  5. August Wilson – Fences (+3300)

Will win: Moonlight

Personal Choice: Moonlight

Should’ve been nominated: Jeff Nichols – Loving

Both Arrival and Moonlight won writers guild awards, but with Oscar, Moonlight is considered an adapted screenplay rather than an original one, pitting the two against each other here. While I think Moonlight will win, I believe it’s MUCH closer than Vegas suggest, making Arrival and even late-riser Lion very strong bets.

Best Cinematography

  1. Linus Sandgren – La La Land (-500)
  2. Greig Fraser – Lion (+300)
  3. Bradford Young – Arrival (+1000)
  4. James Laxton – Moonlight (+2000)
  5. Rodrigo Prieto – Silence (+3300)

Will win: La La Land

Personal Choice: Silence

Should’ve been nominated: Greig Fraser – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

This is yet another category that seems destined to go to La La Land. Sandgren’s dreamy, cinemascope photography is something to behold and the film’s status as the heavy favorite in best picture only helps. It’s an easy box to check off for the voters who don’t really bother paying attention to this category. There’s some love for Lion and it certainly shows off its cinematography. Greig Fraser actually won the American Society of Cinematographers award. Keep an eye on him, there may be money to be made there.

Best Visual Effects

  1. The Jungle Book (-500)
  2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (+300)
  3. Doctor Strange (+900)
  4. Kubo and the Two Strings (+3300)
  5. Deepwater Horizon (+3300)

Will win: The Jungle Book

Personal Choice: Doctor Strange

Should’ve been nominated: Arrival

The Jungle Book has picked up a ton of notice for its spectacular VFX work, emerging as a clear favorite in a race that at one point looked like it could to anyone in the top 3. It’s the safe bet here and the odds for others aren’t crazy enough to justify the risk in my opinion.

Best Costume Design

  1. La La Land (-170)
  2. Jackie (+120)
  3. Florence Foster Jenkins (+1800)
  4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (+2500)
  5. Allied (+5000)

Will win: Jackie

Personal Choice: Jackie

Should’ve been nominated: Hidden Figures

Widely seen as a two-horse race, conventional wisdom lends itself to Jackie, a period piece that won a couple major precursors. The odds make it an even better bet. If you’re looking for a dark horse to win big on, don’t write off Colleen Atwood for Fantastic Beasts. The Academy legend is always a threat to win and the less diligent voter could write her down based off pure name recognition.

Remaining Predictions

Predictions for winners in the rest of the categories.

  • Best Film Editing: Tom Cross – La La Land
  • Best Production Design: La La Land
  • Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Suicide Squad
  • Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz – La La Land
  • Best Original Song: “City of Stars” from La La Land
  • Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
  • Best Sound Mixing: La La Land
  • Best Animated Feature: Zootopia
  • Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman (Iran)
  • Best Documentary Feature: OJ: Made in America


Other favorite longshot bets

Some choices in other categories that I’d recommend.

  • The 13th (-450) in Best Documentary Feature. If anything is beating O.J., it’s Ava Duvernay’s film.
  • A Man Called Ove (+700) in Best Foreign Language Film.


And a final chart of all my picks.


One thought on “2017 Oscars Preview: Who will win, who should win, who to bet.”

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