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2017 Oscars Buzzmeter: Critics predict who will win in the major categories

2017 Oscars Buzzmeter: Critics predict who will win in the major categories
Clockwise from top left: "Moonlight," "Zootopia," "Fences" and "Manchester by the Sea." (Clockwise from top left: David Bornfriend / A24; Disney; David Lee / Paramount Picture; Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions)

It’s that time of year when the movie studios load up the theaters with their best films. Or if not their best, then their most serious adult dramas. Or maybe the ones with their biggest stars. Whatever the criteria, they are angling for some awards attention for these mostly fall and winter films. So with such an abundance, how do we as audience members pick out what to go see to be best prepared to know what’s going on at the Oscars? We read Buzzmeter, that’s how. Here, we look to six of the most qualified Oscar pundits, film writers and critics to tell us which movies will lead this year's Oscar race.

The following are their picks as to what names and titles we’ll be hearing when the Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 24. Are they on the right track? Tell us in the comments who you think deserves to be nominated, and check back for updates as the awards season progresses. The Oscars are on Feb. 26 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Our panelists:

Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Nicole Sperling (Entertainment Weekly), Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood), Glenn Whipp (The Envelope), Justin Chang (L.A. Times), Kenneth Turan (L.A. Times)

Here are their picks in the key categories, with the top vote-getters highlighted in red:

Best picture | "La La Land"

Ryan Gosling in "La La Land."
Ryan Gosling in "La La Land." (Dale Robinette / Lionsgate)

“A record-tying number of nominations + Producers Guild honor = slam dunk victory”

— Glenn Whipp

Critics' Picks

"Arrival"

"Fences"

"Hacksaw Ridge"

"Hell or High Water"

"Hidden Figures"

"La La Land": Thompson, O’Neil, Sperling, Chang, Turan, Whipp

"Lion"

"Manchester by the Sea"

"Moonlight"


Best director | Damien Chazelle, "La La Land"

Director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling on the set of "La La Land."
Director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling on the set of "La La Land." Dale Robinette / Lionsgate

“If ‘Moonlight’ was magic, and it was, Barry Jenkins was the central magician.”

— Kenneth Turan

Critics' Picks

Barry Jenkins, "Moonlight": Turan

Damien Chazelle, "La La Land": Sperling, O’Neil, Thompson, Whipp, Chang

Mel Gibson, "Hacksaw Ridge"

Kenneth Lonergan, "Manchester by the Sea"

Denis Villeneuve, "Arrival"


Animated Film | "Zootopia"

A scene from "Zootopia."
A scene from "Zootopia." (Disney / TNS)

“Most will pick ‘Zootopia’ to prevail, but watch out for ‘Kubo and the Two Strings.’ Japanese-influenced art house fare has triumphed in the past ("Spirited Away," 2002)."

— Tom O’Neil

Critics' Picks

"Zootopia": Sperling, Thompson, Whipp, Chang, Turan

"Kubo and the Two Strings": O’Neil

"Moana"

"My Life as a Zucchini"

"The Red Turtle"


Lead Actor | Casey Affleck, "Manchester by the Sea"

Casey Affleck in "Manchester by the Sea."
Casey Affleck in "Manchester by the Sea." (Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions)

“With Denzel pulling out the surprise win at SAG, the momentum just shifted from Affleck to the two-time winner. Looks like he could be making a three-peat. ”

— Nicole Sperling

Critics' Picks

Casey Affleck, "Manchester by the Sea": O’Neil, Thompson, Chang, Turan

Ryan Gosling, "La La Land"

Viggo Mortensen, "Captain Fantastic"

Denzel Washington, "Fences": Sperling, Whipp

Andrew Garfield, "Hacksaw Ridge"


Lead Actress | Emma Stone, "La La Land"

Emma Stone in "La La Land."
Emma Stone in "La La Land." (Dale Robinette / Summit Entertainment )

“I should probably mark down Emma Stone, but the heart wants what it wants. ”

— Justin Chang

Critics' Picks

Natalie Portman, "Jackie"

Emma Stone, "La La Land": Sperling, Whipp, O’Neil, Thompson, Turan

Ruth Negga, "Loving":

Isabelle Huppert, "Elle": Chang

Meryl Streep, "Florence Foster Jenkins"


Supporting Actor | Mahershala Ali, "Moonlight"

Mahershala Ali, right, and Alex Hibbert in "Moonlight."
Mahershala Ali, right, and Alex Hibbert in "Moonlight." (David Bornfriend / A24)

“Wily acting veteran Jeff Bridges may have to cede the field to first-time SAG and Oscar nominee Mahershala Ali, who had a breakout year in ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Luke Cage’ and ‘Hidden Figures,’ and gives ‘Moonlight’ its beating heart as a drug dealer who nurtures a needy young boy.”

— Anne Thompson

Critics' Picks

Mahershala Ali, "Moonlight": Sperling, Whipp, O’Neil, Thompson, Chang, Turan

Lucas Hedges, "Manchester by the Sea"

Jeff Bridges, "Hell or High Water"

Dev Patel, "Lion"

Michael Shannon, "Nocturnal Animals"


Supporting Actress | Viola Davis, "Fences"

Viola Davis and Denzel Washington in "Fences."
Viola Davis and Denzel Washington in "Fences." (David Lee / Paramount Pictures )

“Viola Davis has two strong plusses: a lead performance competing in supporting, and she plays a favorite role among winners in this category – the long-suffering wife. ”

— Tom O’Neil

Critics' Picks

Viola Davis, "Fences": Sperling, Whipp, O’Neil, Thompson, Chang, Turan

Michelle Williams, "Manchester by the Sea"

Naomie Harris, "Moonlight"

Octavia Spencer, "Hidden Figures"

Nicole Kidman, "Lion"


Original Screenplay | "Manchester by the Sea"

From left: C.J. Wilson, Jami Tennille, Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges in "Manchester by the Sea"
From left: C.J. Wilson, Jami Tennille, Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges in "Manchester by the Sea" (Claire Folger / Amazon Studios / TNS)

“'La La Land' could take it, but I have a sense the academy will see this as Kenneth Lonergan’s consolation prize. ”

— Justin Chang

Critics' Picks

"Manchester by the Sea"

"La La Land" Whipp, O’Neil, Turan, Sperling, Chang, Thompson

"20th Century Women"

"Hell or High Water"

"The Lobster"


Adapted screenplay | "Moonlight"

Mahershala Ali, left, and Alex Hibbert in a scene from "Moonlight."
Mahershala Ali, left, and Alex Hibbert in a scene from "Moonlight." (David Bornfriend / A24 via AP)

“One place (at minimum) where voters can reward Barry Jenkins for his achingly beautiful film, ‘Moonlight.’”

— Glenn Whipp

Critics' Picks

"Fences"

"Hidden Figures"

"Moonlight:" Thompson, Whipp, O’Neil, Sperling, Chang

"Arrival": Turan

"Lion"


ALSO:

Hollywood brings anti-Trump dissent to pre-Oscars stage as 'La La Land' wins top Producers Guild Award

If Oscar voters want joy, 'Hidden Figures' could give 'La La Land' a run for its money

'Moonlight's' Barry Jenkins: How a kid from Miami’s projects made a movie that scored eight Oscar nominations

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