Best Animated Feature
Will Win - Zootopia
Could Win - Kubo and the Two Strings or Moana
Should Win - Zootopia
Commentary - Kubo and the Strings pulled off a bit of an upset at the BAFTAs, but here stateside, I really don't see anything stopping Zootopia. It has bulldozed its way through the major awards this season (Critics Choice, Globe, PGA, Annie) and my guess is that its message of race in America will probably have a greater impact on voters over here. On a personal note, while Kubo is the most creative of the bunch, I will be thrilled to see Zootopia take this prize.
Best Documentary Feature
Will Win - O.J.: Made in America
Could Win - 13th
Should Win - O.J. Made in America, 13th, or I Am Not Your Negro
Commentary - The trilogy of masterpieces that describe race in America this year are competing for this prize, and literally the voters could not go wrong with any of them. 13th, in the absence of O.J.: Made in America won Best Documentary at the BAFTAs, proving that if there is another film out there that can challenge the front runner it is 13th. It is done by rising star Ava DuVernay, features the most topical of the subjects, and if it wins, you can thank the 2016 election cycle, and the last several months of political upheaval. But with DGA, PGA, and a wholly host of wins under its belt, I think that Ezra Edelman's sprawling masterpiece O.J.: Made in the America, which also manages to be timely, will continue its winning streak.
Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win - The Salesman
Could Win - A Man Called Ove or Toni Erdmann
Should Win - A Man Called Ove
Commentary - Before the political chaos of the travel ban of the last several weeks, I thought that there was a clear front runner in this race. No it was not Toni Erdmann, the 3-hour German comedy. It has the critical support, and definitely is in the mix. But I always thought that this was A Man Called Ove's to lose. I come from the library world, and I have witnessed the rapid rise of Fredrik Backman and his sweet Swedish stories. They have been perpetually on hold for months, and have sold a tremendous amount of copies. The film is a sweet, sad look at a grumpy old man, who overcomes multiple suicide attempts to find new love and new family. It is right up the Academy's alley, and don't discount it on Oscar night. There are a lot of older Academy members who may not be swept up in the hysteria, and simply vote for their favorite film. But the hysteria is real, the press is real, the fear is real, and previous winner Asghar Farhadi choosing not to come to the ceremony might have earned him a second Foreign Language Film Oscar. The film is on the rise. I am going to predict it, for all of the above, and the fact that his films have found previous Oscar glory. But don't be shocked if Ove or Toni win instead.
Best Original Score
Will Win - Justin Hurwitz "La La Land"
Could Win - Nicholas Britell "Moonlight" or Mica Levi "Jackie"
Should Win - Justin Hurwitz "La La Land"
Commentary - The music is such an essential part of La La Land, whether they are singing or not. Justin Hurwitz deserves as much credit as Damian Chazelle for making La La Land happen and making it the phenomenon that it is. I think that Oscar voters will recognize that, with this award, probably one of the easiest wins for La La Land of the night.
Best Original Song
Will Win - City of Stars from La La Land
Could Win - How Far I'll Go from Moana
Should Win - City of Stars from La La Land
Commentary - We have seen this so many times before, The Princess and the Frog, Enchanted, and the most notable example being Dreamgirls, where multiple nominations cancelled each other out. I think that City of Stars is the clear favorite here, and will prevail. But if for some reason, the two La La Land songs cancel each other out, then I think that Lin Manuel Miranda becomes the youngest EGOT winner in history. He is still riding high off of the Hamilton love, and honestly, he could just win outright because if voter recognize that he is the songwriter, I think that Hamilton trumps La La Land. But as we learned last year, the ballots don't show songwriters. So based on the song alone, then it is City of Stars for the win.