You can expect an explicitly political show this Sunday at the Oscars: at other awards shows this year, virtually every winner—from the most famous actress to the lowliest techie—has let loose with their opposition to Donald Trump. So I figure it won't hurt much if I bring one other element of politics to Hollywood—election handicapping.
Political forecasting sites like Inside Elections give each race a rating on a Solid-Likely-Leans scale, and for the past few years, I've done the same with each Oscar category. The idea is to give casual awards watchers an idea of the conventional wisdom for each of the 24 Academy Award mini-races. Check out this year's race ratings below; for my personal picks (which sometimes diverge from the conventional wisdom!), click here.
Best Picture: Solid La La Land
With a record-tying 14 nominations, this modern movie musical is primed to pull off the rare Oscars-night sweep.
Best Director: Solid Damien Chazelle
La La Land helmer Chazelle won the nearly identical precursor prize, Outstanding Directorial Achievement at the Directors Guild of America Awards, virtually guaranteeing he will be the youngest Best Director winner in history, at 32 years and 38 days.
Best Actor: Tossup
The closest major race of the night pits Casey Affleck of Manchester by the Sea against Denzel Washington's self-directed effort in Fences. Affleck has been the assumed frontrunner all season, but Washington won the Screen Actors Guild Award, and actors represent the largest segment of Academy voters. If Washington wins, he would be the seventh actor to earn three Oscars—and the first African American.
Best Actress: Solid Emma Stone
Stone carries La La Land, a film we know Oscar voters love. Competitor campaigns by Jackie's Natalie Portman and Elle's Isabelle Huppert just haven't gotten off the ground.
Best Supporting Actor: Likely Mahershala Ali
Ali (whose full first name is Mahershalalhashbaz) has had a great year, starring in the Netflix shows House of Cards and Luke Cage and appearing in Best Picture nominees Hidden Figures and Moonlight. This win may be for Moonlight, but really it's for an excellent all-around body of work.
Best Supporting Actress: Solid Viola Davis
After being robbed of the 2011 Best Actress Oscar for The Help, Davis is finally back at the dance for Fences, and no one else stands a chance.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Solid Moonlight
Competitors Lion and Arrival have both won precursor awards in this category, but not while Moonlight was nominated opposite them. The consensus seems to be that Moonlight was Hollywood's second-favorite film this year after La La Land, so it's favored here, but that's more a collective educated guess than a mathematical certainty.
Best Original Screenplay: Leans Manchester by the Sea
This category is an old-fashioned horse race between La La Land and Manchester by the Sea. Manchester's script has drawn plenty of praise, and musicals have historically struggled in the writing categories. But then again, the possibility of a La La Land sweep looms large.
Best Foreign Language Film: Tossup
The German black comedy Toni Erdmann was a solid frontrunner in this category until January 27, 2017, when President Donald Trump signed his now-infamous executive order banning citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. Included in the ban was Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who subsequently lacerated Trump and said he would not attend the Oscars as a result of the order. Since then, Farhadi's film The Salesman has picked up momentum in this category, to the point where many pundits now are picking it to win on a sympathy vote.
Best Animated Feature: Likely Zootopia
Best Documentary Feature: Solid O.J.: Made in America
Best Cinematography: Solid La La Land
Best Costume Design: Leans Jackie
Best Film Editing: Solid La La Land
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Likely Star Trek Beyond
Best Production Design: Solid La La Land
Best Original Score: Solid La La Land
Best Original Song: Solid "City of Stars"
Best Sound Editing: Leans Hacksaw Ridge
Best Sound Mixing: Likely La La Land
Best Visual Effects: Solid The Jungle Book
Best Documentary Short: Tossup
Best Live-Action Short: Leans Ennemis Intérieurs
Best Animated Short: Likely Piper