2017 Oscar Predictions, Part Four: Acting

Today it’s time for the acting awards. The big ones, along with Picture, that everyone who watches the Oscars basically tunes in for. 


  • Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortenson, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

This is a really close race, like 50/50 close. But after believing Casey Affleck had this for so long, I’ve now become convinced that Denzel Washington is going to take it. Mostly it’s because of the SAG award. The Best Actor winner at SAG has won the Oscar for the last thirteen years. That’s a pretty strong stat. Affleck dominated the critics awards, won the Globe and won the BAFTA (where Denzel wasn’t even nominated), but something keeps gnawing at me that the momentum has shifted. First of all, Denzel gives a fantastic performance in Fences, one of the very best of his career, so this is more than deserved, and yet it’s hard to win three Oscars. Here are literally the only people who’ve done it: Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Ingrid Bergman and Walter Brennan. That’s it. He’s joining a very small club, but everyone knows he’s more than worthy of being on that list, so I don’t think that’s a big hurdle. Also, his performance is a showy, theatrical, dominant kind of acting versus Casey Affleck’s subtle, understated, quieter role. In the past, the Academy has always preferred the former to the latter. I think it will this time too.

Winner: Denzel Washington

Alternate: Casey Affleck


  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

This one’s much easier. Emma Stone won the Globe, SAG and BAFTA, so I don’t think anyone can challenge her here. If there’s an alternate it’s Isabelle Huppert, who wasn’t eligible for SAG or BAFTA, so they haven’t competed against each other yet, but I don’t think most of the Academy will even watch Elle, and those who do will probably be very uncomfortable with it. If Huppert wins it’s a career award, which is deserved, but I’m not sure many in the Academy are as aware of her entire career in France as film critics are. Interesting to note that Emma Stone will be the first Best Actress from a Best Picture winner since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. Usually Best Actor goes with Best Picture, this year it’s finally the opposite.

Winner: Emma Stone

Alternate: Isabelle Huppert


  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester By the Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Yikes. This one’s really hard, actually. Mahershala Ali did not dominate the precursors the way I expected him to. He won just about all the critics awards and the SAG, but the Golden Globe went to Aaron Taylor-Johnson from Nocturnal Animals (not even nominated for the Oscar) and BAFTA chose Dev Patel from Lion. Believe it or not, I think Patel has a really strong chance to win here. His role is much bigger than Ali’s, and lately the supporting awards have been going to people whose roles were clearly lead. Ali is also unknown, so fame wouldn’t put him over the top, while Patel was the young star of the one-time Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire, which was snubbed for any acting nominations back in the day. Plus, the industry seems to genuinely love Lion, which won the ASC award, was nominated for Scripter, and won screenplay AND supporting actor at BAFTA. If they want to give it something, this is the only place it’s likely to win. SAG is still a strong indicator, but given that supporting is where surprises tend to happen, and when they do, BAFTA is usually the place that predicts it, I think I may go ahead and choose Patel. It’s a bit of a risk though.

Winner: Dev Patel

Alternate: Mahershala Ali


  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester By the Sea

This time I don’t think there’s any way Viola Davis loses. She’s won every single precursor, so she’s in great shape. As the first African-American actress to get three acting nominations she’s already made history, and she’s due for a win after being famously beaten by Meryl Streep for Best Actress in 2011. It’d be shocking if anyone else took this.

Winner: Viola Davis