The Oscars are always an exciting night, with some nominees dancing in the clouds a la La La Land and others left a teary mess like they just watched Manchester by the Sea. So who's going to win Sunday at the 89th Academy Awards (ABC, 7 p.m. ET/4 ET)? Here are our predictions:
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences
Will win/should win: Washington
Affleck was the early favorite for his portrayal of a tragic handyman, but Washington has steadily gained momentum, enough to overtake him. Washington's role is one of the most iconic in a legendary career, the study of a 1950s garbage man whose boisterous and self-centered personality upends the relationship with his family.
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Will win/should win: Stone
Had Portman not won her Oscar six years ago for Black Swan, there might be a better argument for her knockout performance as grieving first lady Jackie Kennedy. More deserving of adulation this time is Stone, who similarly fuels La La Land's narrative as its struggling thespian and is the primary reason the musical is such a joy to watch. Her character's Audition (The Fools Who Dream) song — an ode to the dreamer in us all — might as well have been a call to the Oscar engraver to start practicing her name.
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Will win: Ali
Should win: Hedges
This is the awards season where everybody figured out how talented Ali is, and he's certainly worthy of his front-runner status as a drug dealer with a big heart. That said, it's hard to overlook the contribution of Hedges: He plays a consistently strong role throughout his movie — whereas Ali and Patel only factor into a fraction of theirs — and his complicated teenager balances out Manchester's relentless grief with needed humor and youthful energy.
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Will win/should win: Davis
The Oscar gods bestowed Leonardo DiCaprio with his first Oscar last year, and that time is now for Davis as Fences' put-upon housewife who's had it with playing second fiddle to her husband. She could have won for Doubt, she should have won for The Help, but — barring the biggest upset in years — she'll win for Fences.
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Will win: Chazelle
Should win: Jenkins
Chazelle deserves much of the credit for why La La Land has become the cat's meow with its relatable love story and showstopping numbers. Yet Jenkins pulls off an even greater feat by creating a timely, unconventional and extraordinary character piece that follows an African-American man from bullied kid to distressed teen to tough drug dealer.
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Will win: La La Land
Should win: Hidden Figures
With 14 nominations, La La Land looks to have a record-setting night and has been the front-runner since festival season. La La's effervescent story and love letter to old-school Hollywood will appeal to Oscar voters, but Hidden Figures has more going for it: It's about unsung heroines in a period drama, it's just as crowd-pleasing as its song-and-dance foe, and the history lesson feels more relevant in a divided political climate than a breezy musical. And who knows if we'll ever get another movie about math that's this entertaining?