Michelle, Lane, and Scott share their 2017 Academy Awards ballots and talk about Sunday night’s potential surprises. Plus, some safe bets to make for your office’s Oscars pool.

View all of the 2017 Oscar Nominations – make your own picks and let us know what you choose!

Category Lane’s Picks Michelle’s Picks Scott’s Picks
Best Picture La La Land La La Land La La Land
Director Damien Chazelle, La La Land Damien Chazelle, La La Land Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Leading Actor Ryan Gosling, La La Land Denzel Washington, Fences Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Leading Actress Emma Stone, La La Land Emma Stone, La La Land Natalie Portman, Jackie
Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali, Moonlight Mahershala Ali, Moonlight Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Supporting Actress Naomie Harris, Moonlight Viola Davis, Fences Viola Davis, Fences
Animated Feature Zootopia Zootopia Zootopia
Documentary Feature I Am Not Your Negro 13th OJ: Made in America
Foreign Language Film The Salesman The Salesman Toni Erdmann
Cinematography La La Land La La Land La La Land
Costume Design Jackie Jackie Jackie
Makeup and Hairstyling Star Trek Beyond Star Trek Beyond Star Trek Beyond
Original Score La La Land La La Land La La Land
Original Song City of Stars, La La Land City of Stars, La La Land City of Stars, La La Land
Sound Mixing La La Land La La Land La La Land
Sound Editing La La Land Hacksaw Ridge La La Land
Film Editing Arrival La La Land La La Land
Visual Effects Rogue One, A Star Wars Story The Jungle Book The Jungle Book
Production Design Hail, Caesar! La La Land La La Land
Original Screenplay 20th Century Women Manchester By the Sea Manchester By the Sea
Adapted Screenplay Moonlight Moonlight Moonlight
Documentary Short Joe’s Violin Joe’s Violin The White Helmets
Animated Short Piper Pearl Piper
Live Action Short Sing Ennemis Interieurs Sing
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La La Land

Scott: The top contenders throughout much of award season have been La La Land and Moonlight, but as the Oscars loom, the tide has clearly turned in favor of La La Land. So why? Is everybody just racist? Well, everybody is racist, as anyone who has paid attention to Avenue Q or all of history would know. But, actually, I don’t think that’s (entirely) what’s at play. There are many, many factors, but since I’m writing now as a critic and therefore someone who just wants to vainly tell you what I think, what if Moonlight just isn’t that great a film?

I mean it’s good, I liked it, and I think it’s important that a story concerned with black masculinities, and to a lesser extent, sexualities, has gained the traction that it has. But personally, I think those topics deserve better—more complex and thoughtful—treatment. I hope Moonlight helps pave the way for those films in the future. But as it is, Moonlight is unsettlingly straightforward and pat in terms of both narrative and character. It’s peopled with stereotypical characters that don’t really have a chance to transcend those stereotypes. And the mix of realism and magical realism-lite struck me as a little incoherent. But, yeah, it’s good. It’s well acted. Totally.

LaneI’m much more enthusiastic about Moonlight than Scott. Perhaps it is because of the political climate, but I also think the cinematography is beautiful and the storytelling, while simple, does transcend stereotypes. Especially Mahershala Ali’s character, who I’m especially rooting for in the Best Supporting Actor category. I don’t think there’s a chance that Naomie Harris will win in the Best Supporting Actress category, but her performance was so memorable to me.

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Moonlight

Michelle: I’m somewhere in the middle between both Scott and Lane on Moonlight. I think much like La La Land or Manchester By the Sea, which have all led the awards circuit in nominations and wins, Moonlight was swallowed up by the hype. Now I’m not taking anything away from Barry Jenkins’ film, because you can’t deny it’s a beautiful piece of cinema. I just feel like political climate, a need for progressive voting, and the representation of three “forgotten” types of people is where the push comes in. I think it deserves the nominations, and I truly believe it was an excellent film, but I’m certain it will halt the force of La La Land, which is cookie cutter for the Academy. However, I think it has lost its shine to other minority centric films like Hidden Figures, Fences, and Lion.

LaneNow is probably the time where I should admit I’ve only seen…. three films nominated for best picture, actor/actress, and directing. Scott and Michelle should be trusted if you are using us for your office Oscar’s pool. But really, I’m not enthused by this year’s selections. Just in general.

Michelle: Hahaha Lane! I’ve seen each of the Best Picture nominees and if this was my awards show, I’d go with Hidden Figures, simply because it covers everything for me. Female friendship, empowerment, overcoming adversity, great soundtrack, beautiful shots, costume and production design, and an all-star cast that shows up and delivers. This isn’t my awards show though, so I’m almost certain it’s going to La La Land. It would be an incredible surprise if the Best Picture award went to any film other than La La Land, but I think Moonlight or Manchester By the Sea would be the closest contenders to upsetting Chazelle and company.

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Hidden Figures

Scott: One film that I’d like to talk about, I suppose because I don’t think it’s expected to walk away with much but deserves at least some recognition, is Hell or High Water. I don’t think any film here better represents the year in review in the politics and people of the United States than this one. At times its screenplay is heavy-handed, there’s an unnecessary (but not graphic scene) of sexual assault, and it expects its audience to have a surprisingly strong knowledge of banks and reverse mortgages. Still, if you’re looking to comprehend how Donald Trump won the election and don’t feel like digging through a scholarly volume, this film may just help you understand a little better. This is the movie I’d like to see win over Manchester by the Sea for Original Screenplay.

LaneI would love to see 20th Century Women win for Original Screenplay. I don’t think it will, but I chose it anyway because Ex Machina won for best visual effects last year and I’m overcompensating for not choosing with my heart. You can see where I chose passion over logic on my ballot in my choices for Original Screenplay, Film Editing (Arrival), and Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris).

Michelle: I want so badly for Mike Mills and 20th Century Women to win the Best Original Screenplay category, because that narrative was beautiful, real, hilarious, warm, and so much more, but I think Kenneth Lonergan walks away with another win for Manchester By the Sea. I’m not sure if it was Casey Affleck, my general disdain for Boston, or a flatness in the script, but I wasn’t profoundly moved by Manchester By the Sea as I was by the other nominated screenplays. Lowkey want The Lobster to win because that story is unreal and I loved every second of it.

Scott: The one category that I do think Hell or High Water has a shot at is Supporting Actor with Jeff Bridges as a Texas Ranger in pursuit of two bank robbers. He would have to beat out Mahershala Ali’s soulful portrayal of an altruistic drug dealer in Moonlight, but Jeff Bridges’ performance is funny, engaging, undeniably charismatic, and the highlight of the film. Granted, Mr. Bridges has made a late-career specialty in playing these sorts of gruff Western men, but this one is particularly engaging.

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Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Michelle: I think the race is definitely between Mahershala Ali and Jeff Bridges for Supporting Actor, and I agree wholeheartedly with Scott that this is best category for Hell or High Water to walk away with a win. I would love to see Dev Patel win, but I think that nomination should have gone to Sunny Pawar, the 5 year old who played the younger version of the main character in Lion. Like Jacob Tremblay (but with far less recognition this season), Sunny Pawar carried a good portion of Lion on his tiny little back and showed an immense amount of emotion and talent on screen. Both were snubbed a nod. The wild card in this category, with a shot at causing an upset, could end up being Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals, if the Academy decides to give us some Golden Globes-esque shock by giving the award to Shannon over Ali (Aaron Taylor-Johnson won at the Globes for Nocturnal Animals).

Scott: I have to mention the Foreign Language category because it’s a particularly interesting race, thanks to the Muslim Ban. Toni Erdmann has been built out of positive hype within certain critical circles for the last several months, included in many “best-of” lists in the most prestigious publications. Critics seemed to be scrabbling for a gem to claim all their own as their cause celebre. The film itself is perplexing and trying, so the question is whether the hype from critics will transfer over to the Academy. I suspect it likely will, but the Iranian-French film The Salesman, directed by Iranian Asghar Farhadi, who rose to global fame with the Oscar-winning A Separation, could pose stiff competition. This is a solid film, but one that doesn’t hold a candle to A Separation. Under ordinary circumstances, it would have had slimmer chances, but with Trump’s immigration orders and Farhadi’s understandable boycott of the Oscar’s this year (or of the United States more accurately), this film is sure to get some, and possibly many, political protest votes in its favor.

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The Salesman

LaneI, sadly, haven’t seen any of the foreign film nominations but I think The Salesman is a pretty safe bet.

Michelle: Scott pretty much covered my points on this category. Toni Erdmann should take it, but I chose The Salesman because it’s been generating the most buzz whether that be for political reasons or actual cinematic discussion. I’d love to see Toni Erdmann walk away with it though. Also…what would this category look like if Elle had made the list?

Scott: The lead actress category is also interesting given that there does not appear to be a clear front-runner. Isabelle Huppert is wonderful in Elle, but that great film appears not to be favored by the Academy given its exclusion from even the Foreign-Language film short-list. She’s also a foreign actress in a foreign film in a restrained rather than showy performance, none of which will help her chances. Emma Stone brings plenty of charisma and emotion to La La Land, but it’s not exactly the most complex role. My pick, both in terms of who will win and who should win, is Natalie Portman for Jackie. Her performance, as many critics have negatively noted, is highly mannered. You can feel the calculations, rehearsed imitation, and artifice as you watch. But regardless of whether you find all these attributes excessive, alienating, and perhaps not even particularly accurate as an imitation of Jackie Kennedy, in the context of the film, they work perfectly. That’s because this is a film about the construction of a person and of icons and ideas through artifice, and Ms. Portman perfectly captures that (whether intentionally or not). More impressive, however, is the complexity, reactiveness, and intelligence of her performance beneath the artifice. I think it’s her best work to date.

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Natalie Portman, Jackie

Michelle: This category doesn’t feel as tough for me as it has in previous years. I picked Emma Stone. I have a feeling it’s going to Emma on the basis that the SAG awards have accurately predicted the Oscar winner for Lead Actor/Actress for the last 10 years (why I chose Denzel for Fences, too). However, Isabelle Huppert feels like her closest threat, which doesn’t justify the remaining nominees and their chances. As Scott mentioned, Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy is stunning, regardless of the calculation and effort for precision. There were moments while I was watching Jackie that I forgot it wasn’t the real Jackie Kennedy and that it was indeed Portman. I think she’s been slighted throughout this entire race and it’s not warranted. The performance of a lifetime has been placed on the back burner for Stone’s performance in La La Land (which, maybe singing and dancing means harder work?) and Huppert’s controversial rape revenge role. Although it wasn’t my favorite role of Portman’s, it’s hard to deny that this was her best performance and an example of her commitment and range. Another nominee who gave an incredible performance but has sat in the shadows is Ruth Negga. She deserves so much more for her role in Loving and it’s a shame that she’s been pushed aside completely. Her co-star Joel Edgerton wasn’t even nominated, so I guess a nod is better than nothing. And I’m sure I’ll be chastised for this but I don’t care. Meryl Streep should not be in this category at all. Florence Foster Jenkins is another example of a role that has little to no difference than previous, “standout” roles and, because she is an Academy darling, an actress deserving of a spot in the category misses out to Streep’s shoe-in nomination. Amy Adams deserved a nod and I think if she was nominated, the weight of this category would shift, because you don’t have Arrival without her…which makes her snub hurt even more.

LaneI’d like to justify my pick for Production Design. I think Hail, Caesar! may have a shot at this and would test our “Hollywood loves Hollywood” theory, as it’s pinned against La La Land. Arguably, Hail, Caesar! is even more of an ode to Hollywood than La La Land. Its production design is much more elaborate and diverse. I’m not sure if it had much of a campaign and it did debut 12 months ago. But Hollywood loves the Coen brothers and I think it could upset a La La Land sweep.

Michelle: It’s possible, but I have a feeling the scene in the planetarium for La La Land and the ending montage makes the Academy forget about any other contenders. If anyone is taking it from La La Land, it’s obviously Hail, Caesar! though.

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Hail, Caesar!

Michelle: Last note I want to make for the public. It took EVERYTHING in me not to cast a vote for “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land for Best Original Song. I went with “City of Stars” because I have a feeling this is the better shot, but if you’ve looked at my Spotify recent plays for the last three months, you should know this was a very difficult decision. Also…who’s excited for the live performances of these songs!? Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Lin-Manuel Miranda…let’s go!

LaneBut we all hate that Justin Timberlake song, am I right?*

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Editors note: Scott does not hate this song. For the record.