Oscar Experts See 'La La Land' as the Big Winner at 89th Academy Awards

Texas Tech University’s theatre and film experts made their predictions as to who will take home the awards while also interjecting about who actually should win.

It’s Oscars time again, and movie experts from Texas Tech University predicted their likely winners and discussed what surprises viewers should look for. This year’s nominations seem to reflect a shift in the Academy after last year’s controversy surrounding the overwhelming majority of Caucasian nominees.

  Best Picture Best Actor Best Actress Best Supporting Actor Best Supporting Actress Best Director
Tim Day "La La Land" Ryan Gosling Emma Stone Jeff Bridges Viola Davis Damien Chazelle
Paul Allen Hunton "Moonlight" Casey Affleck Emma Stone Mahershala Ali Viola Davis Damien Chazelle
Dean Nolen "Hidden Fences" Casey Affleck Emma Stone Mahershala Ali Viola Davis Damien Chazelle
Rob Peaslee "Moonlight" Casey Affleck Isabelle Huppert Mahershala Ali Naomie Harris Barry Jenkins
Paul N. Reinsch "La La Land" Casey Affleck Emma Stone Mahershala Ali Viola Davis Damien Chazelle
Rob Weiner "La La Land" Ryan Gosling Natalie Portman Lucas Hedges Naomie Harris Damien Chazelle

 


Day

Tim Day

film instructor, Department of English

Best Picture
“La La Land”

Best Actor
Ryan Gosling for “La La Land”

Best Actress
Emma Stone for “La La Land”

Best Supporting Actor
Jeff Bridges for “Hell or High Water”

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis for “Fences”

Best Director
Damien Chazelle for “La La Land”

Theme of the night
“La La Land” is going to win all the things. Nearly the entire nominee list is full of films with unlikeable characters doing unlikeable things. Alternately, the films themselves are depressing, heartbreaking or otherwise just downbeat. “La La Land” is an uplifting film that Oscar voters can get behind. It is the movie this country needs right now … an experience where you can go to the theater and be immersed in singing and dancing and feel good about the world again. In that way it is both nostalgic and needed. Chazelle’s impressive “Whiplash” from two years ago has built some goodwill for the voters already.  Expect this film to dominate the night … and well deserved.


Hunton

Paul Allen Hunton

general manager, Texas Tech Public Media
instructor, College of Media & Communication

Best Picture
“Moonlight”

Best Actor
Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Actress
Emma Stone for “La La Land”

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight”

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis for “Fences”

Best Director
Damien Chazelle for “La La Land”

Theme of the night
In many ways this year will be hard to predict. The nominations were so historically different and you have to point to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy from last year and the appointment of a new Academy president and 200ish new members. I don’t tend to pick my favorites but rather look at all the contextual forces that are at play. This year predicting is difficult, but look for “Moonlight” and “La La Land” to duke it out all night with Damien Chazelle being rewarded for directing a spectacular modern musical, but “Moonlight” winning Best Picture. If the Golden Globes and SAG awards were any indication, look for it to be a politically charged evening. I can’t wait!


Nolen

Dean Nolen

head, acting/directing program, 
School of Theatre and Dance

Best Picture
Will Win: “Hidden Figures.” Should Win: “Hidden Figures” (“Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight” are close behind). “La La Land” has momentum going into Oscar’s big night, but for me, “Moonlight,” “Hidden Figures” and “Manchester by the Sea” are superior films. And “Hidden Figures” delivers the kind of film that Hollywood should be about.

Best Actor
Will Win: Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea.” Should Win: Affleck. This is a nuanced, understated, truthful performance from Affleck. Denzel Washington could take it home but shouldn’t. He’s capable of so much more as an actor than his work in “Fences,” which was terrific, but he’s a deeper actor and better craftsman. Much of his attention, for me, went to direction (and perhaps more should have).

Best Actress
Will Win: Emma Stone for “La La Land.” Should Win: Stone. It’s a lovely, endearing portrayal. Stone is ever-charming and consistently turns in smart, poignant performances – and this triple-threat combination is tough to outdo.

Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight.” Should Win: Ali. A passionate, talented actor was matched with a tremendous role. Ali provided one of the season’s most moving performances.

Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Viola Davis for “Fences.” Should Win: Davis. One scene alone confirmed this win. If you haven’t seen the film, find it! Davis offers a masterclass in acting. Period.

Best Director
Will Win: Damien Chazelle for “La La Land.” Should Win:  Chazelle. Chazelle pulled together a beautiful film with “La La Land” with the opening sequence alone carrying enough originality and craftsmanship to clinch the win. A close second is Kenneth Lonergan’s sensitive and no-nonsense direction for “Manchester by the Sea.”

Theme of the night
Surprises: “Hidden Figures” steals Best Picture from “La La Land,” “Moonlight” or “Manchester by the Sea,” though for me “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” are equally deserving films. All three are far superior to “La La Land.” Denzel Washington takes Best Actor over Casey Affleck; Jeff Bridges takes Best Supporting Actor over Dev Patel or Mahershala Ali; ANYONE other than Viola Davis takes home Supporting Actress.


Peaslee

Rob Peaslee

associate professor and chairman,
Department of Journalism & Electronic Media

Best Picture
I think this is a race between two contenders: “La La Land” and “Moonlight.” Which one comes out on top will tell us a lot about the Academy’s collective response to #OscarsSoWhite. “La La Land” is lovely, but ultimately escapist and solipsistic; my vote is for “Moonlight,” as relevant a film as has been nominated in this category in recent years.

Best Actor
There’s a certain amount of friendly backlash regarding “La La Land,” and Academy voters may look for options in other categories. I look for Casey Affleck to edge out Ryan Gosling and Denzel Washington here.

Best Actress
Is “Elle” too much for Academy voters? Could be, and that’s to Isabelle Huppert’s disadvantage. I’m going to stick with her here, but if Emma Stone wins this category, that’s a pretty good indicator of a La La Landslide (I just stole a bunch of entertainment editors’ post-Oscars headlines).

Best Supporting Actor
This category feels pretty open to me. Jeff Bridges has been here recently, and although he’s compelling in “Hell or High Water,” we’ve seen derivations of that performance before. I’m going with Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali.

Best Supporting Actress
For me, this is the toughest category to call. There’s a lot of momentum going into the home stretch around “Hidden Figures,” and I would not be surprised to see Oscar fave Octavia Spencer accepting a statue. That said, I’m going to put my money on Naomie Harris’s devastating performance in “Moonlight.”

Best Director
I doubt we’ll see a Best Picture/Best Director split this year, so I’m going to go with Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight.”

Theme of the night
My sense of a possible theme for this year's Oscar telecast is that the pendulum swings decidedly back toward inclusivity. After last year's #OscarsSoWhite controversy, a shake-up in the voting population, the uncertainties concerning the Trump administration's demonstrated aversion to diversity and some pretty amazing performances and productions by actors and producers of color, this year's program promises to honor industry professionals of a variety of backgrounds and give them a platform for speaking out.


Reinsch

Paul N. Reinsch

assistant professor of practice in cinema,
School of Theatre and Dance

Best Picture
“La La Land” – This win won’t make up for “The Greatest Show on Earth” winning best picture over the not-even-nominated “Singin’ in the Rain” in 1953, but it is always nice for a musical to take the “best” prize. Still waiting for a western to win this Oscar, though.

Best Actor
Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea” – This Affleck could create a more convincing Batman than his brother if he wanted to spend his time making summer films. Having said that, this award might go to Denzel Washington to acknowledge the relevance of “Fences” and his work to get that film made. 

Best Actress
Emma Stone for “La La Land” – This category would be much more interesting if Stone had to compete with Viola Davis.

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight” – This might be Moonlight’s only win at the Oscars, and Ali is deserving.

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis for “Fences” – Almost a sure thing. Shrewdly putting her up for supporting actress rather than the lead made this possible, of course.

Best Director
Damien Chazelle for “La La Land” – Expect Hollywood to pat itself on the back for fostering this young talent. He’s no Orson Welles, but after this win the comparison will be everywhere, as will the incessant handwringing about his “future.” 

Theme of the night
If more folks had seen “Elle,” then Isabelle Huppert might have a shot at the biggest upset of the night. Hopefully the acclaim for her performance will allow Paul Verhoeven to undertake more projects like “RoboCop” and “Starship Troopers,” works that are starting to feel like documentaries from the future. 


Weiner

Rob Weiner

Pop culture librarian,
Texas Tech University Libraries

Best Picture
“La La Land” seems to be the favored picture, but would like to see “Arrival” win or even “Hell or High Water.” It is an odd mix this year, but some very good films.

Best Actor
My hope is Viggo Mortensen but it will probably go to Ryan Gosling.

Best Actress
My pick would be Natalie Portman, who did a terrific job in “Jackie,” but “La La Land” seems to be the favored film so I would not be surprised if Emma Stone won.

Best Supporting Actor
I would love to see Michael Shannon win, but I bet Lucas Hedges is the favored one.

Best Supporting Actress
I would love to see Naomie Harris win for her great performance in “Moonlight.” I would not be surprised if Michelle Williams won for “Manchester by the Sea.”

Best Director
Damien Chazelle for “La La Land.” It would be great if Denis Villeneuve won for “Arrival.”

Theme of the night
“La La Land” seems to be one of the favored films this year. So many folks I’ve talked to loved this movie, so it would not surprise me if it swept the Oscars. However, you never know how the Academy is going to go. 


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More Peaslee & Hunton Pick 2017

Best Picture

Best Actor and
Best Supporting Actor

Best Actress and
Best Supporting Actress

Best Directing

Oscar Experts See La La Land as the Big Winner at 89th Academy Awards

Texas Tech Experts Available to Discuss 2017 Oscar Nominations


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