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Fill out your Oscar ballot with Steve Persall's predictions

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling take center stage in La La Land, which has received 14 Academy Award nominations.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling take center stage in La La Land, which has received 14 Academy Award nominations.
Published Feb. 23, 2017

Here's to the ones who dream of La La Land leaving the 89th annual Academy Awards without the best picture prize.

Dream on.

Nearly six months after being christened an Oscar frontrunner, Damien Chazelle's modern-day yet old-fashioned musical is poised to seal the deal. In recent weeks La La Land claimed top honors from the Golden Globes, directors and producers guilds plus the British Academy Film Awards, all signposts pointing to the best picture Oscar.

La La Land also has Academy Awards history squarely in its corner. Only Titanic and All About Eve ever received 14 nominations. Both took home the best picture prize.

The rarity of 14 nominations leaves La La Land appearing more special to voters, tougher to dismiss. Still, there's a glimmer of hope for anyone hoping for an upset. Take a look at the results for movies honored with 13 Academy Award nominations.

Surprisingly, it's nearly an even split in best picture wins and losses: Nine movies have earned a baker's dozen nominations. Five won the big prize. Over just the past four years, The Revenant and Lincoln entered Oscar night with 12 nominations each and weren't named best picture.

That may suggest a developing trend in second-guess final balloting. A win Sunday night by any movie other than La La Land would do much to confirm that. Personally, I don't see it happening.

That's one prediction out of 24 Oscar categories that I feel confident about this year. Just about the only one, actually.

Use this handy ballot to make your own picks and compare with mine. Gloating is not allowed and, as usual, no wagering, please.




Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land


Manchester by the Sea


Persall's pick: All roads lead to La La Land. Take a different route at your Oscars pool risk.


Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

Persall's pick: Damien Chazelle won the Directors Guild of America prize that has predicted Oscar winners all but seven times since 1948.


Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Denzel Washington, Fences

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Persall's pick: Casey Affleck claimed key pre-Oscar honors but lifting Denzel Washington to the rarefied level of three-time winner is the sort of history the academy needs to make.


Emma Stone, La La Land

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Persall's pick: At least two other nominees are more deserving but Emma Stone appears unbeatable. However, this is the likeliest acting category for an upset.

Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Dev Patel, Lion

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Persall's pick: Mahershala Ali carried the banner for Moonlight's stunning ensemble cast throughout awards season. He'll wave it high here.

Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Persall's pick: The surest bet on Oscar night. Viola Davis is long overdue and tremendous in a role that could have been considered as a lead performance.

Adapted Screenplay





Hidden Figures

Persall's pick: Florida State University film school graduate Barry Jenkins wins for the coming-of-self drama Moonlight.

Original Screenplay

Manchester by the Sea

La La Land

Hell or High Water

The Lobster

20th Century Women

Persall's pick: Six major nominations make Manchester by the Sea a good bet to win at least one. Kenneth Lonergan's melancholy screenplay is its best shot.

Foreign Language Film

Toni Erdmann (Germany)

The Salesman (Iran)

Land of Mine (Denmark)

Tanna (Australia)

A Man Called Ove (Sweden)

Persall's pick: Toni Erdmann has been the Oscar favorite since Cannes, a nearly three-hour comedy set for an American remake with Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig.

Documentary Feature

O.J.: Made in America


Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life Animated

Persall's pick: Unless its ESPN origins stoke Hollywood resentment, Ezra Edelman's epic eight-hour examination of O.J. Simpson's murder trial and race in America certainly fits.

Animated Feature


Kubo and the Two Strings

The Red Turtle

My Life As a Zucchini


Persall's pick: Kubo and the Two Strings pulled off an upset at the recent Annie Awards but I'm guessing the academy sends a message with Disney's diversity fable Zootopia.

Film Editing

La La Land



Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Persall's pick: This category's winner often goes hand-in-hand with the best picture Oscar. That makes La La Land a smart pick.

Original song

City of Stars, La La Land

Audition (The Fools Who Dream), La La Land

How Far I'll Go, Moana

Can't Stop the Feeling, Trolls

The Empty Chair, Jim: The James Foley Story

Persall's pick: Sorry, Lin-Manuel Miranda, but Hollywood keeps you waiting for the "O" in EGOT. It's my least favorite La La Land song but City of Stars wins.

Original Score

La La Land





Persall's pick: In an era of jukebox musicals, Justin Hurwitz composed one from scratch. Two best song nominations seal La La Land's victory here.


La La Land





Persall's pick: James Laxton's moody camera work expressed as much about Moonlight's characters as its screenplay.

Costume Design

Florence Foster Jenkins

La La Land

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them



Persall's pick: Typically a haven for period pieces, so count out La La Land for once. I'll guess Jackie for draping Natalie Portman in Kennedy-era fashion.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Star Trek Beyond

A Man Called Ove

Suicide Squad

Persall's pick: Usually the wilder the better in this category. Suicide Squad introduced a new line of Halloween costumes. Harley Quinn alone should win it.

Production Design

La La Land

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!



Persall's pick: Personally, I thought Passengers' luxury space cruise setting was brilliant. Back on Earth, chalk up another win for La La Land.

Sound Editing

Hacksaw Ridge


Deepwater Horizon

La La Land


Persall's pick: Loud and cluttered is popular in this category. Let's hand an Oscar to Mel Gibson's World War II din in Hacksaw Ridge.

Sound Mixing

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land


13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Persall's pick: On the other hand, this sound category appreciates tonal clarity that musicals do best. La La Land is the pick.

Visual Effects

The Jungle Book

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Kubo and the Two Strings

Doctor Strange

Deepwater Horizon

Persall's pick: The fact that The Jungle Book's everything-faked-but-the-boy fooled enough voters that it wasn't nominated for best animated feature is why it'll win here.

Live Action Short


Silent Nights

La Femme et le TGV

Ennemis Intérieurs


Persall's pick: Silent Nights' romance between a homeless immigrant from Ghana and a homeless shelter volunteer should be the choice.

Animated Short



Borrowed Time

Blind Vaysha

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Persall's pick: Each nominee is a gem, but never bet against Disney/Pixar in any tossup animation Oscar race. Piper's the pick.

Documentary Short

Joe's Violin

The White Helmets


Watani: My Homeland

4.1 Miles

Persall's pick: As debate over Syrian refugees simmers, The White Helmets puts a bloodied face on civilian victims and first responders saving them.

Contact Steve Persall at or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.