After what many considered to be a lackluster 2015, movies came back in a big way in 2016. You’ve undoubtedly heard the hype surrounding movie-musical “La La Land,” which secured a whopping 12 nominations and is the odds-on favorite to take home many of those 12 awards, including Best Picture.

But joining “La La Land” as critically acclaimed Best Picture contenders are a spiritual war film (“Hacksaw Ridge”), a modern western (“Hell or High Water”), a unique sci-fi film (“Arrival”), a theatrical adaptation (“Fences”) and other gripping stories — both heartwarming (“Lion” and “Hidden Figures”) and heartbreaking (“Manchester by the Sea” and the severely underrated “Moonlight”).

Here are Angelus News’ predictions on which stars, director and film are likely to take home Oscar gold on Feb. 26 in this very competitive year.


Should Win: Viola Davis (“Fences”). She matches Denzel Washington’s energy blow for blow in her vivid portrayal of Rose, who is hopelessly in love with Troy, a hopeless cause. Every part of her being wants to move on from Troy except for her heart, and Davis sizzles as she takes us through that emotional trek.

Will Win: Davis. She not only delivered what I feel was the most Oscar-worthy performance, but she’s also owed a win for the 2012 Oscars, when her dynamite portrayal as Aibileen in “The Help” lost out to Meryl Streep’s turn as Margaret Thatcher in the “The Iron Lady” for reasons I will never understand.

Dark Horse: Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”). The film is a three-part exploration of a young man during three distinctly different segments of his life, and a major reason it works so well is Harris (doing an exemplary job of curbing her British accent here) and her performance as a mother in three very different, but equally unsettling, stages of drug addiction.


Should Win: Dev Patel (“Lion”). He doesn’t show up until about 45 minutes into the film, but he puts the proceedings on his back to show us the multifaceted agony of a young man, separated from his mother as a boy in a destitute region of India, who yearns to reconnect with her, but, due to not knowing the name of his hometown or remembering much of anything about it, doesn’t even know where to begin in his search.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”). And you know what? I’m great with that. My personal vote goes to Patel over Ali simply by virtue of Patel having more screen time (Ali’s character is only present for about a third of the film), but in his short time on the screen, Ali makes a truly lasting impression with his well-rounded portrayal of a Miami drug kingpin with a heart of gold.

Dark Horse: None. I’m about 80 percent sure that, on the heels of Ali’s win at the SAG Awards, he’ll be taking home the Oscar as well.


Should Win: Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”). In what is arguably the most stacked category at this year’s ceremony, Gosling still emerges as the most dynamic of the bunch. Bringing humor, pathos and effortless charm to the role of Sebastian, Gosling’s versatile performance here is the cinematic equivalent of a five-tool player in baseball.

Will Win: Gosling. He’ll get credit not only for his outstanding performance, but also for the fact that he had to learn to play the piano and memorize extensive choreography in order to make the song and dance scenes truly pop.

Dark Horse: There’s two: Denzel Washington (“Fences”) and Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”). Washington upset Gosling for Best Actor at last month’s SAG awards, and it’s not hard to understand why. In the first-ever silver screen iteration of August Wilson’s classic play, Washington (who also served as the film’s director) leaves it all on the field in his portrayal of Troy Maxson, a deeply flawed victim of the times who can’t stay out of his own way in his perpetual battle with his inner demons. As for Affleck, although his performance in “Manchester by the Sea” was a little one-note in my opinion, both he and the film earned tremendous critical praise. He also won Best Actor in the Drama category at the Golden Globes.


Should Win: Emma Stone (“La La Land”). She truly shines as she teams up with Gosling to carry (and elevate) an extraordinary film, breathing life and three-dimensionality into her portrayal of Mia, a struggling actress who’s one straw away from leaving Hollywood with a broken back. You don’t have to be an actor to be affected by Stone’s Mia, as she fights against “no” after crushing “no.” And she has a number toward the end of the film that steals the show.

Will Win: Stone. She took home the trophy both at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards. You can put this one in ink on your Oscar picks sheet.

Dark Horse: Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”). The Academy has demonstrated its obsession with Streep time and again. She always has at least an outside shot anytime she’s included in the field of nominees.


Should Win: Damian Chazelle (“La La Land”). This film is a classic example of a director getting exactly what he wanted, coming into it with unique, lofty ambitions (its shooting style, cinematography and accompanying storytelling techniques feel as fresh and rare as its song-and-dance aspect) and hitting home runs in every category.

Will Win: Chazelle. It’s a tremendously strong category this year, but “La La Land” is just a powerhouse of praise and has momentum totally on its side.

Dark Horse: Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”). This category is second verse, same as the first with the category of Best Picture. I’m fairly certain Chazelle will win, but Jenkins’ confident hand in the remarkable “Moonlight” ensures that he at least has a chance. “Moonlight” has several scenes that are about as good as it gets when it comes to direction (a handful of scenes with Ali, a schoolyard scene and the aftermath in the middle, and a scene in a diner toward the end come immediately to mind). It’s also important to note that recent years has seen a break in the trend of the Best Director automatically winning Best Picture.


Should Win: “La La Land.” It’s the most enchanting movie I’ve seen since Mary Poppins. A rare contemporary musical, “La La Land” overflows with charisma as it pays homage to “old Hollywood” musicals of the past, while carving an assured, distinct path of its own, taking the audience through delightful highs and gut-wrenching lows every step of the way.

Will Win: “La La Land.” It has just about everything going for it, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s a film in which art and entertainment is the star, a formula that has proven to be appealing to the Academy in the past (see “Birdman,” “Argo” and “The Artist”).

Dark Horse: “Moonlight.” Though it doesn’t kick in the door with all the bells and whistles of its comedy/musical rival “La La Land,” “Moonlight” paints a powerful, deeply affecting portrait of the cultural and societal pressures of black masculinity, and is about as fine an example of outstanding ensemble acting as you’ll ever see. It deservingly won Best Picture in the Drama category at the Golden Globes, and has at least a puncher’s chance of winning on Feb. 26.