Last week we went over the slew of technical awards– sound, music, camerawork, makeup- you know, the things that make our favorite films look and feel so incredible. This time we’re going to look at the men and women who inhabit those movies, giving life to characters either wholly fictional, inspired by the stories of others, or some combination of the two. This year we see actors nominated for playing real-life men and women who struggled for love, family, justice, and the right to be heard. We see actors playing parts that originated on the stage, and parts adapted from the words of novels. The nominated performances run the gamut from hilarious, to stoic, to deeply sad.

So who will win? Will Meryl Streep take home her 4th statue after a record 20 nominations? Will newcomers like Mahershala Ali and Ruth Negga triumph? Will Denzel Washington and Viola Davis repeat the wins that they captured at the Tony’s for the same roles?

Let’s take a look….

Best Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Dev Patel (Lion), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Sea), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Since 2000 the SAG and Bafta awards have correctly predicted the Oscar 9 of the 15 times, though their 9 picks do not line up with one another. And of course, this year is no exception to that discordance. The SAGs love Ali for his portrayal of drug dealer Juan in Moonlight, while the Bafta’s handed their award over to Dev Patel for Lion. 

I should also note that neither one of those awards even correctly predicted the full gamut of Oscar nominees. Both listed Ali, Patel, and Jeff Bridges. But only the SAGs recognized Hedges for his work in Manchester By the Sea, and neither even looked at Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals. Poor Hugh Grant, beloved by Bafta and Screen Actors Guild alike, received no nomination from the Academy.

So what do I think? Ali. He’s picking up wins left and right, Bafta aside. Dev Patel was great in Lion, but I’m perplexed as to why the producers submitted his name for supporting consideration. He’s in more than half of the film. Bridges was appropriately crabby and offensive in Hell or High Water, and Hedges was also fine in his role as a teen whose life is upended, but this will be a fight between Ali and Patel.

Shannon is my longshot. Nocturnal Animals is getting its votes split all over the place, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson also receiving Supporting Actor nominations from other societies (and winning the Globe). The odds can’t be too kind for Shannon’s turn as a Texas sheriff, though he did good work in the part.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali

Could Win: Dev Patel

Total Longshot: Michael Shannon

Best Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Viola Davis (Fences), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea)

The Baftas do a pretty good job predicting this winner, going 11/15 since 2000, and the SAG Awards are a hair better at 12/15. This year both were also pretty dead on with the nominees. The SAGs got 5/5, while the Baftas really loved I, Daniel Blake, and gave consideration to Hayley Squires over Octavia Spencer.

This year both of those awards were unanimous in their praise of Viola Davis for her portrayal of Rose Maxson in Fences. Davis has been so lauded in this part (which she also won a Tony for years back) that if she doesn’t win it’s going to be a monstrous upset. I could maybe see Naomie Harris squeaking in for Moonlight, or Michelle Williams for Manchester, but none of the other nominees have won anything even close to the number of accolades that Davis has.

Will Win: Viola Davis

Could Win: Naomie Harris

Total Longshot: Nicole Kidman

Best Actor – Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Viggo Mortenson (Captain Fantastic), Densel Washington (Fences), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

This is going to be a fun category to watch because it shows that the Oscars are all about context. If you’d asked me a month ago to put my money down I would’ve said Casey Affleck with no hesitation. He was on some stage with his scraggly beard every time I blinked. But now, with assault allegations resurfacing, his unstoppable win-train might just be vulnerable after all. Denzel Washington just won the SAG for Fences, which is notable because the Screen Actors Guild has correctly predicted the Oscar winner the last twelve years straight. Affleck won the Bafta, but those awards are far less reliable indicators, going only 9/15. This is a two-man race.

Based on performance alone I’d say Gosling is the long shot. He was good in La La Land, but he wasn’t what made the movie great. However, as much as I adored Captain Fantastic, Mortenson is our real long shot. The film got barely any visibility (hint, go see it). Garfield was the heart and soul of Hacksaw Ridge, but he’s not getting past the Washington/Affleck road block… not unless there is some serious vote splitting.

Will Win: Denzel Washington, I can’t fight history.

Could Win: Casey Affleck

Total Longshot: Viggo Mortenson

Best Actress – Emma Stone (La La Land), Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Ruth Negga (Loving), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Ah finally, the last category, and probably the most difficult in my opinion. I’m still utterly confused as to how Meryl Streep got nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins, because that movie was not that great and her performance was nothing memorable. So I’ll just say one final time that both Amy Adams and Annette Benning got screwed on that one, and that Meryl is my long shot for this win. Negga is probably also near the tail end of the likelihood scale as well, not because her performance as Mildred Loving wasn’t good, but because we have three powerhouses vying to topple this boat over.

Moving on… we have basically have a three-way slug fest between Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, and Isabelle Huppert. If I got to personally choose? Huppert. She was a powerhouse in Elle, and that performance should not be missed. However, there is more ot be considered, because the Oscars are weird like that. Portman was a perfect Jackie, as if born to play that role, and Stone was the perfect mix of confidence and vulnerability in La La Land. It’s a tough call. The SAGs have gone 12/15 while the Baftas have gone 11/15 and both liked Stone this year. But Huppert’s Globe win shouldn’t be discounted, nor should Portman’s various film critic awards. It’s going to be close, very close.

Will Win: Emma Stone

Could Win: Isabelle Huppert

Total Longshot: Meryl Streep