The Complete and Utter Guide to the Academy Awards, In Its Entirety

By Gabe Nisker

Funnyman Jimmy Kimmel hosts this year’s Academy Awards and we’re in for a treat. Whether you’ve seen the movies or not, this guide is for you. We’ll look here at how to win an Oscar pool, what to look out for and general fun Oscar trivia.

Chapter 1: What the hell is La La Land?

At risk of sounding pretentious, how dare you. Read that again — this time, I’m (kind of) kidding. Honestly, La La Land is magical, a movie worth experiencing for yourself. It’s the story of a guy and girl who have come to Los Angeles to make their dreams come true. It’s also a musical. If you’ve got time for only one Oscar movie – it’s this one. It tied the record for most nominations with 14, tying Joseph Mankiewicz’s All About Eve and James Cameron’s Titanic. Now that’s a fun fact you can drop on your friends when watching the Oscars! More fun facts to come.

Chapter 2: I’ve seen, like, one of these. I need to catch up on my movie-watching.

There’s a few ways to go about this. Please, don’t torrent – artists deserve to be paid for their work, even if it is relatively expensive to go see tons of movies. Instead, use more reliable sources. Pick one or two movies to see in theatres (I’m suggesting La La Land and Moonlight as true cinematic experiences) and stream whatever else you can at home through Netflix, or iTunes/Google Play, among other streaming services.

Here’s some of what’s available on Netflix:

The Jungle Book – nominated for Best Visual Effects

The Lobster – nominated for Best Original Screenplay

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – nominated for Best Sound Mixing (my advice: skip this)

Zootopia – frontrunner for Best Animated Feature (this is a must-see!)

And on top of all that, the nearly 8 hour (5 part) documentary OJ: Made in America is available on CraveTV. It’s supposed to be incredible. I’ve been trying to clear a weekend for ages.

Chapter 3: I haven’t heard of half of these Best Picture nominees. Why did I miss them? Can you tell me about them?

Odds are, if you go to the movies in the months of May-August, you’ve seen your fair share of comic book movies. The Oscars’ large pool of voters tend to go with more difficult films — arthouse films, they’re called. Arthouse films are far more niche than your average summer blockbuster. Among the Oscar nominees, there are also some biopics designed for Oscar attention, heartwarming stories for the whole family. Because of something called the recency bias, most of these “Oscar” movies are released in the late fall and winter season.

Anyways, they’re all really good (in their own way, that is. Some aren’t my cup of tea). Let me run through them for you.

FrontrunnerLa La Land

A musical about making it in Hollywood, as I said above. In this writer’s opinion, it’s easily going to take home the trophy, having won at almost all the guild awards (the award shows specific to a certain sector of Hollywood, like the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild or Producers Guild).

Critic’s ChoiceMoonlight

Moonlight swept up local critics’ awards and with good reason. It’s a powerful story of an African-American kid coming to terms with who he is. Brilliantly shot, phenomenally acted – it’s going to win at least one other award (Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor, probably) but I don’t think it has as big of a shot in Best Picture at this point as it did at the start of the campaign.

The Next 3:

Manchester By The Sea: If you like part depressing, part hilarious slice of life movies with a lot of dialogue, you’ll love this. Really, though, I enjoyed it but it’s far likelier to take home Best Original Screenplay for the phenomenal work done here by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan.

Hidden Figures: The one guild award La La Land didn’t win is one they didn’t even get nominated for. Anyways, it happens to be a big predictor of Best Picture success. Hidden Figures, the based-on-a-true-story film about Katherine Johnson’s involvement in the Space Race, picked up the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Ensemble. Actresses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae were all great. Spencer picked up an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress as well.

Arrival: There seems to be a yearly spot in the Best Picture race for science fiction. We’ve had Gravity and The Martian in recent years. This year’s no different but this film is. A truly fascinating take on an alien invasion, Arrival takes its time but it’s so worth it. Want to sound smart? When this movie gets mentioned, mention to your buddies that Amy Adams should’ve been nominated. She was phenomenal.

The Longshots:

Lion: This true story is almost too crazy to be true. It’s the story of Saroo Brierley, who got separated from his family when he was little, ended up far away and tried to locate them years later with only a handful of memories. Dev Patel, nominated for his work as grownup Saroo, is pretty good — but the real snub here is Sunny Pawar as 5 year old Saroo.

Hell or High Water: This should be more of a contender than it is. An all-American movie directed by an Scotsman, it’s a bank robbery movie and a critique of banks all in one. Jeff Bridges is one of many great performances here but he’s the one who got nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Hacksaw Ridge: The only one I haven’t seen is a war movie based on the story of Desmond Doss, who saved lives without touching a weapon. Andrew Garfield plays Doss and is nominated for Best Actor. Director Mel Gibson is also nominated.

Fences: Whether Denzel Washington wins an Oscar for this or not (he’s pretty good), I’m a firm believer this should’ve stayed a play. Not much more I can say except congratulations to Viola Davis. In what is really a lead performance, she will definitely win Best Supporting Actress.

Chapter 4: I’m in it for the celebrities. Who got nominated? Who’ll be on the red carpet? Is there anything I should look out for at the show itself?

Among the big stars walking the red carpet, you’ve got Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a dynamite pair from La La Land. There’s Casey Affleck, one of the Best Actor frontrunners for his work in Manchester By The Sea. There’s also Denzel Washington. From what I’ve noticed, big names are lacking in the award categories (Matt Damon is nominated as a producer for Manchester by the Sea, if we want to go there). Then, there’s the presenters. For starters, we’ve got Captain America and Black Widow — Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson. There is also this one guy named Leonardo DiCaprio — he’ll be presenting the Best Actress award, since he won last year’s Best Actor for his role as Hugh Glass in The Revenant.

Chapter 5: Who should I put my money on in my Oscar pool?

For what it’s worth, I’m going to try and predict some of the categories on the record here. Here are some of my picks.

Best Picture: La La Land

Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea (Indications are this is a coin-toss between Affleck and Denzel Washington. Fittingly, I flipped a coin).

Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay: La La Land (I’m still torn on whether to choose this or Manchester by the Sea)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight

Best Animated Feature: Zootopia

Chapter 6: Hey Gabe, before you go, can you give me some Oscar fun facts to impress people?

This is also not-so-secretly the chapter in which I show off useless trivia I picked up from months of tracking the Oscar campaign. I’ve already given you good tidbits up above. Most of these come from Variety or The Hollywood Reporter (like this article right here) Let’s go for it.

  • Meryl Streep has been nominated for a ridiculous amount of Oscars. The most ever: 20, actually, now that she was nominated this year for Florence Foster Jenkins. She’s only won 3.
  • The average runtime of an Oscar Best Picture nominee this year is just around 2 hours and 5 minutes.
  • Best Original Score nominee Thomas Newman has been nominated 14 times. How many times has he won? Zero.
  • Damien Chazelle would become the youngest Best Director winner in Oscar history, if he were to win. He’s 32 years old. However, he’s not the youngest nominee of all-time — that would be 24 year old John Singleton, who directed the 1991 film Boyz N The Hood.

Chapter 7: How To Enjoy Watching The Actual Awards Show

Aside from trying to guess the categories, I try and make the show fun in a couple of other ways. These are called prop bets. You see them with sporting events like the Super Bowl — these bets extend beyond the game, to anything ranging from the coin toss to the length of the national anthem. For the Oscars, they pertain to the winners’ speeches, presenters’ pronunciations of names (thanks John Travolta!), swearing, selfies and so much more. Thanks to a site called, I’ve copied a few of them over here for your enjoyment. For anything here, bonus points if you can call your shot and name who exactly it will be.

Academy Award Prop Bets

Will the Best Actress winner cry during her acceptance speech?

Will the Best Actor winner cry during his acceptance speech?

Will any category produce a ‘tie’ for the Academy Award?

Which winner will make the longest acceptance speech?
Best Actor Winner
Best Actress Winner

Will any of the acting award winners continue their acceptance speech ‘after the music begins’ to cue them off?

Will a presenter mispronounce the name of a nominee or winner?

How many people will watch the 2017 Academy Awards TV broadcast?
Over 34.5 million
Under 34.5 million

Will any winner drop their Oscar trophy on stage?

Will someone speaking on stage refer to Meryl Streep as ‘the greatest actor/actress of our time’?

Will someone ‘take a selfie’ on camera during the Academy Awards broadcast?

Will any Academy Award winner swear during their speech (accidentally or not)? 

Chapter 8: Enjoy

Now that you’ve gone through a surprisingly long chapter-by-chapter guide to the Oscars, you’re ready for Oscar night. Schedule a 3–4 hour block on February 26th and have fun!

Chapter 9: Why are you still here?

This article’s over. Go home.