One other note, I've included a crowd-sourced prediction for eight categories based on information from HSX, an online "movie stock" game which has an excellent track record of predicting winners in past years. By the looks of it, I'm in trouble since my predictions only agree on two of the eight.
Best Original Screenplay
I have heard many great things about this film and I think it will be one of the multiple winners at the Oscar ceremony tonight.
HSX Prediction: Manchester by the Sea (close runner up La La Land)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Initially I thought Lion might take home a few prizes tonight, but after going back over my list I think this may be the only win on the night. Again, I haven't seen any of the nominated films in this category so I'm going in a bit blind.
HSX Prediction: Moonlight
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Minor spoiler alert, but this choice is based somewhat on who I have NOT winning Best Actor below. I think this will likely be the only win for Fences on the evening.
HSX Prediction: Viola Davis, Fences
Best Costume Design
As usual, all of the films in this category are "period pieces," as long as you consider Fantastic Beasts a period piece since it's set earlier in the 20th century. If Fantastic Beasts is to win anything I could see it coming here, but feel that La La Land will start taking the lead for most wins on the night with a win here.
Best Production Design
When you only have a handful of actors to fill the screen, it's increasingly important to design the film well around them and that is no more evident than in Passengers. This is an area where science fiction or fantasy films can shine, note some recent winners such as Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. And while I could see this going to Arrival or Fantastic Beasts, this is the only nomination for Passengers.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
With only three films in this category it should be easier to pick from a smaller list. I will admit this is somewhat of a fan pick, but I do think that the makeup design for this Star Trek film was great, even placing it up there among some of the other recent Trek installments.
Here is another area where I don't have a lot of direct evidence to go on other than what I've seen in trailers, but the sweeping storytelling of Silence shines through even there.
Best Film Editing
Thinking that Arrival probably will not win much, I could see a lone win coming here. Hacksaw Ridge would be another great option as war films sometimes win here.
Best Sound Editing
Recent trends see this category often going to war and/or disaster films (see American Sniper, Gravity, and Zero Dark Thirty) and I can see that continuing this year with one win for Deepwater Horizon. As a second option, I could certainly see this going to Hacksaw Ridge for the same reason, but feel like that has a better chance to win in some other categories.
Best Sound Mixing
Here is another area where I can't see giving this sound award to something other than the musical in the bunch. I would of course prefer to see this go to one of my science fiction films (Rogue One or Arrival) and I could see Rogue One receiving this if things fall right. That being said, my money is on La La Land.
Best Visual Effects
I saw two of the films nominated in this category (The Jungle Book and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and while ten years ago I would have blindly voted with my Star Wars fandom, I am trying to look at this as objectively as possible. I haven't seen Doctor Strange yet, but given what I've heard from friends and seen in trailers, I would be hard pressed to give this award to another film. Rogue One has some fantastic visual effects, and The Jungle Book seamlessly blends jungle animals on the screen next to Mowgli, but I don't think either of them come close to what I've seen from Doctor Strange. I would not be surprised to hear that The Jungle Book wins here, but still see that as a big long shot.
Best Animated Short Film
This one is really tough for me. I sat down last night and actually watched four of the five nominees in this category (YouTube links are below). My initial leaning was to "Piper" since it was the only one I'd seen of the bunch. However, upon seeing most of the films (except "Pear Cider and Cigarettes") I had a very hard time narrowing down my choice. "Piper" looks extraordinary. It feels so real and even the cartoony elements have an amazing realism, and the title character is REALLY DAMN CUTE! The concept of the story behind "Blind Vaysha" is astounding and something I never would have thought of in a million years. Go check it out for yourself. "Pearl" is another piece of ingenuity, I believe the first 360 degree immersive film to be nominated for an Academy Award. However, it's not just a gimmick to watch the film with 3D goggles on your face. There is a truly moving story behind it at well. Finally, "Borrowed Time" is a very moving story of loss and grief. It has a realism that matches "Piper" but a much deeper story.
In the end I decided to go with "Borrowed Time" over "Blind Vaysha" because it adheres to the age-old story-telling rule of "show, don't tell." While the concept behind "Blind Vaysha" vaults it above the pack, it leans too much on a voice over narrative to tell the story where "Borrowed Time" has only a few words spoken by the characters and no narration necessary to get the point across.
Best Animated Feature
The only film of this bunch I've see this year is Zootopia and while I feel it is an outstanding film, I don't think it could hold up to Moana and possibly even Kubo and the Two Strings. In the end my vote goes to Moana simply for the visuals that it provides. Disney will start to gain some more ground on the folks at Pixar with another win in this category this year.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
This is one there I'm coming almost blind as well. I've heard many "experts" indicate that Shannon is their favorite for this category so I will go along with that.
HSX Prediction: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Best Documentary Short Subject
With two films focusing on various parts of the ongoing issues in Syria, I have a feeling that one of the two will win. I decided to go with "The White Helmets" over "Watani: My Homeland."
Best Documentary Feature
I just started watching this one recently and have to say I'm impressed. For all of the news coverage of the O.J. trial at the time, I'm somewhat amazed that we can still get new approaches to the story but this film seems to do just that. I'm hoping that my early opinion doesn't change once I finish it, but I have a strong feeling that this will take home the prize here.
Best Live-Action Short Film
I ran out of time to watch any of these films so this one is a complete shot in the dark. We'll go with "Silent Nights."
Best Foreign Language Film
I don't know much about the films here, but have heard a bit about The Salesman from Iran. As an English major, I like the idea of making a film about a production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. I find it interesting how other cultures adapt and adjust the "classic" English literature.
Best Original Song
I think tonight will mark the completion of the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) for Lin-Manuel Miranda when he wins Best Song for his contribution to the Moana soundtrack. My own kids are in love with this song and I personally don't even think this is the best song on the soundtrack album.
Best Original Score
How can you give the Oscar for best original score to any other film on a night when there is a movie musical in the running. I know some folks have been lukewarm on La La Land overall, but I can't see anyone else taking this prize home tonight.
Unfortunately I feel that this will be the only award for Hacksaw Ridge this evening. Gibson has long made a name for himself as a leading man in Hollywood, but it seems like directing may be where he ultimately earns the accolades from his peers. If Gibson does not win for directing, I would not be surprised to see this award go to Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea.
HSX Prediction: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Best Actress in a Leading Role
I've heard tepid reviews of the film itself, but very little criticism of Portman's portrayal of the title character. Meryl Streep is the only other woman in this category that has received an Oscar before, so it could very well go to a newcomer, but I feel like Portman will receive her second win this evening.
HSX Prediction: Emma Stone, La La Land
Best Actor in a Leading Role
I have a feeling Washington will not receive his second Best Actor nod this evening but it will instead go to either Gosling or Affleck. With this being Gosling's second nomination, I feel like it could be his time here.
HSX Prediction: Denzel Washington, Fences
I don't see as big a runaway as many pundits have predicted for La La Land. It will definitely take home several awards this evening, but I don't think it will land the top prize. As you can see from the HSX prediction below, I may be completely off here, but everything I've heard about Manchester by the Sea is wonderful. Additionally, you have to go back to the 1960s to find the last musicals to win the top award (The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story). As many people as I've heard say La La Land will win, I just don't see it and am opting for Manchester instead.
HSX Prediction: La La Land