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‘La La Land’ Is Probably Gonna Win Best Picture

Several weeks have passed since the Oscar nominees were unveiled, and week by week, it’s become increasingly clear that “La La Land” will likely win best picture. With director Damien Chazelle’s win at the Directors Guild awards over the weekend, it’s now official: “La La Land” will go into Oscar night as a strong favorite in our model, regardless of what goes down at the BAFTAs or Writers Guild Awards this month. (Our model awards Oscar nominees points for nominations and wins in guild and critic awards, with the points distributed according to the historical predictive power of those awards.)

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“La La Land” started its journey to favorite slowly. Two of its rivals, “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight,” competed head to head in the drama categories at the Golden Globes and American Cinema Editors awards, both worth more points than the considerably lamer comedy or musical categories that “La La Land” competed in at those shows. In recent history, dramatic movies have tended to win Oscars more often than comedies and musicals, so this was one reason for the initial and healthy “La La Land” skepticism.

Only two weeks ago, this was looking very much like a three-film race. “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “La La Land” had each swayed critics. There were three very predictive awards coming up — the American Cinema Editors’ drama prize, and the top awards at the Producers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild — and “La La Land” was only up for one of them (the PGA). But rather than reward one of the film’s closer rivals, the editors recognized “Arrival” while the actors rewarded “Hidden Figures” — both of which are nominated for best picture but are massive underdogs. And when the PGA went with “La La Land,” the film came out of the weekend the big winner.

The Directors Guild awards are the most predictive award that we follow in this category: 19 out of the past 25 DGA winners’ movies went on to win the Oscar for best picture. So “La La Land” is definitely the favorite. But, hey, surprises happen; maybe the New Englanders will devastate the nation and pull this one out.


Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.