Maybe it's a symptom of living life in the age of Donald Trump that today's Oscar prediction article is more than two sentences long. We're all getting used to keeping our sanity in check on a strictly day-by-day basis, convinced that every single new development and how we react to it represents the moment that's going to seal our fate in history books alongside German hausfraus circa 1933. How else to explain why we're now wavering ever so slightly in our confidence that Casey Affleck will take home the Oscar, simply because Denzel Washington pulled a shocker by winning the SAG award?
On the one hand, Affleck's precursor track record up to that point had been almost spotless, with a near-clean sweep of the critics' citations. And it's not like he's remained derailed in the aftermath; the Manchester by the Sea actor just won the BAFTA award over the weekend, where Washington wasn't even nominated. SAG membership contains some amount of overlap with AMPAS (less so now since the AFTRA merger), but so does BAFTA. On the other, just as political pundits on the left willfully submit to a con man's shell game because they have to, so do we feel involuntarily compelled to speculate on how Washington could edge out Affleck at the last minute.
The realest argument, of course, concerns the claims of sexual harassment against Affleck that were settled in 2010 but inevitably couldn't stay out of the conversation in 2016. Those allegations, coupled with the Academy's welcome overcorrection following the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, could conceivably put voters, many of them welcomed into the Academy specifically to redress the sins of the past, on the defensive about how their votes will be perceived. (And if that's true for even a small fraction of the pool, we're even more comfortable calling Ryan Gosling the longest of La La Land's shots for playing what would happen if mansplaining and whitesplaining had a sexy son. Alt-right on!) But setting artistic and social concerns aside, Affleck's character spends his entire film caught in a permanent cycle of despair, his life a nightmare from which he will never awaken. He is everyman.
Will Win: Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea
Could Win: Denzel Washington, Fences
Should Win: Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea