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Poll(s): Cast your Oscar ballot

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Those who really want to master an Oscar-pool ballot are advised to study earlier award shows, especially the guild honors handed out by actors, directors, writers and producers.

(CNN) — The Academy Awards can be perplexing, unless you’re especially well versed in the difference between “sound editing” and “sound mixing.” But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a competitive advantage with your Oscar ballot, even if you don’t have money riding on it.

If you really want to master an Oscar-pool ballot you need to study earlier award shows, especially the guild honors handed out by actors, directors, writers and producers. Even then, there are categories like short films that often amount to pool tiebreakers, where the winner probably has just as good a chance by throwing darts as educated guessing.

Here’s all the categories and their nominees.

Vote in the polls and lets see if the Quad Cities can predict the winners!

BEST PICTURE – expert predicted winner – “La La Land”

Despite the inevitable “‘La La Land’ was overrated backlash,” the City of Stars — which has a history of honoring showbiz-related fare — is virtually certain to make the musical’s best-picture dreams come true.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE – expert predicted winner – Denzel Washington in “Fences”

This ranks as one of the few major categories that’s genuinely suspenseful. Affleck seemed like a sure thing early on, but controversy surrounding past sexual-harassment allegations and Washington’s showy performance in “Fences” — which he also directed — have pushed him up into serious contention. Neither would be a surprise, but the latter seems like the more likely and sentimental choice.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – expert predicted winner – Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight”

Picking one actor from “Moonlight” is actually no mean feat, but Ali has dominated early awards and had a standout year, with his supporting role in “Hidden Figures” as well. Plus, he’s charmed voters at other awards with his acceptance speeches, which doesn’t hurt.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE – expert predicted winner – Emma Stone in “La La Land”

There might not be a surer thing this year than Stone’s Oscar — she’s already had multiple opportunities to thank everybody — despite a strong lineup of contenders that includes Huppert’s Golden Globe win on the drama side for the controversial “Elle.”

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – expert predicted winner – Viola Davis in “Fences”

Who can deny that Viola Davis has award winning snot? Her crying scene in “Fences” (complete with the runny nose) had Oscars written all over it. It’s not easy to share a spotlight with Denzel Washington, but Davis not only showed up for their scenes, she showed out. The other ladies in this category are extraordinary, but Davis acted her role from the top of her head to the tips of her toes and that’s also where audiences felt it.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM – expert predicted winner – “Zootopia”

It’s two little movies against two Disney-released blockbusters, with “Zootopia” expected to come out on top. Let’s just hope they don’t let the sloth that works at the DMV accept the award, or the Oscars will run into Tuesday.

CINEMATOGRAPHY – expert predicted winner – “La La Land”

“La La Land” should take this for the opening scene alone. The way the entire film is shot treats the city of Los Angeles as an additional character. As it should.

COSTUME DESIGN – expert predicted winner – “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

All of the nominees in this category are worthy. But the costumes in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” were magical.

DIRECTING – expert predicted winner – “La La Land” – Damien Chazelle

Chazelle has received a lot of love for “La La Land” — he’s likely to receive more on Sunday. Barry Jenkins, however, could pull an upset with his deft handling of the extremely poignant, heartbreaking and raw “Moonlight.”

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE) – expert predicted winner – “O.J.: Made in America”

“O.J. Made in America” managed to be as much a statement about celebrity and race relations in the United States as it was about a high profile murder case. It was incredibly compelling and almost literary in its storytelling. The doc deserves an Oscar.

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT) – expert predicted winner – “The White Helmets”

The short doc about the Syrian Civil Defense, otherwise known as the White Helmets, has been touted as a frontrunner since almost the beginning. There couldn’t be more drama than a story about a group of people who rush in after bombing to try and rescue survivors.

FILM EDITING – expert predicted winner – “La La Land”

Assuming that “La La Land” has a big night, it figures to clean up in most of these technical categories, and has already earned honors from the editors’ guild.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – expert predicted winner – “Toni Erdmann”

An interesting category, and potentially one of the night’s most political ones. Based on critical praise, Germany’s “Toni Erdmann” would be the odds-on favorite. But President Trump’s travel ban has thrust Iran’s “The Salesman” into the news, with the director’s decision to boycott the ceremony.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING – expert predicted winner – “Star Trek Beyond”

Have you seen the Swedish film “A Man Called Ove?” Most of the academy probably hasn’t either. So “Star Trek” beams up the award, aided in no small part by the fact people must have admired the makeup in “Suicide Squad” better than most of them liked the movie.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE) – expert predicted winner – “La La Land”

As Oscar equations go, a no-brainer: Best picture + musical = best score.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG) – expert predicted winner – “City Of Stars” from “La La Land”

Although there’s a way-outside chance that the two nominations from “La La Land” could split the vote, “City of Stars” is the odds-on favorite. That said, parents with young kids can testify just how hard it is to get “How Far I’ll Go” out of their heads.

PRODUCTION DESIGN – expert predicted winner – “La La Land”

While “La La Land” might not seem as ambitious as something like “Fantastic Beasts” in terms of the look, establishing that colorful image of L.A. was a central part of the movie’s appeal, and looks destined to add to its sizable tally.

ANIMATED SHORT FILM – expert predicted winner – “Piper”

Welcome to one of those aforementioned throwing-darts categories, although the Pixar short “Piper,” about a baby bird, was inordinately charming, which could end a pretty long drought for the animation powerhouse in this bracket.

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM – expert predicted winner – “Silent Nights”

These films are short in length and heavy in sentiment. “Silent Nights,” a drama about a Danish woman and her Ghanaian immigrant boyfriend, is the frontrunner. The film’s producer, Kim Magnusson has two previous Oscar wins in this category.

SOUND EDITING – expert predicted winner – “La La Land”

SOUND MIXING – expert predicted winner – “La La Land”

Give both sound categories to “La La Land,” despite the visceral appeal of “Hacksaw Ridge,” where the sound helped put viewers in the thick of the battle.

VISUAL EFFECTS – expert predicted winner – “The Jungle Book”

“The Jungle Book” has more than enough of the necessities — bear or otherwise — to triumph in a category that includes two other Disney blockbusters, including “Rogue One.”

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY) – expert predicted winner – “Moonlight”

The consolation prize for not winning best picture will be director Barry Jenkins sharing a virtually assured Oscar for “Moonlight’s” screenplay.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY) – expert predicted winner – “Manchester by the Sea”

Another category with a modicum of suspense, where Kenneth Lonergan’s rightfully admired “Manchester” script will go against the just-how-big-will-the-“La La Land”-sweep-be momentum. Probably a pick ’em, with the smart money giving a slight edge to “Manchester.”

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