Denzel Washington’s Fences debuted late last week – and yes, the reception will have an impact on these predictions.
The film is being widely hailed as an acting master class, with nominations all but assured and wins perhaps already likely for Washington and Viola Davis. The film could surge across the board.
All else is holding steady, though later this week will mark the debut of Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply, as it opens AFI Fest on November 10th, at which point we will get a first taste of the film’s potential Oscar season impact.
Three new categories this week – Best Film Editing, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Animated Feature.
Here now is a look at where the race stands, roughly 16 weeks until Oscar Night. Still early and still unclear, but slowly we move along…
- La La Land – Still the one to beat. Fences is coming on strong, but La La Land will always have the “cinematic” advantage.
- Fences – A potent option across many of the major categories. But will its stage roots end up hurting its chances with the movie folks?
- Moonlight – Still the season’s most unanimous critical success. But we all know how much influence critics ultimately have over the Oscar selections. Its sensational reception vaults it into the race. Whether is becomes The One will depend upon which narrative takes hold as the season rolls on.
- Manchester by the Sea – Already feels like a fixture of the season by virtue of how long it’s been in the consciousness. But what might’ve felt like a frontrunner last May might now be downgraded to a certain nominee with little chance of winning.
- Jackie – The film is already being celebrated for much more than just Natalie Portman’s stunning performance. Feels like a safe slot in the Best Picture category.
- Loving – The combination of our current cultural climate and this film’s innate power led me initially to believe it would be a frontrunner. But maybe it’s too small…maybe it will be overpowered by Fences, as unfortunately cynical as that sounds. Time will tell.
- Lion – At long last, TWC has a potential power player on its hands.
- Silence – Sight unseen, obviously, and Scorsese is still working on it. But it’s Scorsese.
- Arrival – Could move up on this list if it takes hold when it opens in November.
- Hidden Figures – Maybe? Giving the film an awards-qualifying run signals confidence from Fox…but it may just be a play for the actors.
20th Century Women
Hell or High Water
Bleed for This
Live by Night
- Damien Chazelle, La La Land – If the film becomes a juggernaut, Chazelle’s signature is all over it. Hard to imagine another Picture-Director split in this case, as seemingly common as they are starting to become.
- Denzel Washington, Fences –Washington is almost certain to earn his first Best Director nomination.
- Barry Jenkins, Moonlight – The film’s power is the result of Jenkins’ masterful cinematic touch.
- Martin Scorsese, Silence – Hard to imagine Lord Scorsese not landing a nod here, even if the film doesn’t become an automatic BP winner.
- Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea – Here’s where it gets tough. There are more visual films that could land a spot here, namely Arrival and Jackie. This spot is fluid.
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Pablo Larrain, Jackie
Garth Davis, Lion
Jeff Nichols, Loving
Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
Clint Eastwood, Sully
- Emma Stone, La La Land – With Viola Davis exiting this category for Supporting, the likelihood of a Stone win went back to around 90%.
- Natalie Portman, Jackie – A second Oscar for Portman is not outside the realm of possibility.
- Annette Bening, 20th Century Women – I wonder if Bening’s odds are diminished slightly by the film’s ensemble feel.
- Amy Adams, Arrival – Another fabulous performance from Adams likely to be overshadowed by the season’s juggernaut.
- Ruth Negga, Loving – The film’s best chance for an acting nod.
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures
Amy Adams, Nocturnal Animals
Rachel Weisz, Denial
Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
- Denzel Washington, Fences – An easy frontrunner in a relatively weak Best Actor category this year, now confirmed to be a powerhouse by the early reactions.
- Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea – An early favorite out of Cannes, and still a strong contender. Wait and see how Fences plays.
- Ryan Gosling, La La Land – Nomination is likely, but Gosling will take a backseat to his co-star this season.
- Tom Hanks, Sully – Hard to see Hanks missing another opportunity given the weakness of the field.
- Joel Edgerton, Loving – Could easily drop out of this spot for a showier performance.
Miles Teller, Bleed for This
Dev Patel, Lion
Andrew Garfield, Silence
Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation
Adam Driver, Paterson
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Matthew McConaughey, Gold
Best Supporting Actress
- Viola Davis, Fences – A done deal, this early in the game.
- Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea – The closest competition.
- Naomie Harris, Moonlight – A heartbreaking performance and the film’s one constant in its three segments.
- Felicity Jones, A Monster Calls – After three sure things, this spot is where it gets hazy. A Monster Calls is something of a polarizing film, so a spot for Jones may be tenuous.
- Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women – The time feels right for Gerwig’s first Oscar nomination.
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Molly Shannon, Other People
Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures
Helen Mirren, Eye in the Sky
Jennifer Connelly, American Pastoral
Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply
Elle Fanning, 20th Century Women
Dakota Fanning, American Pastoral
Best Supporting Actor
- Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals – This category is as open as it gets. Shannon is a favorite and the role is juicy, so why not…
- Liam Neeson, Silence – A shot in the dark. Could be the film’s big acting winner.
- Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water – Could be a real spoiler if no one else becomes a clear frontrunner.
- Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea – A breakthrough performance that could beat out many bigger names in this category.
- Mahershala Ali, Moonlight – A great, albeit limited, performance that defines the soul of the film.
Peter Sarsgaard, Jackie
Aaron Eckhart, Bleed for This
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Fences
Warren Beatty, Rules Don’t Apply
Adam Driver, Silence
Best Adapted Screenplay
- August Wilson, Fences – Seems solid in a category with many likely nominees and no clear winners.
- Jay Cocks, Silence
- Eric Heisserer, Arrival
- Luke Davies, Lion
- Whit Stillman, Love and Friendship
Best Original Screenplay
- Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea – Could be the film’s best chance for a win.
- Barry Jenkins, Moonlight – Could easily move into frontrunner position.
- Damien Chazelle, La La Land – Its strength in the category depends on how crucial voters deem this screenplay to be in terms of the film’s success.
- Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
- Noah Oppenheim, Jackie
Hell or High Water
Bleed for This
Rules Don’t Apply
Best Film Editing
- La La Land, Tom Cross – Very likely to follow the film’s Best Picture coattails.
- Silence, Thelma Schoonmaker – A fourth Oscar isn’t out of the question for Scorsese’s masterful counterpart.
- Fences, Hughes Winborne – The editing is likely a key aid in transitioning the material from stage to screen. Combine that with the film’s mounting popularity and this nomination feels increasingly secure.
- Moonlight, Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders – Unsung editing in a masterful cinematic experience.
- Live By Night, William Goldenberg – Another reliable master could fill a fifth slot that is wide open for a variety of strong contenders.
Hell or High Water, Jake Roberts
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Jabez Olsen
Hacksaw Ridge, John Gilbert
Manchester by the Sea, Jennifer Lame
Lion, Alexandre de Francheschi
Jackie, Sebastian Sepulveda
Arrival, Joe Walker
Sully, Blu Murray
Hidden Figures, Peter Teschner
Passengers, Maryann Brandon
The Jungle Book, Mark Livolsi
Best Foreign Language Film
- Toni Erdmann (Germany) – The Cannes sensation is a leader out of the gate. But we still have shortlisting to get through before we can make more precise predictions.
- Elle (France)
- Land of Mine (Denmark)
- The Salesman (Iran)
- Neruda (Chile)
Fire at Sea (Italy)
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (Finland)
The Idol (Palestine)
Barakah Meets Barakah (Saudi Arabia)
The Age of Shadows (South Korea)
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
Best Animated Feature
- Zootopia – Disney animation continues to make inroads with big Oscar plays for movies one wouldn’t initially expect. Their popular spring box-office success is the leader at the moment.
- Kubo and the Two Strings
- The Red Turtle
- Finding Dory
April and the Extraordinary World
The Little Prince
Long Way North
My Life as a Zucchini