2016/17 Oscars: Predictions

#OscarsSoSlightlyMoreDiverseThanNormal isn’t a thing yet, but it might be on Tuesday…

In many ways, finding out the Oscar nominations is almost more exciting than the actual awards ceremony. There’s something so heartwarming about seeing an awards category stacked with some of your favourite performances of the year. This Tuesday will bring an end to much of the speculation that has dominated the online film community discussion since September. Who’s going to make the cut?

Back in September, I posted my own personal predictions for the season’s biggest awards contenders. If you ignore the fact I listed Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk above La La Land, they turned out pret-ty great. Okay, maybe not – but I got a few things right? Sort of. The landscape has changed a lot since then, with three obvious frontrunners emerging from a chasing pack just looking for nominations wherever they can get them. Two or three of the acting races appear sown up, but the final one remains wide open. And nobody has a clue just how well or badly Nocturnal Animals will do come February.

Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, I’ve put together my predictions for the nominations in the eight major categories (Picture, Director, Screenplay (Original/Adapted) & Acting) – listing the most likely winner first, and the strength of their contenders in descending order. Next to each name, you’ll also see how many times they’ve been nominated – in that particular discipline. Enjoy…?

Best Supporting Actor


Can Mahershala Ali win an Oscar with so little screen-time? That isn’t so important to me, watching this incredibly underrated actor simply pick up a nomination feels exciting enough. Aaron Taylor-Johnson has come out of nowhere as his strongest competition on paper, but I’d be more tempted to bet on grizzled Academy veteran Jeff Bridges. Dev Patel quietly looks like a lock for a nod too, leaving Lucas Hedges and Hugh Grant to fight over that last spot. And I would love to see Hedges take this one.

Mahershala Ali [0] | Moonlight
Jeff Bridges [6] | Hell Or High Water
Dev Patel [0] | Lion
Aaron Taylor-Johnson [0] | Nocturnal Animals
Lucas Hedges [0] | Manchester By The Sea

Best Supporting Actress


With all due respect to the other (future) nominees, this one’s a bit of a non-event. Viola’s got this. She knew she had this when she decided to run for Supporting Actress – leaving the year’s most hotly contested awards race for one far less crowded. Naomi Harris, Michelle Williams & Nicole Kidman all feel like locks for Moonlight, MBTS & Lion respectively, but the last pick is anyone’s guess. Hidden Figures has seen a last minute surge in awards buzz – I could see either Spencer or Monae slide into that final spot.

Viola Davis [2] | Fences
Naomi Harris [0] | Moonlight
Nicole Kidman [3] | Lion
Michelle Williams [3] | Manchester By The Sea
Octavia Spencer [1] | Hidden Figures

Best Actor


The only thing that can stop Casey Affleck winning this award is Casey Affleck. The re-emergence of some pretty unpleasant sexual harassment allegations has made his incredibly powerful and nuanced turn in Manchester By The Sea far less easy to root for (I should know, I’ve gone from singing his praises to genuine discomfort the more I’ve read about this). Unlike Nate Parker, Affleck’s pretty deeply embedded in the Hollywood crowd – and also has the benefit of being white (a prerequisite for the last nine winners of this award). The lack of a contender with any sort of awards momentum should ensure his victory.

Casey Affleck [1] | Manchester By The Sea
Ryan Gosling [1] | La La Land
Andrew Garfield [0] | Hacksaw Ridge
Denzel Washington [6] | Fences
Viggo Mortensen [1] | Captain Fantastic

Best Actress


I’ve saved what is easily the most intriguing acting race until last. This category is so stacked that former frontrunners like Ruth Negga & Annette Bening couldn’t even crack the top 5. 2016 was a wonderful year for Hollywood’s leading women – I could conceivably see any one of Portman, Huppert, Stone or Adams walk away with the golden statue next month. The fifth pick was a subject of much internal debate, but her fantastic Globes speech proved to be a timely reminder of how much Hollywood adores Meryl.

Natalie Portman [2] | Jackie
Isabelle Huppert [0] | Elle
Emma Stone [1] | La La Land
Amy Adams [5] | Arrival
Meryl Streep [19] | Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Original Screenplay


This’ll come down to whether The Academy want to let La La Land sweep the awards or not. Chazelle (who was nominated for Whiplash for writing, but not directing) faces two real opponents here: Lonergan and the dark horse, Taylor Sheridan. Affleck’s Best Actor win would be a worthy enough consolation prize for the year’s third most critically-adored film, but should The Academy want to reward Lonergan personally, then MBTS could end up taking this one too. Mills and Oppenheim are just here for the ride.

Kenneth Lonergan [2] | Manchester By The Sea
Damien Chazelle [1] | La La Land
Taylor Sheridan [0] | Hell Or High Water
Mike Mills [0] | 20th Century Women
Noah Oppenheim [0] | Jackie

Best Adapted Screenplay


The moment Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight switched from ‘Original’ to ‘Adapted’ screenplay was the moment this race became an inevitability. The fact it was ever considered the former is a bit of an enigma, as Jenkins has been very vocal about Tarell Alvin McCraney’s role in the adaptation of his play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Eric Heisserer’s widely-praised Arrival script is likely its biggest competition, as there’s really no telling whether Nocturnal Animals will be a serious contender – or get ignored entirely.

Barry Jenkins [0] | Moonlight
Eric Heisserer [0] | Arrival
Tom Ford [0] | Nocturnal Animals
Allison Schroeder & Theodore Melfi [0] | Hidden Figures
August Wilson [0] | Fences

Best Director


Much like the main event, this is honestly a two-horse race – and with good reason. No director displayed as much artistic flair and raw, uncompromising talent behind the camera than Damien Chazelle & Barry Jenkins did in 2016. The former’s the frontrunner going in – his lavish, gorgeous ode to cinema’s golden age is exactly the kind of stuff Hollywood loves – but don’t count out the power of diversity. Jenkins gave us a hauntingly beautiful, transcendent experience that almost anyone could relate to – regardless of gender, race, sexuality or age. Elsewhere, Denis Villeneuve’s first nod has been a long time coming.

Damien Chazelle [0] | La La Land
Barry Jenkins [0] | Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan [0] | Manchester By The Sea
Denis Villeneuve [0] | Arrival
Tom Ford [0] | Nocturnal Animals

Best Picture


The biggest question for Best Picture is how many nominees are they going to pick? The Academy’s algorithm-based inability to settle on a consistent number of nominees year-after-year annoys me to no end, but I’m going to operate on the assumption that it’ll be eight. In which case, this becomes less about the frontrunners, and more about the hotly contested race for the other five slots. You could argue there are ten or eleven genuine contenders jostling for position right now – making Best Pictures the toughest set of nominees to call. I can only imagine the chaos if Deadpool somehow sneaks in…

The frontrunners (read: real contenders):

La La Land
Manchester By The Sea

The ones with no chance of winning, they’re just here for the nomination:

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water

The one(s) that’ll sneak in if there are nine – or even ten – nominees:

Hidden Figures

The one that Hollywood forgot, and I’m not sure how:


The one that won’t get nominated for Best Picture, and if it does I’ll be sad. So very sad:


The unconventional underdogs that honestly deserved more awards love:

The Nice GuysSing Street

The thing that jumped out at me the most while compiling these predictions is how diverse a lot of the individual races were – especially in comparison to recent years. 2014 & 2015’s acting categories saw a grand total of zero POC nominees. If my genius predictions go to plan, The Academy would have nominated no less than six from 2016. Throw in Moonlight‘s awards juggernaut status, and it feels like Hollywood’s on the right track – particularly with offering awards-calibre parts to ethnic minorities.

Now I’ve said all that, watch them go and do something stupid like snub Barry Jenkins for Best Director.

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