Just like 2016 was a year of unease, I am not very uneasy about these picks. Several of these picks haven’t picked up the precursor nods that would typically foretell a sure-fire Oscar nomination. This is likely to be a down year for the Oscars, as none of the Best Picture nominees will have crossed $100 million at the box office at the time the nominees are unveiled (though several will have by the time the awards are handed out). Does that mean they’ll do something insane like nominating Deadpool in one or more categories? Not bloody likely, but last year found several unprecedented winners, and that could extend to this year as well. One thing is for sure: There will be no #OscarsSoWhite controversy this year, as nearly every acting category will have at least one nominee of color.
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Dark Horse: Hell or High Water
Long Shot: Jackie
Total Shock: Sing Street
The skinny: The hardest part – as usual – with a variable number of Best Picture nominees is knowing exactly how many there will be. I know four locks: Hidden Figures, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. Beyond that? They’re just guesses, but educated guesses: a solid combo of modest box office hits and awards darlings (not that they’ve won any… this is La La Land vs. Moonlight all the way). The only thing I’m going out on a limb for is Silence, and that’s probably just my own praise blinding me. But consider this: It’s a passion project, its fanbase is small but vocal and Martin Scorsese has had five of his last six movies nominated for Best Picture, and he himself has been nominated for directing those same five movies. So maybe it’s naïveté, but I think his long-gestating adaptation about missionaries in Japan gets in by the thinnest of margins. It’s better to have a small group of very enthusiastic fans, than a large group of people that have your film farther down their ballots, which is why against all odds I think Hell or High Water doesn’t make it. What’s more surprising is how little of an impact Jackie is making, especially considering how powerful Fox Searchlight used to be. This stuff used to be catnip to voters, whereas my catnip is kids singing New Wave songs.
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Garth Davis, Lion
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Martin Scorsese, Silence
Dark Horse: Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Long Shot: Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Total Shock: Ezra Edelman, O.J.: Made in America
The skinny: In what I believe is a first, all five Directors Guild Award nominees are first-timers, including the somewhat surprising inclusion of Garth Davis. I would be shocked if a similar event happens at the Oscars, so I’m keeping Scorsese here. Though it would be just as likely to see first-timer Denis Villeneuve (especially if Arrival gets the number of nominations I’m predicting) or previous winner Mel Gibson for his old-fashioned war epic if Scorsese doesn’t make it. What would be an even more impressive first? Ezra Edelman becoming the first documentary director to be honored in this category.
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences
Dark Horse: Michael Keaton, The Founder
Long Shot: Joel Edgerton, Loving
Total Shock: Colin Farrell, The Lobster
The skinny: Honestly, I don’t see much movement in this category at all. It’s possible Garfield ends up nominated for Silence instead, or in a sad turn of events, splitting the difference and not getting nominated at all. It would be anyone’s guess as to who would replace him, since Keaton (and fellow older actor killing it lately Tom Hanks) haven’t gotten the nods you would expect for playing real-life people. If Loving hadn’t fallen off most folks’ radar, I’d have put him higher, but only Ruth Negga seems to have a chance of being honored for that important film.
Amy Adams, Arrival
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Dark Horse: Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Long Shot: Ruth Negga, Loving
Total Shock: Rebecca Hall, Christine
The skinny: For the first time in a while, this is the stacked category, with at least 10 women doing great work who could be nominated. As much as I love Meryl Streep, I’d much rather see Annette Bening honored for her career best work in 20th Century Women, but what do you expect the Academy to do? Isabelle Huppert might not make it if voters are repulsed by Elle, but European actresses in otherwise unloved movies (Charlotte Rampling, Marion Cotillard) have found their way here in recent years.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals
Dark Horse: Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Long Shot: Issey Ogata, Silence
Total Shock: John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane
The skinny: Let us now apologize for not taking Aaron Taylor-Johnson seriously before. After a Golden Globe win and BAFTA nomination, his insane performance in Nocturnal Animals is looking like the real deal. So that probably leaves Hugh Grant on the outside looking in. (Though if Florence Foster Jenkins gets nominated for Best Picture somehow, all bets are off.) Also, I have a nagging suspicion that Issey Ogata ends up being the only major nomination for Silence, but I’ve been way off on things like that before.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Dark Horse: Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
Long Shot: Helen Mirren, Eye in the Sky
Total Shock: Lily Gladstone, Certain Women
The skinny: You can go ahead and put these five ladies down in ink. There will not be any other names called that morning.