Too Early for This: Oscar Picks — 15 October 2016

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
The Birth of a Nation
La La Land
Live by Night
Manchester by the Sea

Falling off: Allied, Arrival, LBJ, Patriots Day
Rising star: Jackie
The skinny: With a disastrous press tour now over, it’s safe to say the monumental buzz that greeted The Birth of a Nation at Sundance has all but dissipated. I’m leaving it in since I believe there will be a pretty good faction of voters who will want to reward the film on its artistic merits, as well as its historical importance, while giving Nate Parker himself the cold shoulder. But with its People’s Choice Award win at Toronto, there’s little doubt La La Land is the clear front-runner at this point. Only one musical (Les Misérables) has been nominated since Chicago won in 2003. But while other nominations may be in doubt, a Best Picture nomination is a lock.

Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone of La La Land
Ang Lee, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Jeff Nichols, Loving
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Martin Scorsese, Silence

Falling off: Nate Parker, Robert Zemeckis
Rising star: Denzel Washington, Fences
The skinny: See above. This is a tough category to crack, given the Academy’s bent toward nominating directors of smaller indie films in recent years. That’s good news for Chazelle, Jenkins and Nichols. But it’s hard to know if former winners like Lee and Scorsese will make it in, given their films’ unconventional approaches.

Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Tom Hanks, Sully
Denzel Washington, Fences

Falling off: Michael Fassbender, Woody Harrelson, Nate Parker
Rising star: Joe Alwyn, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
The skinny: Not as jam-packed in recent years. Hanks seems on shakiest ground here. Don’t believe me? The last time he played a real-life no-nonsense captain thrust into a harrowing situation, he came up short, even though the film was nominated for Best Picture.

Natalie Portman in Jackie
Amy Adams, Arrival
Viola Davis, Fences
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land

Falling off: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Hall, Alicia Vikander
Rising star: Isabelle Huppert, Elle
The skinny: All hail Natalie Portman, doing her highest-profile work since winning her Oscar for Black Swan in 2011. Her performance as Jackie Onassis Kennedy in the week after her husband is killed in Dallas has Oscar written all over it. But perhaps the Academy will see fit to finally honor frequent Oscar bridesmaids like Amy Adams and Viola Davis.

Jaden Piner and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Warren Beatty, Rules Don’t Apply
Aaron Eckhart, Sully
Liam Neeson, Silence
J.K. Simmons, Patriots Day

Falling off: Bill Camp, Steve Martin
Rising star: John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane
The skinny: Your guess is as good as mine in this category, in which all or none of these men could find themselves as nominees in January. As such, I’m going to take this opportunity to remind folks how fantastic John Goodman is in 10 Cloverfield Lane. There’s no chance he’ll be nominated for this (he has a better shot in a potential Best Picture nominee like Patriots’ Day), but it’s a performance that will stick with me for years.

Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Lupita Nyong’o, Queen of Katwe
Molly Shannon, Other People
Kristen Stewart, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Falling off: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Helen Mirren, Rachel Weisz
Rising star: Nicole Kidman, Lion
The skinny: Just like above, but with one guaranteed nominee. That’s Michelle Williams, who is likely to win her first trophy (a crime since she should have won for Brokeback Mountain).

Natalie Portman in Jackie
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea

Falling off: Allied, The Birth of a Nation
Rising star: Hell or High Water
The skinny: Still holding out hope for the weird and wonderful The Lobster to make it in among all the depressing dramas.

The cast of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Live by Night

Falling off: Indignation, The Light Between Oceans
Rising star: Lion
The skinny: As usual, a good spot for Best Picture also-rans to be honored. That’s where I see Arrival‘s best shot at a nomination.

Marlin and Dory in Finding Dory
Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
The Little Prince

Falling off: None
Rising star: The Red Turtle
The skinny: The Red Turtle, from Studio Ghibli, is nipping at the heels of the Netflix-distributed The Little Prince. But I think the other four are guarantees.

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