The Tracking Board’s State of the Race: A Look at this Year’s Top Oscar Contenders


oscar-race-bannerParamount, Twentieth Century Fox, Focus Features, Amazon/Roadside Attractions, ,

Awards season is in full swing and there is a long road until the 89th Annual Academy Awards, which are slated to air on February 26, 2017 on ABC. The nominations for the coveted statuette won’t be announced until January 24, 2017 and major Oscar indicators like the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, Producers and Directors Guild Awards are far down the horizon, but favorites have already emerged from the pack — and the competition is stiff.

Below you will find a rundown of this year’s top Academy Award contenders. The list will be updated and changed as award ceremonies happen to give a forecast of which of your favorite films are on track to win an Oscar.

We’ve tallied up the major award wins (W), nominations (N), and critics circle/National Board Review recognition (CC/NBR) that have been announced in the awards season thus far to give you a sense of where the year’s most critically praised films currently stand. An asterisk (*) notes a Golden Globe winner.

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* 4W – 5N, 1CC/NBR

Out of the running:

*UPDATE 02.13* La La Land continues its winning streak with the top prize of Best Picture from this year’s BAFTA Awards. We are a little under two weeks until the Oscars, and Chazelle’s big musical spectacular seems like it would be a sure thing for Best Picture on Hollywood’s biggest night, but Moonlight is breathing down its neck (and, in my opinion, the film that should win). But the two favorites still have some stiff competition — particularly with Hidden Figures. The SAG Award-winning pic has surpassed La La Land as 2016’s top-grossing Oscar contender, easily making it a strong contender in the race. Also, Manchester by the Sea shouldn’t be overlooked because the Academy loves a good Bostonian working-class story that features at least one Affleck. There isn’t much correlation between the Best Picture winner at the BAFTA Awards and the Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards. The last film that won Best Picture at the BAFTAs and at the Oscars was  12 Years a Slave in 2013. Despite all of this, La La Land is the favorite to win… but the Oscars tend to be unpredictable.

*UPDATE 01.30* There has been an interesting turn of events when it comes to the Oscar race. Let’s start with the PGA Awards, where La La Land nabbed the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. Out of the past 27 Best Picture winners at the Oscars, 19 of them also won top honors at the PGA Awards. Last year, The Big Short won big at PGA Awards, making it seem like it was going to win at the Oscars, but Spotlight swooped in and won. So this still may be a battle between La La Land and Moonlight as expected — or is it? At the SAG Awards, Hidden Figures proved to be a film to contend with, having won for Best Cast when Moonlight seemed to be the favorite. Even though the SAG Awards hasn’t been known for being a precursor of who will win Best Picture, it is an indication of what film has a strong chance for winning. Last year, Spotlight won for Best Cast and we know how that turned out. The year before that, the Birdman cast earned the trophy for Best Cast and went on to win Best Picture. That said, Hidden Figures just introduced themselves as a strong contender to take the big prize on February 26.

*UPDATE 01.24*The Academy decided to hand out nine nominations for best picture this year and there are really no big surprises to call home about. La La Land is certainly the front runner seeing as though it raked in a whopping 14 nominations, but on its heels is Moonlight which received eight nominations. It would seem that these two films duking it out for the gold. My money is on La La Land because it is essentially a passion project and an homage to Hollywood. In other words, it’s a vessel of Hollywood worship and the voters are eating that up (as evidenced by the sweep at the Golden Globes).  Absent from the mix is Scorsese’s Silence, which has taken a back seat this awards season as well as Loving — which could have easily taken the 10th spot if there was one — but it would have been totally punk rock if Deadpool snuck its way in there. Nonetheless, even though Moonlight and La La Land are front and center, don’t discount the competitors. Arrival could easily steal it as it is a rarity to have a sci-fi film in the mix for Best Pic (the last one was in 1982 with E.T.) while Manchester by the Sea has been a fave. I would say no film has a “lock” on this category, but let’s face it.  It’s either going to be La La Land or Moonlight. Then again, remember when Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain or better yet, when How Green Was My Valley upset Citizen Kane? The Academy never fails to disappoint.

*UPDATE 01.10* 
I would be remiss not to mention the fact that the PGA has nominated Deadpool for the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. For a popcorn comic book pic to be nominated is a surprising, yet VERY welcomed shake up to a lineup of awards bait fare. It is probably the first comic book movie with a fantastic amount of raunchy and crass humor to be nominated by the PGA.  Plus, it is actually a good movie. That said, the nomination is refreshing and put Deadpool in the Oscar pool. Yup — you heard that right. There has been a correlation between the PGA award winner and the Academy winner. The two groups have agreed on 19 of the most recent 27 Best Picture champs. Believe it or not, “the Merc with a Mouth” has a chance to beat out La La Land and Moonlight for the Best Picture Oscar. It is unlikely that it will happen — but imagine the awesomeness that would result if it did win.

*UPDATE 01.09* It’s official. With La La Land and Moonlight winning trophies at the Golden Globe for Best Picture in their respected categories, the two will duke it out for the Oscar for Best Picture. At first glance, Chazelle’s original musical has a sizeable lead over Jenkins’ dramatic opus considering it won seven Globes — the most any film has won at the Golden Globes. However, the GGs aren’t necessarily a reliable barometer of what will win at the Oscars. Last year The Revenant won for Best and The Martian won for Best Musical/ (yeah, we’re still boggled by that one too) at the Globes, but Spotlight ended up beating them both and won Best Picture at the Oscars. That said, Manchester still has a chance to steal it — but that is highly unlikely. Between La La Land and Moonlight it’s gonna be a tough call.  Both are fantastic films, but are in two totally different. The Academy loves an engrossing drama and that’s where Moonlight thrives. It’s beautiful, risky, and it’s has a phenomenal narrative told by a fresh, talented voice. La La Land pays homage to Hollywood, the film industry, and things of the sort — and the Academy members who are voting live in Hollywood and are in the film industry. That’s some clever sucking up. Despite that, it is a wonderfully-made original musical and like Moonlight, it’s risky and told by a fresh, talented voice. It’s going to be interesting to see this battle unfold.

*UPDATE 12.12* Critics circles are favoring Manchester by the Sea as the best of the year, but La La Land won for Best Picture at the Critics Choice Awards. Meanwhile, Moonlight is still raking in nominations and was recently named Best Picture by the San Francisco Critics Circle. All three were nominated for Golden Globes and La La Land is a sure thing in the category of Best Musical or (although it would be awesome to see Deadpool steal it) while Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea will be duking it out for Best . It is clear that these three pics are the ones to watch during awards season. La La Land is the favorite from a populist standpoint while Manchester is a safe bet with its classic story about a working class man going through an existential crisis. However, Moonlight is bringing something new and fresh to the table and can clearly blow the other two out of the water. But then again, the Oscars can be unpredictable. So all of this analysis can be thrown out the window and Sully could win.

*UPDATE 12.05* In a surprise twist, the Los Angeles Critics Circle chooses Moonlight as the Best Picture over La La Land — which won for Best Pic from the New York Critics Circle. This is surprising considering the reputation L.A. has with many East Coasters. Perhaps, Chazelle’s musical extravaganza is what New Yorkers wish L.A. was like. In any case, with Manchester by the Sea winning the National Board of Review’s there is an early heated three-way race between Lonergan’s existential East Coast opus, Moonlight, and La La Land. Things are already getting interesting and it’s so early in the race.

The battlefield for Best Picture seems like a surefire win for La La Land because it checks all the boxes of an Oscar-winning movie. It’s a musical, it celebrates Hollywood (because we all know that Hollywood LOVES to celebrate itself), and it has two of today’s hottest actors. It has to win, right? Not necessarily. A musical hasn’t won since Chicago in 2002 and the adaptation of Broadway juggernaut Les Miserables received a nod in 2012 only to lose the trophy to Argo. That said, history might repeat itself as another Affleck-driven film might steal La La Land‘s thunder. With all the buzz surrounding Manchester by the Sea, it can very well snag the Best Pic trophy despite the resurfacing of the sexual harassment allegations connected to the film’s leading man that no one is talking about (we’ll get into that later). Although a beautifully shot and composed film, Manchester isn’t as much of a masterpiece as people claim it to be. Early trailers had it set up as a fun-loving, working-class Good Will Hunting-esque film (no surprise there), but it is a dramatically intense film that explores an existential crisis of a man coming to terms with his past while trying to be a father figure to his nephew. It’s kind of a downer and the world could use something a little more uplifting considering our social climate.

However, at the rate Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is going, it could very well steal it from both of them. The drama has raked in accolades and has received praise across the board from critics and audiences. Martin Scorsese’s Silence is also a huge contender as is Fences and Loving, two movies that tackle with very of-the-moment social issues surrounding race, family, and class.

Since the Academy upped the limit of noms to 10, plenty of other films can nudge their way on the list like Jackie. Hollywood loves a good biopic, but again, it’s a bit of downer so that may be working against it. However, the stellar sci-fi drama Arrival has been getting lots of love from critics and audiences and could easily crawl up a couple of rungs as a top contender. Hidden Figures could be a sleeper while Mel Gibson’s “comeback” vehicle Hacksaw Ridge has been gaining traction. All the while, Weinstein is putting all of its efforts behind Lion which has been getting tons of festival praise. But in the end, it seems like La La Land could come out on top…or maybe Manchester…possibly Moonlight.

silence-00187rParamount Pictures


Denis Villeneuve, ARRIVAL 3N
Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND* 4W – 4N, 1CC/NBR
Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT 1W – 3N, 4CC/NBR
Kenneth Lonergan, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA 4N

Out of the running:
Pablo Larrain, JACKIE 1N
Jeff Nichols, LOVING
Kelly Reichardt, CERTAIN WOMEN
Andrea Arnold, AMERICAN HONEY 1W-1N
David Mackenzie – HELL OR HIGH WATER 1N
Martin Scorsese, SILENCE
Denzel Washington, FENCES 1N

*UPDATE 02.13* Chazelle won again for Best Director at this year’s BAFTAs — and I still don’t agree. But the spectacle of La La Land is too big to not win, I guess. Still, Barry Jenkins needs to be noticed. If  Moonlight doesn’t get Best Picture, it should get Best Director because Jenkins directed the hell out of that film. It’s a win that will be difficult considering Chazelle is Hollywood’s Golden Boy du Jour, raking in award after award. We may just see another film snag Best Picture and Best Director as we did in 2014 with Birdman.

*UPDATE 01.24* It’s no surprise that this is another category where all eyes will be on La La Land and Moolight, but I stand by my prediction that Barry Jenkins would take it. As for the other nominees, there are some minor surprises here. The Academy loves Washington so it’s a bit of a shock they didn’t include him the mix for Fences. Again Scorsese is absent for Silence, but Mel Gibson managed to get in there with Hacksaw Ridge which is a shame because it would have been cool to see Jeff Nichols or Tom Ford get some love. Hell, it would have been fun to see at least one woman director get a nod, but there’s always next year, right?

*UPDATE 01.09* With Chazelle winning the Golden Globe, he becomes the favorite, but hot on his heels is Jenkins. Like the Best Picture battle, the Best Director battle will be a fight to the finish between La La Land and Moonlight. In the past, the Golden Globes have predicted some Oscar winners in the past. Last year, Alejandro Inarritu won for The Revenant and he went on to win the Oscar. Same for Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity (2014), Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire (2009), Martin Scorsese for The Departed (2007), and Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain (2006). Even so, the correlation between Best Picture winners at the Golden Globes and the Oscars is inconsistent so Jenkins, who has been a favorite, has a fighting chance.

*UPDATE 12.12* 
Chazelle nabbed his first trophy at the Critics Choice Awards and Scorsese seems to be fading into the background. He might be replaced by Gibson or Ford, who just entered the race with a Golden Globe nomination. Of the two, Gibson would be the favorite to replace Scorsese,but with Washington being snubbed for a Golden Globe for directing, that might leave another open spot for Ford. Again, Jenkins is still holding strong as a favorite among Critics Circle so he may just take all the marbles.

*UPDATE 12.05*
The British Independent Film Awards prove that female directors shouldn’t be overlooked as they chose American Honey‘s Andrea Arnold as Best Director. Chances are, the Academy won’t follow suit, but at least we know some countries out there are giving women directors love. Stateside, the Los Angeles Critics Circle chose Barry Jenkins as Best Director, putting to rest my predictions that Martin Scorsese will get a second Oscar. Then again, Silence hasn’t been released yet so things can still change. But at the rate Jenkins is getting awards season love, he might be unstoppable.

This could very well be the year that Martin Scorsese scores his second Oscar for Best Director since 2006’s The Departed, but he is up against some serious competition. Young Damien Chazelle upped his game since the critically acclaimed Whiplash to make a spectacle of a film with La La Land that screams for Hollywood love. However, Barry Jenkins managed to handle a layered story and three actors portraying the same character with effortless beauty and brilliance. The Academy loves two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington so it’s not that big of a surprise that they would honor him with a directing nod for the adaptation of the play Fences, for which he received a Tony Award. Washington invested a lot of passion into this project and the Academy is recognizing that.

Kenneth Lonergan may get a deserved nod for the buzzy Manchester by the Sea, but others could take his place. Pablo Larrain and Denis Villeneuve have very strong showings with Jackie and Arrival while the underrated Jeff Nichols should get an Oscar nod some time in his life…so why not now?

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk has been getting little to no attention, but the Academy loves Ang Lee. Having won in 2005 for Brokeback Mountain and again in 2012 for Life of Pi, it won’t be that big of a surprise if his name pops up on the ballot.

If Hacksaw Ridge is truly Mel Gibson’s comeback film, then he would certainly get a nod. It’s a 50/50 chance considering his reputation in Hollywood, but then again, the industry manages to look past indiscretions of certain individuals in order to shower them with accolades. If he manages to win, it would be his third statuette since 1995’s Braveheart.

After last year’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign, it’s nice to see some diversity in this year’s potential nominees — but it’s still a boy’s club. It’s one thing to realize that there haven’t been many big banner films directed by women in 2016, but it’s another thing to realize that maybe — just maybe — Hollywood isn’t giving women the opportunities. However, 2016 did have stellar work by females that can prove to be dark horses in the Oscar race including Kelly Riechardt’s critically acclaimed drama Certain Women and the Andrea Arnold’s free-spirited American Honey starring Shia LeBouf and breakout star Sasha Lane. Their work is just as much up to par to their male peers.

image-04afa3ee-f8cc-4059-8c62-8208612a44bcTwentieth Century Fox


Emma Stone, LA LA LAND* 4W – 6N
Natalie Portman, JACKIE 1W – 6N
Isabelle Huppert, ELLE* 2W – 4N, 5CC/NBR
Ruth Negga, LOVING 5N

Out of the running:
Amy Adams, ARRIVAL 5N, 1CC/NBR
Jessica Chastain, MISS SLOANE 1N
Molly Shannon, OTHER PEOPLE
Taraji P. Henson, HIDDEN FIGURES
Annette Bening, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN 4N

*UPDATE 02.13* My hopes of Portman winning are officially gone with Stone’s reign on awards season. She won Best Actress at the BAFTAs and will certainly win it at the Oscars. Huppert is still in contention, but who are we kidding? Hollywood is loving Stone right now.

*UPDATE 01.30* As much as I want Portman to win, it is very unlikely that she will. But I guess Stone will do. The La La Land star’s singing and dancing beat out Adams, Blunt, Portman, and Queen Streep at the SAG Awards. The past three years, the actress who won the SAG Award went on to win the Oscar (Brie Larson in 2016, in 2015, Cate Blanchett in 2014). So yes, Stone has this on lock.

*UPDATE 01.24* It seems like the Academy opted to include favorite Meryl Streep into the mix and give her Doubt co-star Amy Adams a snub for Best Actress. The world adores Streep, but Adams’ deserved a nomination. As for the other nominations, it all sounds about right. If you’re a betting man/woman put your money on either Huppert or Stone. If I had it my way, Portman would win, but there hasn’t been a gratuitous awards season push for Jackie. If Negga pulls it off for her brilliance in Loving, it would be a pleasant shock but as mentioned in my previous update, there has been a streak of the Golden Globe winner for Best Actress in a going on to win the Oscar. So maybe Huppert should be clearing a spot on her shelf.

*UPDATE 01.09* In not-so-surprising news, Huppert won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a and Stone in the /Musical category. It would seem that Portman should have won, but it wasn’t that much of a shock that she didn’t. Although her performance was incredible, she has taken a backseat to Huppert and Stone. Portman has a chance, but it’s fading. The Awards Gods have chosen their favorites and Huppert and Stone seem to be them. For almost 7 years, the Best Actress in a winner at the Golden Globes has gone on to win the Oscar — with the exception of 2012 when Jennifer Lawrence won both for Silver Linings Playbook, which is categorized as a comedy. That said, Huppert might walk away with the trophy… or she’ll have to pry it from Stone’s jazz hands.

*UPDATE 12.14* The SAG nominations came out today and, well, there were a couple of surprises. Actually, calling them snubs would be more appropriate. Negga and Huppert both got shut out for a SAG nod while Blunt and Streep were on the list. As talented as the two actors are, their performances weren’t worthy of recognition as much as Negga and Huppert’s. The SAG Awards serve as a strong barometer of who will take trophies in the acting categories and if these noms are an indication of who will be nominated for Oscars, then we are definitely in for some disappointing surprises.

*UPDATE 12.12* Portman nabbed her first trophy for her role in Jackie at the Critics Choice Awards, but more and more, Huppert, having just nabbed a Golden Globe nod alongside Portman, is becoming the frontrunner for this tight race. That said, Huppert  is more likely to be nominated for an Oscar than Henson and Bening — which is why she’s moved into the top 5. Taking the other spot is Negga, who’s understated and powerful performance in Loving earned her a Golden Globe nomination that propels her further into the competition. Then again, the Academy loves Bening so they might just give a spot to her considering she practically commands the entire run-time of 20th Century Women. Even so, Huppert is slaying the competition right now.

*UPDATE 12.05* Maybe Portman isn’t the leader of the pack when it comes to Best Actress. It seems that critics are looking past her turn as the iconic First Lady and leaning more towards Amy Adams and Isabelle Huppert. Adams was recognized by the National Board of Review as Best Actress while Huppert was praised for her role in Elle by the New York Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Critics Circle. She might nudge her way into the top five and possibly take the place of Bening or Henson — my guess is Bening.

Of all the acting categories this year, Best Actress is truly a Battle Royale of top-notch talent. Leading the pack is Natalie Portman, who can potentially snag her second Oscar for her incredible, searing performance as the iconic first lady. This is hers to lose. Emma Stone’s singing and dancing turn in La La Land is fun and showcases her talent, but doesn’t warrant an Oscar. Taraji P. Henson and Annette Bening delivered great performances in their respected roles, but Portman’s biggest competition will probably come from Amy Adams in Arrival. With five Oscar nominations to her name, Adams is probably chomping at the bit for a win.

Isabelle Huppert’s performance in the controversial pic Elle is getting a lot of attention may be enough to take Annette Bening’s spot — although the four-time Oscar nominee probably won’t leave without a fight. Ruth Negga could also steal a spot for her dramatic turn in Loving or Meryl Streep might sneak in there because the Academy Awards wouldn’t be the Academy Awards with at least one Streep nomination.

Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain might get some love for Miss Sloane, but the political movie was buried underneath all the post-Election aftermath. Emily Blunt has a slim chance of getting in there for The Girl on the Train, but Molly Shannon has a better chance for her role in the indie drama Other People which parallels Sarah Silverman’s awards season campaign for her role in I Smile Back. A deserving nom should go to Sally Field for the summer comedy Hello, My Name is Doris, but as much as I want that to happen, it probably won’t considering the competition.

L_006911477675176Focus Features


Casey Affleck, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA* 5W – 7N, 2CC/NBR
Denzel Washington, FENCES 1W – 4N, 1CC/NBR
Ryan Gosling, LA LA LAND* 1W – 5N
Viggo Mortensen, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, 5N
Andrew Garfield, HACKSAW RIDGE  4N

Out of the running:
Tom Hanks, SULLY 1N
Michael Keaton, THE FOUNDER
Andrew Garfield, SILENCE 1N
Joel Edgerton, LOVING 3N

*UPDATE 02.13* Affleck pulled ahead in this year’s Oscar race when he won the BAFTA, but my instincts tell me he still may be on shaky ground with Washington’s surprise win at the SAG Awards. Truth be told, Washington is a better actor than Affleck because, well, he is Denzel Washington. He’s not only a talented actor, but he is a bonafide movie star. The BAFTAs tend to go in line with the Oscars when it comes to Best Actor. In 2014 and 2015 Leonardo DiCaprio and Eddie Redmayne won both. Same goes for Daniel Day-Lewis in 2012 and in 2011 with Jean Dujardin for The Artist…and again in 2010 for Colin Firth in The King’s Speech.  But the correlation isn’t always there. In 2013 Ejiofor won the BAFTA but McConaughey snagged the Oscar. Affleck seems to be on track to win, but I don’t want him to. People should keep their eye on Washington.

*UPDATE 01.30* Remember when I was saying that Affleck is a shoo-in for Best Actor? Well, after last night’s SAG Awards, his win may not be as inevitable as we thought. Washington stepped in to win the trophy — and even he was surprised. Perhaps the current social climate isn’t mixing well with Affleck’s sexual harassment allegations. Nonetheless, like the Best Actress category, the last three actors who won for Best Actor at the SAG Awards (Leonardo DiCaprio in 2016, Eddie Redmayne in 2015, Matthew McConaughey in 2014) went on to win at the Academy Awards. If the pattern continues, Washington might be on his way to his 3rd Oscar.

*UPDATE 01.24* Biggest upset: Edgerton being snubbed. Silver lining: nice to see Mortensen on the list. Even so, Affleck — with his swept-under-the-rug sexual harassment allegations and all — will win. I will be surprised if he didn’t. The biggest competition would probably be Gosling, but his role in La La Land isn’t as juicy as his fellow nominees. Perhaps when Affleck wins he can have another acceptance speech that includes an awkward exchange with Washington.

*UPDATE 01.09* The Best Actor category isn’t as exciting as the Best Actress and the competition isn’t as stiff. Affleck is pretty much guaranteed to win the Oscar (even though Edgerton deserves it) and it would be a huge surprise if he didn’t. Like Best Actress, the correlation between who won the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Actor are similar and if the pattern continues, Affleck should win. Gosling could possibly beat him out for La La Land, but as charming as the former Mouseketeer is in the musical, it isn’t a strong enough. If anything, Washington would be the biggest competition, but his chances of stealing it from Affleck are very slim.

*UPDATE 12.14* Another shocker here: Edgerton received no SAG love for his role in Loving — which is a major snub considering he embodied that role with effortless brilliance. In fact, Loving was shut out of the SAG Awards completely — which is unacceptable.

*UPDATE 12.12* With the lack of play Silence is getting, Garfield is getting more attention for his role in Hacksaw Ridge. Even so, his competition is tough — mainly with Affleck who has been getting all the awards and accolades…and yet, his sexual harassment allegations are still getting swept further and furhter under the rug. His biggest competitors for the Oscar are Academy fave Washington and Edgerton, who should get the win.

The Casey Affleck PR machine is working around the clock to make sure that his past allegations of sexual harassment are being kept in the background and his work in Manchester by the Sea is staying in the spotlight — and it’s working. The media, critics, and audiences are apparently loving the movie and his performance even though he should be getting the same treatment as Nate Parker and his film The Birth of a Nation, which might have been a top Oscar contender, but because of his rape allegations, it faded into the background and forever scarred his . Affleck, on the other hand, is enjoying the fruits of his labor despite all of the disturbing allegations that resurfaced as of late. Two women filed sexual suits against the 41-year-old actor during his work on 2010’s I’m Still Here, but have since been settled. Unlike Parker, whose case is criminal versus civil, Affleck hasn’t been tarnished because he has the resources to contain this scandal and is part of a high-profile A-list family. Apparently, the allegations don’t bother critics and audiences and show that Hollywood is choosing to overlook his past (unlike Parker who had around the clock coverage of his case) and letting his “art” shine.

But we’re not here to discuss sordid pasts. We’re here to discuss Oscar nominations.

Despite all of the swept-under-the-rug stories attached to Casey Affleck, he is on track to win the Academy Award. But it’s Joel Edgerton’s performance in Loving that might knock the trophy out of Affleck’s hand. Edgerton disappeared into the role of the real-life Richard Loving with understated grace and power that is deserving of a statuette.

Ryan Gosling’s singing and dancing charms the screen (as he did in his old days on the Mickey Mouse Club), but he has had better Award-worthy performances. Denzel Washington is an Oscar favorite, having won two out of the four times he was nominated, but his directing the project may be more of a big deal than his acting. Andrew Garfield fills in one of the last top spots for his induction into the Scorsese Cinematic Empire, but it can easily be stolen by Viggo Mortensen’s under-the-radar performance in Captain Fantastic or Academy poster child Tom Hanks’ performance in Sully (although that’s highly unlikely). But all of this can be proven wrong with a surprise win from Michael Keaton’s performance in barely publicized The Founder.  Since Keaton’s 2014 Birdman loss, he is probably looking for some redemption.

DF-03283_R3_rgbTwentieth Century Fox


Viola Davis, FENCES* 4W – 5N, 1CC/NBR
Michelle Williams, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA 5N, 2CC/NBR
Naomie Harris, MOONLIGHT 1W – 5N, 1CC/NBR
Nicole Kidman, LION 4N
Octavia Spencer, HIDDEN FIGURES 3N

Out of the running:
Greta Gerwig, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN 1N
Janelle Monae, HIDDEN FIGURES 1N

*UPDATE 02.13* Guess who won the BAFTA? Yup. Viola “Queen” Davis. There’s nothing else to discuss here.

*UPDATE 01.30* At this point in the race, if Davis does not win the Oscar (after being nominated a smooth 3 times), then it would just be proof that the world is cruel and unfair.

*UPDATE 01.24* Davis FTW. End of story.

*UPDATE 01.09* No developments here. Davis won the Globe and she is going to win the Oscar. If she doesn’t then riots will ensue. As said in the last update, Williams and Harris might steal it, but Davis’ acting blows everyone else in this category out of the water.

*UPDATE 12.02* There’s really no surprise here. With Davis winning the Critics Choice Award and a Golden Globe nom, this is Davis’ Oscar to lose. The two that have a chance of stealing from her are Williams and Harris, but Davis pretty much has it in the bag. However, as mentioned before, it would have been better to see her in the Best Actress category. That would have brought the competition to a whole new level.

As much as it would have been great to see Viola Davis win an Oscar for lead actress, it’s just as good to see her nab the trophy for Best Supporting Actress. The two-time nominee is a favorite to win with all the praise she has been getting for her stage-to-screen performance in Fences, but close behind her is Naomie Harris for Moonlight. Harris was honored by the National Board of Review for her performance in the Barry Jenkins drama, so she is well on her way to getting some more accolades — but she has some Oscar faves to contend with. In addition to Davis, former Oscar winners Octavia Spencer and Nicole Kidman can easily take the crown and three-time nominee Michelle Williams is probably craving that gold as well. Williams’ limited screen time in Manchester by the Sea may work against her, but she makes the most of every single minute.

Spencer’s Hidden Figures scene-stealing co-star Janelle Monae might land in the top 5, but if I had to choose between the two, my money’s on Spencer. Greta Gerwig has the potential to nab her first Oscar nomination with her impressive performance in Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women which was just Gerwig enough. Kristen Stewart is also in contention, but may be a longshot considering no one seems to be paying attention to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.



Dev Patel, LION 1W – 4N
Mahershala Ali, MOONLIGHT 4W – 5N, 4CC/NBR

Out of the running:
Adam Driver, SILENCE
Liam Neeson, SILENCE
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS* 1W – 2N


*UPDATE 02.13* Congrats to Dev Patel winning the BAFTA, but he probably had home court advantage for this one. I’m still rooting for Ali to walk away with his first Oscar. He continues to be at the head of the pack, but since 2010, four out of the six actors that have won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor have gone on to win the Oscar. Things could get interesting in this category.

*UPDATE 01.30* Ali’s win at the SAG Awards is redemption for his snub at the Golden Globes. Although he is the favorite to win the Oscar, the path to victory isn’t that clear. Past winners for Best Supporting Actor at the SAG Awards and the Academy Awards don’t exactly match up like they do with the Best Supporting Actress category. Last year, Idris Elba won for Beasts of No Nation, but Mark Rylance won the Oscar. However, in 2014, J.K. Simmons won both the SAG Award and the Oscar for Whiplash. The same with Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club in 2013. In 2012, Tommy Lee Jones beat out Christoph Waltz for the SAG Award, but Waltz went on to win the Oscar. The pattern is unpredictable so someone like Hedges or Patel can snag the Oscar  – but we all know that Ali deserves it.

*UPDATE 01.24* In another shocking turn of events for the Best Supporting Actor category, Nocturnal Animals’ Shannon has taken the place of co-star Taylor-Johnson, who won the Golden Globe. Although Shannon delivered an impressive performance, this category still belongs to Moonlight‘s Ali, who also seems to be non-stop working, having starred in Hidden Figures, the indie hit Kicks as well as TV’s Luke Cage and House of Cards. The category includes Oscar newbies Patel and Hedges — who are dark horses against fellow newbie Ali as well as Academy vets Bridges and Shannon. Still, if Ali doesn’t win, the Academy better brace themselves.

*UPDATE 01.09* In a shocking turn of events, Taylor-Johnson came out of nowhere and took the trophy for Best Supporting Actor. A major upset considering Ali’s performance was nothing short of amazing — not saying that Taylor-Johnson wasn’t good, but Ali resonated more than Taylor-Johnson’s unlikable, greasy villain. This is testimony how the Hollywood Foreign Press can be unpredictable. From 2007 to 2014, the actor who won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor went on to win the Oscar. Last year, the streak broke when Sylvester Stallone won the Globe for Creed and was expected to win the Oscar as well until Mark Rylance swept in and nabbed the trophy for Bridge of Spies. Taylor-Johnson is most likely guaranteed an Oscar nod alongside Ali, but the Moonlight star isn’t going down without a fight… which he deserves to win.

*UPDATE 12.12* Ali has been killing the competition with the critics circles and now a Golden Globe nod. He’s on track to win an Oscar. But there has been a twist in the Nocturnal Animals camp of the three actors in the movie, only Taylor-Johnson was nominated for a Golden Globe, making him a possible candidate for an Oscar nom. But of the three, the Academy would probably favor Shannon to be the top nom for the Tom Ford drama.

Everyone seems to be gushing over Lucas Hedges breakout performance in Manchester by the Sea, but the Best Supporting Actor trophy should go to Mahershala Ali. As a drug dealer with a heart of gold in Moonlight, Ali is heartbreaking performance has been on everyone’s radar since the film’s festival run. An Academy Award for the actor would be further proof of his remarkable and overlooked talent that has been seen in everything from House of Cards to another Oscar-bait pic Hidden Figures.

But Hedges and Ali are up against some stiff competition with the top contenders being Oscar vets. Jeff Bridges has been nominated six times and won in 2010 for Crazy Heart while Liam Neeson and Jake Gyllenhaal both received noms in the past. Of the three, Bridges is most likely the biggest competition for Hedges and Ali, but don’t sleep on Gyllenhaal. His performance in Nocturnal Animals was mesmerizing and deserves recognition.

Dev Patel can very well throw his hat in the ring for Lion. He passionately carried the film and, if anything, deserves a nomination. Gylllenhaal’s Nocturnal Animals co-star Michael Shannon made an impression so he can be a dark horse in this category just like Neeson’s Silence co-star Adam Driver. And if Hugh Grant gets nominated, it’s simply because he was acting opposite of Queen Streep.




Out of the running:

*UPDATE 02.13* Just when you thought Zootopia had this category on lock, Kubo and the Two Strings swoops in and takes the BAFTA. And after seeing Kubo for the first time, it’s safe to say that Zootopia has some stiff competition. I might be so bold to say that it may have an upset on its hands.

*UPDATE 01.30* With its recent win at the PGA Awards and its timely subject matter, it’s becoming inevitable that Zootopia will win. The other four, while good films on their own, don’t stand a chance at this point.

*UPDATE 01.24* It seemed like there was only room for two Disney properties in the category as the Academy shut out Finding Dory. This made room for less mainstream titles My Life as a Zucchini and The Red Turtle. This still doesn’t change much. If Zootopia doesn’t win, then Kubo will — and vice versa.

*UPDATE 01.09* At this point, the Best Animated race has Zootopia and Kubo and the Two Strings fighting for first place. Chances are that Disney’s Zootopia might win it all considering its timely subject matter and its clever subversiveness. Even if it didn’t win, Disney still has two more chances to win the Oscar with Moana and Finding Dory.

To no surprise, Disney conquers the top contenders in the category with three blockbusters: Zootopia, Moana, and Finding Dory. Of the three, Zootopia has the strength to come out on top. Set in the world of animals that can walk and talk, the pic earned rave reviews and was a winner with children and adults. Most of all, its unexpected subversive content is of the time and can work in its favor. Moana is finding blockbuster success and is earning tons of dough and praise for the Mouse House, but will probably earn more trophies for its music. Finding Dory, although cute and lovable, is the weakest of the three and is a longshot to win. However, Laika’s  Kubo and the Two Strings can pull an upset as the stop-motion animated epic was named the Best Animated Feature by the National Board of Review. Also, The Red Turtle shouldn’t be ignored. Studio Ghibli always delivers one-of-a-kind artistic masterpieces that honor traditional animation and The Red Turtle is no exception.

Other animated fare that might be considered include Sing, Trolls, and Kung Fu Panda 3, but they don’t necessarily have the heft to compete with Disney, Laika, or Studio Ghibli. Even GKIDS’ animated adaptation of the manga series Miss Hokusai  would probably have a better chance. Another long shot would be the R-rated animated romp Sausage Party. As incredible as it would be to see Academy Award laurels around a raunchy comedy about supermarket food, it’s highly unlikely, but you never know…


soyld04713507rParamount Pictures


August Wilson, FENCES (based on the play by August Wilson) 1N
Eric Heisserer, ARRIVAL (based on the story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang) 2W – 3N, 1CC/NBR
Luke Davies, LION (based on the novel by Larry Buttrose and Saroo Brierley) 1W – 2N
Barry Jenkins and Tarell McCraney, MOONLIGHT  (Based on McCraney’s play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”) 2W – 5N, 1CC/NBR
Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, HIDDEN FIGURES (based on the novel by Margot Lee Shetterly) 2N

Out of the running:
Jeff Nichols, LOVING (Based on Nancy Buirski’s documentary The Loving Story) 1N
Tom Ford, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (based on the novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright) 4N
Jean-Christophe Castelli, BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK (based on the novel by Ben Fountain)
Kelly Reichardt, CERTAIN WOMEN (based on short stories by Maile Meloy)
Park Chan-wook and Chung Seo-Kyung, THE HANDMAIDEN (inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters)
Patrick Ness, A MONSTER CALLS (based on the novel by Patrick Ness)
David Birke, ELLE (based on the novel by Philippe Djian) 1N
Todd Komarnicki – SULLY (based on the book “Highest Duty” by Chesley Sullenberger) 1N
Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese, SILENCE (based on the novel by Shusaku Endo) 1CC/NBR

*UPDATE 02.13* So Lion won for Best Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTAs. I don’t agree with the winner, but again, it may be a home court advantage thing. Then again, the screenplay is exactly on par with its BAFTA competitors Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, and Nocturnal Animals. This isn’t a huge indication of who will win the Oscar, so I’ll just stick by my two favorites to win on February 26: Fences or Moonlight.

*UPDATE 01.24* Poor Silence can’t catch a break. In any case, the dynamic of the category has changed since Moonlight was deemed as an adapted work rather than original. If anything, the competition is between Jenkins and McCraney’s drama and Wilson’s Fences. I am leaning more towards the former. As amazingly executed Fences was, it felt like a play being shown on screen rather than a play being adapted for screen. With Moonlight‘s awards season trajectory, it is the favorite.

As of late, the Academy seems to award the trophy of Best Adapted Screenplays to films based on an iconic figures or culturally signficant events. Or they just like to give the Oscar to a really good screenplay. Martin Scorsese’s Silence is likely to be the frontrunner considering the dense historical source material by Shusaku Endo.  Arrival, on the other hand, is based on Ted Chiang’s award-winning short story and Eric Heisserer, managed to stretch it out into a full-length sci-fi feature — an arduous task that deserves praise. Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana did it with Annie Proulx’s short Brokeback Mountain, and it won them an Oscar so the same might happen for Heisserer.

Fences will definitely get a nom, but its chances of winning are slim. Many adaptations of plays have been nominated and the last to win was Alfred Uhry’s script for Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. Big screen adaptations of plays are tricky. Both are two different mediums and there can be many challenges when translating actions on stage to the actions on film. At times, it seems a good idea on paper, but some plays are just meant to stay on the stage. Case and point: 2014’s August: Osage County. It is a fantastic play that was turned into a scenery chewing contest on screen.

On the other hand, Hidden Figures flowed on to the screen effortlessly, while Lion had plenty of story to work with to make it an on-screen narrative. Both are strong enough to be contenders, but Tom Ford’s adaptation of Tony and Susan for Nocturnal Animals  is a challenging narrative to adapt and he did it with a distinct style to make it watchable. Same goes for Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women. Others that might be considered for a nod Jean-Christophe Castelli’s adaptation of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, David Birke’s Elle, and Park Chan-wook and Chung Seo-Kyung’s The Handmaiden — a very robust adaptation of there ever was one.



Kenneth Lonergan, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA 2W – 5N, 4CC/NBR
Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND* 2W – 4N
Taylor Sheridan, HELL OR HIGH WATER 1W – 5N
Yorgos Lanthimos/Efthimis Filippou – THE LOBSTER 2N, 1CC/NBR

Out of the running:
Laura Terruso and Michael Showalter, HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS
Robert D. Siegel, THE FOUNDER
Noah Oppenheim, JACKIE 1N

*UPDATE 02.13* Again, this is a category where Hell or High Water should be winning, but alas, the world is not fair. Kenneth Lonergan nabbed the BAFTA for Manchester by the Sea, which is a good screenplay. I’m just glad that La La Land didn’t win because as fun as that movie is, the screenplay isn’t amazing or groundbreaking at all. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if it won at the Oscars (which it probably will).

*UPDATE 01.24* Even though films like Hell or High Water and The Lobster has far superior scripts, La La Land is the front runner to win because, well, it’s La La Land. It’s biggest competition is Lonergan’s Bostonian opus Manchester by the Sea. Still, I am imagining a world where The Lobster wins.

*UPDATE 01.09* Damien Chazelle’s script for La La Land beat out more formidable opponents Moonlight, Hell or High Water, Manchester by the Sea, and Nocturnal Animals. If any of the latter four won, it would have made more sense than La La Land (Moonlight was a favorite and Hell or High Water should have won, but was overlooked as expected) — but then again, the HFPA is unpredictable in their choices and how they vote. Even so, the Globes has only one category for screenplay and it seems to have little to no influence on the Academy Awards considering the category is split into “Original” and “Adapted.” The La La Land win might make the Stone/Gosling musical a favorite, but if the Academy is looking for solid original screenwriting, they might lean towards Hell or High Water and Manchester by the Sea. And since Moonlight was deemed ineligible as an original screenplay (along with Loving), Jenkins’ drama could be a frontrunner for Best Adapted Screenplay alongside Fences, Arrival, Lion, and Hidden Figures.

As with best picture, the award for Best Original Screenplay will be a battle between La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight. However, Manchester and Moonlight are neck and neck with the latter being the favorite to overtake. Manchster feels like a Bostonian/New England working class story that we have heard time and time again from the Affleck/Damon camp. There’s nothing groundbreaking or exciting there. Barry Jenkins and Tarell McCraney, on the other hand, give us a fresh narrative of identity and love that has never been explored in mainstream film. Loving fills the space for an original screenplay based on a true story, but the same could be said for Noah Oppenheim’s script for Jackie.

Hell or High Water can certainly be a dark horse contender along with Mike Mills 20th Century Women as well as Laura Terruso and Michael Showalter’s overlooked indie comedy Hello, My Name is Doris. The Academy may throw Woody Allen a nod for Cafe Society while the drama Other People and late entry The Founder might get some love. But the battle will definitely be between the Oscar bait titans La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight.

 | Staff Writer

1 Comment

  1. Sorry but Ryan gosling gives the performance of the year. He sings, dances, plays the piano. Imagine anyone else doing that role. I’m frankly surprised that assault allegations for Casey Affleck haven’t affected him like they did Nate Parker.

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