I haven’t done one of these in a while, and as I’ve switched a few contenders around in Best Picture in the last few days, following screenings of the likes of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which is looking like no longer a player, Jackie, which looks strong, and 20th Century Women, which is looking like much more a real possibility than we first thought.
- La La Land This is looking like a pretty solid frontrunner at the moment, with nothing but raves coming out of every festival screening thus far. We’ll have to wait until it’s wide release, and a couple of precursors, to deem it a real lock, but expect many critic awards, and precursor wins (it is a lock for 3 the Comedy/Musical Golden Globe Awards), leading to the ceremony. Stone and Gosling are definitely getting nominations, as is Chazelle, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it leads the nominations. A clear frontrunner right now.
- Fences The trailer for this adaptation of the Tony award winning play premiered earlier this month, and blew everyone away- it’s my personal favourite trailer of the year. If both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis keep up that level of performance, we’ll looking at the first film to win the lead acting double since As Good as it Gets in 1997, unless Davis goes Supporting. Directing, Screenplay look good, and Stephen Henderson could get into Supporting if reviews are as good as we expect. Could be a juggernaut, but we need that critical seal of appeal before thinking it can win.
- Silence The complete unknown prospect in the race as it’s yet to premiere any footage whatsoever. However, you can never discount Martin Scorsese, and with a December release date, it’ll certainly be a major contender if it is critically acclaimed. Scorsese could win his overdue second Best Director award, while Liam Neeson is the real frontrunner, to me, to win Best Supporting Actor. The truth is, we don’t know how this will turn out. I’m trusting Scorsese to get this right, and if he does, this will quickly shoot up the race.
- Manchester by the Sea The real hit from the Sundance Film Festival in January, and has increased its buzz from film festivals since, Manchester by the Sea could be the real indie hit of the year. Both Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams are certainly very strong contenders to win, and Kenneth Lonergan could also get nominated in Director.
- Moonlight Following Oscars so white the last two years, there will be more pressure to vote for non-white performers and film. While some thought that the benefitting would be Birth of a Nation, but after mixed reviews and backlash, that looks very unlikely, and will instead be Moonlight. Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris will probably both get their first nominations, and Barry Jenkins is currently my pick for that Benh Zeitlin/Lenny Abrahamson surprise Director nomination.
- Jackie The late contender that is pulling in some incredibly strong reviews, Jackie has surprised a lot of people, with a lot bigger buzz than one would have expected. Natalie Portman is a real player for Best Actress, while it could get quite a few technical nominations as well. A much bigger player than I would have thought a month ago.
- 20th Century Women After directing Christopher Plummer to his first Oscar in his last film, Beginners, Mike Mills is back in the Oscar race with this 1970s set comedy-drama, which premiered to rapturous acclaim at the New York Film Festival a few weeks ago. Annette Bening has a great shot at nomination in Best Actress, while I think it’s a major player in Original Screenplay and Supporting Actress for Greta Gerwig’s first nomination. I think this may be this year’s The Kids are All Right/Extremely Loud or Incredibly Close, which means it’ll get into Best Picture.
- Lion Despite this being Harvey Weinstein’s main pony for this year, I’m having trouble putting Lion higher than 8th, as I don’t think has quite the amount of passion that films that he’s lead to Best Picture wins, such as Shakespeare in Love and The King’s Speech, have had. It’s currently on 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I think it has a hard time getting into some major categories, even though it did manage to get the runner up prize for the audience award at TIFF. I think Nicole Kidman gets in, as does the screenplay and in Picture, but getting above that total will be tricky. I think it gets in, but certainly needs precursor support before it’s safe.
- Arrival While many considered it to be at first just a contender in visual effects and sound categories, the critical acclaim that Arrival has received shows that it certainly has potential to be an awards juggernaut, going more the way of Mad Max: Fury Road, Gravity, and Avatar, rather than the much compared Interstellar. I’ve seen some pundits putting it in almost every available category, and while I think it struggles in the major categories, and in categories of 5 at other awards groups. I think it just about sneaks into Best Picture as the chosen genre film/technical achievement.
- Loving Despite it not being released yet, Loving already seems like it’s been and gone, as the majority of its buzz came out of the Cannes Film Festival in May. This is a film that needs to perform well with audiences just as much as critics if it wants to be a player. I think it’s acclaimed enough to sneak in hear, as well as both lead acting categories for Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, but does seemingly look like it’s going the way of Carol, which did OK during awards season, but of course ended up missing Best Picture all together. I think it just about sneaks in.
Also in Contention: Hidden Figures (a possible player for Octavia Spencer in Supporting Actress), Sully (contender in Sound categories/precursors), Live By Night (unknown quantity), Passengers (could be audience hit), The Birth of a Nation (has it faded THAT quickly?!), Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (can it bounce back from it’s disastrous NYFF premiere?).