Sunday, 22 January 2017

2017 Oscar Shortlist Predictions


2016s most celebrated films will be holding their breath over the next few days, hoping they have done enough to nab themselves a nomination at the 89th Academy Award ceremony. January 24th will see the unveiling of the shortlist, lining up the lucky hopefuls in with a chance of snatching gold next month at the biggest award ceremony of the season. Front-runners have already begun to pull ahead but the field is still open for anyone and, with every award season, we expect a few surprises and snubs along the way.

As I did last year, I've decided to set my Oscar predictions in stone (aka on my blog) for the major categories. I can't claim to have seen all of these films yet (as a good handful won't be released in the UK for a little while yet), so my predictions will be formed not only based on my own personal opinions, but with an amalgamation of goodwill, buzz, word of mouth, voting patterns and how the film has already performed across the circuit so far. Then, when the nominations have been revealed, be sure to check back to see how I did. Keep your eyes peeled closer to the date of the ceremony to see my winner predictions and ranking of the nine pictures in the race.

Anything bolded is updated information, following the nominations announcement and my brief comments on each category, including notable snubs and upsets..


Best Picture

Just a few years ago, The Academy expanded their shortlist for this category, meaning that between five and ten films can be shortlisted for the Best Picture award, with the final number of nominees depending on how the field has been split. Typically, eight or nine are named and left to fight for victory in what many consider as the biggest race of the night.

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight
Sully
Zootopia

As with the previous two years, I am expecting eight films to receive a nomination in the prestigious category. La La Land, Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight appear to be the clear front-runners at the moment and a snub against any of them would be a massive shock; Arrival seems to have stuck around and managed to resonate with people incredibly well, so a nomination here would be unsurprising but not guaranteed; Hacksaw Ridge and Hidden Figures seem to have become both potent crowd-pleasers and critically-acclaimed pieces of cinema in past couple of months, picking up steam as the season has progressed; Zootopia could very well pull through and in turn become just the fourth animated film in history to earn a nomination in the Best Picture category, what with the current political climate striking some remarkable parallels that may just be too difficult for the Academy to ignore; and Sully seems to be exactly the type of film the Academy panders towards (a true story, based on a white male, performed by an Academy favourite and directed by an Academy favourite - and that's not to be offensive or suggest the film doesn't deserve the accolade, just simply an observation).

That final nomination was a toss-up with Silence but considering Sully was far more crowd-pleasing and easily accessed release, I expect the Academy to tip in its favour. A nomination for Lion wouldn't at all surprise me although I don't think it's done quite enough to be rewarded. Hell or High Water, despite being high on many other prediction lists, does not seem to have caught fire as well as fans of the western drama had hoped and may have been forgotten come ballot time. Love for Fences seems to have dwindled the closer we get to nomination day and Jackie's esteem seems to be entirely focused on the lead performance, rather than the final package. Loving has passed under the radar and Patriot's Day probably won't make the cut either. Deadpool would be quite a surprise, on the basis that I don't think it's very good - if you're going to award a blockbuster this year, let it be The Jungle Book or Captain America: Civil War.

On a personal note, I would love to see a mention go to A Monster Calls, for it really is one of the most moving and poignant pieces of cinema in recent memory. Nocturnal Animals, after the surprising but deserved appreciation from the BAFTAs, isn't out of the game yet and would be a terrific addition to the list, although it almost certainly wouldn't go all the way. I wouldn't frown upon a nomination for Eye In The Sky, either.

Of my main predictions, six were correct but I called the other three (Hell Or High Water, Lion and Fences) in the runner-up section. Not too bad going really. Deep down I expected Lion to make it and thought Fences would get in an extended shortlist. Hell Or High Water is a little more surprising. Deep down, I knew Zootopia wasn't going to get through but you can hope, right? Sully's exclusion isn't surprising either really - they were both my risky, outside bets.


Best Director

Five is the magic number from this point onwards and the handful I expect to be nominated for the Best Director award are...

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea)
Martin Scorsese (Silence)

Once again, the directors of 'the holy trinity' this Oscar season seem to have their nominations locked in, meaning Jenkins, Chazelle and Lonergan will almost certainly be among the five names on Tuesday, with a snub for any of them causing a great upset. That leaves two slots - Scorsese will probably be favoured over Clint Eastwood (Sully) in the Best Director category, as reviews have been nothing but complimentary of his ability to continually find beauty in his otherwise testing piece of cinema. Likewise, Villeneuve find similar beauty in Arrival and manages to find a scope in the picture while ensuring it remains intimate and tightly woven.

While Best Director is probably the category I am most confident to lock in, surprises come left, right and centre in this game and there are more than a few directors on the peripheral ready to swoop in a claim one of the spaces; Eastwood has a decent chance, having already won four Oscars and cementing himself as a favourite with the Academy; Garth Davis seems to be a favourite with others for his wonderful work in Lion and Mel Gibson's work in Hacksaw Ridge was labelled 'a return to form' so the Academy may want to pay him some appreciation for that. I'd be very surprised if either Denzel Washington (Fences) or Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals) sneak in but they're not completely out of the race yet.

Again, for me, J.A Bayona deserves a nomination for his work in A Monster Calls, in which he seamlessly combines CGI and animation with the real world while experimenting with different elements, with some of the most beautiful shots populating his film. I'd probably thrown in Jon Faverau (The Jungle Book) for the same reason, although I expect that creative team to reap the awards in some of the technical categories.


Four out of five right here which is faaaaaaar better than I did last year. Mel Gibson joins the five, knocking Martin Scorsese out which isn't too much of a surprise. Part of me expected them to pick Garth Davis over Gibson but it wasn't too unpredictable.


Best Actor

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)
Denzel Washington (Fences)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Casey Affleck has probably already written and rehearsed his winner's speech for this one, as he has pretty much swept up everywhere else for his work in Manchester By The Sea, but there is still another four nominees to name before we get to that. Ryan Gosling (La La Land) is probably Affleck's biggest competition at this early juncture and Washington will probably be awarded a Best Actor nomination as a package deal for his general work in Fences (in which he also directs and produces). Andrew Garfield finally looks to be receiving the attention and appreciation he deserves and perhaps his work in Hacksaw Ridge will be awarded a slot, with his tremendous work in Silence also cementing the nomination. Jake Gyllenhaal seems the most likely to lose his place here, especially if Nocturnal Animals didn't resonate with American voters as much as it did with British voters, but I'll still give him the edge over the other options.

The Best Actor pool doesn't seem as wide as the others, so there is bound to be a few upsets caused by the otherwise interchangeable few; Tom Hanks could slide through for his performance in Sully, given the Academy's apparent love for him, while Viggo Mortensen seems to have won over a slight crowd for his role in Captain Fantastic. Joel Egerton seems to be a name thrown around but has gone completely under my radar this season, so I would be surprised to see him crop up here. Otherwise, unless Dev Patel finds himself here rather than in Supporting Actor as they seem to be pushing for with Lion, it's not the busiest category this year.

Lewis MacDougall for, you guessed it, A Monster Calls deserve appreciation here, but we all know the Academy has something against recognising the work of younger actors and actresses *cough* Jacob Tremblay *cough*. Sunny Pawar's performance in Lion faces a similar uphill battle.

Not particularly impressed with the Academy electing Viggo Mortensen over Jake Gyllenhaal but it was to be expected - many had edged Mortensen over Gyllenhaal to begin with. Again, it was a little wishful thinking on my behalf. Otherwise, it's another 4/5 here.


Best Actress

Amy Adams (Arrival)
Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Best Actress remains a tough battle but the general word is that this is a two-horse race between Emma Stone (La La Land) and Natalie Portman (Jackie), so they have pretty much guaranteed their nominations here. Amy Adams, as with Andrew Garfield, could have the goodwill of delivering fantastic performances in both Arrival and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice Nocturnal Animals, with Nocturnal Animals benefiting an Arrival nomination more so than the reverse (if you can decipher what I mean here, kudos to you). Isabelle Huppert has the advantage of winning the Golden Globe earlier this month, with no woman ever going un-nominated after scooping up the Drama win, even if the only word I have heard of this film is of her performance. Emily Blunt (The Girl On The Train) surprised with a BAFTA nomination and could reap the awards of serving up a sensational performance in an otherwise unfavourable film (but I really liked it, so who cares?).

Meryl Streep may potentially push another actress out, as her Golden Globe speech is fresh in the minds of voters and is she another Academy favourite that could prove an upset to the leading five. Hidden Figures' Taraji P. Henson has received traction after the film's wonderful success over the previous two weeks. Ruth Negga (Loving), Jessica Chastain (Miss Solane), Rebecca Hall (Christine), Kate Beckinsale (Love and Friendship) and Annette Benning (20th Century Women) are other names flying around but I can't say they have enough support to translate the goodwill into an outright nomination.

I'd like to throw Hailee Steinfeld into the ring for this one, for her sensation performance in The Edge of Seventeen that earned her a Golden Globe nomination earlier this year.

It's infuriating that Amy Adams doesn't get a nomination here for her work in either Arrival or Nocturnal Animals, although many had backed a nomination in the former the whole way. Whether it's voters picking one over the other and potentially spreading her to thin across the category, I don't know, but I sure as hell think this is the biggest snub of the season. Meryl Streep and Ruth Negga push Adams and Emily Blunt out of my predictions and the conversation - the former was expected because of the Academy's infatuation with Streep but Negga was, possibly, the biggest surprise of the entire nominations. Last year I scored 5/5 here - this time I settle for 3/5.


Best Supporting Actor

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea)
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

While these supporting categories don't seem as tricky to predict as last year, given the general trend to push for a nomination in a supporting capacity over the more hotly-contested lead, there still exists a fair bit of difficulty. Dev Patel, in my eyes, should be playing in the major league with lead but most have him down for Supporting for his role in Lion. Everyone else is a little more understandable; Mahershala Ali has won a tonne of support for his supposedly short appearance in Moonlight and is considered front-runner at this stage in time; Jeff Bridges is secondary to the two male leads in Hell Or High Water but makes just as much of an impact; Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Globe win for Nocturnal Animals should not be discredited and is expected to pull through with an nomination, just tipping Michael Shannon for his role in the film; and Lucas Hedges, while some consider an outside bet more than likely given his age, may be the (pleasant) surprise of the morning.

Again, Shannon could take support from Taylor-Johnson and tip the nomination in his favour - or we could see two actors from the same film share the Supporting Actor spotlight. Hugh Grant seems to be an early favourite for at least a nomination but I can't see it happening myself, while Ben Foster awkwardly straddles the Lead-Supporting boundary to the point where I believe the Academy will disregard him all together.

Part of me would love to see Alan Rickman win some recognition for his role in Eye In The Sky because he delivers a genuinely solid performance and because it would be a nice way to remember the actor.

Four out of five here, with Michael Shannon pushing Aaron Taylor-Johnson out in a Nocturnal Animals showdown. Not too surprising as it was pretty much 50/50 on who would break into the conversation but Taylor-Johnson's Golden Globe win had me leaning towards him.



Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis (Fences)

Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

No repeat of last year's 'Alicia Vikander in supporting when she's quite clearly a lead actor' so everybody starts on a more of less equal footing. Viola Davis (Fences) looks set to scoop her first Oscar in this category but looks set to face stiff competition from Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea). Nicole Kidman looks ready to earn a nomination for her performance in Lion, which has particularly strength going forward as it was considered a 'return to form' after some less than well received performances of recent. Naomie Harris, while supposedly quite a small role, seems to be a name flying around at the moment for Moonlight, while Octavia Spencer could very easily grab a nomination for her inspiring turn in Hidden Figures.

Janelle Monae could snatch a nomination away for Hidden Figures, although I always see it as the Academy choosing only one actor or actress per film per category in these things, to avoid unnecessary complications or awkwardness. Greta Gerwig has both roles in 20th Century Women and Jackie to consider although neither have exactly caught fire for her across the circuit. Margaret Bowman is an outside bet for her funny performance in Hell Or High Water for her performance simply as 'waitress', with a diner scene that continually cropped up on year end favourites last year. It would be a surprise but its not inconceivable. Molly Shannon (Other People) and Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake) are two names floating around but I'm not convinced either can go far enough.

I have three names for this one I would love to see in contention; Felicity Jones for A Monster Calls, Lupita Nyong'o for Queen of Katwe and Helen Mirren for Eye In The Sky all at least deserve to be a part of the conversation and I'm particularly throwing my well wishes towards Jones who genuinely moved me to tears with her gut-wrenching performance. It's a tough category again this year.

Five for five. Send me to the prize table (although, admittedly, this was the easiest category to call).



And there we have it for my Oscar 2017 predictions. How well I did will be evident when nominations are revealed on Tuesday morning/afternoon, depending on where you are from. I expect La La Land to pull through with the most overall nominations, closely followed by Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight, with Arrival hopefully in that mix too. Nocturnal Animals will definitely be one to watch and keep your eyes on whether Hidden Figures' success and acclaim from the previous two weeks will have made any difference to the nominations.

Until then...

Another Oscar season, another barrage of snubs and disappointments. Amy Adams' is the most heartbreaking because I really, really expected her to  make it, and possibly, go the distance. Emily Blunt is another disappointment but she was an outside bet to begin with. Nocturnal Animals deserved more love, in line with its BAFTA haul, but I didn't expect it to resonate as well over the pond anyway. Finding Dory not making Best Animated is a little upsetting but I'm sure Disney aren't crying too much - Moana and Zootopia made it instead.

Pleasant surprises with (very unpopular opinion alert) Passengers achieving two nominations for Original Score and Production Design. SO happy Audition (The Fools Who Dream) earned a nomination alongside City of Stars for La La Land.

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