Monday, January 23, 2017

Oscars 2016: Nomination Predictions

Amy Adams in "Arrival"
With the nominations for the 2016* Academy Awards being released tomorrow morning, it’s time for the Manifesto to unveil its official predictions. I’ve hit on a mediocre 80% of my predictions each of the last two years, so we’ll see if I can improve on that mark this year (I don’t have high hopes). Per usual, we’re only predicting nominations for 13 categories; we’ll have predictions for the winners in all 21 feature fields prior to the big show on February 26.

* Although most websites refer to these as the 2017 Academy Awards, all of the movies were released in 2016, so I prefer that nomenclature.

Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Comments: As always, the challenge here lies in divining how many movies will be nominated for Best Picture, as the Academy’s preferential ballot allows for anywhere between 5 and 10. It’s typically either 8 or 9; given the relative dearth of passion plays this year, I’m going with the low end. The three locks are La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight, and I’m fairly confident in both Fences and Hidden Figures as well. Arrival and Hell or High Water are less certain, but they seem to have sufficiently broad support. (They’re also both terrific, though I shouldn’t let my opinions influence my predictions.)

The biggest question mark for me is Lion, which is the only major awards’ contender that I haven’t seen, making it difficult for me to gauge its potential. (If it does receive a Best Picture nomination, I’ll plan on seeing it later this week.) It’s little-loved by critics, but it has a Producers’ Guild nomination, and it seems to be the kind of heart-warming tale that would play well with Academy voters.

Potential upsets: The biggest threat to pop up as a ninth nominee is Hacksaw Ridge. It has a Producers’ Guild nod, and it’s well-liked, but I question whether it can earn enough high-end votes to dent the preferential ballot. The other likely breakthrough candidate is Loving, but it seems to be more admired than adored.

Longshots: Nocturnal Animals (surely you can’t be serious); Sully (ibid); Silence (seriously, enough); Deadpool (has a PGA nomination, but would likely cause the Academy to self-combust if nominated); Jackie (too chilly); I, Daniel Blake (has a BAFTA nomination, but who saw it?); Captain Fantastic (sufficiently gooey that it can’t be ruled out).

Damien Chazelle—La La Land
Garth Davis—Lion
Barry Jenkins—Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan—Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve—Arrival

Comments: Mirroring the Best Picture field, Chazelle, Lonergan, and Jenkins are all locks. For the remaining two, Davis and Villeneuve are both are shaky ground, but I don’t see much point in departing from the Directors’ Guild quintet.

Potential upsets: The strongest challenger is probably David Mackenzie for Hell or High Water, though Tom Ford has a BAFTA nomination for Nocturnal Animals. If Hacksaw Ridge does crack the Best Picture lineup, don’t be surprised to see Mel Gibson show up here, as that film is entirely a work of directorial vision.

Longshots: Theodore Melfi for Hidden Figures (who?); Denzel Washington for Fences (he’ll settle for a Best Actor nod); Martin Scorsese for Silence (ugh).

Casey Affleck—Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield—Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling—La La Land
Viggo Mortensen—Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington—Fences

Comments: I almost feel ashamed duplicating the lineup of the Screen Actors’ Guild here, but I just don’t see any challengers. If anyone misses out, I’d bet on Garfield (he could theoretically split his own vote with Silence), but given that he has support from BAFTA as well as SAG, I can’t really pick against him.

Potential upsets: If Loving had stronger overall buzz, I’d go with Joel Edgerton here instead of Garfield. Jake Gyllenhaal earned a BAFTA nomination, but my suspicion is that Nocturnal Animals played far stronger with the Brits than with Academy voters.

Longshots: Colin Farrell for The Lobster (c’mon, AMPAS, live a little).

Amy Adams—Arrival
Ruth Negga—Loving
Natalie Portman—Jackie
Emma Stone—La La Land
Meryl Streep—Florence Foster Jenkins

Comments: Adams, Portman, and Stone are all in, and following the ruckus at the Golden Globes, I expect the “overrated” Meryl Streep to pop up as well. My upset pick here is Negga—she’s been relatively quiet on the circuit thus far, but I think her powerful portrayal of a real-life figure cracks the lineup.

Potential upsets: The obvious alternate is Isabelle Huppert for Elle; it’s a critically beloved performance, but I question its Academy appeal. Emily Blunt scored nominations from both BAFTA and SAG for her searing work in The Girl on the Train, but I suspect the movie is too populist. Annette Bening is an Oscar staple, but 20th Century Women was little-seen. Taraji P. Henson could sneak in for Hidden Figures, but the movie seems to be viewed as more of an ensemble effort.

Longshots: None. The aforementioned four actresses all have a legitimate chance.

Mahershala Ali—Moonlight
Jeff Bridges—Hell or High Water
Hugh Grant—Florence Foster Jenkins
Lucas Hedges—Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel—Lion

Comments: Ali and Bridges are locks. I’ve heard that Patel is the clear lead in Lion, but he seems to have been slotted into the supporting category thus far. Similarly, Grant is arguably a co-lead in Florence Foster Jenkins, but he seems happy playing second fiddle to Queen Meryl. The fifth spot here is a real mystery, but I’m guessing that Manchester by the Sea has sufficient coattails to make room for Hedges.

Potential upsets: Kevin Costner’s feel-good portrayal of white decency in Hidden Figures could easily speak to Oscar voters. Aaron Taylor-Johnson scored a surprise BAFTA nod for Nocturnal Animals, but he could split the vote with co-star Michael Shannon.

Longshots: Ben Foster for Hell or High Water (I think Bridges monopolizes the vote there).

Viola Davis—Fences
Naomie Harris—Moonlight
Nicole Kidman—Lion
Octavia Spencer—Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams—Manchester by the Sea

Comments: Davis, Harris, and Williams are solid. Kidman has the BAFTA/SAG double, so she seems safe. Spencer could feasibly split the vote with co-star Janelle Monáe, but she’s the bigger name (at least in the film industry).

Potential upsets: None.

Longshots: Lily Gladstone for Certain Women (in my dreams).

Florence Foster Jenkins—Nicholas Martin
Hell or High Water—Taylor Sheridan
La La Land—Damien Chazelle
The Lobster—Efthymis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos
Manchester by the Sea—Kenneth Lonergan

Comments: In a familiar refrain, La La Land is a lock, as is Manchester. I’m reasonably confident that the originality of The Lobster will make its mark here, and if Hell or High Water scores a Best Picture nod, it should be safe. I’m admittedly reaching on Florence Foster Jenkins, but I think its syrupy based-in-truth narrative will strike a chord with Academy voters.

Potential upsets: Animated fare generally plays well here, so Zootopia could crack the final five. It’s also possible that Captain Fantastic pops up, though I think it’ll have to settle for Mortensen’s nomination.

Longshots: Hail, Caesar! (never rule out the Coen Brothers); 20th Century Women (again, who saw it?).

Arrival— Eric Heisserer
Fences—August Wilson
Hidden Figures— Theodore Melfi, Allison Schroeder
Lion—Luke Davies
Moonlight— Barry Jenkins, Tarell McCraney

Comments: I feel weirdly confident here. That never bodes well.

Potential upsets: I’m making my bed in betting against Nocturnal Animals, but it has the BAFTA nod, and its movie-within-a-movie structure could help it here.

Longshots: Hacksaw Ridge; Loving.

Arrival—Bradford Young
La La Land—Linus Sandgren
Moonlight—James Laxton
Nocturnal Animals—Seamus McGarvey
Silence—Rodrigo Prieto

Comments: Four of these five are solid. For the fifth, I’ve been steadily picking against Nocturnal Animals in the high-profile areas, but I think it can break through in the craft categories.

Potential upsets: Lion, which I’m realizing I really should have seen by now, or Hell or High Water.

Longshots: Hacksaw Ridge; Jackie.

Arrival—Joe Walker
Hacksaw Ridge—John Gilbert
La La Land—Tom Cross
Manchester by the Sea—Jennifer Lame
Moonlight— Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders

Comments: The three heavy hitters should all show up here, and I like the spectacle of Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge as well.

Potential upsets: Nocturnal Animals (I’m sensing a pattern here) or Hell or High Water.

Longshots: Lion.

Hacksaw Ridge—Rupert Gregson-Williams
La La Land—Justin Hurwitz
Lion—Dustin O'Halloran, Hauschka
Moonlight—Nicholas Britell
Nocturnal Animals—Abel Korzeniowski

Comments: La La Land and Moonlight are strong here, and I’m sold on Hacksaw Ridge as well. The other two are shakier.

Potential upsets: John Williams is always a threat (this year for The BFG), and Mica Levi’s moody score for Jackie received considerable buzz.

Longshots: Kubo and the Two Strings; Florence Foster Jenkins; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
La La Land
Nocturnal Animals

Comments: Beyond Fantastic Beasts and La La Land, this one is a real crapshoot.

Potential upsets: Hail, Caesar? Hacksaw Ridge? Jackie? The Handmaiden? Take your pick.

Longshots: Doctor Strange; Passengers; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Doctor Strange
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Comments: Predicting this category is always strange, since the Academy narrows it down to a shortlist of 10 prior to the nominations. In any event, I’m confident in each of these except for Arrival.

Potential upsets: The likeliest member of the shortlist to knock off Arrival is probably Deepwater Horizon, though the motion-capture brilliance of The BFG or the stop-motion labor of Kubo and the Two Strings could also sneak in.

Longshots: The remaining contenders on the shortlist are Passengers and Captain America: Civil War.

That’s a wrap on our nomination predictions. We’ll check back in on Wednesday to see how we did and offer some preliminary analysis of the various categories.

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