After a slow start, 2016 turned out to be a strong year at the movies with a number of films to savor. Which ones will Oscar honor with its annual Academy Award nominations? Here are my predictions for the names we will hear on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
A fascinating collection of films emerge as leading contenders for the top Oscar. Singing and dancing to the top of the list is La La Land, the delightful musical that pays tribute to the great show biz stories of the past. At this moment, it’s the film to beat, with several strong dramas close behind. Moonlight captures the despair people face, and the hope they seek, when society builds walls to separate, while Manchester by the Sea explores the depths of human grief. Lion delivers an emotional search for family, Hell or High Water confronts the realities of aging and choices, and Fences translates the magic of August Wilson’s play to the screen. Completing the nominees should be the sci-fi adventure Arrival and the inspirational Hidden Figures. And, because the Academy can nominate up to 10 films, we could also see Jackie and Hacksaw Ridge. Possible spoiler: Deadpool.
Casey Affleck leads a strong roster of contenders for his layered look at the despair personal tragedy can create in Manchester by the Sea. Denzel Washington fills the screen with the recreation of his Tony-winning stage performance in Fences while Ryan Gosling is likely to be tapped for tap dancing in La La Land. Viggo Mortensen should be remembered for his irreverent father in Captain Fantastic while the fifth slot should go to Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge. Possible spoiler: Jake Gyllenhaal for Nocturnal Animals.
With the strongest field in years, there aren’t enough slots for all the deserving performances. Emma Stone is a likely nominee for her song and dance turn in La La Land as is Natalie Portman for recreating Jacqueline Kennedy’s grief in Jackie. Isabelle Huppert captures the layers of fear in Elle while Meryl Streep is in line to receive a record 20th Oscar nomination for delighting audiences as the eccentric Florence Foster Jenkins. Finishing the list should be Amy Adams for her nuanced work in Arrival. A possible (and well deserved) spoiler: Annette Bening who would win her fifth nomination for her beautiful portrayal of a mother in 20th Century Women.
Best Supporting Actor
This is another category with more qualified possibilities than available slots. Mahershala Ali leads with his magnetic turn as a drug dealer with a heart in Moonlight while Jeff Bridges should win his seventh Oscar nomination for Hell or High Water. Dev Patel delivers a moving look at loss and discovery in Lion while newcomer Lucas Hedges scores with his interpretation of tragedy in Manchester by the Sea. Completing the list should be Ben Foster as the easily confused brother in Hell or High Water. Possible spoiler: Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals.
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis is as close to a sure thing as this year’s Oscar race can guarantee. She is moving and magical as the devoted wife in Fences, a reprise of her Tony-winning performance on Broadway. Joining her on Oscar night should be Nicole Kidman, scoring her fourth nomination, as the devoted mother in Lion; Naomie Harris as a different type of mother in Moonlight; past Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as a mathematician with an edge in Hidden Figures; and Michelle Williams, securing her fourth nomination, as the embittered wife in Manchester by the Sea. Possible spoiler: Greta Gerwig for 20th Century Women.
Look for a three-way showdown between the musical moments of Damien Chazelle (La La Land), the dramatic rhythm of Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and the haunting relationships of Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea). Grabbing the other two slots should be Denis Villeneuve for Arrival and Garth Davis for Lion. Possible spoiler: Denzel Washington for Fences.
More Oscar Nominees
Which films will Oscar honor with Academy Award nominations? Here are more predictions for the names we will hear on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
Best Original Screenplay
Kenneth Lonergan’s beautifully modulated Manchester by the Sea should lead the nominees in this competitive category. Damien Chazelle will be a likely contender for the screenplay for the musical La La Land while Taylor Sheridan should be honored for the haunting Hell or High Water. Deserving consideration, as well, are Mike Mills for 20th Century Women and Noah Oppenheim for Jackie. Possible spoiler: Captain Fantastic.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Noted books and plays provide the source material for the possible nominees. August Wilson should be honored for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Fences while Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney should be nominated for adapting the play Moonlight for the screen. Eric Heisserer will likely be nominated for writing the adaptation of Arrival while Saroo Brierly and Luke Davies should be honored for Lion. Look for Hidden Figures, by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder, to join the list. Possible spoiler: Tom Ford for Nocturnal Animals.
Best Film Editing
What happens in the editing room can make all the difference to a finished film as these possible nominees illustrate. Leading contenders for this Oscar should be the Best Picture favorites La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea, with the remaining slots going to Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge. Possible spoiler: Jackie.
Best Animated Feature
The popular Zootopia should make the final list along with another Disney hit, Moana, and the creative Kubo and the Two Strings. The other two slots should go to The Red Turtle and Finding Dory. Possible spoiler: Sing.
Best Documentary Feature
The five-part OJ: Made in America redefines the documentary film with its brilliant examination of the impact of OJ Simpson on a divided America. Competing for this Oscar should be 13th, the fascinating look at racial tension in this country by famed director Ava Duvernay. Weiner, the explosive look at the life and career of shamed politician Anthony Weiner, and Zero Days, the frightening examination of computer espionage. The final slot should go to the moving Gleason, the story of football player and ALS victim Steve Gleason. Possible spoiler: I Am Not Your Negro.
Best Costume Design
Madeline Fontaine creates the haunting recreations of 1963 for the drama Jackie while Mary Zophres contributes marvelous musical looks to the costumes for La La Land. The eccentricities of Florence Foster Jenkins come to life in the costumes of Consolata Boyle while Colleen Atwood could her fourth Oscar for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Completing the list should be Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh for Love and Friendship. Possible spoiler: Silence.
How a film is lit, and a camera is positioned, creates the world we experience on screen. For this Oscar, Linus Sandgren will likely compete for La La Land along with James Laxton for Moonlight and Bradford Young for Arrival. Greig Fraser offers memorable images in Lion while Jody Lee Lipes imagines a haunting world in Manchester by the Sea. Possible spoiler: Silence.
Best Production Design
The look of the movie – through the design and decoration of its sets – enhances the images we savor. Competing for this Oscar should be La La Land, Arrival, The Jungle Book, Jackie and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Possible spoiler: Silence.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Yes, it takes magic to make performers look the roles they play. Three films should be nominated for this Oscar: Florence Foster Jenkins, Deadpool and Star Trek Beyond. Possible spoiler: The Dressmaker.
Best Original Music Score
Music adds so much to the feeling a film can create. Look for these names to be read on Oscar night: Justin Hurwitz for La La Land, Nicholas Britell for Moonlight, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka for Lion, Mica Levi for Jackie, and Alexandre Desplat for Florence Foster Jenkins. Possible spoiler: John Debney for The Jungle Book.
Best Original Song
Any year an original musical appears, look for it to dominate this category. From La La Land we should see nominations for City of Stars and Audition. Probable competitors include How Far I’ll Go from Moana, Can’t Stop the Feeling from Trolls, and Try Everything from Zootopia. Possible spoiler: Runnin’ from Hidden Figures.
Best Foreign Language Film
While my favorite foreign film, Elle from France, is not on the official Academy short list, the nominees should include Toni Erdmann from Germany, A Man Called Ove from Sweden, Land of Mine from Denmark, My Life as a Zucchini from Switzerland and The Salesman from Iran. Possible spoiler: The King’s Choice from Norway.
Best Sound Editing
Of the two categories honoring sound, this one focuses on the creation of sound effects to create the film’s sound design. The nominees should be La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, Rogue One, a Star Wars Story, The Jungle Book and Arrival. Possible spoiler: Silence.
Best Sound Mixing
The second sound category honors sound recording and re-recording. Competing for this Oscar should, again, be La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, Rogue One, A Star Wars Story, The Jungle Book and Arrival. Possible spoiler: Deepwater Horizon.
Best Visual Effects
This popular category is all about the marvelous magic creators unleash to tell amazing stories on film. Leading contenders for this Oscar should be Arrival, The Jungle Book, Rogue One, A Star Wars Story, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Doctor Strange. Possible spoiler: Deepwater Horizon.