The nominations for the 89th Annual Academy Awards were announced January 24th, rounding out the awards season for 2016, and the winners will be announced during what is expected to be a politically-charged ceremony this Sunday, February 26th, on abc and will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
As it has all season, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land continued it’s strong run, sweeping in 14 nominations, including Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor and Actress (for stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) – this marks only the third movie in history to earn so many nods, alongside Titanic and All About Eve. It also managed to walk away with the top prize at the Producers Guild Awards and at the BAFTAs. La La Land’s chief competitor, Moonlight, earned 8 nods, also getting a Best Picture nod along with supporting nods for both Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali and Best Director for Barry Jenkins.
Further records were broken with Viola Davis earning a nod for supporting actress in Fences (also nominated for Best Picture), her third nomination, making her the first black actress to receive as many nominations, and currently stands as the frontrunner for this year’s category. And then there’s Meryl Streep, who is the first person to earn her millionth (20th) Oscar nomination, this time for Florence Foster Jenkins, which brings me to one of the biggest snubs this year, that being of Amy Adams for Best Actress for her performance in Arrival, when a lot of folks (myself included) had her pegged for a front-runner. Some other snubs that others might point out, but personally I’m alright with, is Aaron Taylor-Johnson missing out of a nod for his Golden Globe-winning role in Nocturnal Animals, whilst costar, Michael Shannon was nominated instead for his role as the film’s deteriorating detective.
Some of the other biggest snubs, for me personally anyway, is the lack of love for Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden and Paul Verhoeven’s Elle in the Foreign-language category (though the latter did still get a best actress nod for Isabelle Huppert), and then there’s Martin Scorsese’s Silence. Considering it’s Scorsese (for one), with a movie that, if anything is, at least from a technical stand point, perfection, and ultimately a masterwork for the director (one that’s been in the works for 28 years), to see it only end up with a nomination for cinematography is a huge oversight. Granted, it was no box office hit like Scorsese’s previous film, Wolf of Wall Street, but is every film that Meryl Streep gets nominated for a box office success, or even a critical success for that matter? And yet, there she is, on the ballot, every other goddamned year (apologies for the rant). If anything, I would’ve liked to have seen Silence earn a best picture spot over at least a third of the movies that did get nominated, and maybe a best director spot, though admittedly there was a good deal of competition for that category this year.
As far as further snubs go, I could go prattling on – I’m sure a few film-goers out there were foolishly expecting Deadpool to make it on the ballot – and whilst hindsight is fun and everything, we all just have to accept it and move on, so here’s a look at some of the major categories of the forthcoming event along with my predictions and who I think you can bet on hearing their name called when the moment comes.
- Hacksaw Ridge
- Hell or High Water
- Hidden Figures
- La La Land *
- Manchester by the Sea
Should Win: La La Land
Will Win: La La Land or Moonlight
Upset: Hidden Figures
Yes, the race is down to these two films. Hidden Figures‘ surprise win for best ensemble at the SAGs has given the film an extra boost in the race, not to mention it’s strong box office performance, but I think it still remains between La La Land and Moonlight. It could seriously go either way here. Last year the prize went to Spotlight, a safe choice if ever there was one, and would be the case here should Figures win. I do believe that La La Land has the high ground, given how many awards it’s swept thus far and considering how much of a general (and critical) crowd-pleaser it’s become, and god knows it’d be nice to see a cheerful movie win for a change. However, Moonlight, being the more socially and politically relevant film and (though I hate to mention it) considering the last two years of #Oscarsowhite, it could snag it and take that along with Best Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor (but more on those later). It’s hard to say which way it’ll go, La La Land is still pegged to sweep the technical awards so it’ll be a winner either way, but personally, I hope it takes the top prize.
- Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea*
- Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
- Ryan Gosling – La La Land
- Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
- Denzel Washington – Fences
Should Win: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Will Win: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Upset: Ryan Gosling – La La Land or Denzel Washington – Fences
Frankly, I wouldn’t take much stock in the fact that Denzel just won the SAG for his performance, though I suppose you could consider him a serious contender at this point. I also wouldn’t count on Ryan Gosling’s win at the Globes to lead to his win here, the only instance that would prove me wrong in this case would be back in 2011 where Jean Dujardin beat George Clooney at the Oscars, whilst both won in their respective categories at the Globes, so I guess you never know. However, I have no doubt that Casey Affleck has got it in the bag, he’s won nearly every other major award for his role, most recently at the BAFTAS and, simply put, it’s just the best male performance of the year.
- Isabelle Huppert – Elle
- Ruth Negga – Loving
- Natalie Portman – Jackie
- Emma Stone – La La Land *
- Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Should Win: Emma Stone – La La Land
Will Win: Emma Stone – La La Land
Upset: Isabelle Huppert – Elle
I think one is also a safe bet at this point. Had Amy Adams been nominated for Arrival, which she absolutely should have, she would have been my alternative choice here. Whilst I loved both Ruth Negga and Natalie Portman in their respective roles, they don’t seem to be making as much of a pop this season. Such as it is, Stone has won the affection of critics and audiences alike, not to mention a majority of the awards, and is thus poised to win on the big night. Huppert meanwhile got a Golden Globe for her performance, and whilst her movie wasn’t as widely received, at least there’s been a critical consensus of her performance, making her the only one who has a shot at beating her at this point, which would be a huge surprise, even to me.
- Mahershala Ali – Moonlight *
- Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
- Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
- Dev Patel – Lion
- Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
Should Win: Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Will Win: Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Upset: Anybody else
This one’s a done deal, forget about the rest of it. Dev Patel won at the BAFTAs and Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe, but the latter didn’t make the cut this round, and the former is British and the BAFTAs like to reward their own, as do the Oscars, so fair play, but I don’t see Patel sneaking in for a win here.
- Viola Davis – Fences *
- Naomie Harris – Moonlight
- Nicole Kidman – Lion
- Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
- Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
Should Win: Viola Davis – Fences
Will Win: Viola Davis – Fences
Upset: Anybody else
Yet again, as predictable as award seasons go, I feel that this, too is a sealed deal. If you look at the awards that this film has been winning (and at the awards in general), Davis’ supporting role in the Denzel Washington-directed play adaptation has been the consistent winner all around. Though I’d say that Hidden Figures has been the more accessible for audiences, Davis seems to be the overall frontrunner here, and where Octavia Spencer already has her Oscar (for The Help), it’s high time that Davis got hers.
- Damien Chazelle – La La Land *
- Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
- Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
- Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
- Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Should Win: Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Will Win: Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Upset: Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
A while ago, I might have said that Kenneth Lonergan might have a chance here, but with the way this season has turned out for both La La Land and Moonlight, I’d say the most that Manchester by the Sea has to hope for is Best Actor and possibly best original screenplay… that is if La La Land doesn’t take the latter first. Such as it is, Chazelle is set to win this one – he’s won every major award so far – and deservedly so. At this point, it would be a major upset if anyone else won, including Jenkins, who may yet get best picture even if Chazelle does walk away with this one.
- Kubo and the Two Strings
- My Life as a Zucchini
- The Red Turtle
- Zootopia *
Should Win: Zootopia
Will Win: Zootopia
Upset: Kubo and the Two Strings
In some ways, or rather, in a lot of ways, it seems unfair that every year, the Disney produced animated feature that tends to be the frontrunner for the category. It’s like the Meryl Streep of this category. It does just so happen, that the best animated movie this year is, yet again, the best of the year. Whilst Kubo and the Two Strings dazzles with some impressive animation (which also earned a best visual effects nomination, only the second animated movie to do so after A Nightmare Before Christmas), Zootopia carries a stronger message and, personally speaking, far more entertaining. In any case, Zootopia has been sweeping most of the wins in this category – though Kubo did just previously win at the BAFTAS – and I think it’ll be the same outcome here.
- Arrival – Eric Heisserer
- Fences – August Wilson
- Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
- Lion – Luke Davies
- Moonlight – Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney *
Should Win: Arrival – Eric Heisserer
Will Win: Moonlight – Barry Jenkins
Upset: Arrival – Eric Heisserer
Moonlight just won best Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards and Arrival took best Adapted, but here, the former didn’t qualify for Original Screenplay, and so I’d say that Moonlight is the frontrunner here now.
- 20th Century Women – Mike Mills
- Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
- La La Land – Damien Chazelle
- The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
- Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan *
Should Win: The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
Will Win: Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
Upset: La La Land – Damien Chazelle
Yes, I think The Lobster should win and that it should have been nominated for more awards, but it wasn’t and it won’t win. Had Moonlight been nominated, I think it’d be the clear winner here, but it’s a toss up between La La Land and Manchester by the Sea now, and I think the latter will take it. It’s won more awards in this category, however, that doesn’t mean that La La Land can’t easily win, especially if it the night starts tipping in it’s favor in the rest of it’s nominated categories.