Forget what I said yesterday, these guys are the *real* contenders.
You can find my #20-11 ranked Oscar contenders here.
Director: Barry Jenkins | Studio: A24
After finally emerging as a genuine awards contender with last year’s Room, A24 have not one, but two horses in this year’s unpredictable race. Arguably their strongest bet is Moonlight, a tale of a homosexual black man in America told over three periods of his life. As with Room last year, this film experienced a huge surge in buzz during September – picking up glowing reviews at both Telluride & Toronto. Providing it can sustain the momentum until February, this looks like a genuine Best Picture contender.
Key Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), Best Supporting Actress (Naomi Harris), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography
Director: Pablo Larraín | Studio: Fox Searchlight
Like the aforementioned Moonlight, Jackie is a film that really announced itself on the recent festival circuit. Focusing on the life of Jackie Kennedy – both before and after the assassination of her husband – it picked up rave reviews at both Venice & Toronto, as well as a Best Screenplay award for Noah Oppenheim at the former. Director Pablo Larraín is seen as a rising talent in the industry, while star Natalie Portman is no stranger to Oscar glory herself. Consider her among the Best Actress frontrunners.
Key Categories: Best Actress (Natalie Portman), Best Supp. Actor (Peter Sarsgaard), Best A. Screenplay
8) Nocturnal Animals
Director: Tom Ford | Studio: Focus
When he’s not designing suits for James Bond, or running his own fashion label, Tom Ford dabbles in a bit of moviemaking. The multi-talented writer/director garnered critical acclaim for his feature debut, A Single Man, as well as an Oscar nod for Colin Firth. He’s put together a marvellous ensemble for his follow-up, many of whom may end up gunning for acting nods. The film did well at TIFF, but Gone Girl‘s inability to attract much Academy attention has me a little concerned about this thriller’s chances.
Key Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supp. Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography
Director: Jeff Nichols | Studio: Focus
It surprising it’s taken Jeff Nichols this long to reach this point, but we can finally consider him a genuine Oscar contender. One could argue he deserved that title as far back as 2011’s Take Shelter, but it’s been his 2016 one-two punch of Midnight Special & Loving that’s truly announced him to audiences. In The Birth Of A Nation‘s potential absence, expect this civil rights drama to benefit most from the Academy’s belated pro-diversity push. Elsewhere, Ruth Negga looks like a powerful contender for Best Actress.
Key Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Joel Edgerton), Best Actress (Ruth Negga)
Director: Martin Scorsese | Studio: Paramount
It’s a Marty Scoresese joint, what more do you really need to hear? Fortunately for the legendary filmmaker, this also feels like a traditional Oscar movie – not that that’s stopped any of his other films from succeeding in the past. Aiming for a ninth Best Director nod (but only a second win), there were doubts that the project would be ready in time – with the latest cut clocking in at 195 mins. Paramount dispelled any lingering fears earlier this week, saddling the film with a prime late-December release date.
Key Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Andrew Garfield), Best Supporting Actor (Liam Neeson, Adam Driver), Best Cinematography, Technical Categories
Director: Denzel Washington | Studio: Paramount
Fences is a heavyweight contender. Adapted by August Wilson from his Tony & Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, and directed by Denzel Washington himself, there’s no universe in which this doesn’t have some say in this year’s awards season. Whether that’s through lead acting nods for Washington and his brilliant co-star Viola Davis, or some surprise supporting recognition for newcomer Jovan Adepo, this powerful drama looks set to take Hollywood by storm. Don’t believe me? Just watch the first teaser.
Key Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Denzel Washington), Best Actress (Viola Davis), Best Supporting Actor (Jovan Adepo)
Director: Denis Villeneuve | Studio: Paramount
With five critically acclaimed films over the last six years, it’s getting harder & harder not to classify Denis Villeneuve as an A-List director. Arrival is the latest in a long line of success stories from the French-Canadian filmmaker, screening at Venice, Telluride & Toronto to universal praise. But even after establishing himself as an audience favorite, he’s found Academy recognition a lot harder to come by. If word of mouth is to be believed though, his Amy Adams-led sci-fi will be the movie to end his drought.
Key Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Renner), Best Cinematography, Technical Categories
3) La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle | Studio: Summit
This is widely seen as the industry favorite at this point. It’s hip, it’s happening, and it features far too many good looking people singing & dancing for anyone to ignore. Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash was one of the best films of the last decade, so expectations have been pretty high. Gosling & Stone are an onscreen match made in heaven, and the latter even picked up the prestigious Best Actress award at Venice. The only reason why I don’t have it at #1 is I’m not convinced everyone loves musicals. Yet.
Key Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Looking Stars, Best Looking Everything
2) Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Director: Ang Lee | Studio: TriStar
Never bet against Ang Lee. The man has two Best Director wins to his name, and another nomination. Billy Lynn looks exactly like the kind of movie that will resonate with Oscar voters. A powerful American war drama that deconstructs how we honor our heroes, with just a hint of satire. Throw in an brilliantly out-of-left-field ensemble (led by Kristen Stewart & Steve Martin) & a fantastic first trailer, and it’s pretty easy to understand why Lee’s being tipped to win a third trophy next February.
Key Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Kristen Stewart), Best Adapted Screenplay, Technical Categories
1) Manchester By The Sea
Director: Kenneth Lonergan | Studio: Amazon/Roadside Attractions
It may not be as glamorous as La La Land, nor as grandiose as Billy Lynn, but there’s something about Manchester By The Sea that has my confidence. Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature has quietly been building buzz all year since Sundance, with many calling the perennially underrated Casey Affleck an absolute lock for Best Actor. In amongst a truly unpredictable race full of huge stars, big budgets and plenty of controversy, don’t be surprised if the small, powerful family drama sneaks up and shocks us all.
Key Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Casey Affleck), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges), Best Original Screenplay
Disclaimer: I predicted Unbroken would win Best Picture back in 2014, so pretty much everything you’ve read here is total bullshit. If you need me, you can find me insulting Simon Kinberg @mintsanity.