Oscar Roundup: The State Of The Race

Oscar Roundup: The State Of The Race

It is now late November, and that means we are deep in the thicks of Oscar Season. The film festivals have wrapped, everyone has dropped their trailers, and at least some of the cream of the crop has already screened for general audiences. We've already seen films like Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk fade from possibility and films like Jackie come from nowhere to become a threat. Oscar season is always full of twists and turns and you can be sure that more will come before the 89th Academy Awards ceremony on February 26, 2017. But let's catch up on where things stand now in the major categories and make sense of all that has changed since some of our other Oscar previews.

Best Picture

  La La Land, Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight, Fences

La La Land, Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight, Fences

This is the big prize and it is usually the hardest to predict. This year is no different in that regard, but there are films that have clearly separated themselves from the pack. If we had to call it right now, La La Land is looking like it is out in front, but it's certainly not the prohibitive favorite films like The Artist and Slumdog Millionaire have been in years prior. There is still a lot of time for it to become that kind of frontrunner, but it looks like films like Manchester By The SeaMoonlightFences and Lion will all have something to say before the prize is handed out. Arrival is very well liked, but will sci-fi stigma hurt its chances? Will the late addition of Martin Scorsese's Silence shake up the race? Will the Eastwood name be enough to bring Sully into the top tier at the last minute? These are the questions that make this a fluid race that should remain fun until the very end. It's also always anyone's guess how many films will make the final cut, as the Academy can nominate anywhere between five and ten films for Best Picture.

6. Arrival

7. Loving

8. Sully

9. Jackie

10. Silence

    1. La La Land

    2. Fences

    3. Manchester By The Sea

    4. Moonlight

    5. Lion

    Personal Addition - Hell Or High Water

    Best Actor

     Denzel Washington,  Fences ; Casey Affleck,  Manchester By The Sea

    Denzel Washington, Fences; Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea

    Casey Affleck's performance in Manchester By The Sea was hailed as the early frontrunner in this category, and if it weren't for Denzel, he would probably be the odds-on favorite to win. But given the praise the performance is garnering in early reviews, the fact that he directed the film and the fact that he is a two-time Oscar winner, Washington is shaping up to be a formidable foe. If he were to win, he would join a pretty exclusive club (Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson and Walter Brennan) of men who have won three acting Oscars. He would also be the first person since Roberto Benigni for Life Is Beautiful in 1998 to win an Oscar for a performance they also directed.

    I would expect this to remain one of the closer races throughout the season unless one of their films just catches fire. The rest of these performers are probably pretty far behind these two, but a nostalgic surge could give Warren Beatty his first acting Oscar and a career capstone for Rules Don't Apply

    6. Michael Keaton - The Founder

    7. Viggo Mortensen - Captain Fantastic

    8. Andrew Garfield - Silence

    9. Tom Hanks - Sully

    10. Andrew Garfield - Hacksaw Ridge

    1. Denzel Washington - Fences

    2. Casey Affleck - Manchester By The Sea

    3. Ryan Gosling - La La Land

    4. Joel Edgerton - Loving

    5. Warren Beatty - Rules Don't Apply

     Best Actress

     Natalie Portman,  Jackie ; Emma Stone,  La La Land ; Annette Bening,  20th Century Women

    Natalie Portman, Jackie; Emma Stone, La La Land; Annette Bening, 20th Century Women

    While this race got slightly less crowded with a certain 'lady to be discussed below' out of the picture, it is still a remarkably deep field. In any other year, Ruth Negga would be an easy nomination, but with this combination of established heavyweights and those who are "due," there is no shortage of interesting narratives. Once Viola Davis was out of the race, Emma Stone's turn in La La Land felt like the frontrunner. But Natalie Portman stormed from nowhere as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in Jackie, reshaping an already crowded field.

    This one will probably change a few more times over the course of the season, but you can go ahead pencil in those top-3. After that, Amy Adams is a five-time nominee already and Meryl Streep is the all-time leader with 19 nominations, which means they are safe bets in a year where there will be a lot of names trying to break through. 

    6. Ruth Negga - Loving

    7. Jessica Chastain - Miss Sloane

    8. Isabelle Huppert - Elle

    9. Taraji P. Henson - Hidden Figures

    10. Marion Cotillard - Allied

    1. Natalie Portman - Jackie

    2. Emma Stone - La La Land

    3. Annette Bening - 20th Century Women

    4. Amy Adams - Arrival

    5. Meryl Streep - Florence Foster Jenkins

    Best Supporting Actor

     Jeff Bridges,  Hell Or High Water ; Mahershala Ali,  Moonlight ; Liam Neeson,  Silence ; Hugh Grant,  Florence Foster Jenkins

    Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water; Mahershala Ali, Moonlight; Liam Neeson, Silence; Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins

    This is by far the most wide open race of those listed here. Each of the four men pictured above is a realistic threat to win and there is still plenty of time for just about anyone in the mix to get nominated. Hugh Grant in Florence Foster Jenkins and Jeff Bridges in Hell Or High Water are both standouts from earlier in the year. If Bridges hadn't already won for Crazy Heart a few years back, he would probably be a heavy favorite for a reward here. Grant has never been nominated, so it is possible he gets to play the career achievement card to the win this year. Similarly, Liam Neeson is an under-appreciated veteran actor who could be rewarded for a solid career and what looks like a grueling performance. And Mahershala Ali is one of the best things about the year's best reviewed film, Moonlight. If the Academy is looking for one place to reward the film, it could come here. 

    Beyond those top four, it's anyone's guess. And even those top-4 four aren't exactly all safe for a nomination--it's just safe to say one of them will probably win. 

    6. Michael Shannon - Nocturnal Animals

    7. Dev Patel - Lion

    8. Mykelti Williamson - Fences

    9. Kevin Costner - Hidden Figures

    10. Peter Sarsgaard - Jackie

    1. Liam Neeson - Silence

    2. Mahershala Ali - Moonlight

    3. Jeff Bridges - Hell Or High Water

    4. Hugh Grant - Florence Foster Jenkins

    5. Lucas Hedges - Manchester By The Sea

    Best Supporting Actress

     Viola Davis,  Fences

    Viola Davis, Fences

    At one point, this category looked pretty wide open. There is a broad range of interesting supporting roles for women this year, but a few weeks ago, a certain veteran actress dropped her campaign from Lead to Supporting and the race effectively ended. Viola Davis will be a three-time Oscar nominee with an Emmy and two Tonys to her credit already. And one of the Tonys came for the same role she will almost certainly be nominated for here. On Fencesworst day, Viola Davis is pretty much a lock for a nomination and likely win, but from the trailer alone, her performance seems like the kind that could make the movie formidable in many of the categories above. 

    Among the other ladies, Michelle Williams has the standout scene, but limited screentime overall. Naomie Harris is the kind of fresh face the Academy often goes for, Nicole Kidman is a superstar who has been out of the spotlight for a while, and Janelle Monae is making the crossover from singing to acting look easy as she has excelled in roles in Moonlight and Hidden Figures. But in the end, Davis will likely prove too much. Her combination of being somewhat overdue and very well-respected will likely propel her to the win here. 

    If you had to place one Oscar bet at this very moment, this would be the safest of the bunch.

    6. Greta Gerwig - 20th Century Women

    7. Helen Mirren - Eye In The Sky

    8. Octavia Spencer - Hidden Figures

    9. Molly Shannon - Other People

    10. Rachel Weisz - The Light Between Oceans

    1. Viola Davis - Fences

    2. Naomie Harris - Moonlight

    3. Michelle Williams - Manchester By The Sea

    4. Nicole Kidman - Lion

    5. Janelle Monae - Hidden Figures

    Best Director

     Damien Chazelle,  La La Land

    Damien Chazelle, La La Land

    Damien Chazelle's 2014 Whiplash was a technical marvel without being overly formal. From early footage, the same seems true of this year's La La Land, which will stand out in a field filled with more serious subject matter. An original movie musical, Chazelle's prowess behind the lens and orchestrating choreography is likely to show through. If there are threats to him, they are likely to come from Washington's Fences and Scorsese's Silence, who are both household names with previous Oscar wins (Washington twice for Acting, Scorsese once for Director). If either of their films, or even Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, becomes "a thing," they could give Chazelle a run for his money. 

    6. Pablo Lorain - Jackie

    7. Denis Villeneuve - Arrival

    8. Garth Davis - Lion

    9. Jeff Nichols - Loving

    10. Peter Berg - Patriots Day

    1. Damien Chazelle - La La Land

    2. Denzel Washington - Fences

    3. Kenneth Lonergan - Manchester By The Sea

    4. Martin Scorsese - Silence

    5. Barry Jenkins - Moonlight

    We'll have more updates on the race throughout the season, but it already looks like a pretty strong year in film, which is good news for everyone!

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