COLUMN: Predicting the major 89th Academy Awards nominations


The 89th Academy Award nominations will be announced Tuesday morning, January 24, 2017 after a longer gap than usual between the Golden Globes that were given out back on January 8th.  As always, I've been following the full awards season over on my Awards Tracker page.  Using that data as the tea leaves and a truckload of hunches, I'm going to attempt to closely predict the Oscar nominations for the "Big 8" categories for the fourth year in a row.

Remember, these are predictions, not preferences.  These are not who I would vote for, rather who I think are going to get the call.  Last year, I correctly guessed 32 of 43 nominees of those Big 8 for 74% accuracy.  I want to see that number top 80%.  Until Tuesday, here are my sure-to-be-wrong predictions for tomorrow's nominations:


My predicted nominees:  “La La Land,” “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Arrival,” “Lion,” “Hidden Figures,” “Hell or High Water,” “Silence,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Fences”

My take:  This field can be anywhere from 5-10 nominees, so I’ll drop ten and pad my odds.  No matter who makes it, this is still a two-horse race at the top betwen “La La Land” and “Moonlight.”  Everyone else is merely a party guest.

Possible surprises or snubs:  I would love nothing more than to see “Jackie” make this field, but it’s nothing likely.  The same goes for “Loving” and “Nocturnal Animals.”  


My predicted nominees:  Damien Chazelle for “La La Land,” Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight,” Kenneth Lonergan for “Manchester by the Sea,” Denis Villeneuve for “Arrival,” and Martin Scorsese for “Silence”

My take:  The first four are locks.  The Directors Guild of America has Garth Davis from “Lion” as the fifth nominee.  I think Scorsese is the Academy’s closing choice.

Possible surprises or snubs:  Davis is in play as a surprise, but the real director to watch out for is Mel Gibson for “Hacksaw Ridge.”  If he has the favor to sneak in, that’s one heck of a comeback story to Hollywood’s biggest night.  On many ballots, it's going to be a crime to leave off the likes of Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Jeff Nichols, and Pablo Larrain for "Fences," "Sully," "Loving," and "Jackie."  That's how deep this field is for Best Director.  You could double from five to ten and have bonafide deserving contenders.


My predicted nominees:  Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea,” Denzel Washington for “Fences,” Ryan Gosling for “La La Land,” Andrew Garfield for “Hacksaw Ridge,” and Viggo Mortensen for “Captain Fantastic”

My take:  Casey Affleck is looking like an unstoppable lock, maybe the strongest one of the future Oscar night.

Possible surprises or snubs: Like Best Director, I feel like the first four listed above are in stone.  Mortensen is the wild card with Joel Edgerton from “Loving” as the next best possibility.  


My predicted nominees:  Natalie Portman for “Jackie,” Emma Stone for “La La Land,” Amy Adams for “Arrival,” Meryl Streep for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” and Isabelle Huppert for “Elle”

My take:  Never has a drama category Best Actress Golden Globe winner not gone on to an Oscar nomination, making Huppert’s win huge.  Meanwhile, Meryl Streep should just have a permanently affixed name plaque on a seat in the first row at the Dolby Theatre.  If I had a ballot, this would be Portman's Oscar with zero contest.

The surprise and snubs:  The inclusion of Huppert and Streep squeezes out possible and deserving minority contenders like Ruth Negga from “Loving” and Taraji P. Henson for “Hidden Figures.”  Henson’s more popular film has the better edge as a surprise candidate.  A third possible surprise could be Annette Bening of “20th Century Women,” another veteran who has never won.  Could she flip out Streep?


My predicted nominees:  Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight,” Jeff Bridges for “Hell or High Water,” Hugh Grant for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” Dev Patel for “Lion,” and Michael Shannon for “Nocturnal Animals”

My take:  Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s shocking Golden Globe win is something I don’t buy repeating at the Oscars.  In fact, I think his own superior co-star, Shannon, will leapfrog him.  I’m calling for the ATJ snub.

Possible surprises and snubs:  There is probably a mathematical vote-splitting scenario out there where the dual contenders from both “Hell or High Water” (Bridges and Ben Foster) and “Nocturnal Animals” (Shannon and Johnson) cancel each other out and spike the category with surprises.  The most likely beneficiary of such a thing would be Lucas Hedges from “Manchester by the Sea,” a SAG nominee.  Personally, I’m rooting for Issey Ogata slimy antagonist from “Silence.”


My predicted nominees:  Viola Davis for “Fences,” Naomie Harris for “Moonlight,” Nicole Kidman for “Lion,” Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures,” and Michelle Williams for “Manchester by the Sea”

My take:  Looking at the trends and the data, this is the firmest field of the big eight categories.  These five were the Golden Globe nominees and also the SAG nominees.  There is a huge drop-off to anyone remotely tangible as a possible surprise.

Possible surprises and snubs:  The indie crowd is going to tout Lily Gladstone for “Certain Women,” but too few Academy voters have likely even seen the film.  A great name would be Greta Gerwig, but she is, in essence, splitting her own chances between “20th Century Women” and “Jackie.”


My predicted nominees:  Damien Chazelle for “La La Land,” Kenneth Lonergan for “Manchester by the Sea,” Taylor Sheridan for “Hell or High Water,” Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon, Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee for “Zootopia,” Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou for “The Lobster”

My take:  Believe the screenplay hype for “Zootopia.”  We’ve seen animated films sneak in this category before this century and the Mouse House knows how to push nominees.  Don’t be surprised.  

Possible surprises and snubs:  Like Gladstone one category earlier, the films on the outside looking in are three with miniscule footprints, those belonging to Matt Ross’s “Captain Fantastic” and Maude Ade’s “Toni Erdmann,” and Mike Mills’s “20th Century Women.”  If an indie oddball gets in, it’s going to be “The Lobster.”


My predicted nominees:  Barry Jenkins and Tarell McCraney for “Moonlight,” Eric Heisserer for “Arrival,” Luke Davies for “Lion,” Tom Ford for “Nocturnal Animals,” and August Wilson for “Fences”

My take:  As soon as “Moonlight” was deemed to be an adapted screenplay instead of an original one, this field was anyone’s race with “Arrival” looking strong.  Now it’s another lock-of-the-night candidate.  

Possible surprises and snubs:  The shakiest nominees of my predictions are the late August Wilson for “Fences” and Tom Ford for “Nocturnal Animals,” a film likely not getting Best Picture love.  This might be one more place where the big public hit “Hidden Figures,” screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, invades the party.