Locks, Snubs, & Surprises – Dan Cohen’s Oscar Nomination Predictions

BEST PICTURE

Predictions: Arrival, Hell or High Water, Hacksaw RidgeHidden Figures, La La LandLionManchester by the SeaMoonlight

Analysis: Let’s start with the big boys. I’m going with a lean eight this year. Here are the locks: La La LandManchester by the Sea and Moonlight. Shocker. Hell or High Water isn’t a lock, but it’s pretty damn close. I wasn’t sure about Hidden Figures a few weeks ago, but you can’t ignore its scorching momentum. I’d be shocked if that got snubbed, especially when you consider everything that happened last year. Social media would implode. Arrival always had me a little queasy, but the fact that Denis Villeneuve got a DGA nod seals the deal. Arrival should be safe (I hope). Speaking of the DGA, I had Lion written off for a long time, but a PGA nomination, along with a shocking DGA entry for Garth Davis vaults Lion onto the final list. Even though it struck out in DGA and WGA nominations, I’d still be shocked if Hacksaw Ridgegot snubbed. Despite the Gibson factor, it’s too much the prototypical Oscar movie.

Let’s talk about what won’t get in. Yeah, yeah, we’ll get to Deadpool in a minute, relax.  I didn’t go outside the PGA list at all. I’d be stunned if a surprise movie made it on here late in the game. Silence seems dead in the water, and Florence Foster Jenkins will be recognized for acting, but that’s probably it. The two PGA movies left off were Deadpool and Fences, which was my last cut. Fences feels more like an acting vehicle. It just doesn’t have that Best Picture vibe.

Then there’s Deadpool. This video sums up my feelings on Deadpool getting a Best Picture nomination…

Look, the PGA nomination is an incredible achievement. I’ve told people a million times, but I have to reiterate: the expanded Oscar field doesn’t necessarily mean ten films get nominated. If you’re interested in reading about the Oscar voting process, this is a pretty good informative article. Here’s the bottom-line: Many Oscar voters would basically have to select Deadpool as their top film of the year. Think about that: Oscar voters would have to put Deadpool above La La LandManchester by the Sea and Moonlight.

It’s not going to happen.

BEST DIRECTOR

Predictions: Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Analysis: Chazelle, Jenkins and Lonergan are all locks, just as their respective films are locks in most major categories. This leaves four directors battling for the final two spots: Gibson, Villeneuve, Garth Davis (Lion) and David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water). I’ve got to think Villeneuve gets in. The structure and editing of that film will be tough to keep him out. He’s also got a pedigree with Prisoners and Sicario under his belt. That leaves one spot left. I haven’t seen Mackenzie’s name anywhere near this nomination, which is surprising. No DGA. No Globe nomination. Nothing. That leaves Davis or Gibson. Call me crazy, but Gibson is getting in. I know, I know. It’s Mel Gibson. It’s hard to watch Hacksaw Ridge though and not nominate it for Directing. If you’re going to honor Hacksaw Ridge with a lot of awards, you might as well pull the trigger.

BEST ACTOR

Predictions: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Joel Edgerton (Loving), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Denzel Washington (Fences)

Analysis: This is the first time in years where Best Actor is not a deep category. There are three locks: Affleck, Washington and Gosling. Yes, Ryan Gosling is a lock. He’s getting in. The end. I can’t say Garfield is a lock, but he’s pretty safe. This leaves two people: Edgerton and Viggo Mortenson (Captain Fantastic). I suppose Colin Farrell (The Lobster) could pull a surprise nomination, but doubtful. I gave Edgerton the edge because it’s a very Oscar-y performance, and Edgerton has been fighting a long time for a nomination. I know Mortenson got the SAG nom, but at the end of the day Captain Fantastic doesn’t have enough juice as a film.

BEST ACTRESS

Predictions: Amy Adams (Arrival), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Analysis: While Best Actor isn’t deep, this category sure as hell is. Adams, Stone and Portman are all locks. After that, it’s a complete battle royal. Am I really going to pick against Meryl Streep? No way. Not only is it Meryl, but her role in Florence Foster Jenkins is the type of performance Academy members eat up. She’s in. That leaves one lone spot.  Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train) got a surprising SAG nomination, but I can’t imagine The Girl on a Train getting recognized for anything. Ditto for Miss Sloane. Sorry, Jessica Chastain. You’re out. Maybe in another year Hailee Steinfeld would get it for The Edge of Seventeen, but this category is too crowded for the quirky teenager performance. If you were to ask me a few weeks ago, I would have said Annette Bening was a lock, but 20th Century Women seems to be dead in the water. The fact that it didn’t get a WGA nomination was a real eye opener. That leaves Ruth Negga and Isabelle Huppert (Elle) who won the Golden Globe. At the end of the day, I’m axing Huppert. Negga’s performance is just too powerful to ignore, and the chances of more voting members seeing Loving over Elleis much higher. It’s a tough call, but Negga grabs that last spot. One long shot wild card I’ll also throw out is Taraji P. Henson for Hidden Figures. I could see that happening.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Predictions: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Dev Patel (Lion)

Analysis: It’s not that any of these performances are bad, but this feels like a weak year for Best Supporting Actor. I can’t for the life of me put my finger on a front-runner right now. Having said that, Ali, Bridges and Patel are all locks. Why Dev Patel gets to be in the Best Supporting Actor category is beyond me, but whatever. It’s ridiculous. HE’S THE PROTAGONIST! Moving on. This basically leaves Hedges, Grant and the two Nocturnal Animal dudes (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon). At the end of the day, Taylor-Johnson and Shannon will cancel each other out. That’s why they don’t get in. Don’t be surprised if someone completely off the radar steals a nomination, ala Laura Dern for Wild back in 2014. A couple names to keep in mind are Issei Ogata (Silence) and both Mykelti Williamson and Jovan Adepo for Fences.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Predictions: Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Analysis: Out of all the major categories, this was the easiest to predict. They all got SAG nominations. They all got Globe nominations. This is the list. I suppose Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women) or Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures) could sneak in, but doubtful.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Predictions: Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Yorgos Lanthimos/Efthymis Filippou (The Lobster), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Analysis: The only prediction on here that isn’t a lock is The LobsterLoving got the WGA nomination, but this is my big upset call. First of all, The Lobster wasn’t eligible for the WGA, so keep that in mind. There’s a few other movies competing for that last spot as well. Zootopia has a long shot, but that’s exactly what it is – a long shot. 20th Century Women and Captain Fantastic have a chance, but I’m not feeling it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Florence Foster Jenkins snagged it, but again, that movie seems destined for only acting accolades. The Lobster is just too damn original to ignore in this category. It finds a way to crawl onto this list.  See what I did there?

[UPDATE] After researching this further, Moonlight and Loving are eligible for Best Adapted Screenplay.  In light of this, I would swap Moonlight out for Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic).

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Predictions: Eric Heisserer (Arrival), August Wilson (Fences), Allison Schroeder/Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), Luke Davies (Lion), Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)

Analysis: Cutting Deadpool from this list was really tough. While it doesn’t have a shot at Best Picture, it truly does here. This is the category where the Academy doesn’t mind going outside the box. Ex Machina got a Screenplay nomination last year. When I look at this realistically though, Deadpool tragically misses the cut. To be honest, the only lock in this category is Arrival. I could see Deadpool knocking out any of the other four choices.  Deadpool was the only WGA nomination I didn’t go with. The real clincher for me was that Lion wasn’t eligible for the WGA, so that more than likely gets the final spot. I understand the subject matter in Lion is a hell of a lot more important than a mercenary who slices people up in a red suit while making crude jokes, but that doesn’t mean it’s the better screenplay. Deadpool is without a doubt the better written movie than the bland Lion, and I would love nothing more than to see Deadpool bounce that film off the list.  If I’m putting my honesty cap on though, it’s just not happening. I’m sorry.

[UPDATE] Piggybacking off the earlier info, I would swap Nocturnal Animals out for Moonlight.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.