The Oscar race is heading toward the finish.
Here’s the Oscar timeline, with our prediction charts below.
Launching at Sundance was writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s emotionally devastating drama “Manchester By the Sea,” starring Best Actor frontrunner Casey Affleck and strong Supporting players Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges. Amazon Studios (with distributor Roadside Attractions) has fared better in the Oscar derby than rival Netflix did last year with “Beasts of No Nation,” landing their first Best Picture contender among six nominations. Their more conventional, theatrically-friendly approach is showing great success.
Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Amazon Studios
Breaking out of the Cannes Film Festival in May was David Mackenzie’s modern western “Hell or High Water,” starring Supporting nominee Jeff Bridges as a Texas marshall chasing bank robber brothers Chris Pine and Ben Foster. 2016’s top indie hit scored four nominations including Original Screenplay for Taylor Sheridan, marking CBS Films’ first Best Picture nod.
Among a more diverse set of contenders than last year, “Loving,” the heart-tugging Jeff Nichols true romance that emerged from Cannes, a well-told true biracial romance, yielded a Best Actress nomination for Irish actress Ruth Negga.
The fall fests proved a crucible for a raft of other critics’ faves.
Venice introduced “Jackie,” Pablo Larrain’s first film in English, starring Natalie Portman as JFK’s grieving widow, which Fox Searchlight scooped up in Toronto for December 9th release. Portman won the Critics’ Choice award along with Globe, SAG and Oscar nominations. Also playing well at Venice was “Braveheart” Oscar-winner Mel Gibson’s tough World War II war movie “Hacksaw Ridge” (Lionsgate, November 4), which reminded critics and audiences of what an effective director he is. Lauded Andrew Garfield landed a Best Actor nomination — as a sensitive but tough Pacifist medic who wants to serve his country by not killing people but by saving their lives — and the film scored Picture, Director and a total of six nominations as well. At least some members of the Academy have forgiven Gibson his trespasses.
Telluride broke out Damien Chazelle’s audacious musical romance “La La Land,” starring singer-dancers Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, which wound up with 14 Oscar nominations, tying “Titanic” and “All About Eve,” as well as Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age ensemble drama “Moonlight” (A24), featuring Supporting Actor Oscar frontrunner Mahershala Ali (New York Film Critics, Critics Choice and SAG winner) and Supporting Actress Globe, SAG and Oscar nominee Naomie Harris. The movie racked up eight nominations including Best Director, Writer, and Editor, and could prove a credible threat to “La La Land.”
TFF introduced Denis Villeneuve’s brainy sci-fi thriller “Arrival” (Paramount), starring Telluride tributee and Best Actress contender Amy Adams, who was competing in the most competitive Best Actress race in decades; finally, while the movie scored eight nominations including Picture, Director, and Screenplay, the five-time nominee didn’t make the cut. Adams is always so good — and carried the movie — that she’s starting to get taken for granted like “Sully” star Tom Hanks, who hasn’t been nominated for Best Actor since “Castaway” in 2001.
COURTESY OF SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT
Also playing well in Toronto was Weinstein Co’s Oscar horse for this year, Garth Davis’s tearjerker “Lion,” starring BAFTA-winner Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman in a true story about a man who lost his family when he was five years old and uses Google Earth to find them again. Both scored Critics Choice, Globe, SAG nominations while the film landed, finally, six Oscar nominations, including Picture and Supporting players Kidman and Patel, but not DGA nominee Garth Davis. And writer Luke Davies won the Adapted Screenplay award at the BAFTAs.
The New York Film Festival opened with Ava DuVernay’s well-reviewed, powerful documentary “13th,” and debuted Mike Mills’ affectionate 1979 Santa Barbara family drama, “20th Century Women,” starring Annette Bening in a rich leading role as a single mom raising her teen son. Bening grabbed Critics Choice and Globe nominations, but no SAG, BAFTA or Oscar slots. Mills landed the film’s only Oscar nomination, for Original Screenplay.
Riding an end-of-the-year box office surge was Ted Melfi’s real-life female empowerment drama “Hidden Figures” (Fox 2000), starring Taraji P. Henson, Jonelle Monae and Globe, SAG and Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer as three African-American NASA math whizzes who helped to send astronaut John Glenn into orbit. The movie won the SAG Ensemble award which can sometimes presage an Oscar Best Picture win, but it was not competing against “La La Land.”
Denzel Washington and August Wilson’s screen adaptation of Tony-winning Broadway hit “Fences” (Paramount, December 25) features towering performances from Washington and Viola Davis (who opted to campaign for Supporting Actress), with support from a strong ensemble, many from the 2010 revival. It nabbed a coveted SAG ensemble nomination as well as Washington and Davis, who won the Golden Globe and landed a BAFTA nod. Both scored inevitable Oscar nominations, among four including Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay.
Best Picture (in order of likelihood to win):
1. “La La Land” (Lionsgate)
2. “Moonlight” (A24)
3. “Manchester by the Sea” (Amazon, Roadside Attractions)
4. “Arrival” (Paramount)
5.”Hidden Figures” (Fox)
7. “Lion” (Weinstein Co.)
8. “Hell or High Water” (CBS Films)
9. “Hacksaw Ridge” (Lionsgate)