By: Henry J. Fromage –
I’m just going to come right out and say it- this is a pretty weak year. It would not surprise me at all if this year yields the fewest nominees since the variable rule was established to give us a field of between 5 and 10 nominees depending on level of voter support. The last week also saw the first three big awards shows of the season, Gotham, National Board of Review, and New York Film Critics Circle, which aren’t the best precursors, but do get the momentum rolling for several campaigns that may soon gel into locks.
Oscar Power Rankings
1. Manchester By the Sea
Winning big at the National Board of Review certainly helps, but it lost out at both Gotham and NYFCC, meaning there’s still plenty of time left. However, Casey Affleck swept the board for Best Actor, and depending on how Fences is received, he may already be the de facto favorite.
This took home every statue it could at the Gotham Awards, plus Best Director for Barry Jenkins at the other two. Awards bodies haven’t entirely figured out how to award this cast, but SAG ensemble is probably in the bag, and Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali have real shots at supporting Oscars.
3. La La Land
Many have this as the real bet for Best Picture, a narrative supported by its higher-caliber star power, production team and cast full of wunderkinds fast becoming “due” (especially Damien Chazelle). Finally, the love letter to Los Angeles prevailing at the New York Film Critics Circle certainly is a feather in its cap.
4. Silence (+1)
This didn’t do much last week, but then again, it hasn’t been seen by just about any of the voters. It did get its first press screening, though, and some are calling it Scorcese’s magnum opus, so… gonna be a contender.
5. Sully (-1)
Only dropping due to competition, you can pretty much lock this in for a nomination.
More folks have seen this, and the word… hasn’t been excellent. “Filmed play” seems to be the concensus, but with performances as good as the stage. Denzel and Viola Davis’s performances may be so well liked that their tide may rise all boats into other nominations such as Best Picture, but don’t be surprised if it falls just short, either.
7. Hell or High Water
Very surprising this is still in the conversation after bowing in August, but I’m happy it is. Jeff Bridges is a shoo-in for a nomination, and hopefully screenwriter extraordinaire Taylor Sheridan finally gets his.
8. A Monster Calls
I’m placing this so high based on absolutely spectacular word of mouth alone. Would have to be a huge hit, but it may have what it takes.
On the flip side, everyone has this high in the running despite middling reviews solely due to Harvey Weinstein’s imprimature. Does he still have what it takes to push a mediocre property to massive heights, or is his dark magic a thing of the past?
10. Hidden Figures
This also hasn’t done much with awards just yet, but did land on the National Board of Review’s Top 10 and has the potential to upend the acting races.
11. 20th Century Women
This made the National Board of Review’s separate Top 10 Independent Film list, which… seems like a consolation prize, but quality still rises to the top.
Natalie Portman is probably the person to beat in Best Actress already despite losing out to Isabelle Huppert twice for Elle and Amy Adams once for Arrival this week. Will the rest of the film be too avant garde for the Academy’s taste?
Amy Adams’ win and the Top 10 placement at the National Board of Review are quite positive signs, but it’s still heady sci-fi.
14. Loving (+6)
So, I saw this, and Edgerton and Negga were simply incredible. My confidence may be overplaced considering it did nada this week, but I see this being a bigger hit with Academy members even than with domestic critics.
15. Live By Night (-1)
This is purely speculative, but Ben Affleck is certainly owed one by the Academy…
16. Patriot’s Day (-1)
Made NBR’s Top 10, and got a special award alongside Deepwater Horizon for Wahlberg and Peter Berg’s work together this year. Could be a sneaky factor.
17. The Founder (+5)
Another purely speculative pick, because honestly it’s smarter to roll the dice with the unseen right now than bet big on pretty much any of the rest of the already digested field below.
18. Gold (+1)
Okay, one more wildcard. The marketing for this makes it clear it’s shooting for that irreverent corruption story that The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short rode to glory with late releases in the past few years. Does it have what it takes? McConaughey’s presence and haircut certainly indicates director Stephen Gaghan liked both…
19. Florence Foster Jenkins (-3)
Also saw this, and the potent combination of Meryl Streep and Stephen Frears aside, this needs a lot of love to figure in the race.
20. The Birth of a Nation (-3)
The box office underperformance and warm but not passionate critical support make it likely Oscars will sidestep all the controversy around this one entirely.
21. Allied (-3)
In the 90s, Harvey would have had his name on this and it would be a top contender. We’ve come a long way (as enjoyable as the film is).
22. Nocturnal Animals (-1)
Tom Ford has quite an interesting directorial career developing, but this sounds a tad too different to factor heavily in the race.
Jim Jarmusch has a great shot at his first Oscar nomination (isn’t that insane?) for this screenplay, but that’s likely its ceiling.
24. Miss Sloane
Its savvy marketing is trying to position it as at least a potential contender, and critics like it well enough, but this is more in the entertaining thriller/drama vein despite boasting Jessica Chastain’s awards bona fides.
25. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
This… did not make money. Really, you can swap in any of the below for this, and probably I will in the weeks to come.
The Jungle Book, Moana, Hacksaw Ridge, Louder Than Bombs, Love & Friendship, Passengers, Collateral Beauty, The Lobster, Toni Erdmann, Everybody Wants Some!, Indignation, Elle, Rules Don’t Apply, Queen of Katwe, Julieta, Finding Dory, Zooptopia