With Golden Globe nominations less than 3 weeks out, the Awards season is just starting to heat up. Both Ben Affleck's Live by Night and Denzel Washington's Fences have recently screened for the first time while Martin Scorsese's Silence will premiere later this month, leaving the Oscar picture a bit cloudy at the moment. However, there's still enough buzz floating around to mold together an idea of how the major races appear to be shaping up. Let's take a look.
Best Supporting Actress
Likely Nominees: Hindsight is 20/20 and, although I even felt it at the time, it's impossible not to look back and acknowledge that Viola Davis should have won the Best Actress Oscar for her work in 2011's The Help (Meryl Streep won for Iron Lady). Yet, history has a funny way of correcting itself as Davis could be in line for some Oscar glory for her work in Fences. Other safer bets to land in the final five include Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) and Naomie Harris (Moonlight).
Additional Contenders: Nicole Kidman (Lion), Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women), Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures) and Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky) are all viable names that round out the next tier of performances.
Long Shots: The Academy loves Felicity Jones (A Monster Calls), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) and Lupita Nyong'o (Queen of Katwe), so it's never safe to count any of them out of the race.
Best Supporting Actor
Likely Nominees: With all of the backlash surrounding last year's #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the Academy could really make a statement by awarding both Viola Davis and Moonlight's Mahershala Ali. Moonlight certainly has the staying power to fend off newer debuts such as Fences and its fellow Oscar contender, Mykelti Williamson. Hell or Highwater has also been adored by critics and audiences alike, which should provide Jeff Bridges another opportunity for a statue.
Additional Contenders: It pains me to say it but Hugh Grant's name continues to surface around any awards season discussion for his work in Florence Foster Jenkins, while Dev Patel (Lion) and Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) are also in the mix.
Long Shots: Only a long shot because his film hasn't screened yet, but everyone anticipates a late surge for Liam Neeson's role in Martin Scorsese's Silence. Kevin Costner (Hidden Figures) and Aaron Eckhart (Sully) could also end up making the final cut as well.
Likely Nominees: At this moment most of the major races still feel highly competitive, which is a rarity. The Best Actress race has settled into a trio of ladies with a real shot at winning. Emma Stone feels most deserving for her role in La La Land, especially after missing out for her fine supporting work in Birdman. However, Stone will find stiff competition with another win-less veteran, Annette Bening (20th Century Women), as well as past winner Natalie Portman (Jackie).
Additional Contenders: Ruth Negga (Loving) and Amy Adams (Arrival) remain strong candidates in a deep field of performers, as well as the always dangerous Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) and Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane).
Long Shots: Sadly, Rebecca Hall's exceptional work in the darkly twisted character study, Christine, seems unlikely to make the cut. Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures), Isabelle Huppert (Elle) and Jennifer Lawrence (Passengers) are all excepted to be on the outside looking in as well.
Likely Nominees: The Best Actor race doesn't seem as top heavy as years past. In fact, it's looking as though Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and Denzel Washington (Fences) will battle it out for the highly coveted award. These two feel like the only safe bets at the moment, but the rest of the second tier field is quite crowded.
Additional Contenders: Veteran actor Warren Beatty (Rules Don't Apply) is bound to garner some comeback votes while Ryan Gosling could be the benefactor of a huge evening for La La Land. Joel Edgerton (Loving) is well liked by the voting body and his performance certainly warrants recognition.
Long Shots: It wouldn't be a shock to see Andrew Garfield sneak in for either of his performances in Hacksaw Ridge or Scorcese's Silence, while Tom Hanks (Sully), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) and Michael Keaton (The Founder) all still remain in the hunt.
Likely Nominees: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) and Fences' director and star, Denzel Washington, appear to be locks, while Moonlight auteur, Barry Jenkins, is quickly solidifying his spot in the final five. Any one of the aforementioned names could end up victorious, which is another testament to how remarkably competitive this year has been.
Additional Contenders: Martin Scorsese (Silence) is always an enormous wild card, while I was also extremely impressed with Denis Villeneuve's work in Arrival. Although I was rather indifferent towards Kenneth Lonergan's direction in Manchester by the Sea, the film is exactly what the Academy's voting body historically adores.
Long Shots: Ben Affleck (Live by Night) was undeniably snubbed for Argo a few years back, so a makeup nomination could be in order. Clint Eastwood (Sully) has displayed staying power, while Jeff Nichols (Loving) and David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water) appear less likely to make the cut, but still remain in the discussion.
Likely Nominees: Until I see a better film myself or until I hear that a frontrunner has emerged, I have to believe that La La Land will claim the Best Picture award. While it's virtually a lock to make the final cut, you should also expect Fences, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea to score nominations as well.
Additional Contenders: Arrival has a rarely embraced sci-fi backdrop, but it's artistic enough to sway the voters. Scorsese's Silence has to be viewed as a serious contender until we hear otherwise, and Loving strikes the right chord for members of the Academy.
Long Shots: It's a crowded year so you shouldn't be surprised to find any of Sully, Lion, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Live by Night or 20th Century Women to make the final cut as well. But as nominations are announced in the upcoming weeks leading up to the holidays, all of this races will surely begin to narrow.