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Oscar Talk - 12/13/2016

A lot of surprising twists and turns have materialized since our last look at the road to the Oscars in November. The Critics Choice Awards announced their winners and Golden Globe Nominations were handed out yesterday morning (Golden Globe Snubs and Surprises). With all of the new developments in mind, let's examine the current state of the 6 major Oscar races.

Best Supporting Actress

Likely Nominees: After another precursor tipped in her favor, especially the Critics Choice Award, Viola Davis still holds claim to the frontrunner status for her role in Fences. Both Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) and Naomie Harris (Moonlight) have solidified themselves as the likeliest to upset Davis, creating a three-headed monster atop the race. 

Additional Contenders: Following Golden Globe Nominations to round out the top five, Nicole Kidman (Lion) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) are certainly in the mix as well. Spencer could suffer from splitting votes with her co-star Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures) and Greta Gerwig still has a wide range of supporters for her role in 20th Century Women.

Long Shots: As all of the races begin to narrow it becomes increasingly unlikely that outside hopefuls such as Molly Shannon (Other People), Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky) and Felicity Jones (A Monster Calls) sneak into the mix. It will take some love from the SAG Awards to change their outlook.

Best Supporting Actor

Likely Nominees: After quite the shake-up with a surprising crop of Globe Nominees, not much changes at the top of the heap. Moonlight's Mahershala Ali continues to pull away in this race little by little. Among a crowded field of competitors, Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water) is beginning to distance himself as Ali's biggest threat. Yet, no one else feels like a safe bet at the moment.

Additional Contenders: The Globes handed a nomination to Dev Patel (Lion) as both he and the movie itself kept their hopes alive with a decent showing. Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) and Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) gave way to surprising Globe nominees Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals) and Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins), creating a very cloudy picture that will need to be cleared up with SAG Nominations.

Long Shots: Hope is fading for some personal favorites of mine, Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) and Aaron Eckhart (Sully), but the Oscars typically go against the grain in this category so I'm still remaining optimistic. Also, Florence Foster Jenkins co-star Hugh Grant kept his hope alive with a Globe Nomination in the Best Actor- Comedy/Musical category (not supporting).

Best Actress

Likely Nominees: Jackie's Natalie Portman walked away from the Critics Choice Awards as the category's big winner. She finds herself in a three-way battle alongside La La Land's Emma Stone and Annette Bening (20th Century Women). This is a tightly contested race that could go any which way and such remain close down to the wire.

Additional Contenders: Not only is the winner up for grabs in this category, but so are the remaining two spots. Plenty of worthy contenders remain in the mix including the continually praised Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Amy Adams (Arrival), Ruth Negga (Loving) and Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane).

Long Shots: Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) has the ability to sneak into the finals on any given year and Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) is still holding out hope as well.

Best Actor

Likely Nominees: Fresh off a Golden Globe Nomination and a Critics Choice victory, Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) appears geared up for an Oscar win. Many tried to halt Affleck's momentum by clamoring for Denzel Washington's turn in Fences but, after watching the film and seeing its weak showing with the Globes, it will be difficult to stop Affleck.

Additional Contenders: Andrew Garfield continues to make a splash for his role in Hacksaw Ridge and it's time to start taking his surge seriously. Ryan Gosling (La La Land) and Joel Edgerton (Loving) appear primed to round out the five come Oscar Nominations in January. Tom Hanks (Sully) took a hit by missing out on a Globe Nomination and he'll need some SAG recognition in order to keep his hopes alive.

Long Shots: Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), one of my personal favorites of the year, quieted the Tom Hanks camp by overtaking his Globe Nomination. It's still hard to believe Mortensen could land in the final five, but there's still time to make a push. Michael Keaton has lost a lot of steam for his role in The Founder, but I'm still interested to see where SAG goes with him.

Best Director

Likely Nominees: Moonlight helmer, Barry Jenkins, remains the critical darling as his film and direction are performing very well in the less important precursor awards. Meanwhile, Damien Chazelle (La La Land) just nabbed the Critics Choice award for directing, making him a viable frontrunner as well. Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) appears to have a solid grip on an Oscar Nomination as well, leaving two spots left for the rest of the field.

Additional Contenders: Martin Scorsese (Silence) is on spoiler alert as he could rise to the top of the race at any given moment. Denzel Washington's Fences took a crushing hit from the Globes and I'm starting to think his directing chances don't have the ability to last. Instead, Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) has catapulted up the ranks with a Golden Globe Nomination. Critics and moviegoers alike have praise his film and it's hard to ignore its staying power. Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) found himself on the outside looking in when Globe Nominations were announced, but I still believe he has a strong shot of making the top five for the Academy Awards.

Long Shots: I was pleasantly surprised to see that Noctural Animals filmmaker, Tom Ford, earned a nod from the Globes. It boosted his prospects, but he'll need to be reaffirmed by the Directors Guild to make a believer out of me. Finally, David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water) has performed better than anyone anticipated in the early going. His film has immense support and staying power which could hand him an outside shot of sneaking into the mix.

Best Picture

Likely Nominees: Mirroring the Best Director competition, it appears as though Best Picture is down to a three-way race. And after claiming a Critics Choice win and the most Globe Nominations, it's impossible to remove La La Land from the top of the pack (albeit by a small margin). Moonlight is right on its heels with Manchester by the Sea a little further back but still ahead of the rest of the field. It's still early but, at this point, I'd be shocked if any film outside the trio end up victorious on Oscar night.

Additional Contenders: Now, here is where it gets interesting. There are a ton of big players vying for up to seven more spots. Silence and Arrival are puzzling films that could score very well with niche voters. Hacksaw Ridge, Fences and Hell or High Water feel like the next tier of contenders. 20th Century Women has garnered high praises while Lion hasn't done anything to hurt its chances either.

Long Shots: Loving and Sully continue to slowly fade from the discussion while Nocturnal Animals experienced a minimal, yet noteworthy, surge courtesy of the Globes.

*** Stay tuned for more Oscar talk as the awards season continues to unravel ***


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