Oscar Nominations: 2017 Predictions

Esquire predicts the major categories at the 2017 Academy Awards.
IMAGE Esquire

We're about to head into the home stretch of awards season. On Tuesday, January 24, at exactly 8:18 a.m. ET, a selection of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members will begin reading off the official nominees for the 89th Academy Awards. About a month later, on February 26, the winners will be revealed at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and broadcast on ABC.

Until that time, let's take whatever nonsense escapism we can and run with it, even if only for a moment. Let's look forward to the Oscar nominations announcement and take a guess at what might be in store for us on Tuesday.

In order to predict the nominees, we should first set some ground rules. 1) We're only going to do the top six categories—Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Supporting Actor and Actress—because let's be real, we all have lives. 2) Some nominees are locks, and barring any surprises, there are contenders in each category we can say for certain will get a nomination. 3) There's no such thing as a snub, only contenders that got more votes than others, which means that after the top contenders it's a free-for-all, and that's where our focus will be. 4) None of this actually matters, and nobody should actually care, so let's have some fun, and also don't @ me if all my choices turn out to be wrong, which they will not be, but just in case.

Let's do this!

Best Picture

The Locks: It's an interesting year. We've got a clear front-runner coming out of the Golden Globes: La La Land. Coming up right behind it is Moonlight. After that is Manchester by the Sea. That's three 100 percent guaranteed nominations. But I'm going to go throw a couple more locks into this pile, perhaps at the risk of my own credibility. Look for Arrival to get love, as well as Lion. And then I'm going to throw one more in here, at the risk of being extra presumptuous. Hidden Figures was a late entry this season, but it's received lots of love, plenty of cultural caché, a social justice message, it's based on a true story, and most importantly, it's been lighting it up at the box office. I'm going to say it's a lock, too.


The Wild Cards: The Best Picture category states that there can be anywhere between 5 and 10 nominees. Since the introduction of that rule, there have never been less than 8 or more than 9 pictures nominated. That leaves us two or three slots to fill. My picks? Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, and Nocturnal Animals. Now, maybe only two of those will make it, or just one, or all three, but they've all got a shot. There's one dark horse that I'll add to the pile: Deadpool. Every year, the voters like to have a real blockbuster to choose from that shows they're not so snooty. Deadpool has received a coveted PGA, and should it land a Best Picture nomination on Tuesday, I don't want anyone saying they were surprised. I called it here.

Best Director

The Locks: Best Director nominees are usually culled from the Best Picture pile, and other than a couple notable exceptions, they are usually a good predictor of the top 5 contenders among Picture nominees. Who are at the very top right now? Damien Chazelle for La La Land, Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, and Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea.

The Wild Cards: The next two slots are where things get interesting with such an even field. We may see a surprise nomination for Martin Scorsese for Silence, but I doubt that'll get any serious love from the Academy. My choices would be Denis Villeneuve for Arrival, and Garth Davis for Lion. Villeneuve seems the surer bet, and while there may be some other contenders, all signs point to Academy voters adoring Lion.

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Best Actress

The Locks: The three frontrunners for Best Actress have emerged quietly, but definitively over the course of the season. They are Emma Stone for La La Land, Amy Adams for Arrival, and Natalie Portman for Jackie.

The Wild Cards: Things get a little bit more interesting down the line. I'm going to throw my lot in with Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins, if only because the Academy voters are predictable, but also because I suspect some of them were ginned up by her amazing Golden Globes speech. Filling out the fifth slot, but one with perhaps a decent chance of even pulling off an upset win should she get nominated, is French actress Isabelle Huppert for Elle. She won a Golden Globe already, which may alone put her in the running.

Best Actor

The Locks: In the Actor category we've got two clear frontrunners vying for the prize, plus a third who's sure to be nominated: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea, Ryan Gosling for La La Land, and Denzel Washington for Fences.

The Wild Cards: I'll admit, I struggled with these. I am convinced Andrew Garfield will be nominated, and I believe it will be for Hacksaw Ridge, but this may be where the voters give some love to Silence, in which he also delivers an incredible performance. Rounding out the five, let's go with Joel Edgerton for Loving, a film that was supposed to be a big contender back when it premiered at Cannes, but seemed to fade away on release. I'd love to see Chris Pine get some love for Hell or High Water, and you never know, but I wouldn't bet on it.


Best Supporting Actress

The Locks: There is only one true frontrunner in this pack. Viola Davis, who really should be in the leading category for her role in Fences, will take that lead actress power and run the rest of the nominees right out of town. She may be the best working actor we've got, and this is her award to lose. Behind her, at least locking up a shot at appearing in the split-screen with Davis, would have to be Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea, and Naomi Harris for Moonlight.

The Wild Cards: Following those, I'm going to throw my lot in with past winner Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures, and Nicole Kidman for Lion, who, again, may see some strong support due to the big love for that film, especially among an older voting crowd.

Best Supporting Actor

The Locks: As far as I can see, there are three locks here. Mahershala Ali for his incredible work in Moonlight (he should win, by the way), Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water, and the newly anointed Hollywood sex symbol Dev Patel for Lion.

The Wild Cards: Honestly, I don't really have much idea of who else will get into this category, so I'm going to take some real shots in the dark. One I think may get a nomination, deservedly, is the young Lucas Hedges for his turn alongside Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea. Another I don't really think will get a nomination, but is a possibility given only the tendency for some surprises in the acting nominations, is Issey Otaga for his standout work in Silence. When I really think about it, I doubt he will actually be nominated. It'll probably go to Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals, but still, a guy can dream.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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