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Predictions Friday: Come Hell or High Water

We’re at that phase of the Oscar race where we’ve mostly seen all of the films. The AFI Fest is done, and now we begin sorting through the pile to come up with the frontrunners. There will be surprises waiting down the pike, no question about it. Those we think will go might. Those we’re sure will go might not. And those we’ve not even considered could pop up out of nowhere. That’s how it goes. Predicting the Oscar race is like predicting the weather. It only takes you so far. The natural order of things often takes over, leaving our predictions in the dust. And so it goes.

As some films are seen, others become more prominent. Hell or High Water gets a boost (realistic or imaginary) because now that all of the films have been seen, it is still one of the most well-regarded of the bunch. We’ll dig into the reasons why in a later column.

Meanwhile, we’re barreling towards the big critics awards announcements coming here at the end of November and early December. Yes, we have Thanksgiving to get through first, but then we’re smack dab in the middle of it. It might be a bit early to predict these awards, given that there are still some films left to see and critics still have to publish reviews of some of the films in contention. Remember, many of the movies we’ve seen are under strict embargoes, which means they could be sliced and diced or highly praised by mainstream critics still. We sort of have an idea what might happen to some of them but none of us knows for sure. So first, let’s again go through the gauntlet.

November 22, 2016
Spirit Award Nominations
This should be a pretty easy call in terms of which films we KNOW are going to do very well.
Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight should lead and I predict they split the riches there. Other films I think will do well include: Loving, Jackie, maybe La La Land, Hell or High Water, 20th Century Women.

November 28, 2016
Gotham Awards
Manchester by the Sea leads and will likely win the top prize, with Moonlight also doing very well.

November 28, 2016
Annie Award Nominations
Moana, Finding Dory, Zootopia should do very well, with Sing, the Red Turtle and the Little Prince also doing well.

November 28, 2016
National Board of Review Nominations
This one is a little tricky because they do often offer surprises. But I’d say we’re closing in on a top ten for this — and that might include:
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Loving
Lion
Sully
Live by Night
Fences
Jackie
Silence

The NBR is harder to predict because they can often be surprising. They are known more for pushing a lesser known film into the spotlight with their Best Director choice. So we don’t know how this one will go and can only guess.

Critics Choice Nominations
December 1, 2016
These should not be that hard to predict because of all of the groups this one is more in the matching Oscar business than in the influencing Oscar business, although their date change might signal that they’re becoming more interested in being an influencer than a predictor. At any rate, they, like the Golden Globes will now reflect an earlier phase of the race and one that won’t necessarily be where the Oscar race ends up. They already sort of had that problem in the past, with films like Nine or Into the Wild doing very well with them but falling flat with Oscar voters. At any rate, I would suspect the usual suspects.

I predict the following scenario: Manchester by the Sea and La La Land will lead the awards. Both films are very popular with this crowd and there is no reason to expect that they will do things all that differently. I also predict they, or maybe the National Board of Review, will be the ones to push Hell or High Water into contention. I’m going to bet that Hell or High Water does very very well with the Broadcast Film people. As per their usual, their technical categories, editing and directing will not really match the Oscar voters or the Eddie voters. They do better in categories like Best Picture and the acting categories. They also pick 6 contenders and not 5. I don’t know if they will see Silence in time. Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s assume not for now. They also have a lot of wacky categories to get as many people as possible to show up — action star, young star, etc. But we’ll focus just on picture, directing and acting for now. It might go like this:

Best Picture (10)
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Loving
Moonlight
Hell or High Water
Arrival
Fences
Jackie
Sully
Hacksaw Ridge or Silence or Hidden Figures

Best Actor
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Denzel Washington, Fences
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Tom Hanks, Sully
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Actress
Emma Stone, La La Land
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Amy Adams, Arrival
Ruth Negga, Loving
Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane or Isabelle Huppert, Elle or Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures

Director
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Denzel Washington, Fences
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

New York Film Critics Awards
December 1, 2016
Predicting Manchester by the Sea wins Picture and splits with Moonlight for director or vice versa. I think the critics’ darling in the acting department will be Huppert for Elle so I think she’ll likely take this one.

And that’s how the early part of the race could go down – I am 100% certain I will be surprised and probably wrong but I think we are pretty clear, or at least it seems we are clear, that there are a few films at the top of the list. I think in Moonlight and Manchester we’ll have our frontrunners for the critics awards.

Herewith, Oscar predictions for this week:

Best Picture
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Fences
Moonlight
Arrival
Loving
Jackie
Sully
Lion
Hell or High Water
Wild card: Silence

Can’t rule out:
Patriots Day
Live by Night
20th Century Women
Hacksaw Ridge

Best Actor
Denzel Washington, Fences
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Warren Beatty, Rules Don’t Apply
Tom Hanks, Sully
Joel Edgerton, Loving

Can’t rule out:
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Miles Teller, Bleed for This
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Chris Pine, Hell or High Water

Best Actress
Emma Stone, La La Land
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Amy Adams, Arrival
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Ruth Negga, Loving

Can’t rule out:
Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Supporting Actor
Liam Neeson, Silence
Dev Patel, Lion
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Can’t rule out:
Mykelti Williamson, Fences
Jovan Adepo, Fences
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Aaron Eckhart, Bleed for This
Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash
Ben Foster, Hell or High Water
Kevin Costner, Hidden Figures

Supporting Actress
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Can’t rule out:
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Miss Sloane
Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
Molly Shannon, Other People
Sienna Miller, Live by Night

Best Director
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denzel Washington, Fences
Martin Scorsese, Silence

Can’t rule out:
David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water
Pablo Larrain, Jackie
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Jeff Nichols, Loving
Clint Eastwood, Sully
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Ben Affleck, Live by Night
Peter Berg, Patriots Day

Original Screenplay
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
Jeff Nichols, Loving

Can’t rule out:
Noah Oppenheim, Jackie
Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
John Perrera, Miss Sloane

Adapted Screenplay
August Wilson, Fences
Eric Heisserer, Arrival
Todd Komarnicki, Sully
Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls
Jay Cocks, Silence

Can’t rule out:
Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
Ben Affleck, Live by Night
Luke Davies, Lion
Andrew Stanton,Victoria Strouse, Finding Dory
Andrew Knight, Robert Schenkkan, Hacksaw Ridge
William Wheeler, Queen of Katwe
James Schamus, Indignation

Editing
Hell or High Water
Arrival
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Silence

Can’t rule out:
Live by Night
Moonlight
Sully

Cinematography
Silence
La La Land
Arrival
Moonlight
Live by Night

Can’t rule out:
Hail Caesar
Sully
Manchester by the Sea
Rules Don’t Apply
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Production Design
La La Land
Silence
Arrival
Live by Night
Rules Don’t Apply

Sound Mixing
La La Land
Sully
Hell or High Water
Hacksaw Ridge
Patriots Day

Sound Editing
La La Land
Patriots Day
Moana
Hacksaw Ridge
Arrival
Hell or High Water

Costume Design
La La Land
Loving
Live by Night
Rules Don’t Apply
Love & Friendship

Original Score
Arrival
Hell or High Water
Patriots Day
Fences
La La Land

Documentary Feature
13th
OJ: Made in America
Gleason
Tower
Life Animated

Can’t rule out:
Before the Flood
Still I Rise
I’m not Your Negro
Weiner
Lo and Behold
Zero Days
Before the Flood
Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures
Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words

Animated feature
Moana
The Red Turtle
The Little Prince
Finding Dory
Zootopia

Just remember Anne Thompson’s rule of thumb when considering a Best Picture nominee: How do you build Best Picture? Branch by branch. With very few exceptions, if you think a film is headed for a Best Picture nod, it usually will have a few other nominations to go with it.