July Oscar Buzz

Last week, I put out feelers to a few people closer to the Oscar race than myself. Journalists, pundits, and a couple industry folk. Some of them were kind enough to get back to me and answer some questions. I can’t say who they are, obviously, and this is just my speculation based on their speculation based on information they have.  
So, do with the following what you will…
I’m hearing that Fox has been and will continue to push Logan hard, including campaigns for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. They believe the film will resonate with the Academy more than Deadpool did, and they’re prepared to spend whatever they need to in order to ensure it remains in the discussion all year. Even if the smash hit doesn’t land well with Oscar voters in major categories, it’s expected to be nominated in sound categories. Fox will also run an expensive campaign for The Papers from Steven Spielberg, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. 

Star Wars star John Boyega is supposedly the closest thing Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit has to a lead, but it’s a true ensemble film and any awards campaigns for its cast will likely focus on supporting categories with Oscar. Don’t fret about its Best Picture chances, however, as the last two winners (Moonlight and Spotlight), were both also ensemble films without an acting nominee in lead categories. 

Competing distributors already fear the Lead Actor race could come down to two people; Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, and Daniel Day-Lewis for his role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s still untitled fashion drama. Oldman is one of the most revered actors in film, and he’s never won before. In fact, his only nomination came five years ago for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He certainly has a strong overdue narrative and a baity role. Day-Lewis is of course an Academy favorite. The last time he teamed up with PTA it was for a little movie called There Will Be Blood, for which he won the Oscar.

Outsiders believe Netflix has their best chance yet of striking Oscar gold with Sundance hit Mudbound from Dee Rees. It remains to be seen how the streaming company handles the rollout -they’ve been much less open to theatrical than Amazon- but the film is said to be an urgent masterpiece, and the best thing to come out of Sundance. Also with Netflix, nobody expects Okja to be much of an awards player, hence it becoming available online so soon after its Cannes premiere. 

The Weinstein Company could be looking to play the role of last-minute buyer like Fox Searchlight did last year with Jackie. The company’s two assumed players, The Current War and Mary Magdelene don’t look as strong as they once did. I’m hearing straight up bad things about the former (albeit based on test screenings) and the latter is supposedly playing up the Jesus & Mary romance angle, obviously a controversial choice, which could bother a lot of voters. For as what films they could be looking to buy? I, and the few people I contacted, are clueless.

The Oscar chances for Dunkirk are very real, and Warner Bros knows it. They think the film can have a similar awards profile to that of Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m yet to see the film but am told it could be a real threat in picture, director, screenplay, supporting actor (Tom Hardy), cinematography, editing, production design, costumes, sound editing, sound mixing, and original score. It could realistically get double-digit noms.

Hearing less-than-stellar rumors about Marshall but hearing strong rumors about Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!. The mysterious film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem and could hit with the Academy like Black Swan did. For what it’s worth, the person who told me to keep an eye on it is the same person who told me to keep an eye on Moonlight six months before it came out.

More in the coming weeks as festival season takes shape.

2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

This post was updated May 11th.

With Guardians of the Galaaxy Vol. 2 kicking off the summer and the Cannes lineup having been announced, it’s that time again where folks start to concern themselves with awards season. It’s still very, very early. Release dates will be shuffled, festival lineups will set the real stage, and some films nobody has even heard of yet will emerge. So this is little more than a speculative look at upcoming films that figure to factor into the discussion.

1) Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson fasion drama

Distributed by Focus Features (Dec. 25th), Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

PTA returns, and reunites with Daniel Day-Lewis no less, in this highly anticipated drama set in the 1950’s fashion world. Little else is known but it’s been shooting for a couple months now and anytime a PTA film comes out it factors into awards discussion.

2) Darkest Hour

Distributed by Focus Features (Nov. 22nd), Directed by Joe Wright

Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill and Ben Mendelsohn plays King George VI in this wartime drama from Atonement director Joe Wright. Seems to have Oscar DNA.

3) Detroit

Distributed by Annapurna Pictures (Aug. 4th), Directed by Kathyrn Bigelow

Bigelow returns with what figures to be a tense look at the 1967 Detroit riots. The first trailer looks great, but this is Annapurna’s first film as a distributor so it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep an August release in the hunt.

4) The Post

Distributed by 20th Century Fox (Date TBD), Directed by Steven Spielberg

Spielberg tackles the pentagon papers with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in the leads. Fox has fast-tracked the film hoping to get it done in time for this awards season.

5) The Current War

Distributed by The Weinstein Company (Dec. 2nd), Directed by Alfonso -Gomez-Rajon

This film from the director of hit indie Me and Earl and the Dying Girl chronicles the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon, respectively.

6) Mudbound

Distributed by Netflix (Date TBD), Directed by Dee Rees

This period drama sparked a ton of Oscar buzz at Sundance and started a bidding war. Netflix won out. We’ll see how they roll out the film.

7) Mother!

Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Oct. 13th), Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Aronofsky’s first feature since Noah has a loaded cast that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Little is known about the story, but Oscar has gone for Aronofsky’s weird brain in the past.

8) Wonderstruck

Distributed by Amazon/Roadside Attractions (Oct. 20th), Directed by Todd Haynes

Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Carol) is back with Julianne Moore in tow and buzz is palpable. The film will screen in competition at Cannes, by no means a historical indicator of Oscar success, but Carol did the same and went on to six nominations.

9) Mary Magdalene

Distributed by The Weinstein Company (Nov. 24th), Directed by Garth Davis

Lion helmer Garth Davis tackles this religious drama with Rooney Mara in the title role. Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter round out an outstanding principle cast.

10) The Snowman

Distributed by Universal (Oct. 20th), Directed by Tomas Alfredson

This crime mystery based on the popular series of novels stars Michael Fassbender and has received strong buzz from the beginning. Universal hopes it proves both a box office hit and awards darling.

11) Call Me By Your Name

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics (Nov. 24th), Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Along with Mudbound, this coming-of-age drama is the other Sundance film that sparked real awards buzz. The critics are already behind it and Sony Pictures Classics is of course capable of taking a Sundance darling all the way, as they did with Whiplash a few years ago.

12) The Shape of Water

Distributed by Fox Searchlight (Dec. 8th), Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo’s latest fantasy creation is set during the Civil War and features a loaded cast. Awards-friendly release from Searchlight helps.

13) Blade Runner 2049

Distributed by Warner Bros (Oct. 6th), Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Buzz is high for Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic. It should at least be in play all over the techs and with Arrival Villeneuve was welcomed by the Academy both in Picture and Director.

14) The Mountain Between Us

Distributed by 20th Century Fox (Oct. 20th), Directed by Hany Abu-Assad

Abu-Assad is a two-time foreign language nominee and his English-language debut is a romantic survival story starring Idris Elba and academy favorite Kate Winslet.

15) The Greatest Showman

Distributed by 20th Century Fox (Dec. 25th), Directed by Michael Gracey

This musical biopic stars Hugh Jackman as famed circus pioneer P.T. Barnum. Everyone loves Jackman in musicals and Fox held what could’ve been a summer film back to compete this awards season. How did first-time director Michael Gracey handle the big chair?

16) Annihilation

Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Date TBD), Directed by Alex Garland

Garland’s follow-up to Ex Machina has the makings of another smart sci-fi thriller. His artistic team is all back and Natalie Portman is in the lead fresh off her Jackie nomination.

17) Dunkirk

Distributed by Warner Bros (July 21st), Directed by Chrisotpher Nolan

Nolan’s first attempt at a war film figures to be a summer smash and if it’s truly great Warner Bros will have no problem running a campaign as eyes will be on it already. Now we wait on reviews…

18) The Beguiled

Distributed by Focus Features (June 23rd), Directed by Sofia Coppola

Sofia is always in the discussion but Focus is giving this Cannes drama a summer release. Do they see it as an awards film? They have other horses in the race that could command more attention.

19) The Glass Castle

Distributed by Lionsgate (Aug. 11th), Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Brie Larson reteams with her Short Term 12 director for this film about famed memoirist Jeannette Wells. Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson round out the main cast, and the film will be cut by the Moonlight duo (Nat Sanders & Joi McMillon)

20) Downsizing

Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Dec. 22nd), Directed by Alexander Payne

Oscar loves it some Alexander Payne and his latest has a loaded cast hangling what appears to be a quirky sci-fi family drama about shrinking. Very intriguing on the surface.

21) Marshall

Distributed by Open Road Films (Oct. 13th), Directed by Reginald Hudlin

This film about a young Thurgood Marshall stars Chadwick Boseman in the title role. Open Road Films proved themselves capable by taking Spotlight all the way. This seems a safe bet to make festival rounds.

22) Suburbicon

Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Nov. 3rd), Directed by George Clooney

Clooney’s crime comedy features script work from his good pals the Coens and a loaded cast including Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Josh Brolin, and Oscar Isaac. Very few other details of the film are known right now.

23) Goodbye Christopher Robin

Distributed by Fox Searchlight (Nov. 10th), Directed by Simon Curtis

Domhnall Gleeson plays Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne, Margot Robbie plays his wife. Simon Curtis has proven himself a very capable director of actors.

24) Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Distributed by Disney (Dec. 15th), Directed by Rian Johnson

The Force Awakens was probably a lot closer to a Best Picture nom than people think, given the PGA and tech noms it scored. If Rian Johnson’s film is an improvement, why can’t it make noise?

25) Molly’s Game

Distributed by STX Entertainment (Date TBD), Directed by Aaron Sorkin

Acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin finally makes his directorial debut with this poker drama featuring Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, and Kevin Costner.


Get Out (Universal), Wind River (The Weinstein Company), Lean on Pete (A24 Films), Wonder Wheel (Amazon), Granite Mountain (Lionsgate), The Killing of a Sacred Deer (A24 Films), War Machine (Netflix), Hostiles (No distribution yet)




Every Oscar-nominated performance of this decade, ranked.

Bored on a Saturday morning, for shits ‘n’ giggles, I decided to rank every single performance that’s been nominated for an Oscar since 2010 based on my personal preference.

A * indicates the performance won the Oscar.

  1. Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
  2. Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine*
  3. Christian Bale – The Fighter*
  4. Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
  5. Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone
  6. Michael Keaton – Birdman
  7. Cate Blanchett – Carol
  8. Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
  9. Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
  10. Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
  11. Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
  12. Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  13. Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom
  14. Viola Davis – The Help
  15. Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
  16. Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine
  17. Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
  18. Rooney Mara – Carol
  19. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
  20. Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
  21. Annette Bening – The Kids are All Right
  22. Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
  23. Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  24. Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
  25. John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone
  26. Viola Davis – Fences
  27. Christopher Plummer – Beginners*
  28. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
  29. Octavia Spencer – The Help*
  30. Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
  31. Natalie Portman – Jackie
  32. Denzel Washington – Fences
  33. Jeremy Renner – The Town
  34. Melissa Leo – The Fighter*
  35. Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
  36. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
  37. Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
  38. Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  39. Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
  40. Brie Larson – Room*
  41. Natalie Portman – Black Swan*
  42. Edward Norton – Birdman
  43. Brad Pitt – Moneyball
  44. Tom Hardy – The Revenant
  45. Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln*
  46. Amy Adams – The Master
  47. Naomi Watts – The Impossible
  48. Ruth Negga – Loving
  49. Emma Stone – Birdman
  50. James Franco – 127 Hours
  51. Bruce Dern – Nebraska
  52. Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl*
  53. Amy Adams – The Fighter
  54. Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
  55. Emma Stone – La La Land
  56. Demian Bichir – A Better Life
  57. Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
  58. Naomie Harris – Moonlight
  59. J.K. Simmons – Whiplash*
  60. Isabelle Huppert – Elle
  61. Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
  62. Sylvester Stallone – Creed
  63. Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
  64. Jessica Chastain – The Help
  65. June Squibb – Nebraska
  66. Denzel Washington – Flight
  67. Reese Witherspoon – Wild
  68. Javier Bardem – Biutiful
  69. Matt Damon – The Martian
  70. Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech
  71. Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables*
  72. Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies*
  73. Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
  74. Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady*
  75. Jonah Hill – Moneyball
  76. Helen Hunt – The Sessions
  77. Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
  78. Patricia Arquette – Boyhood*
  79. Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
  80. Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
  81. Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs
  82. Julianne Moore – Still Alice*
  83. Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
  84. Judi Dench – Philomena
  85. Jean Dujardin – The Artist*
  86. Nick Nolte – Warrior
  87. Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
  88. Berenice Bejo – The Artist
  89. Sally Field – Lincoln
  90. Alan Arkin – Argo
  91. Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
  92. Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook*
  93. Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
  94. Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
  95. Jared Leto – Dallas Buyer’s Club*
  96. Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
  97. Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
  98. Sandra Bullock – Gravity
  99. Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
  100. Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
  101. Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
  102. Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
  103. Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn
  104. Colin Firth – The King’s Speech*
  105. Jeff Bridges – True Grit
  106. Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs
  107. Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
  108. Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
  109. Quvenzhane Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
  110. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything*
  111. Mark Ruffalo – The Kids are All Right
  112. Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
  113. Christian Bale – The Big Short
  114. George Clooney – The Descendants
  115. Dev Patel – Lion
  116. Amy Adams – American Hustle
  117. Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
  118. Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn
  119. Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
  120. Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
  121. Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
  122. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
  123. Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
  124. Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
  125. Christian Bale – American Hustle
  126. Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyer’s Club*
  127. Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook
  128. Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  129. Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
  130. Nicole Kidman – Lion
  131. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
  132. Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
  133. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant*
  134. Meryl Streep – Into the Woods
  135. Ryan Gosling – La La Land
  136. Laura Dern – Wild
  137. Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained*
  138. Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
  139. Robert Duvall – The Judge
  140. Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

2017 Oscars Preview: Who will win, who should win, who to bet.

Disclaimer: Betting on the Academy Awards is technically illegal in the United States. The following words are in no way an admission of guilt or a suggestion of any illegal activity. Zakkondratenko.com, its parent company Zak Kondratenko LLC, and any current or future subsidiaries operate within the confines of the law and do not support illegal activity. It’s all hypothetical, man.

The posturing and campaigning have concluded. Ballots are in. Sunday night will see the 89th Academy Awards take place. This has, frankly, been a boring Oscar season. It’s not that I don’t love the films. In fact, this year’s crop of Best Picture nominee is probably my favorite of the decade so far. But a lot of the major races felt locked up weeks ago, and not just the ones favoring La La Land.

Anyways, here are my final predictions along with some betting advice. Things highlighted in green are what I consider value bets, but again, this is a dull year. Your best route is to be safe and go with mostly favorites.

Best Picture

  1. La La Land (-700)
  2. Moonlight (+550)
  3. Hidden Figures (+1800)
  4. Manchester by the Sea (+2000)
  5. Fences (+6600)
  6. Lion (+6600)
  7. Hacksaw Ridge (+7500)
  8. Arrival (+7500)
  9. Hell or High Water (+12500)

Will win: La La Land

Personal Choice: Hell or High Water

Should’ve been nominated: Silence

Listen, La La Land  is winning this Oscar. The critically-acclaimed, commercially dominant L.A.-set musical love story tied a record with 14 nominations and is the clear frontrunner in the majority of those categories. For all that’s been written about La La Land backlash, there’s no tangible evidence that it actually exists.. Precursor awards have shown us the industry loves this film even more than we expected it to. Is it the best film of the bunch? No. But La La Land will in no way be one of the weaker best picture winners, historically.
There’s been a lot of word regarding late surges for Hidden Figures and Lion, as well as the critics being behind Moonlight all season. But if you’re looking for a dark horse to throw a few bucks on for the hell of it I have a different suggestion. Manchester by the Sea picked up nominations in director, screenplay, and three acting categories. It’s also a film that figures to benefit from the preferential balloting system the Academy uses. Voters rank their top five of the nominees and points are determined that way. A film that may not get a ton of first place votes but appears in nearly everyone’s top five (like Manchester figures to) CAN beat a film that has more vocal supporters but is also a bit divisive (this is probably what happened last year with Spotlight beating The Big Short and The Revenant). Nobody really dislikes Manchester. Again, I don’t believe that La La Land has as many haters as some are making out, but if does, Manchester is the film that could benefit.

Best Director

  1. Damien Chazelle – La La Land (-3000)
  2. Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea (+1000)
  3. Barry Jenkins – Moonlight (+1000)
  4. Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge (+4000)
  5. Denis Villeneuve – Arrival (+5000)

Will win: Damien Chazelle

Personal Choice: Mel Gibson

Should’ve been nominated: David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water

Chazelle has picked up nearly every precursor and his film having support from so many branches makes him close to a lock here, even if the La La Land party doesn’t end up being as big as projected. There was some early talk about Barry Jenkins possibly surprising here and representing Moonlight as a whole, but nothing has indicated that’s anything more than a pipedream for those of us who love the film. He has a much better shot in Screenplay. Chazelle, at the age of 31, appears set to be the youngest winner ever in this category.

Best Lead Actor

  1. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea (-160)
  2. Denzel Washington – Fences (EVEN)
  3. Ryan Gosling – La La Land (+2000)
  4. Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge (+4000)
  5. Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic (+10000)

Will win: Denzel Washington

Personal Choice: Denzel Washington

Should’ve been nominated: Adam Driver – Paterson

This has turned into arguably the most interesting race. Affleck picked up nearly every critics award and was seen as the frontrunner for 90% of the season. But then the late-to-the-party Fences emerged, and legendary actor Denzel Washington won SAG (which is huge, as the last leading man to win SAG but not Oscar was Johnny Depp for Pirates in 2003). This is pretty much a toss-up, but gamblers have made betting Denzel a slightly more potentially profitable move. Gosling at +2000 is enticing given the overall love for La La Land but it’s hard to see him winning over much more serious work.

Best Lead Actress

  1. Emma Stone – La La Land (-650)
  2. Natalie Portman – Jackie (+450)
  3. Isabelle Huppert – Elle (+900)
  4. Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins (+4000)
  5. Ruth Negga – Loving (+4500)

Will win: Emma Stone

Personal Choice: Natalie Portman

Should’ve been nominated: Amy Adams – Arrival

A pretty brilliant campaign has been run for Emma Stone, resulting in her dominating precursors. It really looked like Natalie Portman was even with her for a while but Jackie clearly didn’t land with the Academy outside of a select few branches (costume designers, composers). The legendary Isabelle Huppert actually has the best chance to beat Stone despite what Vegas says, but did enough voters bother to watch her French language film? Like Chazelle in director, this seems like a spot destined for La La Land, with any other ideas being over-analysis.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Mahershala Ali – Moonlight (-700)
  2. Dev Patel – Lion (+600)
  3. Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water (+1400)
  4. Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals (+1800)
  5. Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea (+1800)

Will win: Mahershala Ali

Personal Choice: Mahershala Ali

Should’ve been nominated: Ben Foster – Hell or High Water

For his minimal but powerful work in Moonlight, Mahershala Ali has finally received the attention he deserves, including basically every award that exists. I’m not buying the late momentum for Dev Patel and Lion despite his BAFTA win, at least up against Ali. Ali is this year’s Alicia Vikander. If anyone can pull of a major upset here, it’s veteran character actor Michael Shannon. People love him inside and perhaps some will throw him a vote for Nocturnal Animals as a whole, a film a lot more people enjoyed than its number of nominations would indicate.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Viola Davis – Fences (-3000)
  2. Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea (+800)
  3. Naomie Harris – Moonlight (+1500)
  4. Nicole Kidman – Lion (+3300)
  5. Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures (+5000)

Will win: Viola Davis

Personal Choice: Viola Davis

Should’ve been nominated: Janelle Monáe – Hidden Figures

Queen Viola likely began preparing her speech months ago. That’s really all I have to say. She is the biggest lock of the evening.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea (-135)
  2. Damien Chazelle – La La Land (-110)
  3. Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water (+1600)
  4. Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou – The Lobster (+4000)
  5. Mike Mills – 20th Century Women (+6000)

Will win: Manchester by the Sea

Personal Choice: The Lobster

Should’ve been nominated: Jim Jarmusch – Paterson

Manchester vs La La Land in what likely comes down to just HOW much the entire Academy loves the latter as a whole. Even if you love La La Land, its script isn’t something that exactly stands out. The opposite can be said for Manchester. It’s a film whose delicate script is so noticeable even if the overall product bores you a bit. That’s why I’m going with it. Also, it has to win somewhere, right? And this is its best shot. But it’s one of those two, neither are dumb bets.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Barry Jenkins & Tarrell McCraney – Moonlight (-700)
  2. Eric Heisserer – Arrival (+700)
  3. Allison Schroeder & Theodore Melfi – Hidden Figures (+700)
  4. Luke Davies – Lion (+1500)
  5. August Wilson – Fences (+3300)

Will win: Moonlight

Personal Choice: Moonlight

Should’ve been nominated: Jeff Nichols – Loving

Both Arrival and Moonlight won writers guild awards, but with Oscar, Moonlight is considered an adapted screenplay rather than an original one, pitting the two against each other here. While I think Moonlight will win, I believe it’s MUCH closer than Vegas suggest, making Arrival and even late-riser Lion very strong bets.

Best Cinematography

  1. Linus Sandgren – La La Land (-500)
  2. Greig Fraser – Lion (+300)
  3. Bradford Young – Arrival (+1000)
  4. James Laxton – Moonlight (+2000)
  5. Rodrigo Prieto – Silence (+3300)

Will win: La La Land

Personal Choice: Silence

Should’ve been nominated: Greig Fraser – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

This is yet another category that seems destined to go to La La Land. Sandgren’s dreamy, cinemascope photography is something to behold and the film’s status as the heavy favorite in best picture only helps. It’s an easy box to check off for the voters who don’t really bother paying attention to this category. There’s some love for Lion and it certainly shows off its cinematography. Greig Fraser actually won the American Society of Cinematographers award. Keep an eye on him, there may be money to be made there.

Best Visual Effects

  1. The Jungle Book (-500)
  2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (+300)
  3. Doctor Strange (+900)
  4. Kubo and the Two Strings (+3300)
  5. Deepwater Horizon (+3300)

Will win: The Jungle Book

Personal Choice: Doctor Strange

Should’ve been nominated: Arrival

The Jungle Book has picked up a ton of notice for its spectacular VFX work, emerging as a clear favorite in a race that at one point looked like it could to anyone in the top 3. It’s the safe bet here and the odds for others aren’t crazy enough to justify the risk in my opinion.

Best Costume Design

  1. La La Land (-170)
  2. Jackie (+120)
  3. Florence Foster Jenkins (+1800)
  4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (+2500)
  5. Allied (+5000)

Will win: Jackie

Personal Choice: Jackie

Should’ve been nominated: Hidden Figures

Widely seen as a two-horse race, conventional wisdom lends itself to Jackie, a period piece that won a couple major precursors. The odds make it an even better bet. If you’re looking for a dark horse to win big on, don’t write off Colleen Atwood for Fantastic Beasts. The Academy legend is always a threat to win and the less diligent voter could write her down based off pure name recognition.

Remaining Predictions

Predictions for winners in the rest of the categories.

  • Best Film Editing: Tom Cross – La La Land
  • Best Production Design: La La Land
  • Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Suicide Squad
  • Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz – La La Land
  • Best Original Song: “City of Stars” from La La Land
  • Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
  • Best Sound Mixing: La La Land
  • Best Animated Feature: Zootopia
  • Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman (Iran)
  • Best Documentary Feature: OJ: Made in America


Other favorite longshot bets

Some choices in other categories that I’d recommend.

  • The 13th (-450) in Best Documentary Feature. If anything is beating O.J., it’s Ava Duvernay’s film.
  • A Man Called Ove (+700) in Best Foreign Language Film.


And a final chart of all my picks.


2017 Oscars: State of the Race

A look at where everything is at post-nominations.

Can anything stop La La Land?

No. The only even relative challenger was Moonlight and it failing to win the SAG ensemble last night was probably the last nail in its Best Picture coffin.

The Los Angeles-set musical romcom La La Land resonated with the Academy even more so than folks imagined on its way to a record-tying FOURTEEN nominations. It’ll win at least eight of those. It’s a good, skillfully made film. By no means will it be one of the worst Best Picture winners ever. The relative backlash against La La Land is completely unfair and in no way the fault of the film. It’s just won and been nominated for so many awards that people expect it to be perfect, timeless even, when they finally catch it. It also feels a bit minor in a sociopolitical landscape more hostile than ever, especially given there are multiple films in the hunt that directly deal with issues rooted in identity. In a time where President Donald Trump is an actual thing that’s happening and Moonlight is being widely praised, maybe endlessly rewarding a (mostly) feel-good musical featuring two classically pretty (and white) romantic leads feels wrong. But that’s not the fault of La La Land, or even the Academy. This was basically a foregone conclusion ever since La La Land premiered at the Venice International Film Festival.

It’s easy to see why the industry would be drawn to the film so much. It celebrates dreamers, specifically dreamers with aspirations in the entertainment industry. It opens with a spectacular highway-set musical number shot via a classic CinemaScope lens that shows off L.A. traffic. La La Land is quick to show off its multiple crafts in every scene. The design grabs your attention just as much as the performances or music. There’s something for everyone who works in film to love in La La Land. It also happens to be a huge commercial success and cultural phenomenon.
La La Land is winning Best Picture. This is fine. It’s far from the year’s best or even best of the group of nominees. But films a lot worse than La La Land have dominated the Oscars. This is fine.

How many acting races are locked up?

“Locked” is a tricky word. If by “locked” you mean really locked, bet-your-mortgage locked, only one race is locked up. That is of course Best Supporting Actress, which will surely go to Viola Davis for her work in Fences (she also won a Tony for the role). She’s won everything thus far, is overdue for an Oscar win, has handled herself perfectly on the circuit, and the work is certainly deserving. Congrats to Naomie Harris, Nicole Kidman, Octavia Spencer, and Michelle Williams on being nominated. That is your award.

I would say that two categories are “very very close to being locked” after last night’s SAG awards. Longtime frontrunners Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) and Emma Stone (La La Land) both won SAG and are the names to beat in Best Supporting Actor and Best Lead Actress, respectively. I initially had some concerns that Ali only appearing in the first act of Moonlight could hold him back and create a lane for screen legend and Academy favorite Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), but that doesn’t appear to be happening. And while there’s still a ton of love for Natalie Portman’s powerhouse performance in Jackie, it’s unlikely enough to topple the overall love for La La Land, much of which has diverted towards its best performer and current it girl Emma Stone (deservedly so, as she’s the best thing in the film). Maybe Portman can shock, but it’d be unprecedented.
Best Lead Actor is where we now have a real race, between Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and Denzel Washington (Fences). Affleck has been seen as the favorite all the way since Sundance. He picked up nearly every critics prize. The performance is truly exceptional. But then Fences came. It jumped into the season too late to have a realistic shot at some early precursors, but Denzel winning SAG is huge. Not since Johnny Depp in the first Pirates movie has a lead actor won SAG without also winning Oscar. That’s too much historical relevance to just write Denzel’s SAG win off and move forward under the assumption that Affleck is safely in the lead. It’s a great race. It’s going to be close. Denzel is a legend and we’ve seen the Academy go for him before, but they probably like Manchester by the Sea better overall. I have no idea right now. 50/50 split.

What are the biggest snubs/surprises people are talking about?

On the acting front, there was much outrage on Oscar morning when Academy favorite Amy Adams’ name wasn’t called in Best Lead Actress for her outstanding work in Arrival. She had picked up all the usual noms and the film was a major player overall. It still remains shocking that Ruth Negga (Loving) got in over Adams, no disrespect to Negga’s great performance.

Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) getting in Best Supporting Actor over his Globe-winning costar Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins) was certainly a surprise. Shannon hadn’t really heard his name called all season and I wasn’t even sure a real campaign for him was being run. But the actor’s actor now has his second Oscar nomination. Good for him. He’s one of our best.
Mel Gibson, once blackballed, is back and stronger than ever, picking up a directing nomination for Hacksaw Ridge. He seemed dead in the water after missing a DGA nom, but Oscar clearly loves the film (six total nominations, including Best Picture and Best Lead Actor). Gibson deserves it. Whatever your feelings are about him, to deny his directorial chops is silly and the second half of Hacksaw Ridge is, for my money, the year’s greatest achievement in pure directing. #FilmTwitter is fuming over Gibson getting in, which is hilarious since the same group dances in the streets every time Woody Allen receives an award.

Other surprises:

  • Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women script getting in despite the film showing up nowhere else.
  • Suicide Squad getting in Best Makeup & Hairstyling, officially Oscar-nominated Suicide Squad!
  • Passengers scoring TWO nominations. One of them deserved (Production Design), one of them baffling (Original Score).
  • Both Kubo and the Two Strings and Deepwater Horizon getting in Best Visual Effects over Best Picture nominee Arrival.

Some personal taste notes

I am very happy to see one of my favorite filmmakers, Denis Villeneuve, finally get his first nomination (for Arrival). He’s such a talented filmmaker who absorbs genres and finds tension every scene in creative ways. His films also routinely feature the best cinematography and music around. Well deserved, and I’m sure it won’t be the last for him.

The Lobster in Original Screenplay, yay! What an awesome movie. It got a strange American release where it bounced between distributors and came out at a weird time, but at least we’ll hear its name on Oscar night. One of the best films of the last X years.

My personal ranking of the Best Picture nominees:

  1. Hell or High Water
  2. Moonlight
  3. Arrival
  4. Hacksaw Ridge
  5. Manchester by the Sea
  6. Fences
  7. La La Land
  8. Hidden Figures
  9. Lion

Stay tuned for more content as we approach Oscar night, and follow our newest contributor on Twitter @Alexander1Great


FINAL 2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature, Foreign Language Film, and Documentary

This post was updated January 13th and these predictions are FINAL.

Best Animated Feature

The Predicted Nominees

It’s Zootopia vs Kubo and the Two Strings for the win. Zootopia has picked up more awards thus far and is the more popular film, but Laika animation has been on a roll and Kubo is arguably their best yet. The thing is, while the animators branch selects nominees, the whole Academy chooses winners. That helps Zootopia. Disney’s other pony, Moana, is going to be nominated, as is the gorgeous, dialogue-free French-Japanese coproduction The Red Turtle. Neither of those has a realistic shot at winning, however. GKids is capable of getting films in here and the fifth spot likely belongs to one of their two films this year. I’m going with My Life as a Zucchini since it’s getting a strong campaign (also being worked as the Swiss entry in best foreign language film).

1) Zootopia (Disney Animation)

2) Kubo and the Two Strings (Laika/Focus Features)

3) Moana (Disney Animation)

4) The Red Turtle (Wild Bunch/Studio Ghibli)

5) My Life as a Zucchini (GKids)

On The Bubble

6) Miss Hokusai (GKids)

7) Finding Dory (Disney/Pixar)

8) Sausage Party (Sony)

9) Your Name (CoMix Wave Films/Toho)

Best Foreign Language Film

A bit about the films I’m predicting, all of which have made the Academy’s shortlist:

  • Toni Erdmann was lauded at Cannes, with many critics saying it should’ve won the Palme d’Or. The German dramedy swept the European Film Awards and looks like a lock here.
  • Land of Mine, which concerns WWII POW’s forced to clear land mines in Denmark at the end of the war, has been popping up at festivals for two years now and is regarded as the strongest Danish film in quite some time.
  • The Salesman, another gem from what appears to be the golden age of Iranian cinema, won both best actor and best screenplay at Cannes. It’s gotten attention from American critics as well, which really helps in this category.
  • Tanna won the audience prize at the 2015 Venice festival. Its music hopes to carry it.
  • A Man Called Ove is likely getting an additional nom in best makeup/hairstyling. It swept Swedish awards and American critics have compared it to popular Hollywood films such as Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino.

1) Toni Erdmann (Germany)

2) Land of Mine (Denmark)

3) The Salesman (Iran)

4) Tanna (Australia)

5) A Man Called Over (Sweden)

Best Documentary Feature

The Predicted Nominees

Many are calling O.J.: Made in America the best thing of the year; whether you classify it as a documentary feature or TV show. Regardless, it’s eligible here, and is the overwhelming favorite to win (it is absolutely incredible, if I may say). Weiner is timely and has been lauded since Sundance. It has the best shot of beating O.J.. British/Mongolian/American coproduction The Eagle Huntress, a Sundance hit campaigned by Sony Pictures Classics, is the rare documentary that almost plays like a narrative feature. The fact that it’s produced by and narrated by Daisy Ridley only helps.

1) O.J.: Made in America

2) Weiner

3) Cameraperson

4) I Am Not Your Negro

5) The Eagle Huntress

On The Bubble

Ava DuVernay’s 13th is truly exceptional and quite popular thanks to Netflix’s strong marketing, but it just hasn’t shown up anywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a challenger to O.J. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it missed entirely. Gleason tells the story of an NFL player (Steve Gleason) battling ALS. The Sundance hit was picked up by Amazon and given a theatrical release via Roadside Attractions. Eyes are on it.

6) 13th

7) Gleason

8) Life, Animated

FINAL 2017 Oscar Predictions: “Below the Line” / Technical Categories

This post was updated January 13th and the predictions are FINAL

Here you’ll find predictions for the following categories: Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song.

Best Production Design

Period and pieces and big set work do well here, though it seems like La La Land is the heavy frontrunner this year. Hail Caesar! builds old Hollywood sets as sets for the film, and that’s something the branch will surely appreciate. While the film was panned, I have a feeling Passengers will sneak in. The production design is by far the best element of the film and shows off the art form to an extent sci-fi films rarely do given their reliance on visual effects.

1) La La Land

2) Hail, Caesar!

3) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4) Hacksaw Ridge

5) Passengers

Alternates: ArrivalJackieFencesRogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Costume Design

Another place for period pieces and big fantasy epics. It’s probably La La Land vs Jackie for the win, but keep an eye on Florence Foster Jenkins as a dark horse. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them features some impressive costume work and this is a spot to cite a very popular film.

1) La La Land

2) Jackie

3) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4) Florence Foster Jenkins

5) Hail, Caesar!

Alternates: AlliedSilenceThe DressmakerHidden Figures

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

The bakeoff list is down to seven, so it’s as simple as picking three from that bunch. Florence Foster Jenkins is a lock and your likely winner. When a film as obscure as A Man Called Ove makes it this far it almost always gets in. Last spot for me comes down to two blockbusters; Deadpool and Star Trek Beyond. I’ll go with the former since it did a fine job of making Ryan Reynolds look ugly but still look like Ryan Reynolds.

1) Florence Foster Jenkins

2) A Man Called Ove

3) Deadpool

Alternates: Star Trek BeyondHail Caesar!, The Dressmaker, Suicide Squad

Best Visual Effects

This branch historically has awarded the *most* visual effects, but perhaps Ex Machina winning last year suggests a change in philosophy, which would be good news for Arrival. Some great blockbuster VFX work in Disney films Rogue One, Doctor Strange, and The Jungle Book should be good for noms. There’s also some real buzz surrounding Kubo and the Two Strings here, despite animated films not usually appearing.

1) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

2) The Jungle Book

3) Doctor Strange

4) Kubo and the Two Strings

5) Arrival

Alternates: The BFG, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Captain America: Civil War, Deepwater Horizon, Passengers



'Hacksaw Ridge' could be a player across multiple sound categories.
‘Hacksaw Ridge’ could be a player across multiple sound categories.

Best Sound Mixing

The difference in the sound categories: mixing is the blending of various sounds, whereas editing is more creation/manipulation of sounds. There’s usually a lot of overlap between the two. The loud war noises of Hacksaw Ridge could see it win both awards.

1) Hacksaw Ridge

2) La La Land

3) Sully

4) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

5) Deepwater Horizon

Alternates: Arrival, Patriots Day, 13 Hours, Doctor Strange



Best Sound Editing

4 of the 5 from my mixing predictions show up here, with Arrival replacing La La Land, which mixes its stuff well but doesn’t really “create” a ton of sounds.

1) Hacksaw Ridge

2) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

3) Sully

4) Deepwater Horizon

5) Arrival

Alternates: The Jungle Book, Patriots Day, La La Land, Silence



Best Original Score

A weird year in original score. Usually, this branch nominates the same people over and over again. But the familiar names don’t have much in the hunt this year, opening up space for new nominees working on best picture contenders. It’s probably an easy win for La La Land, but I like Mica Levi’s work in Jackie to surprise and get a nom. It is exceptional.

1) Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

2) Dustin O’Halloran & Hauschka (Lion)

3) Mica Levi (Jackie)

4) John Williams (The BFG)

5) Nicholas Britell (Moonlight)

Alternates: Alexandre Desplat (Florence Foster Jenkins), Darion Marianelli (Kubo and the Two Strings), Abel Korzeniowski (Nocturnal Animals), Rupert Gregson-Williams (Hacksaw Ridge), Michael Giacchino (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)



Best Original Song

La La Land is battling itself here despite Gosling not being a very good singer. Popular songs from Hidden FiguresTrolls, and Moana should show up. Here’s to hoping Sing Street surprises with a nomination.

1) “City of Stars” from La La Land

2) “Runnin” from Hidden Figures

3) “Audition” from La La Land

4) “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

5) “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls

Alternates: “Faith” from Sing, “Drive It Like You Stole It” from Sing Street, “We Know the Way” from Moana.