50 Great Actors & Actresss Who’ve Never Been Nominated for an Oscar.

As Oscar season gets into gear, I’ll be posting a bunch of Oscar-related content, both past and present. Here is a list of 50 great performers who’ve never been nominated, ordered alphabetically by first name. I tried to keep it current with folks who are somewhat active today and could very well be in for their first nom soon.

Adam Driver: Driver’s understated work in last year’s Paterson is one of the great screen performances I’ve ever seen, but I’m not going to get too upset about him being snubbed because his rising Star Wars fame makes it extremely likely he gets in for his next great performance. Perhaps Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote next year?

Anthony Mackie: I’m not sure how the hell Mackie hasn’t been nominated yet. He’s very talented, famous, handsome, and works interviews well. He was also every bit as good as his nominated co-star (Jeremy Renner) in The Hurt Locker. He just hasn’t really gotten any juicy, awardsy roles since. Fix that please, Hollywood producers.

Aubrey Plaza: Don’t laugh, she’s much more than just a deadpan comedy star. Performances in films like Safety Not Guaranteed and Ingrid Goes West prove such. She can bring it, and if she steps away from the mumblecore stuff for a bit, the Academy will see that.

Ben Foster: There may not be a better character actor working right now. Nobody does unhinged-but-still-human better than Ben Foster. 3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog, Hell or High Water…the list goes on. The latter of those three was a Best Picture nominee last year and he still couldn’t get in despite picking up a handful of critics awards. Ugh.

Brendan Gleeson: He’s either won or been nominated for virtually ever other major acting award there is; so Oscar continually ignoring his work is on them, not him. It’s starting to feel like one of his kids is going to get a nom before he does. I like Domhnall though, so that’s cool I guess. 

Bruce Willis: Sure, he’s starred in some really bad movies, but so have plenty of other Oscar favorites. That shouldn’t erase his great performances, like being the best part of Pulp Fiction, for example.

Channing Tatum: The cinephile community continues to ignore just how good Tatum is. Maybe it’s because he was mostly cast in meathead, show-off-your-chest roles early in his career. But his Soderbergh collabs, hilarious work in the Jump Street movies, and all-in performance in Foxcatcher have proved he’s a great actor. He just needs people to stop seeing him as the guy from Step Up.

Chris Pine: Those dreamy eyes and chiseled jawline are both a blessing and a curse, as Pine is actually a versatile character actor trapped in a prototypical leading man’s body. He’s good in everything, whether it be lifting an otherwise bad movie like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, or deftly blending in with his co-stars and scenery in something more serious like Hell or High Water

Colin Farrell: Colin suffers (or, suffered) from the same curse as Pine. When he came up, Hollywood tried to make him their next Tom Cruise. But he’s not an action hero or leading man. He’s a remarkably unique actor capable of communicating deep depression and hilarity in the same line. I don’t think anyone else could’ve made films like In Bruges and The Lobster work.

Danny Glover: Glover has been such a staple in Hollywood for nearly four decades that people often forget about him. He just, is. While he doesn’t have that one performance that jumps out in an “how was he not nominated for that?” sort of way, his prolific filmography should be more than enough to get him noticed by a branch that often hands out career achievement awards disguised as nominations.

Donald Sutherland: I’m dead serious. Donald Sutherland, star of M*A*S*H and Klute and a dozen other classics, has never been nominated for an Oscar (8 Golden Globes though). At least the Academy has realized how wrong they are and decided to give him a Lifetime Achievement Awards this year.

Emily Blunt: This is starting to get ridiculous. You can probably count on one hand the actresses who’ve been more prolific than Emily Blunt over the last fifteen years. She can do it all; whether that be stealing scenes from Streep and Hathaway, making Tom Cruise seem like a sidekick in an action movie, or keeping an overly gritty film like Sicario human. Goddamnit, how does Emily Blunt not have a nomination?

Elizabeth Banks: She’s coming for one soon as she continues to break out of her comedy shell. Her work two years ago in Love & Mercy managed to stand out even surrounding by great actors like Cusack, Giamatti, and Dano. She’s also proven herself a capable director. 

Elizabeth Olsen: The most talented Olsen sister has quietly become one of the most consistent working actresses. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a landmark performance for which she should’ve been nominated. She’s a scene-stealer in the Marvel movies. And she was great this year in Wind River. Still just 28, she’ll surely get one.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw: If Gugu isn’t a household name yet, she will be by this time 2018, after starring in two likely blockbusters (God Particle, A Wrinkle In Time). Her performances in both Belle and Beyond the Lights were nomination-worthy, the film’s just failed to land with general audiences. Her most notable work probably came in the Emmy-winning Black Mirror episode “San Junipero”. Like with Olsen, it feels like a foregone conclusion that she’ll get one sometime over the next five years.

Idris Elba: Hollywood producers have never really understood how to use Idris Elba. It’s not a coincidence that’s his best work has come on TV, although, he was certainly deserving of all the praise he received for Beasts of No Nation. It appears this could change this year, as he’s in the thick of the Best Supporting Actor race yet again for Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game.

Jamie Lee-Curtis: Like with Sutherland or Glover, what can you really say at this point? Few people have given greater contributions to the medium of cinema over the last 40 years.

Jeff Goldblum: Perhaps he’s become more well known in recent years for his unique style of ranting than for his actual acting talent, but Goldblum can bring it. Just watch The Big Chill or The Fly if you don’t believe me. Goldblum needs a director to tailor a flashy supporting role in a Best Picture nominee to his talents, like what Whiplash did for J.K. Simmons.

Jim Carrey: Carrey proved himself as a dramatic actor years ago with films like The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Him missing for the latter is one of the worst Oscar snubs of the century so far. Since then, he hasn’t really *tried* to do something that would resonate with Oscar, which is fine, but if he wants one, he has to choose better/different scripts. 

Joel Edgerton: Edgerton continues to churn out quality work in good films that can’t quite land with the Academy (his Loving co-star Ruth Negga got a nomination, but the film was snubbed beyond that). Focus Features is gearing up for an Oscar run with Boy Erased next year. It’s Edgerton’s latest directorial effort, but he’s not acting in this one. Maybe that’s where he finally finds Oscar love?

John Goodman: WHO DO I HAVE TO FUCK FOR GOODMAN TO GET AN OSCAR NOMINATION? Seriously, when you think of the term “best supporting actor”, is he not the first name that comes to mind? Pick your favorite Goodman role in a Coen Bros movie, and it’s more than a worthy performance.

John Turtorro: Yet another Coen muse named John who’s been grossly ignored by the Academy. Turturro is an actor who lifts every film he is in, even the dreadful Transformers movies.

Keanu Reeves: While his highest-profile work has come in action movies, Keanu has also proven himself time and time again a great dramatic performer. My Own Private Idaho drew raves mostly for the work of the late River Phoenix, but Keanu was every bit as good. 

Kerry Washington: Everyone knows how great Washington is. She’s become very, very popular thanks to her work on Scandal. Now it’s just about finding the right role in an Oscar-friendly film. Some though that may be Django Unchained, but her character ended up sitting almost the whole movie out.

Kevin Bacon: Another performer whose lack of a nomination is genuinenly shocking. You can probably pick out 10+ Kevin Bacon turns that are worthy of awards attention. For a recent great Bacon performance, check out Cop Car (2015).

Kirsten Dunst: Maybe her frustrating work in the Spider-Man movies left a bad taste in the mouths of many, or maybe it’s just that her best performances come in art films that aren’t really in the Academy’s wheelhouse? I don’t know, but nobody as good as Dunst was in Marie Antoinette or Melancholia should be without an Oscar nomination.

Kristen Stewart: Ever since her Twilight duties ended, K-Stew has turned in exceptional performance after exceptional performance. She works with great directors. It’s probably a matter of being in something a bit more commercially friendly.

Kurt Russell: One of the great pure movie stars of all-time has never gotten his proper due as a serious actor. Perhaps he’ll find an old man role that can bring him one. We thought it may be The Hateful Eight, but some of his co-stars outshined him. He doesn’t currently have anything in the pipeline.

Léa Seydoux: Seydoux was so unbelievably good in Blue is the Warmest Colout, but it’s not very surprising the lengthy French romance didn’t land with Oscar. She’s a rising name though thanks to her appearances in major franchises such as Bond and Mission: Impossible, so perhaps her next transcendent work will have more American eyes on it.

Margot Robbie: Robbie’s sudden rise to the top of the game has been fascinating. It’s really been the result of just two roles; a seductive Brooklynite in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and the iconic Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. While those two films unfortunately portrayed Robbie’s character as little more than a sex object, she’s proven her dramatic capabilities in Z for Zachariah and (reportedly) in I, Tonya, which many pundits expect to land her a nomination this year.

Maria Bello: All Bello does is churn out quality work. It’s crazy she wasn’t nominated for either The Cooler or A History of Violence

Martin Sheen: Insane. The star of Badlands and Apocalypse Now, two landmarks in American cinema, has never been nominated for an Oscar (though he’s picked up a slew of Emmys and Globes for The West Wing). He’s also turned in a handful of strong support performances. At 77, the clock is, unfortunately, ticking. He’s playing Oral Roberts in a Netflix film coming next year. Maybe that’s the one?

Michael B. Jordan: Another guy who feels destined to be nominated sooner rather than later. He did deserving work in both Fruitvale Station and Creed, but neither film got a real awards push from their distributors. Once he finishes his duties for Creed II, expect him to find a project that’ll get him back in the awards discussion. 

Michael Peña: Peña is one of the most versatile actors working today. He can be hilarious (Ant-Man, Observe and Report). He can be heartbreaking (he gave the best turn in Crash, a Best Picture winner). He can act next to huge movie stars and not get outshined (End of Watch with Gyllenhaal, Fury with Pitt). He’s another Michael who feels destined to get one soon. Maybe for the War in Afghanistan drama Horse Soldiers from Warner Bros next year?

Miles Teller: Miles Teller has been compared to a young Brando; both for his acting chops and the fact that he doesn’t appear to mind coming off as an asshole. That type of PR can work both ways. Whiplash saw an awards-worthy performance out of Teller, but all attention and campaign dollars were directed at J.K. Simmons.

Nicholas Hoult: Some questionable role choices in bad franchises have held Hoult back, but he can act. He was a standout in Mad Max: Fury Road, and he’s got a juicy role in the new Yorgos Lanthimos film coming next year.

Pam Grier: Most of her notable work came in 70s genre film, which never had a chance with Oscar, but Jackie Brown certainly should have. She held that rather crazy narrative together. Unfortunately, Greer doesn’t really work anymore and seems comfortable with her legacy. But if she does step back into serious work, I’d expect Oscar to take note.

Paul Dano: The fact that this didn’t happen after There Will Be Blood or Love & Mercy makes me think it never will. Maybe Oscar just doesn’t really know or care who Dano is. But he’s one of the very finest actors of his generation. I have no doubts he’ll give a dozen more worthy performances.

Peter Sarsgaard: Shattered Glass, An Education, Jackie. Get this man a damn nomination, please. He’s perhaps the most underrated actor working today. 

Ray Liotta: I’d like to take a second to note how ridiculous it is that Liotta wasn’t nominated for Goodfellas, one of the great lead performances ever. Surrounded by flashier work, Liotta holds the film together with his enthusiastic turned paranoid performance. He does what DiCaprio did in The Wolf of Wall Street, but more human. He’s also done some very good supporting work since (The Place Beyond the Pines, Killing Them Softly).

Rebecca Hall: Hall’s work in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Christine make for two of the best performances of this century. She understands the subtleties of her characters, and how to communicate them without speaking. She’s an automatic must-watch for me, as I’ve never not seen her lift a movie. She’s gonna be in Woody Allen’s 2018 film, maybe that’s the one? Allen directed her best performance in the aforementioned Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Regina King: We as a collective need to stop under-using and underappreciating Regina King. Much of her major work has come on TV, but roles in Jerry Maguire and Ray should’ve garnered her more attention. 

Robin Wright: Ever since she broke out with The Princess Bride, Wright has struggled to resonate with Oscar despite some really strong supporting work. Her stock is higher than ever thanks to House of Cards and Wonder Woman. Maybe her next turn in a prestige film will do the trick.

Rosario Dawson: While she’s known nowadays for the Marvel/Netflix shows and problematic comments, Dawson has proven herself a great actress. She gave a powerhouse performance in Kids at the age of just fifteen. #MakeRosarioDawsonGreatAgain.

Rose Byrne: She’s just so consistently great, whether it be in comedy or drama. I’d cite Paul Feig’s Spy as the clearest example. She shows up and steals the show from a very talented cast. She was also great opposite Susan Sarandon in The Meddler last year.

Sam Rockwell: Perhaps the most consistently electric character actor of today appears to finally be in for his first nomination courtesy of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Scarlett Johansson: Crazy that ScarJo hasn’t been nominated. Despite still being just 32, she’s been one of the most prominent and acclaimed actresses of the last fifteen years, ever since her should’ve-been-nominated breakout turn in Lost in Translation. Films like A Love Song for Bobby Long, Under the Skin, and even her voice work in Her shouldve garnered more awards attention. 

Shailene Woodley: How Jennifer Lawrence has 4 nominations while Woolley has 0 is beyond me. The Descendants, The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars. Whew. That’s a damn fine trio of performances for such a young actress. Bonus points for holding her own opposite three titans of the field on Big Little Lies.

Steve Buscemi: William H. Macy and Frances McDormand certainly deserved their nominations for Fargo, but Buscemi should’ve been nominated too. And for Mystery Train. And for Reservoir Dogs. And for Ghost World. AND FOR CON-AIR.

Oscar Isaac: I 100% buy the young Pacino hype. Oscar Isaac is incredible. His work in Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year, and Ex Machina make for some of the best turns of this decade. All three should’ve been cited. Thanks to Star Wars fame, his next great turn likely will be.

21 Questions: 2018 Oscars Edition

It’s October. Fall Film Festival season is essentially over (there are still a couple notable NYFF and AFI Fest premieres, but mostly everything has been seen). That means it’s officially awards season in the cinephile community, much to the chagrin of some. I follow and track the Oscars year round hoping to get a leg up on the competition when it comes to predicting and gambling. I did well last year if I may toot my own horn (8 of 9 best picture nominee, 18 of 20 acting nominees). In this post, I get weird and ask myself questions designed to help you follow awards season.

I’m doing things a bit differently this year. Rather than post actual predictions and analysis on this blog, I’m doing them on this GOOGLE SHEET. It’ll be easier for me to update and for you to follow along.

This is a rather long post, so let’s get started. Feel free to jump around as the questions aren’t posed in any particluar order.

#1) Which, if any, early year/summer hits will actual factor into the Best Picture race?

Modern conventional Oscar wisdom is relatively simple; distributors hit the fall festival circuit with their top horses, then position them as limited October/November/December releases that slowly expand as awards season heats up. There’s sometimes room for a hot Sundance buy or popular foreign film in the field (though those films usually play the festivals as well). But every now and then there’s a studio film from the year’s first half that sustains hype and plays a major role in the race. Take recent examples Mad Max: Fury Road (a May release) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (a March release), which went onto ten and nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture nods, respectively. Could there be an already-seen juggernaut lurking this year?

Dunkirk is the most likely to last the season. Christopher Nolan’s latest (and possibly greatest) blurs the line between commercial mass-market entertainment and more typical prestigious filmmaking the Academy tends to favor. Oscar also loves them some WWII. Dunkirk will fight for the most overall noms on Oscar morning thanks to the support it’ll get from “below-the-line” branches such as the cinematographers and sound editors. It surely won’t win Best Picture, but looks like a lock for a nomination unless Warner Bros really fucks up the campaign.

Elsewhere, for all the deserved talk about its importance and Oscar campaign, Wonder Woman is looking less and less likely to be a factor everyday. Oscar pundits fell for the early year blues yet again. We talked about Wonder Woman mostly because there was nothing else to talk about. Now that other contenders have emerged, and Warner Bros has both Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049 to work, Wonder Woman looks like a PGA/Golden Globes player at best. It’s not your fault fanboys (girls, too) and overzealous Oscar prognosticators…we fell for the same trap last year with Deadpool.

Also on the superhero front is Logan, which Fox has been working all year and supposedly already sent out screeners for. It’s a very popular film and certainly has its Oscar merits (Marco Beltrami’s film-carrying score, Patrick Stewart’s vulnerable supporting turn) but like with every other film named after a comic-book character, Oscar isn’t ready to embrace it just yet.

I adored Get Out but it has serious genre stigma to overcome and has fun laughing at old, white, wealthy, half-woke liberal archetypes who still fill up the majority of the Academy despite the organization’s best efforts the last two years. Universal’s best chance for the film remains Jordan Peele’s screenplay. The Big Sick (Amazon Studios) also sees its best chances come via writing, but unlike Get Out, it’s managed to sustain buzz all year. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are both players in supporting acting races. If other assumed contenders falter, the film could make Best Picture noise.

That’s it.

#2) What are the Sundance darlings that will emerge as Oscar players?

There is almost always a film that premieres at Sundance in February then goes on to battle the big boys all year on its way to a Best Picture nom. 2012 was the last time such wasn’t the case. Now, the film(s) that becomes a contender isn’t always the one we expect immediately following the ‘Dance (last year, mostly in response to #OscarsSoWhite, everyone labeled The Birth of a Nation an Oscar frontrunner at Sundance. But then Nate Parker got exposed, and more people actually saw the not-very-good film. Manchester by the Sea, another Sundance hit, went on to score a BP nom). This year’s Sundance films with real Oscar hopes include:

  • Novitiate, a very small film even by Sundance standards, but one purchased by Sony Pictures Classics with intention of the great Melissa Leo winning Best Supporting Actress.
  • The Big Sick, Get Out, and Wind River all premiered out-of-competition at Sundance and all have varying screenplay hopes.
  • Mudbound premiered to acclaim, and was then scooped up by Netflix. Many are saying it’s the film that’ll finally see the streaming company break through into major awards categories.
  • And then there’s Call Me By Your Name. Sony Pictures Classics appears to have a major Oscar player on its hands, and I’d even go as far as to say it’s more likely than not that it gets a BP nom. Critics certainly love it; actors will too. Althout it is suffering from lazy and unfavorable comparisons to Moonlight due to its subject matter.

#3) Is it Gary Oldman’s Oscar to lose?

Probably, yes. All the stars are alinging to Oldman in Lead Actor. He’s playing Winston Churchill in a BP contender (Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright). He’s got a strong overdue narrative as a popular actor who’s never won before (and with just one nomination, somehow). He’sbeen labeled as a must-see frontrunner for all voters to an extent only matched by Leonardo DiCaprio and Julianne Moore in recent years.

Oldman is very much the favorite, but there are a few upset possiblities, naturally. Don’t rule out the also-overdue Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger), rising star Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), or the legend himself Daniel Day-Lewis (still untitiled Paul Thomas Anderson film).

#4) Can new distributors break through?

A couple of distribution companies with no awards campaign experience picked up some Oscar hopefuls at the last minute on the festival circuit. Enterainment Studios grabbed Scott Cooper’s Hostiles, whoch stars Academy favorite Christian Bale. I, Tonya, which sparked Oscar buzz for Margot Robbie & Allison Janney at TIFF, was scooped up by Neon. Just because a distributor is new doesn’t mean it can’t run a great campaign. A24 Films saw Moonlight WIN BP just three years after the company started distributing films.

#5) What impact will the continued changes to Academy membership have on this year’s race?

For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) broke its own record for new member invites. This year sees 774 new invitees (i.e. Oscar voters) added to the pack. This is part of the Academy’s continued effort to get more diverse in terms of race, gender, and -most significantly in terms of film tastes- AGE. The changes come in part as a response to #OscarsSoWhite from a couple years ago, a legitimate but misdirected gripe aimed at the Academy (a union, more or less) rather than the actual industry responsible for the problematic hiring practices.

39% of new members are female. 30% of new members are people of color (though POC still represent just 13% of the overall Academy, a staggeringly low figure). The acting branch, the largest and therefore most powerful subset of the Academy, saw many big names added. Donald Glover, Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot, Naomie Harris, Margot Robbie, all the Marvel Chris’ (Pratt/Evans/Hemsworth)…just to name a few. This isn’t a battle that’s going to be won overnight seeing as there’s about a century of ugly history to fight against, and even Moonlight winning last year is more of an outlier than a sign of actual change. But it’s encouraging to see AMPAS -who have the inherently difficult task of representing an industry that struggles so much with representation- at least trying.

Also, AMPAS is reportedly taking away voting privileges from some old folks who haven’t worked in years.

on top of fighting Thanos, these three Chris’ will also be voting on the Oscars.

#6) Speaking of diversity, are this year’s acting races really that white again?

They sure are. I’d like to reiterate that Oscar isn’t to blame for what’ll likely be another nomination morning filled with mostly white English names. Oscar reacts to and judges what is presented to them. If the studios and production companies either don’t make films with POC or don’t handle their POC-driven films in an Oscar-friendly way, I’m not sure what you can expect the Academy to do.

A few non-white names to keep an eye on this year, though I wouldn’t feel good about betting on any of them right now:

  • Idris Elba, playing Jessica Chastain’s attorney in Molly’s Game, the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin.
  • Downsizing scene-stealer Hong Chau, who’d be a shoe-in if the film had played festivals better.
  • Octavia Spencer is in likely BP nominee The Shape of Water, but most praise for the film has been directed at other cast members.
  • Always a threat and a nominee last year, Denzel Washington is said to be great in Roman J. Israel, Esq., if only word for the film as a whole was as kind. But hey, he got in for the god-awful Flight.
  • Jason Mitchell broke out two years ago with Straight Outta Compton and is said to be the best performer in BP hopeful Mudbound.

#7) Is it FINALLY Roger Deakins’ year?

Once DiCaprio won his, the biggest overdue narrative amongst Oscar fans shifted to Roger Deakins, the now legendary cinematographer and thirteen-time nominee who’s back in the race this year, having shot Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. If you’re not familar with his name somehow, google his filmography. I guarantee he’s shot one of your favorites.

His work on 2049 is arguably the most praised element of a critically-adored film that’ll factor in everywhere below-the-line with Oscar. One of his prior Villeneuve collabs, the exceptional Prisoners, netted him a nom. There are certainly other deserving contenders –Hoyte van Hoytema’s work on Dunkirk is stunning, and the great Vittorio Storaro appears to have shot Wonder Wheel exquisetly- but it still looks like Deakins’ award. Bet the house on him. He’s the winner I’m most confident in right now; even more so than Oldman.

#8) What’s up with The Weinstein Company?

Harvey Weinstein, through both Miramix and his current self-titled company, was once the Oscar game’s King Midas. He could buy a middling film after a mediocre festival premiere, take his scissors to its liberal running time, and then campaign it to a slew of nominations. But TWC has struggled a bit in recent years. Lion snuck into BP last year, snapping a year-long skid for the company that included high-profile BP misses Carol and The Hateful Eight (both would’ve been deserving, I might add). TWC hasn’t won the big prize since The King’s Speech, which feels like decades ago given how much awards season has changed. All of this comes amidst continuing reports of financial struggles for the company, though it’s not as if TWC isn’t trying because they can’t afford to.

The company looks hopeless in the BP race yet again this year. Garth Davis, who directed Lion, saw his already controversial film Mary Magdalene pushed back to 2018. Wind River has had a nice box office run, but it isn’t this year’s Hell or High Water. The critical love just isn’t there. The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon, has had bad buzz surrounding it for over a year and premiered at TIFF to boos and harsh reviews. It’s dead on arrival.

#10) Just how loaded is the Best Actress race?

Loaded, as loaded as any race I’ve seen since following the Oscars (~11 years now). Here are just some of the names of previously-nominated ladies who’ve had their films seen and already labeled as contenders:

Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul), Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game), Jennifer Lawrence (mother!), Annette Bening (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool), Carey Mulligan (Mudbound), Nicole Kidman (The Beguiled).

Then there’s relative youngin’s Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), and Claire Foy (Breathe). Then there’s unseen but highly-anticipated work from Oscar favorite entering the race (Meryl Streep in The Post, Kate Winslet in Wonder Wheel).

Like I said, loaded.

#11) Can any currently unseen studio films surprise and enter the race at the last minute, a la The Big Short?

Of course, I’d even wager that there will at least one BP nominee that nobody has seen yet. The hard part is forecasting which one. AFI Fest in early November is traditionally the last jumping off point in terms of festivals, but oftentimes last-minute contenders aren’t ready in time and have to work the Oscars without a festival boost. These films usually come from major studios with deep pockets though, so building buzz isn’t a huge issue.

The most obvious possibility this year is Fox’s The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks & Meryl Streep. On top of the film’s Oscar pedigree (Spielberg’s usual craft team is in tow) it’s a historical drama whose freedom-of-the-press themes are very timely, for obvious reasons.

Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World has a great cast, a great trailer, and Sony subsidiary TriStar Pictures is having the film make its debut at AFI Fest. Ridley is hit-or-miss with the Academy, but he hit big as recently as The Martian.

Also, dealing with the 2015 Thalys train terrorist attack, Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 to Paris stars its actual subjects as themselves and seems very interesting. It started shooting in mid-July, so while it being done in time is far from a guarantee, I wouldn’t bet against the uber-efficient Eastwood.

#12) Any chance we see a “lone director” nom this year?

– The “lone director” refers to when a filmmaker is nominated in Best Director despite his or her film missing out on a Best Picture nod.

As the directors branch grows, the possibility of a lone director nom becomes less likely. A small group of directors who really love a specific film or filmmaker  don’t have the same power they used to. The tastes of the branch continue to inch closer to the tastes of the overall Academy. The last time we saw a lone director was three years ago with Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher). Before that, you have to go back ten years to get one (Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).

Even with a wide-open BP race, it’s hard to see a lone director happening this year. The best bet is probably Paul Thomas Anderson, a respected filmmaker whose work is often a bit strange for general Academy/BP tastes (for example, The Master didn’t get a BP nom despite THREE acting noms). His still untitled 1950’s Londo couture drama satrs Daniel Day-Lewis and will get a Christmas release from Focus Features.

#13) How come the screenplay categories seem so inbalanced this year?

No real reason, it just so happens that the vast majority of BP players this year come from original screenplays rather than adapted ones. Perhaps an open Best Adapted Screenplay race could result in an out-of-left-field nominee like The BeguiledThe Disaster Artist, or even Logan.

#14) So what exactly is the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing with Oscar?

It’s simple enough. Best Sound Editing (preveiously called Best Sound Effects) is an award for exactly that; sound effects, or non-dialogue/music created sounds for a film. Best Sound Mixing awards the cominbing and blending of all sounds in a film, including the sound effects that are awarded in editing.

Common confusion between the two stems from there being so much overlap in nominees between the two categories. Last year, three films (Hacksaw RidgeLa La LandArrival) were nominated in both places. The year before that, four film were nominated in both.

#15) The last couple years have seen FOUR first-time Best Director nominees each, can we expect the same this year?

Probably not, though the changes to the Academy certainly make it more likely. The directors branch is a very old branch that prefers to nominate fellow veterans. They really make you earn it for years, usually across at least five films, before they notice you. Damien Chazelle (La La Land) made for the younges winner ever at 32.

Barry Jenkins, Kenny Lonergan, and Damien Chazelle were all first-time directing nominees last year.

New films from big, previously nominated names such as Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson, Denis Villeneuve, Ridley Scott, and Clint Eastwood make it unlikely we’ll see four cherries popped again, but two or three is certainly possible. Keep an eye on:

  • Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), who has somehow never been nominated as a driector.
  • Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name)
  • Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Joe Wright (The Darkest Hour)
  • Sean Baker (The Florida Project)

Those five all helm BP contenders and look like decent bets right now (in descending order).

#16) Is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a Best Picture lock?

I hesitate to use the word “lock” with something I haven’t personally seen yet, but recent history suggests that it is. The latest from Martin McDonagh (In BrugesSeven Psychopaths) won the People’s Choice Award at TIFF. Eight of the last nine winners of that prize have gone on to score BP noms, and the one that didn’t was Where Do We Go Now?, a Lebenase film.

#17) Who’s the frontrunner in a fascinating Best Visual Effects race?

It really is going to be an interesting race, unlike last year, where nothing was touching The Jungle Book (and deservedly so). For much of the year, War for the Planet of the Apes was considered the heavy favorite given its groundbreaking mo-cap work and the fact that the franchise has never won the award before (the second one losing to Interstellar still stings three years later). But then Blade Runner 2049 premiered, and it’s even more of a visual treat than folks anticipated. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is of course a formidable contender, as is The Shape of Water. We saw that “best visual effects =/= most visual effects) with Ex Machina winning a couple years ago. So while Guillermo del Toro’s film may be a bit more understated in the VFX department, the VFX he does employ may be scene as absolutely essential to his story. These four all look like locks for a nomination. One of them will win. I’m still leaning Apes until I see the other films.

As for the fifth nomination…it probably comes down to the Marvel trio (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming”, and Thor: Ragnorak), the practical VFX driven Dunkirk, or Wonder Woman (which has bad VFX for my money but is a popular film people will want to see cited somehwere).

#18) What’s a film nobody is really considering right now that could surprise on Oscar morning?

Here’s a dark horse for ya’….The Disaster Artist. The dramedy from A24 Films (who took Moonlight all the way) is directed by and stars previous Oscar nominee James Franco. It tells the story of the making of the historically awful film The Room. It drew raves at both SXSW and TIFF, and pundits have started putting Franco’s name on Best Actor lists. I can’t say much more until I actually see it when it comes out in December, and perhaps it’ll be too silly, but it seems like a film that’ll really play to the tastes of industry folks, and with the very-popular Franco at the center of it, you never know.

#19) Is that little movie called Star Wars: The Last Jedi a real Best Picture threat?

I fully believe it is. If it’s the Empire to TFA’A New Hope, which I think it may be with the great Rian Johnson at the helm, it’ll be in the discussion. I don’t think people realize just how close The Force Awakens was to a BP nom two years ago. It received a PGA best film nom and an Oscar nom for Best Film Editing, two of the awards that most often go hand-in-hand with BP. It also received four other Oscar noms, winning best VFX.

Star Wars is the one franchise that doesn’t really suffer from franchise/sequel stigma when it comes to reviewers and industry tastes. The Academy doesn’t view these films like Transformers movies or Marvel movies.

#20) What events should you follow throughout Awards Season to keep up with everything?

To some, awards season begins on Oscar nomination morning. For us obsessives, the real fun is the road leading up to Oscar. Predicting nominations is the most fun and (relatively) challenging part. Here are some important dates along the way:

  • Nov. 16th: Screen Actors Guild (SAG) voting opens.
  • Nov. 24th: Golden Globe voting opens.
  • Nov. 27: Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) voting opens.
  • Nov. 28th: National Board of Review (NBR) winners and top 10 films announced (this is the first major awards announcement of the season).
  • Nov. 29th: Director’s Guild of America (DGA) voting opens
  • Nov. 30th: New York Critics winners announced.
  • Dec. 4th: Annie Awards (for animated films) nominations announced.
  • Dec. 11th: Golden Globes nominations announced.
  • Dec. 13th: SAG nominations announced.
  • Dec. 14th: Producers Guild of America (PGA) voting opens.
  • Jan. 5th: PGA nominations announced.
  • Jan. 5th: ACADEMY AWARDS nominations voting opens.
  • Jan. 7th: Golden Globe awards are held.
  • Jan. 9th: British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) nominations announced.
  • Jan. 11th: DGA nominations announced.
  • Jan. 12th: ACADEMY AWARDS nomination voting closes.
  • Jan. 20th: PGA awards are held.
  • Jan. 21st: SAG awards are held.
  • Jan. 23rd: ACADEMY AWARDS nominations announced.
  • Feb. 3rd: DGA awards are held.
  • Feb. 3rd: Annie Awards are held.
  • Feb. 11th: Writers Guild of America (WGA) awards are held.
  • Feb. 18th: BAFTA awards are held.
  • Feb. 20th: ACADEMY AWARDS final voting opens.
  • Feb. 27th: ACADEMY AWARDS final voting closes.
  • Mar. 4th: ACADEMY AWARDS (Oscars) are held.

#21) So, who are you predicting to win?

I don’t like calling winners this early, and for full detailed predictions for nominees in every category, check here:


But for the hell of it, I’ll throw some way-too-early stabs at winner.

  • Best Picture: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight)
  • Best Director: Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)
  • Best Actor: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
  • Best Actress: Kate Winslet (Wonder Wheel)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory (Call Me By Your Name)
  • Best Film Editing: Lee Smith (Dunkirk)
  • Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049)
  • Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water)
  • Best Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Best Sound Editing: Blade Runner 2049
  • Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
  • Best Costume Design: Currently untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film
  • Best Production Design: Blade Runner 2049
  • Best Hairstyling & Makeup: Darkest Hour
  • Best Animated Feature: Coco (Pixar)
  • Best Foreign Language Film: The Square (Sweden)

That’s all folks. I look forward to continuing to cover the race throughout the coming months.

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.

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