89th Academy Award Nomination Predictions

The 89th Academy Award nominations are almost upon us, with the actual nominations to be announced on the morning of January 24th. Between the end of 2016 and now, the Golden Globes have given their awards and the numerous movie guilds like the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild, and American Society of Cinematographers have announced nominees and some winners for their own awards, while the British Academy or BAFTA just announced their nominees. Guilds are good predictors for each of the categories at the Oscars because their members tend to overlap well with the various branches that actually vote on the Academy’s nominees. This year has offered up a number of excellent movies, some of which you can read my reviews for, and these will offer plenty of choices for the Academy to vote on. I have listed my predictions for the nominees below, along with some alternates or other nominees that might pop up. Each category will also have a short explanation of the choices made therein.


Best Documentary Feature

The documentary field this year is especially strong, and there is plenty of room for a diverse group of nominees to emerge. Ava DuVernay’s 13TH is an excellent examination of the prison industry and America’s history of race-based incrimination, meanwhile O. J.: Made in America has emerged as a strong contender, assuming that the Academy accepts a TV miniseries as an entry, but ESPN has put it in theaters in time and numerous film groups have already given it nominations. I Am Not Your Negro and Cameraperson have also established themselves as strong potential nominees as well, and that leaves movies like GleasonThe Eagle Huntress, and even Weiner in contention. Weiner may have suffered from the aftermath of the election as Academy members may have become sick of its subject, but Gleason and The Eagle Huntress remain strong. That being said here are the predicted nominees:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. 13TH
  2. O. J.: Made in America
  3. I Am Not Your Negro
  4. Cameraperson
  5. Gleason

Alternate: The Eagle Huntress


Best Visual Effects

The Visual Effects Society has released its nominees, and there are a lot of predictable nominees like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemDoctor StrangeRogue One: A Star Wars StoryThe Jungle BookDeepwater Horizon, and Sully. Even animated films like Kubo and the Two Strings are in contention, but the big surprise is that Arrival, the most mainstream Oscar picture that could appear here, didn’t. However, that probably doesn’t mean much and BAFTA already nominated it in what will probably be a similar day for the film with the Academy, with Arrival receiving around nine nominations at BAFTA. This category has a lot of possible nominees, and this is also the category where the Academy tends to find room for more popular movies to weasel their way in like Deadpool, which has had an excellent guild run with a Producers Guild and Writers Guild nominations. This is a pretty volatile category, but here are the predicted nominees:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Arrival
  2. Doctor Strange
  3. The Jungle Book
  4. Kubo and the Two Strings
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Alternate: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or Deadpool

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Best Film Editing

It can be difficult to separate Directing from Editing, and although the Academy knows the difference well, the two categories can often overlap and there’s plenty of room for them to do so. The American Cinema Editors have nominated ten films, dramatic and comedy or musical like the Golden Globes, and it’s fair to expect the nominees to come from these ten: ArrivalHacksaw RidgeHell or High WaterManchester by the SeaMoonlightDeadpoolHail, Caesar!The Jungle BookLa La Land, and The Lobster. Most of those nominated in the Comedy category seem unlikely to be nominated, but those in the Drama category seem to be very much deserving of nominations and the field, as I said could easily just reflect the Best Director field. Also Best Film Editing tends to be a predictor of a Best Picture nomination, so the leaders in that category usually get an extra bump. Here are the predicted nominees:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Arrival
  2. Hacksaw Ridge
  3. La La Land
  4. Manchester by the Sea
  5. Moonlight

Alternate: Hell or High Water


Best Hair and Makeup

The Academy released a seven-film shortlist of remaining potential nominees, and the list is: DeadpoolThe DressmakerHail, Caesar!Florence Foster JenkinsA Man Called OveStar Trek Beyond, and Suicide Squad. Theoretically any of those could be a nominee, well perhaps except for Suicide Squad and even Hail, Caesar! is going to be grasping at straws for a nomination. The Dressmaker is also unlikely to be nominated as it sharply divided critics and audiences, while Deadpool and Florence Foster Jenkins are both potentially contesting other categories. A Man Called Ove has also made the shortlist for Best Foreign Language film and this would be an easy place for the Academy to offer it a second nomination similar to last year with The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Thus these three seem likely to be the nominees, while Star Trek Beyond is always a possibility as its predecessor Star Trek made it into this category seven years ago. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Deadpool
  2. Florence Foster Jenkins
  3. A Man Called Ove

Alternate: Star Trek Beyond


Best Costume Design

The Costume Designers Guild announced its nominees on January 12th, and while there are some on the list that seem unlikely to transfer to an Oscar nomination, there are plenty still in the hunt for a nomination here. Contemporary films Captain FantasticLa La Land, and Nocturnal Animals are all possibilities. In terms of fantasy and sci-fi films Doctor Strange and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are both possibilities, and in period costumes Florence Foster JenkinsHail, Caesar!Hidden Figures, and Jackie are all potential nominees. It depends on how films like Jackie and Nocturnal Animals resonate with the Academy, as the former has lost some steam since its Autumn premier while the latter has gained momentum with plenty of Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. There’s a wide variety of possibilities here so we’ll just have to see where the Academy’s leaning. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  2. Florence Foster Jenkins
  3. Jackie
  4. La La Land
  5. Nocturnal Animals

Alternate: Hail, Caesar!


Best Cinematography

The American Society of Cinematographers nominations were announced on January 11th, and the five mentioned there all seem like likely nominees: ArrivalLa La LandLionMoonlight, and Silence. This offers a very diverse group of nominees including Bradford Young for Arrival, the first African-American nominee at the ASC. Greig Fraser has two potential nominees in both Lion and Rogue One, while this award tends to be a very good predictor for the Oscars so it’s best to stick with what they nominate. As for an alternate there are plenty of other potential nominees including Seamus McGarvey’s work in Nocturnal Animals, Simon Duggan’s work on Hacksaw Ridge, and Stephane Fontaine’s work on Jackie. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Arrival
  2. La La Land
  3. Lion
  4. Moonlight
  5. Silence

Alternate: Nocturnal Animals


Best Production Design

The Art Directors Guild nominated a field of sixteen films from a variety of genres and types, including contemporary, fantasy, and period. From the contemporary films La La Land and Nocturnal Animals seem like the strongest choices, from fantasy ArrivalFantastic Beasts, and Rogue One, and from period Hacksaw RidgeHidden Figures, and Jackie could all find their way in. There is still plenty of room for some other film to work its way in here, but for now I’d say it’s best to choose from what the precursor offers. Whittling it down, Nocturnal Animals and Rogue One seem like the weakest links in a strong category, while La La Land‘s lavish sets and Arrival‘s alien environments provide strong standouts for non-period films. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees

  1. Arrival
  2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  3. Hacksaw Ridge
  4. Jackie
  5. La La Land

Alternate: Hidden Figures


Best Sound Mixing

Sound categories can be a tough one to call, especially for someone like me that doesn’t really know how to pick from a category like this except for “Go with the musical.” Luckily there is the Cinema Audio Society and also a very strong musical that will likely take this category handily. La La Land got a CAS nod, as did Doctor StrangeHacksaw RidgeRogue One, and Sully. Although ArrivalPatriots Day, and The Jungle Book didn’t get nominations here, they are all possible nominees, especially Arrival which will be contending in a number of other technical categories. The sound categories is where I’d expect to find Patriots Day contending due to a late release and a lack of precursors. However, it could easily find its way into this category, as well as Sound Editing. The Jungle Book‘s early premiere may have hurt it but I expect that it could pop up here as well. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Arrival
  2. Hacksaw Ridge
  3. La La Land
  4. Patriots Day
  5. Rogue One

Alternate: Jungle Book


Best Sound Editing

The Cinema Audio Society also covers this category, but if there’s a rule for Best Sound Editing, it tends to be stick with the war film or something with lots of fighting. Take recent winners like Mad Max: Fury Road or American Sniper for instance. Arrival has excellent sound design, Hacksaw Ridge also fits squarely into the rule of thumb, as does Patriots Day and Rogue One. Looking for a final entry Sully seems like a solid possibility here if anywhere considering it’s unlikely to show up outside of this category. Silence is also a possibility, especially if it’s having a good day. Even La La Land is a threat here if the Academy is really ready to go gaga for that film after its Golden Globe sweep. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Arrival
  2. Hacksaw Ridge
  3. Patriots Day
  4. Rogue One
  5. Sully

Alternate: La La Land or Silence


Best Original Song

This is an especially strong year for both music categories, and not just because of La La Land. Plenty of other films have provided excellent song choices for the Academy including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work for Moana, Pharrell Williams’ work for Hidden Figures, and Justin Timberlake’s work for the animated film Trolls. A surprise in this category could come from Sausage Party as well for past winner Alan Menken, known for his kid-friendly numbers for Disney in the early 1990’s, who has produced songs like “The Great Beyond” for this hard-R animated comedy. La La Land could easily get more than one nomination here, as it has three songs that qualified for this category: “City of Stars,” “Audition,” and “Start a Fire,” all of which are strong possibilities, especially the first two. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. “Runnin'” from Hidden Figures
  2. “City of Stars” from La La Land
  3. “Audition” from La La Land
  4. “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana
  5. “The Great Beyond” from Sausage Party

Alternate: “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls


Best Original Score

There are a couple sources to look for potential score nominees, including the Golden Globes, who nominated La La LandMoonlightArrivalLion, and Hidden Figures while BAFTA nominated ArrivalJackieLa La LandLion, and Nocturnal Animals. However, the Academy’s music branch has disqualified Arrival and so that is no longer in contention here. However, La La Land and Lion having both prior nominations is a good sign, and Moonlight‘s score by Nicholas Britell, as well as Nocturnal Animals‘ by Abel Korzeniowski have them both in the running still. Hidden Figures is more likely to contend in Song, while Jackie is a strong possibility as well. Even Michael Giacchino’s work for Rogue One is a contender, especially considering his success getting nominations in this category in the past. The predicted nominees are:

  1. Jackie
  2. La La Land
  3. Lion
  4. Moonlight
  5. Rogue One

Alternate: Nocturnal Animals


Best Foreign Language Feature

The Academy released a nine-film shortlist for this category in December, and the following are still in contention: Toni Erdmann (Germany), The Salesman (Iran), My Life as a Zucchini (Switzerland), Land of Mine (Denmark), Tanna (Australia), The King’s Choice (Norway), A Man Called Ove (Sweden), It’s Only the End of the World (Canada), and Paradise (Russia). Of these Toni Erdmann and The Salesman seem like the strongest as they’ve both won major awards while The Salesman has the name recognition of director Asghar Farhadi. My Life as a Zucchini is also contending in the Best Animated Feature category, which helps it out here. Tanna and Land of Mine have also been getting plenty of traction, as has A Man Called Ove which may be getting into the Makeup and Hair category. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Land of Mine
  2. My Life as a Zucchini
  3. The Salesman
  4. Tanna
  5. Toni Erdmann

Alternate: A Man Called Ove


Best Animated Feature

This year has also given us some amazing animated films like Zootopia and Moana, which have both gained critical and audience acclaim. The Animated Feature category has been a place for the Academy to show the strength of foreign films like last year with Boy & the World and When Marnie Was There. That sets a good precedent for films like Miss Hokusai and The Red Turtle, both from Japan, as well as My Life as a Zucchini, which is from Switzerland. Any of those could end up here because of that, so none of them would surprise me. Also Kubo and the Two Strings is a likely nominee considering it mixes mainstream animation from Laika while exploring new possibilities in stop-motion animation. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Kubo and the Two Strings
  2. Moana
  3. Miss Hokusai
  4. My Life as a Zucchini
  5. Zootopia

Alternate: The Red Turtle


Best Adapted Screenplay

This category was somewhat thin and for want of a frontrunner until a few week ago when the Academy’s Writing Branch decided that Moonlight and Loving were adapted screenplays because the former was based on an unproduced play and the latter loosely based on an HBO documentary. Now both of them are contending here, including Writers Guild nominees ArrivalDeadpoolFencesHidden Figures, and Nocturnal Animals. Although Deadpool‘s nomination is a welcome breath of fresh air, I doubt that it stands a real chance of getting nominated. However, Arrival and Fences are strong contenders here, as are Hidden Figures and Lion, which wasn’t nominated by the WGA but was nominated by BAFTA and the Critics Choice Awards. These films provide an excellent list of potential nominees, with the WGA providing some much-needed direction aside from Moonlight‘s status as the frontrunner. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Arrival by Eris Heisserer
  2. Fences by August Wilson
  3. Hidden Figures by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
  4. Lion by Luke Davies
  5. Moonlight by Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney

Alternate: Nocturnal Animals by Tom Ford


Best Original Screenplay

Another strong category, the Golden Globe win for La La Land makes it a contender here, but I think that Manchester by the Sea is neck-and-neck with it. Both received Writers Guild nominations, as did Hell or High Water, another contender here, as well as potential nominees like The Lobster and Captain Fantastic. Neither received a BAFTA or Globe nomination, but with the category thinned by Loving and Moonlight‘s transfer to Adapted Screenplay, they seem like possibilities. Another possibility is Zootopia, which outdid Inside Out‘s box office performance last year, received similar critical praise, and received a nomination in this category last year. That makes Zootopia a strong possibility here as well. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Captain Fantastic by Matt Ross
  2. Hell or High Water by Taylor Sheridan
  3. La La Land by Damien Chazelle
  4. The Lobster by Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos
  5. Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan

Alternate: Zootopia by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston


Best Supporting Actress

Finally, the acting categories. Luckily the Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globes, and BAFTA are pretty much in agreement here as to the five nominees. Viola Davis does some of the best work of her career in Fences, and her win at the Golden Globes has established her as a strong frontrunner who I doubt is going to be threatened much. Meanwhile Michelle Williams and Naomie Harris for Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight, respectively, both give excellent performances in their own movies. Nicole Kidman in Lion is another likely nominee thanks to her making it into all four of the aforementioned awards, and thus is the probable fourth in the category. Finally that leaves Octavia Spencer, whose confidence and charm in Hidden Figures reflects the rest of the film quite well. Her costar Janelle Monáe is the only other potential nominee I could see making it here honestly, although Greta Gerwig‘s work in 20th Century Women could land her here in a surprise akin to Laura Dern for Wild two years ago. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Viola Davis for Fences
  2. Naomie Harris for Moonlight
  3. Nicole Kidman for Lion
  4. Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures
  5. Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea

Alternate: Janelle Monáe for Hidden Figures


Best Supporting Actor

Perhaps the most volatile category in the Acting Branch of the Academy, Best Supporting Actor was upended this past Sunday when the Golden Globes awarded Aaron Taylor-Johnson a surprise win instead of presumed frontrunner Mahershala Ali. Ali, as well as Jeff Bridges and Dev Patel, have all received SAG and Golden Globe nominations in this category, while Hugh Grant has also received a SAG and BAFTA nomination. Lucas Hedges, despite doing great work in Manchester by the Sea, is perhaps the most tenuous of the SAG nominees due to his youth, while Taylor-Johnson missing would be a surprise now because Golden Globe winner has gone on to be nominated here without fail for about forty years. However, even if his win at the Globes was a fluke, he did get a BAFTA nomination, but that can also be chocked up to him being British, which does help there. His win might get Academy members watching Nocturnal Animals, and they might end up preferring Michael Shannon‘s acclaimed work there instead of Taylor-Johnson’s. We’ll just have to see. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Mahershala Ali for Moonlight
  2. Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water
  3. Hugh Grant for Florence Foster Jenkins
  4. Dev Patel for Lion
  5. Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals

Alternate: Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals or Lucas Hedges for Manchester by the Sea


Best Actress

Like last year, Best Actress may be the strongest of the four Acting categories, largely thanks to what appears to be a three-way race between Emma StoneNatalie Portman, and Amy Adams, all at the top of their game in their respective films. They all seem like locks at the moment, and Isabelle Huppert‘s Golden Globe win for Elle makes her a likely fourth as the winner of that award has always been nominated for the Oscar. Meanwhile Meryl Streep has a SAG, Globe, and BAFTA nomination under her belt, along with a well-received Globe speech for her Cecil B. DeMille Award. This makes her the likely fifth, while Emily Blunt does have a SAG and BAFTA nomination and Annette Bening has the support of the film community, which could manifest itself as a surprise nomination. Even Ruth Negga could pop up if the Academy ends up embracing Loving. Expect potential surprises in the Acting categories as always. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Amy Adams for Arrival
  2. Isabelle Huppert for Elle
  3. Natalie Portman for Jackie
  4. Emma Stone for La La Land
  5. Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins

Alternate: Emily Blunt for The Girl on the Train or Annette Bening for 20th Century Women


Best Actor

As I stated in my Golden Globe predictions, this is mostly a two-horse race between Casey Affleck‘s subtle and internal performance in Manchester by the Sea and Denzel Washington‘s brash and wordy performance in Fences. That doesn’t mean that this won’t be a full category, though, obviously. SAG and BAFTA both gave nominations to Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge and Ryan Gosling, who is fresh off of a Golden Globe win. The fifth is still somewhat contentious as Viggo Mortensen‘s work in Captain Fantastic received a SAG and Globe nomination, while Jake Gyllenhaal snuck in at BAFTA and Joel Edgerton could very well come up if the Academy takes to Loving. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea
  2. Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge
  3. Ryan Gosling for La La Land
  4. Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic
  5. Denzel Washington for Fences

Alternate: Joel Edgerton for Loving


Best Director

The Directors Guild nominated their five just this week: Damien Chazelle, Barry Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan, Denis Villeneuve, and Garth Davis. The first four seem like very likely nominees thanks to Chazelle, Jenkins, and Lonergan also getting a Globe nomination, and Chazelle and Lonergan getting BAFTA. Villeneuve also got a BAFTA nomination, while Davis got a DGA nomination for both Feature Film and First-Time Director. That might help him relative to some other possibilities, but the Academy almost always nominates four of the five DGA nominees, and he’s the weakest link here. Mel Gibson and Martin Scorsese are both veterans of this category, but Gibson’s past may come back to haunt him here while Scorsese’s film Silence hasn’t been getting much traction thus far. My prediction is that David Mackenzie‘s work for Hell or High Water will land him a much-deserved nomination here. The usual fifth nominee has been people like Lenny Abrahamson for Room, Alexander Payne for Nebraska, and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, all out of left field with realistic dramas set in the American heartland, like Hell or High Water. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Damien Chazelle for La La Land
  2. Barry Jenkins for Moonlight
  3. Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea
  4. David Mackenzie for Hell or High Water
  5. Denis Villeneuve for Arrival

Alternate: Garth Davis for Lion


Best Picture

Finally, the biggest prize of them all, Best Picture. The changing number of nominees here means that usually eight or nine nominees end up nominated to avoid forcing the Academy to choose one or two potential nominees that would reduce the category’s overall quality but get them a straight ten. The best predictor for this category is the Producers Guild of America Award, which votes in a similar manner to this category, which is done to choose a film that best satisfies the majority of voters. Taking out Deadpool, a solid nomination thanks to Ryan Reynolds’ constant campaigning for the film, there are nine likely nominees here: ArrivalFencesHacksaw RidgeHell or High WaterHidden FiguresLa La LandLionManchester by the Sea, and Moonlight. If the category goes with nine nominees, which it hasn’t for the past couple of years, then these will likely be the category. However, I would say to watch out as Loving or Silence could pop up here if either of them are landing in other categories, especially Silence given the Academy’s tendency to come out to play for Scorsese in the past with films like The Wolf of Wall Street. Just saying. The predicted nominees are:

Predicted Nominees:

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

Alternate: Loving or Silence

As you can see I’m predicting strong days for La La LandArrival, and Moonlight, with plenty of room for other films to rise and fall on the early morning of January 24th. This is predicting that La La Land has a big day and continues its current momentum, while I could also see films like Silence and Jackie making the day theirs if the Academy ends up really enjoying them. Both of them could end up getting plenty of nominations across the board. In particular look for Silence to spoil in Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay and plenty of places in technical categories. The same could go for Jackie. Also, news just broke that the Academy will be doing the announcement digitally so rather than having journalists come to an event and see the nominees in person, they’ll see it online like many of us. I’m looking forward to it.


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