Predicting the 89th Academy Award Nominees

In less than a week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with announce the nominees for the 2017 ceremony, which will honour the best in film (or at least, the best in film in their opinion) of 2016.

2016 was a strange year, but in a very good way – there were some truly remarkable performances, and while I do need to catch up with a few films, I do think the guilds and other awards shows have shown us that there is a clear pattern as to who and what we can expect to receive nominations next Tuesday.

Without any further ado, here are my personal predictions. Just note that these don’t necessarily reflect my personal opinions of what represents the best in cinema of the year, but rather what we can expect to see next week.

I’m only going to predict the main categories of acting, directing and Best Picture, rather than all the categories.

Best Picture

best picture.jpg

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

Should Be Nominated: Toni Erdmann, Everybody Wants Some!!, Kubo and the Two Strings

This is always a difficult category to predict, because there is clearly a consensus (Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, La La Land, Hell or High Water and Lion), and the remaining positions can go to films that would otherwise not make it in if there wasn’t an extended Best Picture field. I’m pretty confident that these nine films are solid, but we may see a surprise here or there (such as if the AMPAS will embrace Scorsese’s Silence). I wish great films like Toni Erdmann or Kubo and the Two Strings could make it in, but they’ll at least be contending for the wins in their respective categories of Best Foreign Language Film and Best Animated Film.

Please Don’t Nominate: Deadpool. Yes, it was an entertaining film, and it has been very successful – but come on. I love rebellion against what is normally expected, but if they want to nominate a blockbuster, there are better ones such as Doctor Strange. Or don’t nominate a blockbuster at all – this is supposed to represent what is good, rather than what is popular.

Best Director


  • Damien Chazelle for directing La La Land
  • Barry Jenkins for directing Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan for directing Manchester by the Sea
  • Martin Scorsese for directing Silence
  • Denis Villeneuve for directing Arrival

Should Be Nominated: Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann), Mia Hansen-Løve (Things to Come) and Paul Verhoeven (Elle)

This is such a tricky category, because it often has to do with the consensus five of Best Picture – but somehow, even though it is undeniable that Lion and Hell or High Water are very strong as Best Picture nominees, I really doubt that directors Garth Davis or David Mackenzie are particularly strong for nominations (even if Davis did receive a DGA nomination, which does help) – I would say that Davis is a possibility (both are, actually), but somehow I feel like the AMPAS won’t be able to avoid giving Martin Scorsese a nomination. Silence may be somewhat…well, silent, but if they do enjoy the film, then I can see them giving Scorsese the nomination. I am not even predicting Silence in Best Picture, but I can see them giving Scorsese the isolated director spot. Denis Villeneuve is overdue for a nomination, and with Arrival as one of his most acclaimed and popular films, I think it is finally happening.

In a year like this, it is actually disappointing that two of the year’s best films – Toni Erdmann and Things to Come, are not receiving above-the-line nominations, and they would be deserving nominees here. In addition, as they are directed by women, it would be a great touch of diversity in a field which has failed to nominate another woman since Kathryn Bigelow’s historic win in 2010.

Please Don’t Nominate: Mel Gibson. Putting all the controversy aside, I just don’t think he’s a very good director overall, and nearly every other name in contention is more worthy than Gibson, who would only be stealing a spot from someone deserving.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role


  • Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling as Sebastian Wilder in La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash in Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson in Fences

Should Be Nominated: Peter Simonischek (Toni Erdmann) and Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys)

This is a category I’m not too worried about – my two favourite male performances of the year – Affleck and Mortensen – are looking likely to be nominated. I am glad Ryan Gosling is getting his overdue second nomination, but I somehow wish it was for The Nice Guys, which is a hilarious performance from Gosling. Washington is a legend in a film that is build around a large and loud performance, so he’s safe. I would prefer Andrew Garfield happened for Silence, which seems to be a more interesting performance, but I am glad he’s finally in the conversation for his first nomination. Watch out for Jake Gyllenhaal and Joel Egerton – they can easily unseat Garfield or Mortensen.

Please Don’t Nominate: Ryan Reynolds. I am a lot more forgiving than most towards Reynolds’ constant failures, but even though he has managed to have a hit with Deadpool, I still don’t think he’s deserving of any awards consideration for the role. When Reynolds does something worthwhile, I won’t mind supporting him for a nomination.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role


  • Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks in Arrival
  • Isabelle Huppert as Michèle Leblanc in Elle
  • Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie
  • Emma Stone as Mia Dolan in La La Land
  • Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins in Florence Foster Jenkins

Should Be Nominated: Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann), Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash) and Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen)

This is such a great category, and it contains my favourite performance of the year – Isabelle Huppert, who gives a towering performance in Elle. Other that Huppert, who should be winning (and also in contention for her equally amazing performance in Things to Come), I adored Amy Adams’ layered performance as a linguist in Arrival. Meryl Streep is very good in Florence Foster Jenkins and if she receives the nomination, it would be one of her more entertaining nominations. Portman and Stone seem to be duking it out for the win here, and while I do hope Stone does win, I am still holding out hope that Huppert takes it.

Please Don’t Nominate: Emily Blunt. I think she’s a great actress, but if she is nominated for one of her worst performances, where she is just a drunken, campy mess, especially over a worthy contender like Isabelle Huppert, I will probably lose my mind and never watch another film again (and probably boycott the Academy Awards)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role


  • Mahershala Ali as Juan in Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton as Hell or High Water
  • Hugh Grant as St. Clair Bayfield in Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Dev Patel as Saroo Brierly in Lion
  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus in Nocturnal Animals

Should Be Nominated: Glen Powell (Everybody Wants Some!!), Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash), Tom Bennett (Love & Friendship) and Jack Reynor (Sing Street)

This is a strange category – and right now, I could see any of the predicted five winning. It all comes down to who wins SAG next week and BAFTA next month, and if somehow we get Bridges winning SAG and Patel winning BAFTA, we will have four different winners at the four different major televised awards. I still think Mahershala Ali will ultimately win, but everyone else will put up a fight. It is by far the most interesting category this year, and I can’t wait to see how it shapes up. Look out for Lucas Hedges, who I really do want to predict, but am terrified will result in him being the victim of the young actor bias mentality that often prevents younger actors from being nominated.

I do think Ralph Fiennes deserves to be nominated for his hilarious performance as Harry in A Bigger Splash, as should Glen Powell (a very talented young actor) for his scene-stealing performance in Richard Linklater’s slacker masterpiece. Jack Reynor brings surprisingly deep meaning to a very good film, and Tom Bennett is hilarious in one of the year’s best surprises. However, I doubt any of these have even a slight chance of being nominated.

Please Don’t Nominate: No one really. Unless they want to be strange and nominate Simon Helberg for his milquetoast awkwardness, there isn’t really any serious contender in this category that wouldn’t be deserving

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role


  • Viola Davis as Rose Maxson in Fences
  • Naomie Harris as Paula in Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman as Sue Brierly in Lion
  • Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan in Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams as Randi in Manchester by the Sea

Should Be Nominated: Julianne Moore (Maggie’s Plan) and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters)

The moment Viola Davis was announced as competing in Supporting Actress for her role in Fences, they might as well have just engraved her name onto the trophy immediately. The other four ladies here are just lucky that they are even being given the chance to “compete”, because we all know that Viola Davis is a powerhouse, and with a film like Fences, she is bound to win. Naomie Harris is wonderful in Moonlight, and Michelle Williams may not be great in Manchester by the Sea, but she is still very good. Octavia Spencer has been working very hard since her win in this category, and she is looking to get her second nomination. Nicole Kidman is a great actress, and it will be nice to have her back in contention for another nomination, and maybe down the road she’ll be able to win another one.

Please Don’t Nominate: I can’t really think of anyone right now, because this category seems somewhat locked in already, with very little chance of anyone getting in over this consensus five. This is a pretty boring category, so unless they are truly shocking, I wouldn’t expect any surprising nominations here.

The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards are being announced next Tuesday – here’s hoping some worthy films and nominees are recognized and that there is a surprise or two along the way.


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