2017 Oscar Nominations

This year’s Academy Award nominations were announced today and, as fully expected, the Oscar voters are gaga for ‘La La Land’. The musical scored 14 nominations in all, tying the record with ‘All About Eve’ and ‘Titanic’. More surprising: ‘Suicide Squad’ landed more nominations than Pixar’s latest blockbuster.

The ‘Suicide Squad’ nomination was for Makeup and Hairstyling. Meanwhile, Pixar’s ‘Finding Dory’ was shut out from the Best Animated Feature category, where it was expected to be a finalist.

Mel Gibson is apparently now officially back in Hollywood’s good graces. Despite being met with mixed reviews during its release, his war drama ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ received six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed but little-seen passion project ‘Silence’ was recognized only for its cinematography. Tom Hanks’ performance in ‘Sully’ was overlooked in the Best Actor category, but I’m sure Hanks has more than enough trophies on his mantle to console himself with. Annette Bening and Amy Adams had also been talked-up recently as possible nominees for ’20th Century Women’ and ‘Arrival’ respectively, but neither materialized. Nonetheless, the voters couldn’t ignore Meryl Streep, who is now up to her 20th acting nomination.

Some quick thoughts follow:

Best Picture

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

Obviously, this looks to be the year of ‘La La Land’. The Oscar voters love nothing more than they love movies about the movie industry. Its victory is practically preordained at this point.

If anything were to upset it, however, I think the surprise box office power of ‘Hidden Figures’ may give the film a boost. It’s a feel-good movie with timely subject matter, and a win here would be viewed as an apology for last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy. I don’t think that will happen, but keep it in the back of your mind.

With nine Best Picture nominees, the only overt populist concession is Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi picture ‘Arrival’, which had good reviews and audience word-of-mouth but hadn’t really been in the conversation as a possible Best Picture. It has no chance of winning, of course.

For as acclaimed as they’ve been, movies like ‘Moonlight’, ‘Manchester by the Sea’ and ‘Lion’ did hardly any box office business and were seen by few viewers. Even more mainstream titles like ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ and ‘Hell or High Water’ underperformed expectations and were far from blockbusters. Theoretically, that should have no bearing on whether they deserve awards or not, but viewership for the Oscar ceremony has a strong correlation to the popularity of the movies nominated. People don’t bother to tune in to the awards if they haven’t seen any of the movies.

Best Director

  • Damien Chazelle, ‘La La Land’
  • Mel Gibson, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’
  • Barry Jenkins, ‘Moonlight’
  • Kenneth Lonergan, ‘Manchester by the Sea’
  • Denis Villeneuve, ‘Arrival’

The smart money here is on Damien Chazelle. However, recent years have seen the Oscars break from the old tradition of lashing the Best Director and Best Picture victors together. In fact, for the last four wins (Ang Lee, Alfonso Cuarón and twice for Alejandro Iñárritu), the Best Director trophy has been used as an acknowledgement of a film’s technical virtuosity more so than its dramatic work. To that end, ‘La La Land’ is still a good bet, but I think Mel Gibson and Denis Villeneuve may not be totally out of the running.

Best Actor

  • Casey Affleck, ‘Manchester by the Sea’
  • Andrew Garfield, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’
  • Ryan Gosling, ‘La La Land’
  • Viggo Mortensen, ‘Captain Fantastic’
  • Denzel Washington, ‘Fences’

Casey Affleck has all the momentum in this category right now and I don’t see that changing.

Best Actress

  • Isabelle Huppert, ‘Elle’
  • Ruth Negga, ‘Loving’
  • Natalie Portman, ‘Jackie’
  • Emma Stone, ‘La La Land’
  • Meryl Streep, ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’

I honestly have no idea where this will go. If the voters are in a sweep mentality, Emma Stone will get it. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if she lost to either a respected veteran like Isabelle Huppert or an up-and-comer like Ruth Negga.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Mahershala Ali, ‘Moonlight’
  • Jeff Bridges, ‘Hell or High Water’
  • Lucas Hedges, ‘Manchester by the Sea’
  • Dev Patel, ‘Lion’
  • Michael Shannon, ‘Nocturnal Animals’

Did anyone even like ‘Nocturnal Animals’? Every review I read of it was negative. I’m a little confounded by its Best Supporting Actor nominations at both the Golden Globes and here – for two different actors, no less.

My assumption is that Mahershala Ali will take this as the token award for ‘Moonlight’, which will probably not win any other major prizes.

Best Supporting Actress

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

I have no confidence in this category, other than that Nicole Kidman is least likely to win. Beyond that, it could go to any of them. My instinct is to say that this will be Viola Davis’ year.

Best Animated Feature

  • ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’
  • ‘Moana’
  • ‘My Life as a Zucchini’
  • ‘The Red Turtle’
  • ‘Zootopia’

As mentioned earlier, ‘Finding Dory’ didn’t make the cut. Yet two movies from Disney Animation did. I could have sworn there was a rule that each animation studio could only submit one film for consideration in this category (Disney and Pixar being treated as separate entities despite their corporate ties). If that was ever true before, it must not be anymore.

A few weeks ago, I thought ‘Moana’ was a lock for this. However, after its Golden Globes win, ‘Zootopia’ seems more likely now.

Best Foreign-Language Film

  • ‘Land of Mine’, Denmark
  • ‘A Man Called Ove’, Sweden
  • ‘The Salesman’, Iran
  • ‘Tanna’, Australia
  • ‘Toni Erdmann’, Germany

The only of these movies I’ve heard much about is ‘Toni Erdmann’, a nearly three-hour German comedy that was much-buzzed at film festivals last year. I don’t know enough about the others to make any predictions in this category.

Best Original Screenplay

  • ’20th Century Women’
  • ‘Hell or High Water’
  • ‘La La Land’
  • ‘The Lobster’
  • ‘Manchester by the Sea’

Again, if the voters are in a sweep mood, ‘La La Land’ will steamroll right through this category. On the other hand, the screenplay awards are frequently used as token prizes for movies that won’t win much otherwise. ‘Hell or High Water’ was often praised specifically for its script. ‘The Lobster’ was perhaps the weirdest and most inventive film of last year, which is a credit to its writing. ‘Manchester by the Sea’ can’t be counted out either. In other words, I have no idea.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • ‘Arrival’
  • ‘Fences’
  • ‘Hidden Figures’
  • ‘Lion’
  • ‘Moonlight’

This is another toss-up for me. If ‘Hidden Figures’ doesn’t have enough juice to get Best Picture, this is its next best bet.

Playwright August Wilson wrote the adaptation of his play ‘Fences’ himself before his death in 2005, with uncredited touch-up work by Pulitzer winner Tony Kushner. That could hold some sway with voters.

Best Visual Effects

  • ‘Deepwater Horizon’
  • ‘Doctor Strange’
  • ‘The Jungle Book’
  • ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’
  • ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

Normally, I’d be inclined to say that any ‘Star Wars’ movie is the front-runner in a Visual Effects category, but that didn’t work out for ‘The Force Awakens’. Right now, I’m thinking that the mind-bending magic sequences in ‘Doctor Strange’ will most impress voters.

Best Cinematography

  • ‘Arrival’
  • ‘La La Land’
  • ‘Lion’
  • ‘Moonlight’
  • ‘Silence’

This is the only nomination for ‘Silence’, and it certainly looks like a beautifully-lensed film. ‘La La Land’, though…

Best Original Score

  • ‘Jackie’
  • ‘La La Land’
  • ‘Lion’
  • ‘Moonlight’
  • ‘Passengers’

This one’s a lock for ‘La La Land’. The voters obviously adore the film and it’s a musical. They’re not even going to give anything else the slightest consideration.

I’m kind of shocked that Jóhann Jóhannsson’s experimental and very alien-sounding score for ‘Arrival’ didn’t get a nod, though. What I’ve heard of it was pretty cool.

Best Original Song

  • “Audition (The Fools who Dream)” from ‘La La Land’
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from ‘Trolls’
  • “City of Stars” from ‘La La Land’
  • “The Empty Chair” from ‘Jim: The James Foley Story’
  • “How Far I’ll Go” from ‘Moana’

I’ve been hearing “City of Stars” non-stop in all the recent Oscar coverage on TV, and I’ve got to say, I kind of hate it. That won’t stop it from winning, of course.

But wait… Broadway darling Lin-Manuel Miranda is nominated for a song too? This may not be a sure thing after all.

For the complete list of nominees, see the official Oscars web site. The ceremony will air February 26th on ABC, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.


  1. ‘Viewership for the Oscar ceremony has a strong correlation to the popularity of the movies nominated. People don’t bother to tune in to the awards if they haven’t seen any of the movies.’ Has this always been the case? I remember some years with big Oscars going to films that made little to no impact at the box office (‘The Hurt Locker’, ‘Fargo’, etc.)

    I think Justin Timberlake has a shot at the Best Original Song, to satisfy younger viewers.

    ‘A Man Called Ove’ is rumoured to be the Best Foreign Film.

    By all accounts, ‘The Red Turtle’ is a major cinematic achievement: a completely silent animated film. It should win based on gusto alone (this coming from a major Disney fan).

  2. Chris B

    Kind of a surprise to see “Passengers” get a nom for best score, it got mediocre to negative reviews and seems to have disappeared pretty quickly.

    • Clark

      Also, the score for Passengers is pretty similar to the score in Wall-E. Not surprised to have found out both are by Thomas Newman.

  3. EM

    I liked La La Land and enjoyed the music, but frankly the only song that stayed with me was the other nominee from that movie, “Audition” (even so, I have a tendency to get it mixed up with “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie). I’m not saying it will beat out “City of Stars” or the other competition (with which I am unfamiliar), but I would be pleased if it did.

  4. Dan S

    O-Well I have not seen any of these movies, don’t care about any of them , bad year for movies to draw me to the theater.

  5. I wish more people had seen Sing Street. It’s superior to La La Land in every way except budget and star power.

    Also too bad that 10 Cloverfield Lane was forgotten…guess that one came out far too early last year for anyone to remember it (which is bad news for Logan this year).

    Otherwise I’m pretty happy with this year’s nominees, although I’ll disagree with Josh about one thing – I think Moonlight has a legitimate shot at winning Best Picture (although my personal pick would be Hell or High Water).

    • Clark

      Sing Street should have been nominated for Best Original Song (Drive it Like You Stole it)! I actually think the Moana song will win, even though I didn’t like it (nor the song nor the movie).

      • Josh Zyber

        The problem with Sing Street (from an Oscar perspective) is that the songs are parodies of real pop hits – deliberately so, from the movie’s plot. “Drive It Like You Stole It” is specifically intended to sound like Hall & Oates’ “Maneater.”

        After snubbing Inside Llewyn Davis a few years ago, the music branch of the Academy explained that they consider parody songs to be “adaptations” and not original work. This flies in the face of the fact that parody songs had been nominated (and won!) in the past, but nonetheless it set a precedent that they’re apparently still adhering to now.

        • I’d say ‘Man or Muppet’ is also a parody or pastiche (and a very good one at that!), but that precedes ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, so, yeah, the precedent effect is in full effect.

    • Chris B

      I liked Sing Street alot, but with the exception of “Drive it Like You Stole it” and “Going Up”, some of the music isn’t that great “Riddle of the Model”, and the central love story not all that believable. It’s a fun movie and people should definitly seek it out, but La La Land is a better film IMHO.

  6. Bolo

    ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is one of those movies where it’s hard to say you “like” or “enjoy” it because it’s so ugly and bleak, much like something along the lines of ‘Irreversible’. I’m honestly surprised that there were no walk-outs during the opening credits alone. The film certainly stuck with me and I’ve given it a lot of thought, which is more than I can say about most movies I see. I’m glad Tom Ford returned to cinema. He’s a real talent.

    I could easily justify nominations for the entire cast seeing I thought they all did excellent work. I thought Shannon stole the show. So it’s nice to see him get recognized.

  7. Patrick O'Brien

    To answer your question from the supporting actor section, yes, Nocturnal Animals was in my top 5 of 2016. Loved it.

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