La La Land should take home a lot of awards this year but the top prize could elude it if some of the tough competition comes in for a surprise. The movie with the best chance of an upset is Moonlight. My favorite film of the year is definitely Arrival but I'm not sure it has a chance to win even if votes are split. I was a huge fan of all the nominees including Lion, Hacksaw Ridge, Manchester by the Sea, Fences, and Hell or High Water.
Casey Affleck could take away this award for his powerful performance as a grieving father in Manchester by the Sea though he will face tough competition from Denzel Washington in Fences. Affleck has had some bad press and Washington is an acting legend but I'm not sure I can count out Affleck just yet. Andrew Garfield, Viggo Mortensen, and Ryan Gosling all gave great performances but I don't think any of them will win.
Probably the most interesting award category and the one that I am most ignorant about. I have not seen three of the five performances that are nominated: Natalie Portman in Jackie, Isabelle Huppert in Elle, and Ruth Negga in Loving. Huppert in Elle looks like the one with the greatest chance after her win of the Golden Globe.
Emma Stone in La La Land is Huppert's greatest challenger for the award. It felt like Meryl Streep's nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins was more about the prestige of the actress than the actual performance.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali looks like a strong frontrunner for his role as Juan in Moonlight. Lucas Hedges was powerful in Manchester as the grieving son of Kyle Chandler's character. Michael Shannon's costar won the Golden Globe but I haven't seen Nocturnal Animals yet to make a judgment. Dev Patel was mostly a main character but shared the screen with a young version of his character to put him in this section, deserving of the recognition. My favorite performance was probably Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water as the crotchety sheriff hunting the bank robbers.
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis has this award pretty much locked down for her role in Fences. Michelle Williams has this one immensely powerful scene in Manchester by the Sea that got her nominated. Hidden Figures has been left out of the awards but it was an amazing film and Octavia Spencer deserves the nomination along with all of her costars. Naomie Harris also had a small but powerful role as a mother coping with addiction. Nicole Kidman made this list as an adoptive mother of two Indian boys, an interesting performance but not likely to win.
I think this award goes to the trend of the awards show, which will be Damien Chazelle for La La Land. Barry Jenkins will also compete for his powerful work on Moonlight.
The surprise nomination with no chance of winning is Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge. I enjoyed the war drama and thought the battle scenes were very intense but Gibson is still atoning for prejudice rants he's made in the past. Kenneth Lonergan received a nod for his work on making Manchester by the Sea so heartbreaking and the beauty of Arrival gave Denis Villeneuve a nomination.
Best Original Screenplay
La La Land was written by Damien Chazelle as well who will take this one. Taylor Sheridan has been writing some incredible scripts including Hell or High Water. Mike Mills did not receive much recognition for his film 20th Century Women but it did get the screenplay nod.
Kenneth Lonergan could upset in this category for his dark story of a grieving father that so subtly played into the emotions. The Lobster was absurd and Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou deserve the credit for writing that outrageous story.
Best Adapted Screenplay
I hope Arrival wins in this category. I loved this movie so much and the screenplay by Eric Heisserer really helped what was so powerful about the twisty story. August Wilson brought his play from the stage to the screen to allow Denzel Washington to direct. Barry Jenkins adapted the play by Tarell Alvin McCraney for the powerful story of Moonlight. Luke Davies wrote the powerful true story of Lion into a compelling piece of cinema. Theodore Melfi and Alison Schroeder deserve a lot of credit for making Hidden Figure such a powerful film.
I look forward to watching the awards show to see the winners and their speeches. I hold out hope for a few surprises and know that my picks are usually off base enough that I'll get a few wrong. I look forward to another year of amazing films in 2017.