Not too many predict the Academy Awards 10 months in advance, but we here at Awards Frenzy not only do it, we do it confidently. Last year, we predicted two of the eventual Best Picture nominees, “The Revenant” and “Bridge of Spies.” This year, we aim to do much better. There is an exciting and diverse crop of films on the horizon. You have major studio films helmed by A-list directors like “Sully” (Clint Eastwood), “Silence” (Martin Scorsese), and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” (Ang Lee). But there are plenty of independent films with major buzz like Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation” and Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea,” both of which wowed audiences at Sundance.
The subject matter of this year’s films is more prestigious than ever. You have a bio-pic of LBJ directed by Rob Reiner, a story about an interracial couple sentenced to prison in the 1950s (“Loving”), and a drama about good samaritans rescuing people and animals from Nazi Germany in World War II (“The Zookeeper’s Wife”). You also have an adaptation of the famous Phillip Roth book “American Pastoral” and Oliver Stone’s take on Edward Snowden and the NSA spying controversy (“Snowden”). So who will end up with the gold statues and nominations when all is said and done? The answers are below.
Best Picture winner: Birth of a Nation
We predict a year similar to 2003 when “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” was the frontrunner that was never overtaken. Coming on the heels of a controversy where black films and actors were not nominated, “Birth of a Nation” will have all the political momentum it needs. That aside, it sounds like an incredibly powerful story, a 1850s slave revolt in Virginia which resulted in escalating regional violence and racial tensions. The back story about how Nate Parker fought hard to get the film made will give it added boost.
Best Director: Nate Parker, Birth of a Nation
Academy voters will not be able to deny Parker the double honor for his passion project. There are few years when Picture/Director are split and it usually only occurs when there is a visually spectacular film i.e. “Gravity,” “Life of Pi,” “The Revenant,” and there doesn’t appear to be that kind of film in contention this year.
Best Actor: Andrew Garfield, Silence
Word is that Garfield totally immersed himself into this role, losing Emma Stone in the process! An Oscar would seem only fitting. This by the way is Martin Scorsese’s long awaited epic about Jesuit priests facing persecution in 17th Century Japan. His main competition might be none other than Nate Parker, but giving the same person Best Actor, Director, and Picture may seem a bit too much. Neither Kevin Costner nor Clint Eastwood were able to achieve the feat. Michael Keaton may also have a shot as McDonald’s Ray Kroc in “The Founder,” but we have a feeling he will lose once again to a younger actor, a la Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”).
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, The Zookeeper’s Wife
Chastain’s such a great actress and there’s been a sense that the Academy wants to honor her, after she narrowly lost to Jennifer Lawrence for “Zero Dark Thirty” four years ago. The field however is full with top notch contenders including just as overdue Amy Adams (“Norturnal Animals”), Viola Davis (“Fences”), and Emily Blunt (“The Girl on the Train”). Definitely don’t overlook newcomer Ruth Negga who plays one-half of the interracial couple opposite Joel Edgerton, facing prison in 1950s Virginia.
Best Supporting Actor: Liam Neeson, Silence
Let’s make it a double knockout punch for Scorsese’s actors, much like what happened with Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto from “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” Neeson is such a well respected actor and he’s never won before. In recent years, it seems the Academy is really embracing the idea of giving actors and actresses Lifetime Achievement Oscars, so why not Neeson? Elsewhere, Steve Martin has a shot with “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” as well as Armie Hammer (“Birth of a Nation”).
Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
This indie darling about a man (Casey Affleck) who returns home to care for his nephew after the boy’s father dies appears to be among the year’s most intimate dramas. Williams, who has been sensational in “Brokeback Mountain” and “Blue Valentine” seems destined to join the company of other young actresses who have secured Oscars early in their careers. Jennifer Jason-Leigh, fresh off a nomination for “The Hateful Eight,” might find herself in the final five again for a role in Rob Reiner’s “LBJ.” Meanwhile, teenage sensations turned dramatic performers Kristin Stewart (“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”) and Shailene Woodley (“Snowden”) may find themselves in the mix as well.
2017 Best Picture nominees:
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Birth of a Nation
The Zookeeper’s Wife
Manchester by the Sea