They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Final Oscar Nominations Predictions

By J Don Birnam

January 23, 2017

They'll be dancing on air tomorrow, we bet.

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There is a new President, but the machine of Hollywood awards waits for no man. On Tuesday, the Academy will reveal the nominees for the 89th Academy Awards. Change is indeed afoot: voters were given an extra week to see potential films, so hopefully their horizons were broadened; the increase in membership by roughly 500 or so new people, aimed at diversifying the ranks of the Academy, also makes things harder to predict; finally, the nominations will not be done live, but by a pre-recorded video. I don’t think that is a good idea, but that is the future, I suppose.

So here are our final predictions for nominations, alphabetically by category. I’ll be reacting to the nominations on Twitter and Instagram, as usual. Our final power rankings are here and also linked below where relevant.

As you know, the Academy Awards nominations always have surprises. While the results themselves have been more and more predictable, the nominations always throw surprises because we haven’t really seen these voters speak more than on a handful of occasions in limited categories. The acting and directing categories seem to have four of their five slots locked, but expect surprises here on Tuesday.


Here are my nominees in 21 categories (all but the shorts). It is clear that La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea will dominate the day, as they have since they were seen by the festival audiences in the fall. The open questions are whether La La Land can grab 15 nominations and break the record currently held by Titanic and Ben-Hur. It already broke Globes records. The other question is which director will take that fifth slot? There are many choices to pick from and that branch likes foreigners, so watch out. Something totally wacky can happen there and I’m going out on an insane limb and predicting I, Daniel Blake’s Ken Loach.

With no two tech heavy films like we had last year with Mad Max and The Revenant, it seems like the tech love is going to be spread out much more this year.

And there is the diversity question. Two years in a row, #OscarsSoWhite dominated the conversation and put a stain on the entire thing. This year, Moonlight is going to get several nominations, so it won’t be a lily white cast again. But the question will still be how much more do we see? Two other movies with African American stories - Fences and Hidden Figures - have shots. That’s not even discussing Loving. Will the Academy go there?

There are a lot of conversations one can have about how the election and events in 2016 may intersect and interact with what voters will or will not do. Will documentaries about the environment (The Ivory Game) and civil rights (The 13th, O.J.) dominate, or will they go for the more uplifting (Life, Animated)? The same can be asked about foreign films. Will they go for movies about current world anxieties and sexism (Toni Erdmann), or will it be their love for World War II/Nazi movies that dominates again (Land of Mine)? Overall (though of course there are exceptions), the Academy is usually very conservative and likes the kitten in the teacup more than the issues movies. The exceptions seem to arise when the political environment gets sufficiently bad for their tastes (i.e. the last Bush years), so maybe we are about to see a realignment.

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