When the 2017 Academy Awards are held on February 23, it’s very likely the list of major winners could be an all-Australian affair.
That’s if the Golden Globe nominations are anything to go by – with Australian films Lion and Hacksaw Ridge dominating across several categories.
The Academy Awards – or the Oscars as they’re known thanks to their gold statue of a naked man – are the culmination of the Hollywood awards season, which kicked off at the weekend with the Critics’ Choice Awards.
The most prestigious of the awards, the Oscars are chosen by a vote among more than 5000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
For the first time, Australia has actors or films in nearly every major category.
Mel Gibson and Garth Davis are both options for Best Director, Nicole Kidman for Best Supporting Actress and Joel Edgerton for Best Actor, while Lion or Hacksaw Ridge could take out Best Film.
Happily, the 2017 pool of potential nominees also features one thing the 2016 ceremony was noticeably lacking in: diversity.
With actors like Dev Patel, who is of Indian descent, and Ruth Negga, who is Irish-Ethiopian, plus African-American stars like Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Mahershala Ali and the cast of Hidden Figures, the list of acclaimed performances is a much-needed antidote to 2016’s #OscarsSoWhite backlash.
Keeping in mind most of these films won’t reach Australian audiences until Boxing Day, here are The New Daily’s picks for the biggest awards season contenders.
Who will be nominated:
• Emma Stone for La La Land
• Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins
• Ruth Negga for Loving
• Natalie Portman for Jackie
• Isabelle Huppert for Elle
Dark horse nominees: Hailee Steinfeld for The Edge of Seventeen, Jessica Chastain for Miss Sloane and Amy Adams for Arrival or Nocturnal Animals.
Who will win: Emma Stone or Natalie Portman. Portman’s portrayal of former US First Lady Jackie Onassis is remarkably accurate, down to her famous breathy voice.
However, she’s already won an Oscar for Black Swan and this year has been all about Stone – who is far and above the people’s choice. Popularity counts.
Who should win: Ruth Negga or Emma Stone. Negga’s performance is reportedly stunning, while Stone manages to combine singing, dancing, physical comedy and emotional gravitas – no easy feat.
• Joel Edgerton for Loving
• Denzel Washington for Fences
• Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge
• Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea
• Ryan Gosling for La La Land
Dark horse nominees: Michael Keaton for The Founder or Tom Hanks for Sully.
Who will win: Joel Edgerton. Loving is already a critical success and Edgerton has been quietly building an impressive resume as a serious actor that should win over the Academy.
Who should win: Joel Edgerton or Casey Affleck, whose performance as a janitor whose family is rocked by tragedy was deemed “one of the most fiercely disciplined screen performances in recent memory” by The New York Times.
• Hacksaw Ridge
• La La Land
• Manchester by the Sea
• Hell or High Water
Dark horse nominee: Silence, 20th Century Women, Hidden Figures, Florence Foster Jenkins or Sing Street.
Who will win: Manchester by the Sea – with 97 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, this is classic Oscar bait. Perhaps deservedly so.
Who should win: Hacksaw Ridge or La La Land. We’d love an Aussie film to claim Best Picture, but a musical as a winner would be equally as exciting.
• Damien Chazelle for La La Land
• Denzel Washington for Fences
• Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge
• Barry Jenkins for Moonlight
• Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea
Dark horse nominee: Garth Davis for Lion (the Australian director’s feature film debut), Denis Villeneuve for Arrival, Jeff Nichols for Loving and Martin Scorsese for Silence.
Who will win: Damien Chazelle. The brilliant writer/director deserves to be recognised for creating La La Land, an entirely unique film that melds emotional gravitas with complex dance sequences.
Who should win: Mel Gibson – for obvious reasons. We love a comeback story.
Best Supporting Actor
• Dev Patel for Lion
• Mahershala Ali for Moonlight
• Ben Foster for Hell or High Water
• Lucas Hedges for Manchester by the Sea
• Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals
Dark horse nominees: Liam Neeson for Silence, Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water and Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals.
Who will win: Mahershala Ali or Dev Patel. Ali has mainly appeared on television screens, in series like House of Cards and Luke Cage, but he’s a relatively fresh face in the film industry and an underdog whose performance has won hearts around the world.
Patel, meanwhile, is perhaps better known for his comic work in films like Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but he’s been hanging out for an Oscar ever since his star turn in 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire.
Who should win: Mahershala Ali or Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who is positively chilling as a remorseless killer in Nocturnal Animals.
Best Supporting Actress
• Nicole Kidman for Lion
• Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea
• Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures
• Viola Davis for Fences
• Naomie Harris for Moonlight
Dark horse nominees: Janelle Monae for Hidden Figures or Greta Gerwig for 20th Century Women.
Who will win: Viola Davis.
Who should win: Viola Davis. Without having seen Fences (it’s out in Australia in February), Davis’s performance has generated a deafening buzz based on international media reaction. She’s been nominated for an Oscar twice already and, according to industry bible Variety, a 2017 win is “in the bag” for the 51-year-old.