89th Academy Award Nominations – The “Ultimate” Guide

Note, due to the Australian release schedules of many of the movies nominated for an Academy Award, at this stage I cannot honestly claim to have seen all of the movies that have been nominated. As such, this is more of a style guide to help you sound smart at the water cooler today, rather than a true prediction. This page will be updated with more information as I see more movies.


It’s that time of year, ladies and gentlemen, as the awards season slowly comes to a head with the 89th Academy Awards, honoring the best films of 2016. Who got nominated? What category did they get nominated for? And has anyone actually seen any of the nominees for Best Live Action Short Film? Find out, as I take you through the nominees step by step.

Best Picture

It’s a very strong list of films this year in the Best Picture category, and a lot of highly rated films (though Deadpool missed out – sorry Ryan Reynolds). That said, at the end of the day this category is going to come down to a race between Hollywood darling La La Land and the supposedly powerful Moonlight (which I’m yet to see). One of the biggest surprises here is Hell or High Water, a pseudo-Western that came out midway through the year, starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges.

Best Director

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

The Best Director category at the Oscars is generally closely linked to the Best Picture winner, with the winning film regularly being the same. There are some exceptions – most notably when Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture winning Argo, but it’s regular enough to worth nothing. Thus, Jenkins and Chazelle are big chances here. Don’t count out Villeneuve either, however – he left enough of a stamp on Arrival that the Academy may well reward his vision.

Mel Gibson continues his redemption with a nomination for Hacksaw Ridge, but don’t go expecting the Hollywood veteran to go home with a trophy against this competition.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

La La Land is almost certain to take home a large pile of silverware from this year’s ceremony, but don’t bet on Best Actor being in here, with Ryan Gosling very unlikely to win in this race. All signs point to a two-horse race between the younger Affleck brother and Spider-Man himself, Garfield. Much debate has been raised over the last few months as to which Andrew Garfield film would earn him a nomination – but with Martin Scorsese’s Silence being almost completely ignored by the Academy, it seems that Hacksaw Ridge won the battle.

Fences is a film that is getting minimal Oscar buzz but it is seen as an acting masterclass so don’t rule out Denzel Washington either. Viggo Mortensen is a complete surprise nomination, but Captain Fantastic was a very fun, unique film and I’m glad he’s getting recognition for it.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

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

Now, this is the controversial category in this year’s award ceremony. For months I have been putting forward 3 names as powerhouse actresses who would race for this award – Portman for Jackie, Stone for La La Land and Amy Adams for Arrival. You may notice that Adams’ is not present in this list, while Streep (and I have seen Florence Foster Jenkins, but before I was doing reviews) was fine in her role but not incredible. I fear that the legendary actress may be nominated purely due to her name at this point.

That said, with the initial shock addresses, don’t count anyone out of this race. Huppert surprised many with a Golden Globe win, a huge achievement for an actor from a non-English language film. You can never rule out Streep, and Negga is supposedly a revelation in Jeff Nichols’ drama Loving. But Stone and Portman must still remain frontrunners in my eyes.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

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

The category that I am least qualified to discuss thus far, I must admit I’ve only seen one of these performances (Dev Patel in Lion) so far. That said, from what I hear Mahershala Ali is a front-runner, but there is groundswells of support for both Bridges and Patel. Keep an eye on this one.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

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

Another category filled with highly talented women who appeared in movies that I am yet to see. That said, I saw the trailer for Fences once and I’d be willing to bet that Viola Davis takes home the statue this time.

This category is also, in a nice turn of event, made up of a majority of non-Caucasians. #OscarsSoWhite No More. Well, for this category, at the very least.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Damien Chazelle – La La Land
  • Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Fillippou – The Lobster
  • Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
  • Mike Mills – 20th Century Women
  • Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water

While nods for unusual choices like 20th Century Women and The Lobster are welcome in this category, look for the race to wind up being between La La Land and Manchester by the Sea in this instance. The Academy wouldn’t want to stray too far from their conservative roots.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Luke Davis – Lion
  • Eric Heisserer – Arrival
  • Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
  • Allison Schroeder & Theodore Melfi – Hidden Figures
  • August Wilson – Fences

All of the nominees in this field are in with a strong shot, but the one to beat is probably going to be Barry Jenkins.

Best Animated Feature Film

In my mind, this category should be a two horse race between Kubo and Moana, two highly entertaining films that have a lot of similarities but are both brilliant in their execution. That said, recent awards pushes have shaped Zootopia, which I also saw and liked – just not as much as the aforementioned – as the favourite coming into this one. It’s been a strong year for the genre.

I have yet to see My Life as a Zucchini but with a title like that I really must rectify that. Also I must check to make sure there’s no similarities with the spec script I’ve written for a film about a Brussel sprout.

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Land of Mine
  • A Man Called Ove
  • The Salesman
  • Tanna
  • Toni Erdmann

This category has an Australian connection, with the film Tanna being an Australian film (despite focusing on Vanuatan characters). I haven’t seen Tanna. I have seen Land of Mine though – a Danish war film about the aftermath of World War II. It’s very good. You’d enjoy it. I have no idea if it will win, but you’ll enjoy it anyway.

Many have commented that the popular The Handmaiden appears to have been snubbed. Welcome to the world of Foreign Language Film nominations. They never really make sense.

Best Feature Documentary

  • Fire at Sea
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • 13th

Hey! Where’s that Beatles documentary at? I liked that Beatles documentary! Damn. Anyway, I’m not a big doco guy, but I’ve heard 13th – a look at the racial politics in the American criminal justice system is very good. Life, Animated and O.J.: Made in America were also popular.

Best Short Documentary

  • Extremist
  • 4.1 Miles
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

Don’t ask me, I haven’t heard of these ones either. I’m sure Joe has a lovely violin though.

Best Live Action Short Film

  • Ennemis Interieurs
  • La Femme et le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecodes

When they announced these nominations in the YouTube live stream, a loud cheer from the chatboard erupted when Silent Nights was announced. This must mean it’s popular – or that the filmmaker’s Mum was online. Either way, I’m sure these are all fabulous too.

Best Animated Short Film

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  • Pearl
  • Piper

Piper was the awesomely cute little short about the bird that aired before Pixar’s Finding DoryIt should win, but keep an eye on Borrowed Time – a passion project from a couple of Pixar employees that will make you cry.

Best Original Score

  • Nicholas Britell – Moonlight
  • Justin Hurwitz – La La Land
  • Mica Levi – Jackie
  • Thomas Newman – Passengers
  • Dustin O’Halloran & Hauschka – Lion

This one is Hurwitz and La La Land’s to lose. I’m still humming “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme”. Da da da daaaaa….

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 honestly cannot believe it. They nominated that horrible, god awful Justin Timberlake track from that waste of film Trolls, and yet they couldn’t find room for a single song from Sing StreetForget Donald Trump, this is the sort of garbage we should be protesting, dammit!

Anyway, “City of Stars” will win.

Best Sound Editing

Ah, we’ve gotten to the best awards here. Anyway, give this one to La La Land.

Best Sound Mixing

Come on! If it has “Sound” in the title, it’s going to La La Land. Hand over that trophy!

Best Production Design

Another category that La La Land has a very good shot of winning, but it should face stiff competition from the Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and the Coen Brothers comedy Hail, Caesar!

Best Cinematography

  • Grieg Fraser – Lion
  • James Laxton – Moonlight
  • Rodrigo Prieto – Silence
  • Linus Sandgren – La La Land
  • Bradford Young – Arrival

The cinematography award is probably the most hotly contested of the technical awards each year (long time Spielberg collaborator Roger Deakins is the new Leo in terms of people without an Oscar). This race is a two-horse one between Young and Sandgren for Arrival and La La Land.

This category marks the only nomination for Martin Scorcese’s long gestating passion project Silence.

Best Makeup and Hair

Ladies and gentlemen, if the whole Leo has an Oscar and Donald has a White House thing wasn’t enough of a clue, maybe the Academy Award nominated film Suicide Squad might alert you to the impending apocalypse.

The wretched thing will probably win this one, too.

Best Costume Design

With respect to the other competitors, this is another category that is La La Land’s to lose. The only real challenge to the powerhouse film in this category is Fantastic Beasts

Best Film Editing

Jesus! How many damn categories are there in this thing? Um, I don’t really know who’ll win this so let’s predict Hell or High Water for something fun.

Best Visual Effects

I have seen all of these films, and they are all wonderful with the effects. In any other year, Doctor Strange with it’s mystical world-bending effects would win this award, but this year the game was changed by The Jungle Book in a big way. Look for Disney to take home a trophy here.


Finally! That’s the lot of them! Well, thanks for having a squizz at my thoughts and go out there, watch those movies and have fun people! That’s the main point of this industry anyway.


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