Until the envelopes are opened and the newest class of Oscar winners is officially named on Feb. 26, 2017, everything is just a guess. But with three months to go until the Academy Awards, most of the qualifying films are in theaters or screening for critics and the night's so-called big six are beginning to look a little clearer. As the countdown to the big night begins, here's where our predictions stand:
3. Hidden Figures
5. La La Land
8. Manchester by the Sea
Alternates: As the Academy may nominate up to 10 films, but is not required to actually nominate 10, some of the above could be considered alternates. Nonetheless, both Hacksaw Ridge and Hell or High Water are also certainly worthy of accolades, while Live by Night and Sully have a whiff of prestige the Academy tends to sniff out. And while Florence Foster Jenkins is all but guaranteed a Golden Globe nomination, its future beyond that is less certain.
Frontrunner: Awards season has only just begun, so at this point, anyone could still run away with the top honor. That said, my early money is on La La Land, which has so much heart that it's simply undeniable. The movie also feels like a throwback to old Hollywood in the same vein as 2012's Best Picture winner, The Artist, and nobody loves a film about showbiz more than showbiz people.
1. Amy Adams (Arrival)
2. Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
3. Emma Stone (La La Land)
4. Natalie Portman (Jackie)
5. Ruth Negga (Loving)
Alternates: Never count out Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) when it comes to the Oscars. (If you want to do some counting, try her three Academy Award wins and 16 other nominations.) Ditto Jennifer Lawrence (Passengers) to a lesser extent. Then there's Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane) and Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures), who both deliver powerhouse performances in their respective films. And French actress Isabelle Huppert may seem like something of an outlier here, but she has already begun collecting awards for her turn in Elle.
Frontrunner: The race for a nomination is tight, but it will ultimately come down to Portman versus Stone, and I'm betting on Emma Stone. Portman may have an early lead now, but La La Land is essentially a two-hour showcase for everything Stone excels at. Plus, I'm struggling to think of an actress who could mount a more charming campaign.
1. Andrew Garfield (Silence)
2. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
3. Denzel Washington (Fences)
4. Joel Edgerton (Loving)
5. Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Alternates: If he doesn't get his nomination for Silence, Andrew Garfield could still land in this category for Hacksaw Ridge. Tom Hanks (Sully) gets some legacy love in consideration, while the Academy has seemingly never seen a performance from Ben Affleck (Live by Night) or Matthew McConaughey (Gold) they didn't looove. The black horse contender is Chris Pine for Hell or High Water, which is shaping up to be something of an underdog come this awards season.
Frontrunner: If the votes were tallied today, you'd expect the Oscar would be given to Affleck for Manchester by the Sea -- and that still might be the case come February. But take campaign season into question and I'm wagering Denzel Washington will come out on top in the end for Fences.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
2. Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
3. Nicole Kidman (Lion)
4. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
5. Viola Davis (Fences)
Alternates: It's been quite a year for Greta Gerwig, who costarred in both Jackie and 20th Century Women, though her shot at a nomination is the latter. Janelle Monáe is just as strong as Spencer in Hidden Figures, but simply gets less time to shine, while Felicity Jones and Lupita Nyong'o were equally wonderful in A Monster Calls and Queen of Katwe, respectively. And my personal bid goes to Molly Shannon, who delivers the best performance of her career in the indie, Other People.
Frontrunner: For everyone who isn't Viola Davis, it'll be an honor just to be nominated. Davis won Best Actress Tony for the Broadway run of Fences, and she would certainly pose a challenge if she'd decided to submit herself as such for the movie. With the two-time Academy Award nominee going supporting, she's taken herself from frontrunner to surefire winner.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Dev Patel (Lion)
2. Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins)
3. Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
4. Kevin Costner (Hidden Figures)
5. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Alternates: Silence would be a force to be reckoned with in the Best Supporting Actor category, if Adam Driver and Liam Neeson both scored nominations. Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) and Aaron Eckhart (Sully) are more loosely still in the mix, while Peter Sarsgaard delivers a solid performance in Jackie, though it's hard not to be overshadowed by Portman.
Frontrunner: Despite less screen time than most of his competitors, Mahershala Ali will be tough to beat here. Hopefully Ali will be but one of many wins for Moonlight, my No. 2 bet for Best Picture, but he's guarantee that the movie will take at least one award home come Oscar night.
1. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
2. Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
3. Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
4. Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
5. Martin Scorsese (Silence)
Alternates: Jeff Nichols (Loving) quietly delivered a powerful film with two of the most moving performances of the year. On the other hand, there is a lot more razzle dazzle with Ben Affleck's Live by Night and Clint Eastwood's Sully, both Academy favorites, and Mel Gibson might prove a controversial pick for Hacksaw Ridge. Denzel Washington, a sure-thing in Best Actor, could also earn his first-ever Best Director nomination for Fences.
Frontrunner: Sorry, Scorsese, but this is shaping up to be the year of La La Land and safe money says Damien Chazelle -- who missed out on a nomination for Whiplash in '15 -- will get his due and then some. That said, historically, it's not uncommon for Best Picture and Best Director to be split, so don't count out Moonlight's Barry Jenkins just yet. Only time will tell...