Now that Golden Globe and SAG Nominations are behind us and most of the major races are starting to settle into position, the road to the Oscars is beginning to look a little clearer. Therefore, let's take a look at the current state of the major categories.
Best Supporting Actress
Likely Nominees: Not much has changed atop the Best Supporting Actress race. Fences co-star, Viola Davis, holds a firm advantage over the field despite a small faction of rebellious voters who believe the size of her role warrants a shift into the Best Actress category. Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) has been fairly successful among critics voting groups and stands as the most likely to upset Davis. Other safe bets for nominations at this point include Naomie Harris (Moonlight) and Nicole Kidman (Lion).
Additional Contenders: Hidden Figures co-star and Academy Award Winner, Octavia Spencer, rounded out the top 5 with both the Globes and SAG, nearly solidifying her hold over the fifth and final spot. Her staunchest competition comes from Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women), although her momentum continues to slip as we push closer to the Oscars.
Long Shots: Janelle Monae could conceivably sneak into the mix for her role in either Hidden Figures or Moonlight (with Hidden Figures appearing most likely) and I'm still holding out a small bit of hope for one of my personal favorites, Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky).
Best Supporting Actor
Likely Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) continues his dominance in the Supporting Actor race, making him the early frontrunner to win it all. Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water) and Dev Patel (Lion) have also cemented their place in the final mix with recognition from both the Globes and Sag, although neither seem to have the clout to take down Ali.
Additional Contenders: Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins) has shot up the ranks, despite landing in the "lead" category at the Globes. Many have him penciled into the top 5 at this stage of the game, but I still feel like he's vulnerable in what's notoriously the most unpredictable category. Lucas Hedges continues to improve his standing as the youngster's film, Manchester by the Sea, begins making a surge in the Oscar ranks.
Long Shots: Never say "never", because any of Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Issey Ogata (Silence) or Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) could still shake up this race completely.
Likely Nominees: There's a trio of ladies safely nestled at the top of this race, and it isn't the same three we've seen all awards season. Natalie Portman (Jackie) and Emma Stone (La La Land) haven't faded at all, but Amy Adams (Arrival) has seen a mountain of steam propel her into a viable third candidate. This is one of the more wide open competitions at the Academy Awards and it should certainly be fun to keep an eye on.
Additional Contenders: The always-nominated Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) continues to feel like a safe bet while Annette Bening (20th Century Women) had a lot of strength early, but she's fading quickly. It wouldn't be a shock to see either or both of these ladies left off the final five.
Long Shots: Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train) threw a wrench into the race after missing out on a Globe but then stealing a SAG Nomination. Anyone who captures a SAG must be taken seriously, but Globe Nominees Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane) and Ruth Negga (Loving) are all still holding on to what little hope they have left.
Likely Nominees: As Manchester by the Sea continues to make its push for Best Picture, the film's leading star, Casey Affleck, further distances himself from the field in the Best Actor race. Denzel Washington (Fences) still holds a strong enough base of supporters to steal an Oscar win, while Ryan Gosling (La La Land) is more likely just a filler in this two-headed battle.
Additional Contenders: Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) and Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) both straddle the line of "likely nominees" after earned Globe and SAG Nominations, but Joel Edgerton (Loving) still has the potential to play the spoiler role in this competition,
Long Shots: Tom Hanks (Sully) continues to fade from the discussion and a late push from Michael Keaton (The Founder) or festival darling Adam Driver (Paterson) seem unlikely, but not completely inconceivable.
Likely Nominees: The recent storyline, and I've addressed it frequently in this article, is that Manchester by the Sea is making a strong push across the board. And while I wasn't overly fond of his direction, this means Kenneth Lonergan could theoretically reap the benefits from an awards night dominance. At the moment, though, I still think it's a safer assumption to expect a win for Moonlight helmer Barry Jenkins (who would be the first African American winner) or La La Land's Damien Chazelle (who would be the youngest winner). Either way, we know the Oscars love a great story.
Additional Contenders: After the "big three" the race becomes far more cloudy. Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) has performed will in the early going and Martin Scorsese (Silence) is, well ... Martin Scorsese. However, momentum continues to build for Arrival so Denis Villeneuve definitely has the potential to land in the mix as well.
Long Shots: DGA Nominations will clear up this murky picture, but Denzel Washington (Fences) still possesses a loyal following despite his film's shaky early showing. Finally, I need to show love for one of my personal favorites and overlooked filmmaker, David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water).
Likely Nominees: It feels like there's been a revolving door atop the Best Picture race with a strong three-headed monster that sits above the rest. By some accounts, Manchester by the Sea is the trendy new leader in the clubhouse. I still believe La La Land and Moonlight hold as good a shot as any to capture the Academy's biggest award. In the next tier of likely finalists we find Arrival, Fences and Scorsese's Silence. I'd be surprised if any of these six failed to make the final cut.
Additional Contenders: Hacksaw Ridge has had a strong showing thus far and Lion hasn't done anything to weaken its chances of landing a nomination as well. And if the Academy goes with nine nominees, you should expect Hell or High Water to make the cut.
Long Shots: Hidden Figures has made a valiant late push and early rumblings have been overly enthusiastic, while Loving and Jackie are also fringe players hoping to make in into the big dance.