It almost seems ridiculous to discuss the Academy Awards two months before nominations are announced, but awards season has begun in earnest with top contenders already picking up betting odds for the biggest movie awards ceremony.
Many of the predictions lists being generated are coming from the recent slew of critics associations naming this year’s best films.
And judging by the nominees for some awards and the winners of four associations in the last two weeks, the Academy Awards may boil down to two movies—“Moonlight” and “La La Land.”
“Moonlight,” a story following a young man over three chapters of his life, was the big winner at the Gotham Independent Film Awards last Monday. The film won Best Feature, Best Audience Award, Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance and Best Screenplay. The movie also took the Best Picture award from the Los Angeles Critics Associations Awards announced Sunday, and actor Mahershala Ali (“House of Cards”) has swept almost all of the awards so far for Best Supporting Actor, with co-star Naomie Harris also scoring nominations and taking the Best Supporting Actress award from the National Board of Review last week.
And while “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins has taken most of the direction awards, “La La Land” still has a strong showing so far this season. The musical featuring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling took Best Film from the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Monday and Best Picture from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards last week.
Another contender is “Manchester by the Sea,” which has garnered more awards for its acting—Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams—but has also taken some top awards, including Best Film from the National Board of Review.
The three potentially top films of the year means the category of Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars will be the hardest one to predict. In addition to the three films, Jeff Nichols (“Loving”), Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”) and Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou (“The Lobster”) also wrote original screenplays.
The adapted screenplay category will likely include writers for the films “Lion,” “Silence,” “Nocturnal Animals,” “Arrival,” “Hidden Figures” and “Fences.”
Here is a look at the other top contenders pulling ahead in other major categories:
Affleck has won most of the awards for Best Actor, though Adam Driver received the top acting award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for his work in “Paterson.”
Likewise in the supporting category, Ali has been the big winner, though the National Board of Review gave its supporting actor award to Jeff Bridges for “Hell or High Water.” The Los Angeles Film Critics Association honored Ali, but also gave a runner-up award to Issey Ogata for “Silence,” surprisingly one of the few awards so far for Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited project.
The lead and supporting actress categories may be one of the toughest to predict for any awards this year due to the possibility of two actresses having two nominations.
Isabelle Huppert is wowing critics with her work in “The Things to Come” and the controversial “Elle.” Two of the awards that she’s won combined both of her performances instead of splitting her nomination in two movies, and she was arguably sneaked into the Gotham awards for its American actress award despite the film being French (there was a loophole regarding more than one American working on the film).
If her nomination is split, she would face tough competition from Amy Adams who won the National Board of Review award for “Arrival,” Natalie Portman who won the DC critics award for “Jackie,” and Rebecca Hall who won the Los Angeles runner-up award for “Christine.”
In the supporting category, Michelle Williams could also see split nominations for her work in “Manchester by the Sea” and “20th Century Women.” She, like Huppert, has been honored with an award for both films instead of one. Other actresses with a strong showing so far are Naomie Harris for “Moonlight” and Viola Davis for “Fences.”
Only Jenkins for “Moonlight” and Damien Chazelle for “La La Land” have scored wins at the various film awards so far. There will still be some big names that will be in contention for a directing award, including Scorsese for “Silence,” Mel Gibson for “Hacksaw Ridge” and Denzel Washington for “Fences.” Other contenders include Denis Villeneuve for “Arrival,” David Mackenzie for “Hell or High Water,” Kenneth Lonergan for “Manchester by the Sea” and Tom Ford for “Nocturnal Animals.”
Though many of the critics are getting their awards out of the way now, there is still a wait until the major awards ceremonies. The Golden Globe nominations will be announced next week, with an awards ceremony on Jan. 8. The Screen Actors Guild nominations will be announced later next week, as well, with a ceremony on Jan. 29. The Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 24, with a ceremony on Feb. 26.