Oscar Ballot and Rankings For The Six Main Categories

Oscar Ballot and Rankings For The Six Main Categories

By Robert Dougherty Jan 25, 2017 10:12 AM
Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment/A24/Amazon Studios

The record tying performance of La La Land in the Oscar nominations further suggests that no other movie has a chance on the big night. Nonetheless, not every one of the six major categories is expected to go its way, although it is likely favored in half of them. Still, there are cases to be made for other movies and actors not associated with La La Land to win some of the biggest awards, yet some cases are a bit too strong.

Now that the major categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress are completely set, and now that this writer has seen every nominated film and performance except for Lion, Dev Patal and Nicole Kidman, an Oscar ballot for the top races can be filled out and ranked.

While there's still a month until Oscar night on Feb. 26, these are the rankings for the big six fields that this reviewer would be able to send out now, if he was in the Academy.

Summit Entertainment

Best Picture

1. La La Land

1A. Fences

3. Arrival

4. Moonlight

5. Hidden Figures

6. Manchester by the Sea

7. Hell or High Water

8. Hacksaw Ridge

Unseen – Lion

The general consensus is that La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea are the big three towering above all other films in 2016. But in this perspective, however, it is really a big four, and one where La La Land, Moonlight, Fences and Arrival aren't really separated by much.

La La Land may be the big spectacle of the year, but Fences is the big dramatic fireworks display of the year, while Arrival has the twist of the year and is the closest thing to a thought provoking blockbuster this year. As for Moonlight, it doesn't have the splashy dialogue, visuals or gimmicks of those three films, yet still creates an intimate and lyrical world that perhaps hasn't been shown on screen with this kind of mainstream success before.

If it does lose here, Moonlight could well be one of those Oscar runners-up that looks better than the actual winner 5-10 years down the road. Nonetheless, from this p.o.v., Fences and Arrival can't be snubbed out of their place among the cream of the crop in 2016, and La La Land hasn't hit enough backlash or second thoughts quite yet to be knocked from No. 1, albeit with a more razor thin margin than others might measure.

These top four are far and away above every other contender, however. Even Manchester by the Sea doesn't really hold up compared to them, to the point where Hidden Figures may have a better case as the best of the rest. The more violent and visceral thrills of Hell or High Water and Hacksaw Ridge round out the order, at least among films that have been seen here.


Best Director

1. Barry Jenkins: Moonlight

1A. Damien Chazelle: La La Land

3. Denis Villeneuve: Arrival

4. Mel Gibson: Hacksaw Ridge

5. Kenneth Lonergan: Manchester by the Sea

Placing Moonlight fourth in Best Picture and still putting its director at No. 1 here sends two rather different messages. Regardless, Best Picture and Director have tended to split a bit more than usual in recent years, and this is probably a good year to keep it going.

Chazelle is a master at creating some of the flashiest and most memorable sequences of the entire year, literally from the beginning to the end. But while Chazelle has his massive musical splashes, Jenkins' more gentle, intimate and yet equally stylish brand of storytelling becomes something akin to classical music in its own right.

The overwhelming La La Land wave is in Chazelle's favor, yet it paints a misleading picture on how close this race really should be. Given how much La La Land stands to win elsewhere, it isn't a truly major loss for the movie if Jenkins gets something big for his singular accomplishment as well, aside from a possible Best Adapted Screenplay prize.

The gap between these two frontrunners and Villeneuve isn't that substantial, although the gap separating all three from Gibson and Lonergan is another matter. Letting Gibson back in the Academy's good graces may be dicey, but he can still be commended for making the violent, faith based film that The Passion of the Christ would have been without the bigotry and torture fetish. As for Lonergan, a Best Original Screenplay victory should serve as a consolation prize unless Chazelle is swept along there too.

Paramount Pictures

Best Actor

1. Denzel Washington: Fences

2. Ryan Gosling: La La Land

3. Casey Affleck: Manchester by the Sea

4. Andrew Garfield: Hacksaw Ridge

5. Viggo Mortensen: Captain Fantastic

Best Actor has been considered to be between Affleck, Washington and the field, but it really should be between Washington and the field.

Affleck has pulled ahead lately, yet from this perspective, his muted and misery-fueled tale of woe can't match Washington's more external and even more self-destructive take on a man utterly crippled by his past. In fact, it might be fair to wonder if an Affleck win over Washington will look that much better down the line than Al Pacino's now widely scorned 1993 Oscar win over Washington does 24 years later.

Gosling may be a better runner up choice in the field from this analysis, yet that still doesn’t bring him near Washington’s level. This has been a thin category from the beginning, although it says something that it still wound up excluding the only two lead performances which really came close to Washington's, at least from this vantage point.

But without Tom Hanks for Sully or Joel Edgerton for Loving, this category is really just Washington and everyone else, although that may not be a widespread opinion now.

Summit Entertainment

Best Actress

1. Emma Stone: La La Land

2. Isabelle Huppert: Elle

3. Ruth Negga: Loving

4. Natalie Portman: Jackie

5. Meryl Streep: Florence Foster Jenkins

The Best Actress category also wound up snubbing what was really the second best leading performance of the year, only in this case it left out Amy Adams for Arrival.

Without her and her overdue presence, it makes it a little bit easier for Emma Stone to remain comfortable at No. 1, as if she didn’t help her cause enough already. As it stands, the actual nominee that now has the best argument to match Stone's one-woman showcase is the much less musical and perhaps even more overdue Huppert.

Although Adams' snub was the most disappointing, Negga's inclusion was the most pleasant and deserving surprise by far. In truth, it is Streep who sadly wound up making Adams the odd one out, while Taraji P. Henson also had a better case that went unrecognized as well.


Best Supporting Actor

1. Mahershala Ali: Moonlight

2. Jeff Bridges: Hell or High Water

3. Lucas Hedges: Manchester by the Sea

4. Michael Shannon: Nocturnal Animals

Unseen – Dev Patel: Lion

Ali and Bridges came from vastly different worlds and movies, but were absolutely essential bedrocks for both Moonlight and Hell or High Water, in the true definition of supporting roles. Even so, Ali has the slight edge despite only being in the first act, although it uplifts and hangs over the rest of Moonlight like no other first act performance since R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket.

Behind them, Hedges' work with Affleck gave Manchester its biggest bursts of life, while Shannon was a far more deserving nominee for Nocturnal Animals than Golden Globe winning co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Still, getting in over Johnson and Hugh Grant was both Hedges and Shannon’s big victory.

Paramount Pictures

Best Supporting Actress

1. Viola Davis: Fences

2. Naomie Harris: Moonlight

3. Octavia Spencer: Hidden Figures

4. Michelle Williams: Manchester by the Sea

Unseen – Nicole Kidman: Lion

This is a supposedly lopsided category that absolutely deserves to be lopsided. It may be overwhelming to such an extent that the question of whether Davis could have beaten Stone and Huppert for Best Actress may linger in the years ahead.

Nevertheless, whether or not Davis would have been recognized as the lead performer of the year, she needs some kind of official recognition for what may be the performance of the year, and this will have to do. But if Davis didn’t remain here, the field certainly would have been much more up in the air.

In that scenario, Harris has the best case as Moonlight's most outwardly emotional centerpiece, although former Supporting Actress winner Spencer got back in the field with a far different approach. Four-time nominee Williams got in because of one of the most talked about scenes of the year, but from this take, it and Manchester as a whole fell somewhat short of such lofty word of mouth.

Those who actually get to have their vote count in the Academy may or may not weigh in differently, although the sum total of their votes will speak for themselves about four-and-a-half weeks from now.

Tags: La La Land (2016), Moonlight (2016), Denzel Washington, Emma Stone, Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis
About the Author
Robert Dougherty is a longtime online freelance writer, who wrote reviews, articles & editorials on movies/TV for several years on the now defunct Yahoo Voices.
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