Oscar Wild: Best Picture nominations and predictions

Concluding our Oscar Wild series, Hannah Lemass looks at the nominations for Best Picture and predicts who will win the coveted award on Sunday.


On 26 February 2017, the best and brightest of the film industry will gather to reflect upon and honour the greatest contributions to cinema made last year. Of the 24 categories, it is the award for BestPicture that defines the event.   

Choosing nominations is a voting process carried out among the 6000 plus members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences elite filmmakers including writers, producers and directors – many of whom you would recognise but we mere mortals will never know for sure who they all are.

The voting process for Best Picture is on a grander scale than other categories because the maximum number of nominees was raised from five to ten in 2009. It is also the only category where all members of the academy – regardless of their specialised branch – can vote. This makes Best Picture a bit of a crapshoot in terms of securing nominations and also allows for some surprises.

The nominees for Best Feature Film 2017:

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight



Amy Adams stars as a linguist tasked with decoding the language of alien visitors that have mysteriously arrived on Earth. The film is visually stunning. Innovative camera work and use of light offer something new and unexpected by extending the disorientating experience to the audience. The story is engaging, but the narrative changes direction suddenly towards the end resulting in a lacklustre conclusion.

Can it win

No. If Arrival were to win, it would be the first sci-fi film in the history of the Oscars to win Best Picture. Perhaps some members of the academy are itching for a sci-fi film to win but Arrival just isn’t good enough to break down the walls of genre bias at the academy awards.

Should it win

No. Arrival falls short of being the complete package, which a film needs to be to deserve this award.




Fences, adapted from August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, tells the story of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), who lives with his beloved wife Rose (Viola Davis) and their teenage son Cory (Jovan Adepo) in 1950s Pittsburgh. The novel use of camera positioning and movement give the illusion that the audience is in the room, observing the intimate moments of the characters’ lives.

Can it win

Probably not. The film is well made and features some very strong performances. However, the humdrum nature of the modest story line will be outshone by some of the more exhilarating nominees. 

Should it win

No. It’s just a bit too boring for Best Picture. But, the film should win big in the acting categories. 



Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge tells the incredible true-life story of World War II medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). The film is essentially 20 minutes of erratic gore sandwiched between a mediocre love story. The dialogue is laughingly contrived to the point that it is distracting. Garfield’s goofy Virginia accent and forced emotions left me scratching my head as to how he could possibly have been nominated for Best Actor. A few bad cuts and continuity errors only add to unfathomable fact that this film is nominated for an academy award.

Will it win:

No. For a film to win Best Picture it should at least be a good picture.

Should it win

No way. It shouldn’t even have been nominated.



Hell or High Water

In this new-age western Toby Howard (Chris Pine), and his brother Tanner (Ben Foster) commit a series of bank robberies to pay off their late mother’s mortgage. Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham play the Texas Rangers hot on their tails. The film, directed by David Mackenzie, makes great use of colour and the dusty landscape. Pine manages to shake off his Captain Kirk persona to deliver a meaningful and genuine performance as the brooding Toby while Foster offsets him with a jovial wit. The film tends to drag in parts but the dry humour and rousing bank heists compensate for that.

Will it win

No. It is rare for a western to win Best Picture and Hell or High Water doesn’t quite reach the heights of other neo-westerns such as No Country for Old Men which won the award back in 2008.

Should it win

No. The film is not adventurous enough in its execution and like Fences just will not stand up to the more avant-garde and provocative competition.



Hidden Figures

Another true life story, Hidden Figures is the story of female African-American mathematicians working on the US Space programme during the 1960s. Besides the cute sets and period costumes, this film doesn’t have much else to offer. Leading lady Taraji P Henson is out -acted by her co-stars, especially Octavia Spencer who is nominated for Best Supporting Actress. If the casting had been switched, it would have been a great improvement to the overall feel of the film.

Can it win

No. Hidden Figures does tick a lot of Oscar bait boxes. It is a period piece that shines a light on unsung heroes while tackling the still pervasive issue of prejudice in society. However, up against films such as Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea that carry a much more powerful emotional punch, Hidden Figures will likely be left in the dust.

Should it win

No. Although the film is enjoyable it is too neatly wrapped up. There is no major emotional impact or feeling to come away with.



La La Land

La La Land is a musical love story that follows two creative spirits that fall in love while trying to make it in LA.This film stands out because it looks nothing like you have seen before. The use of colour is absolutely enchanting. The camerawork is seamlessly well choreographed and Emma Stone is impeccable. Unfortunately, the musical numbers do not act as a vehicle to progress the plot and make the film feel disjointed at times. The writing is also a letdown. La La Land is nothing more than your typical boy meets girl narrative with a rushed conclusion.

Will it win

Yes, probably. La La Land has been cleaning up at the awards circuit thus far, including PGA, Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe wins. A win at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards also spells likely success for the film, as fifteen out of the last 20 DGA winners have gone on to win Best Picture.  Not to mention that La La Land has tied Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) for most oscar nominations at fourteen. However, La La Land missed out on a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble award. Since 1996, every winner of that award has won Best Picture. Of course, this is probably nothing to worry about as La La Land is essentially a two-sided cast between Gosling and Stone.

Should it win

No. Awards for direction, cinematography and Best Actress would all be well deserved but La La Land is by far the least interesting story of the bunch and therefore shouldn’t get the Best Picture prize.




Guaranteed to make you weep from start to finish, Lion is the excruciating true story of Saroo Brierley, an Indian boy adopted into an Australian family after getting lost at a train station. The first half of this film takes place in India and is truly breathtaking. Sunny Pawar as young Saroo and Abhishek Bharatend as his brother Guddu delivered heartbreaking genuine performances. The later scenes which take place in Australia with Dev Patel as Saroo lose momentum. The result makes the film feel somewhat unbalanced.

Will it win

No. Lion has been getting plenty of nominations for major awards this season, but can’t quite clinch those big wins. However, the subject matter and the fact that the film campaigns for Indian children in need could lead to quite a few sympathetic votes from the academy.

Should it win

Sadly no. If the middle of the film wasn’t such drag, then I would say yes. A film needs to make you feel something and I haven’t been able to shake this story since saw it.



Manchester By The Sea

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a man running away from the mistakes of his past. He is called back to his hometown following the death of his brother only to find that he has been left with custody of his 16-year-old nephew Patrick. Lee is an emotionless shell yet Affleck portrays him with penetrating depth that leaves no doubt to his inner turmoil. The entire cast performs at the highest level, with realistic, understated emotion that presents itself periodically in explosive punches that don’t wander into melodramatic territory.

Will it win

Potentially. La La Land is the one to beat and Manchester by the Sea is a possible contender. However, with the controversy surrounding Affleck and his alleged inappropriate behaviour, the academy may well steer clear of Affleck at this time.

Should it win

Yes. Whether or not is appropriate to honour a man facing some ugly accusations, this was the best all rounder of the nominated films. And of the nine, this would be my pick.




Told in three parts, this story follows the life of Chiron from childhood to adulthood as he struggles with both the trauma of having a drug addict mother and his own sexuality. The film is dark and gritty but the cinematography shows the beauty that surrounds Chiron’s ugly circumstances. The technique of skipping ahead to different stages in Chiron’s life is interesting but it means that we have to fill in the gaps ourselves. I feel this leaves us missing out on his development and results in a lack of connection to the character.

Will it win

Maybe. Besides Manchester by the Sea, this is the only film that has a chance to knock out La La Land. The message is politically and socially relevant and with the academy trying to distance itself from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of 2016 it is definitely within the realm of possibility that Moonlight could be a surprise winner.

Should it win

Yes. The beauty of this film both in its message and aesthetic make it very deserving of a Best Picture win.




The 89th academy Awards is sure to be the glamorous affair we have to come to expect. And regardless of who wins or loses it is certainly refreshing to see such a variety of genre and talent showcased in the Best Picture category.


  • The 89th Academy Awards will take place on 26 February and will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
  • The Awards start at 5:30 pm local time which will be 1:30 am here in Ireland
  • If you are a Sky customer you can watch the awards live on the Sky Cinema channel.
  • E! will also be showing plenty of red carpet coverage leading up to the show.




Featured Image by Disney | ABC Television Group via Flickr all creative commons

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