First 2016 Predictions
Damien Chazelle "La La Land"
Ang Lee "Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk"
Nate Parker "The Birth of a Nation"
Martin Scorsese "Silence"
Morten Tyldum "Passengers"
Other Contenders - Denzel Washington "Fences", Clint Eastwood "Sully", Warren Beatty "Untitled Howard Hughes Project", Steven Spielberg "The BFG", Robert Zemeckis "Allied", John Lee Hancock "The Founder", Tate Taylor "The Girl on the Train", David Frankel "Collateral Beauty", Richard Linklater "Everybody Wants Some!!", Jeff Nichols "Midnight Special", Jeff Nichols "Loving", Byron Howard and Rich Moore "Zootopia", Andrew Stanton "Finding Dory", Niki Caro "The Zookeepers Wife", Jon Favreau "The Jungle Book", Derek Cianfrance "The Light Between Oceans", Stephen Frears "Florence Foster Jenkins", Gary Ross "Free State of Jones", Denis Villenueve "Story of Your Life", Joel and Ethan Coen "Hail, Caesar!", Gareth Edwards "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story", Peter Berg "Deepwater Horizon", David Wichod "War Machine", Oliver Stone "Snowden", Tom Ford "Nocturnal Animals", Kenneth Lonergan "Manchester By the Sea", Anthony and Joe Russo "Captain America: Civil War", Mira Nair "The Queen of Katwe", Rob Reiner "LBJ", Tim Miller "Deadpool", Antoine Fuqua "The Magnificent Seven", Terry George "The Promise", Ewan McGregor "American Pastoral", Kelly Reichardt "Certain Women", Amma Asante "A United Kingdom", Jodie Foster "Money Monster", Garth Davis "Lion", Mike Mills "20th Century Women", Stephen Gaghan "Gold", James Gray "The Lost City of Z", Asghar Farhadi "The Salesman", Yorgos Lanthimos "The Lobster", Robert Eggers "The Witch", Terrence Malick "Knight of Cups", Liza Johnson "Elvis & Nixon", Woody Allen "Cafe Society", Rebecca Miller "Maggie's Plan", Shane Black "The Nice Guys", Paul Feig "Ghostbusters", Paul Greengrass "Jason Bourne", David Ayer "Suicide Squad", Tim Burton "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"
Commentary - Can Ang Lee win a third Oscar? In case you were wondering, the answer is: hell yeah he can! The initial footage of Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk received raves at CinemaCon, the book source is fantastic, and the first trailer looks promising with a great cast and story. It remains one of my most anticipated of 2016. Also high on my list is La-La Land. Damien Chazelle was probably a close sixth place for Whiplash a few years ago, and this one will be more high-profile and is already on folks radar. We haven't had a musical get a Best Director nod in a long time, but if anybody can make it work it is probably the hugely talented Chazelle. Another young talent is Nate Parker whose The Birth of Nation rocked Sundance and is getting a great distribution deal with tons of Oscar buzz. After two years of #OscarsSoWhite, there is a chance that not only some black actors get nominated, but that Parker joins the elite list of black directors with Oscar nominations. From what I hear, it would be well-deserved. Morten Tyldum got a nod for The Imitation Game (a film that people still love and talk about, I'm still kind of surprised it couldn't overtake the cynical Birdman). This time he tackles a sci-fi story with two of the world's biggest stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. We know it will make a ton of money, but can he become this year's Mad Max, and ride a normally ignored genre to Oscar glory? I wouldn't bet against him. Finally, at least one old stalwart has to make the cut, and a few years after riding the late-breaking Wolf of Wall Street to another nomination, Scorsese looks to strike again with his historical epic Silence. Those are my current top five, but this race is going to be a fun one to watch. Denzel is bringing Fences to the screen, and some legends like Beatty, Spielberg, Zemeckis, Eastwood, all previous Best Director winners are in the mix. There are the likes of John Lee Hancock and Tate Taylor who have directed actors to Oscar wins, looking for their first directing nomination. What about some more unknown or at least previously ignored guys like David Frankel, Jeff Nichols, Denis Villenueve (although Sicario has put him on the map), Tom Ford, Kenneth Lonergan, Derek Cianfrance, Peter Berg, Mike Mills, Yorgos Lanthimos and David Wichod. Since Kathryn Bigelow won in 2009, there has yet to be a female nominee (they owe Ava DuVernay a nod). So what about Niki Caro, Mira Nair, Kelly Reichardt, Amma Asante, Rebecca Miller or Jodie Foster? What about some veterans like Rob Reiner, Gary Ross, Antoine Fuqua, Terry George, Stephen Frears, the Coen Bros, Oliver Stone, Asghar Farhadi, Richard Linklater, Woody Allen, Paul Greengrass, Terrence Malick, and Tim Burton. Then, and I know this is probably me just trying to fill space, but we cannot ignore the big guys. So watch out for Favreau, the Russo Bros, Gareth Edwards, Stanton, Howard and Moore, Miller, and Feig, who hope to ride box office glory to Oscar gold.