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La La Land
Photograph: Dale Robinette

Ten films we reckon could win big at the 2017 Oscars

These are the films we think stand a decent chance of winning at the 2017 Academy Awards

By Time Out London Film
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It’s still a few months until the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles on the night of Sunday February 26. But now that the Venice, Toronto and Telluride film festivals have been and gone, and a whole bunch of awards hopefuls have had their world premieres, the 2017 Oscar race is starting to look a little bit clearer. There’s still a long way to go and there are still potential game-changing films to come – including Martin Scorsese’s historical epic ‘Silence’ and Denzel Washington’s race drama ‘Fences’. But here are ten contenders we think could figure prominently when the Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday January 24 2017.

RECOMMENDED: Everything you need to know about the Oscars 2017

Movies heading for the Oscars 2017

1. La La Land

Film Comedy

Why is it a contender?

This Los Angeles-set musical sees Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone sing and dance their way through an up-and-down romance. It’s gone down a storm with audiences at the big late-summer film festivals.

What could it win?

Don’t rule it out for Best Picture. It’s romantic, it’s popular, it’s a love letter to Hollywood musicals and it’s set in Los Angeles. What else do Oscar voters need?

When can I see it?

It opens in UK cinemas on Friday January 13 2017. Before that, it screens at the London Film Festival in October. 

2. Silence

Film Drama

Why is it a contender?

Firstly, it’s a Martin Scorsese movie, and he’s been Oscar-nominated for nine of his films in the past. This one sounds like it has serious historical weight to it: it’s the story of two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) facing religious persecution in seventeenth-century Japan. Warning: no one has seen it yet, so this is guesswork.

What could it win?

Well-liked actors are playing meaty roles, so keep an eye on the cast especially. Scorsese himself will surely be heavily considered in the Best Director category.

When can I see it?

It doesn’t have a UK release date yet, but we expect a slot in January 2017.

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Jackie 2016
Jackie 2016

3. Jackie

Why is it a contender?

This leftfield portrait of Jackie Kennedy at the time of the assassination of her husband, JFK, has been winning rave reviews at the autumn festivals. Written and directed by the noted Chilean arthouse filmmaker Pablo Larraín (‘The Club’), it’s not in the style of a usual Hollywood biopic (it looks more interesting than that). But Natalie Portman’s performance in the lead role has been universally praised.

What could it win?

Portman has to be in with a strong chance of a nomination in the Best Actress category. She won in 2011 for ‘Black Swan’.

When can I see it?

It doesn’t have a UK release date yet. Expect it in cinemas in early 2017.

4. Manchester by the Sea

Film Drama

Why is it a contender?

This tragic drama about a man (Casey Affleck) whose life is coming apart at the seams is from celebrated playwright and filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan (‘You Can Count on Me’, ‘Margaret’) and was a huge hit at the Sundance Film Festival back in January.

What could it win?

All the talk has been about Casey ‘Ben’s younger brother’ Affleck’s performance, so expect him to figure in the acting categories. But we also think this will be strongly considered in the Best Picture category, as well as directing and writing,

When can I see it?

It opens in the UK on Friday January 13. Before then, it screens at the London Film Festival in October.

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The 13th London Film Festival screening
The 13th London Film Festival screening

5. 13TH

Why is it a contender?

This ‘secret’ documentary was shot under the radar by ‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay and examines racial inequality past and present in the US. It’s angry, powerful and timely, and Oscar voters will surely want to help spread its message far and wide by honouring it.

What could it win?

It’s an obvious contender for Best Documentary. 

When can I see it?

It debuts on Netflix on Friday October 7 after a Time Out gala presentation at the London Film Festival the night before, Thursday October 6.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Mary Cybulski

6. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Why is it a contender?

Ang Lee has won the Best Director Oscar twice, first for ‘Brokeback Mountain’ in 2006 and then for ‘Life of Pi’ in 2013. His latest is based on a Ben Fountain novel and contrasts a young soldier’s victory tour with flashbacks that show what really happened to him in Iraq. The subject sounds like it could be right up the Academy’s street, and Lee can be relied on for an inventive, unusual treatment. Warning: no one has seen the film yet.

What could it win?

Considering Lee’s pedigree, he has to be in with a shot at Best Director again, although keep an eye on this one in the screenplay and Best Picture categories.

When can I see it?

Its UK release date is Friday January 6 2017.

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Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington
Photo Works

7. Fences

Why is it a contender?

This is another film that’s yet to be seen, but the formula sounds like a winner. Denzel Washington directs August Wilson’s screenplay of his own 1950s-set play about an African-American man, Troy Maxson (Washington), struggling to make ends meet. Viola Davis plays Troy’s wife. Both Washington and Davis starred in a 2010 Broadway production of the play.

What could it win?

We’ll have to wait and see. Keep an eye on the screenplay category: Wilson died in 2005, but he’ll be the only credited screenwriter, even though fellow playwright Tony Kushner has since worked on the screen adaptation. Washington himself is a favourite with the Academy and the role sounds weighty.

When can I see it?

‘Fences’ doesn’t have a UK release date yet but expect it to be released in early 2017.

8. The Birth of a Nation

Film Drama

Why is it a contender?

Anyone following the story of this real-life nineteenth-century slave drama will know it’s had a rocky journey. It premiered to a rapturous reception at Sundance in January, but since this summer all mentions of it have been dominated by stories of writer-director-star Nate Parker’s involvement in a rape case while a student in the late 1990s. He was acquitted of raping a fellow student who later committed suicide.

What could it win?

See above for the huge unknown element when it comes to this film’s Oscar chances. But if Oscar voters do decide to honour the film and not the man, it could end up with a Best Picture nomination.

When can I see it?

It opens in the UK on Friday January 20.

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David Bornfriend

9. Moonlight

Why is it a contender?

This three-part drama looking at the childhood, adolescence and adulthood of a gay black man from a tough part of Miami has been getting rave reactions out of the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. It’s a slightly leftfield choice, but expect it to gain momentum – especially in a year when the Academy and Oscar voters are quite rightly looking to make amends for too often ignoring African-American stories and talent.

What could it win?

Newcomer Trevante Rhodes has been heavily praised for his performance, so remember that name when the acting categories are being considered. Otherwise this must have a strong outside chance of a Best Picture nomination – and even a win if the film assumes some momentum with audiences.

When can I see it?

The film plays at the London Film Festival in October but doesn’t have a release date yet. Expect it to open in the UK early in 2017.

10. Zootropolis

Film Animation

Why is it a contender?

This Disney animation about a city where animals have assumed all the human roles was both a critical hit and a monster success at the box office. Surely it has to be the favourite to win in the animated feature category at the Oscars?

What could it win?

It has an outside chance of a Best Picture nomination, but really we expect this to shine only in the animation section.

When can I see it?

Now. It’s been and gone in cinemas. You’ll find it on DVD and streaming.

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