It’s that time of year again. For us here at NUI Galway, it means the warm and fuzzy Christmas holiday vibes have well and truly dissolved by now. Semester 2 is in full swing, bringing with it a whole host of new lectures, assignments, deadlines and the occasional breakdown over trying to find the time to fit it all in while holding down a part time job and keeping up with those tricky new years’ resolutions. Even with the dawn of a new year, some things inevitably stay the same.

This is true also for Hollywood’s biggest stars this time of year. Once again they find themselves in the midst of all the vote casting, red carpets, designer gowns, acceptance speeches and glamourous parties that are synonymous with honouring the biggest achievements in filmmaking and acting over the past twelve months.

As usual, the Oscars are on everyone’s lips. The fervent speculation regarding who will receive these most coveted nominations ahead of the awards ceremony taking place next month has reached fever pitch.

Many of the precursor awards shows are believed to give a good indication as to how the nominations will fall (the recent winners at the Golden Globes and the just released BAFTA nominations have drawn the most attention), and who the overall winners will be on 26 February.

Here are a few of SIN’s predictions for who will receive nominations in the biggest categories and who to look out for in the race to the coveted statuettes.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea (Winner)

Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling – La La Land

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington – Fences

All of the above actors have been hovering around the top awards this season, but there is a clear favourite going forward. Affleck has won huge praise for his portrayal of Lee Chandler, who takes over guardianship of his nephew following his brother’s death, in the emotionally charged Manchester by the Sea.

Previously nominated in 2008 for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2017 is likely to see him claim his first win. Don’t rule out Ryan Gosling for a surprise win however. La La Land swept the board at the Golden Globes, and is expected to feature prominently in these nominations too.

Best Actress

Emma Stone – La La Land (Winner)

Natalie Portman – Jackie

Isabelle Huppert – Elle

Ruth Negga – Loving

Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Could we really have an Oscars without Meryl Streep featuring? She is likely to receive a staggering twentieth nomination for her role as the title character in Florence Foster Jenkins. Ireland’s very own Ruth Negga is likely to feature here also, for her incredible performance as Mildred Loving in Loving, famed for her fight against interracial marriage laws in 1950s Virginia.

Isabelle Huppert could be a dark horse after her win at the Golden Globes for her turn in Elle, telling the story of a business woman who is raped and plots revenge. But ultimately this is Emma Stone’s award to lose. La La Land has been a runaway success, not least thanks to her performance as Mia Dolan, an as aspiring actress who has faced much rejection.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight (Winner)

Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals

Dev Patel – Lion

Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

Aaron Taylor-Johnson was the surprise winner of the Golden Globe in this category for his portrayal of gang leader Ray Marcus in the brilliant Nocturnal Animals. It was expected that the award would go to Mahershala Ali for his turn in Moonlight, which chronicles the life of a young black man in a tough neighbourhood in Miami.

Once again he appears to be the front runner here, but he will have stiff competition from Jeff Bridges, expected to receive an impressive seventh nomination for his role in wild-west bank heist feature Hell or High Water, and a breakout performance from Lucas Hedges as a teenager dealing with his father’s death in Manchester by the Sea, which received rave reviews.

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis – Fences (Winner)

Naomie Harris – Moonlight

Nicole Kidman – Lion

Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Woman

Janelle Monae – Hidden Figures

As Variety writer Kristopher Tapley wrote regarding Davis’ performance in Fences, “the Academy can probably go ahead and engrave the statue”. After losing out on the award in 2008 (for Doubt) and 2011 (for The Help) Davis is almost certain to scoop it, following her win at the Golden Globes.

Naomie Harris will give strong competition on the back of her performance as a controlling and abusive mother in Moonlight. Janelle Monae could be a dark horse in this category, after the singer turned actress was praised for her role in Hidden Figures, about an African- American woman involved with NASA in the 60’s, but it’s hard to see Davis being pipped to the post again.

Best Director

Damien Chazelle – La La Land (Winner)

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals

Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

As mentioned already, La La Land has received huge praise and after it swept the board at the Golden Globes, including winning Best Director, it is likely to have a huge showing at the Oscars as well. Jenkins, Lonergan and Ford are all likely to feature for their respective offerings, all of which have been talking points at all awards shows thus far.

A surprise nomination for Denis Villeneuve for Arrival in place of more Academy friendly offerings in Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and Martin Scorsese’s Silence could be observed, but the award is Chazelle’s for the taking.

Only time will tell who comes away with the spoils on awards night. Nominations are revealed 24 January ahead of the main event on 26 February.

-By Stephen James

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