From Kevin Costner to ‘Kubo,’ Left-Field Oscar Nominations That Could Happen

The Oscar nominations are about 16 hours away. We’ve already declared final predictions in all 24 categories, but while we bide our time, here are a few thoughts on some unexpected nominations that could be in the cards. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Kevin Costner or Taraji P. Henson for “Hidden Figures”
Octavia Spencer has been the default honoree from the “Hidden Figures” cast so far this season, netting Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations. But the film came on very strong when ballots went out in the first week of the new year, turning into a big box office story and enjoying events hosted by the likes of George Lucas and Jeffrey Katzenberg. So don’t be surprised if the coattails extend a bit farther. I’m placing a bet on Kevin Costner in the supporting actor category, but Taraji P. Henson could surge in the competitive lead actress race as well. And Janelle Monae was an early favorite for a nomination, landing a Critics’ Choice nomination. She’s been very present this year in both this and “Moonlight,” so don’t count her out yet.

David Mackenzie for “Hell or High Water”
Another possibility I’m placing an idle bet on is David Mackenzie showing up in the best director category for “Hell or High Water.” It’s really a film that could surprise in a number of areas, including the sound categories and original score, as well as the supporting actor category: Jeff Bridges is already a sure thing, but co-star Ben Foster joining him isn’t out of the question. But Mackenzie has been very much out and about on the circuit this season. I touched on this in last week’s final predictions column, but his deft handling of the material is exactly the kind of thing this branch likes to seize upon when you least expect it. Think of Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”), Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) securing surprise nominations in recent years.

“Silence” in any major category
Martin Scorsese’s most personal film to date landed late and demanded more of viewers than a latter-year crunch affords. For that reason, it’s a bit of a wild card. The film could generate enough passion for a best picture nomination, as those who love it really love it. The directors branch could stick up for Scorsese, recognizing a passion project when they see one. And as the film’s antagonist, played by Issey Ogata — a runner-up in this year’s Los Angeles film critics vote — could come along if the film finds a string of support throughout the Academy’s actors branch. Basically if it shows up anywhere outside of the crafts categories, it will be unexpected, but not shocking.

Tom Hanks for “Sully”
The best actor category seems pretty settled. You won’t likely find anyone betting against the SAG line-up of Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield, Ryan Gosling, Viggo Mortensen and Denzel Washington. If anyone is lurking as a surprise, it’s probably “Loving” star Joel Edgerton, but it seems unlikely that a well-liked Clint Eastwood drama that did bang-up box office has completed faded from the landscape. Probably the best way to show “Sully” some love in the major categories is to give America’s dad, Tom Hanks, a nomination. He may well be taken for granted at this stage, and it’s a pretty low-key portrayal, but you never know.

Shockers below the line
OK, this is for the true Oscar die-hards. It might not mean much to Joe Blow on the street if, say, Michael Bay’s “13 Hours” secures a sound mixing nomination. But it would certainly blow awards enthusiasts’ minds. And it could happen! Screeners for that film, which released over a year ago, were sent out to the sound branch specifically and it’s a respected piece of work within the community. The costume designers, meanwhile, tend to go their own way regardless of reviews, and a movie like “The Dressmaker” — which landed a Costume Designers Guild nomination — feels primed for a “wait, what?” nomination. The discipline is right there in the title, after all. Burt Bacharach could land his first nomination in 35 years for a song (“Dancing with Your Shadow”) in a movie (“Po”) you’ve never heard of. “Kubo and the Two Strings” could become only the second animated film since “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to be spotlighted for visual effects. The makeup artists of last year’s surprise nominee, “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” could be right back in the mix with foreign film contender “A Man Called Ove.” “The Handmaiden” could turn up in costume or production design categories. Lots of curiosities could be lying in wait throughout the Academy’s craft categories.

The Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday morning around 8:15 a.m. ET/5:15 a.m. PT.

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