Right now, La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea seem the safest. Outside of that is where it gets a bit dicey. Sully should be safe; it’s a proven box office success and it’s Clint Eastwood, two things AFI loves. Hell or High Water was one of this year’s most successful summer sleepers and feels locked and loaded, too.
Being that the ‘A’ in AFI stands for American we can get out of the way films that won’t be eligible here. Anything foreign language or whose financing was largely non-American is out. Previous example of non-eligible films including The Artist and The King’s Speech, both of which went on to win the Best Picture Oscar. Amour, Philomena, and Brooklyn were films that were produced outside of the American spectrum and were not eligible here. This year, most frontrunners for Best Picture Oscar nomination look eligible.
So who “needs” this more than others? Right now I would say Jackie does after missing NBR’s Top 10. Late breaking films like Fences and Silence could use the boost, but then The Revenant didn’t manage an AFI mention and ended up with 10 Oscar nominations and three wins. Loving, which seems to have disappeared, could really use it. Hidden Figures, despite a few critics mentions for its ensemble really needs this. Not as much as it needs a Screen Actors Guild cast nomination next week, but still could use the boost. If 20th Century Women wants anything outside of a possible Best Actress nomination for Annette Bening (even that hangs in the balance right now) it needs to show up here. Lion is also a film that needs this.
Arrival earned an NBR top 10 mention and a win for Amy Adams but the cerebral sci-fi kind of needs this. It’s a good box office success right now so I think it will land here. Speaking of box office, there aren’t a lot of box office successes this year that AFI normally likes. In the past, we’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Bridesmaids, and The Hangover see their grosses translate into a top 10 mention. None of them landed on Oscar’s Best Picture list, though. Sometimes AFI is prescient on what is going to make an impact at both the box office and at Oscar like it did with American Sniper. This year it could be Patriots Day, a film that opens over Christmas but closed AFI’s own festival, a high-profile spot. Hacksaw Ridge is a film that seems to be hanging in the balance. Lots of pundits are high on it, others ice cold. This would be a strong foot forward for the Mel Gibson-directed war film.
AFI loves their animated films here too. That’s good news for Zootopia or even The Jungle Book. Although not officially an animated film, it has more CGI than live action and is as close to it as you can get. Both films were massive hits, domestically and internationally.
AFI announced their Top 10 list on December 8th.
Hell or High Water
The Jungle Book
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
The Jungle Book and Silence are the only two I’m not totally confident on. Jackie missing out here would be really rough and it would probably be a better call than The Jungle Book but something is telling me to keep it out.
Here is how AFI and Oscar’s Best Picture have lined up since Oscar’s expanded lineup and correlation. Interestingly, the best and worst matchups were the two years that the Academy Awards went with a solid 10 in Best Picture.