HOLLYWOOD—I honestly think, 2017, could be the most interesting awards season we have seen in a long time. There are plenty of critics and awards pundits who already have their sights set on certain movies, and I wish there was a bit more friction between a critical darling and what the rest of the world thinks. It sounds crazy, but year after year, we see certain movies pushed to the limelight even though they may not be the most awards worthy or best flicks of the year.

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress are some of the major categories we’ll take a look at and make predictions on who will make the cut, who’ll be the dark horse and who might be left on the cutting room floor.

Best Picture is frustrating because I truly wish the Academy would return to the typical five nominees. However, with new rules implemented we could see anywhere from 5 to 10 flicks earn nominations. Definitive locks include “La La Land,” “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” if you ask me. Now the other 2-7 nominees are anyone’s guess if you ask me. Expect “Lion,” “Hidden Figures” and “Fences” to earn nominations based on SAG nominations for Outstanding Ensemble. So that leaves 6 contenders, could 3 other films land in spots, yes, but the Academy is finicky when it comes to nominations so we could see a surprise we never expected like “Sully,” “Jackie,” “20th Century Women,” “Hell or High Water” and even “Hacksaw Ridge.” I’m edging on seeing a total of 8 films in the Best Picture race and those final two slots is anyone’s guess.

Best Director is a dogfight where I think 3 directors are virtual locks with Damien Chazelle “La La Land,” Kenneth Lonergan “Manchester by the Sea” and Barry Jenkins “Moonlight” as certain nominees. Those last two spots are much more competitive where Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, Garth Davis, Denzel Washington, Jeff Nichols and Martin Scorsese are vying for Oscar love. I think people are underestimating Eastwood’s mastery for the drama “Sully” and Davis for his magnificent “Hell or High Water.” I expect those two gentlemen to nab the final two slots, but this category ALWAYS sees a surprise contender, and I expect nothing less in 2017.

Best Actor is a race where I feel three contenders are locks: Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington and Ryan Gosling. The last two slots are a battle between 4 worthy candidates. Andrew Garfield is phenomenal in “Hacksaw Ridge” and I refuse to dismiss that range that Tom Hanks delivered for “Sully.” I think so many are underestimating Hanks who I think will be a dark horse in this race, and predictors should be afraid of Joel Edgerton who should be considered for his performance in “Loving.”

Now Best Actress this is a very contentious and competitive race to say the least. There are some contenders who I feel should be in this race and I feel might sneak into this race based on voters in the Academy. Um, Viola Davis people for “Fences?” That is NOT a supporting role in any fashion, it’s a lead role and I’m HOPING the Academy sees that, like they did for Kate Winslet in “The Reader.” I think the only 2 locks I could predict are Emma Stone “La La Land” and Natalie Portman “Jackie.”

Beyond that, there are like 6 to 7 other women contending for 3 spots, if Davis is relegated to the Best Supporting Actress race, than Ruth Negga “Loving,” Annette Bening “20th Century Women,” Isabelle Huppert “Elle,” Amy Adams “Arrival,” Meryl Streep “Florence Foster Jenkins” and Jessica Chastain “Miss Sloane” and Taraji P. Henson “Hidden Figures” are all looking for Oscar to shine a bit of light on them.

I think Streep is overrated here, she is a phenomenal actress, but I’ve seen much better from the actress, she doesn’t have to be nominated EVERY time she stars in a movie people. I think people should watch out for Henson, if “Hidden Figures” opens to huge numbers it could boost her potential in the race. I see Adams, Bening and either Davis or Henson landing in the race. I mean that whole backlash from the last 2 years might have people roaring if an actress of color doesn’t land a nomination.

Best Supporting Actress is a race where I don’t see surprises, the biggest would be if Davis’ name is NOT called in this race then things can become very interesting. But if Davis stays in the race than Davis, Naomie Harris “Moonlight,” Nicole Kidman “Lion” and Michelle Williams “Manchester by the Sea” are locks. That fifth and final slot I think belongs to one of the two ladies from “Hidden Figures” either Octavia Spencer or Janelle Monae. I feel the Academy would like to award a flashier and more standout performance which is why Monae might edge out the nod, which she absolutely deserves.

The Best Supporting Actor race is always that one category that has a surprising winner or surprising nomination EVERY year. It’s the category that is sometimes easiest to predict when it comes to nominations, but the most difficult when it comes to winners. Some expected names to make the cut include Mahershala Ali “Moonlight,” Dev Patel “Lion” and Jeff Bridges “Hell or High Water.” Now the other two slots are more open for grabs, but I suspect breakout actor Lucas Hedges “Manchester by the Sea” to earn a nomination.

So that leaves one slot, and there haven’t really been phenomenal performances beyond the contenders list. Most are expecting Hugh Grant or Simon Helberg from “Florence Foster Jenkins” to earn a nomination, and it’s very possible that Kevin Costner from “Hidden Figures” can earn his first acting nomination in over 26 years. However, if the Academy is smart they will indeed acknowledge Stephen McKinley Henderson who was a breath of fresh air in the heavy drama “Fences.” However, it looks that Ben Foster from “Hell or High Water” could really nab that final slot.

So I’m not expecting a ton of surprises come Tuesday, January 24 when the Oscar nominations are unveiled, but I’m hoping for a few surprises. Why? It always makes the conversation that much more intriguing as we decipher awards season.