When I took a look at the films that were topping the Oscar charts this morning, it was extremely interesting how many of them were littered with minority filmmakers, actors and producers. However, one year of diverse nominees doesn’t solve the problem. There’s an argument to be made that we could have all people of color winning major awards this year. Here’s to hoping that Hollywood doesn’t become satisfied and retreat back; here’s to hoping the end of #OscarsSoWhite is upon us.

Beginning with the acting categories, there’s a banner year upon us for Best Actress. It remains to be seen if the supporting hopefuls will offer anything much in terms of competition.

Emma Stone has dazzled festival-goers with her performance in “La La Land,” which won her a prize from the Venice Film Festival over the weekend. Meanwhile, Ruth Negga continues to capture hearts across North America for “Loving.” Meryl Streep, once again, will be running for her 20th nomination for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” despite an unremarkable box office performance.

amyadams_nocturnalanimalsAmy Adams will have two vehicles for herself on the circuit this year. “Arrival” continues to capture the imagination of all cinema lovers, and is probably a much stronger player than anticipated. “Nocturnal Animals” will also offer up a chance for Adams following glowing notices from both Venice and TIFF. There are rumblings that there could be a supporting campaign in the future to make headway for her, but that remains to be seen, especially since co-star Laura Linney also reaped some positive ink.

To round things out, Isabelle Huppert and Natalie Portman have been highlighted on the festival circuit with “Elle” and “Jackie,” respectively. We’re waiting to see what Viola Davis and Annette Bening are going to offer in “Fences” and “20th Century Women.”

Without question, the film launching full-speed ahead into the awards season is Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land.” With 25 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has only one negative review to its name at the moment. It could clean up big on nomination morning with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Song(s). Nods for cinematography and film editing are almost assured while sound mixing and sound editing wouldn’t be shocking, either. In short, the film could amass a whopping 11 nominations. Therefore, a win in a couple of categories is almost a given.

The Weinstein Company has to be feeling pretty good, as its “Lion” was met with warm approvals and reactions at TIFF this weekend. The studio also has “Gold” from Stephen Gaghan (fresh off a new, fun-ish trailer release) and “The Founder” from John Lee Hancock, which is hoping for Michael Keaton’s play in Best Actor.

silence_scorseseParamount Pictures is still holding off on an official release date for “Silence” from Martin Scorsese for unbeknownst reasons. Paramount is either judging the prospects of juggling so many sure-fire juggernauts (the studio also has “Allied,” “Arrival,” “Fences” and “Florence Foster Jenkins”), or they’re still working on getting Scorsese to trim it down. Rumors of a 195 minute runtime surfaced a few weeks ago.

The major question, however, is whether or not it’s going to be an awards player. Closer to Scorsese’s “Kundun” than anything he’s ever done before, this may not be something that Oscar voters are ready to embrace. Liam Neeson has held fast in an ever-thin Supporting Actor race. With the way that the race is shaking out in that category, Neeson may be able to cake walk to an Oscar win without much support – should the film release this season.

Elsewhere, Michael Shannon continues to hold strong for “Nocturnal Animals.” Since a surprise nomination for “Revolutionary Road” in 2008, he’s been passed over for two additional stellar works in “Take Shelter” and “99 Homes” just last year. If Neeson finds himself off the table, this season could turn into a focus on Shannon, a great character actor who’s been around for decades.

Off the festival trail, Sundance films are hoping to make a play this year. “Other People” from first-time director Chris Kelly gives an astounding performance from Molly Shannon, a dark horse for a Supporting Actress run. She has a taller mountain to climb, and the same can be said for co-star Jesse Plemons, who leads the film with a stunning subtlety.

The Utah festival always offers dark horses on the beat, and this year is no different, as seen by: “Christine” and Rebecca Hall, “Equity” and Anna Gunn, “Morris from America” and Craig Robinson, and “Southside with You” and Parker Sawyers.

birthofanation_1The most realistic awards prospect out of Sundance, however, is “The Birth of a Nation” from Nate Parker. The film was received very well at TIFF, with a wave of support this weekend. That’s got to offer Fox Searchlight a sigh of relief. It is still uncertain how the film is going to fare down the road, but hopefully it’ll find some love somewhere.

J.A. Bayona returned to TIFF with “A Monster Calls” over the weekend, and it is said to be a visual treat. Distributor Focus Features will hope for lots of love below the line. Also from Focus, “Loving” continued its run that began at the Cannes Film Festival, reviving the prospects of Jeff Nichols and stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga.

Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” landed and doesn’t seem to rear off-course from his later career efforts, although Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance was praised.

Amma Asante’s “A United Kingdom” finally got its first set of screenings and the reviews have been solid for the film. Star David Oyelowo seemed to capture the brunt of the praise, but without distribution, it’s uncertain if we’ll even see it this year.

livebynight-1473382303800_1280wSurprisingly not trashed was Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven,” which closed Venice and opened TIFF. The praise was above many’s expectations but we don’t suspect this will be an awards player.

This week we’ll see the first reviews on “The Promise” from Terry George, “LBJ” from Rob Reiner, and “Deepwater Horizon” from Peter Berg.

Warner Bros. released the first trailer for “Live By Night” from writer, director and star Ben Affleck last week. Still holding strong to the Jan. 13 release date, there’s still no word on a qualifying run. With the numbers that “Sully” has put up this weekend, there may be no need to push “Live by Night” into the fold. The film may just be a commercial play. As we saw with early releases like “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” not every film needs to come out post-summer to find love.

The predictions and sidebar have been updated. “Live by Night,” as well as several other contenders are being held back until we get confirmed release strategies. The one exception is “Silence,” because it seems like an almost assured 2016 bow at this point.

We’ll come back to this in a week’s time with a recap of the first three festivals before we venture on into the world of NYFF.