After a slow start, Oscars season is now well underway. So well underway, in fact, that nominations are in a week! With that in mind, I’m offering up my final predictions for this year’s nominations. It wouldn’t be “The Road to the Oscars” if I didn’t first discuss how the race has changed in the weeks since this year’s first edition, so read the latest below and then join me in the comments where I’ll be posting this year’s final nominations predictions.
The frontrunner for Picture, Director, and likely Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography remains Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland. Some recent controversy in the form of Chinese censors stopping the film’s release is unlikely to affect the film’s standing, though that’s a question for after the nominations anyway. Frances McDormand will certainly be showing up in Actress, but it’s looking like that’ll be the only acting nominee. In my previous article, I was bullish on the chances of David Strathairn in Supporting Actor and standout non-professional actors Charlene Swankie and Linda May in Supporting Actress, but after critics groups showed no love for this trio I’d say the only possibility is Strathairn as a dark horse. Nomadland is pretty much guaranteed an Editing nomination; the biggest below-the-line question mark right now is whether or not its fantastic sound work can sneak into the new Sound category (which takes the place of the oft-confused Sound Editing and Sound Mixing this year), particularly after the tragic death of sound mixer Michael Wolf Snyder.
Minari, surely the underdog of the season, is primed for a pile of nominations come March 15. After my first article, it seemed to fall off the radar, with only scene-stealing standout Youn Yuh-jung garnering much love from critics groups, but Golden Globes controversy (the film has more spoken English than Inglourious Basterds, which was eligible for Best Drama, while Minari was deemed eligible only for Best Foreign Language Film); a powerful push in the press from Youn, lead actor Steven Yeun, and director Lee Isaac Chung; and a solid rollout from A24 have put it back in the conversation in a big way. It seems all but guaranteed to pull off Picture, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, and Score nominations, and Chung and Yeun are surging in the Director and Actor races, respectively. A strong morning for Minari will also give it Cinematography and Song nominations, though deserved noms for Han Ye-ri and Alan Kim in Actress and Supporting Actor, respectively, are probably a bridge too far. I think at least Cinematography is happening.
Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 is certain to appear in Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Editing, Song, and Supporting Actor (Sacha Baron Cohen, who has, as I predicted in my first article, pulled away from the pack; the field has gotten too big for me to keep Yahya Abdul-Mateen II or Mark Rylance in my predictions). Production Design and Score nominations are a possibility, but if it has a good enough morning to show up in either or both of those, then I’m going to have to start taking it much more seriously as an above-the-line contender. While The Trial of the Chicago 7 is showing up in all the right places as far as nominations are concerned, it doesn’t have many wins under its belt outside of screenplay categories, and I expect it to stay that way.
With strong showings among critics groups and the guilds, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom should be considered a guaranteed Picture nominee, along with Chadwick Boseman in Actor, Viola Davis in Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Makeup/Hairstyling, and Production Design. A strong morning could push it into Editing and Sound, but I have a hard time seeing it appear in Director (George C. Wolfe) or Supporting Actor (Glynn Turman). The latter did surprise with a win at LAFCA and a runner-up mention with the National Society of Film Critics, but those groups are quite idiosyncratic and I don’t think predictive in this case.
Filler nominee of the year Mank remains in a solid position for a slew of nominations over stronger films, including Picture, Director (David Fincher), Actor (Gary Oldman), Supporting Actress (Amanda Seyfried), Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Score, Sound, and Visual Effects. Amanda Seyfried, who spent the early part of the season in pole position, has seen her frontrunner status dim after failing to win much of anything. The best bet for a win right now looks like Score, with Cinematography in a close second to the frankly much more deserving Nomadland. It’s hard to believe I’m predicting Mank to get THIRTEEN nominations (the record of 14 nominations was first set in 1950 by All About Eve, written and directed by – wait for it – Joseph L. Mankiewicz, brother of the eponymous Mank), but here we are.
Regina King’s directorial debut, One Night in Miami, remains a strong contender while also having failed to light up the precursor awards. It’ll show up in Picture, Supporting Actor (Leslie Odom Jr., though he is no longer the frontrunner he once was), Adapted Screenplay, and Song, and I still expect Regina King to eke out a Director nom, but with Chung on the rise for Minari, it’ll be a tough race between her and Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell for the fifth slot. An exceptionally strong morning could push One Night in Miami into some of Actor (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Production Design, but right now I am not predicting it as even a dark horse in any of those categories.
Since I just brought it up, this is as good a time as any to mention Promising Young Woman, which has been surging at exactly the right time. It seems likely to appear in Picture, and while I’m predicting Chung and King in Director, Fennell is probably the strongest dark horse in any of the above-the-line categories. Carey Mulligan will absolutely be showing up in Actress (in fact, it’s probably between her and Davis for the win right now, with McDormand a strong third), and Original Screenplay is sure to happen. A really good morning for Promising Young Woman will bring Costume Design and Editing nominations on Fennell’s coattails, but that’s likely the max for this one (sorry, Bo Burnham fans!).
The Father started the season as one of the strongest contenders, but much of that hinged on Anthony Hopkins’ Actor narrative, one which has been usurped by Chadwick Boseman’s strength in the category. Sony Pictures Classics has royally bungled their release strategy, but I still think it has a better chance in an eight-film Picture category than some of the films discussed below. Hopkins will of course show up in Actor, along with Olivia Colman in Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay and Editing noms. Florian Zeller is more or less out of the conversation in Director, unless this film is much, much stronger than I’m expecting (and if that’s the case, it’ll appear in Production Design, too).
Paul Greengrass’s News of the World remains in the Picture conversation. I have it in ninth right now; while I was only anticipating eight Picture nominees this year given how strong the top 4-5 films are, I also can’t ignore that films with 6+ nominations that don’t also receive a Picture nom are few and far between. With that in mind, my confidence in News of the World‘s strength in the technical categories is pushing me to go against my gut and predict nine Picture nominees. Greengrass has an outside shot at a Director nom, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Surprisingly, the strongest acting contender is not Tom Hanks in Actor, but Helena Zengel in Supporting Actress. I’m not quite brave enough to put her in the top 5 right now, but the category has become a bit of a mess with Seyfried and Glenn Close collapsing, Youn rising, and Jodie Foster shocking at the Golden Globes, so Zengel’s my dark horse. In addition to Adapted Screenplay, a pile of technical nominations are quite likely for News of the World, including Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, Production Design, Score, and Sound.
If there’s a tenth film appearing in Picture, I predict it to be Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah. The likeliest nomination – and win – for the film remains Daniel Kaluuya in Supporting Actor. A Song nomination is also likely, and there’s an outside chance at Cinematography and Original Screenplay noms. I am not expecting King, Lakeith Stanfield, or Dominique Fishback to show up in Director, Actor, and Supporting Actress, respectively, barring a shockingly strong showing, which would likely also bring an Editing nomination into play.
Back in December, I was feeling pretty bullish on Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, but it seems to have been all but forgotten by critics groups and the guilds, outside of Delroy Lindo’s Actor wins at NYFCC and the NSFC and Boseman’s surprising Supporting Actor win at NYFCC. It’s still beloved enough to be my dark horse contender in Picture, and if I could put a seventh name down for Director it would be Lee. With the rise of Yeun and Riz Ahmed, Lindo is falling to the dark horse slot for Actor on my list, while Chadwick Boseman is looking likely to pull off the rare double nomination, in Actor for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and in Supporting Actor for Da 5 Bloods. Original Screenplay is a possibility, as are Score and Sound, but outside of Boseman the best bet for a nom right now is probably Cinematography.
Those are the eleven films I’m predicting for Picture + 1, but I’ll offer up some thoughts on a few other likely above-the-line nominees:
- Riz Ahmed should end up nominated in Actor for Sound of Metal, along with critcs group favorite Paul Raci in Supporting Actor. A Sound nomination is certain, Original Screenplay is likely, and Editing is possible, especially if it miraculously sneaks its way into Picture.
- Back in December I mentioned Judas and the Black Messiah and The United States vs. Billie Holiday as the two big unseen possibilities. The former premiered to acclaim, but the latter has fizzled, leaving surprise Golden Globe winner Andra Day as a likely lone nominee in Actress, though Costume Design isn’t out of the question.
- Glenn Close remains likely to earn her eighth Oscar nomination for Hillbilly Elegy (in Supporting Actress), but as I mentioned above, the category has become fairly messy to predict. A Makeup and Hairstyling nom is certain, but an Actress nom for Amy Adams is a bridge too far, SAG be damned.
- The last of our likely Supporting Actress nominees is Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. There’s an outside shot at Adapted Screenplay and Song, but I’m expecting Bakalova to show up as a lone nominee.
- Pixar’s Soul remains the Animated Feature frontrunner (over Cartoon Saloon’s superior Wolfwalkers). It’s also in pole position for Score and likely to appear in Sound, with an outside shot at Original Screenplay and Visual Effects noms, but Picture is unlikely at this point.
- Vanessa Kirby is looking ever likelier to be a lone nominee for Pieces of a Woman, with the Supporting Actress free-for-all leaving Ellen Burstyn out in the cold.
- Despite Jodie Foster’s upset win in Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes, I don’t have her on my Oscars slate, nor do I have The Mauritanian appearing anywhere. This might be a mistake on my part, but I think the film is underseen and unloved. It’ll likely make a splash when BAFTA nominations are announced this week, but I think it’s too little too late.
- I was bullish on Never Rarely Sometimes Always in my previous article, but Original Screenplay looks like the best bet, and even that is unlikely. Sidney Flanigan won Actress awards at NYFCC and the Boston Society of Film Critics, along with the National Board of Review’s Breakthrough Performance award, but the Actress field is just too crowded right now. Similarly, Rosamund Pike in I Care a Lot and Zendaya in Malcolm and Marie probably aren’t breaking through here. My dark horse in Actress goes to Sophia Loren in The Life Ahead, which will definitely be showing up in Song to give Diane Warren her 12th Oscar nomination – will this be the one?