Ahhhh… That sigh of relief could only mean one thing: the impending end of another Oscars season. Not only that, but the longest Oscars season since the very earliest years of the awards! A little over a (pandemic-fueled, cinema-free, politically-charged) year since Parasite’s monumental wins, we’re on the precipice of an awards ceremony that might just actually capitalize on the diversity that the Academy has been touting and trying to build over the past several years.
The good thing about a jumbo-sized run-up to the Oscars is that some great narratives that may not have otherwise gotten breathing room have been able to crystallize (looking at you, Youn Yuh-jung and Sound of Metal!). The bad thing is that many races seem fully baked leading up to Sunday night, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for surprises.
Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland has been the frontrunner for Best Picture and Best Director since its dual Venice-TIFF premiere, and I see no reason to stop predicting it to take the top two prizes after winning both the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild awards. Frances McDormand is not out of the running in Best Actress – this is one of the very few places where there isn’t a clear frontrunner – but I would be slightly surprised to see her walk away with her third statue in the category. Zhao’s screenplay should also be seen as the frontrunner in Adapted Screenplay. Due to Writers Guild eligibility requirements, Nomadland wasn’t in the running there, so it’s hard to parse this category using WGA as a predictor. Joshua James Richards’ sublime cinematography couldn’t pull of the win with the American Society of Cinematographers, but I can’t stop myself from predicting it here. All told, I’m predicting Nomadland to walk away with four big awards.
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but I’m predicting only one win for Aaron Sorkin’s six-time nominee The Trial of the Chicago 7, in Original Screenplay. It has had a strong season, including a Screen Actors Guild win for its ensemble and the top prize from the American Cinema Editors, but I just can’t see where it’s realistically the frontrunner for a win outside of its writing (and even then, it lost with WGA, so this isn’t a sure thing). I have it as my alternate for Picture and Film Editing, but otherwise that’s it.
This year’s most-nominated film, David Fincher’s old Hollywood flick Mank, is my alternate for Cinematography (it did win at the ASC, after all!). I expect it to win in Production Design, but otherwise I think it will walk away considered the filler nominee of the year. Amanda Seyfried, long seen as the frontrunner for Supporting Actress, lost every last bit of momentum to Youn Yuh-jung and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm‘s Maria Bakalova (my dark horse in the category).
Speaking of Youn, she is the likeliest winner from Lee Isaac Chung’s phenomenal Minari. A groundswell of support for the film is possible, and with that in mind I have it in second place in Director and Score. The likelier of these would be Emile Mosseri’s stellar score, but that award is likely going to Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross for Animated Feature frontrunner Soul (unlikely but much more deserving alternate: Wolfwalkers). I would absolutely love to see Steven Yeun shock everyone, but it doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was seen as a certain Best Picture nominee, and in fact for a short while this season was considered Netflix’s strongest contender, but that seemingly wasn’t in the cards, either. That said, it’s hard to bet against Chadwick Boseman receiving a richly deserved posthumous Best Actor win. Viola Davis should be considered a strong contender for Best Actress, and I have her in my second place slot (with the aforementioned McDormand in a close third). It’s also my alternate in Production Design, but I’m expecting it to pick up two more wins in Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling. In both of the latter categories, it’s the beautifully crafted Emma that I see as the strongest dark horse.
I’ve mentioned Best Actress a couple of times already, so it’s about time I mention the actress that I think is likeliest to come away with the win in this crowded category: Carey Mulligan for Emerald Fennell’s five-time nominee Promising Young Woman. The only other place that I think this one has a chance to show up is Original Screenplay, where it beat The Trial of the Chicago 7 for the WGA win. It’s a tight race, and one that I’m expecting Trial to win, but Promising Young Woman would in no way be a surprise here.
The last of the “above the line” categories that I have to mention is Supporting Actor. Daniel Kaluuya should be seen as the clear frontrunner for his work in Judas and the Black Messiah, with Leslie Odom Jr. in the runner-up slot for One Night in Miami. I think these two films will switch positions with one another in Original Song, with Odom winning for One Night in Miami’s “Speak Now” (shared with Sam Ashworth) and “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah as the runner up.
Our last two Picture nominees, Sound of Metal and The Father, are of course both well-situated as potential spoilers in Actor. I would give the edge to Anthony Hopkins’ performance in The Father, but that really is Boseman’s to lose. Sound of Metal would need a very good night to show up in Supporting Actor or Original Screenplay, though neither is totally out of the running. I do, however, expect Sound of Metal to take home wins for Editing and Sound, with the latter seemingly one of the surest wins of the night. The Father is my dark horse in Adapted Screenplay.
Best International Feature Film would seem to be a done deal, given Thomas Vinterberg’s Best Director nomination for Another Round. My alternate in the category would have to be the only other film to have a nomination outside of IFF, Collective. Collective was my pick for Documentary Feature for a while; I moved it down to dark horse status last week, but am now putting it in a close third given the apparent strength of both Time and My Octopus Teacher. The former is my predicted winner, the latter my alternate.
The short categories, as always, are anyone’s guess. If you’re interested to learn more about them and maybe even watch them yourself, I highly suggest reading Owen’s reviews here, here, and here. My pick in Documentary Short is the heartbreaking A Love Song for Latasha, with A Concerto is a Conversation in second. In the Live Action Short category, everything is depressing, but I predict our depressing winner to be The Letter Room, with our depressing alternate being Two Distant Strangers. It’s a real pity that Pedro Almodovar’s fascinating The Human Voice couldn’t pull off a nomination here. In Animated Short, it’s hard to bet against Pixar, but I do have to take a risk at some point, so I am going with [the depressing] If Anything Happens I Love You, with Pixar’s cute Burrow as my dark horse. Really, I already feel like a winner, since the confusingly regressive Out didn’t get nominated.
This brings us to the last category, Visual Effects, narrowly saved from being full of lone nominees by Tenet’s Production Design nom and Mulan’s Costume Design nom. Christopher Nolan’s Savior of Cinema ( /s, just in case my sarcasm is not abundantly clear) should take this easily, though The Midnight Sky could spoil.
And that’s all of them, folks! Join me down in the comments, where I’ll give the full category-by-category rundown, and feel free to make your own predictions along the way! If you haven’t entered Owen’s prediction contest, do that too! Maybe I’ll be wrong on all of these this year and everyone will beat me. Will I get to do these write-ups anymore if that happens? Hmmmm…