The longer 2020 goes on, the more you get the sense that the old rules for predicting the Oscars are out the window. Personally, a major arrow in my quiver is always the in person awards season events, where you schmooze with voters and get a feel for who and what they like. This year, with those events now Zoom Q&A’s, that’s not happening. Instead, the Academy is very much going to operate in a bubble. Now, the Guilds like DGA, PGA, and SAG will hold some sway, but it’s an open question whether that will be more or less than usual. The membership there makes up a significant portion of the Academy, so as always, the smart bet is on one of the big winners there to take home Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Then again, Moonlight is exception that proves the rule, and that kind of upset can easily happen again this year. After all, when a voter is just marking off their ballot on their own, free from any real influence, they might make more interesting choices. It all lends an air of uncertainty to a season that could go in several directions, though one is far more likely than any other.
What I’m getting the sense of, right now at least, is that the streaming services won’t struggle to win major awards, including Best Picture. Some of that is just the nature of the season, since if voters don’t want to award Amazon Studios or Netflix, they have limited options. The likeliest studio contenders to take the top prize? Nomadland, by far, with The Father and Minari looming as potential dark horse films, if enough voters get behind them. News of the World is the most traditional studio fare out there, but it’s going to see a potential nomination as its reward. Then, there’s things like Promising Young Woman, which will be happy just to slip into the lineup. So, if we’re looking at Netflix juggling their two big contenders in Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7, with One Night in Miami... from Amazon Studios not too far behind, it’s looking like another history making Academy Awards. A lot will depend on how the precursors and especially the Guilds go, but as mentioned above, a lot will just depend on the mood voters are in.
Quickly, it pays to mention that we should all be pleased that one talked about scenario did not occur. Earlier in the year, in the midst of the pandemic starting to upend Hollywood, there was a thought that the Oscar lineup this year would be the worst ever. Of course, that was foolish, since if anything, it would be a more indie lineup, which cinephiles would embrace. Looking at the categories, there isn’t one that’s notably worse than an average Academy lineup, and some have even presented really intriguing possibilities. The road to a nomination may now be tougher for some of the smaller movies, but they also won’t have as much deep-pocketed competition. So, Focus Features, for example, won’t have a cakewalk to getting Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Promising Young Woman recognized, but just getting the flicks in front of voters may prove to be enough. We shall see.
Below are my updated predictions, which haven’t changed much, in terms of winners, though the nominees are fluctuating. Some of that is just feeling out how a nominee looks in the top five, but some of it is a sense within the industry that we could be in for a few more surprises than normal. However it turns out, it’s going to be a one of a kind season, so as the precursors ramp up, stay tuned for all of the fireworks…
As always, you can go here for the Oscar predictions. That’s where the full lineups are. However, in case any of you want to see the Cliff Notes version of them, my current predicted winners in each category are as follows. You can see the victors, as well as who or what occupies the number two spot in each category:
Best Picture – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Second Spot: Mank)
Best Director – David Fincher for Mank (Second Spot: Chloe Zhao for Nomadland)
Best Actor – Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Second Spot: Anthony Hopkins for The Father)
Best Actress – Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman (Second Spot: Frances McDormand for Nomadland)
Best Supporting Actor – Bill Murray for On the Rocks (Second Spot: Sacha Baron Cohen for The Trial of the Chicago 7)
Best Supporting Actress – Ellen Burstyn for Pieces of a Woman (Second Spot: Amanda Seyfried for Mank)
Best Original Screenplay – Aaron Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Second Spot: Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman)
Best Adapted Screenplay – Kemp Powers for One Night in Miami… (Second Spot: Chloe Zhao for Nomadland)
Best Animated Feature – Soul (Second Spot: Wolfwalkers)
Best Production Design – Mank (Second Spot: Tenet)
Best Cinematography – Mank (Second Spot: News of the World)
Best Costume Design – Mank (Second Spot: Ammonite)
Best Film Editing – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Second Spot: Mank)
Best Makeup & Hairstyling – Mank (Second Spot: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Best Sound – Tenet (Second Spot: Soul)
Best Visual Effects – The Midnight Sky (Second Spot: Tenet)
Best Original Score – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Mank (Second Spot: Ludwig Göransson for Tenet)
Best Original Song – Diane Warren – lo Si (Seen) from The Life Ahead (Second Spot: Rita Wilson – Everybody Cries from The Outpost)
Best Documentary Feature – Dick Johnson is Dead (Second Spot: John Lewis: Good Trouble)
Best International Feature – Another Round (Second Spot: Collective)
Stay tuned for another update to my predictions next week!