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Awards Season Update: What to Make of the Acting Categories?

We are getting closer and closer to knowing who and what Oscar might favor. The Screen Actors Guild will soon announce their nominations, beginning a new aspect of the precursor season. As such, SAG predictions have gone live on the site (here). Moreover, this moment is a perfect time to check in on the acting categories. For the first time in forever, it’s fair to say that no one truly knows who’s going to win the four Academy Awards given for performance. Today, I at least try to run down who’s in the heaviest contention, here in late January. Somehow, we’re only in the middle of Phase One of the awards season.

The acting races usually are almost foregone conclusions by nomination morning, but not this year. In fact, no categories actually are, and that’s exciting. We still get plenty of time to debate whether Nomadland will go all the way, if Netflix can win Best Picture, and more. This piece, however, is focused on the four acting races, which are as up in the air as ever before. Are there frontrunners? Sure, but they still only narrow down the categories a bit, as you’ll see next…

Best Actor was once seen as either Chadwick Boseman‘s or Anthony Hopkins‘ to lose. The former blew folks away posthumously in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, while the latter has gotten raves since last year’s Sundance Film Festival for The Father. However, neither have been the critics darling during the precursors. Instead, we’ve seen Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) and Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods) take the lions share of the prizes so far. At this point, all four seem relatively safe for nominations, destined to fight out for the Oscar. The final slot seems to be between Gary Oldman (Mank) and Steven Yeun (Minari), but watch out for the likes of Ben Affleck (The Way Back), Tom Hanks (News of the World), and John David Washington (Malcolm & Marie). Whomever gets in with SAG may just have the final leg up.

Best Actress also has evolved. Almost single-handedly, the repeated wins for Carey Mulligan this season for Promising Young Woman has not just made her a likely nominee, but a potential winner. While another precursor darling in Sidney Flanigan will have to hope for continued support so that she gets into the category for Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Mulligan is arguably the closest thing to a frontrunner. The film itself just remains an X factor, leading to some hesitancy. If not Mulligan, voters have Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Frances McDormand (Nomadland) right there if they’re feeling like rewarding a previous winner. Then, there’s potential first time nominees like Zendaya (Malcolm & Marie) and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman). These six have the edge right now, with one missing out, though count out Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy), Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), and Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead) at your own peril.

As for Best Supporting Actor, we lack even a frontrunner right now. On paper, Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), and Bill Murray (On the Rocks) are the ones who should be frontrunners. Maybe they are, but Paul Raci‘s work in Sound of Metal has been cited more this season. Then, there’s Boseman here as well, for Da 5 Bloods. Plus, the specter of someone else from The Trial of the Chicago 7 remains a possibility. Throw in other contenders like Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami…) or Stanley Tucci (Supernova) and this is a category that can go a million different ways.

Finally, Best Supporting Actress has the same issue as Supporting Actor. Precursor wise, Maria Bakalova is the frontrunner for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, but that win still feels unlikely. The same goes for Minari‘s Youn Yuh-jung, at least for now. So, it’s a matter of waiting for someone like Ellen Burstyn (Pieces of a Woman), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), or Amanda Seyfried (Mank) to step up. Those six really feel like the realistic options, with Supporting Actress the thinnest of the four categories.

My best guess right now is as follows, with awards season steamrolling along:

Best Actor – Boseman slightly in the lead, but Lindo is close to becoming the new frontrunner.

Best Actress – Mulligan could pull away, but if she doesn’t, we have a wide open race between her, Davis, and McDormand, with Zendaya looming as an upset special.

Best Supporting Actor – Kaluuya could end up taking it all, but if he doesn’t, it’s either Boseman winning here instead, or an utter surprise like Raci.

Best Supporting Actress – Your guess is as good as mine, really. Could Bakalova actually win?

“Promising Young Woman”

Check out our updated predictions and stay tuned for more next week!

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Written by Joey Magidson

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