This year’s Academy Awards are possibly the most unpredictable in years. While we’re used to a surprise or two in each ceremony this year could be like no other.
In the constantly changing landscape of Academy votership and nominees this year has produced a diverse range of nominees unlike any other. The race seems to be exceptionally close in a number of categories, making it even more difficult to try and predict the winners. However, that’s still what I’m going to try and do here, with likely unsuccessful results.
Best Cinematography – Nomadland
Nomadland looks stunning and really stands out from the rest of the crowd here. It’s the kind of truly visual film that voters tend to swing for, one of the major talking points has been around the way the film looks. It also stands out amongst the other nominees. While Mank could rival it, it feels as if this is Nomadland’s prize.
Best Costume Design – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Emma appears to be the strongest competitor here. However, Ma Rainey’s style appears to have been attracting voters in multiple ceremonies this awards season. In a number of anonymous voter articles in the last week or two (which, admittedly only show around ten voters in a 9,000+ member group) this appears to have been the favourite. Plus, there are some truly smashing suits on display.
Best Makeup And Hairstyling – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
For much the same reason as the predicted Costume Design win, Ma Rainey stands out as the frontrunner in this category. Other nominees have either potentially not stuck out as much or perhaps don’t seem to have as much that grabs the eye in terms of hair and make-up (Hillbilly Elegy, for example, was talked about, but not always in the best light at times, aside from Glenn Close’s transformation). Mank is perhaps the biggest competition, but this still feels fairly locked in for Ma Rainey.
Best Production Design – Mank
It appears that most technical category predictions amongst various sources appear to be fairly consistent, and for many confidently locked in. The Father’s subtle details and changes could well connect with a number of voters, however Mank’s film studio and production sets have plenty of sometimes larger-scale detail that could very well be recognised by voters. This could be the only win that the film with the most nominations this year wins, but it would certainly be understandable a win in this category.
Best Sound – Sound Of Metal
Unsurprisingly, sound is of great importance to Sound Of Metal. It’s an integral element to the story and the connection that we form with the central character. It feels like a lot of detail has gone into the design and impact of the sound in the film and it certainly lands by placing the viewer in his ears. It stands out from the standard musical or explosive war film nominees, and with its various elements could likely be a winner in this category.
Best Visual Effects – Tenet
It’s the major blockbuster with plenty of in-camera practical effects that appear to have attracted voters over the past few years over the likes of CGI-filled features. Tenet may not have picked up many nominations (two in total, the other for Production Design), but this one seems like a win because of the scale of the film and the way the visual effects add to that.
Best Original Song – Speak Now from One Night In Miami…
While I would love to see Husavik win this the apparent favour appears to be Leslie Odom Jr. (also nominated for Supporting Actor for his role in this film) and Sam Ashworth’s Speak Now. It seems to be the favourite to win in a category where for a number of people no major song has stuck out as a potential winner. This could be one of the most unpredictable, or rather closest, races of the night and I’m perfectly prepared to be proved wrong in this scenario. However, the song does appear to be the one that the Academy may lean towards most – although wouldn’t it be great if what some think is a slightly jokey song like Husavik won?
Best Original Score – Soul
It feels as if either way Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are winning this award – just with Soul Jon Batiste also gets one. While their Mank score is said to be a strong contender it’s hard to see this award going to anything but Soul. The way the music works with the film in it’s various different styles and elements, and the general descriptive nature of it, perhaps gives it a step above other nominees. Add to that the score’s win at various other ceremonies this awards season and the just how well the score works with the film and it seems like a strong contender for this award.
Best Film Editing – The Trial Of The Chicago 7
I’m strongly conflicted on this one. Many appear to claim that Sound Of Metal could take the win in the Film Editing category. It might not seem the obvious winner but there appears to be a lot of love surrounding it. However, in my view, the ‘flashier’ montage editing of The Trial of The Chicago 7 is perhaps what the Academy will lean towards – especially after the past couple of years with the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody and Ford V Ferrari taking the golden statuettes in this category. This is another category where I’m very ready to be wrong and for something else to take the award; it feels as if any of the nominees could take it, but I think The Trial Of The Chicago 7’s montages might just edge it over with the most votes.
Best Documentary Short – A Love Song For Latasha
The majority of nominees in this category appear to be somewhat heavy this year. While A Concerto Is A Conversation is perhaps the lightest it appears that there’s a lot of attention towards A Love Song For Latasha. There’s a chance that a number of voters had seen this prior to the nominations because of the short’s availability on Netflix.
Best Live-Action Short – Two Distant Strangers
This is perhaps the closest race of this year’s short categories. Feeling Through is said to be a strong contender and The Letter Room has the star power of Oscar Isaac behind it, perhaps a drawing point for some voters, making this the short that gained more attention from them due to the recognition. However, with themes that echo and reflect events from the past year it feels as if Two Distant Strangers could have a bigger impact on voters. Add to that, again, the fact that it’s on Netflix there appears to be a big push behind this particular short, alongside the simple matter of it being one of the favourites to win.
Best Animated Short – If Anything Happens I Love You
While Pixar is nominated for their short Burrow the Animated Short category, unlike Animated Feature, isn’t often lead by or reserved for Disney and Pixar. If Anything Happens I Love You made a big impact when it was first released on Netflix and got a lot of people talking, it’s perhaps the biggest name amongst the nominees. Alongside the subject matter potentially having emotionally hit a number of voters this appears to be the frontrunner, unless Burrow does manage to take this one.
Best Documentary Feature – My Octopus Teacher
There seems to be three potential winners in this category. My Octopus Teacher, Time and Collective. For weeks and weeks I thought that this was going to be Time’s award, however over the last week or two that appears to have changed. My Octopus Teacher seems to be the favourite to win, and has won a number of awards in documentary categories across the awards circuit this year. I haven’t seen the film and so I can’t speak on its chances with a great deal of confidence. However, based on previous wins, word of mouth around it and the general response it appears that this will likely be the winner at this year’s ceremony.
Best International Feature – Another Round
With it’s Best Director nomination Another Round is the favourite to win in this year’s International Feature category. Understandable too, because it’s a great film. While there is competition from Quo Vadis, Aida? and Collective this still seems to be the frontrunner. It’s perhaps the most recognisable name in the category, has had a generally strong, positive response and with the talk that if it was pushed more it could have had an appearance in other categories (including Leading Actor for Mads Mikkelson) Another Round seems like a possible winner in a category where votes could be evenly spread.
Best Animated Feature – Soul
It’s Pixar. It’s Pixar handling different themes and ideas for kids as to those for adults. Wolfwalkers seems to be the main competition, and it would be wonderful to see Cartoon Saloon pick up an Oscar, yet Soul seems to be the fixed-on highlighted nominee that’s very likely to pick up the win, especially with the emotional hit that a number of viewers have taken from it. The fact that it appears in other categories (even if technical ones, and could well win Best Score) there’s perhaps a bit more push behind it there too. Either way it would be an unsurprising 11th win of the Best Animated Feature for Pixar.
Best Original Screenplay – The Trial Of The Chicago 7
This is very, very close between The Trial Of The Chicago 7 and Promising Young Woman. Promising Young Woman appears to be the favourite to win, and there are plenty of elements within there that are understandable as to why. However, while it has slightly lost steam The Trial Of The Chicago 7 is an Aaron Sorkin courtroom drama, and I think that that could sway some, especially older, voters. Promising Young Woman could very well have its vote split by some of the other nominees in this category, such as Sound Of Metal and Minari. Perhaps both films could split votes with potential underdog Judas And The Black Messiah. However, in this case, with all the elements that it has and the strength of the screenplay I think that The Trial Of The Chicago 7 could well find itself winning this award. This is, clearly, another category where I’m very ready to be proven wrong. Promising Young Woman could easily win, and Judas And The Black Messiah could be a surprise win, there seems to be a fair deal of quiet support for it in this category. However, I’m going to stick with The Trial Of The Chicago 7, mostly for the thought of older voters leaning towards an Aaron Sorkin written courtroom drama.
Best Adapted Screenplay – The Father
Nomadland is a strong contender here, however some of the film was notably natural and slightly improvised, which may impact some voters – as will likely be the case with Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, despite the fact that scenes are heavily scripted with presumed responses from unsuspecting participants and various scenarios worked around. However, the main thing that perhaps gives The Father a, very slight, edge is the emotional impact that it has; especially with the small details and changes that are in the otherwise naturalistic nature of the piece. It’s managed to pick up some screenplay awards so far and while initially a seemingly quiet outside contender it’s built up a fair deal of steam and attention since the nominations were announced and could easily get love in this category where it particularly seems to stand out amongst the other nominees. Again, Nomadland could be an alternative winner here, certainly not an “upset” as some might put it, but The Father could perhaps win here thanks to the more notable screenplay.
Best Supporting Actor – Daniel Kaluuya in Judas And The Black Messiah
Kaluuya has, deservedly, won a number of awards this season for this particular performance, and don’t expect that to stop. He’s the frontrunner in this category and it’s unlikely that co-star LaKeith Stanfield is going to split the vote in any way. Paul Raci was initially said to be competition, and at one point the frontrunner, here for his role in Sound Of Metal. If anything the new ‘upset’ is believed by some to be Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial Of The Chicago 7, as a stand out in an ensemble cast there is reason to believe he has a chance in this respect. But, as the conversation around Raci appears to have died down that around Kaluuya has simply increased to the level that he seems very likely to win.
Best Supporting Actress – Yuh-Jung Youn in Minari
It seems that Glenn Close is unlikely to win for her eighth nomination, simply because the film she’s nominated for is the poorly-responded to Hillbilly Elegy. Maria Bakalova has been praised for being a relative newcomer and managing to match, and shine next to, Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, and she poses a potential threat to Yuh-Jung Youn’s wonderful performance in Minari. There’s been increasing love and attention towards Youn, who potentially has the advantage of being in a more dramatic role as opposed to Bakalova’s comedic role – the Oscars still seem to somewhat lean away from comedy, even if Bakalova was once the favourite to win (and still has a fairly strong backing), until Youn won a number of prominent awards including at the SAG awards and BAFTAs.
Best Leading Actor – Anthony Hopkins in The Father
A lot of me still thinks that this is easily Chadwick Boseman’s to win for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Hopkins won the BAFTA, although on home territory. He does seem to be the main competition to Boseman’s final film role, and favour appears to have grown towards him alongside the film he stars in. It’s a brilliant performance that could gain him the win, and while Riz Ahmed also seems to have a strong following behind him, although perhaps not as much matched to Boseman and Hopkins. I have a strong feeling that Boseman is still going to win this, deservingly so, and yet my mind tells me Hopkins, and so for some reason I’ve gone with his performance as my prediction. I’m very likely wrong, and even think that I am (I understand that this means my prediction makes absolutely no sense whatsoever), but, I still think there’s the chance of a surprise win for him here, and therefore place him as my prediction for Best Leading Actor. It could go either way.
Best Leading Actress – Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman
In this category it’s anyone’s race. Any of the nominees could take this home and there would likely be no fuss. While Vanessa Kirby seems to be the outsider for her brilliant performance in Pieces Of A Woman the other nominees could cancel each other out and lead her to a win. Meanwhile the other nominees have won awards at other ceremonies and made for one of the most unpredictable races of the night. There’s discussion around Frances McDormand having won twice in the past, and only three years ago for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and therefore being passed on for this so someone else can have a turn. And while Viola Davis won four years ago for her role in Fences she still seems to be a strong contender, Andra Day (my personal favourite in this category) has some support, although potentially not as much as other nominees, just pushing her outside the competition. Thus meaning we’re left with a race between Carey Mulligan’s fierce contemporary performance in Promising Young Woman and Viola Davis’ acclaimed turn in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Either performer could take this award with ease (as, as already mentioned, could any of the nominees in this category), but I feel that somehow Mulligan could just get enough votes to push her to the win in this case. As stated already with a number of explanations in categories, essentially proving that I’m far from confident with most of these predictions and endlessly repeating myself, I’m very open to being proved wrong here and the Academy awarding to someone completely different. To, once again, repeat myself; this is an unpredictable race in an unpredictable year.
Best Director – Chloé Zhao for Nomadland
After winning almost every possible directing award under the sun this awards season it almost seems certain that Chloé Zhao will win this year’s Best Director award – becoming only the second woman to win the award (after Kathryn Bigelow’s win in 2010 for The Hurt Locker). David Fincher has been the potential ‘upset’ in this category, with most of the other nominees seemingly not having been overly discussed (aside from Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round who does appear to have had some support behind him). Yet, this still feels like Zhao’s award. With all the praise that she’s deservingly received not just during this awards season but since the initial festival screenings of the film, especially in regards to her style and the subtle techniques she uses to quietly and calmly capture the film. Her direction has been heavily discussed in what seems like nothing but good light from people all across the Academy, and film world in general. It seems difficult to imagine anyone but her winning this award, and deservingly so.
Best Picture – Nomadland
With all the love that it’s had I can see Nomadland being the film that most consistently makes the top spots on preferential ballots – especially within the top three. Minari could very easily be a surprise win, although a very good surprise, with it’s universality and how well it appears to have gone down with audiences. Although with how well it’s done at other ceremonies, and Chloé Zhao’s likely Best Director win, it’s hard to see Nomadland not winning Best Picture. But, with the strength of the other nominees and the unpredictable year that this is likely to be, I expect there will be a number of surprises during this year’s ceremony, it feels as if almost any of the nominees could win Best Picture (although maybe not Mank). Despite this, I’m going to say that Nomadland will win Best Picture, with Minari as a potential surprise winner
You can read my annual What Will Win Best Picture piece, delving into the chances of each of the nominees, here.