Away from my day job, I’m a pretty excellent Oscar prognosticator. Each year, I keep track of how each movie performs at a number of non-Academy award shows, and use that information to predict the best picture lineup at the Oscars. This year, I can say with a very high level of confidence that there are only 13 films that are truly in the running for Hollywood’s highest honor: a best picture nomination. When the nominations are announced in March, eight or nine of the films I’ll be discussing here are going to duke it out for a victory.
All awards conversations thus far need to include “Nomadland” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” As it stands, these two are near locks to be nominated for best picture. “Nomadland” hasn’t had its wide release yet, but rest assured that director Chloe Zhao and star Frances McDormand are looking like potential winners in their respective categories. When the film finally plays wide, I’ll be in the theater as fast as I can.
I’ve already written about “Chicago 7,” but since it first dropped on Netflix, the hype for it has only grown. Oscar hype, that is, as I don’t see many people getting passionate about it. It checks many of the Oscar boxes, but I’m not sure it will be a winner in any category, save for Aaron Sorkin’s script. Nevertheless, it looks like a safe bet to earn at least a few nominations.
Beyond those top two, “Mank” looks relatively sturdy at the moment. Films about Hollywood generally do well with the Academy thanks to nepotism and a shallow worldview, so I suspect it will do well on nomination morning. Overdue director David Fincher is very likely to be nominated, as is his late father, who wrote the screenplay. Actors Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman have also performed well with some of the early award bodies, so they may very well be joining Fincher at the ceremony. The “Mank” crew is likely to pull in the most nominations of any film, as the technical categories, like sound and cinematography, should be easy to gather in a year with few big budget films.
Next up, there’s a pair of socially conscious films about the Black experience in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “One Night in Miami.” They both are stage adaptations to the screen and revolve around characters in the entertainment industry. Their Oscar chances will be driven by their performances. Chadwick Boseman is likely to pick up a posthumous best actor Oscar for “Ma Rainey,” and his co-star Viola Davis might win the corresponding award for actresses. Leslie Odom Jr., of “Hamilton” fame, knocked his performance as Sam Cooke out of the park in “Miami,” and looks to be on solid ground for a nod in best supporting actor. Keep an eye on “Miami” director and previous Oscar winner Regina King as well. Her nomination at the Golden Globes in the best director category suggests she may be in contention in that category at the Academy Awards, too.
“Minari,” starring Steven Yeun (well-known for being in a show I don’t care about, “The Walking Dead”), is also a solid contender at the moment. Yeun himself may be in line to crack the best actor race, though it appears his role is smaller than some other actors in that race. That being said, “Parasite” winning last year shows the Academy is willing to award Asian filmmakers in a big way, a trend that has not always been so. With that said, “Parasite” failed to garner any attention in the acting categories last year. By contrast, “Minari” has the potential to outdo that showing twofold between Yeun and supporting actress Youn Yuh-jung.
Next up is “The Father,” another stage play moved to the big screen. Anthony Hopkins is the titular character, a man who begins showing the early signs of dementia. Of note is the buzz surrounding the film’s editing. It is atypical to find a film as unflashy as “The Father” in the editing category, but the film is supposedly edited in a disorienting fashion, meant to reflect the main character’s suffering. After I get around to seeing it, I’m excited to explore this aspect of the film with more firsthand experience.
“News of the World” is also in the hunt for a best picture nomination, despite it losing steam as of late. Audiences seem to respect the craft, but the storytelling is a bit mild. Having seen it recently, I can’t say I disagree with public opinion on this one. That being said, it’s hard to imagine the film snagging six or seven nominations on the technical side of things, but then failing to crack the best picture roster. Time will tell if it can recapture some of its earlier momentum.
Way back in the first half of the year, Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” hit Netflix and became a big deal for a few weeks. Again, I wasn’t too impressed. Major critics have adored it, however, and if that praise carries over to Academy voters, “Bloods” could do some serious damage across the board.
And finally, there are four films that will almost definitely keep each other from making it into the best picture category. “Soul,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Sound of Metal” and “Promising Young Woman” are seemingly duking it out for one or two spots at the bottom of the category. This is unfortunate, because this foursome, to me, represents the most interesting filmmaking of the past year. I suppose if I had to choose, I would want “Promising Young Woman” and “Judas and the Black Messiah” to make the lineup just so Twitter isn’t insufferable for the next decade (as if it won’t be anyway). In a perfect world, there’d be no debate whether any of them were worthy. But we live in the world in which the Academy is just a bit too political to make the best choices. Ah well, so it goes.
Sam Zavada is a copy editor with The Standard-Speaker in Hazleton. He previously served as the news clerk at The Standard-Speaker, working with the obituaries and the community and lifestyle pages. Sam’s work in print dates back to his time at King’s College, where he spent two years as the editor in chief of the school’s newspaper, The Crown. Earlier in his time with The Crown, he worked as a staff writer and the entertainment manager. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.