There’s not much time left. Sunday, we will find out just how much we did and did not know about this Oscar season. While I’ve contributed quick thoughts to our Rundown articles, I always like to do more with my final prediction post of the year. This will include how I think the races will finish out and what has the best chances of surprising. Because of streaming access and other factors, I have fallen behind in my Oscar watching this year and while I’m saddened that I haven’t seen nearly enough, I’m sure I’ll catch up over time, especially since if Nomadland wins, it will be the only Best Picture nominee I haven’t seen. I’ll have to rectify that so I can rank it. Either way, my personal thoughts are not included this year mostly because I haven’t seen enough and partly because I can’t bring myself to be as through in my comments as I would want. As such, for this year, I’ve removed them. There are three exceptions to this, the short film categories. I’ve seen all fifteen nominees, so I have no problem opining on those.
The categories below are sorted in order from least competitive to most competitive. Best Picture, whether competitive or not, will always be last. While these are currently my final predictions, I reserve the right to change my mind at the last-minute. That said, doing that has often been a bad thing, so it will likely stay the same. Keep an eye out on the sidebar where it says “updated” under the predictions listing. When it says FINAL, you know I’m settled. I really just want to take one last look through my Hopefuls/Predictions and the chances rankings to see if I feel they still need to be adjusted. I hope to have this done by the end of day on Thursday or Friday.
Best Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya. Until Kaluuya came along, Leslie Odom Jr. was steadily picking up precursors, but as the season wore on, not only did Kaluuya manage to pass him with 20 prizes (34.48% of the awards available), Paul Raci did as well (17 awards or 29.31% of trophies). What benefits Kaluuya more than any other is his complete sweep of the televised awards, SAG, BAFTA, Globes, and Critics Choice. There’s little doubt he’s destined to win even if it seems like his film is without a lead.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Paul Raci. In the unlikely event that there’s a shock loss in this certain category, Raci’s late-stage success might bolster his chances. Still, this may well be one of the only categories this year guaranteed an outcome.
Who Will Win: Chloé Zhao. No director has so completely dominated the awards calendar in a very long time. Chloé Zhao has won a staggering 48 trophies for Best Director/Directing, including the most important for her, the DGA. That’s 81.36% of all awards going to her. Only Regina King, Spike Lee, and Darius Marder managed to secure more than one award themselves. If Kaluuya weren’t such a dominant force, I would have put this one at the top of the list rather than second.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Emerald Fennell. Is there anyone more of a lock than Chloé Zhao? Nope. And of these nominees, only Lee Isaac Chung and Emerald Fennell have any passion supporting their candidates. Both Chung and Zhao took subjects close to their hearts and made successes out of that while Fennell did something creative and unique and did brilliantly in the process. I have to think that Fennell’s work on Promising is a little more inventive than the others and might deserve the recognition more, but I cannot imagine her winning over Zhao.
Best Animated Feature
What Will Win: Soul. Perhaps my opinions on this film are being shadowed by Pixar’s seeming dominance of the season. 2/3 of prizes have gone to their meditation on death and legacy, so why does it feel strange to say that it’s the frontrunner? It really doesn’t. I wouldn’t have ranked it this high in the list of likelihood if I didn’t believe wholly that it would win.
What Could Potentially Upset: Wolfwalkers. This is the film that keeps me from feeling Soul is entirely secure in its position. Between these two films, there were only two Animated Feature selections that didn’t go to their way. Wolfwalkers picked up 17 awards to Soul‘s 36 for a 31.48% hold on the award. That’s pretty strong, especially up against a film like Soul. The two films didn’t compete head-on for the top prizes at the Annie Awards, but Wolfwalkers picked up several prizes, including Best Director, an award thought sure to go to Soul. There appears to be genuine excitement for Wolfwalkers, which might just be enough to carry it to the top spot. Still, Soul remains in the stronger position based on its successes at BAFTA, PGA, and the Golden Globes.
Best Production Design
What Will Win: Mank. Each year, there are fewer than 30 prizes given out by precursors for production design/art direction. Mank has won 20 of them, giving it an impressive 86.96% stranglehold on the race. That alone should give us assurance that it will carry on to the Oscars.
What Could Potentially Upset: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The problem is that Mank underperformed in its nomination count and wasn’t as well loved by critics as expected. If Oscar voters are wanting to honor something new, they have a few choices, but none of them very good. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Tenet have the best chances, though the former has a very limited number of sets, while the latter doesn’t feel like the kind of film that would win this award. That means Mank is probably safe for now.
What Will Win: Sound of Metal. 85.71% of the precursor prizes for sound, a small number of awards (6), have gone to Sound of Metal. Seven other films have won trophies, but all seven were winners in individual categories at the Motion Picture Sound Editors, which didn’t seem to like Sound of Metal all that much. But Cinema Audio Society did, as did BAFTA, and that’s really the only guidance we need at this point.
What Could Potentially Upset: Greyhound. While Greyhound wasn’t exactly a surprise nominee, it fits the pattern of war films getting nominated in Sound Editing and, without that category, Sound Mixing will do. This is evinced by its win at the MPSE awards while the frontrunner went home with nothing. If there’s a surprise, an unlikely possibility, this sounds like the best film to take up the mantle.
Best Original Score
What Will Win: Soul. Not only has Soul dominated Best Animated Feature, it’s also been the top selection in Original Score. From fewer than 40 awards, the film has taken 31 of them, or 79.49%. That’s an impressive number, meaning Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are likely to become double Oscar winners.
What Could Potentially Upset: Mank. Even if they didn’t win for Soul, it’s possible they would win for their fascinating work on Mank. There’s not enough evidence to suggest what film might have the best chance since none other than Mank has picked up more than one precursor. With BAFTA and the Globes both going for it, I expect Soul will still win.
What Will Win: Nomadland. Nomadland‘s dominance of its various categories is consistent. Take for example this category where the film has claimed 69.57% of awards (32 total). Mank claimed 5 and Tenet picked up 4, which doesn’t bode well for their chances. BAFTA went with Nomadland, which is probably its most important get.
What Could Potentially Upset: Mank. Yet, there’s another possibility with Mank, which managed to stun with a ASC win this year. That said, the award is voted on by everyone in the Academy, not just cinematographers, so the chances of Mank overcoming Nomadland‘s advantage is slim.
Who Will Win: Chadwick Boseman. Apart from BAFTA, all of the televised awards, SAG, Globes, and Critics Choice, have gone to Boseman, who died of cancer last year. While Boseman would likely have been the frontrunner were he still alive, the voices calling for his recognition have grown louder and more insistent even if this might also be Anthony Hopkins’ last go at the gold statue. Boseman’s 25 precursors (41.67% of awards) show he’s strong, but not invulnerable.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Anthony Hopkins. If you only paid attention to the American televised awards, you might think that Boseman was far and away the most honored actor of the year. While that’s true, Riz Ahmed has been keeping pace with 18 wins, non-nominee Delroy Lindo had 11, and Hopkins 5, but it’s Hopkins’ win at BAFTA that pushes him just past Ahmed in the race to overtake Boseman should he falter. That’s not likely to happen, but Hopkins having two Oscars wouldn’t be upsetting to most Academy members, which may explain why he’s leading the runner-up race. Ahmed certainly has more in him, though Lindo’s failure to earn a nomination probably means the end of his Oscar road.
Best Costume Design
What Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Out of 15 organizations handing out prizes for costume design, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has won 9 of them, or 60%. This tells us that it’s most definitely the frontrunner. That BAFTA and the CDG agreed certainly helps it.
What Could Potentially Upset: Mulan. Although Ma Rainey won at the CDG, so did nominee Mulan, which has exotic costumes that Oscar voters aren’t as used to seeing, which puts it just ahead of Emma‘s designs, which everyone is overly familiar with.
Best Original Song
What Will Win: “Speak Now”. In terms of frontrunners, “Speak Now” is perhaps both the strongest and weakest, at least depending on who you talk to. Part of the inability to commit to putting “Speak Now” far out front is the notion that there are A) too many political songs nominated, and B) after a year of pandemic, people are looking for entertainment. “Speak Now” is the recipient of 9 precursors for Best Original Song (56.25%), which includes the Critics Choice Association, one of only two televised awards that give out honors for songs. The other, the Golden Globes, gave theirs to “Io Si” from The Life Ahead.
What Could Potentially Upset: “Fight for You”. “Io Si” might have won the Globe, but it just doesn’t feel like an Oscar winner. Few foreign language songs have managed to win, even though it is written by Diane Warren, who still doesn’t have an Oscar. What settles me on “Fight for You” as runner-up is that Judas and the Black Messiah came out most recently and has a prominent song by a major recording artist. The argument for “Husavik” doesn’t really hold up since comedy songs don’t have a very good history at the Oscars and convincing people to even watch Eurovision Song Contest might be difficult enough. That leaves “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7. In any other year, it might be a contender, but it’s not an incredibly memorable song and has failed to win any precursors while “Io Si” and “Fight for You” both have. Anyway, I doubt “Speak Now” will lose, but it could honestly be any of the others surprising.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
What Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. One of the categories with the least precursor action is Makeup & Hairstyling, with a grand total of 9 organizations giving out prizes. That means Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has been outright destroying the competition, winning 7 of those awards. The only others to place elsewhere are Birds of Prey, Mank, and Pinocchio. Not even conceptual runner-up Hillbilly Elegy has.
What Could Potentially Upset: Pinocchio. The thing is, anyone who’s seen Pinocchio has come away saying it’s a slam dunk winner. Why is that? Because the production made various people, including the protagonist, look like they were carved out of wood. That kind of mastery impresses and if voters give it a watch, it becomes a serious threat. That’s a big “if,” though. Academy voters are notorious for watching only what they want to and ignoring everything else, which gives Ma Rainey the slight edge, but it’s far from a slam dunk.
Best Documentary Feature
What Will Win: My Octopus Teacher. Every year, numerous organizations spread the love between multiple different documentaries. In spite of there being 59 organizations giving out Documentary prizes, the film to earn the most individual accolades is Time, which received 13, or a small plurality of 22.03%. The Academy has a long tradition of ignoring what’s popular, which suggests that neither Time nor Collective are the frontrunners here. The next most honored films, Dick Johnson Is Dead, Boys State, and All In: The Fight for Democracy, were completely overlooked by the Academy. What’s most interesting is that in spite of these acclaimed documentaries taking 39 of the 59 awards for Best Documentary, My Octopus Teacher, which has 3, has suddenly emerged as the frontrunner. How is that possible? By winning two of the most prominent awards this year: PGA and BAFTA. That’s a potent combination and they are among the most recent organizations to give the award, which means the film is very high profile right now and its broadly appealing style is very likely to triumph.
What Could Potentially Upset: Collective. That doesn’t mean Collective and Time are out of luck. They are still very much in the race. Collective is timely and is also only the second foreign language documentary nominated both in this category and Best International Feature. If voters can applaud it there as well as here, then it has clearly got some expansive support. Time is also timely and has several accolades, but still feels like a second runner-up. My Octopus Teacher has almost swept the craft precursors and that’s a boon to its chances as it shows many people like the film, but if there’s an upset, it could be almost any of these titles.
Best International Film
What Will Win: Another Round. With its Best Directing citation, Another Round is the closest thing we have to a sure thing without being one. Thomas Vinterberg’s film won 14 precursors, collecting 25.93% of the awards. That’s not a large majority. Matter of fact, Minari, which was ineligible for the Oscar, claimed the same number, many of them taken from Another Round‘s column. Collective is the only other Oscar nominee to earn a precursor award, two specifically, which doesn’t give it much shot against something as formidable as Another Round. In the history of the Foreign Language Film Oscar (now International Feature Film), there’s one other factor working against everyone. To my recollection, no film has won over another film that had nominations outside of this category without itself having other nominations. The best example I can think of is Central Station earning a Best Actress nomination back in 1998 while Life Is Beautiful scored nominations multiple places. Life Is Beautiful won over something with other nominations, but it too had other nominations, negating that advantage.
What Could Potentially Upset: Quo Vadis, Aida?. So how do you pick a runner-up? It’s difficult, especially when there is rumbling that Quo Vadis, Aida? has suddenly emerged as a major contender in this race. The film didn’t release until 2021, which makes its sudden rising trajectory explanatory. You can’t win if no one sees your film and usually, the more recent entry tends to leave a longer lasting impression. It’s also the only film to garner any significant buzz for a win other than Another Round.
Best Visual Effects
What Will Win: Tenet. There are 20 organizations giving out awards for visual effects every year. Tenet has claimed eleven of those prizes. That’s 55% of the current 20 prizes. For that reason alone, Tenet remains the prohibitive frontrunner. Its win at BAFTA and the Critics Choice Association give it more strength.
What Could Potentially Upset: The Midnight Sky. That said, Christopher Nolan’s latest film didn’t capture the one award everyone expected it to take: the Visual Effects Society prize. Sure, it was nominated, but its use of practical effects rather than CGI might explain its loss to The Midnight Sky, a film that Netflix has been pushing hardcore. Tenet remains the frontrunner, but I would not be at all surprised to see Midnight Sky or even one of the other nominees win this award. Part of my thoughts on that are that Nolan pushed too hard for and got a 2020 theatrical release, moving the release back several times before finally putting it out there, still in the middle of a pandemic. It wasn’t a huge success and it ruffled more feathers than smoothed them. There may be some frustration with Nolan’s refusal to postpone the release to 2021 out of sheer vanity and when you acquire that kind of reputation, it’s difficult to escape. Remember also that all voters choose the winners, not just visual effects artists, which is the only reason Tenet remains at the top of my list, not because it’s a prohibitive frontrunner, but because I cannot imagine voters not being impressed with those practical designs.
Best Supporting Actress
Who Will Win: Yuh-jung Youn. While 60 organizations give out prizes for acting, only 58 separately recognize supporting actors. Thus, the numbers here will be a little different than the leading categories. That information provided, it seems that Yuh-jung Youn might be one of the stronger contenders this year, which is a surprising thing for me to say with how low on the list I’ve placed it. That’s because she is the only actor, lead or support, male or female, to have won a clear majority of precursors. She has 33 trophies, which is 56.90% of all those given. She won both the BAFTA and SAG awards, which are among the better precursors for this category, while losing televised precursors at the Critics Choice (to Maria Bakalova) and at the Globes (to non-nominated Jodie Foster). The reason this category seems so marginal is that you have three actors who have historical factors supporting their victories. Maria Bakalova and Amanda Seyfried are considered ingénues (though Seyfried is beyond her 20s, which is typically where such honors are bestowed) and Glenn Close is considered overdue. All of these factors make the race tight even if Youn looks certain to be the first winner Asian winner in this category since Miyoshi Umeki in 1957 for Sayonara, who was the first.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Glenn Close. Bakalova won the Critics Choice Award, which might make her a contender and the other 13 awards given out for supporting actress combine to put her in second-most honored territory for this category (24.14%). Seyfried only has 4, which puts her at a distinct disadvantage against Bakalova. Then there’s Glenn Close, who has 1 precursor prize from the Hawaii Film Critics, hardly a prominent precursor. That said, Close is now on Oscar nomination number eight. Losing again will put her in very good company, though she would then be the most nominated female actor in history not to have an Oscar. Some think that needs to be remedied, but she keeps getting nominations for films that no one loves. Hillbilly Elegy was a prominent flop and has been lambasted for its author’s inflammatory racist remarks. That fact alone suggests no one is wanting to honor the film even if it was made by Hollywood liberal Ron Howard. Considering that, while I think Close has a chance of ending her Oscar losing streak, it seems doubtful this will be her road to victory, which means she should be winning on nomination nine, as long as it’s a much better film.
Best Original Screenplay
What Will Win: Promising Young Woman. In terms of screenwriting accolades, the most honored script of the year is Promising Young Woman, which has claimed an impressive 25 prizes. Unfortunately, that’s only a plurality, not a majority (48.08%). Along the way, Emerald Fennell’s debut script has lost to some prominent screenplays for Minari (11 awards) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (8). Still, the prominent wins from the Writers Guild of America, BAFTA, and the Critics Choice Association, suggest that the race isn’t as close as it would seem. The Golden Globes were the only televised awards that went elsewhere for a victor.
What Could Potentially Upset: The Trial of the Chicago 7. And that’s what puts Aaron Sorkin in the runner-up position for The Trial of the Chicago 7. Ever since his prominent run for the television series The West Wing, he’s been given countless opportunities to ply his trade both on the big and small screen, often to great success, but not always. He writes great dialogue and that’s completely present in Trial, but he has an Oscar and, historically (over the last 3 decades), this category tends to recognize unique and compelling scripts over traditional ones, which favors Promising. That and since Fennell is sure to lose the Directing Oscar and a producing Oscar, this is the best place to honor her achievement outside of Best Actress.
Best Film Editing
What Will Win: Sound of Metal. Precedent favors Sound of Metal. The last film to earn nominations in this category and Sound (then Sound Mixing) where sound was a crucial element of its story, it won both prizes, surprising a lot of prognosticators. Whiplash was thought to be a guaranteed winner in Sound Mixing, but many thought it was too odd to be a Film Editing winner. When the American Cinema Editors gave out prizes, it indeed lost to another picture. That wasn’t the nail in the coffin though, and it come from behind to win at the Oscars. The same kind of trajectory is playing out this year as it did in 2014. Whiplash picked up both Sound and Film Editing nominations, lost at ACE, and turned around to win BAFTA before claiming the Oscars in both categories. Sound of Metal has done that as well, losing ACE and winning BAFTA. One added benefit in Sound of Metal‘s favor is that Whiplash wasn’t even nominated at the Cinema Audio Society, but Sound of Metal was and won.
What Could Potentially Upset: The Trial of the Chicago 7. For precursors, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Nomadland have utterly dominated. Combined, they won 19 awards from a maximum of 27 organizations. That’s pretty impressive. That accounts for just over 70% of awards. For that reason alone, Sound of Metal is a weak frontrunner. Trial has the most prominent wins with the American Cinema Editors and Critics Choice Association each giving it their award. Nomadland has yet to win a major organization’s prize and its not generally considered as much an editing achievement as a directing one. That means Trial is more likely to win than Nomadland, but each slightly trail Sound of Metal.
Who Will Win: Carey Mulligan. What should have been a coronation has turned into a knock-down, drag-out fight for victory. Frances McDormand has two Oscars and Viola Davis has one. Carey Mulligan has one prior Oscar nomination, but has never won in spite of being one of the most respected actors working today. Out comes Promising Young Woman, a monumental achievement that gives Mulligan her best role to date. All of these factors aligned as Mulligan started picking up numerous precursors. Unfortunately, McDormand was also collecting prizes from critics who didn’t care if they gave out more than a couple of awards to the same person. Before the Spirits announce, Mulligan barely holds the lead with 25 to McDormand’s 23 awards. 41.67% isn’t a majority, though, which makes her seem weak. Other strange setbacks also got in the way, most notably her shocking exclusion from the BAFTA nomination slate for Best Actress. BAFTA decided to try committee voting instead of full acting membership selection of nominations and ended up with a strange assortment of nominees, only two of which were also nominated at the Oscars, a rare lack of overlap. Mulligan was somehow left out while McDormand and Vanessa Kirby weren’t. That stunner threw some confusion into the race as did the Golden Globe and SAG awards.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Viola Davis. McDormand winning a third Oscar still seems a bit of a far-fetched notion. It’s not impossible, but to win so soon after her second and to become one of only four actresses in history to accomplish this (Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, and Meryl Streep are the others) feels unlikely. Andra Day won a surprise victory at the Golden Globes, but how much of that was voters there trying to show they weren’t racist, after revelations of no Black members in the HFPA, is unknown, but it gave Day a boost going into the SAG awards, where Viola Davis won instead. That means Kirby is the only actor not to win a televised award for her performance (matter of fact, the only place she’s won anything was the New Mexico Film Critics and no one would say that’s indicative of anything). Davis is the kind of actor that Oscar voters would love to give a second Oscar to. Will they do it again for another August Wilson adaptation? It’s possible, but would set a unsustainable precedent. Did she win because of her TV connections? SAG voters include both film and television performers, so that explanation is possible, but I suspect it’s not the only factor. Mulligan definitely deserves an Oscar for this role, but Davis might just prevent her from doing so, which would mean the first non-White four acting winner slate in history, which is a monumental achievement and some voters won’t be able to resist that.
Best Adapted Screenplay
What Will Win: Nomadland. All season long, we’ve been trying to understand how a film like Nomadland, which is more an achievement of directing and acting than it is of writing, has managed to pick up so many awards. With 19 honors (44.19%), it leaves second-place One Night in Miami, with 7 (16.28%), in the dust. It’s won in places that weren’t expected, such as the USC Scripter awards, where well known original source authors tend to do better than anything else. It wasn’t eligible at the WGA with its arcane rules limiting nominations to guild-contracted productions, which allowed Borat Subsequent Moviefilm to win the award.
What Could Potentially Upset: The Father. Then BAFTA went to The Father, which had, to that point, only won 3 awards. Suddenly, we’re talking a potential upset. The Father has a lot of fans and has managed to secure several nominations that weren’t guaranteed and some that weren’t even likely (see: Production Design). That across-the-board love might just manifest itself in two prizes for the film, one in Best Actor and one in Best Adapted Screenplay. That scenario seems remote, but it goes straight through this category. The Father seems like both the sort of film Oscar voters would pick, but also one that history does not favor. That’s partly because BAFTA has a home field advantage baked into its selections and The Father‘s strong showing there may be a reflection of that, but it’s not likely the only factor, which keeps The Father in the conversation. Another film could win besides these two, most notably One Night and Borat, but neither has the momentum at this point that The Father does.
Best Documentary Short Subject
What Will Win: Hunger Ward. These short film categories are always difficult to predict, mainly because not all Academy members vote. Those who wish to do so must attest that they’ve seen all of the nominees before placing their votes. It’s now possible with their streaming platform that the Academy can confirm this information. As such, films with broad distribution or familiarity across multiple areas aren’t at any sort of advantage like they are in major categories. I talked about Pinocchio in Best Makeup & Hairstyling as an example of this. Having said all this, the most emotionally impactful of the five films is Hunger Ward, about starving children in the midst of war in Yemen. That kind of subject matter will tug at heartstrings like none of the other films can and that might just give it the edge.
What Could Potentially Upset: Colette. Colette is another with an emotional component that’s likely to give the film a boost in the competition. Emotion isn’t a guarantee, but it’s a foundational element of documentary filmmaking. None of the other films have that impact and that’s why I suspect the race will come down to these. A Concerto Is a Conversation seemed like a potential contender, but having seen it, it’s just not that impressive. A Love Song for Latasha is a bit out of the norm for documentaries and Do Not Split doesn’t seem to know where to end. Hunger Ward is probably the one with the most artistic merit and will pair nicely with its emotional underpinnings. For that reason, I suspect it will win.
My Personal Thoughts: I connected most with Colette and Hunger Ward with Do Not Split and Love Song for Latasha worthy nominees. A Concerto Is a Conversation, on the other hand, is a bit dull and unfocused. If I had to choose, I would probably take Colette as the best, but I wouldn’t be upset if Hunger Ward won instead.
Best Live Action Short Film
What Will Win: Feeling Through. Feeling Through might not be the most emotional of the five shorts, but it certainly has an emotional core that makes its characters sympathetic. It tackles a couple of thorny political issues, but does so without being overtly political. The finale is also something of great emotional catharsis. Plus, it and The Present are the only ones with happy endings, though happy endings aren’t a requirement.
What Could Potentially Upset: Two Distant Strangers. The relevance of Two Distant Strangers might just be enough to pull it over the finish line. It’s an impactful story with a creative hook and its emotional element is strong. That said, emotion plays a big part of The Present as well, which could bolster its chances, but considering the Academy’s history, I doubt a pro-Palestinian short film can win. The Letter Room might have a big name, but Oscar Isaac can’t save the film from its shortcomings. White Eye might have an outside chance. It’s the most creative of these films in terms of filmmaking techniques, which might well bolster its potential.
My Personal Thoughts: I didn’t care much for The Letter Room, but the others were all good. I admired more than liked White Eye. Two Distant Strangers is fascinating, but not without its problems. Between Feeling Through and The Present, Feeling just barely triumphs as both were wonderful and emotionally-connective.
Best Animated Short Film
What Will Win: If Anything Happens I Love You. While I’ve said earlier that emotion plays a key component in these categories, no victors seem to hinge more on that dynamic than this one. If Anything Happens I Love You could have its denouement ruined by being too open about its content, but anyone who watches it without that foreknowledge will most certainly feel gutted by it and that alone might give it a leg up over the competition.
What Could Potentially Upset: Opera. Burrow and Yes-People are very traditional animated short films that don’t break new ground and are simply there to entertain. In any other year, that wouldn’t be a minor factor, but in a pandemic, diversion is the name of the game. That said, I cannot imagine either triumphing over the frontrunner or runner-up. Between Opera and Genius Loci, the inventiveness game is locked up as these films take different tacks towards creativity and arrive at disparate destinations. That will work more in Opera‘s favor than Loci‘s. Genius Loci is a bit confusing, which won’t engender support among many. Short films need to be quick, to the point, and relevant and while the relevance is certainly there, it’s not easy to arrive at, which makes the contemplative nature of Opera slightly more appealing. Opera is a novel way of telling a story, requiring the audience pay a large amount of attention to the individual cells within the main image. Viewers are then rewarded for that attention with a fascinatingly original idea executed well. If the voters who watch these nominees are taken in by its originality, it could sneak out a win, but the heavy emotional impact of If Anything Happens is still a more likely victor.
My Personal Thoughts: Burrow might well be my least favorite Pixar short ever. The rest are all enjoyable. Yes-People and Genius Loci come next with Loci being slightly more enigmatic and Yes-People being more fun. Opera is such an inventive concept that I can’t help but be impressed by it, yet If Anything Happens I Love You was just devastating and while simplistic in terms of artistic effort, that emotional hit puts it well above the others.
What Will Win: Nomadland. With more than half the precursor prizes as well as wins from the DGA, PGA, Golden Globes, and BAFTA, it would be a rather large surprise if something other than Nomadland won. Then again, as last year showed, sometimes the frontrunner loses. With only the Spirit Awards left of the precursor season, the film sits at 35 Best Picture prizes across all organizations, which is 55.56% of awards. Note this number includes DGA and SAG, whose winners are sometimes linked to Best Picture success.
What Could Potentially Upset: The Trial of the Chicago 7. Whether there’s any genuine affection for this film or not, it has remained a consistent presence throughout precursor season, picking up the important Screen Actors Guild ensemble prize. That alone could help, but both Minari and Promising Young Woman have gotten better support from precursors and The Father is a more sentimental choice even though it’s won absolutely no precursors for Best Picture. Nomadland still has a solid grasp on the top spot and I would be surprised if it went anywhere else. Based on the acting/directing/writing/editing nominations alone, Trial has a weaker position to play without Directing, a problem for The Father and Sound of Metal as well. Promising Young Woman is the only other title with all four citations, which could speak to its late-breaking success, though recent results suggest the film doesn’t have the universal adoration it would need to win. Minari is the most honored outside of Nomadland, but it only took 8 awards (12.7%). Promising Young Woman also claimed 8 awards. After them is The Trial of the Chicago 7 with an insignificant 4 trophies. Judas and the Black Messiah and Mank are the only other Best Picture nominees to claim top prizes.
And there we have the 93rd Academy Awards in a nutshell. A season of delayed gratification and protracted tedium. Thankfully, we should be back to our normal schedule next year, which will be a welcome relief. As much as I love Oscar season, this one has been draining and I’m excited to have a little break before my first predictions for the 94th Oscars. We’ll have one final post coming out next Tuesday highlighting our thoughts on this year’s Oscars, the ceremony and the winners both. After that, we’re hoping to have our first site-wide set of 94th Oscar predictions released mid-May while I’m hoping to have my first hopefuls list up before that. Until then, enjoy what remains of the season.