E: There are two ways that this can go. We can end up with a slate of nominations that ignores many of the best reviewed films of the year, continuing a trend that ignores well-received works by women and people of color. Or the Academy can prove that inducting new members has made a difference in their ability to look for work beyond ever narrowing limits. Or Oscars will narrow it’s vision, promoting a world that consists largely of powerful white men (movie stars, race car drivers, mobsters) behaving badly.
Every once in a while, Oscar bucks the trend of the precursor award shows and rights a few wrongs. I’m going to be honest and say I don’t have a lot of hope, but until Monday morning, I’m going to live in a Schrodinger’s box of possibilities. Let me dazzle you with possibilities, and remind you of what’s out there, before we come back to earth with the blander slate we’re likely to receive in what, for me, is turning out to be an uninspiring year.
Best Supporting Actor:
Let’s face it – nearly every movie that exists has (or attempts to have) a juicy supporting role for a man in it. Typically this category is filled to bursting; some years there are more than ten men who could plausibly be nominated. This is not one of those years, however; the precursor awards have been pretty consistent in their favorites here.
So Say We All:
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Guess who’s been nominated by the Golden Globes, the British Academy, the Screen Actor’s Guild and the Critics Choice Awards? These four megastars. One of the world’s handsomest men gives pure California cool, the biggest star in Hollywood bringing us a beloved television icon, and two enormous stars basically roll around in the mud.
If anyone’s going to be left off this list, you know it’s going to be five time nominee and two time winner Hanks. Why do I say that? If you read my Oscar posts, you know: Hanks hasn’t been nominated since 2000’s Cast Away, despite turning in stellar, memorable roles in (among others) Catch Me if You Can, The Terminal, Road to Perdition, Charlie Wilson’s War, Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. Banks and Sully. It’s entirely possible that he’s too successful for his jealous peers; otherwise, I’m not really sure how to account for what is a nearly two decade old slump.
After 8 nominations over the course of two decades, Al Pacino controversially won his Oscar for 1993’s Scent of a Woman. He’s far more famous for his gangster roles of the 1970s and 80s (Serpico, the Godfather trilogy), and returns to that gritty milieu by portraying infamously missing labor leader Jimmy Hoffa. Two time nominee and one time winner Joe Pesci too is known almost exclusively for playing a criminal; he picked up his third Golden Globe nomination and third BAFTA for The Irishman and seems like a rock solid choice to repeat that feat at the Oscars.
When it comes to the win, the two scrappers from The Irishman may cancel each other out. The Hollywood Foreign Press gave that honor to another. Brad Pitt took the prize as the effortless, laid-back stuntman from Quentin Tarantino’s groovy 1970s fairytale. Glossy matinee idol Pitt spent plenty of years winning hearts and box office dollars; now that the bloom is fading off his rose, he’s more acceptable to the cranks at AMPAS. It’s true that the Academy has always been more likely to accept younger men in the supporting category, but this time Pitt should have no trouble making the cut – and at 56 will almost certainly be the youngest man on the list. (Fun fact: Brad Pitt has been nominated for 3 acting Oscars and 3 producing Oscars. His only win has come for producing 12 Years a Slave.)
Who’s next on the Short List?
Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse
Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Dafoe was the happy sixth on the enlarged slate given out by the Broadcast Critics at the Critics Choice Awards, but hasn’t shown up anywhere else; The Lighthouse may be too artsy for Oscar, and so less likely to get Dafoe his fifth nomination. Oscar winner Jamie Foxx made the slate of five at the SAG awards. But reclusive Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, in his role as Pope Emeritus Benedict, rounded out the crew at the Golden Globes, BAFTA and Critics Choice, and has to be the man to beat for that fifth slot. This would be Hopkins fifth nomination, and his first since 1997’s Amistad.
Alan Alda, Marriage Story
Sam Rockwell, Richard Jewell or Jojo Rabbit
Wesley Snipes, Dolemite is my Name
Rockwell has had another charmed year, Snipes saw a long dormant career revive in the exuberant Dolemite, and Alda brought a hard earned wisdom and compassion to Marriage Story. Sure, they could surprise, as could one out of dozens of others – Timothee Chalamet, John Lithgow, even Shia LeBeouf had a moment this year. Character roles; like I said, there’s basically one in every movie. But for 2020, the picture looks pretty clear. Heck, I wish we were talking about Chris Evans’ delightful turn in Knives Out, but we’re not. Too many options.
My predictions: Pacino, Pesci, Pitt, Hanks, Hopkins
Best Supporting Actress:
On the other hand, there is definitely not a juicy role for a woman in every movie Hollywood makes – although it must be noted that many films have only a single female character of note in them. And this year, there’s far less consensus on who’s given the best performances of the year.
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Margo Robbie, Bombshell
Laura Dern’s slick divorce attorney has been making her presence known, moving into frontrunner status with her win at the Golden Globes. The industry veteran has been nominated for Oscar only twice – for 2014’s Wild and 1991’s Rambling Rose – but has far more Golden Globe and Emmy nominations to her name. Indeed, she’s a rare Miss Golden Globes (the child of stars who helps direct winners on and off the stage) to make it as a star in her own right. In a far shorter career, Margo Robbie looks to pick up her 2nd nomination. Her first came for playing Tonya Harding in the fantastic I, Tonya, which she also produced. Though unable to snag a nomination for last year’s well received Mary Queen of Scotts, Robbie continues to make the most of her chances, picking yet another smart and well made true story in Bombshell as a composite of one of the women who took down sexual harasser and FOX News head Roger Ailes. These two ladies have made all the relevant lists and should cruise through tomorrow morning without a hitch. Actually, the biggest hitch out there for Robbie is that her work as doomed actress Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood could muscle her work in Bombshell out of contention; she received two BAFTA nods, one for each supporting role, but you can’t appear twice in the same Oscar acting category, and if her support is split, it could cause a problem. I don’t expect this to happen, but it’s not impossible.
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
These two actress fall into what I’d like to call the “really? seriously?” category. Mega-movie-star Scarlett Johansson has been on the fringe of Oscar conversations long before she was Mega-movie-star Scarlett; she’s been picking up critics nods for the occasional role since Ghost World in 2001, and has hit all the major movie awards besides the Oscars for her work in films like Her, The Girl with the Pearl Earring and of course Lost in Translation. I’m only calling her chances “Really? Seriously?” because of the chance of her getting nominated twice in the year she finally breaks though. It’s obvious she’s getting a nod for her stripped down, devastatingly emotional work in Marriage Story. Could she really get another for this stylized, comic performance? Well, BAFTA and SAG nominated her twice. She’s got a very strong shot.
That brings us to Jennifer Lopez, who definitely does not make a habit of making Oscar movies, in a movie that does not scream for awards attention. Yet from the moment Hustlers came out, critics took it seriously, and they put J.Lo forward as the frontrunner for this year’s Oscar. That might not be true anymore, but she’s gotten on the list at SAG, the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice. I worry about her chances, given her snub by the BAFTAs, but she’s still the strongest and most sure shot that any person of color has this year to secure an acting nomination.
Definitely in the Mix:
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Nicole Kidman, Bombshell
Florence Pugh, Little Women
One-time winner and three-time Oscar nominee Kathy Bates might extend her lifetime total with a nod for her turn as mom Bobi Jewell in Richard Jewell. She scored early buzz, and early momentum with Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations, but faltered when the movie entered wide release to disappointing reviews and box office. (It’s interesting, though: its score on review aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic beat out Bombshell, which still managed more acting nominations and a SAG ensemble nod. Their box office isn’t too far apart, either. Did Richard Jewell fall victim to higher expectations, or does the awards community simply prefer Bombshell’s sleek and sexy news reporters to the more regular-person look of the Atlanta bombing scape-goat and his family?) Her chances are definitely hidden in that Schrodinger’s box.
AMPAS loves Nicole Kidman, to the tune of one win and four nominations, and if they like Bombshell as much as the Screen Actors Guild did, she might get one of the three slots for her work as Gretchen Carlson, one of the three blond bombshells to lob the bombshell on Ailes. Four nods doesn’t sound like a lot, but Kidman is almost always in the conversation; witness her 14 Golden Globe nods and 2 Emmy wins. Florence Pugh is, on the other hand, almost a complete newcomer, working mostly in British TV and short films until this summer’s think-y cult horror hit, Midsommar. Beth is the most affecting and emotional role of the four March girls in Little Women, and might just get her day in the sun.
Annette Bening, The Report
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dolemite is my Name
Shuzhen Zhao, The Farewell
I honestly don’t think it’s going to be one of these ladies, or one of the few other possibilities. It could be, but Bening (playing her real-life friend, the legendary California Senator Diane Fienstein) was only nominated at the Globes, and Zhao (playing Awkwafina’s charming and terminally ill grandmother) only at the Critics Choice. Randolph’s exuberant Lady Reed – who hasn’t made any of the major awards – is only on the table if rollicking blackspoitation comedy Dolemite hits with AMPAS, and we won’t know that until tomorrow; it struck out completely with BAFTA and SAG after a decent showing at the Golden Globes. If nothing else, Randolph makes this year’s best plea for representation. “Thank you so much for what you did for me,” she tells Eddie Murphy, “cause I ain’t never seen no one on that looks like me up on that big screen.” If only AMPAS heard her!
My picks: Dern, Robbie, Johansson, Lopez, Pugh
The only type of role Hollywood provides more of than colorful side characters is the leading man. As ever, there are many acclaimed and deserving performances this year, but only five can make the final cut.
This is Where I Feel Most Secure:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Alternating between smirky swagger and flagellating self-doubt, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton preens, bawls and bellows as a fading action star who just happens to live next door to Charles Manson. Phoenix’s Joker is a controversial anti-hero, a madman for our times, a downtrodden everyman becoming a savage agent of chaos longing to bring down the society that doesn’t appreciate him; Phoenix himself – a three time nominee for his work in The Master, Walk the Line and Gladiator – presents a controversial figure, undeniable talent at war with instability and confusion. Entitlement colors their roles. Do I deserve what I want? What happens when I don’t get it? What makes a hero? These are good questions to ponder as these two receive their nominations.
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
To be honest, I cannot imagine Driver missing out on a nomination for his searing, emotionally naked work as a brilliant, well-intentioned director and selfish, failed husband in Marriage Story. He’s been previously nominated for his work in last year’s BlacKkKlansman and a near miss for playing a war veteran bus driver in the indie flick Paterson, and obviously he’s been light up the big screen as Kylo Ren, everyone’s favorite Emo Sith, and the small screen as the most swoon-inspiring boy in Girls. Look below to see why I think this is tricky. Women love Driver. Do men? Maybe: he doesn’t have those matinee idol looks that held Brad Pitt back with AMPAS, and at 36 he’s not so young as to stop Oscar voters from taking him seriously.
He’s Almost Everywhere:
Taron Egerton, Rocketman
Egerton, on the other hand, is a thirty year old with matinee idol looks, without Driver’s resume of serious work. He’s been nominated at BAFTA, SAG and the Golden Globes for his explosive work as Sir Elton John; he even won the Golden Globe for lead actor in a Musical or Comedy. Now, that’s far from a guarantee of an Oscar nod – just ask Paul Giamatti and Sacha Baron Cohen – but it’s definitely not nothing. I look at Driver and Egerton together, though, and I wonder if AMPAS could really bring itself to nominate two men in their thirties in the same slate, and I just don’t know. Young men usually make it in through biographies: witness Rami Malek, last year’s winner, and Eddie Redmayne for 2015’s The Theory of Everything. Is Rocketman too similar to Bohemian Rhapsody? Or does Elton John’s star power and influence put Egerton over the top?
Where Else to Go:
Christian Bale, Ford v. Ferrari
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
After being passed over for his work in last year’s undervalued masterpiece The Wife, Jonathan Pryce flirts with Oscar again for his work as the beloved reformer, the current and only Jesuit pope, Pope Francis. It shocked me to learn that in Pryce’s storied career (closing in on fifty years) he has never been nominated for an Oscar, and only twice for the Golden Globes. He made this year’s BAFTA and Golden Globes lists, but was passed over by SAG, which didn’t appear to like his movie. Banderas could be another nominee of color this year; he’s made the Critics Choice list, and the Golden Globes, but was passed over by BAFTA, the group with the largest cross over in membership with AMPAS. Granted, he did win the Best Actor prize at Cannes, but that rarely coincides with Oscar. Christian Bale’s badly behaved race car driver Ken Miles is a genius with engines, but also a drag to work with. That Hollywood-lauded character – the man whose behavior must be excused because he’s so damn good at his job – isn’t a comfortable fit for me anymore. All I can see is the abuse, and perhaps the wishes of those who make these films to let their own ids reign supreme, an idea that has long since lost its charm. Bale (no stranger to fits of temper himself) has made the SAG, Golden Globe and Critics Choice lists.
Daniel Craig, Knives Out
Robert DiNero, The Irishman
Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name
Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
Adam Sandler got a lot of press in the fall for his work as a jeweler, but it hasn’t translated to nominations excepting an appearance on the Critics Choice list. How I wish either of these two Golden Globe Musical or Comedy nominees had any shot of making the big dance! Murphy’s dreamer, trying so hard to get a break, feels actually lovable rather than entitled (maybe because he is not actually any good at his job), and Craig goes into territory we’ve never seen as a peculiar Southern detective. And somehow, strangely, DiNero has absolutely no buzz for Scorsese’s buzziest film in years.
My guess: DiCaprio, Phoenix, Driver, Egerton, Bale
Alternates: Pryce, Banderas
Like pretty much every year, there are seven women competing for five slots here. You might even expand the number to eight, though I think that’s muddying the waters unnecessarily.
Renee Zellweger, Judy
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
“17 years later, I’m here again”, Zellweger proclaimed after winning best actress in a Drama at the Golden Globes, making her the frontrunner to win the Oscar. Now, does it make any sense that the Judy Garland biopic Judy is considered a drama rather than a musical? (Obviously it’s heartbreaking and dramatic, but they seem to think you have to be a musical AND a comedy – that no one can sing and be sad or be taken seriously.) Or that comedian Awkwafina won best actress in a Musical or Comedy for her first dramatic role? The Golden Globes are a weird award show, where the comedies are often sadder than they are funny, and the dramas sing out their heartbreak. Either way, you have to take Renee in Judy seriously. Even if no one is taking the movie Judy seriously, and the movie’s at least in part about how no one took poor Judy Garland seriously.
Ahem. You get what I’m saying, right? Movies starring women don’t get a lot of respect at awards shows, and so Judy could very easily produce the Best Actress winner and be nominated for nothing else. Guess what? Judy has substantially better reviews than Joker and is in the same range as Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Jojo Rabbit (a tomatometer score of 83, compared to 69 and then 85 and 80), yet it’s not even in the conversation for Best Picture. Why is that? Let’s start with the name.
Much as that wrong rankles, all I can tell you is that Renee Zellweger will receive her fourth nomination tomorrow and probably go on to her second win.
Scarlett Johansson will almost assuredly go on to be nominated tomorrow, though she’s very unlikely to win, for her role as Nicole in Marriage Story, a fictionalized version of Jennifer Jason Leigh in her divorce from screenwriter and director Noah Baumbach. Nicole’s emotional honesty, and Scarlett’s lack of glamor definitely add to her chances here (Hollywood loves glamorous women but rarely respects them). The character is nuanced and fully realized, ass-kicking of a kind we rarely see from the always fantastic Black Widow.
Though she won her Oscar for playing unglamorous and evil in Monster, we see Theron dressed to kill in Bombshell as FOX news host Megyn Kelly. She doesn’t want to be the story, but she will if that’s what it takes. Subtle prosthetics sharpen Theron’s face, reminding us of Kelly’s.
Many Other Lists Include:
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Saorise Ronan, Little Women
Sigh. Big sigh. Both of these movies should be doing much better in awards season than they are, and I hate it. Not too long ago the Oscar shortlist always included some sort of costume drama, but they’ve fallen out of fashion – especially when they star women. And God forbid they have a feminine word in the title! It seems to be a kiss of death. Greta Gerwig’s innovative telling of the beloved literary classic has been sold out at my multiplex for weeks, and received some of the strongest reviews of the year (95% on the tomatometer) and yet it’s a very serious question whether star Ronan, a two-time Oscar nominee, will even make the list. Now, she made BAFTA’s lily white list, as well as the larger lists of Critics Choice and Golden Globes. But if AMPAS seeks to rectify BAFTAs lack of representation, she might be a casualty.
In the fall, I really thought the race was going to come down to Judy versus Harriet. Tony winning star Erivo (famous for stopping Hamilton‘s sweep of the musical acting categories in 2015) scored a plum role as the incredible American hero, and she makes the most of it. And smartly, the movie makes use of her glorious voice as Underground Railroad conductor Harriet sings out coded instructions for the slaves she rescues. The movie has been deviled with criticism for historical inaccuracy (an Oscar smear campaign if I’ve ever seen one), and now she’s no longer a sure thing to get a nomination at all. She’s only missed out on the BAFTA, but as an English woman, and since BAFTA’s membership has so much overlap with AMPAS, I’m worried. Erivo may manage her first nomination even if she gets snubbed for acting, however; she’s written a song on the film’s soundtrack which made the Golden Globe shortlist.
Critical Favorites Who Could Make It:
Awkwafina, The Farewell
Lupita Nyong’o, Us
Yes, that’s right, I said it. Awkwafina. The comedian. The woman who starred in a tiny, Sundance sensation of a movie about her family refusing to tell her grandmother that she’s dying of cancer, and instead staging a wedding so they all have an excuse to travel to China and enjoy one last hurrah. Critics haven’t stopped talking about her heartbreak since this summer, and last weekend she claimed the first Golden Globe for an Asian lead actress. It was a pretty lovely moment. Does she have an even better one coming up? It’s perhaps not the most likely, but you shouldn’t dismiss her chances.
Two years ago Jordan Peele scared the pants off America with Get Out, and last spring he did the same thing with Us, a freaky film about a black family being terrorized by their evil dopplegangers. Oscar winner Nyong’o gets what might be her first substantive role since 12 Years a Slave as the mother and her evil equal, and blew critics and audiences away. Unlike Daniel Kaluuya, who rode Get Out to miles of acclaim, she’s only received a SAG nomination. I don’t count her out, though, and I want to see her as part of the Oscar conversation more often.
Ana De Armas, Knives Out
Newcomer De Armas received a nomination at the Globes for her work as the clever, likable nurse Marta Cabreras. I adored this bracingly brilliant movie and would love it if Oscar did too, but it seems that Hollywood is just not there. I’m left wondering once again if Hollywood has something against enjoying itself.
Last year we had a few shockers, particularly nominations for the actresses (Yalitza Aparicio and Marina De Tariva) who starred in Roma, who had been all but ignored by everyone else. I can’t help wondering if there’s an equivalent to that going on now. Could that help all the actresses of color on fringes this year – Awkwafina, Erivo, Nyong’o, De Armas, Zhao, Lopez? Could we see actresses from Little Women sneak into more of the supporting roles – Meryl Streep for Jennifer Lopez, perhaps? Could it bring in some of the South Koreans from Parasite? Perhaps Cho Yeo Jeung?
My Picks: Zellweger, Johansson, Theron, Erivo, Ronan
Alternates: Nyong’o, Awkwafina
Generally Agreed Upon:
Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite
Sam Mendes, 1917
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Particularly if former winner Mendes is snubbed, it’s going to really muck up this year’s Oscar race, given that Golden Globe winner 1917 has to currently be considered the frontrunner. (I’d forgotten that Mendes has only scored one nomination before, when he won for American Beauty: later efforts like Revolutionary Road and Road to Perdition haven’t faired as well.) Critics were fairly united around eight-time directing nominee Marty Scorsese, even while calling his film bloated and his characters opaque. And everybody loves Quentin, even if the film’s reviews aren’t anywhere near the top of the pile on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic – not nearly as good as, say, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, or Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. But such is the Hollywood fairy tale; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loves Quentin’s particular auteur style and his overblown, violent, cartoony paeans to toxic masculinity. He should pick up his third directing nod, as well as another for writing, with another win likely there. And they feel even more passionately about the less stylized Scorsese, who has his own obsessions with men and their dark passions; when matched up with a desperate war film, the arc of Oscars tilt toward brutality.
Let me back up for a second. AMPAS votes for its nominees by branch: the cinematographers vote for cinematography, the costume designers pick the costume design nominees, the actors pick the best in their craft, etc… Now, the AMPAS director’s branch is notorious iconoclastic; their picks are often confounding, and don’t line up with the best picture nominees (which alone are voted on by all members). Korean auteur Bong Joon-Ho fits in with their favorite sort of surprise nominee: his twisted thriller Parasite is one of the best reviewed films of the year, uniformly praised by critics. Sure, most people in America don’t know his name, but serious movie fans know his work, most notably Snowpiercer. He seems likely to pick up his first nod tomorrow.
Who’s the Most Provocative Choice?
Todd Phillips, Joker
People either love or hate this movie, and the AMPAS ballot responds to that. It has the worst tomatometer score of anything with any buzz – in fact, there are more than 180 films with higher scores than it this year – but the people who love it really, really love it. They favor flash, style and strangeness, and this movie has all that.
Of course, if they really wanted to stick it to the man, they’d nominate Greta Gerwig for her innovative narrative structure or Rian Johnson for his brilliant subversion of genre tropes. Why not Jordan Peele again – is Us as exciting as Get Out? Or, heck, Marielle Heller for A Beautiful Neighborhood, Lulu Wang for The Farewell, or Melina Matsoukas for her lovers-on-the-lam vengeance fantasy Queen & Slim. Funny how you don’t hear a word about that.
Heck, you know what would be really revolutionary? Nominate Joe and Anthony Russo for Avengers: End Game. It made a gazillion dollars and still managed to hit a higher tomatometer percentage than most of the films in contention, practically skunking Joker. What a hilarious thought. That film made much too much money! It’s about superheroes, which are ruining Hollywood! We can’t take it seriously. Much better to reward the men who behave badly.
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
When I say conventional, what I mean is this: Marriage Story is a closely observed acting tour de force. It’s modern and smart, but it’s not built on cinemagraphic tricks – it’s just brilliantly written and performed, and that should be a thing that’s celebrated. And it will be, in Best Picture and screenplay. I just doubt that feeds the director’s branch’s love of surprise. There are other directors who made solid films – James Mangold with Ford v. Ferrari, Kasi Lemmons with Harriet, Jay Roach with Bombshell. I expect they’ll be similarly dissed.
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
Josh and Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems
If it’s unusual they want, this New Zealand and his WW2 comedy might do the trick. The problem is, he was nominated by the Director’s Guild, and these two lists very rarely match up any more. I suspect they’re intentionally rejecting a list that matches up. Now, the Safdie brothers’ and their grungy tale of a jeweler addicted to gambling strike me as the right kind of weird, and would also fit nicely into Oscar’s obsession with white men behaving badly. That would be sufficiently shocking and independent, but by that very nature, one can hardly expect it. It’s incredibly unusual for duos to receive directing nominations; perhaps the idea is too collaborative, too far outside the vision of the singular auteur.
My Picks: Joon-ho, Mendes, Scorsese, Tarantino, Phillips
Alternates: The Safdie brothers, Waititi, Baumbach
Critics are a puzzle. When you look at their reviews over the entire year, you get one picture. But when you look at the movies they remember having liked by the end of the year, you get a very different one. And it’s critics who start the awards flurry off with their various picks. Oscar walks a weird middle road between what the public clamors for and what the critics laud, not as plebeian as the one or as high brow as the other, instead seeking Goldilocks’ “just right.” You know, as long as there’s not more than one girl in it.
Another thing about this? AMPAS nominates between 5 and 10 nominees. This mostly adds up to nine, occasionally 8, but never 10. So part of the puzzle here is guessing not just which film, but how many – and this is extra challenging when precursors like SAG and BAFTA limit themselves to 5 nominees, but the Producers Guild, Golden Globes and Critics Choice pick 10.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
They all made the Golden Globes, and the Critics Choice, and the Producers Guild Award nominees. All got BAFTA noms.
Not to hammer away on the same chord, but only one of those movies has a woman as a main character, and even then, she’s not THE main character. It doesn’t seem like there’s a single woman in 1917, which would be fine if it were an exception to the norm, but it’s not. (And before you start, there were women virtually at the front in World War I; the nurses were close enough to get bombed, as were the ambulance drivers.) I don’t look at a slate like this and think, ooh, I can’t wait to go out and see all of these movies about death and despair and darkness and men brutalizing each other. It’s often said the Oscar telecast is a woman’s Superbowl. If so, then AMPAS has entirely forgotten its audience.
I should say that I am, actually, super excited to go out and see 1917. It’s not that I don’t love all types of movies – I’ve read lots about the world wars and love movies about them. I just wish we’d see more types of movies nominated, and I will never be okay with Hollywood’s aversion to making movies about women, and insistence on not nominating the great few they do make.
Almost as Obvious:
No, you’ve probably never heard of this South Korean thriller if you’re not an Oscar freak (or South Korean). Be prepared to seek it out if you care, though. It made the BAFTA, SAG and Critics Choice lists, and wasn’t eligible for the Golden Globes best picture – but it was nominated for Best Foreign Film, which it won. It’s essentially a lock to win that race at Oscar, but it should make plenty of others. Not only will it be the most diverse piece on this slate (essentially the only diverse film on this slate), it’ll be the first film with an all Asian cast to be nominated since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – certainly the first South Korean film to be so honored. (I mean, there’s also Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire, but not from the same region.)
Yes, the main character is a little boy who relies on his inner Hitler for advice. Somehow, the film still manages to be charming. What can I say? It’s on the SAG list, the PGA and the Critics Choice and yes, the Golden Globes comedy. The odds are stacked in its favor.
The Other Top Contenders:
Ford v. Ferrari
Brilliant, hilarious murder mystery Knives Out and innovative literary adaptation Little Women are better reviewed than most of the movies above, but don’t have the same buzz. Ford v. Ferrari isn’t as well reviewed, but it’s got a bit of buzz left anyway.
Best Beloved Longshots:
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Dolemite is my Name
The Two Popes
No, I don’t expect any of them to be nominated. But it’s important to know they could be. It’s important to note that worthy films (many starring women, and people of color, and women of color, and men who do more in life than kill other men, movies that are fun and different and still worthy) are out there. There were even magical animated films like Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 that spoke complicated truths with beautiful visuals. I feel like the overall gloom of this slate puts me in danger of forgetting that.
My Guesses (if there are only 7, which is unlikely): 1917, The Irishman, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Joker, Parasite, Marriage Story, Jojo Rabbit
If There Are Eight: Little Women
If There are Nine: Knives Out
Alternatives (and yes, that means I don’t think there will be ten): Ford V. Ferrari, The Two Popes
And those are this year’s films! I hope as I see more and more nominees, I’m more pleased with them than what I’m feeling now. But what I hope most of all is the AMPAS, and the movie industry altogether, gets their house in order, and remember that greatness can come in more than one form. I’ll be back with some thoughts tomorrow on how this has all shaken out!