Oscars 2020: The B+ Nominations Ballot

Last year I remember feeling like Oscar season was rushed upon us. This article went up January 12th. And here we are after March 12th. What a difference a year makes.

After the strangest season ever, tomorrow the nominees will be announced. As I always do, I’m gonna guess what I think will be nominated. This is one of my two opportunities a year to really go nuts and talk about this stuff in depth. Most years I overdo it. Last year’s article was 42,150 words. This year I’ve decided to try to be as concise as possible while still providing all the essential information and the thought process (or idiocy) that goes into all the picks. Let’s see how that goes.

We’ll have anywhere from 115-120 nominees announced tomorrow. I generally try to hit 75%. A turbulent year like this will either make things easier because people are gonna default to the same handful of nominees or harder because it’s just gonna be chaos. I’m excited for either version.

We begin with Best Picture. This is where I usually post the whole convoluted explanation of how the nominations process works that takes ten paragraphs to fully explain. Let’s see if I can do it in one:

They start by counting #1 votes. If you take the total number of ballots, divide by 11 and round up, you arrive at a number that mathematically no more than 10 films can hit. That’s your nomination threshold. Any film that hits that is on. Any film that doesn’t manage at least 1% of the total vote is out. If a film gets more than 10% above the threshold (<10%, nothing happens), a percentage of its votes is given to other films. Example: The magic number is 600 votes. Film X got 900 (660 being 10%). Since only 66.6% of Film X’s 900 votes were needed to hit the threshold, 33.3% of each of the 900 votes is given to the next highest ranked film on those ballots (provided it’s not already nominated/eliminated). After that’s done, they reorganize, removing everything already nominated or eliminated. The highest remaining choice on each ballot (provided there is one) gets one full vote. Because there are so few films left, anything with at least 5% of the total vote gets nominated. And that’s your category.

Look at that, one paragraph. And it actually (kinda?) made sense.

We have five precursors here. In order of importance, they are PGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes, SAG Ensemble. The PGA nominates a set 10 every year. Since the sliding scale began, they’ve matched a minimum of 7 films every year, been perfect three times, one-off four times and two-off twice. Of 78 Best Picture nominees since 2011, the PGA’s matched 70 of them. The 8 misses are Extremely Loud and Incredible Close, Tree of Life, Amour, Philomena, Selma, Room, Phantom Thread and Darkest Hour. When you cross-check those 8 with the remaining precursors, at least two places had Philomena, Selma, Room and Darkest Hour. BFCA alone had Extremely Loud and Tree of Life. That leaves only Amour and Phantom Thread as the only films to be nominated without precursors. And in both cases, they were obvious major players in other categories. Point is, the precursors will either have it or it’ll be something clearly in line for multiple nominations.

Precursors for this year are:

  • PGA: Borat, Judas and the Black Messiah, Ma Rainey, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, One Night in Miami, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • BAFTA: The Father, The Mauritanian, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • SAG Ensemble: Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey, Minari, One Night in Miami, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • BFCA: Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey, Mank, Minari, News of the World, Nomadland, One Night in Miami, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Globes: The Father, Mank, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Trial of the Chicago 7

Here’s a sorted list of precursors:

  • Trial of the Chicago 7 — PGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes, SAG Ensemble
  • Nomadland — PGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Minari — PGA, BFCA, Globes (Foreign), SAG Ensemble
  • Promising Young Woman — PGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — PGA, BFCA, SAG Ensemble
  • Mank — PGA, BFCA, Globes
  • One Night in Miami — PGA, BFCA, SAG Ensemble
  • Sound of Metal — PGA, BFCA
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — PGA, Globes (Comedy)
  • The Father — BAFTA, Globes
  • Da 5 Bloods — BFCA, SAG Ensemble
  • Judas and the Black Messiah — PGA
  • The Mauritanian — BAFTA
  • News of the World — BFCA

Trial of the Chicago 7 is the only film to hit everything, so that’s gotta be in your top five. As does Nomadland, having two wins already. Minari missed BAFTA but got on their Foreign category and got a Director nomination. It wasn’t eligible at the Globes but won their Foreign category. It feels like a sure thing. Mank you also have to figure is a gimme even if BAFTA ignored it, so I’m saying that’s four. And Promising Young Woman… it hit almost everything (but SAG, which is reasonable) and has a DGA nomination. So no matter what happens in Director, you have to assume it gets on Picture. These five are the DGA five and feel like the most likely nominees.

Ma Rainey and One Night in Miami both have the next most precursors, which includes the PGA, and both feel like they’re gonna get on. So those are #6 and #7. You can order them however you want, since we’ve never had less than 8 sliding scale nominees. I also have a tough time thinking Sound of Metal doesn’t get on, even with only two precursors, so that’s #8. Those are the 8 I feel most confident about and I’d be real surprised if any of them don’t make it.

9 and 10… those are interesting. There are six films left that hit any precursors of note, plus two more I’m considering:

  • Borat has PGA and Globes Comedy. But 1) I don’t think anyone has faith in this getting on, and 2) these are the exact same precursors Deadpool had in 2016. I’ll let it beat me.
  • The Father has BAFTA and the Globes. It’s looking at two acting nominations plus a Screenplay nomination and fits very snugly in that Philomena ‘could sneak on’ realm. Smart money says this is the likely bet for #9.
  • Da 5 Bloods started strong (BFCA, SAG) but has crashed since. The lack of a PGA nomination makes me question just how much people actually liked it. They only real love it got was from BFCA. Without anything else, it’s hard to make a case for this. At best this is a #10, and even then you’re arguing on hope more than anything else.
  • Judas and the Black Messiah got PGA, which is big. It missed everything early but seems to be coming on late, especially with Kaluuya surging. It’s also in play for Screenplay and Cinematography. Do I buy it as a sure-thing? No. Would it fit? Absolutely. At best this is only #10 on paper but feels like it’s got as much of a chance as anything else on this list.
  • The Mauritanian has the BAFTA nomination, plus Tahar Rahim nominated there and at the Globes plus Jodie Foster winning the Globe. The UK support could push this closer to a nomination than you might’ve thought otherwise. However… the way voting works makes me question the likelihood of this making it on. There’s a lot of ballots this needs to hit over a lot of other movies. I don’t think the numbers are there. This feels like one I’ll just let get on if they’re gonna do it. I can make better cases elsewhere.
  • News of the World only has BFCA. Which feels weird, because there’s a lot of tech support for this out there. The PGA miss is huge. But, as I said before, anything in that 3-5 nominee range is always in play for Picture. Though, since the sliding scale began in 2011, nothing since 2011 got on with only BFCA. I can’t make a compelling case for this outside of the class factor and it being a ‘traditional’ kind of choice (like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Which, you guessed it, is one of those 2011 BFCA films). You probably just have to let it beat you.
  • Another Round has no precursors. But — frontrunner for International Feature, hit all the Foreign Language categories, BAFTA Director nomination. It could happen. Personally I feel like this is at best more of a Cold War situation than an Amour one, where it’s more likely to get on Director than Picture, but I won’t fully rule it out here. You can’t. Honestly, this feels like a stronger contender than half this list.
  • Soul also has no precursors. But it’s Pixar and it’s likely gonna get other nominations (Score, maybe Visual Effects, possibly Sound). So you have to consider some people might vote for it here. Though Pixar has only ever been nominated twice (2009 + 2010, the two years we had a fixed list of 10). So, while I don’t think I’d guess it, you have to show it the respect of thinking it could.

The short version of that is: not guessing Borat or Mauritanian. There’s usually more of an indication of Pixar is gonna happen, so no on Soul. The path for Another Round is there, but like Pixar it already has a category to win and they’d really need to love it for it get on. I’m not feeling that love.

The rest of my list ultimately hinges on what I do with News of the World. Part of me feels like the ‘same old’ Academy will put it on. Plus it’s in play in at least four categories (though I could also see it missing some of those). It makes sense as a nominee, but missing the PGA is a huge red flag and I’m not sure I can fully guess it with just BFCA. And even if I do guess it, I can’t really put it higher than #10. At that point it it’s irrelevant since we haven’t gone more than 9 with the sliding scale. So I’ll just make it First Alternate and see if they go there. Nothing is pointing to this overcoming the lack of precursors (you know, except… 92 years of old white people taste).

That being there means Da 5 Bloods becomes the Dark Horse (less tech support than ‘News’, essentially the same precursors), which leaves The Father and Judas for #9 and #10. Judas has the PGA, but the PGA has a set 10. Even if they match 8/8 they could still miss that one. The Father has BAFTA support, plus the Globes and at least three categories locked up elsewhere. It makes the most sense even if it is a more boring and traditional choice. I could easily see them flipping, but I’m gonna go the route that makes the most sense to me based on what I’ve seen. They’re making strides, but you really can’t go wrong betting on the Oscars to be white and boring.

I’ve been feeling all along that this is a year of 8, so I’m fully expecting those top 8 to be your list.

(As always, where their list cuts off, mine cuts off. I refuse to over-guess and then claim I got all of them right.)

Best Picture

Mank

Minari

Nomadland

Promising Young Woman

The Trial of the Chicago 7

6. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom 

7. One Night in Miami

8. Sound of Metal

9. The Father

10. Judas and the Black Messiah

First Alternate: News of the World

Dark Horse: Da 5 Bloods

Surprise: Soul; Another Round

Shocker: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; The Mauritanian

Don’t guess: First Cow; The Forty-Year-Old Version; The Midnight Sky; Tenet

Would love to see: Never Rarely Sometimes Always; I’m Thinking of Ending Things

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Best Director.

The DGA is king here. Since 2000, they’ve matched the Oscar list 4/5 fourteen times, were perfect twice and were 3/5 three times. Only one 2/5 (2012). 95% of the time they guarantee 3/5 and 80% 4/5. Pretty good.

It is important to note, though, that rarely they are 5/5. It’s only happened 5 times since 1970. And before that, when they had 10+ nominees each year, it still only happened three other times. In 72 years, they’ve only matched 5/5 8 times. Chances are something will be different.

Since 2000, the DGA alone has predicted 77/100 nominees (37/50 since 2010). The other precursors (BAFTA, BFCA, Globes) pick up 14 of the remaining 23, leaving only 9 times since 2000 (5 since 2010) that someone’s been nominated with zero precursors. The five this decade are Terrence Malick in 2011, Benh Zeitlin in 2012, Bennet Miller in 2014, Lenny Abrahamson in 2015 and Paul Thomas Anderson in 2017. The thing you immediately notice about that list is that the films all had 2+ other nominations, all but Foxcatcher were nominated for Picture and all but Tree of Life had at least one acting nomination. So even if something doesn’t have precursors, multiple nominations elsewhere put it in contention.

Full precursor list:

  • DGA: Chung, Fennell, Fincher, Sorkin, Zhao
  • BAFTA: Chung, Gavron, Murphy, Vinterberg, Zbanic, Zhao
  • BFCA: Chung, Fennell, Fincher, Lee, King, Sorkin, Zhao
  • Globes: Fennell, Fincher, King, Sorkin, Zhao

Breakdown:

  • Zhao — DGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Chung — DGA, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Fincher — DGA, BFCA, Globes
  • Fennell — DGA, BFCA, Globes
  • Sorkin — DGA, BFCA, Globes
  • King — BFCA, Globes
  • Gavron — BAFTA
  • Murphy — BAFTA
  • Vinterberg — BAFTA
  • Zbanic — BAFTA
  • Lee — BFCA

Let me go firmly on the record and say — I hate this. I hate that all signs point to the DGA matching 5/5 when history has told me that does not happen. And yet…

Chloe Zhao hit everything and is your presumptive winner, so she’s on no matter what. Chung is the only other person to hit DGA and BAFTA and the only thing he missed was the Globes, which… yeah. So I have to consider him a lock too. And Fincher I assume has enough respect to get on. Plus he’s got three precursors and the film is what it is. So he seems likely. That leaves Sorkin and Fennell, both of him have the same three precursors as Fincher and all signs point to them getting on. HOWEVER… 8 times.

I can’t, in good conscience, not try to figure out an alternate path. The first question becomes: who gets shafted? History says Fennell because she’s a woman, but to me it’s actually Sorkin. They haven’t been overly kind to people in his spot. Martin McDonagh got left off in 2017. Bobby Farrelly got left off in 2018. It’s a couple of years running a top 2-3 Picture choice missed Director when the director is more of a writer than a visualist. But now the question becomes: okay, Sorkin/Fennell’s off… who gets on?

Regina King has BFCA and the Globes, but getting shut out of the important two makes me leery. DGA could’ve went there and didn’t, and she’s a first-timer. They like sneaking on efforts like Cold War, not this. So I can’t see her being the one. Spike got BFCA but got nothing else and has no real support for his film. Plus I feel like they simply don’t like him and just tolerated him that one year he won. I’m not buying them suddenly going in on him again without receipts.

The person who keeps jumping out at me is Thomas Vinterberg. Look at Cold War for this exact situation: BAFTA Director nomination and loads of Foreign Language nominations. Is this exactly that? No. Cold War had a more artistic feel. But, if anyone’s jumping out to me as a potential surprise, it’s him over everyone else. Still not sure I’m gonna guess him, though. I feel like it’s just noise.

So, I guess I’ll let Lucy pull that football out from under me one more time. I’d put someone else on there, but I truly can’t figure out who it’s gonna be. Maybe it’s Darius Marder and they go all in on Sound of Metal. Of all the Best Picture contenders, he feels like the most likely Director nominee and fits the Lenny Abrahamson model. Can’t see it being George C. Wolfe or Florian Zeller. Shaka King would be a real surprise if they went there. And Greengrass couldn’t even get on with a DGA nomination for Captain Phillips. I gotta take the DGA 5. I hate it, and I know I’ll be wrong, but I have to do it and just see where they go with it. I don’t even know what to tell you to take instead, because I got nothing.

Best Director

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

David Fincher, Mank

Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

First Alternate: Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round

Dark Horse: Regina King, One Night in Miami

Surprise: Darius Marder, Sound of Metal; Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

Shocker: Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah; Florian Zeller, The Father

Don’t guess: Paul Greengrass, News of the World; George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Christopher Nolan, Tenet

Would love to see: Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things; Spike Lee

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Best Actor.

With all the acting categories, the general rule is to start with SAG and then branch out. SAG has been slightly less helpful in recent years due to the broadening of voting, but you can usually spot the ones most likely to not get on.

Another thing to keep in mind: of 88 Best Picture nominees this decade, only 17 didn’t get an acting nomination. Odds are that most of the Picture nominees will end up with somewhere in these categories. Fortunately for us, this seems like a year where 10-11 of the top 13 are set to get one. But it is worth noting.

Since SAG began in 1994, they’ve matched 5/5 six times, 4/5 fifteen times and 3/5 five times. They’ve never been worse than 3/5. This decade, they’ve been 5/5 once, 4/5 seven times and 3/5 twice. So they’re usually solid. And when you fold in BAFTA, BFCA and the Globes, only three times since 2001 did someone get on with no precursors: Clint Eastwood in 2004, Tommy Lee Jones in 2007 and Bradley Cooper for in 2014. Only once this decade and even then we knew Cooper was heavily in play. So you really don’t ever need to stray from the precursors, and if you do you’ll know who it’s gonna be.

Precursors:

  • SAG: Ahmed, Boseman, Hopkins, Oldman, Yeun
  • BAFTA: Ahmed, Boseman, Gourav, Hopkins, Mikkelsen, Rahim
  • BFCA: Affleck, Ahmed, Boseman, Hanks, Hopkins, Lindo, Oldman, Yeun
  • Golden Globes: (Drama) Ahmed, Boseman, Hopkins, Oldman, Rahim

Breakdown:

  • Ahmed — SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Boseman — SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Hopkins — SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Oldman — SAG, BFCA, Globes
  • Yeun — SAG, BFCA
  • Rahim — BAFTA, Globes
  • Mikkelsen — BAFTA
  • Gourav — BAFTA
  • Affleck — BFCA
  • Hanks — BFCA
  • Lindo — BFCA

Ahmed, Boseman and Hopkins hit everything, so those three are automatics. Oldman’s only missed BAFTA, which… given what they did this year does not at all change my belief that he’s a lock. So that’s 4. And, as I’ve said all season, the only real question is #5.

Working bottom-up: Hanks, Lindo and Affleck only have BFCA, so I can’t assume any of them gets on. Affleck’s film has no support and Hanks couldn’t get on with SAG and BAFTA for Captain Phillips. And Lindo, while it could happen, the respect for that film hasn’t been there. I’ll keep him as Dark Horse, but can’t guess him.

With Rahim, the BAFTA nomination is nice and the Globes one helps, but I can’t hang my hat on those two. He doesn’t feel like someone who’ll get nominated. The film has mixed reviews, doesn’t have a whole lot of support stateside and the performance doesn’t feel showy enough for people to vote for. I just can’t see it.

Mads Mikkelsen is an interesting scenario, though. He has BAFTA and the film is sneakily in play elsewhere. But, like Vinterberg, I’m not sure if that’s a weak year talking or if it’s actually in play. I think I have to make him First Alternate and see if they go there but I’m not sure I can guess it. But if anyone’s getting on with no precursors, it’s him.

Which brings us to the obvious choice, Steven Yeun. He’s got SAG and BFCA. And while the lack of BAFTA makes me raise an eyebrow, he makes the most sense given his film and how things seem to be trending. He’s felt like the obvious choice all along, even though it’s not a gimme and I wouldn’t be surprised if they went somewhere else. I feel safest taking him.

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Gary Oldman, Mank

Steven Yeun, Minari

First Alternate: Mads Mikkelsen, Another Round

Dark Horse: Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Surprise: Tahar Rahim, The Mauritanian; Tom Hanks, News of the World

Shocker: Ben Affleck, The Way Back; LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Don’t guess: Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; John David Washington, Malcolm & Marie

Would love to see: I’m happy with any combination of the top 7.

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Best Actress.

SAG since 1994: 5/5 six times, 4/5 seventeen times and 3/5 three times. They’ve never been less than 3/5. This decade: 4/5 eight times and 3/5 twice. And when you cross-check with the other three, only twice was someone nominated without a single precursor and one of those was before BFCA announced nominees. The only person to do it since 2001 was Laura Linney in 2007. Which means your likely category is coming from this list:

  • SAG: Adams, Davis, Kirby, McDormand, Mulligan
  • BAFTA: Bakray, Blank, Kirby, McDormand, Musaku
  • BFCA: Davis, Day, Flanigan, Kirby, McDormand, Mulligan, Zendaya
  • Golden Globes: (Drama) Davis, Day, Kirby, McDormand, Mulligan
    (Musical/Comedy) Hudson, Pfeiffer, Pike, Taylor-Joy

Breakdown:

  • Kirby — SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • McDormand — SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Davis — SAG, BFCA, Globes
  • Mulligan — SAG, BFCA, Globes
  • Adams — SAG
  • Bakray — BAFTA
  • Blank — BAFTA
  • Musaku — BAFTA
  • Flanigan — BFCA
  • Zendaya — BFCA
  • Day — Globes
  • Hudson — Globes
  • Pfeiffer — Globes
  • Pike — Globes
  • Taylor-Joy — Globes

This is another ‘who’s #5’ situation.

McDormand and Kirby have hit everything, so you gotta take them. Davis and Mulligan only missed BAFTA, which, again, is not much of a negative to me. So those two go on. Once more we come down to #5. No one else has more than one precursor so we’ll just have to reason it out.

I’m disregarding the Globes Comedy list for obvious reasons. Can’t see any of them truly happening and will just take the L there. Same for BAFTA. BFCA — Flanigan would shock me (even though she might have the most critics noms of anyone left) and Zendaya hasn’t gotten support elsewhere and doesn’t feel like the choice. Which leaves only two people: Amy Adams and Andra Day.

Adams has SAG and everyone loves her (6 nominations)… but the film is Hillbilly Elegy. Given how that film’s landed, there’s no universe where I can make a case for her outside of ‘they wanted to nominate Amy Adams’. Her being nominated would highlight every argument people are making about the lack of diversity at the Oscars. And if that’s gonna happen, I want no part of it and will just let them do it.

Which brings me, almost by default, to Andra Day. She won the Globe and won it before voting closed, so people had the chance to watch her movie (or not, knowing them) and vote for her. Plus, do you know how many times the Globe Drama winner wasn’t nominated? ONCE. And it’s because there was a THREE-WAY TIE. Every single other winner has been nominated. So I can’t see why my money wouldn’t be on Day here. Unless you’re gonna take someone without precursors, something that’s happened once in 20 years. And even then, who? Sophia Loren? I can’t see it. Day feels like the only logical choice here.

Best Actress

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Vanesa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

First Alternate: Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy

Dark Horse: Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Surprise: Zendaya, Malcolm & Marie; Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead

Shocker: Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old-Version; Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit

Don’t guess: Kate Winslet, Ammonite; Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things; Julia Garner, The Assistant

Would love to see: Evan Rachel Wood, Kajillionaire; Flanigan

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Supporting Actor.

SAG’s matched 5/5 three times. 4/5 seventeen times, 3/5 four times and 2/5 twice. Both 2/5s happened in the 90s. This past decade: 4/5 seven times, 5/5 once and 3/5 twice. Cross-checking with BAFTA, BFCA, Globes: there are five times since 2001 someone was nominated with no precursors: Djimon Hounsou in 2003, William Hurt in 2005, Michael Shannon in 2008, Max von Sydow in 2011 and Jonah Hill in 2013. The last two happened after the site began and somehow I guessed both. But in all five cases, the films were firmly in contention for other stuff. So if someone’s not gonna be on the precursors, chances are you’ll know if they have a shot.

Precursors:

  • SAG: Boseman, Cohen, Kaluuya, Leto, Odom
  • BAFTA: Kaluuya, Keoghan, Kim, Odom, Peters, Raci
  • BFCA: Boseman, Cohen, Kaluuya, Murray, Odom, Raci
  • Golden Globes: Cohen, Kaluuya, Leto, Murray, Odom

Breakdown:

  • Kaluuya — SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Odom — SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Cohen — SAG, BFCA, Globes
  • Boseman — SAG, BFCA
  • Leto — SAG, Globes
  • Raci — BAFTA, BFCA
  • Murray — BFCA, Globes
  • Keoghan — BAFTA
  • Kim — BAFTA
  • Peters — BAFTA

This race started crazy but seems to have settled down. Remember those first few weeks where you thought, “Are they really gonna nominate Jared Leto?” A lot can change in a month.

Kaluuya and Odom have hit everything. And Cohen has everything but BAFTA. So start with them. Those three have always been the backbone of this category. The last two were always gonna be the question.

No one else has more than two precursors, so just figure out what makes sense to you. Keoghan or Peters make no sense to me, so I’m skipping them. That leaves five people, and I’ll add a sixth for debate:

  • Boseman — he has SAG and BFCA. Both carry as many questions as they do positives. All you need to decide with him is: will people feel the need to nominate him twice or is Actor enough? And I truly do not know the answer to that question.
  • Leto — the Globes and SAG noms came quick and made you think he was for real. Then BFCA and BAFTA left him off and the film’s fallen flat everywhere else. Maybe if he went across the board I could buy it. But otherwise you felt from the start he didn’t feel like a true nominee. My gut says let him beat you.
  • Raci — He’s got BAFTA and BFCA. I can excuse missing the other two because those in many ways are popularity contests and he’s no Bill Murray. The minute I saw him get BAFTA I was 100% convinced he’d be nominated. The category’s thin, there’s no firm arguments to be made for most people with precursors, the film is widely loved and he fits perfectly as a ‘bringer’ nomination. I say take him.
  • Murray — He got BFCA and Globes. The film’s got zero support elsewhere and the SAG omission tells me everything I need to know. He’s a Dark Horse at best and if you’ve guessed nominations for any length of time you know someone in his position never happens.
  • Alan Kim — Remember when I said that if he got on BAFTA I’d take him seriously as a nominee? Well, here we are. He won Best Young Actor at BFCA, has been out front with the film and is super adorable and he now has BAFTA. Looking at everyone here, with Raci on and one spot to go, how can anyone feel like that spot isn’t either him or Chadwick?
  • David Strathairn — Just putting him on your radar. Not sure it’ll happen, but making you aware of it in case it does. McDormand could bring him along. Consider this: previous nominee, beloved actor, in the movie that’s fixing to win Picture, weak category. That’s a dangerous combination. It would make him the sixth person since 2001 to get on without precursors, which is a not-insignificant number even though it’s only happened twice this decade and not since 2013. I’m not guessing it, but you can make a case for doing so.

Feels like you’re either going chalk and assuming they double nominate Chadwick or you’re taking a flyer on Alan Kim. I could see arguments made for and against both scenarios. Playing it safe is to take Chadwick. Me? I’m going Kim. It’s probably gonna be Chadwick and my idea they’ll see the one posthumous nomination as enough will be wrong. But you gotta take a chance somewhere or else it stops being fun.

Best Supporting Actor

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Alan Kim, Minari

Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami

Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

First Alternate: Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods

Dark Horse: Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Surprise: Jared Leto, The Little Things; David Strathairn, Nomadland

Shocker: Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Stanley Tucci, Supernova; Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

Don’t guess: Frank Langella, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Would love to see: Rylance, Tucci

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Supporting Actress.

SAG: 5/5 five times, 4/5 eleven times, 3/5 seven times and 2/5 three times. Since 2001, they’ve never gone below 3/5 and this decade they have two 5/5s. Though they have gone 3/5 the past three years.

Bringing in the others, there are 8 total times someone got nominated without precursors. 3 happened pre-BFCA/2001. The 5 since are Shohreh Aghdashloo in 2003, Maggie Gyllenhaal in 2009, Jacki Weaver in 2012, Laura Dern in 2014 and Maria de Tavira in 2018. What you notice about all five of those is that every single one of them was brought along by another (or in one case, several) performance from their film. That list is why the two major considerations you have to make in the acting categories outside the precursors are foreign nominees and ‘bringer’ nominees.

Precursors:

  • SAG: Bakalova, Close, Colman, Youn, Zengel
  • BAFTA: Algar, Ali, Bakalova, Fishback, Madekwe, Youn
  • BFCA: Bakalova, Burstyn, Close, Colman, Seyfried, Youn
  • Golden Globes: Close, Colman, Foster, Seyfried, Zengel

Breakdown:

  • Bakalova — SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes (lead)
  • Youn — SAG, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Close — SAG, BFCA, Globes
  • Colman — SAG, BFCA, Globes
  • Zengel — SAG, Globes
  • Seyfried — BFCA, Globes
  • Algar — BAFTA
  • Ali — BAFTA
  • Fishback — BAFTA
  • Madekwe — BAFTA
  • Burstyn — BFCA
  • Foster — Globes

This is another ‘what’s #5’ situation.

Bakalova not only hit everything but her Globes nomination was for lead. So she’s on. Next, You-Jung Youn hit everything but the Globes (where the film wasn’t allowed to compete). No reason to think she’s not on. They’re also the only two who hit BAFTA, so if anyone’s a ‘lock’, it’s them. Next, Colman and Close. Both have the same three precursors and there’s no reason to think they won’t get on with the field as thin as it is. So that’s four. Which, again, leaves the final spot.

I’m disregarding the rest of the BAFTA list because I just don’t see any of them happening. That leaves me with four contenders: Burstyn, Foster, Seyfried, Zengel. There’s no foreign nominee to look for because she’s already on and most of the people left also count as bringers. The only other person I can think who doesn’t have precursors worth discussing is Olivia Cooke. So I’ll add her. Anyone else feels forced and would at best be a shocker.

  • Burstyn’s a veteran. Previous winner. Only has BFCA. Made the BAFTA longlist too. They’re aware of the movie because of Kirby and they like veterans. But she doesn’t have a whole lot to do in the movie and it feels like they’d only be nominating her because of who she is. Could they? Sure. Worked for Ruby Dee. But at least Ruby had that ‘Oscar clip’ scene. Burstyn doesn’t really have that. She seems most unlikely of the four to me.
  • Foster won her only precursor. Which is exactly where Andra Day is in Actress. The last Globe winner to not be nominated here was Katharine Ross in 1976. It’s also only happened four times ever. Everybody loves her and the film has BAFTA support. She feels like a 50/50 and if she’s not my #5 is automatically First Alternate. The win has to count for something, just as it had to with Andra Day. She probably makes the most sense of anyone, all things considered.
  • Seyfried has BFCA and Globes. I have no clear way of explaining this except to say: I don’t think it’s gonna happen. Almost every year someone’s in this situation (Mila Kunis, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah). But most of the time they also have SAG, and I’m stuck having say, “I know how it looks, but believe me, it’s not gonna happen.” Her not having SAG makes this so much easier. I don’t know how to explain it except: I’ve done this a lot and this situation is, without fail, a red herring. I’ll happily take an L here because, truly, it never seems to come through.
  • Zengel’s the most interesting contender. The ultimate wild card. Child actor in a high profile movie that has all the prestige in the world but only middling support. If the film were a shoo-in for Picture I’d be 95% in her camp for that final spot. Without it… I’m not sure. She has SAG, which is big, but also not a guarantee of anything. The Globes nomination is nice too. BFCA dumped her in the same category as Alan Kim instead of the main one. And the BAFTA miss… this year? Sure. The question is how many people saw the film and actually liked the performance enough to take her over Jodie Foster. That’s up for debate.
  • Cooke — she’d be the Maggie Gyllenhaal of this year. I’d feel better if Ahmed were legitimately competing for a win, but the category’s weak enough that it might not matter. I’m worried she gets ignored for too much of the film for them to actually do it, plus she doesn’t really have any critics noms to speak of, which are usually the indicator someone could sneak on without precursors. Be aware of this one. My gut says it could happen.

To me this the guess has to be either Foster or Zengel for the final spot. The precursors probably say Zengel but the Globes win and overall love of Jodie make me think she’s the safe choice. Both got longlisted at BAFTA so the British contingent is aware of and liked both performances. It really just comes down to what you feel better about doing. And again… I’m gonna go with the child. Why not? Smart money’s on Foster just like it was on Chadwick in Supporting Actor. But fuck it. LET’S HAVE FUN.

Best Supporting Actress

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

Olivia Colman, The Father

Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari

Helena Zengel, News of the World

First Alternate: Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian

Dark Horse: Amanda Seyfried, Mank

Surprise: Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman; Olivia Cooke, Sound of Metal

Shocker: Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite; Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah

Don’t guess: Probably anyone else? I have no idea.

Would love to see: Zengel

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Original Screenplay.

Figuring out the Screenplay categories is generally pretty easy. Take the precursors (WGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes) then look at what other films are in major contention and which scripts (or writers) are generally well-respected. Though the most important advice I can give you in Screenplay is ALWAYS CHECK THE WGA INELIGIBLES.

If you take all the scripts from this past decade that missed WGA but were nominated for the Oscar, all but two of them were WGA-ineligible. Only 20th Century Women and First Reformed were WGA eligible, missed WGA yet were nominated for the Oscar. So WGA is king.

We also have the other three, which are icing on the cake. If you take the full list of nominated scripts that missed the WGA going back to 2000, eligible or not (37), and do your cross-checking, you end up with a list of 11 scripts nominated without any precursors, 8 of which came last decade (3 being Pixar movies). So in the past decade, only 3 scripts were nominated without precursors: Margin Call, A Separation, 20th Century Women. And I know for a fact those last two were very much in the running anyway. Which comes back to what I said at the top — precursors, obvious stuff. Things generally don’t come totally out of the blue here.

Precursors:

  • WGA: Judas and the Black Messiah, Palm Springs, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, Trial of the Chicago 7 (Ineligible: Mank, Minari, Soul)
  • BAFTA: Another Round, Mank, Promising Young Woman, Rocks, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • BFCA: Mank, Minari, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Golden Globes: Mank, Promising Young Woman, Trial of the Chicago 7

Breakdown:

  • Promising Young Woman — WGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Trial of the Chicago 7 — WGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Mank — BAFTA, BFCA, Globes (*WGA Ineligible)
  • Sound of Metal — WGA, BFCA
  • Judas and the Black Messiah — WGA
  • Palm Springs — WGA
  • Another Round — BAFTA
  • Rocks — BAFTA
  • Minari — BFCA (*WGA ineligible)
  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always — BFCA

This is pretty easy. Chicago 7 and Promising Young Woman hit everything and Mank hit everything except the place it wasn’t eligible. So that’s three right off the top. Sound of Metal is the only other script with multiple precursors and is gonna get a bunch of nominations. I can’t see not having that on your list. So that’s four.

The final spot should be pretty simple — Rocks won’t get on. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is the longest of long shots. Palm Springs is your quintessential WGA nominee that only got on because something else was ineligible. Another Round would surprise me and (while possible) is not something I’m gonna guess. So to me, the fifth spot is either Minari or Judas and the Black Messiah. And that alone should tell you what’s most likely to happen. Judas’ WGA nomination is helpful, but Minari and Mank were both ineligible there. So there was room for it. I’m not sure that happens if Minari were able to get on. Minari makes absolute sense here and I don’t think I can vote against it. Picture, Director and likely multiple acting nominations. How could it not get Screenplay?

The only other thing you should consider before locking in your five is Soul. Because Pixar has done this before (most recently with Inside Out). They’re always WGA-ineligible and generally don’t get precursor nominations. Don’t be surprised if it happens. With it in play for multiple nominations, you have to take it very seriously here. That said, I’m sticking with my five.

Best Original Screenplay

Mank

Minari

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

First Alternate: Judas and the Black Messiah

Dark Horse: Soul

Surprise: Da 5 Bloods; Palm Springs

Shocker: Never Rarely Sometimes Always; The Forty-Year-Old-Version

Don’t guess: Ammonite; The Assistant

Would love to see: The category I guessed. It’s pretty great.

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– – – – – – – – – –

Adapted Screenplay.

In the past decade, 12 nominated scripts missed WGA. 8 were ineligible there. Meaning only 4 times this decade did something get nominated despite being both eligible and not nominated by the WGA.

And that’s just WGA. There’ve been 29 scripts (eligible or not) going back to 2000 that weren’t WGA-nominated but were Oscar-nominated. If you just bring in BAFTA, that list drops down to 10. Bringing in BFCA and the Globes brings it down to 5. Even crazier than that? Only one of those happened this decade. And you know what it is? The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The fucking COEN BROTHERS. And you’re insane if you can get through an entire Screenplay category without thinking, “Gee, the Coen brothers just might have a shot here.” So yeah, I think the precursors are gonna show you the way on this one.

  • WGA: Borat, Ma Rainey, News of the World, One Night in Miami, White Tiger (Ineligible: The Father, Nomadland)
  • BAFTA: The Dig, The Father, The Mauritanian, Nomadland, The White Tiger
  • BFCA: The Father, First Cow, Ma Rainey, News of the World, Nomadland, One Night in Miami
  • Golden Globes: The Father, Nomadland

Breakdown:

  • The Father — BAFTA, BFCA, Globes (*WGA ineligible)
  • Nomadland — BAFTA, BFCA, Globes (*WGA ineligible)
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — WGA, BFCA
  • The White Tiger — WGA, BAFTA
  • News of the World — WGA, BFCA
  • One Night in Miami — WGA, BFCA
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — WGA
  • The Dig — BAFTA
  • The Mauritanian — BAFTA
  • First Cow — BFCA

The Father and Nomadland hit everything but WGA, where they were ineligible. So you start with them. Ma Rainey feels like a gimme and so does One Night in Miami. Glancing at what else there is, I feel completely confident about those four. Again, it’s all about that #5.

Working from the bottom — First Cow needed more precursors for me to take it seriously. The Mauritanian doesn’t feel like something that challenges here. The Dig is a classic BAFTA-only nominee. Really I’m only looking at two scripts: News of the World and The White Tiger. White Tiger has the guild and BAFTA, but the guild feels like it only happened because The Father and Nomadland were ineligible. Meanwhile News of the World has the guild and has BFCA.

The calculus you have to do here is with News of the World, which is arguably the key film for a lot of this ballot. It has the largest variance of anything. It could get anywhere from 1-2 nominations or 5-6 and a Picture nomination. If you think closer to the Best Picture side of things, then put it on here. If you’re closer to 1-2, then this is definitely a category it’ll probably miss. But then the question is, is White Tiger a script they truly care enough to nominate? And if not, what gets on instead? First Cow? Borat? That’s why I’m going with the simplest solution being the best. I’ll take News of the World and see which way they go. I’m probably overestimating it, but I also don’t really have a solid case to make for most anything else. This isn’t really an important enough spot to lose sleep over, since I’m dead certain about the other four.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Father

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

News of the World

Nomadland

One Night in Miami

First Alternate: The White Tiger

Dark Horse: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Surprise: First Cow; The Mauritanian

Shocker: Emma; I’m Thinking of Ending Things; Pieces of a Woman

Don’t guess: Hillbilly Elegy; The Invisible Man; The Dig

Would love to see: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

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– – – – – – – – – –

Editing.

The important thing to note about Editing is just how much it’s a Best Picture category. Since the expanded Picture field began in 2009, only 4 films not nominated for Picture have been nominated in Editing: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Force Awakens, Baby Driver and I Tonya. That’s it. FOUR MOVIES IN A DECADE! And all of those had between 3-5 total nominations and were guild-nominated. So you always know if a non-Best Picture movie is in play beforehand.

Speaking of the guild… since 2000, ACE has never matched the Oscars less than 3/5. They’ve been 5/5 ten times (including the past four years), 4/5 seven times and 3/5 three times (only one of which came this decade). So with them alone, you’re usually covered. But you also have BAFTA and BFCA. Since 2009 (when BFCA Editing began), only two films were nominated for Editing without hitting a precursor: Precious and Dallas Buyers Club. Both Best Picture nominees, so by default you knew they had a chance. It’s a surprisingly simple category.

Precursors:

  • ACE Drama: Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Sound of Metal, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • ACE Comedy: Borat, I Care a Lot, On the Rocks, Palm Springs, Promising Young Woman
  • BAFTA: The Father, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • BFCA: The Father, Mank, Nomadland, Sound of Metal, Tenet, Trial of the Chicago 7

Breakdown:

  • Nomadland — ACE, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Sound of Metal — ACE, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Trial of the Chicago 7 — ACE, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Promising Young Woman — ACE, BAFTA
  • Mank — ACE, BFCA
  • The Father — BAFTA, BFCA
  • Minari — ACE
  • Tenet — BFCA

Tenet is the only non-Best Picture contender you’re looking at here. And given the lukewarm response to the film and lack of ACE or BAFTA nominations, I don’t think you can guess it. Which means your Editing list should be all Picture nominees.

Nomadland, Sound of Metal and Chicago 7 hit everything, so those are on. Kirk Baxter has been nominated three times working with Fincher (including two wins), so I don’t know why you wouldn’t have Mank as your #4. And with that, you’re basically done before you’ve even gotten started.

Precursors say either Promising Young Woman, The Father or Minari is your final contender. But it helps to look at all the movies in the Picture race (including the maybes) to see if they have a shot at this. News of the World, Judas and the Black Messiah and Da 5 Bloods are gonna have a hard enough time trying to get on Picture, so guessing them here without precursors seems insane. I also don’t feel like One Night in Miami or Ma Rainey gets on here either. And even with precursors, I don’t buy The Father as the choice over those other two. The guild didn’t nominate it, I’m not certain it gets on Picture… feels like I’m better off letting it beat me.

So that leaves me with the obvious two, Minari and Promising Young Woman. Both hit the guild and to me it comes down to which one is more in play for them as a potential winner. And with Chung feeling on more solid ground in the Director race and the film generally feeling more their style, I’ll take Minari. Either way, this feels like a 6-for-5 situation and you’re guaranteed 4/5 regardless.

Best Editing

Mank

Minari

Nomadland

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

First Alternate: Promising Young Woman

Dark Horse: The Father

Surprise: News of the World; Tenet

Shocker: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; One Night in Miami; Da 5 Bloods

Don’t guess: Soul

Would love to see: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

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– – – – – – – – – –

Cinematography.

Since ASC started in 1993, they’ve matched the Oscar category 5/5 six times, 4/5 seventeen times, 3/5 three times and 2/5 once. The 2/5 was 1995 and the 3/5s were 2003, 2004 and 2006. We’re going on 15 years of them being 4/5 or better. And that’s just the guild!

Since 2000, 15 films missed ASC and were nominated. 12 of those were pre-BFCA (6 of which BAFTA picked up). Since 2009, only 3 films missed ASC, BAFTA and the Globes and got nominated (Half-Blood Prince, Django Unchained, Never Look Away). They’re almost bulletproof.

  • ASC: Cherry, Mank, News of the World, Nomadland, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • BAFTA: Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Mauritanian, News of the World, Nomadland
  • BFCA: Da 5 Bloods, First Cow, Mank, Minari, News of the World, Nomadland Tenet

Breakdown:

  • Mank — ASC, BAFTA, BFCA
  • News of the World — ASC, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Nomadland — ASC, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Cherry — ASC
  • Trial of the Chicago 7 — ASC
  • Judas and the Black Messiah — BAFTA
  • The Mauritanian — BAFTA
  • Da 5 Bloods — BFCA
  • First Cow — BFCA
  • Minari — BFCA
  • Tenet — BFCA

This is the most fascinating category of the year for me.

Mank, News of the World and Nomadland have hit everything and seem like certainties. Past that, it gets real interesting. Nothing else has more than a single precursor.

Let’s run down the pros and cons of everything:

  • Cherry — It hit the guild. Big plus. They also like the DP, Newton Thomas Sigel. The positives pretty much end there. Because the film got real soft reviews and has no traction anywhere else. Only 10 films since 2000 have been nominated here and nowhere else and only one of those got reviews as soft as this (and that was shot by a legendary DP). It’s also a real ‘kitchen sink’ effort that feels way too divisive to get on.
  • Da 5 Bloods — It has BFCA. But BFCA has only once picked up something not nominated anywhere else. The thing holding me back from thinking this can get on is that the DP is also Newton Thomas Sigel. And ASC nominated him for Cherry instead of this. So why would I think they’d suddenly pivot to this on another ballot?
  • Dear Comrades — No real precursor, though ASC gave it a ‘Spotlight’ nomination, which is what they gave The Lighthouse last year. They love black-and-white films and foreign films have been known to get on in recent years. Granted, Ida and Cold War were the same DP and Never Look Away was more about Caleb Deschanel than anything else. But in a year like this, it feels very possible.
  • First Cow — BFCA only and no traction anywhere else. This doesn’t even have the benefit of the showiness and guild nomination Cherry has. Hard for me to see it happening.
  • Judas and the Black Messiah — It has BAFTA and is shot by Sean Bobbitt, a respected DP awaiting his first nomination. I can excuse the lack of a guild nomination, though I am unsure how much to fully believe in the BAFTA nom. But given how hard it is to make a case for everything, this feels as likely as anything here.
  • The Mauritanian — This has BAFTA, but I don’t really feel much real support there. I honestly just can’t see this getting on over everything else.
  • Minari — This also only has BFCA. The positive here is the love for the film and the negatives are that it’s not a very flashy effort. This category tends to be about clearly beautiful films or more artistic efforts.
  • Tenet — Another BFCA only. The only real case to be made for this is ‘it’s Hoyte and Nolan’. You’d think the guild or BAFTA would’ve nominated it, though. I feel like guessing this is assuming complete laziness on the part of voters and the assumption that the blue bloods always get on no matter what. Which honestly might not be a bad call.
  • Trial of the Chicago 7 — This is by Phedon Papamichael, who the guild likes a lot. The knock against this one is that it’s not flashy and is largely a trial movie. It’s not really the kind of effort they go for, even though class-wise this does feel like an obvious choice.

Of the ten films on that list, the four that make the most sense to me are Judas, Minari, Tenet and Chicago 7. I’d have taken Tenet and Minari point blank before ASC but now I’m leaning very heavily toward the other two. The answer probably lies somewhere in between, but at this point who the hell knows.

I truly can’t tell how much they liked or didn’t like Tenet, but I feel like that would be such a lazy choice for them and I think of this category as typically not being that. And also, Minari… that doesn’t feel like their style. Judas, though, makes a lot of sense given the love for Bobbitt the cinematographers have (plus BAFTA seemingly shows support across the pond) and I think this might be an excuse for them to nominate Papamichael too. So yeah, I will take Judas and Chicago 7. I’ve pretty much resigned myself to a 3/5 here anyway. Gotta take your lumps somewhere.

Best Cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah

Mank

News of the World

Nomadland

The Trial of the Chicago 7

First Alternate: Tenet

Dark Horse: Minari

Surprise: Cherry; Dear Comrades

Shocker: Da 5 Bloods; I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Don’t guess: Swallow; Two of Us; First Cow; The Mauritanian

Would love to see: I’m Your Woman

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– – – – – – – – – –

Original Score.

We used to have to guess from a list of 120+ scores using only the precursors and common sense as our guide. Now we get a handy shortlist of 15 and the precursors:

Ammonite (Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka)
Blizzard of Souls (Lolita Ritmanis)
Da 5 Bloods (Terence Blanchard)
The Invisible Man (Benjamin Wallfisch)
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (John Debney)
The Life Ahead (Gabriel Yared)
The Little Things (Thomas Newman)
Mank (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
The Midnight Sky (Alexandre Desplat)
Minari (Emile Mosseri)
Mulan (Harry Gregson-Williams)
News of the World (James Newton Howard)
Soul (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross & Jon Batiste)
Tenet (Ludwig Göransson)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Daniel Pemberton)

I listed the composers because it’s important to know who scored what because they tend to like to nominate their regulars.

One thing about the precursors: since 2006, 9 scores have been nominated without any (4 of them happening in 2006 and 2007). Since 2009 it’s only happened 5 times and the precursors have never gone below 4/5 in a single year. In the two years we’ve had a shortlist, they’re 5/5 both times. So we really don’t need to do a whole lot of hand-wringing here.

  • BAFTA: Mank, Minari, News of the World, Promising Young Woman, Soul
  • BFCA: Mank, Midnight Sky, Minari, News of the World, Soul, Tenet
  • Globes: Mank, Midnight Sky, News of the World, Soul, Tenet

Breakdown:

  • Mank — BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • News of the World — BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Soul — BAFTA, BFCA, Globes
  • Minari — BAFTA, BFCA
  • Midnight Sky — BFCA, Globes
  • Tenet — BFCA, Globes

Only six scores hit precursors. The only real question is what you leave off. I’m taking the top three because they hit everything. Could they leave one of the Reznor scores off because they don’t wanna nominate him twice? Sure. But they both feel like sure things, so I’m fine with taking both. I’m also taking Midnight Sky, because Desplat has been nominated every year but three going back to 2006 and even has a year where he was nominated twice. Feels like a no-brainer.

That leaves Minari and Tenet for the final spot. Emile Mosseri hasn’t been nominated yet, while Ludwig Goransson has been nominated once (winning for Black Panther). The question is: is it about the composer, the score or a little bit of both? I don’t know. Tenet makes the most sense to me given how well Nolan scores tend to do here, but I truly could see it being either one.

Also keep an eye out for Thomas Newman here. If anyone is gonna get on from the rest of the list it’s him. He’s been nominated five times this past decade and I’ve seen him get on before without precursors with Passengers. I’m not gonna guess it, but it could happen. Don’t be shocked if you see it.

Best Original Score

Mank

The Midnight Sky

Soul

News of the World

Tenet

First Alternate: Minari

Dark Horse: The Little Things

Surprise: Da 5 Bloods; The Trial of the Chicago 7

Shocker: Ammonite; The Invisible Man; The Life Ahead

Don’t guess: Blizzard of Souls; Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey; Mulan

Would love to see: That exact category.

– – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – –

Original Song.

Another shortlist. Instead of having to guess from a list of 90-something songs, we get 15. Though this is the one major category with almost no (real) precursor help. All you have are eyes, ears and intuition (ENTuition?). You just have to reason your way through it and hope for the best.

“Turntables,” from All In: The Fight for Democracy
“See What You’ve Done,” from Belly of the Beast
“Wuhan Flu,” from Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
“Husavik,” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
“Never Break,” from Giving Voice
“Make It Work,” from Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
“Fight For You,” from Judas and the Black Messiah
“lo Sì (Seen),” from The Life Ahead
“Rain Song,” from Minari
“Show Me Your Soul,” from Mr. Soul!
“Loyal Brave True,” from Mulan
“Free,” from The One and Only Ivan
“Speak Now,” from One Night in Miami
“Green,” from Sound of Metal
“Hear My Voice,” from The Trial of the Chicago 7

Precursors:

  • BFCA: “Fight for You,” “Husavik,” “Io Si (Seen),” “Speak Now”
  • Globes: “Fight for You,” “Hear My Voice,” “Io Si (Seen),” “Speak Now”

Those two lists are the only help you’re getting (and both are hit-and-miss at best). Fortunately they’ve been at least 4/5 the past four years. So that’s helpful to an extent. I guess if you pick the only five songs there, you’re probably in the best shape you can be.

I’m taking “Speak Now” and “Io Si” right off the top. They won those categories and make the most sense as nominees. The branch loves Diane Warren and I can’t imagine Leslie Odom/One Night in Miami will get left off. Past that, it’s pure guesswork. “Fight for You” hit both categories and is from Judas and the Black Messiah. Not to make it a race thing, but… Harriet, Black Panther, Marshall, Mudbound… all in the past three years. Not saying, just saying. So I’ll take that next.

4 + 5… who the hell knows. “Rain Song” doesn’t make any sense to me, nor does “Green.” Maybe if the love for the films pushes them through, but I’m not going there. Also not going for Mr. Soul or Mulan. Neither fits what I know about this branch. Jingle Jangle also doesn’t seem likely either.

“Turntables” is Janelle Monae, and while it could happen, I’m not sure I’d guess it just because I don’t want to be disappointed when they don’t go there. I’ll play my original hunch that it’s not something they go for. Similarly, while it would tickle me if “Wuhan Flu” got nominated, I can’t guess it. The song is literally just two lines over and over, even though it’s probably the most instantly memorable song on this entire list. I’ll just let them do it and surprise me.

“See What You’ve Done” — Mary J.’s a previous nominee, but no one knows the movie. Will they vote for her on name alone? I mean, it’s happened. That feels like one where I’d rather just let them nominate it.

That brings me down to four songs for two spots and two alternates:

  • “Hear My Voice” has a precursor, is in a big Best Picture movie and, it has to be said, is from a Black artist. It’s also catchy (I heard it at the Globes and it’s been stuck in my head ever since). Feels like a smart thing to guess.
  • “Husavik” has a precursor and is the most notable in-movie song of the bunch next to “Wuhan Flu”. The stature of the film could hurt it, though. It’s 50/50 and I can’t tell if my logical brain or sentimental brain says is saying it’s worth guessing. But I’m leaning toward it at the moment, if only for the fun factor.
  • “Never Break” is from John Legend, a previous winner. It’s a good song, but I’m not sure if they care. Do they love John Legend or did he just win because he wrote a song for Selma? This feels like it has as good a shot as anything else but could also easily be relegated to the ‘instantly forgotten’ pile.
  • “Free” — it would be the biggest cop-out choice in the world, but this was also written by Diane Warren. They could double nominate her. You have to respect for that alone. At worst this is a Dark Horse because you can never fully trust this branch. Though I refuse to guess this and will just let them do it. In a category like this you’re allowed to be a little bit subjective because there isn’t much help. And without a precursor, I’m allowed to say, “No goddamn way.” So I will.

So yeah. I’ll take “Hear My Voice” and “Husavik.” John Legend becomes First Alternate and “Free” (begrudgingly) becomes the Dark Horse. Honestly anything below those two outside of Mary J., “Wuhan Flu” or “Turntables” would make me raise an eyebrow. When it comes to this category, I feel like the simplest route is the best route and you just have to let it happen however it’s gonna happen.

Best Original Song

“Fight For You,” from Judas and the Black Messiah

“Hear My Voice,” from The Trial of the Chicago 7

“Husavik,” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

“lo Sì (Seen),” from The Life Ahead

“Speak Now,” from One Night in Miami

First Alternate: “Never Break,” from Giving Voice

Dark Horse: “Free,” from The One and Only Ivan

Surprise: “See What You’ve Done,” from Belly of the Beast; “Turntables,” from All In: The Fight for Democracy

Shocker: “Wuhan Flu,” from Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; “Loyal Brave True,” from Mulan; “Green,” from Sound of Metal

Don’t guess: “Rain Song,” from Minari; “Make It Work,” from Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey; “Show Me Your Soul,” from Mr. Soul!

Would love to see: “Wuhan Flu,” just so Sacha can perform it at the ceremony.

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Production Design.

Since ADG began, they’ve matched the Oscars 5/5 eleven times (including the past five years), 4/5 six times, 3/5 five times and 2/5 twice. In the past decade, they’ve gone 5/5 eight times (plus one 4/5 and one 3/5). So by themselves, they’ve only missed 3 total nominees in ten years.

But we also have BAFTA and BFCA. Going back to 2000, there are a total of 8 nominees that had zero precursors. Since 2009, there are only 2 (Young Victoria, Midnight in Paris). We’re on the verge of an entire decade where every single nominee has hit at least one precursor.

  • ADG Period: Mank, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mulan, News of the World, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • ADG Fantasy: Birds of Prey, Midnight Sky, Pinocchio, Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984
  • ADG Contemporary: Da 5 Bloods, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Palm Springs, Promising Young Woman, The Prom
  • BAFTA: The Dig, The Father, Mank, News of the World, Rebecca
  • BFCA: Emma, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, News of the World, Personal History of David Copperfield, Tenet

Breakdown:

  • Mank — ADG, BAFTA BFCA
  • News of the World — ADG, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Ma Rainey — ADG, BFCA
  • Tenet — ADG, BFCA
  • Trial of the Chicago 7 — ADG
  • Birds of Prey — ADG
  • Da 5 Bloods — ADG
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things — ADG
  • The Midnight Sky — ADG
  • Palm Springs — ADG
  • The Prom — ADG
  • Wonder Woman 1984 — ADG
  • Mulan — ADG
  • Promising Young Woman — ADG
  • Pinocchio — ADG
  • The Dig — BAFTA
  • The Father — BAFTA
  • Rebecca — BAFTA
  • David Copperfield — BFCA
  • Emma — BFCA

It’s very rare for something contemporary to get nominated here. So skip the ADG Contemporary list. And probably The Father too. I also can’t imagine them going for The Dig or David Copperfield. Birds of Prey doesn’t feel like them either, and I don’t think Wonder Woman has a shot. Which brings us to a manageable list of 10.

Mank and News of the World hit all the precursors, so I’m starting with those. Ma Rainey has the guild and has BFCA and feels about as right as anything else, so let’s put that on.

The only other film with multiple precursors is Tenet. Though I don’t know if that’s contemporary or fantasy. Because it sure feels contemporary. I also feel like the BFCA nomination might be a red herring, so I’m gonna hold off on that one for a moment. I’m not totally sold. That leaves six films left, all with a single precursor.

Emma has the slightest precursor, BFCA. Only Nine (in 2009) was nominated with just BFCA. So I’m leaning toward no there. How could it miss the guild and BAFTA and still get on? Also, Rebecca. Quintessential BAFTA nominee. Can’t see it getting on.

That leaves four films, all with only a guild nomination:

  • Mulan — Disney remakes generally don’t do well here. Only Beauty and the Beast managed a nomination, and you kinda get why that was the one. Mulan is very outdoors-y, though parts of it are very set-heavy. Feels 50/50. Would not be surprised to see it but also don’t really feel the urgency to guess it.
  • Pinocchio — Foreign films don’t have a good track record here unless also nominated in the ‘bigger’ categories. You have to go back 40 years to find one whose most prominent nomination is in this category. I don’t see it.
  • Midnight Sky — Intriguing option. They like space movies (First Man, Passengers, The Martian, Interstellar, Gravity). Not sure where they’re gonna come out on this one, but if Passengers got on, I have to think this has a legitimate shot.
  • Trial of the Chicago 7 — straight period, major contender in other categories. Not a sexy choice, plus most of it takes place in the courtroom. The name makes it sounds good, but I’m not sure how much they’re gonna go for this.

This is another tough one. Only three pretty certain choices and the rest is guessing. The ones that make the most sense to me as choices are Tenet, Chicago 7, Midnight Sky and Mulan. I’m really not sure how much I buy Chicago 7 as an actual choice as much as an on-paper choice. Though it really fits. And Mulan… I don’t know if they’re gonna go there. At least Nathan Crowley, who did Tenet, has five nominations and respect. And Midnight Sky is a genre they love. So I’ll take those and cross my fingers. I truly don’t know where this is going.

Best Production Design

Mank

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

The Midnight Sky

News of the World

Tenet

First Alternate: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Dark Horse: Mulan

Surprise: Pinocchio; Emma

Shocker: Birds of Prey; Wonder Woman 1984; Rebecca

Don’t guess: The Personal History of David CopperfieldI’m Thinking of Ending Things; Promising Young Woman

Would love to see: I’m Thinking of Ending Things; I’m Your Woman

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Costume Design.

Since CDG began in 1998, they’ve gotten progressively better at this. 1998-2002, they were either 1/5 or 2/5. 2003-2005, 3/5. Since 2005, 4/5 or 5/5 every year but two (both 3/5, both this decade).

Folding in BAFTA and BFCA: since 2005, only 13 nominees missed all three. 7 of those came before 2009/BFCA. Since 2009, only 6 films have been nominated with zero precursors (I Am Love, Anonymous, The Grandmaster, The Revenant, Victoria & Abdul and Joker). And in all cases, the films are either foreign, got a lot of nominations or are obvious ‘frilly’ stuff. Meaning you can probably spot them. Otherwise, you’re usually guaranteed either 4/5 or 5/5. Which, for Costumes, is great.

One more note to make: this category rarely nominates a contemporary film. Since 1994, the only contemporary films to be nominated here are Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, I Am Love, and La La Land (which is half-contemporary at best). I say this because we do have a serious contemporary nominee this year and this is something that has to be considered.

  • CDG Period: Emma, Judas and the Black Messiah, Ma Rainey, Mank, One Night in Miami
  • CDG Fantasy: Dolittle, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, Mulan, Pinocchio, Wonder Woman 1984
  • CDG Contemporary: Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, Birds of Prey, Da 5 Bloods, Promising Young Woman, The Prom
  • BAFTA: Ammonite, The Dig, Emma, Ma Rainey, Mank
  • BFCA: Emma, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, Mulan, Personal History of David Copperfield, Promising Young Woman

Breakdown:

  • Emma — CDG, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — CDG, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Mank — CDG, BAFTA, BFCA
  • Mulan — CDG, BFCA
  • Promising Young Woman — CDG, BFCA
  • Dolittle — CDG
  • Jingle Jangle — CDG
  • Judas and the Black Messiah — CDG
  • One Night in Miami — CDG
  • Pinocchio — CDG
  • Wonder Woman 1984 — CDG
  • Ammonite — BAFTA
  • The Dig — BAFTA
  • David Copperfield — BFCA

The list feels slight, but when you look at the type of films that got on without precursors, there’s not really anything I can add here.

I also looked at every designer with 2+ nominations to see what films they had this year, but the list (The Glorias, News of the World, Enola Holmes, Radioactive, Eurovision, Antebellum and The Witches). was uninspiring. MAYBE you consider News of the World because it’s Mark Bridges, but anything else would come completely out of nowhere and I think you have to just let them happen. I say stick with this list.

Three nominees hit everything: Emma, Ma Rainey, Mank. Start there.

David Copperfield, don’t guess. Since 2009, nothing has been nominated with just BFCA alone. In fact, only 8 films have missed ADG and been nominated and all of them had BAFTA (with 5 having both BAFTA and BFCA). I’d also say don’t guess Wonder Woman. They didn’t nominate the first one. I’m also not buying Jingle Jangle. The designer’s hit the guild a bunch but only has one nomination. It also doesn’t feel like them.

Judas and the Black Messiah. I’m not sure that’s their speed. Recent enough that it’s almost contemporary, kinda muted overall, not really showy. Designer is new, unestablished. Feels unlikely. One Night in Miami I guess I could see. But I feel like it would be more about the film than anything else, since it’s mostly just dudes in suits. I’d rather just let it beat me. The Dig feels very much like a BAFTA-only type of film. The costumes are nice, but they don’t scream ‘gonna get nominated’.

That brings me down to five choices for the final two spots. But to get one out of the way — Mulan has the guild and has BFCA. Disney remakes/sequels nominated in this category include Snow White and the Huntsman, Maleficent, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins. So yeah… that plus the obviousness of the costumes tells me that should probably be #4.

The rest of this category hinges on one film only: Promising Young Woman. Will they nominate a contemporary film? It has ADG and BFCA. BAFTA did not nominate it, which probably seals its fate. When you look at the contemporary films that were nominated here, I’m not sure this screams nomination as those others do. It would be easier to have it on, but I’m not sure it makes it.

With that not being on, I have to figure out what’s left that I think can make it:

  • Ammonite — it got BAFTA, which is a big help. The designer won previously for The Duchess and was also nominated for Jane Eyre and The Invisible Woman. Lot of signs pointing to a yes here.
  • Dolittle — Don’t laugh. Crazier things have happened. This is Jenny Beaven, who has ten nominations and two wins. Sure, the film’s a disaster, but they respect the hell out of her. How far does that respect go? I’d admittedly be surprised if they did it. But I’m putting it on your radar because it’s not out of the question.
  • Pinocchio — Foreign films tend to be unknowns here. The only two foreign nominees this decade got on without any precursors, so at least this is a step up. Having seen the film, I’d be surprised they went there but would understand it. Not sure I can guess it though.

I think it’s gotta be Ammonite. After that, the only other ones that make any sense to me are Pinocchio, Promising Young Woman or maybe News of the World. Mark Bridges was nominated last year for Joker without any precursors, so maybe that’s been the answer all along. We’ll see.

Best Costume Design

Ammonite

Emma

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank

Mulan

First Alternate: News of the World

Dark Horse: Promising Young Woman

Surprise: Pinocchio; Jingle Jangle

Shocker: Dolittle; One Night in Miami

Don’t guess: Judas and the Black MessiahWonder Woman 1984; Personal History of David Copperfield; Trial of the Chicago 7

Would love to see: Promising Young Woman get on.

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Makeup & Hairstyling.

This category used to be the easiest to guess. Shortlist of seven, category of three. Cake. Now, it’s ten shortlisted, five nominated. Still not bad. Plus we have three precursors and a general sense of “I guarantee you they won’t nominate at least two of these.”

The only patterns I’ve found over the past decade are:

  • If something has zero precursors it never gets nominated. Unless it’s foreign, because…
  • Shortlisted foreign films have been nominated every single time.
  • They like transformations. If an acting nominee has character makeup going on, it’ll probably get nominated.
  • Until last year (Rocketman + Bohemian Rhapsody both missing), three guild nominations plus BAFTA and BFCA usually guaranteed a nomination.
  • Most of the nominees are fairly obvious. You really just have to trust your gut with this one.

Birds of Prey
Emma
The Glorias
Hillbilly Elegy
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
The Little Things
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
One Night in Miami
Pinocchio

Precursors:

  • Makeup & Hairstylist Guild:
    • Period/Character Makeup: Hillbilly Elegy, Ma Rainey, Mank
    • Period/Character Hair: Hillbilly Elegy, Ma Rainey, Mank, Jingle Jangle
    • Special Effects Makeup: Hillbilly Elegy, Pinocchio
    • Contemporary Makeup: Birds of Prey
    • Contemporary Hair: Birds of Prey
  • BAFTA: Hillbilly Elegy, Ma Rainey, Mank, Pinocchio
  • BFCA: Emma, Hillbilly Elegy, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank

Breakdown:

  • Hillbilly Elegy — 5 total nominations (three guild, BAFTA, BFCA)
  • Ma Rainey — 4 total nominations (two guild, BAFTA, BFCA)
  • Mank — 4 total nominations (two guild, BAFTA, BFCA)
  • Birds of Prey — 2 total nominations (two guild)
  • Pinocchio — 2 total nominations (guild, BAFTA)
  • Emma — 1 total nomination (BFCA)
  • Jingle Jangle — 1 total nomination
  • The Glorias, One Night in Miami and The Little Things have not been nominated anywhere.

Based on the aforementioned patterns, I wouldn’t guess The Glorias, One Night in Miami or The Little Things. Maybe I’d give a slight chance to One Night in Miami just because of its stature, but it’s a Dark Horse at best given that nothing with zero precursors has gotten nominated in recent years. That takes you down to 7 and you’re guessing 5. So really it just comes down to which two you’re not guessing. And one of them is easy: Jingle Jangle. Can’t see them doing it, it has one marginal guild nomination and it fits the mold of something they wouldn’t vote for. So right there, you’re at six.

Ma Rainey, Hillbilly Elegy and Mank have 4+ total precursor nominations, so I don’t see why you wouldn’t have those on. Given the margins, just take the L. And with foreign films always making it, put Pinocchio on no matter what. That’s four.

Really this category comes down to Birds of Prey vs. Emma. And, doing my research, here’s what I found: Since the guild started in 2013, every single nominee (except the foreign ones) was nominated by either the guild or BAFTA. Nothing got on with just BFCA. And before the guild (2009-2012), of the six nominees BAFTA missed, BFCA only picked up two of them (which the guild clearly would’ve had). So all signs point to Birds of Prey over Emma and I’m not overthinking it.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Hillbilly Elegy

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank

Pinocchio

First Alternate: Emma

Dark Horse: One Night in Miami

Surprise: Jingle Jangle; The Glorias

Shocker: The Little Things

Would love to see: Me go 5/5 here.

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Visual Effects.

This is the single most bizarre year we’ve had for Visual Effects in a long time. No theaters means a lot less effects films means a very thin shortlist. Normally we get a longlist of 20 and you look at half of them know they’ll never happen. We didn’t even get that this year. Based on this shortlist I’m not even sure they could get to 20:

Birds of Prey
Bloodshot
Love and Monsters
Mank
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Soul
Tenet
Welcome to Chechnya

I can narrow that list down to six right now before precursors. That’s what this year is.

VES has two main categories, Best Effects and Best Supporting Effects. Since 2010, only five times was something nominated without being in either of those two categories (and never more than one per year). So they’ve been either 4/5 or 5/5 this decade by themselves. The five outliers are: Real Steel, Snow White and the Huntsman, Winter Soldier, Ex Machina and Kubo. Ex Machina’s the only one there with precursors, although Kubo was nominated up and down VES’s animation categories and Winter Soldier is Marvel. So you’re pretty covered a long as you have common sense.

  • VES:
    • Best Effects: Midnight Sky, Tenet
    • Supporting Effects: Mank, Welcome to Chechnya
    • Animated Character: One and Only Ivan
    • Created Environment: Bloodshot, Mulan
    • Model: Midnight Sky
    • Effects Simulations: Bloodshot, Mulan
    • Composting: Composting
    • (Soul was nominated in every one of their animated categories)
  • BAFTA: Midnight Sky, Mulan, One and Only Ivan, Tenet
  • BFCA: Mank, Midnight Sky, Mulan, Tenet

To start: Don’t guess Birds of Prey, Bloodshot or Love and Monsters. Love and Monsters and Birds of Prey weren’t nominated anywhere and Bloodshot, while it does have two guild nominations… stature generally counts for something here.

Ivan is an interesting case study, since BAFTA is usually the group that goes classy, and that movie, while inoffensive, generally isn’t what they go for. With that and one guild nomination, it could happen. I’m not gonna guess it, but it’s not the ‘automatic dump’ it would’ve been had it missed BAFTA. So there, we have four off and six for five spots. The list basically creates itself.

To me, that last spot is between Mulan and Soul. Both could get on if they leave off Mank. Because Mank missing BAFTA makes me think that’s possible. The sneaky smart play might be both of them on and Mank off. In fact, fuck it. Let’s go there. 3/5 is the worst I’m doing here, and I can live with that.

Best Visual Effects

The Midnight Sky

Mulan

Soul

Tenet

Welcome to Chechnya

First Alternate: Mank

Dark Horse: The One and Only Ivan

Surprise: Birds of PreyBloodshot

Shocker: Love and Monsters

Would love to see: Soul get nominated.

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Best Sound.

This used to be two categories. Now it’s one. No more explaining the difference between the two or juggling both sets of precursor histories as I guess. Though I do now have to reconfigure my data analysis for one category.

Three precursors here: CAS, MPSE and BAFTA. BFCA tried a Sound category for three years and decided it wasn’t them. Kind of like when you experimented in college. MPSE has four categories (SFX+Foley, Dialogue+ADR, Music, Animated).

There have been 121 films nominated for Sound going back to 2000. CAS alone accounts for all but 39 nominees across that span. BAFTA picks up another 10 (bringing us to 29). MPSE’s SFX+Foley category (their ‘main’ category) alone takes off another 17 (down to 12). Dialogue+ADR and Music bring us down to 8, Animated takes off another 6 and now we’re down to two. One of those two is Amélie (a rarity, and also almost 20 years ago), which technically is on MPSE’s Foreign Language category. That leaves only one Sound nominee in the past 20 years that does not appear anywhere in any of the precursors. Wanna know what it is? Battle of the Five Armies. Middle fucking Earth! Those movies always had a shot at Sound. Still, one in 20 years. Take the precursors, assume Pixar has a shot and then use basic logic (and know Best Picture nominees are weighted slightly higher) and you should be just fine here.

  • MPSE:
    • SFX+Foley: Cherry, Greyhound, Midnight Sky, News of the World, Sound of Metal, Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984
    • Dialogue+ADR: Emperor, Greyhound, Ma Rainey, Mank, News of the World, Nomadland, Sound of Metal, Trial of the Chicago 7
    • Music: Invisible Man, Midnight Sky, News of the World, Sound of Metal, Tenet, Trial of the Chicago 7, Wonder Woman 1984
    • Musical: Eurovision, The High Note, I Am Woman, Forty-Year-Old Version, Ma Rainey, The Prom
    • Animation: The Croods: A New Age, Onward, Over the Moon, Soul, Wolfwalkers
  • CAS: Greyhound, Mank, News of the World, Sound of Metal, Trial of the Chicago 7
  • BAFTA: Greyhound, News of the World, Nomadland, Soul, Sound of Metal

Breakdown:

  • News of the World — CAS, SFX+Foley, Dialogue+ADR, Music, BAFTA
  • Sound of Metal — CAS, SFX+Foley, Dialogue+ADR, Music, BAFTA
  • Greyhound — CAS, SFX+Foley, Dialogue+ADR, BAFTA
  • Trial of the Chicago 7 — CAS, Dialogue+ADR, Music
  • Mank — CAS, Dialogue+ADR
  • Soul — BAFTA, Animated
  • Nomadland — Dialogue+ADR, BAFTA
  • Midnight Sky — SFX+Foley, Music
  • Tenet — SFX+Foley, Music
  • Wonder Woman 1984 — SFX+Foley, Music
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — Dialogue+ADR, Musical
  • Cherry — SFX+Foley
  • Emperor — Dialogue+ADR
  • Invisible Man — Music

Don’t guess Invisible Man, Emperor, Cherry, Wonder Woman or Ma Rainey. The latter two you can consider, but trust me, there are much more likely options to go for and it’s easier to just let them beat you.

The most important categories a film has to hit here are CAS, SFX+Foley and BAFTA. Three films have all of those: News of the World, Sound of Metal and Greyhound. That’s about as close to ‘lock’ status as you’re gonna get.

Those being on along with the ones I’ve taken off leaves us with this list:

  • Chicago 7 — Best Picture contender, dialogue heavy. They like those. Not the sexiest choice, but also very much in play. Do not rule this out. The CAS nomination is huge.
  • Mank — Same two big nominations as Chicago 7 only without Music, which is not the worst exclusion. Based on its general status, the only thing keeping me from assuming this is a lock is the fact that it seems to be a divisive film.
  • Nomadland — Missed CAS but got BAFTA. The Best Picture status is what’s making me think it’s got a shot. Though this doesn’t feel like the kind of film that gets on this category. They’d have to really like it to get it on here, and I’m okay thinking it won’t. It’ll get its nominations elsewhere.
  • Midnight Sky — SFX+Foley plus Music at MPSE, but nothing else. I’d have automatically put this on had it hit BAFTA. But barring that, it feels like a solid contender but maybe not a gimme. If there were two categories still, I’d for sure have this in one of them. But funneling into one, I’m not sure.
  • Tenet — It’s Nolan. Of course he’s a contender. However, it missed CAS and BAFTA, and the biggest complaints about the film were the garbled sound design. So I don’t know. Maybe it bullies its way on there anyway, but this might be a bit of a red herring in a single Sound category when Best Picture films seem to get weighted higher.
  • Soul — Pixar’s been nominated a bunch over the years and this hit BAFTA. The only two other recent films to get on BAFTA Sound were Wall-E and Up, both of which were nominated (Wall-E twice, even). Plus with MPSE having its own animated category… this could happen.

So I’m not taking Nomadland, I’ll let Midnight Sky get on (which it very much could). Tenet I’ll let get on too, even though most people would consider that a no-brainer. To me those final spots are between Mank, Chicago 7 and Soul. And, given the single category and given Best Pictures being weighted slightly higher, I’ll put Soul as the First Alternate. Because believe me: that could happen.

This is the first year of a single Sound category, so really we’re waiting to see what they do so we can get a sense of how to play this going forward. To me, the Best Picture route makes the most sense, to the point where I feel like Greyhound might be the most likely to miss over anything else. But we’ll see.

Best Sound

Greyhound

Mank

News of the World

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

First Alternate: Soul

Dark Horse: Tenet

Surprise: The Midnight Sky; Nomadland

Shocker: Wonder Woman 1984; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Don’t guess: Invisible Man; Cherry; Emperor

Would love to see: Me get 5/5 here.

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– – – – – – – – – –

Animated Feature.

This one’s usually pretty easy. You have an eligibles list and from that you should be able to pull a maximum of about eight movies that have any sort of shot. With precursors you can normally get that list down to six. Watch:

Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
Bombay Rose
Calamity
The Croods: A New Age
Demon Slayer: The Movie: Mugen Train
Dreambuilders
Earwig and the Witch
Kill It and Leave This Town
Lupin III: The First
Mosley
My Favorite War
Nos Ili Zagoyor Ne Takikh (The Nose or Conspiracy of Mavericks)
No. 7 Cherry Lane
On-Gaku: Our Sound
Onward
Over the Moon
Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs
Ride Your Wave
Scoob!
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run
Terra Willy
Trolls World Tour
A Whisker Away
The Willoughbys
Wolfwalkers

Do you have the eight? Because I sure do.

One thing I always mention: in the history of Animated Feature, only four films were nominated that scored below 70% on Rotten Tomatoes (and one of them was at 69%). 3/4 came between 2002-2004. Since 2004, only The Boss Baby has been nominated with a score lower than 70%. (Translation: don’t guess Scoob.) Also, the only films to be nominated in this category without being nominated at the Annies’ top two categories (Feature, Indie Feature), BAFTA or BFCA are Jimmy Neutron, Treasure Planet and Ferdinand. So don’t go too far off the reservation.

  • Globes: The Croods, Onward, Over the Moon, Soul, Wolfwalkers
  • BAFTA: Onward, Soul, Wolfwalkers (Shaun the Sheep was nominated last year)
  • BFCA: Onward, Over the Moon, Shaun the Sheep, Soul, Willoughbys, Wolfwalkers
  • PGA: The Croods, Onward, Over the Moon, Soul, Wolfwalkers
  • Annie Awards (total nominations) (* means not nominated for Best Picture or Best Indie):
    • Soul — 10
    • Wolfwalkers — 10
    • Onward — 7
    • The Croods — 6
    • Over the Moon — 6*
    • Willoughbys — 6
    • Trolls World Tour — 4
    • Calamity Jane — 3
    • Shaun the Sheep – 3
    • Earwig and the Witch — 2*
    • Ride Your Wave — 2
    • On-Gaku — 1

Your category hinges on your answers to these five questions:

  • Will they nominate Pixar twice? They’ve shown an aversion to them this decade. Most of that has been sequels. The comparison here though is Good Dinosaur being left off the year Inside Out won. Though Onward is much more acclaimed than Good Dinosaur was. Will that allow it to hold or are they completely against it? Disney got on twice with Zootopia and Moana. That seems to indicate that if the films feel up to snuff they’re fine with it.
  • Will The Croods get on? The first one was nominated, but generally sequels don’t make it. Though it’s hit all the precursors you’d want to see and certainly feels like it’s probable.
  • How bad is Over the Moon’s omission from the Annie Best Feature list? It has BFCA and the Globes and the 6 Annies noms otherwise, so it’s not entirely in Ferdinand territory. But maybe the omission is a sign of things to come.
  • Does the year split affect Shaun the Sheep? Sure it’s a sequel, but they love Aardman. However, this film got nominated last year at BAFTA. And the Annies only nominated it three times. Are they over it or will it get on as Aardman always does?
  • Will one of their usual ‘out of the box’ choices get on? In this case, that appears to be Calamity Jane or Ride Your Wave. Neither feels particularly inspiring or overly artistic, which tends to be what they go for. But you can never really ever rule that out with them.

Those are your questions. Trolls is not a contender here and I think The Willoughbys is a dark horse at best given how it’s performed throughout the precursors.

The way I shake out on this is: I think Onward is considered good enough by them to get nominated. Given that, I have to decide which feels most likely to me to get left off between The Croods, Over the Moon and Shaun the Sheep. And maybe this is just me not wanting to get my heart broken, but I think that might be Over the Moon. That Annies omission rings huge for me, especially since they nominated fucking Trolls over it. So I’m playing the numbers, since most years I know I’d definitely leave off The Croods and get burned. So I’ll stick with that set of five.

For those convinced Onward won’t make it (which is a completely rational, if not smart way to go), then you should almost definitely swap it with Over the Moon, unless you’re convinced of a Calamity Jane situation (though just be warned about going too deep. In the history of five precursors, nothing has gotten on with none.)

Best Animated Feature

The Croods: A New Age

Onward

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Soul

Wolfwalkers

First Alternate: Over the Moon

Dark Horse: The Willoughbys

Surprise: Calamity Jane; Ride Your Wave; Trolls World Tour

Shocker: Bombay RoseEarwig and the Witch; On-Gaku: Our Sound 

Don’t guess: Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus; Demon Slayer; Dreambuilders; Kill It and Leave This Town; Lupin III; Mosley; My Favorite War; No. 7 Cherry Lane; The Nose; Red Shoes; Scoob!; SpongeBob; Terra Willy; A Whisker Away

Would love to see: No. 7 Cherry Lane, Ride Your Wave

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Best International Feature.

This, as always, is a case of shortlist. We used to have to guess 5 from a list of 9. Now it’s 5 from 15. So while that could lead to crazy stuff happening, we have no choice but to do what we usually do and assume things will largely work out the same.

Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
The Mole Agent (Chile)
Charlatan (Czech Republic)
Another Round (Denmark)
Two of Us (France)
La Llorona (Guatemala)
Better Days (Hong Kong)
Sun Children (Iran)
Night of the Kings (Ivory Coast)
I’m No Longer Here (Mexico)
Hope (Norway)
Collective (Romania)
Dear Comrades! (Russia)
A Sun (Taiwan)
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)

I went over all fifteen films here, in case you need more info about each of them.

Precursors:

  • BAFTA: Another Round, Dear Comrades!, Quo Vadis Aida?
  • BFCA: Another Round, Collective, La Llorona, Two of Us
  • Globes: Another Round, La Llorona, Two of Us
  • NBR: La Llorona (won), Collective, Dear Comrades!, The Mole Agent, Night of the Kings
  • Indie Spirit: Quo Vadis Aida, Night of the Kings

There are eligibility asterisks across the board in those, so just take the inclusions as positives and exclusions with a grain of salt.

I tried a bunch of ways to boil this category down to the type of science I have for the others. But honestly? The precursors are dicey, a quarter of the nominees from the past decade had no precursors, the shortlist is 15 instead of the 9 and this category is generally a case-by-case basis.

I think your best bet is to use three things in not-equal measure: 1) the precursors, because they’re there, 2) how the countries do historically, and 3) the same basic logic and reasoning skills we use to guess this category every year. Here’s a combination of all three of those things for each contender:

  • Quo Vadis, Aida? — Bosnia and Herzegovina have been nominated only once in 20 submissions (2001). Their only shortlist was in 2012. But this got nominated for BAFTA Foreign Language and Director. Which tells me you have to consider it a sure thing. BAFTA doesn’t do that often for foreign films.
  • The Mole Agent and Collective — Might as well deal with both documentaries at once. To get the history out of the way, Chile’s been nominated twice in 25 submissions, both this decade. Romania, meanwhile, has never been nominated in 36 submissions and have only been shortlisted once (2012). Both films got on the NBR list and Collective also managed a BFCA nomination. Both also feature everywhere on the Documentary lists, wherein lies the rub. Documentaries are very rare in this category, even though it has happened twice this decade (The Missing Picture and Honeyland), with one more shortlisted (Pina, which got on the Doc Feature category). Both of these docs could almost pass for features, which probably helps them. I guess it’s just gonna come down to how much they like either of them and how much they want to vote for them despite knowing they’re in play in Doc Feature. You gotta consider them contenders.
  • Charlatan — Czech Republic’s been nominated 9 times in 50 submissions. They’ve not been nominated since 2003 and their only shortlist was last year. This has no precursors and feels like it’s only on because of an expanded shortlist and because they respect Agnieszka Holland. With 5 spots for 15 films, you eventually have to make some choices about what you aren’t guessing. And this one feels like an easy one to not guess. Personally, this is the one I’d be most surprised about if they nominated it.
  • Another Round — I’ll give you the history, but this has been the most lauded foreign film of the season and you pretty much have to guess it regardless. Denmark’s been nominated 12 times in 58 submissions. 5 of them have come since 2006, with two more shortlists (2011, 2018). Vinterberg was also nominated for The Hunt in 2013. It’s nominated everywhere, got BAFTA Director, Actor and Screenplay noms and might be in play extra nominations outside this category. It not getting on would be one of the biggest snubs of the decade. You’re just gonna have to take the L if they leave it off.
  • Two of Us — France’s been nominated 40 times in 67 submissions (a 59% ratio). They’ve been nominated 8 times since 2000. Since 2006, they’ve made 6 shortlists and have been nominated 4 times (2008, 2009, 2015 and 2019). This was nominated by BFCA and the Globes, but that could just be because they don’t watch that many foreign films and France is one of the biggest fish in the pond (they’ve each nominated them 9 times this decade, sometimes twice in one year!). That said, it does feel like one of the safer choices. This is somehow both a gimme and something ripe for being left off. Either way, you have to strongly consider it.
  • La Llorona — This is Guatemala’s first submission. It’s also one of the most lauded foreign films of the year, has BFCA and Globes nominations and was named NBR’s top foreign film (14 of the previous 20 winners were nominated, and since only 16/20 got shortlisted, they’re 14/16 since 2000). I can see them leaving it off (they generally don’t do ‘horror’ here), but you probably just have to take the L if they do.
  • Better Days — Hong Kong’s only been nominated twice in 39 submissions (1991, 1993). Their only shortlist was 2013, for The Grandmaster. They’re not here often and the one sure thing they’ve had in 30 years was still left off. That makes it tough for me to think this makes it. Given that I have to make tough choices and seeing historical and narrative reasons to think they probably won’t go for this, I’m gonna say it won’t make it. I feel like there are too many other films that better ‘fit’ what I’d expect to see them nominate.
  • Sun Children — This one’s interesting. Iran’s been nominated 3 times in 26 submissions. Two of them were Asghar Farhadi films this decade. The other was in 1998 and was directed by this same director. In a year of 10, I might think this could get on. But with 15, I feel like this is another ‘respect’ situations because there were extra spots. I could see this happening and I would not be surprised if this got on. But it’s too on-the-nose for all of Iran’s nominations to be split between two people. I feel comfortable not guessing this and simply being wrong.
  • Night of the Kings — This is Ivory Coast’s first submission. The film’s been nominated for the Indie Spirit, hit NBR and feels like it has a lot of buzz. A bunch of Academy members have been championing this. The branch also likes to get new countries involved. So, while this could get left off, something tells me this is a must-include.
  • I’m No Longer Here — Mexico’s been nominated 9 times in 53 submissions. Since 2000, four of their five nominations were for films by either Alejandro Inarritu, Guillermo Del Toro or Alfonso Cuaron. The other was in 2002 and their only other shortlist was in 2008. All that is making me think this is very unlikely to make it on. I wouldn’t be shocked if it did, but given that three directors are responsible for all of this country’s nominations going on 20 years, it’s hard to feel like this gets on without real precursor evidence.
  • Hope — Norway’s been nominated 5 times in 42 submissions and only once since 2001 (Kon-Tiki). Their only other shortlist was 2015. This never felt like a proper contender for me, and while the quality is there, I feel like this is a film I’d rather let beat me than guess. I can’t explain it except to say… my gut and experience tell me that I don’t think this is gonna happen.
  • Dear Comrades — Russia (inc. Soviet Union) has been nominated 16 times in 52 submissions, with 13 coming before 2000. Two of the remaining three were Andrey Zvyangintsev films this decade and the other was 2007. Their two other shortlists were 2016 (also a Konchalovsky film) and 2019. It’s that 2016 shortlist that makes me think this isn’t happening. Another ‘respect’ situation. Admittedly this did hit NBR and BAFTA and even got a shoutout at ASC, but with an expanded shortlist and seeing what I’ve seen out of this category the past decade, this feels like a red herring. That 2016 film felt exactly like this one does. Happy to be wrong, but I’m not seeing it, even though this is guessable.
  • A Sun — Taiwan’s been nominated 3 times in 46 submissions, all Ang Lee films and none since 2000. Their only shortlist was 2011. This one’s dicey. I feel like it could get on, but I also feel like I know better and that it probably won’t. Having seen 14/15 films, I feel like there are sexier choices for them out there. If this was a five-from-ten situation I’d feel better about it’s chances. But out of 15, I don’t know. This feels in that realm of ‘could happen but I have more than enough things above it to guess’. You can’t pick everything.
  • The Man Who Sold His Skin — Tunisia has never been nominated in 7 submissions and this is their first shortlist. No precursor nominations and it’s the only film of the bunch that I’ve been unable to see. I’ve heard murmurs of a late surge for it in the voting, but you hear a lot of things about a lot of things this time of year. While I don’t read a whole lot into it, this does feel like the kind of film I’d usually dismiss offhand that they’d go and nominate anyway. It’s basically telegraphed to be that film.

– – – – –

So where I’m at is — Another Round is on, I’m not getting caught without La Llorona on my ballot (as much as I think they might leave it off) and I’m definitely guessing Night of the Kings. I also think you have to guess Quo Vadis Aida after the BAFTA nominations. So that’s four and I feel okay about them.

I really have no idea what they’re gonna do with the documentaries, so I’m just gonna leave both of them off and see what happens. I had more faith in Mexico’s chances before the BAFTA omission. And while Dear Comrades feels like you could easily guess it, my gut says that doesn’t get on, so I’ll listen to it. That leaves me with France, the obvious choice, and The Man Who Sold His Skin. And you already know I’m taking that because I much prefer to get beaten by the devil I know rather than be the idiot who, year-in and year-out always misses the one I dismiss because of lack of notoriety and traction that gets on anyway. So let France make it, and while I still don’t feel great about La Llorona, I can live with this being my category.

Best International Feature

Another Round (Denmark)

La Llorona (Guatemala)

The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)

Night of the Kings (Ivory Coast)

Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

First Alternate: The Mole Agent (Chile)

Dark Horse: Two of Us (France)

Surprise: Collective (Romania); Dear Comrades! (Russia)

Shocker: A Sun (Taiwan); Sun Children (Iran); I’m No Longer Here (Mexico)

Don’t guess: Better Days (Hong Kong); Hope (Norway); Charlatan (Czech Republic)

Would love to see: A 5/5 here.

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Documentary Feature.

Pretty straightforward. Shortlist of 15, some precursors (though this is another case-by-case category), general logic but mostly just hoping for the best.

All In: The Fight for Democracy
Boys State
Collective
Crip Camp
Dick Johnson Is Dead
Gunda
MLK/FBI
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
Notturno
The Painter and the Thief
76 Days
Time
The Truffle Hunters
Welcome to Chechnya

Synopses and my thoughts on each can be found here.

  • PGA: Dick Johnson Is Dead, My Octopus Teacher, Time, The Truffle Hunters
  • BAFTA: Collective, My Octopus Teacher
  • BFCA Doc Awards:
    • Feature: Crip Camp, Dick Johnson Is Dead, Gunda, My Octopus Teacher, Painter and the Thief, Time
    • Director: Crip Camp, Dick Johnson Is Dead, Gunda, Painter and the Thief, Time
    • Cinematography: Dick Johnson Is Dead, Gunda, My Octopus Teacher, Notturno, Truffle Hunters
    • Editing: Gunda, Truffle Hunters

I honestly don’t know what to tell you here. This is the one non-shorts category I’ve almost resigned myself to a 2/5 each year because you truly don’t know where their tastes are gonna land. It’s almost bordering on subjective, the way you have to guess it. Especially since the precursors are marginal at best.

So, here’s where I land: I don’t think they’re gonna nominate Boys State. I don’t think they’ll go for Dick Johnson Is Dead. Kirsten Johnson got shortlisted for Cameraperson a few years ago and I think this is just out of respect for her more than anything. Not feeling Painter and the Thief either.

While I loved 76 Days, I’m not sure they’re ready and willing to go there, so I’ll just let them nominate it. I also am not feeling Octopus Teacher. I just am not. So again, let them do it. All In feels like something that could get on, but when you look at how this category usually goes, I don’t see a lot of those overly political documentaries get nominated (even though a lot get shortlisted). That takes me down to nine. And here’s where you purely just have to guess.

Welcome to Chechnya should get the Visual Effects nomination, but does that mean they’re gonna nominate it here? Historically that’s probably a yes, but because this category is so very much an annual one-off, I’m just gonna go with my gut and say that despite the great effects work they won’t like it enough as a full documentary for it to get on.

Notturno is tough for me, since Fire at Sea from this same director made it. Do they just love the style and will nominate it no matter what or is this just respect for him? I’m leaning toward the latter and taking the chance of not nominating it.

The Truffle Hunters is one of those ‘classy’ documentaries. One of those Sony Classics docs. But also… I’m not sure I feel like it’s gonna get on. I can’t explain it. Maybe it will. But watching it I felt more no than yes, and since that’s all I really have here, I’m going on that instinct.

Gunda — that could so easily get on. But given what my remaining five after it are, I’m gonna leave it off and go with them. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

So where I shook out was — I’m guessing both docs that made the International Feature list. I’m guessing Crip Camp because that’s just so damned likable (though that also feels ripe for being left off). I’m guessing MLK/FBI because something tells me the title is enough to get it on. And I’m guessing Time because all I’ve heard all year was people raving about that. I could see Time and Crip Camp being the most likely cast offs, but also… it’s Doc Feature. You never truly know where they’re gonna go and this is the one category I’ve done horribly in recently because there are no concrete precursors and you pretty much just have to guess the moving target of what these voters’ tastes are. So I’m just going with the category that makes the most sense to me today and hoping I can pull off a 3/5.

Best Documentary Feature

Collective

Crip Camp

MLK/FBI

The Mole Agent

Time

First Alternate: Notturno

Dark Horse: Welcome to Chechnya

Surprise: Gunda; The Truffle Hunters

Shocker: My Octopus Teacher76 Days; All In: The Fight for Democracy

Don’t guess: The Painter and the ThiefDick Johnson Is Dead; Boys State

Would love to see: Me not get massacred here.

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Documentary Short.

Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa
Call Center Blues
Colette
A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
Hysterical Girl
A Love Song for Latasha
The Speed Cubers
What Would Sophia Loren Do?

Nine of the ten are readily available. Links and synopses can be found here.

There’s very little to say about this category because historically one of three things wins here: people in third-world countries overcoming issues, people overcoming their personal circumstances to create art, and maybe once in a while some Holocaust stuff. That’s pretty much it. Occasionally there’s an outlier, but most of the time it’s one of those. Since we don’t have any help in this category, all you can really do is see what each is about, watch as many as you can and use your experience/intuition to figure what they’re most likely to go for.

Here’s the boiled-down essence of each of the docs:

  • Abortion Helpline — A non-profit organization helps expand abortion rights for underprivileged women
  • Call Center Blues — People deported from the U.S. work at call centers in Tijuana and try to rebuild their lives
  • Colette — A 90-year-old former member of the French Resistance during the Holocaust decides to finally take a trip to the concentration camp where her brother died
  • Concerto Is a Conversation — Composer Kris Bower traces his grandfather’s story as he prepares to conduct a concerto he wrote in the Walt Disney Concert Hall
  • Do Not Split — Footage of the 2019 Hong Kong protests and young people trying to maintain Hong Kong’s independence from Mainland China in the face of overwhelming police brutality
  • Hunger Ward — Doctors in Yemen try to fight a child starvation epidemic
  • Hysterical Girl — Reexamining Freud’s only female patient through a modern feminist perspective.
  • A Love Song for Latasha — A Black woman remembers the shooting of her best friend in 1991 by a store owner over a $1.79 bottle of orange juice
  • Speed Cubers — Follows two champion Rubik’s Cube solvers as they prepare for the World Championships
  • What Would Sophia Loren Do — An Italian woman who idolizes Sophia Loren recounts her life as we trace the career of Loren herself

Also of note is that Hunger Ward is directed by a previous nominee, ‘Concerto’ is EP’d by Ava DuVernay and ‘Sophia Loren”s director won Doc Feature in 2004. Do with that information what you will.

For me, Hunger Ward is an absolute no-brainer. So is Abortion Hotline. I’m not guessing a category without those two.

Also, looking at what’s been nominated here the past decade, all of the docs have an issue behind them. Every one. Some are under the surface, but they’re always there. Which is why an uplifting doc like Speed Cubers, as much as it’s gonna be a popular choice among regular people who watch all of these, doesn’t feel like it’s gonna get nominated to me. There’s no issue there. It’s just fun. And that’s not what I know this category to be. Similarly, the Sophia Loren doc. MAYBE they nominate it on name alone, but there’s really no ‘issue’ there that they can ‘solve’ by voting for it. So I’m not feeling that one either.

Colette is Holocaust, which could go either way. They’ve shied away from those the past few years, so I’m thinking more no than yes.

A Love Song for Latasha feels very much a product of the current times. Story of a girl shot by a store owner largely over her race and nothing else. I feel like I almost have to guess that.

Hysterical Girl is another one — also very much a product of the times, given what it’s trying to do, but I’m not sure if the way they go about it will resonate with voters. I say fuck it, I’ll put it on. I’m used to doing horribly in this category anyway.

Call Center Blues — two call center docs in one year seems unlikely. This is one… the issue is there, albeit more under the surface (immigration), but I’m not sure the doc amounts to a whole lot. So I’m gonna err on the side of no over yes.

Do Not Split is the most evocative and engaging doc on this entire list, and I’m just gonna say, if they don’t nominate it then I question everything that goes into the decision-making in this category. It is perhaps the single most timely doc on the entire list and the on-the-ground footage they capture feels exactly how things felt during the George Floyd protests. This is a must-guess for me.

And finally, A Concerto Is a Conversation. The cynic says ‘Ava DuVernay produced it, so of course it’s get on’. And a large part of me thinks that. But also… it’s not really about anything. It’s essentially the same as the Sophia Loren one in that it’s the story of a family member. It doesn’t get into the race angle so much as it’s just a guy appreciating his grandfather making it so he could get to where he is. It doesn’t really feel like something they go for. So I guess we’ll see if the cynicism is warranted.

So yeah, this is my list, and I can’t even tell you what is or isn’t likely to get on. It’s pretty much a ‘what you feel best about’ situation.

Best Documentary Short

Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa

Do Not Split

Hysterical Girl

Hunger Ward

A Love Song for Latasha

First Alternate: Colette

Dark Horse: A Concerto Is a Conversation

Surprise: Call Center Blues; The Speed Cubers

Shocker: What Would Sophia Loren Do?

Would love to see: If Do Not Split is not nominated, this category is useless.

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Live Action Short.

This category is historically the ‘hold your nose and dive in’ category. No help except being able to see some of them and knowing what they’re all about/who made them. Look at the shortlist and do your best:

Bittu
Da Yie
Feeling Through
The Human Voice
The Kicksled Choir
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers
The Van
White Eye

I went over all the shorts that I was able to see in depth here. The only real work you can do for this is see as many as you can and go by what you feel their usual tastes are. That’s about the beginning and end of it.

This year is made tougher by some ‘celebrity’ entries (Oscar Isaac stars in Letter Room and Human Voice is directed by Pedro Almodovar and stars Tilda Swinton), which make it difficult to gauge just how likely or unlikely they really are to make it.

  • The Kicksled Choir feels like the type of short that always gets on this category. So I’m guessing that no matter what.
  • I feel like I have to guess The Human Voice because it’s Almodovar. Though something tells me his stature hurts him as much as helps him, since there are a lot of purists who don’t like the big fish encroaching on their pond. But also, Terry George won this category in 2012. This might be one of those ‘gots to’ situations, even though a big part of me feels like they’ll somehow leave this off.
  • I’m gonna guess White Eye no matter what, just because it’s a one-take film and tells a really effective story about race relations. This is one I’m okay taking the L with.
  • I don’t think I would guess The Van under any circumstances.
  • The Letter Room feels like it could be a trap. I feel like people will guess it just because Oscar Isaac is in it but I’m not sure the short itself lives up to what would normally get nominated in this category.
  • I thought The Present was quite effective and does fit what normally gets nominated here. Though given what I know about Hollywood and this being a Palestinian film with an Israeli film on the list, something tells me they’ll find a way to put that one on while leaving this off.
  • Bittu is an effective film and feels like the kind of thing I could see them going for. Same for Da Yie.
  • Two Distant Strangers I don’t know about. The ‘Groundhog Day but with police brutality’ angle is a great one and you can make a lot of great societal points within that structure, but the trailer makes me think they’re going for the more ‘fun’ route. There’s that final beat in the trailer where he says ‘I’m gonna make it home to my dog’. And I can’t tell if that’s just there because it’s a trailer or that’s something that’s gonna permeate the entire short. Which makes me unsure of how it’s gonna fare with them, since I’ve been unable to watch the whole thing.
  • And then Feeling Through. The ultimate wild card. I can see them nominating it as much as I can leaving it off. It’s got some emotion, but do they give a shit?

Again, it’s all guesswork here and there’s no real analysis to be had. I think I have to guess Human Voice no matter what. I’m gonna take a flyer on Letter Room not making it (because I hope they aren’t swayed by celebrity over quality). I’m putting Kicksled Choir and White Eye on my list no matter what. The Van is a no for me too. Two Distant Strangers I think I’ll leave off just to keep things interesting (I assume I’m doing horribly anyway, so this is just about peace of mind). The Present I’ll put on, just to see them pick Israel over Palestine. I’ll skip Da Yie even though a short like that always seems to find its way on. Bittu is 50/50, but given one spot left, I’ll take Feeling Through since at least that made me feel something, and I think that counts for a lot for voters.

In this category, you take what you can live with and hope you do well. That’s all it ever is.

Best Live Action Short

Feeling Through

The Human Voice

The Kicksled Choir

The Present

White Eye

First Alternate: Bittu

Dark Horse: Two Distant Strangers

Surprise: The Letter Room; Da Yie

Shocker: The Van

Would love to see: The Present and White Eye get on

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– – – – – – – – – –

And finally, Animated Short.

Burrow
Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You
Kapaemahu
Opera
Out
The Snail and the Whale
To Gerard
Traces
Yes-People

Burrow and Out are available to watch on Disney+. If Anything Happens I Love You is on Netflix. Snail and the Whale is available on BBC iPlayer. Kapaemahu you can watch here. Traces you can watch here. If you want my prep article, here it is.

One thing to note here is that, almost every single year, there’s at least one short I completely dismiss (by necessity) that ends up being nominated. Because this category, after a point (which is usually two nominees) is pure luck. So the one that I’m dismissing this year is Traces. So expect to see that nominated now that I’ve done that.

I would be shocked if If Anything Happens I Love You does not make the list of five. So my list starts with that. I also would be a bit surprised if Snail and the Whale doesn’t make it, given their love of those types of shorts (Gruffalo, Room on the Broom). So I’ll guess that in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, they’ll go elsewhere for a change and surprise me. I also haven’t been able to see it but the more I hear about Opera the more it sounds like a masterful piece of animation. So I’m gonna guess that one blind. I’m also gonna go completely against the grain with what I normally do and say Kapaemahu gets on. That was the one I wanted to dismiss out of hand, but the more I think about it, the more I find myself going, “But you know you can see that on a list of nominees in the future.” Part of me just knows that fits what a final category would look like. And I know that’s the one I’d basically dismiss almost any other year. So I’m gonna guess it this year and see how I do.

Of the ones that are left — while I very much liked To Gerard… they don’t really respect DreamWorks here. So I’m just gonna let them put that on if they’re gonna. Yes-People is one that I also can very much see get on, but I only have so many spots and there’s a big choice coming up. So unfortunately I just have to let that beat me. And Genius Loci — that’s the one that always makes me go, “It looks great, they’ll nominate it.” And then I guess it, sight unseen, then they don’t nominate it. Every time. So I’m gonna not guess that and see if the change in strategy pays off.

That, of course, leads to the major question of the category, the same question we have in Animated Feature: will Pixar get on twice? Weird how that worked out in both categories like that. We have Burrow and we have Out. Burrow is colorful and cute and everything you’d normally expect to see in a category like this (plus it’s 2D!), and Out is very timely, which may or may not factor into their decision-making. It features Disney/Pixar’s first gay protagonist. Though I feel like the narrative issues (they turn him into a dog for most of the short!) might hinder it as much as the cultural impact might help it.

I guess I have to take Out, even though I feel like the 2D animation of Burrow might be something they flock to more (plus that one feels like it might be more widely seen, which is usually a good way to get votes). Then again, maybe both get on and it doesn’t matter. But I only have one spot left. This is all hoping you get lucky anyway, so I guess I’ll stick with my five and see what they do.

Best Animated Short

If Anything Happens I Love You

Kapaemahu

Out

Opera

The Snail and the Whale

First Alternate: Burrow

Dark Horse: Yes-People

Surprise: Genius Loci; To Gerard

Shocker: Traces

Would love to see: Burrow get on.

– – – – – – – – –

So those are my guesses. Normally I like to get between 85-90 of them right, but honestly, this year I’d like to just feel as though the analysis was good. Mistakes are gonna happen and I’m gonna get stuff wrong (some stuff way wrong). But as long as I feel like I guessed to the best of my ability and don’t feel like I overthought my way out of too many things, I’m fine. We have bigger things going on in the world.

Also — last year’s article was 42,150 words. This year? 19,590. I’m officially a slightly less verbose idiot.

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