And the Nominees Are: Analyzing the 93rd Academy Award Nominations
Okay, so we got here. Nominations have finally been announced. And now all that thinking I’ve been doing about what was gonna get here is gonna cease to be relevant the minute I finish this article. From here on out it’s only about what’s gonna win.
Quick thoughts about everything as a whole — generally this all felt in line with what I’d have expected. Some minor surprises and really only one or two that felt like they came out of nowhere, but nothing earth-shattering (and mostly of them positive developments). It’s more of a category by category thing, so let’s go through each of them, see how they differed from what was expected and what that means for who’s going to win going forward.
Here are your 93rd Academy Award nominations:
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
I’ve been saying all week that I only thought there were gonna be 8 nominees. So that came in as expected. Though admittedly I wasn’t expecting both Ma Rainey and One Night in Miami to be left off. Though, if I’m being honest, those were always the two I personally felt were the weakest of that assumed list. Not that it matters, but it does at least make me feel a little better. Judas and the Black Messiah is an upgrade over both of those. Though admittedly The Father is kind of a lateral move. Can’t really argue with the other 6 though. Knowing that these were ‘the’ films… hard to find fault with most of this. The sliding scale is what fucked those other two over. They weren’t on enough ballots. Most people will see that as a race thing over a quality thing, but people are gonna feel how they feel. If there was a set list of ten both of those almost certainly would’ve gotten on. Blame math, I guess.
I went 6/8, because two of the gimmes got left off. But I did have The Father and Judas as my #9 and #10. This is why I rank my choices, because if I didn’t I could’ve just said, “Oh, well, I had all 8 on my list, I went 8/8!” But, the fact that those two were the first two I expected on in case anything was left off makes me just as happy as going 8/8. If the analysis is spot on and the numbers are generally okay, I’m fine. But I truly didn’t expect two swaps like that. At best I thought it was a list of 9 and one of the bottom two making it on. But hey, shit like this happens. Personally it’s all window dressing to me, since we all know Nomadland is winning this anyway.
PGA went 7/8 here, missing The Father, which was amply on BAFTA and had that initial Globes push to let you know the support was out there for it. Nothing came totally out of nowhere and, while the two omissions were surprising, they’re not all that shocking.
Big takeaways: Are there any real big takeaways? These are 8 of the 10 films that felt most likely to get on this list. Looking at what got on over what got left off, the takeaway there is ‘the group voted more for the two that got put on over the other two’. That’s it. I know people might try to have hot takes about this, but it doesn’t really feel like anything other than the numbers working out in favor of The Father and Judas and against One Night in Miami and Ma Rainey. In the end, none of this will matter in a day because Nomadland is still gonna win this category.
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
David Fincher, Mank
Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
This is one of those situations that makes me feel good. Because I said all throughout parsing the category yesterday that the DGA never matches 5/5. I gave you all the stats and I even said that I felt that Sorkin was the most likely cast off from that list over Fennell and I said that Thomas Vinterberg was my First Alternate and laid out the exact path that got Pawel Pawlikowski on in 2018 and said if anyone felt like they were gonna get on, it was Vinterberg. It was all right there.
Of course, I did still knowingly take the DGA 5 knowing that football was gonna be pulled out from under me when I went to kick it, but knowing that I said what was most likely gonna happen even as I did it seeing that come to fruition even as I fell on my ass… I’m thrilled. I’ll happily take that 4/5.
Big takeaways: Two women are nominated for Best Director (and one is gonna win). A Korean man is nominated for Best Director. A foreign nominee is nominated for Best Director. It’s really hard to find fault with this category unless you’re one of those people who’s mad about Regina King getting on because you love Regina King. Otherwise, these were almost the expected five. If anything it was gonna be Aaron Sorkin who got that final spot instead of Vinterberg. And he ends up falling in that same trap that other recent writer-first contenders fell into in previous years. Once Martin McDonagh got left off for Three Billboards (and then Peter Farrelly for Green Book the year right after that), you knew people like Sorkin weren’t safe. This branch has clamped down in recent years on ‘this is more about the writing than the directing’ and leaving those people off no matter how strong a contender their film is for Best Picture. The classical category would’ve had Sorkin on and Fennell off. But this recent DGA — this was the way it was gonna go. You literally saw this play out in 2018, with Pawlikowski getting on with BAFTA and the writer-first candidate being left off. So that’s the big takeaway. The seeming randomness of this branch has now become something we can telegraph. And that Chloe Zhao is gonna win this and become the second woman to win this category. Which is pretty awesome.
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boesman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Gary Oldman, Mank
Steven Yeun, Minari
This was an easy 5/5. The only real surprises would’ve been if Delroy Lindo somehow got on despite being ignored everywhere and more so if Mads Mikkelsen could’ve slipped in as well after Vinterberg made it. But otherwise, this was the expected category and have felt like the proper five throughout the entire race. So there’s not really a whole lot to add here. Except that Anthony Hopkins is 83 and now has been nominated in back-to-back years. That’s pretty awesome.
Big takeaways: Boseman’s gonna win, happy for Riz Ahmed, thrilled for Steven Yeun. Love Gary Oldman and love Anthony Hopkins. Love this category. Sometimes you get an easy one that’s also good.
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
Another 5/5. Again, these were the expected 5. Four of these were locked early and the minute Andra Day won that Globe you couldn’t picture anyone else getting on here. I mean, the only alternate with precursors was Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy. And did you really think they were gonna go there? That would’ve been so much worse than people think the One Night in Miami omission is. The Day performance is what it is (and I blame a lot of that on a weak film. The work itself is wonderful), but the nomination is great for her, great for diversity and honestly given what the precursors laid out for us, the literal best possible situation. I think it’s great.
Big takeaways: Now’s where this category gets interesting. We don’t know who’s gonna win at the moment. I assume it’s Carey Mulligan, but you don’t know for sure. That’s not the easiest role in the world to get behind. She has BFCA already. But if SAG goes to Viola Davis and BAFTA goes to Frances McDormand, we could have four different people with precursors. I mean, most likely scenario is Mulligan wins SAG and BAFTA doesn’t matter because she’s not nominated there. But this is a fairly open category. Maybe they’ll find a way to go Viola. We really don’t know until those two big precursors go out. But otherwise, Andra Day gets a nomination, and that’s great, and Carey Mulligan gets on for what feels like the defining performance of the year. Considering what the likely scenarios were for this, we got a really good category.
Best Supporting Actor
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
So, let me start by saying — LAKEITH!!!!
Second — how can both main characters of that movie be supporting? Who’s the lead in that movie? The Man? That part of this is a joke. I didn’t even consider that they’d try to push LaKeith Supporting here because he’s so clearly the lead of that movie. He wasn’t even on my radar for this category. How could he be? He’s the lead! So the fact that they allowed that to happen is a major joke. That said, fucking thrilled for him. Love him as the fifth nominee.
In the abstract — when you have a year like this where there’s only three real contenders and you can kinda guess the fourth but the fifth seems very much questionable, that’s usually a sign someone’s coming out of nowhere. But again, could never have guessed this.
I went 4/5, though, and that’s what I expected, though with a much more entertaining and welcome outcome. We knew Cohen, Kaluuya and Odom were gimmes. And I said when Raci hit BAFTA, “You have to take him.” Most people should’ve had those four.
I knew Jared Leto was a red herring and the way the second half of the precursors played out, I’m pretty sure most people realized that as well. And I also said with Bill Murray, “He doesn’t have SAG, that doesn’t feel legitimate.” And so he was off too. Now, I thought they might just go double Chadwick. But the Academy acting branch is not SAG and it’s not just a popularity contest. So I struggled to see that as the likely option. He already had the one nomination (and was clearly gonna win), the film clearly wasn’t all that much liked (all it got was a measly Score nomination) and he’s legitimately barely in the movie. I had problems with people nominating that performance before it felt like he was gonna win. But still, given all that’s surrounding Chadwick now, I thought they might just push it through anyway.
I put my money on Alan Kim since I could at least see some support for him in the precursors and love for the film out there. Of course, he always felt iffy since they generally don’t like putting children in an acting category unless it’s part of an obvious push. And they already had their actors with Minari. So even as I guessed it I didn’t fully buy it either. And that’s what left the door wide open for someone like LaKeith. And honestly, this is the best possible situation of anything we could have gotten. I know it’s blatant category fraud, but in the end we get Academy Award nominee LaKeith Stanfield, and to me that’s all that matters.
Also, I will point out — maybe Netflix should’ve just pushed Delroy Lindo as Supporting. Seems like he’d have gotten on no problem and we’d all have been thrilled about it.
Big takeaways: Daniel Kaluuya’s got this shit locked. The last person to win an acting award over someone else in the same category was Sam Rockwell. And the last set of double nominees in the same category was Pesci and Pacino last year. Raci’s a nice inclusion and Odom is nice too. Mostly the takeaway here is that LaKeith is now Oscar-nominated and Daniel Kaluuya’s about to win one. That’s pretty awesome, and this category on paper looks pretty great too. Oh, and also an underrated aspect of this — Sacha Baron Cohen gets an Oscar nomination. I know it’s for a bit of a stunt-casting kinda role and I know the film is kind of a ‘boring’ kinda choice at the Oscars. But this man is one of the best performers we’ve had the past 20 years. Borat alone is one of the most remarkable creations in cinema. So him getting recognized for his work in this way, however that comes about, is a noteworthy occurrence that we shouldn’t lose sight of. (Plus now he gets to be at the ceremony and do something fun that’s Academy-sanctioned.)
Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman, The Father
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari
I said I’d happily take the L, so here I am, happily taking the L. The amount of times that Seyfried scenario has fallen through I can’t even count. So it’s nice to see one come through for a change, and for a performance that I felt was actually worthy. It was clear as they read the categories that News of the World would end up going as soft as I expected. 4 nominations in tech categories feels right, but even when I guessed Zengel you sort of knew she was unlikely. But I also didn’t buy Jodie Foster in that spot. Seyfried did make the most sense in a lot of ways. But I just couldn’t get out of my head just how many times someone in her situation got left off. So I’m glad that going forward I can now think this could actually happen and use this as precedent.
Otherwise, this was a really thin set of contenders, so 4/5 were pretty obvious and were the ones you should have expected. Hillbilly Elegy is technically nominated for an acting Oscar, but it’s really for Glenn Close. Respected veterans get on for quote-unquote bad movies all the time. The Academy’s held their nose before, so this is nothing new. It also gives her another chance to maybe win one, so let’s just go with that and forget about how bad the movie is. Bakalova continues her whirlwind tour and get a very nice nomination to show for it. Colman sneakily gives one of the more emotionally-affecting performances of the year and it’s nice to see her get back in the fold. And Seyfried is a very nice inclusion as well. I legitimately did think she did a good job in that role.
Big takeaways: I heard someone mention that two of the Mean Girls are now Oscar nominees. That feels like a pretty big takeaway. This is the only acting category where we truly don’t know where it’s gonna go. Globes went off the board now that Foster wasn’t nominated (which…first time since 1976 there. Supporting Actor broke their streak in 2016 with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, so it’s only fitting that this broke it too and we’re not beholden to it anymore) and Bakalova won BFCA. Only Youn and Bakalova are nominated at BAFTA and everyone but Seyfried is on at SAG. So we could have a split precursor scenario here, depending on how they go (Marcia Gay Harden situation, here we come!). Otherwise Maria Bakalova seemingly is gonna go into the Oscar ceremony as your favorite to win this. MAYBE they can force a Glenn Close veteran vote (she did, after all, win SAG for The Wife), but this sure does feel like the race starts now for this one.
Best Original Screenplay
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Mank gets left off. That’s surprising to me. I knew Judas was the most likely one to get on, but interesting that it’s at the expense of Mank. Once I saw that, I knew Mank was gonna go soft for them. It feels like it did respectably (I haven’t tallied anything yet. This is all just category by category reactions and I’ll figure out macro stuff at the end), but it did miss two really important categories, which shows you what they really thought of it. This is one of those two. But in the end, this is a really solid list.
Also, there was that thing with Mank where Fincher’s late father wrote it, but then also Fincher himself clearly did a bunch of the writing and Eric Roth is also credited as producer, so clearly he was also brought on to do a lot of the writing. I wonder how much of that factored into the voting for them or how much of it was just ‘we liked these other five better’. Doesn’t really matter, in the end. But it is interesting to think about.
I went 4/5, but Judas was the First Alternate, so this was all pretty much as expected. And I think this is a really terrific category.
Big takeaways: I love that Original Screenplay has become such a strong category in recent years. The 90s felt like they were all about Adapted stuff. Even the 2000s, I remember there was always that one Original script you knew would win because it was the indie du jour (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno) and then everything else was nice but not really in play in the bigger categories. So it’s cool to see more Best Picture nominees come from the Original category than the Adapted one. Otherwise, pretty expected. And I’m curious to see where this ends up going. It feels like Sorkin vs. Fennell. And that’ll be interesting. I wanna see how those precursors split. They’re currently 1-1, with WGA and BAFTA still to come.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
One Night in Miami
The White Tiger
Ma Rainey gets left off and News of the World gets left off. I half-expected News of the World to get left off. I had White Tiger as the First Alternate for that very reason. So that’s not surprising. Ma Rainey, though… that’s interesting. And again a sign that they really didn’t like that movie as much as the precursors might have indicated. Or, it’s like Mank, in that they knew they basically the script was the August Wilson play and didn’t think there was actual writing there (didn’t stop them from nominating Fences, though). Or maybe they just really wanted to put Borat on.
Borat is now also twice-nominated for Screenplay, which is just fascinating to me, especially given how much of the film is strung around improvised gags. But hey, good for them.
I went 3/5, because I wasn’t expecting the Borat swap (but I did have that as my Dark Horse, so in the end 4 of my top 6 contenders got on, so I’m good). Otherwise, the three main contenders got here so there’s nothing too surprising.
Big takeaways: Borat has more Oscar nominations than Da 5 Bloods (as does Hillbilly Elegy, if we’re counting). News of the World went about as soft as you’d expect based on how things were trending (yet as you’ll see, still came out okay). The Father maintains its level of support, One Night in Miami maintains a 3-nomination pace, which is about right, and The White Tiger gets nominated. Which makes me really happy for Ramin Bahrani. That’s really awesome. Otherwise, Nomadland should win this in a walk, setting up Chloe Zhao winning a hat trick, Picture, Director, Screenplay. Which could become more than that, because…
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chloe Zhao did the editing on Nomadland, which means she could legitimately win four Oscars herself in this one ceremony. Which is kind of amazing and part of me is rooting for that. Because how could you not root for that?
Otherwise, Mank is left off, and the minute that happened you knew its fate was sealed. Screenplay is bad, but this is the death blow. Minari also got left off, which was slightly surprising but not wholly unexpected. Promising Young Woman gets on, which shows real support there (and makes me really happy that they loved that movie as much as I hoped they would). And The Father gets on, which I thought was a possibility based on it being centered around the editing to slowly let on what’s really happening there. So overall a nice category that makes sense.
I went 3/5, but the First Alternate and Dark Horse got on, so I was right there.
Big takeaways: I already said it: Chloe Zhao could win four Oscars in one night. Though Sound of Metal feels like it could make a real play for this one. We’ll see how the rest of the precursors turn out. Also Mank being left off is the final nail in that coffin if anyone thought it was making a play for Picture (though this was always set up for Nomadland and then Chicago 7 as a distant, but straw-man second choice).
Judas and the Black Messiah
News of the World
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Every year, there’s one category I really focus my attention on and really want to get right. Last year it was guessing that Antonio Banderas nomination. This year, this was the category that felt the hardest to me. So I was thrilled when I saw that I had gotten 5/5 here. Absolutely thrilled. Because this wasn’t the easiest pull.
I figured Minari wasn’t their speed and I felt that Tenet was getting such a soft reaction everywhere that they wouldn’t take the easy route and go there. So I went with the two obvious other contenders, two respected DPs who never really got much notice on this level (Bobbitt and Papamichael). And I was right. And that’s awesome. This makes up for however horribly I did at the worst of times on this list. I can ride this all the way through Animated Short.
Numbers-wise, Mank, News of the World and Nomadland were the gimmes here, and Judas and Chicago 7 had BAFTA and the guild, respectively, but they really weren’t guarantees. So I’m glad they made it.
Big takeaways: Not the most exciting category, but a solid one. Also 4/5 first-time nominees here, with only Papamichael having a single previous nomination (for Nebraska). So it’s all fresh faces, which is kinda nice too. Right now I expect Nomadland to be the favorite, though it’s possible Mank could mount a comeback, given the way they shot that. I can’t imagine anything else actually being in play for the win here.
Best Original Score
Da 5 Bloods
News of the World
The surprise here was Desplat being left off. They don’t usually do that with him. Minari gets on, which was half-expected. And Tenet is left off, which I kinda get. But Terence Blanchard gets on! He was one of those guys, like Carter Burwell, who didn’t get nominated for years and then finally broke through and now has multiple nominations in like a three-year span. Same deal. So I’m happy for Terence Blanchard. Also happy they didn’t sneak Thomas Newman on yet again.
Emile Mosseri gets his first nomination too, which is nice. Still waiting on Daniel Pemberton though. Part of me thought they might get him on here for Chicago 7, but I guess he’ll have to wait another year. Reznor and Ross get two nominations as well, which is also pretty amazing. But they did legitimately craft the two best scores of the year, so it’s wholly deserved.
I went 3/5 here. I expected at least 4/5, but the choices make sense, so it’s not like something came totally out of the blue. There was an upper tier of about eight people you figured were most likely to contend here, so they pulled from there. So less than I expected, but not surprised all that much about what’s there.
Big takeaways: I pretty much said them all. Great for Emile Mosseri, great for Terence Blanchard. Great for Reznor and Ross. Sucks for Alexandre Desplat, but he’s got a shit ton of nominations and two wins this decade to make up for it. Reznor and Ross should win pretty handily for Soul when all is said and done. Which, when you pull back: in the 90s who’d have thought that the dude from Nine Inch Nails who wrote a song about heroin addiction and the lyric “I wanna fuck you like an animal” would eventually be nominated for (and likely win) an Oscar for scoring a Pixar movie?
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
5/5! Yeah, baby!
This shortlist has made it real easy to parse this category. These were also the only 5 songs to hit precursors, so on paper they were the choices. I’m glad they didn’t nominate Diane Warren twice. Also fucking thrilled “Husavik” gets on here.
Academy Award nominee Eurovision.
Big takeaways: Not a whole lot to say here. Category makes sense and is really the best case scenario for them, all things considered. It’s between “Speak Now” and “Io Si,” presumably, and they split the precursors. Maybe Diane Warren finally wins, or more than likely One Night in Miami will win. But otherwise, good for Iceland, and also… oh shit! Daniel Pemberton DOES get nominated! He co-wrote “Hear My Voice”! That’s fantastic. Yeah, I’m happy with this one.
Best Production Design
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
News of the World
The Father gets on. That’s surprising. If only because it’s a contemporary nominee and those never get on here. Otherwise, the other four you could have telegraphed. So it’s a 4/5 for me even though this feels like I did so much worse. But I’ll take it.
Big takeaways: Really just that The Father got on despite being contemporary. You don’t understand how much that doesn’t happen here. Past that, I assume Mank takes this as sort of the Lincoln, “Okay, we’ll give you something” consolation prize. Now that we have a final category, doesn’t Mank feel like it towers over everything here in terms of likelihood of winning?
Best Costume Design
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Yeah, that makes some sense. I couldn’t figure out that fifth spot for the life of me. I went Ammonite even though that didn’t feel like it was close anywhere. But Pinocchio makes sense. Foreign films don’t often get on here, but it’s happened. So at least something with a precursor gets on. And I figured they wouldn’t go contemporary with Promising Young Woman. Contemporary here is rarer than contemporary in Production Design. So in the end, it’s an easy 4/5 and I missed Pinocchio. Which I can live with.
Big takeaways: Emma should win this category in a walk. Frills!
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
A fairly obvious category. 4/5 were so easy to telegraph. And the final spot was that swap between Birds of Prey or Emma. And in the end, Emma made more sense, but I went with what I saw on paper. Sight test says this is the better category for them. So no real regrets there. The ones I knew wouldn’t make it didn’t. I had this nailed down to six and I got five of them. All good here.
Big takeaways: Pinocchio ought to win this, but the question is if it can. Will enough people have seen it and know the masterwork they did in it with makeup, or will something more obvious win? I can’t imagine they go Hillbilly Elegy, and I can’t imagine Mank wins either. Ma Rainey makes the most sense as an alternative, and maybe Emma could sneak in, but even that feels unlikely. I’m thinking Pinocchio or Ma Rainey, and it all depends on whether or not anyone actually bothered to see what they did in Pinocchio. I hope that team gets that out there really widely to show people, because they deserve this Oscar. If anyone in Makeup the past decade ever deserved Oscar, it’s them.
Best Visual Effects
Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
The One and Only Ivan
A HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.
There are no words. Academy Award nominee Love and Monsters. I don’t mind that so much, since the year was what it was. It’s the fact that they nominated that and yet somehow left off Welcome to Chechnya that does it for me. Love and Monsters will be forgotten by the time we get to the ceremony. Chechnya’s effects actually have implications in the world going forward. But okay. You did it.
Ivan was telegraphed by BAFTA, even though I really didn’t want to believe they’d go there. I figured Mank would get left off, and I’m glad I guessed it would. I just saw them doing it, even if they were strong on it elsewhere, because they’ve done shit like that in recent years because they know when a Best Picture movie is on there, regardless of how its effects rate against everything else, it will always win. And because of that I had Mulan on. So I wanna thank my intuition on that one. I did also go with Soul getting on, which is the only thing that made sense to me from that list, but instead they went with such an insane choice that I don’t even know what to say.
I went 3/5, but I’m so amazed by that decision that I can’t even be mad about it.
Big takeaways: How fucking easy is it to project a win for Tenet now? It doesn’t even have Mank to worry about! This is the single most obvious win of the night now. Also… Academy Award nominee Love and Monsters. It has to be said. Sadly the movie is actually quite entertaining, so it’s not as good a joke as, say, Academy Award nominee Norbit.
News of the World
Sound of Metal
Okay, our first single Sound category in about 40 years. Looks like it went exactly as expected. I had Chicago 7 on my list as #5, but Soul was the first alternate. You saw that being in contention and it was a simple swap. I smartly said Tenet wouldn’t make it based on the overall reaction (and because the sound mix was the main complaint about that movie), and that turned out to be right. So in the end, I went 4/5, but I’m good. That tells me the analysis was spot on and I know exactly what to do with this category going forward. Overall, this is a really good list.
Big takeaways: It’s nice to know that Sound of Metal has at least one category in the bag. So good for them. I mean, it’s not a gimme, but how can you imagine something else wins this? If they split them, we’d have had a hell of a time here. But now, I feel confident in that likely coming out with it. Otherwise, great category, good shit.
Best Animated Feature
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
I was so waiting for them to leave Over the Moon off and put The Croods on. I’m so happy they went the way they do. So happy.
These were, all along, the obvious five for the category, but I couldn’t live with myself if they did that swap and I didn’t guess it knowing that’s the kind of bullshit they do every year. So I went the route I did, which leaves me with a 4/5 here but ultimately happier in the end because these are the five that should have made it. Well… you know… among the six or seven that really had a shot at it. This is the best possible outcome here.
Big takeaways: Another walk for Pixar. I know the Wolfwalkers contingent will say ‘it could happen…’, but Soul has three total nominations. It’s a walk. But more importantly, I’m thrilled for Over the Moon. I’m thrilled for Glen Keane. They deserve to be here and I’m happy they are.
Best International Feature
Another Round (Denmark)
Better Days (Hong Kong)
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Better Days qualifies as one of the only legitimate surprises for me on this entire list. Hong Kong has only been nominated twice in this category and not since the 90s. So for them to finally break through now is legitimately surprising (even though did think it was one of the best films on the shortlist). I’m very happy for the film. Another Round was a gimme, Quo Vadis Aida became a gimme once BAFTA nominated it in Director and The Man Who Sold His Skin was such an obvious telegraph. I don’t know how, but it just was. There’s something about the ‘I haven’t been able to see this, it’s not widely out there and it’s from a country that’s pretty new in the category’ that has seemingly always gotten on this decade.
I’m sad to see Night of the Kings get left off, because it was legitimately very good, but Collective makes it on both categories, giving us two foreign docs in both categories two years running. It’s legitimately a great film though, so I can’t be upset about that. I just didn’t know how to play it because we had two docs in two categories this year. And I did say that I thought La Llorona was gonna get left off. I had to guess it and be wrong, but I knew they wouldn’t go there with it. So I’m happy my instinct was right about that.
I went 3/5 here, which is really fucking solid. Happy I telegraphed France being left off, since it feels like they always get a bunch of precursors but few actual nominations (mostly because precursors only watch like six countries’ worth of films before they make their lists). Overall, this is not that surprising a category outside of Better Days. That’s the only thing that counts as a surprise to me.
Also, outside of this list and before people forget about these films forever, I just want to recommend from the shortlist Night of the Kings and Hope. I thought those two were really quite solid. Two of Us was fine as well. But I covered all this in other articles should you care to actually do a deep dive. There are some very worthwhile foreign films on that shortlist. For those who don’t like subtitles, those two are very affecting films and Two of Us is largely a very good film.
Big takeaways: Another Round has always had this in the bag, so really this is just about what else got here. Tunisia gets its first nomination. Hong Kong gets its first nomination and since 1993. Bosnia and Herzegovina gets its second nomination ever and first since 2001. And we have a documentary nominated here for the second year in a row. That’s a lot of cool stuff for those who pay attention to the minutiae of this category.
Best Documentary Feature
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
Collective and Mole Agent felt like gimmes, especially with them on the International Feature shortlist. Time also felt like the most lauded doc of the year, so that also seemed like a gimme. Crip Camp was so goddamn entertaining I couldn’t see them leaving it off. So in the end, the goddamn octopus movie gets on. Which, I guess it was telegraphed to get on by all the precursors. But this category, who the hell knows. Precursors routinely nominate the same stuff that gets left off.
Somehow I went 4/5 here. So I’m thrilled. I usually do way worse here. MLK/FBI is the one they left off. Which, while it KINDA makes sense, given what they usually nominate here, I just expected the title to carry it to a nomination. Guess not.
Big takeaways: What the fuck wins this? That’s the takeaway. This is the one category where I throw up my hands and will try to see what we get out of precursors, if anything. Usually something arises as the favorite by feel, but this year… oh boy. This might as well be Live Action Short, the way it looks as open as it does.
Best Documentary Short
A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
A Love Song for Latasha
I can’t believe they fucking did it. Cynicism is warranted. They nominated Concerto just because Ava DuVernay EP’d it. Wow. Otherwise, Holocaust gets on, Do Not Split (rightfully) gets on, Hunger Ward was the biggest gimme and Love Song for Latasha also was a gimme. I went 3/5 here, but the two that got on were my Dark Horse and First Alternate, so I’m feeling okay. I was iffy about Hysterical Girl when I guessed it and only had that on as a ‘fuck it’ nominee. And I refused to guess Concerto to see if they did it. And they did. So here we are. I feel good that I knew Speed Cubers and the Sophia Loren one were never gonna get on. This is about as solid a 3/5 as I can ever get.
Big takeaways: Unless they’re gonna star-fuck this entire category, Hunger Ward should win this in a walk. I wouldn’t be mad if Do Not Split won, though.
Best Live Action Short
The Letter Room
Two Distant Strangers
So Kicksled Choir doesn’t make it, and that was the one I assumed all along was a gimme. The Letter Room gets on but Human Voice is left off. Not wholly surprising they left Almodovar off but interesting they let Oscar Isaac’s one on. Happy The Present and White Eye got on and they didn’t vote Israel and spite Palestine like I figured they might. And Feeling Through is a really nice short, so I’m happy that got on as well. I haven’t seen Two Distant Strangers, so I’m happy for it as well. I had no idea how to gauge it going in, so no I’m excited to actually see it.
I went 3/5 here and that’s more than solid, considering I think they definitely got the 3 I guessed correct from a quality standpoint.
Big takeaways: This will be interesting. There are a number of potential winners here. There’s never really a major takeaway you can have from Live Action Short. I guess… just because you’re Pedro Almodovar doesn’t mean they’re automatically gonna throw you on?
Best Animated Short
If Anything Happens I Love You
Oh wow. I took the absolute cynical route here and did horribly. Which is great. I went 2/5. I knew If Anything Happens I Love You would get on and Opera seemed like a gimme too and it was. Past that, I did bad.
Kapaemahu get left off and I had that on because I personally thought “This shouldn’t be nominated over these other ones” but knew the minute I let personal feelings influence me like that, they always go and nominate it anyway. So I just put it on. I’m okay being wrong there.
It’s also nice that finally they didn’t nominate that BBC story time stuff that’s always so boring (for me anyway). Snail and the Whale was such a bore of a choice and of anything that’s not on, that’s the one I’m most happy to not see.
Burrow is 2D and it’s fun as hell and I’m happy they went there. Yes-People very much fits what they usually go for in this category. And Genius Loci was the one all along I assumed they’d like but left off because I figured ‘my luck, I’ll be wrong’. So in the end I only sacrificed a 3/5 for a 2/5 and I’d never have done better than that. So that’s fine.
The big omission is Out, and I felt all along that they mishandled that short. I don’t understand why Disney/Pixar has to turn their non-straight and non-white protagonists into animals every goddamn time. Black princess, turned into a frog. Gay lead, turned into a dog. Mexican child, dead for most of the film. Black male protagonist, dead and turned into a cat! What the fuck, guys?!!! So while culturally it would have been nice, I’m glad they didn’t buy into Pixar’s shit. Let non-white and gay people just be the leads and not turn into animals for once!
But yeah, I need to see Genius Loci and Opera, but I’m happy with this category based on what I’ve seen. I’d have nominated To Gerard, but I know they hate DreamWorks and knew that was never gonna happen.
Big takeaways: None, really. This is between If Anything Happens I Love You and Burrow, which is what it should be between (though I say that not having seen Opera, which sounds incredible). Overall, this is just about the best possible category we could have gotten here based on the shortlist and I for one am thrilled about that.
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Okay, let’s break all those nominations down:
- Mank — 10 nominations (Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Score, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound)
- The Father — 6 nominations (Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Production Design)
- Judas and the Black Messiah — 6 nominations (Picture, Supporting Actor x2, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Song)
- Minari — 6 nominations (Picture, Director, Actor, Original Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Score)
- Nomadland — 6 nominations (Picture, Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography)
- Sound of Metal — 6 nominations (Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Editing, Sound)
- The Trial of the Chicago 7 — 6 nominations (Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Song)
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — 5 nominations (Actor, Actress, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling)
- Promising Young Woman — 5 nominations (Picture, Director, Actress, Original Screenplay, Editing)
- News of the World — 4 nominations (Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Sound)
- One Night in Miami — 3 nominations (Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Song)
- Soul — 3 nominations (Score, Sound, Animated Feature)
- Another Round — 2 nominations (Director, International Feature)
- Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — 2 nominations (Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay)
- Collective — 2 nominations (International Feature, Documentary Feature)
- Emma — 2 nominations (Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling)
- Hillbilly Elegy — 2 nominations (Supporting Actress, Makeup & Hairstyling)
- Mulan — 2 nominations (Costume Design, Visual Effects)
- Pinocchio — 2 nominations (Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling)
- Tenet — 2 nominations (Production Design, Visual Effects)
- Better Days — 1 nomination (International Feature)
- Crip Camp — 1 nomination (Documentary Feature)
- Da 5 Bloods — 1 nomination (Score)
- Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga — 1 nomination (Song)
- Greyhound — 1 nomination (Sound)
- The Life Ahead — 1 nomination (Song)
- Love and Monsters — 1 nomination (Visual Effects)
- The Man Who Sold His Skin — 1 nomination (International Feature)
- The Mole Agent –1 nomination (Documentary Feature)
- My Octopus Teacher — 1 nomination (Documentary Feature)
- The One and Only Ivan — 1 nomination (Visual Effects)
- Onward — 1 nomination (Animated Feature)
- Over the Moon — 1 nomination (Animated Feature)
- Pieces of a Woman — 1 nomination (Actress)
- Quo Vadis, Aida? — 1 nomination (International Feature)
- A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon — 1 nomination (Animated Feature)
- Time — 1 nomination (Documentary Feature)
- The United States vs. Billie Holiday — 1 nomination (Actress)
- The White Tiger — 1 nomination (Adapted Screenplay)
- Wolfwalkers — 1 nomination (Animated Feature)
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Tally by number of nominations:
10 nominations — Mank
6 nominations — The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Nomadland, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7
5 nominations — Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Promising Young Woman
4 nominations — News of the World
3 nominations — One Night in Miami, Soul
2 nominations — Another Round, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Collective, Emma, Hillbilly Elegy, Mulan, Pincchio Tenet
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I’m skipping the surprises, talking points bullet points this year because I said everything I need to say up there. We’re good.
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And now for the moment I’m most interested in… how the hell did I do with all those guesses? I feel like I did pretty solid. I didn’t see too many egregious situations. I know I left a few on the table, but that always happens. And the surprises didn’t feel overwhelming. So I think I did reasonably. Let’s see:
- I went 6/8 in Best Picture.
- I had four 5/5s. Actor, Actress, Cinematography and Song.
- I had ten 4/5s. Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound, Animated Feature and Documentary Feature.
- I had seven 3/5s this year. Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Score, Visual Effects, International Feature, Documentary Short and Live Action Short.
- I only had one 2/5 this year. Animated Short.
Not bad. I did well in the 5/5s and better in the 2/5s. And as I always say, as long as the 2/5 is in a Shorts category, I’m okay with it. So it moved toward the middle, and I should be right around where I was last year, if memory serves.
In terms of categories I got wrong:
- My #9 and #10 guesses for Picture both got on, which is above Alternate and Dark Horse, so I don’t even know how to rate that, but they’re there.
- My First Alternate was nominated ten times. In Director, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Score, Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound, Animated Feature, Documentary Short and Animated Short.
- My Dark Horse got on seven times. I went 4/5 in Supporting Actress and my Dark Horse was #5. I went 3/5 in Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Documentary Short and my Dark Horse got on along with my First Alternate as the final two in all three situations. And my Dark Horse in the 2/5 Animated Short got on along with my First Alternate as well. I also went 3/5 in Visual Effects and Live Action Short and got my Dark Horse on (though the second miss in both cases was a straight up miss).
- Going through the categories I missed from shortlists: Score, I didn’t expect Terence Blanchard, even though I did have him labeled as a ‘surprise’. He was in that first slot there, but I’d have never guessed him over anyone else. So that is a legitimate miss by me. Visual Effects I had Love and Monsters as the longest shot on the board. I know nothing from a shortlist technically counts as a shocker, but legitimately that’s the second most surprising nomination of the year to me. I missed My Octopus Teacher on Doc Feature. Had that as a shocker. International Feature, I had Collective as a surprise (though I did think it was in the running) and got surprised by Better Days, which I had as a ‘don’t guess’ film.
- Of the open categories, LaKeith Stanfield came out of nowhere and I suspect is the biggest surprise to everyone guessing. The Father came out of (almost) nowhere in Production Design. It had a guild nomination, but contemporary efforts never get on there, so that was one I straight up wasn’t expecting. And I missed Pinocchio in Costumes, but that was my first-spot ‘surprise’ guess, so I did think it had a shot, just didn’t guess it.
So really, in the end I think I did really well with the analysis overall, and if I’m picking what the top surprises were for me, this is the order I’m saying:
- LaKeith Stanfield getting nominated
- Ma Rainey and One Night in Miami being left off Picture
- Love and Monsters getting on VFX
- The Father getting nominated in Production Design
- Better Days getting on International Feature
That’s the list of surprises. Not really all that bad past #1, though I know a lot of people will consider #2 a bigger deal than I do. Mostly I’m just surprised in the logistics of it all, the double swap. The bottom two are simply surprises because one is a ‘you don’t generally do this’ situation and the other is ‘they’ve never been nominated ever outside of one director’, so it’s kinda the same as ‘you generally don’t do this’. So really, kinda just one legitimate surprise, one ‘what the fuck’ (#3) and the rest are more technical.
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And now the tallying.
Of 118 total nominees, I guessed… 89 of them. Which is lower than I normally do, but I also have one less category this year. That would equate to a 94 last year. And last year I got 95 and there were 9 Best Picture nominees, so basically I’m right on target.
89/118 is 75.4%. I hit my 75% and I am good. That’s all I needed to see. The same general randomness, the same handful of “Mike’s ‘fuck it’ guesses,” but in the end, right on target with the usual. I’m happy.
Here’s how I did in previous years:
- 2019: 76.6% (95/124)
- 2018: 74.4% (90/121)
- 2017: 74.5% (91/122)
- 2016: 77% (94/122)
- 2015: 78.5% (95/121)
- 2014: 71.9% (87/121)
- 2013: 76% (92/121)
- 2012: 71% (87/122)
- 2011: 68% (81/119)
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So those are your nominees.
I’ll be finishing up the Release Calendar the rest of this month, along with a couple of precursors awards as they get handed out. And then starting April 1st, we go right into the category breakdowns.
Also, friendly reminder that my giant Oscar Trivia article exists, and has been updated for the new nominations to show you what’s in play going into the ceremony.
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