2020 Oscar Category Breakdown: Best Picture

And finally we get to Best Picture.

The funny thing about Best Picture most years is how, for the biggest category on the ballot… it’s usually the easiest to predict. It’s the category with the most precursor awards (5) and you can kinda, based on how all the other categories have gone in precursors and look to go on the ballot, gauge what’s most likely to happen. Most years there’s either a clear #1 that’ll for sure win or there’s a #1 and a #2 that could win, maybe won’t, but at least you know it’s either one or the other. I’ve had maybe one questionable Best Picture choice since I started doing this (2015), but otherwise there was either a clear winner or it was between two choices.

This year, it’s been pretty much a wrap from the word go and we haven’t even had to think about this category whatsoever. So even though I save this article as a culmination of sorts of all the other categories, I really could’ve put this category first and it’d have had the same amount of impact since we all know where it’s headed.

Best Picture

The Father

Judas and the Black Messiah




Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

The only major surprises here were the exclusions of One Night in Miami and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, two precursor mainstays throughout the process. Otherwise, you knew seven of these were pretty sure things and you knew The Father was right there in the top 9, and it was only gonna come down to how the logistics went. And you also figured Judas and the Black Messiah could sneak on if stuff got left off, but I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted that on and both Ma Rainey and One Night in Miami off. Still, 8 of the 10 most likely movies made it, so on a macro level this wasn’t too surprising, even though I don’t think most of us could’ve figured this exact version playing out.

8. The Father — The key to what wins this category is what gets the most #1, #2 and #3 votes. And I can’t see this being a top three choice for most people. Maybe it does better and hangs around a while, but I don’t think anyone considers this a major contender to win. Plus, no precursor wins and you always look to Best Editing and Best Director. This has Editing, at least, so maybe you put it seventh instead of eighth, but I’m not sure it comes close to contending.

7. Judas and the Black Messiah — I can’t see this getting legit votes. It’s the one surprise nominee here and the only reason I don’t have it eighth is because I think the newer* (*younger, non-white) voters of the Academy will probably have this rated higher than the typical* (*60-and-over white crowd) voters would. Still, can’t see this making any sort of headway for a win, so it doesn’t really matter in the end, does it?

6. Sound of Metal — People love this film. But I don’t think this hits enough 2s and 3s to contend. I’m thinking this will be most people’s 4 or 5, and their vote will end up counting toward something further up on this list. You’d have known if this was gonna have a shot before now.

5. Mank — It’s got the most overall nominations, is David Fincher and is exactly what the older, white demographic loves. There’s, of course, a better older, white film out there, but that doesn’t preclude them from voting both highly. The lack of an Editing nomination hurts, but there’s always some sort of stat going out the window each year now, it feels. Honestly, without this having any sort of momentum in literally any precursor outside of a single category, I can’t really see this making a play for the win. Fifth even seems like it might be kinda high, but I do think there’s enough respect for it out there that it’ll hang around the middle in the majority of ballots.

4. Promising Young Woman — It’s got literally everything you’d want to see out of a potential winner: Director nomination, Editing nomination and it’s a shoo-in for a Screenplay win. Though I haven’t seen this actually win anything of substance outside of Screenplay precursors and this feels like something you have to respect in the top five but can’t actually consider a viable choice for the upset. There’s at least one of these every year and you should recognize it pretty easily as that choice.

3. Minari — It’s missed Editing, but the Director nomination and general respect for the film makes me think it’ll be less divisive than Promising Young Woman might and will snag enough #2 and #3 votes to stay in contention until the very end. I’m not sure this legitimately has a shot at winning (I’d peg it for a possible Screenplay win before I even considered this one), especially because, and I’m quoting what I’m sure is at least one Academy member who’ll say this on those ‘honest Oscar ballot’ articles, if they haven’t already ‘we just gave it to a Korean movie, why do we need to do it again?’ Part of that statement was facetious but you can also totally see that being a legitimate thing someone said, right? So yeah, without a precursor win, I don’t see it happening, but of all the lower six nominees, this makes the most sense as a potential upset pick.

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 — It’s felt like a top two contender from the start, even though you never took it seriously as a winner. It’s the only other film besides Nomadland with a precursor win, and even that was SAG, which is not really the most helpful one for it to have. The older white demographic loves this sort of thing and it’ll get votes from 2-4 for sure. But you can’t call it the favorite. Let’s be serious, now.

1. Nomadland — PGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globes. It won every precursor except SAG, which loves ensemble movies, especially when they’re written by Aaron Sorkin. So yeah, this is your overwhelming favorite and considering the fact that Chloe Zhao’s gonna win Best Director, I’m not sure how you think absolutely anything can or will beat this for Best Picture.

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