The B+ Oscar Ballot: Guide to the 93rd Academy Awards

Once more, unto the breach, dear friends.

It’s Oscar night, and we all know what that means: I get all analytical about what’s gonna win (and why) and nobody cares and only reads the picks. It’s okay. I don’t take it personally.

The goal this year has been brevity… so here’s my pick for Best Animated Short.

I really have tried to skip the rigamarole though, given all we’ve gone through this past year. I’m still gonna give you all the information you need to pick a ballot. I’m just gonna do it as succinctly as I can. Of course, last year I said that and still wrote 30,000 words. So we’ll see how it goes.

I know most people picking a ballot are invested in how much they get right. And while my goal is to help you get as many right as possible, I’m not trying to outguess anyone and I don’t gauge my own success on right/wrong. My goal is to analyze the categories to a point where I can predict what’ll win if my pick doesn’t. And the way I’ve found that best grades me on how I do that is what I call the Scorecard Ballot, where I rank every category’s nominees and am assigned a point value based on what wins, the goal being to get all 1s and a perfect score of (now) 23. Here are all my scores (I’ve only done this officially since 2015 and didn’t take rankings seriously those first few years):

  • 2010: +12 (36)
  • 2011: +14 (38)
  • 2012: +10 (34)
  • 2013: +5 (29)
  • 2014: +8 (32)
  • 2015: +9 (33)
  • 2016: +11 (35)
  • 2017: +5 (29)
  • 2018: +9 (33)
  • 2019: +3 (27)

I qualify anywhere from +5 to +10 as a good year. Last year I did about as good as you can ever hope to do. So let’s see if we can replicate that.

Best Picture

The Father

Judas and the Black Messiah

Mank

Minari

Nomadland

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Mank
  2. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  3. Minari
  4. Sound of Metal
  5. Promising Young Woman
  6. Judas and the Black Messiah
  7. Nomadland
  8. The Father

My Thoughts: Given what we’ve seen nominated throughout the season, I don’t dislike the list. While I’m not sure I’d have nominated The Father, the alternatives (One Night in Miami, Ma Rainey) also feel like lateral moves, so I’m fine. 5/8 films were in my top 20, with Nomadland in tier two and The Father tier three. ‘Judas’ is technically 2021, but it’s tier two. And while I do feel like I need time away from this year to properly gauge my feelings on everything, since Mank is currently my most-liked film on this list, I’ll call that my vote.

My Vote: Mank

Should’ve Been Nominated: I’m Thinking of Ending Things; Never Rarely Sometimes Always

– – – – –

The Analysis:

We have five precursors for this category: PGA, BAFTA, BFCA, SAG and the Globes. The PGA’s been 50/50 since 2014, so don’t just look at that and assume it’ll be right. Also, only 9 films ever have won without precursors (none since 2004), so don’t go off the board.

Precursors:

  • PGA: Nomadland
  • BAFTA: Nomadland
  • BFCA: Nomadland
  • SAG Ensemble: The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Globe: Nomadland

Most Likely to Win: Nomadland. It’s won nearly everything. This is about as easy as you’ll ever get.

The Competition: The Trial of the Chicago 7. It’s the only other film with a precursor. Which just shows you the gap between Nomadland and everything else.

Spoiler Alert: Minari. Something has to be third. And not that it really matters, but probably put something here that’s nominated in Director, given how infrequently that happens. And since Mank has no real heat whatsoever and I’m not sure Promising Young Woman will get legitimate #1-3 votes, this makes the most sense (though no Editing nomination is a big red flag). If you’re looking anything here as a legitimate upset pick, you might wanna rethink your ballot strategy.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Nomadland

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. Minari

4. Promising Young Woman

5. Mank

6. Sound of Metal

7. Judas and the Black Messiah

8. The Father

The Smart Choice: Nomadland. The smart choice is the film that’s won all but one precursor.

The Deal: Nomadland‘s winning this. There’s not even a legitimate second choice. Just take the L if it loses.

The Vote: Nomadland

Best Director

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

David Fincher, Mank

Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

My Personal Rankings:

  1. David Fincher, Mank
  2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
  3. Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
  4. Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
  5. Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round

My Thoughts: While my personal category would’ve looked a lot different, diversity-wise how could you not like this category? Vinterberg’s effort was just solid and Chung’s and Fennell’s were both terrific but I wouldn’t take them over the other two. Zhao did a really terrific job and if you give me more time to rewatch these films she may become the choice. But I liked Mank the most as a film and Fincher’s so deserving of an Oscar by this point that it’s so easy for me to just take him. So I will.

My Vote: David Fincher, Mank

Should’ve Been Nominated: Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

– – – – –

The Analysis:

DGA is king here. Only 8 times ever has the DGA winner not won the Oscar (though it did happen 2012 and last year). But usually you’ll know if that could happen.

Precursors:

  • DGA: Zhao
  • BAFTA: Zhao
  • BFCA: Zhao
  • Globe: Zhao

Most Likely to Win: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland. Clean sweep. It’s a lock.

The Competition: David Fincher, Mank. This is one of those straw man situations. With Zhao winning everything, you’re left having to to pick someone else for second and go, “I guess them?” If it comes to it, Fincher’s the only one I can see getting legit votes. He has the stature and most people think he deserves one by now.

Spoiler Alert: Lee Isaac Chung, Minari. I can’t imagine Vinterberg gets enough votes, so this spot’s either Chung or Fennell. Chung makes the most sense, given Fennell’s likely gonna win Screenplay and they’ll see that as her reward. The odds of this happening are astronomical, but let’s go with him on the off-chance of the off-chance.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

2. David Fincher, Mank

3. Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

4. Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

5. Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round

The Smart Choice: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland. Hard to bet against a clean sweep.

The Deal: Chloe Zhao’s gonna win this.

The Vote: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Chadwick Boesman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Gary Oldman, Mank

Steven Yeun, Minari

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  2. Gary Oldman, Mank
  3. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
  4. Steven Yeun, Minari
  5. Anthony Hopkins, The Father

My Thoughts: I’m pretty thrilled by this category. I love all these actors and liked all the performances. Hopkins I wouldn’t vote for, even though he’s tremendous in the film. Yeun I wouldn’t take over the others, but I’m so happy he’s here. Ahmed needed just a little more there to make me wanna take him, but I’m thrilled he’s finally gotten recognized. It’s between Boseman and Oldman, and since Chadwick really does give a performance worthy of winning, I’m happy to use Oldman’s recent win as a tiebreaker.

My Vote: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Should’ve Been Nominated: Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

– – – – –

The Analysis:

SAG’s 21/26 all-time here, with one category swap and only one instance of someone winning without precursors (2001). So trust me, we’re good.

Precursors:

  • SAG: Boseman
  • BAFTA: Hopkins
  • BFCA: Boseman
  • Globe: Boseman

Most Likely to Win: Chadwick Boesman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He’s just about swept everything, the public sentiment is overwhelmingly on his side… I don’t see how he loses.

The Competition: Anthony Hopkins, The Father. He’s the only other person with a precursor. I don’t think anyone can compete with Chadwick, but at least he’s got a calculable level of support.

Spoiler Alert: Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal. You can’t logically make a case for anyone higher than third given they’ve all lost every step of the way. And while this spot theoretically could be anyone, I feel like it’s most likely him.

 

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

2. Anthony Hopkins, The Father

3. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

4. Steven Yeun, Minari

5. Gary Oldman, Mank

The Smart Choice: Chadwick Boesman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It’s happening.

The Deal: Chadwick’s gonna win this, his wife will give a beautiful speech, it’ll be touching and we’ll all feel happy about it. There’s only upside here.

The Vote: Chadwick Boesman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

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

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
  2. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
  3. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
  4. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  5. Frances McDormand, Nomadland

My Thoughts: It’s a solid category on paper. While I’m slightly let down at the limited range they had in creating it, I also know them well enough to know most of the performances I loved wouldn’t even be on most voters’ radars. Voting-wise — love McDormand, wouldn’t vote for her. Davis, while great as usual, I maintain is really a supporting part and her having so little to do makes me less inclined to vote for her. With Kirby, I thought the first 30 minutes of the performance were spectacular and the rest felt like slowly letting air out of a balloon. I just… wanted more. Day I thought did a terrific job but was ultimately let down by her film. The real choice here is Carey Mulligan. She gave the definitive performance of 2020 and is my vote by a mile.

My Vote: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Should’ve Been Nominated: Evan Rachel Wood, Kajillionaire; Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

– – – – –

The Analysis:

SAG’s 19/26 all-time with one category swap and all but one miss being picked up by 2 precursors (the other, 1994, only had one, because BFCA didn’t exist yet).

This year we have a unique situation where every precursor went a different person, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Supporting Actress 2000, when Kate Hudson won the Globe, Frances McDormand won BFCA, Julie Walters won BAFTA, Judi Dench won SAG and Marcia Gay Harden won the Oscar without being nominated anywhere else. Have fun.

Precursors:

  • SAG: Davis
  • BAFTA: McDormand
  • BFCA: Mulligan
  • Globes: Day

Most Likely to Win: Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. She’s got the biggest precursor. But, as with any single precursor, you can find reason to doubt it. SAG loves Viola. Aside from her first nomination for Doubt, she’s never lost there. That, plus the increasing ‘popularity contest’ vibe general vibe SAG’s had the past few years, makes me unsure she’s a sure thing. However, because SAG is the most accurate precursor, it does make her statistically the most likely winner.

The Competition: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman. BAFTA and BFCA are both 15/25 since 1995. So I’m using the fact that McDormand won recently (and I’m not sure they’re rushing to get her a third) as my tiebreaker.

Spoiler Alert: Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Logic doesn’t support this take, and the smart choice is probably Frances McDormand, given the BAFTA win plus the fact that only 11 winners ever were their film’s only nomination (and the only recent two, Charlize Theron and Julianne Moore, were clear winners). But honestly… 3 vs. 4… if I’m gonna be wrong, I’m gonna be wrong with my gut. Ever since she won the Globe I’ve had this weird feeling she might have a shot at this. I know it’s not smart, but I also don’t see how this doesn’t go to either Mulligan or Davis, so all I’m changing is the degree to which I’m wrong if it happens.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

4. Frances McDormand, Nomadland

5. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman

The Smart Choice: I guess the smart choice is Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Normally the smart bet is the SAG winner. But I still have my doubts. I got burned with her in 2011, winning SAG and losing to Meryl, and I just… don’t feel like she’s gonna win. But clearly everyone loves her, so it’s not a bad bet to take her. I just keep feeling like Mulligan’s the better choice (though I do also have questions about how the older demographic is gonna handle that performance). I know I’m probably wrong and that Viola is most likely the choice, so let’s call her the smart play.

The Deal: The winner will most likely be either Mulligan or Davis. I can’t imagine they suddenly about-face on Kirby after nominating her everywhere and never voting for her. I also feel McDormand won BAFTA because they knew only she and Kirby were nominated and went for who seemed more likely to contend. She just won in 2017 and I just can’t see them going there. Day had the first (and arguably most visible) win at the Globes, but hasn’t had any other momentum and only 11 winners ever were their film’s only nomination. So despite my gut saying it could happen, I think you have to just let her win. The safest bet is Davis just because SAG’s essentially 20/26 all-time. But she’s won SAG and lost the Oscar before, and SAG’s felt less like a sure thing in recent years. That’s why I keep coming back to Mulligan. She has the same single precursor everyone else has and just feels like the right choice. I have nothing other than specious rationalization to back up the choice, but because 4 out of 5 nominees have a precursor and you could make a case for all of them, you have to find some way to justify a choice. So just go with what makes you feel most comfortable. To me, that’s Mulligan, even though for you it may just as easily be Davis.

The Vote: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

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

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
  2. LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
  3. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
  4. Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
  5. Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami

My Thoughts: The surprise of LaKeith Stanfield took this category from ‘meh’ to solid. I was never fully in love with the Odom performance even though I get the nomination. Raci I liked but also wouldn’t vote for. Cohen I thought did exactly what he was brought onto the film to do and I love that he’s got his nomination, given the incredible and often unheralded work he’s done over his career. But the two ‘Judas’ performances really are the cream of the crop in this category. LaKeith is a really lead and this does feel like category fraud, but having him nominated in the wrong category is better than not having him nominated. (I also feel like Delroy Lindo would’ve been better served here than being pushed lead, but that’s a different argument.) Both performances would make fine winners, but I’ll take Kaluuya, even though LaKeith really is just as worthy.

My Vote: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Should’ve Been Nominated: Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

– – – – –

The Analysis:

SAG’s 17/26 all-time. There are two category swaps and two cases where either the SAG winner wasn’t nominated for the Oscar or the Oscar winner wasn’t nominated at SAG, both of which happened this decade.

Precursors:

  • SAG: Kaluuya
  • BAFTA: Kaluuya
  • BFCA: Kaluuya
  • Globe: Kaluuya

Most Likely to Win: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah. I mean, clearly.

The Competition: Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7. Who else could it be? No one else has a win. Odom’s likely winning Song, I can’t imagine Raci gets any significant votes and I can’t imagine two nominees from the same film split enough votes to finish 1-2. Cohen fits for the older white people who like a more ‘traditional’ (coded language ridiculously intended) choice.

Spoiler Alert: LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah. You could make this Odom but I don’t see why, given he’s lost to Kaluuya every step of the way. They campaigned Stanfield for Actor and he still managed to get on here, which essentially makes him a write-in. There’s support there. And with the benefit of not already having lost to Kaluuya, he makes the most compelling case as a fresh face who can snag votes from the people who don’t like the choices who’ve been everywhere else.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

2. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

4. Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami

5. Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

What’s on My Ballot: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah. Never vote against a clean sweep.

The Deal: Kaluuya’s got this all the way. Don’t forget, this is his second nomination. They’re already familiar with him, which only helps get those ancillary votes needed to make this a walk.

The Vote: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actress

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

Olivia Colman, The Father

Amanda Seyfried, Mank

Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Amanda Seyfried, Mank
  2. Olivia Colman, The Father
  3. Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  4. Youn Yuh-Jung,  Minari
  5. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

My Thoughts: I’m not a huge fan of this category, but I also had a lot of trouble myself picking alternatives. The two foul-mouthed grandmother roles are fine. I get Close as a veteran nom, but the performance is nothing you haven’t seen before. Youn is very entertaining, but again… it’s a pretty archetype role. Bakalova was really charming (and honestly, being stuck inside a room with Giuliani alone is worth a nomination), but I’m not sure I’d vote for her. Colman’s performance is really strong but I also don’t feel any particular desire to vote for her. Which leaves me with Amanda Seyfried. She’s the only performance where I felt actively impressed by the work. And the category being the category, I’ll need time to really evaluate my thoughts on it. But for now, let’s say her, even though admittedly I’d be happy to see any of these women win.

My Vote: Amanda Seyfried, Mank

Should’ve Been Nominated: Helena Zengel, News of the World

– – – – –

The Analysis:

SAG’s 18/26 all-time with a category swap and the only time they missed this decade the Oscar winner wasn’t nominated at SAG (and the precursors more than made up for it).

Precursors:

  • SAG: Youn
  • BAFTA: Youn
  • BFCA: Bakalova

Most Likely to Win: Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari. She’s got SAG and she’s got BAFTA. That makes her an automatic favorite and probably even a lock at this point.

The Competition: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. She’s the only other person with a precursor. I’ve got questions about her likelihood of actually winning, but all the evidence out there says she’s the second choice.

Spoiler Alert: Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy. I’m having trouble figuring out who else it could be. There’s a dozen reasons why it’s not Seyfried (too new, film’s not contending enough to pull her along, etc) and Colman just won and I’m not sure there’s any real heat there to get her another one. Which leaves Close. And I know the film isn’t good, but this is what, nomination #8 for her? People disappointed with this category might just hold their nose and say ‘give her a damn statue already’. Not sure that’s enough to get her the win, but I’ve also seen crazier stuff happen. I think you want her third at worst just in case they pull a fast one.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari

2. Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

3. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

4. Olivia Colman, The Father

5. Amanda Seyfried, Mank

The Smart Choice: Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari. She has SAG and BAFTA. Those are the two precursors with Oscar voters. It’s also the classier film of the two top contenders. I don’t see a smarter choice here.

The Deal: Youn should win this. I don’t see Seyfried or Colman catching serious votes, can’t imagine Close managing to win in spite of her film and with Bakalova I have a hard time believing a performance in a Borat movie could actually contend for a win. The category being what it is, I’d say it’s 75-25 Youn wins. It’s better odds than you have in Best Actress, so take them.

The Vote: Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari

Best Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah

Minari

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Promising Young Woman
  2. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  3. Minari
  4. Judas and the Black Messiah
  5. Sound of Metal

My Thoughts: Great category. I think Sound of Metal’s least impressive aspect is the script (which is more a point of praise for all the other aspects of the film). ‘Judas’ is a great piece of writing but not something I want to take over the others. Minari would, in another year, be the vote, but I can’t take it over the other two. It’s really between Sorkin and Fennell. We all know how great Sorkin is and Chicago 7 is his usual brilliance. Most times when he’s on the ballot, he’s the choice. But I don’t know, man… I really loved the originality of Promising Young Woman. This is one of those situations where you have the all-time great versus the person that’s really great this year. So, for the moment, I’ll take Fennell.

My Vote: Promising Young Woman

Should’ve Been Nominated: Palm Springs

– – – – –

The Analysis:

Precursors here are WGA, BAFTA, BFCA and marginally the Globes.

Since 2000, WGA is 13/20 straight up 4 cases where the Oscar winner was WGA-ineligible and 1 category swap. In all but 2 of WGA’s 7 misses, BAFTA had the winner straight up (with BFCA matching most of the time). And in the 2 BAFTA missed, the Best Picture winner won (and the Globes had both). So basically the answer is precursors or Picture winner. And only one of those applies this year.

Precursors:

  • WGA: Promising Young Woman
  • BAFTA: Promising Young Woman
  • BFCA: Promising Young Woman
  • Globe: Trial of the Chicago 7

Most Likely to Win: Promising Young Woman. It’s won the three precursors that matter and feels exactly like the type of winner this category produces.

The Competition: The Trial of the Chicago 7. It’s got the Globes win, which isn’t nothing, and it’s Aaron Sorkin, who’s won before and is incredibly respected. But with only one precursor win, it’s no more than second choice. Could it win? Absolutely. And no one would be surprised. But based on what we’ve seen, it’s not the favorite.

Spoiler Alert: Minari. I can’t see ‘Judas’ having enough votes to actually win and Sound of Metal I’m not sure people think of as a screenplay-first film. This makes the most sense to me as something that could legitimately get votes. Highly doubt we get this far, but as far as third choices go, this is an actual best case scenario. This would be a #1 in other years.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Promising Young Woman

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. Minari

4. Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Sound of Metal

The Smart Choice: Promising Young Woman. It’s won the majority of precursors and feels exactly like the kind of script that wins here. The only thing keeping me from calling this a lock is the respect for Sorkin. Otherwise, this is 100% a done deal.

The Deal: Promising Young Woman should win this, with a very minor ‘Sorkin upset’ watch.

The Vote: Promising Young Woman

Best Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

The Father

Nomadland

One Night in Miami

The White Tiger

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Nomadland
  2. The Father
  3. One Night in Miami
  4. The White Tiger
  5. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

My Thoughts: Not my favorite category, but solid. Borat I can’t take just because of how much the film is built around improvisation and gags. The White Tiger I thought was a solid effort, but not something I’d vote for. One Night in Miami I think overcomes a lot of the issues I tend to have with ‘fictional stories about famous people’ films, but my general discomfort with those movies is what’s keeping me from appreciating the writing more. The Father is a very strong piece of writing that never veers too far into ‘genre’ territory, and if that was gonna be the choice I could do worse. But Nomadland I thought did a fantastic job at straddling the line between documentary and fiction, getting ‘scenes’ across while also letting everything breathe in an incredibly lifelike way. So I think that’s gonna be the vote.

My Vote: Nomadland

Should’ve Been Nominated: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

– – – – –

The Analysis:

WGA is 14/20 since 2000 with 2 ineligibles and a category swap. Of the 3 scripts that missed, only one won without precursors (Precious, which was a giant upset). So again, you’re pretty solid here. Especially given the whole ‘Best Picture winner usually wins Screenplay’ thing.

Precursors:

  • WGA: Borat
  • BAFTA: The Father
  • BFCA: Nomadland

Most Likely to Win: Nomadland. This was WGA-ineligible and has BFCA. It did lose BAFTA, but being the presumptive Best Picture winner has to make it the favorite. You can make the argument that it’ll lose, but it’s still the most likely winner.

The Competition: The Father. It won BAFTA, which is huge. And it’s a Best Picture nominee, which is important for reasons you’ll discover in a second. So this is for sure second choice and could even be your winner.

Spoiler Alert: One Night in Miami. Only 3 non-Best Picture nominees have ever won this category. That’s it. So this spot shouldn’t factor into your decision-making. Also, since nothing’s ever won this as its sole nomination, don’t put White Tiger here. This feels like the most ‘traditional’ option. But again… 3 times ever. So don’t guess it to win.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Nomadland

2. The Father

3. One Night in Miami

4. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

5. The White Tiger

The Smart Choice: Nomadland. It has a precursor and is the Best Picture favorite. That makes it the smart choice, even though without BAFTA it’s less of a sure thing than it might’ve been otherwise.

The Deal: Nomadland and The Father split the precursors and were both WGA-ineligible. You can make a case for either. Personally I’m gonna use ‘Best Picture favorite’ as my tiebreaker along with BAFTA only being 5/10 this past decade, though it’s very possible The Father wins. You can legitimately take either choice here.

The Vote: Nomadland

Best Editing

The Father

Nomadland

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Sound of Metal
  2. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  3. Nomadland
  4. The Father
  5. Promising Young Woman

My Thoughts: Solid, un-flashy category. Promising Young Woman is very well done, but I wouldn’t take it over the other nominees. The Father I like for how it handles the shifts in Hopkins’ memories, but I wouldn’t vote for it. Nomadland I love how they paced to feel more like a documentary, but it’s third choice. Chicago 7 — very well done and handles a lot of characters and flashbacks and tense riot scenes really well, but I feel like that’s an example of ‘most editing’. It’s great and I could easily take it, but I really liked how they edited Sound of Metal. The way you really feel anchored to Ruben’s journey and how it’s deliberate but never showy. That feels like the right choice for me.

My Vote: Sound of Metal

Should’ve Been Nominated: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

– – – – –

The Analysis:

ACE is 14/20 since 2000. And with BAFTA and BFCA factored in, the only time something’s won without precursors was 2000, before BFCA. So, use the precursors, use logic and you’ll be fine.

Precursors:

  • ACE: Trial of the Chicago 7
  • BAFTA: Sound of Metal
  • BFCA: *TIE* Sound of Metal & Trial of the Chicago 7

Most Likely to Win: Sound of Metal. It split all the precursors with Chicago 7 right down the middle. However, ACE is only 5/10 this past decade while BAFTA is 6/10. So statistically this is slightly more likely to win.

The Competition: The Trial of the Chicago 7. If anything this is 1A. It split all the precursors and the only reason this isn’t first is because its precursors are ever-so-slightly less accurate. But trust me. It’s a 50/50 scenario.

Spoiler Alert: Nomadland. It’s the Best Picture frontrunner, which means you have to take it seriously, even though the last film to win this category without precursors was Traffic in 2000. I wouldn’t necessarily pick it to win, but you should definitely have it no lower than third.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Sound of Metal

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. Nomadland

4. The Father

5. Promising Young Woman

The Smart Choice: Sound of Metal. There are two smart choices here, but for the purposes of simplicity I’ll take this one. BAFTA has, in the past decade, been a slightly better precursor than ACE and, for what it’s worth, my gut says this is more likely to win over Chicago 7.

The Deal: Either Sound of Metal or Trial of the Chicago 7 should win this. Sound of Metal feels like it’ll follow the Whiplash path and win both Editing and Sound, but as an ensemble movie with riots in it, Chicago 7 more than fits the bill as a possible winner. I also wouldn’t entirely rule out Nomadland, but something hasn’t won without precursors in 20 years, so probably stick with the top two. For what it’s worth I think Sound of Metal is the more likely of the two winners, even if it’s 60/40. You can take either one here.

The Vote: Sound of Metal

Best Cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah

Mank

News of the World

Nomadland

The Trial of the Chicago 7

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Mank
  2. Nomadland
  3. News of the World
  4. Judas and the Black Messiah
  5. The Trial of the Chicago 7

My Thoughts: Solid, though not as flashy a category as we’re used to seeing. Chicago 7 is the most ‘traditionally’ shot film, and while I wouldn’t vote for it, I do think it’s a better effort than people give it credit for. ‘Judas’ very much looks like a 70s movie, which to me is a huge compliment, but I wouldn’t take it over the others. News of the World is a western, and obviously I’m inclined toward those. I don’t think it’s as flashy as maybe it could’ve been, but I do think it has a quiet beauty I appreciate. Same for Nomadland. The poeticism of that film is gorgeous and arguably it is the best effort of the bunch. But, c’mon. You know how much I love classical Hollywood. The way they shot Mank to evoke the style of 40s movies… I can’t pass that up. Some things just speak to my sensibilities.

My Vote: Mank

Should’ve Been Nominated: I’m Thinking of Ending Things; I’m Your Woman

– – – – –

The Analysis:

We’ve only had three precursors for Cinematography since 2009 and only once did something win without any (Hugo). So they’re a combined 10/11. And in 9/10 years, the winner won more than one precursor. So basically, if something’s got multiple precursor wins, it’ll probably win.

Precursors:

  • ASC: Mank
  • BAFTA: Nomadland
  • BFCA: Nomadland

Most Likely to Win: Nomadland. It’s won two of the three precursors (arguably the two more important precursors) and seems inarguably the most likely winner.

The Competition: Mank. It was always clearly the second choice even if it didn’t win ASC. But winning there does now make it an empirical second choice.

Spoiler Alert: News of the World. I honestly don’t know what it could be if it’s not Nomadland or Mank. If neither wins I’m just prepared to be way wrong on this. Chicago 7 would shock me just because nothing that traditional has won this category in over 50 years. Maybe the real third choice is ‘Judas’. It doesn’t really fit how they usually vote, though. At least this is a western and outdoors and they generally gravitate toward stuff like that. But honestly if Nomadland or Mank doesn’t win, it’s just coming down to pure luck.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Nomadland

2. Mank

3. News of the World

4. Judas and the Black Messiah

5. The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Smart Choice: Nomadland. Since 2009 when we’ve had three precursors, ASC’s 6/11, BAFTA’s 8/11 (and 8-8 since 2012) and BFCA is 10/11. BAFTA and BFCA went for this, plus it feels like the right choice, so I’m thinking take it.

The Deal: Nomadland is the most likely winner, though Mank is a reasonable alternate that you could take a shot with if you’re really feeling it. But the guild’s not as accurate as you’d think and the two very accurate precursors voted Nomadland. So I think that has to be the choice. It’s a 75/25 scenario, but I do think that 25 could come through more than in most other categories.

The Vote: Nomadland

Best Original Score

Da 5 Bloods

Mank

Minari

News of the World

Soul

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Soul
  2. Mank
  3. News of the World
  4. Minari
  5. Da 5 Bloods

My Thoughts: Terrific category, though I do think Alexandre Desplat got hosed. But I’m very happy to see Terence Blanchard get a second nomination after years of being ignored and I’m real happy to see Emile Mosseri get his first. All five nominees were on my top scores list, but with all due respect, the two best scores of the year were Soul and Mank. Mank would be my vote almost any other year, but what Soul accomplishes with those jazzy earth scenes and Great Before/Beyond soundscapes — that has to be the choice.

My Vote: Soul

Should’ve Been Nominated: The Midnight Sky

– – – – –

The Analysis:

There’s no guild, but we have BAFTA, BFCA and the Globes. Since 2008, we’ve had 7/12 years where something won all 3 precursors and 2 years of 2/3. In all cases, that score won the Oscar (the other years had non-nominated scores win precursors, negating a majority). Point is, when there’s a consensus, go with it.

Precursors:

  • BAFTA: Soul
  • BFCA: Soul
  • Globes: Soul

Most Likely to Win: Soul. The last time something swept the precursors and lost was 2005. Also, what’s gonna beat it? This would be a tough film to argue for outside of this spot, but with it here I don’t see how it can lose.

The Competition: Minari. I mean, I guess, right? News of the World has no momentum and I don’t see anyone falling over themselves to give Da 5 Bloods anything. So that means it’s either Mank or Minari. But Mank’s coming up soft everywhere and I think people know Mank and Soul are both Reznor/Ross and know which is more likely to win. This feels like the most likely beneficiary of people not wanting to vote for Soul/Reznor & Ross, even though without a precursor you’re just guessing.

Spoiler Alert: Mank. Since 2000, only 2 winning scores weren’t nominated for Best Picture, and in both cases the films had other nominations (including an acting nomination). Also, only 10 times ever did something win Score as its only nomination (none since 1999). So Da 5 Bloods shouldn’t be in consideration. And I don’t think News of the World gets more votes than the other two. So Minari and Mank are 2+3 and it’s just about how you wanna split them.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Soul

2. Minari

3. Mank

4. News of the World

5. Da 5 Bloods

The Smart Choice: Soul. It won every precursor. There’s no smarter choice.

The Deal: What do I always say? When it’s easy, let it be easy. Soul‘s won every precursor. Playing a hunch is not the same as jumping through hoops to make a case. Just let something else beat you.

The Vote: Soul

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

My Personal Rankings:

  1. “Husavik,” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
  2. “lo Sì (Seen),” from The Life Ahead
  3. “Hear My Voice,” from The Trial of the Chicago 7
  4. “Fight For You,” from Judas and the Black Messiah
  5. “Speak Now,” from One Night in Miami

My Thoughts: Given the shortlist, I don’t hate the category, but I also think the shortlist could’ve been stronger. I’m not in love with “Speak Now” even though I like it more than I did when I first heard it. “Fight for You” definitely livens up this list, but I wouldn’t take it over everything else. I’m way more positive on “Io Si” than I was originally, and part of me does feel like one of these years we should give Diane Warren an Oscar, but I just don’t have any desire to vote for it. “Hear My Voice” is sort of a default second choice for me, partly just because it’s been stuck in my head for like two months. But since my desire for Diane Warren to have an Oscar is greater than my love for the song, I’ll rank it third. Though my favorite nominee is “Husavik.” Sure it’s probably not the best song in the category, but it makes me happiest. So that’s my vote.

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

Should’ve Been Nominated: “Wuhan Flu,” from Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; “Turntables,” from All In: The Fight for Democracy

– – – – –

The Analysis:

We don’t really have much to go on except two nominal precursors, a general sense of what they usually vote for and how the songs seem to be trending based on notoriety/visibility. It’s usually not that difficult.

  • BFCA: “Speak Now”
  • Globes: “Io Si”

Most Likely to Win: “Speak Now,” from One Night in Miami. It’s one of the two songs with a precursor, its film has the higher profile of the two and it won the precursor I feel better about using to justify a vote. I think the film having the visibility it does and having the guy who wrote/sings this song be the guy from Hamilton makes this a pretty clear favorite to win.

The Competition: “lo Sì (Seen),” from The Life Ahead. Diane Warren now has 12 Oscar nominations and no wins (Three 6 Mafia, 1 Oscar…). It’s safe to say she’s in Roger Deakins territory. It has the Globes win (even though they’ll vote for her for anything) and, given the category, this is as close as she’s ever been to having a legitimate chance to win. I don’t see a better second choice.

Spoiler Alert: “Hear My Voice,” from The Trial of the Chicago 7. Has to be, right? I don’t think “Fight for You” has any real juice behind it and I can’t imagine most people voting for “Husavik”. So this becomes default #3 and has the benefit of being front and center in the film’s campaign on top of being catchy. I can’t guarantee a winner here, but I feel pretty certain the winner will be one of these three songs.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. “Speak Now,” from One Night in Miami

2. “Io Si (Seen),” from The Life Ahead

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

4. “Fight for You,” from Judas and the Black Messiah

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

The Smart Choice: “Speak Now,” from One Night in Miami. This is the most open this category’s been in a few years. It’s not a dominant favorite, but it definitely feels like it has the edge. This category is a referendum on taste more than most, but some of it does come down to outside factors like visibility or voting for particular songwriters/perennials. So while Diane Warren is a factor, I think people associating this song with Odom’s (nominated) performance as Sam Cooke is what’s gonna carry the day here.

The Deal: I think “Speak Now” is the most likely winner, but I also think “Io Si” could just as easily win. Diane Warren has 12 nominations. One of these years it’s gonna happen, and this is the best situation she’s ever had. You could easily take her, even if you have to go back to Motorcycle Diaries in 2004 to find a comp winner (but even that had a second nomination). Typically when something wins here without other nominations (Rocketman, Spectre, Once, 8 Mile), there’s a clear reason why. My question is: is Diane Warren a major enough reason for it to be a sure thing? I don’t know. You can make a number of cases here, but I think “Speak Now” is the best choice, with “Io Si” a reasonable alternate. I say take one of those and let anything else beat you.

The Vote: “Speak Now,” from One Night in Miami

Best Production Design

The Father

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank

News of the World

Tenet

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Mank
  2. News of the World
  3. The Father
  4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  5. Tenet

My Thoughts: I’m pretty bored by this category. Not to minimize what Tenet did (since there is an art to designing a film like that), but it’s not exactly Inception or Interstellar. I liked Ma Rainey as a largely single location film, but I’m also not gonna pretend I’d vote for it. The Father is a sneaky strong effort, shifting the design with each jump in Hopkins’ memory obviously but not overt enough to fully give the game away until the film is ready to do so. Wouldn’t take it, but it’s better than you think. I’m a sucker for a western, and that’s partly why News of the World is my second choice. I think westerns get overlooked for their production design. Either way, Mank is the choice. I get why they didn’t fully go for the 40s look, but they do more than enough replication to satisfy my love of that era.

My Vote: Mank

Should’ve Been Nominated: I’m Thinking of Ending Things; I’m Your Woman

– – – – –

The Analysis:

We’ve had three precursors for Production Design since 2009. Only twice since then has something won without at least 1 (with all but one having at least 2). So the precursors are pretty much always gonna lead you in the right direction.

Precursors:

  • ADG:
    • Period: Mank
    • Fantasy: Tenet
  • BAFTA: Mank
  • BFCA: Mank

Most Likely to Win: Mank. It’s won every precursor and is exactly the kind of thing they go for here.

The Competition: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I thought this might sneak in a precursor win and make this interesting. Guess not. This a nominal second choice based on it being the only other film I can see getting substantive votes.

Spoiler Alert: The Father. Is anyone clamoring to vote for either Tenet or News of the World? Nolan films and westerns both get nominated but neither ever wins. This, while contemporary, is a film with front-and-center production design. Do I think it’ll win? Absolutely not. Could it? Maybe. If they really don’t want to vote for Mank and decide they like this play more than Ma Rainey. Still feels like a third choice no matter how you slice it, though.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Mank

2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. The Father

4. Tenet

5. News of the World

The Smart Choice: Mank. It’s won all the precursors, has 10 nominations and this’ll be where they reward it.

The Deal: Mank should win this pretty handily. Ma Rainey is a potential spoiler, but without any precursors, I’m not sure that’s likely. And for those thinking The Father — the last purely contemporary film to win this category was All the President’s Men. Mank’s an easy choice.

The Vote: Mank

Best Costume Design

Emma

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank

Mulan

Pinocchio

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Emma
  2. Mulan
  3. Mank
  4. Pinocchio
  5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

My Thoughts: Not to diminish the Ma Rainey effort, but so much of it felt like dudes in suits. Pinocchio I thought did a great job with the fantasy aspect and the creatures, but I’m not sure it pops enough for me to want to vote for it. I think a lot of people would put Mank fifth and I get why. But having seen so many movies from the era, I think they did a terrific job of emulating those costumes while also giving the right amount of flashiness in the right moments. Still wouldn’t take it, but it’s not a throwaway. Mulan had some beautiful costumes and I think on another day, would’ve been my vote. But… frills. Emma is literally a movie about the costumes and it’s hard for me to not see that as the obvious choice. So while I know it’s so on-the-nose, I don’t care.

My Vote: Emma

Should’ve Been Nominated: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

– – – – –

The Analysis:

Costumes is interesting because when you really look back, you realize most years the precursors hand you this category on a platter. Since 2009, there’s only been two years the Oscar winner didn’t win at least 2 precursors. One of those (Fantastic Beasts) was an upset and the other (Little Women) had a precursor go off the board, negating a majority. So, for the most part, consensus wins out.

  • CDG:
    • Period: Ma Rainey
    • Fantasy: Mulan
  • BAFTA: Ma Rainey
  • BFCA: Ma Rainey

Most Likely to Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It’s won every single precursor. It’s the favorite.

The Competition: Emma. Frills usually win here, but rarely do they win without any precursors. Even if you want to double down on it because it’s what they normally go for, you still can’t call it the favorite.

Spoiler Alert: Mulan. It’s the only other film with a precursor, which would technically make it second choice. But I can’t ignore 70 years of history, so I’ll keep it third. But if somehow Ma Rainey loses this, this absolutely is in contention for the win.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

2. Emma

3. Mulan

4. Mank

5. Pinocchio

The Smart Choice: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It’s won every precursor and is the highest profile nominee. Hard to see it losing.

The Deal: Ma Rainey should win this pretty easily. If it doesn’t, then you have two solid alternatives: Emma has the period costumes they love and Mulan also fits. Fantastic Beasts won this out of nowhere, so Mulan could as well. But those are arguments you only make if you believe Ma Rainey isn’t gonna win, which — sure looks like it’s gonna win.

The Vote: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Emma

Hillbilly Elegy

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank

Pinocchio

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Pinocchio
  2. Emma
  3. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  4. Mank
  5. Hillbilly Elegy

My Thoughts: Thank god for Pinocchio, because otherwise I wouldn’t know what the hell to do here. Hillbilly Elegy is largely just the Glenn Close makeup/hair and I’m not overly thrilled by it. Mank is largely hairstyling with the makeup being done for black-and-white. Solid, but not something I’d vote for. Ma Rainey is largely how they transformed Viola, which is very well done, but also not something I feel the urgency to take. Emma is largely hairstyling, but did look gorgeous. I wanna put that second just because I feel like so many people only look at the makeup and ignore the hairstyling part of the category. Still, Pinocchio’s the choice. What that movie accomplishes is absolutely stunning. The director said that no digital effects were used and that it was all practical, which, even if that’s only 80% true makes it one of the best choices in the history of this category.

My Vote: Pinocchio

Should’ve Been Nominated: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

– – – – –

The Analysis:

Most years this category doesn’t need history or precursors because the winner is painfully obvious. This year, the winner should be obvious, but there are complications. Though once you look at the precursors, it becomes clear what’s most likely to happen, so you really don’t have to put a whole lot of thought into it.

  • Makeup & Hairstylists Guild:
    • Period/Character Makeup: Ma Rainey
    • Period/Character Hair: Ma Rainey
    • Special Makeup Effects: Pinocchio
  • BAFTA: Ma Rainey
  • BFCA: Ma Rainey

Most Likely to Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. How can it not be? It’s won every precursor it could’ve won. And they love actor transformations. No matter what you think of the effort vis-a-vis Pinocchio, it’s hard not to call this the favorite.

The Competition: Pinocchio. The work is stunning, and those who actually bothered to watch this know that. But with the precursors having gone the way they did, I can’t imagine this faring better in an open vote than Ma Rainey. So you have to consider this a second choice at best.

Spoiler Alert: Emma. I know they like actor transformations, but Hillbilly Elegy feels like a tall order. I’m also not sure they care enough to vote for Mank here. This gets the edge because people know ‘costumes, period piece, hair’. It’s no more than a third choice, but if I had to guess which was gonna get more support between this, Mank and Hillbilly Elegy, my guess would be this.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

2. Pinocchio

3. Emma

4. Mank

5. Hillbilly Elegy

The Smart Choice: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It won two guild awards, BAFTA and BFCA, and they love actor transformations. I can’t see this not being the choice.

The Deal: Ma Rainey is the favorite, but Pinocchio is the best effort. On a level playing field, Pinocchio should be what wins. However, it’s a foreign film and the odds that enough people will have seen it to vote for it are, knowing the Academy, not great. Ma Rainey has a profile and people know what the makeup is there. So while Pinocchio could happen, you pretty much have to take Ma Rainey and see if it loses.

The Vote: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Visual Effects

Love and Monsters

The Midnight Sky

Mulan

The One and Only Ivan

Tenet

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Tenet
  2. The Midnight Sky
  3. Mulan
  4. The One and Only Ivan
  5. Love and Monsters

My Thoughts: You have to understand the year to understand this category. Without theaters, most VFX-heavy films didn’t come out. Meaning a weaker shortlist than normal meaning a more forgettable category than normal. Mank or Soul would’ve livened this category up, but I understand why they didn’t make it. The real snub is Welcome to Chechnya, whose effects have real world implications and whose exclusion feels like a missed opportunity. Vote-wise: good for Love and Monsters, good for ‘Ivan’, wouldn’t vote for either. Mulan is a third choice at best. Midnight Sky I’d strongly consider. Maybe down the line it’ll end up being the vote. But as someone who prefers practical effects over CGI, and even though Tenet isn’t the VFX-fest most Nolan films are… given the category I’m just gonna make the philosophical play and take the practical effects over everything else. Not thrilled with the category, but I feel okay doing that.

My Vote: Tenet

Should’ve Been Nominated: Welcome to Chechnya

– – – – –

The Analysis:

I’m gonna skip the preamble because this is an unusual year, we don’t have the category we normally have and it’s insanely obvious what’s gonna win just looking at the nominees.

Precursors:

  • VES:
    • Best Effects: The Midnight Sky
    • Animated Character: The One and Only Ivan
    • Created Environment: Mulan
    • Model: The Midnight Sky
  • BAFTA: Tenet
  • BFCA: Tenet

Most Likely to Win: Tenet. What do I say about this category, every single year? Class always wins. Because no matter how great the effects are, voters will always default to the film that’s nominated in other categories. And that tenet (pun ridiculously intended) applies no more strongly than in a year like this. This film could’ve lost every precursor and I’d have still told you it was gonna win. Because all voters need to see is the name. This film outclasses everything and it’s got two precursor wins. In no reality is this anything other than the favorite.

The Competition: The Midnight Sky. Had this won BAFTA, I’d have considered putting it first. Voters will see this and go ‘space movie, Clooney’. That’ll be enough to get it some votes. Plus the guild voted for it, which means it has fans. If anything feels like an alternative, it’s this.

Spoiler Alert: Mulan. It’s the only other real option. I guarantee you most voters won’t even know what Love and Monsters is and most won’t take ‘Ivan’ seriously enough to even consider it. This they at least recognize as Disney. It’s the only choice that makes sense for third.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Tenet

2. The Midnight Sky

3. Mulan

4. The One and Only Ivan

5. Love and Monsters

The Smart Choice: Tenet. It’s gonna win and it’ll be one of the easiest wins of the night.

The Deal: Class always wins out. Tenet has two nominations, is a Christopher Nolan film and won BAFTA, which completely locks it in as the choice. Midnight Sky has maybe a 20% chance at it and anything else would be an all-time level shocker, so just let it happen.

The Vote: Tenet

Best Sound

Greyhound

Mank

News of the World

Soul

Sound of Metal

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Sound of Metal
  2. Soul
  3. Greyhound
  4. Mank
  5. News of the World

My Thoughts: This is a great category. You can argue about News of the World, but westerns are Sound mainstays and I always appreciate seeing them. Mank is solid for they handle the pace of the dialogue and add those 40s hallmarks of soundtrack noise and underscore. I wouldn’t vote for it over the others, but it’s a great piece of work. Greyhound — yes, it’s standard war movie SFX and it’s a very on-the-nose choice for the category. But the one thing I really appreciated was how it felt so much more expensive than it was, which is a testament to both the Sound design and VFX. And Soul — Pixar’s always great with sound design, but this one’s on another level. It’s stunning work. But no matter how much I love the sound design in that movie, Sound of Metal is literally built around the sound design. You don’t care about that movie without the sound design being what it is. It’s an absolute no-brainer of a choice.

My Vote: Sound of Metal

Should’ve Been Nominated: Thrilled with this category.

– – – – –

The Analysis:

This is our first year of a singular Sound category. We’re not starting totally fresh, but now we don’t have to juggle two categories and can funnel all the precursors into one place. And fortunately for us, this isn’t the most difficult category to have to deal with first time out. Without having a few years to know how this is likely gonna go, I think if you just focus on the precursors and what makes the most sense you’ll be okay.

Precursors:

  • CAS:
    • Feature: Sound of Metal
    • Animation: Soul
  • MPSE:
    • SFX+Foley: Greyhound
    • Animation: Soul
  • BAFTA: Sound of Metal

Most Likely to Win: Sound of Metal. It won CAS and BAFTA. The BAFTA win is most important, as the BAFTA Sound winner has won (at least one of) 15 of the past 20 Sound categories. It’s also the film most associated with sound design. Feels like an easy favorite.

The Competition: Greyhound. If there were still two Sound categories, this would’ve been a lock for Editing. But since it’s one and that generally skews toward mixing over editing, without a BAFTA win I can’t see this being your favorite.

Spoiler Alert: Soul. I can’t see News of the World getting real support and given the complete disinterest for Mank almost everywhere, that doesn’t seem likely either. This has precursors wins (albeit in separate animation categories) and is gonna win Score, which means people are at least partially aware of the film’s sound design. While I’m not sure I’d go all the way in picking it to win, it’s gotta be considered third choice at worst.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Sound of Metal

2. Greyhound

3. Soul

4. Mank

5. News of the World

The Smart Choice: Sound of Metal. It’s won the majority of precursors. BAFTA is historically a great indicator of how the Sound categories will go and, with a single Sound category lending itself more toward people looking at the entire sound mix over just the big effects, I think the CAS win fully tips the scales in this one’s favor (you know, on top of it being about a guy going deaf).

The Deal: Sound of Metal feels like your most likely winner, even though Greyhound or even Soul could make a legitimate play for it. This is our first single Sound category, so even if I’m treating this like any other category, we still don’t know for sure what they’re gonna do. But since nothing’s won without a precursor since 2005 and the BAFTA winner has won 9/10 times this past decade, I feel comfortable saying Sound of Metal is probably gonna win.

The Vote: Sound of Metal

Best Animated Feature

Onward

Over the Moon

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Soul

Wolfwalkers

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Soul
  2. Wolfwalkers
  3. Over the Moon
  4. Onward
  5. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

My Thoughts: In terms of the ‘mainstream’ choices from the eligibles list, this is the best category we could’ve gotten. And while I’d have gone with more unknown choices, I’m very okay with what’s here. Soul, of course, is the choice, so that discussion ends there. But I love Wolfwalkers. Over the Moon I love as representation (without racism, even!), even if I have problems with that film’s second act. Onward — not my favorite Pixar movie, but I get why it’s here. And Shaun the Sheep — outside of Aardman’s usual beautiful animation I’m not the biggest fan of the film, but it belongs here. So I am happy with the category, but Soul is the far and away choice for me.

My Vote: Soul

Should’ve Been Nominated: No. 7 Cherry Lane; Ride Your Wave

– – – – –

The Analysis:

The only analysis you need here is that joke Jack Black made: “Each year I do one DreamWorks project then I take all the money to the Oscars and bet it on Pixar.”

Precursors:

  • Annies:
    • Soul won 7 awards, including Best Feature
    • Wolfwalkers won 5 awards, including Best Indie Feature
  • BAFTA: Soul
  • BFCA: Soul
  • Globes: Soul

Most Likely to Win: Soul. Let’s face it. It’s gonna win. Other films have a hard enough time beating Pixar when they’re only nominated here. This has two other nominations! Non-sequel Pixar movies have only this category lost twice (2001, 2006). It’s the favorite.

The Competition: Wolfwalkers. People who don’t wanna see Pixar win will vote for this and the people who value more artistic stuff will too. It’s the only logical second choice. You’d’ve known by now if Onward had a shot.

Spoiler Alert: Onward. In almost any other year, this wins and I’d be trying to make a case for Wolfwalkers over it right now. Over the Moon and Shaun the Sheep won’t get nearly the amount of votes this will. Everyone watched this with their kids at the top of the pandemic and it definitely still has a fan base, even if it’s hard to make a case for it winning.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Soul

2. Wolfwalkers

3. Onward

4. Over the Moon

5. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

The Smart Choice: Soul. Pixar’s only lost this category 3 times ever and it has two other nominations. You’re crazy if you think there’s a smarter choice than this.

The Deal: Soul is winning. Just take the L if it loses.

The Vote: Soul

Best International Feature

Another Round (Denmark)

Better Days (Hong Kong)

Collective (Romania)

The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)

Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Another Round
  2. The Man Who Sold His Skin
  3. Better Days
  4. Collective
  5. Quo Vadis, Aida?

My Thoughts: First, shout out to un-nominated Night of the Kings and Hope. Two of Us was solid too. As for what’s here — Quo Vadis Aida I liked as a tension-builder, but wouldn’t vote for it. Collective I loved, but I treat it more as a documentary than a feature and wouldn’t take it here. Better Days feels like something that could’ve been an anime, which is probably why I liked it. The Man Who Sold His Skin almost bites off more than it can chew but I liked it as a piece of social commentary that aimed high to make its point. But Another Round, of course, is the choice. The subject matter is right up my alley and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

My Vote: Another Round

Should’ve Been Nominated: Hope; Night of the Kings

– – – – –

The Analysis:

This category is only ever singular to its particular year. The precursors are also usually irrelevant or moot. Fortunately most years have that one super high profile nominee that’s a glaringly obvious choice and usually wins and you have your work cut out for you.

Most Likely to Win: Another Round. It won BAFTA, has been the obvious choice all season and, oh yeah… IT HAS A BEST DIRECTOR NOMINATION. Which automatically cements it as the favorite, even though it would’ve been without that nomination.

The Competition: Quo Vadis, Aida?. This got a BAFTA Best Director nomination, which tells you it has real visibility (always a question in this category). But not having the profile Another Round does, you can’t consider it anything more than a second choice.

Spoiler Alert: The Man Who Sold His Skin. I don’t see Better Days having more than an outside chance, given how invisible it’s been all season, and while I don’t know how to adjudicate Collective being in two categories, I feel like there being a clear winner here will lead to most people saving their Collective vote (if they have one) for Doc Feature. Which leaves this as both a default third choice but also the one that most feels like a dark horse, given its subject matter. I wouldn’t put it higher than third, but I do think of the remaining films this is the one with the best shot at pulling votes.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Another Round

2. Quo Vadis, Aida?

3. The Man Who Sold His Skin

4. Collective

5. Better Days

The Smart Choice: Another Round. It’s got a Director nomination. When a foreign film hits the main categories, it’s always a done deal here.

The Deal: Another Round should have this locked. You don’t usually get a film nominated in another category, so ride it until the wheels fall off.

The Vote: Another Round

Best Documentary Feature

Collective

Crip Camp

The Mole Agent

My Octopus Teacher

Time

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Collective
  2. The Mole Agent
  3. Crip Camp
  4. Time
  5. My Octopus Teacher

My Thoughts: I liked most of the docs on this list but somehow don’t love this category. Can’t explain it, not gonna try. I’m one of the few people who wasn’t taken by My Octopus Teacher at all. Can’t explain it, just how I feel. Time was really well made, but I also didn’t love it the way I loved the other three. Crip Camp was absolutely delightful and I liked it a lot. Same for The Mole Agent. But for me, Collective is the best of the category. It’s like watching Spotlight happen in real time. It’s crazy how much of that film feels almost scripted because of how it all plays out. It’s an easy choice.

My Vote: Collective

Should’ve Been Nominated: 76 Days

– – – – –

The Analysis:

This category is a year-to-year proposition and there aren’t any real precursors for it. You just have to look at the nominees and reason what seems most likely to win based on how they usually vote and how visible/popular each of the docs seem to be.

Most Likely to Win: My Octopus Teacher. It won BAFTA and PGA and it’s got that March of the Penguins-style emotional manipulation that will earn it a lot of fans. Given how this category usually goes (70% populist, 30% social issue), this feels like an obvious favorite.

The Competition: Crip Camp. Most years, this would be the clear populist choice, especially without a ‘social issue’ doc to consider in its place. But Doc Oct definitely has positioned itself as the favorite so at best this can only be considered second choice.

Spoiler Alert: Collective. You don’t get nominated in both International Feature and here without having fans. Mole Agent was shortlisted in both, but only nominated here. So I don’t think that’s the choice. You could make a case for Time third and arguably that may be the smarter play, given the fact that foreign docs don’t usually win here. But since Time has no real momentum and the two populist choices make more than enough sense, I’m gonna put the film nominated twice third.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. My Octopus Teacher

2. Crip Camp

3. Collective

4. Time

5. The Mole Agent

The Smart Choice: My Octopus Teacher. I think it has to be. Given what usually wins here and this having BAFTA and PGA wins tells me this has fans in the right places. It could lose, but this feels like the smart play.

The Deal: I think we might be Locked for the Oct. My Octopus Teacher and Crip Camp are the only two docs that make sense to me as winners. Foreign docs don’t generally win here, so Collective and Mole Agent feel like tall orders. You could make a case for Time, but it’s not the type of doc that usually wins this category. Most winners have that ‘you have to see this’ energy to them. In the absence of a major ‘social issue’ doc, I think you need to default to the populist options, which are Octopus Teacher and Crip Camp, with Doc Oct having the clear edge.

The Vote: My Octopus Teacher

Best Documentary Short

Colette

A Concerto Is a Conversation

Do Not Split

Hunger Ward

A Love Song for Latasha

My Personal Rankings:

  1. Do Not Split
  2. Hunger Ward
  3. Colette
  4. A Love Song for Latasha
  5. A Concerto Is a Conversation

My Thoughts: They nominated most of the good stuff from the shortlist. I like A Concerto Is a Conversation and Love Song for Latasha as love letters, but wouldn’t vote for either. Colette was powerful, but is only a third choice for me. Hunger Ward, meanwhile, is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s not dissimilar to the un-nominated 76 Days, where you watch doctors trying to deal with this overwhelming onslaught of death and tragedy. But for me, the clear choice is Do Not Split. There’s an energy and an immediacy to that doc that just blows me away. It’s an incredible piece of filmmaking.

My Vote: Do Not Split

Should’ve Been Nominated: Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa

– – – – –

The Analysis:

All you can ever do in this category is look at how they usually vote, look at what each nominee is about and do your best to figure out which one makes the most sense as a winner. If you care to go deep into all that, read my category breakdown. Otherwise, since I assume most of you only care about what the vote is, I’ll just get on with it.

Most Likely to Win: Hunger Ward. This is everything they like in this category. People in third-world countries overcoming issues, the quintessential ‘we can solve this by voting for it’ choice and the doc that almost always, without fail, wins this category. I don’t see how you can look at what normally wins here and not consider this the favorite.

The Competition: A Love Song for Latasha. Given the current social climate, a doc about a Black girl who was murdered over a $1.65 bottle of orange juice feels like it has as good a shot as anything to win this category.

Spoiler Alert: Do Not Split. It’s the most immediately relevant doc on the list. The footage of young people during the Hong Kong protests should, to anyone with a pulse, evoke images of the unrest following George Floyd’s murder. While I’m not sure it has that ‘we can solve this’ hook, it definitely feels like it’s got a shot.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Hunger Ward

2. A Love Song for Latasha

3. A Concerto Is a Conversation

4. Do Not Split

5. Colette

The Smart Choice: Based on what normally wins this category, I have to assume Hunger Ward is the best choice and most likely winner. It’s a social issue doc about a third-world country that voters will feel they’re helping ‘solve’ by voting for it. That’s their whole M.O. in this category. So, while at least four of these could easily win (if not all five), I have to assume the doc that best fits how they usually vote has to be considered the best choice.

The Deal: Hunger Ward makes the most sense to me as a winner, but it could just as easily be A Love Song for Latasha or Do Not Split. Colette even makes some sense, if you think they’re gonna revert back to their ‘always vote Holocaust’ tendencies (which they haven’t really shown much of lately). And if you’re feeling cynical, ‘Concerto’ is EP’d by Ava DuVernay. So if you think they’ll vote for it purely because of her stature, take that. But to me it doesn’t fit at all what they like to vote for (hence the cynicism). The only way I know how to pick this category is by going what they’ve proven to like year in and year out, and to me that’s Hunger Ward. You could easily also take Love Song for Latasha or Do Not Split, but Hunger Ward is just so exactly what normally wins here it almost feels too easy.

The Vote: Hunger Ward

Best Live Action Short

Feeling Through

The Letter Room

The Present

Two Distant Strangers

White Eye

My Personal Rankings:

  1. White Eye
  2. Two Distant Strangers
  3. Feeling Through
  4. The Present
  5. The Letter Room

My Thoughts: This is a very solid category. The Letter Room benefits from having Oscar Isaac as its lead, though I’m not sure I fully engaged with it. The Present is a typical nominee for this category: simple, emotional hook and a third act that straddles the line between hokey and transcendent. It normally would rate higher for me, but I really like everything else. Feeling Through is nice as a no frills short that also serves to highlight and normalize disability and gives a platform for a disabled actor. Largely, I loved it. Two Distant Strangers I loved as both a social statement and as a twist on the ‘Groundhog Day’ plot. Ask me again tomorrow and it might be the vote. But I think the choice for me is White Eye. On top of the fact that it was done in a single take, I love how they took such a simple situation and layered in complex themes while also maintaining the immediacy of the inciting incident even when it stops mattering. That’s my vote.

My Vote: White Eye

Should’ve Been Nominated: Bittu

– – – – –

The Analysis:

This, above all other categories, is one where you just have to guess which nominee you think will most speak to voters. Some years you kinda know because there’s always that one ‘cutesy’ or high-concept short that just feels like it’s gonna be the choice. Other years, like this one, most shorts feel like they fit and you just have to dive in, do your best and hope you get lucky.

Most Likely to Win: Two Distant Strangers. Literally all five of these could win, so don’t put too much stock in this. I’m gonna list the case for all five nominees below, but for now I need to pick three. This has the social justice angle along with the high concept voters tend to like. It’s hard to know if they’ll spark to it or feel hit over the head, so this isn’t a runaway winner by any stretch. But, considering what they do like here, this feels like it’s probably got the best shot at it.

The Competition: The Letter Room. A slightly cynical play, given the Oscar Isaac casting, but star-led shorts (The Shore, The Phone Call) do tend to do well here. The narrative of this short also does fit their tastes, and while my gut says it’s one of the less likely winners, it feels like folly to count out something with this high profile a star.

Spoiler Alert: White Eye. It’s a single-take short, which may or may not impress some people. And its themes feel like something voters would spark to. But it doesn’t necessarily have that buttoned-up ending or ‘aha’ moment they like. I’m playing this on more of a hunch than anything else.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. Two Distant Strangers

2. The Letter Room

3. White Eye

4. The Present

5. Feeling Through

The Smart Choice: I’ll just come out and say it — there is no smart choice here. All five of these can legitimately win. So don’t look for an easy out here and just read the next section, because I’m gonna make the case for each of them winning and then will leave it for all of us to decide what we feel best about taking.

The Deal: Let me start by saying I am fully prepared to catch a 5 here. Literally any of these can win. Maybe whatever wins will feel like the obvious choice in hindsight, but right now, I can make a case for every nominee.

Feeling Through has a lot of the hallmarks of what they like. It’s emotional and shines a light on disability while also featuring a disabled actor. They’ve gone for shorts around disabilities before, with Stutterer and The Silent Child, but those either had a cutesy ending or a very emotional hook. This doesn’t have that immediate emotional hook or definitive ‘I need to vote for that’ ending I’m used to seeing, which is why I feel this has the flimsiest on-paper case of all nominees. Not that it couldn’t equally win, but most of the case for this is ‘I think enough people will see all five and vote for this one’, which I can’t quantify as anything other than a gut feeling. The pieces are there, the question is whether the pieces are overt and defined enough to elicit the reaction that other shorts that’ve won managed to do.

The Letter Room has Oscar Isaac as its lead and that is the absolute biggest case for it. His presence alone will get some people to watch it, and it may be the only short they watch. And they’ll go “that was cute” and maybe just vote for it and ignore the rest. Shorts with high profile actors in them have tended to win this category when nominated. It also generally fits the vibe of what they like here. Though, like Feeling Through (and while admittedly closer to what they like), I’m not sure the ending has that cathartic moment that they really love to see. And it’s hard to telegraph taste here, which is why this category is always so difficult (even when it’s easy). But you definitely can feel somewhat safe taking this as the choice on Isaac’s name alone.

The Present is perhaps the film that best fits what normally wins this category. And yet somehow my gut tells me it’s not gonna win. Can I explain it? No. But I am pretty good at guessing this stuff, so I do have to listen to my gut to an extent (you don’t, but I do. It’s gotten me this far. Plus, I’m attached to it). It’s got a good premise, the story moves and has emotional hooks and it has that ‘transcendent’ moment at the end. It’s a really solid choice and legitimately does feel like the type of short that would win this category. Plus it won the BAFTA for Best Short, which means at least some people have seen it and it might translate to votes.

Two Distant Strangers is, politically, the kind of film that feels perfect for this year. We’ve started to see a move toward more socially-conscious and diverse Academy, and this looks like it would represent that. Plus it has that high-concept premise that they like (it’s Groundhog Day but with police brutality) that’s entertaining and also weaves its message in really skillfully. I suspect this is something that will get a lot of votes assuming people watch all the shorts here. Pound for pound, this feels like the safest choice to take.

White Eye is a really well-made short that simultaneously feels like a sneaky win contender and also something that could very easily be an also-ran that was never in consideration. That’s what we have this year. Everything can win and we’re grasping at straws. This has the social themes going for it, but they aren’t as immediately overt as in Two Distant Strangers. And I don’t know if that hurts or helps it. Plus it’s got the one-take thing, which might sway some voters. My gut keeps telling me this is a legitimate spoiler for the win while my brain says this is probably not even gonna contend.

I think, if you wanna play it safe/smart, the two best choices are Two Distant Strangers or The Letter Room. I’ll take Two Distant Strangers, because I truly don’t know and it feels like the right choice (though part of me does feel like White Eye might come away with it, though that could just be personal preference talking). I think you can safely take almost any of these if you’re feeling them, though. I don’t see an obvious winner like I have in most years (which probably means The Letter Room is gonna win, the more I think about it).

The Vote: Two Distant Strangers

Best Animated Short

Burrow

Genius Loci

If Anything Happens I Love You

Opera

Yes-People

My Personal Rankings:

  1. If Anything Happens I Love You
  2. Burrow
  3. Opera
  4. Genius Loci
  5. Yes-People

My Thoughts: Based on the shortlist, this is about the best category we could’ve gotten. Yes-People is cute and built around a good, singular joke they make the most of, but the animation didn’t blow me away. Genius Loci is beautiful on a pure animation level but the narrative was too esoteric to connect with. Opera is a stunning piece of animation… but I also liked the other two more. Burrow is a cute Pixar short and I am thrilled that it was done 2D and not 3D. Narrative-wise… kinda standard. It doesn’t hit you the way most Pixar shorts do, so I’d only vote for it if it was the clear #1. Which it’s not, because If Anything Happens I Love You is just utterly heartbreaking and so well-done. I can’t fathom it not being most people’s top choice in the category.

My Vote: If Anything Happens I Love You

Should’ve Been Nominated: To Gerard

– – – – –

The Analysis:

Most Likely to Win: If Anything Happens I Love You. It’s funny how automatic people are to always put Pixar in the #1 spot here. But you forget that we had 15 full years (2001-2016) where Pixar never won. Disney won twice then, but not Pixar. And granted, Pixar’s won two of the past four years, but them automatically being the favorite isn’t a gimme. Typically what wins is the short voters feel most emotionally connected to. That to me makes this the overwhelming favorite. How can you not get emotional when the film reveals the significance behind the title? It’s definitely more somber than most shorts that win this category, but pound for pound this feels like the top choice.

The Competition: Burrow. This is 2D and not 3D, which I think helps its chances. Though the story is just kind of cutesy and I’m not sure it does anything particularly groundbreaking (pun ridiculously intended) to call it a slam-dunk favorite. It’s possible people don’t want the heavy subject matter of If Anything Happens I Love You, in which case this the clear beneficiary. While Pixar isn’t the automatic favorite in this category, you’re also a fool to not consider them a top two contender any year they’re in it.

Spoiler Alert: Opera. Admittedly the answer here is probably Yes-People, but I wanted to post a gif of Opera. Leave me alone, it’s the last category. There’s a Genius Loci-type short that gets nominated every year and never wins, so I don’t think you take that. Opera’s kind of the same. The two things they like are emotion and shorts that make you smile (think Bear Story). Opera doesn’t really do that. Yes-People at least has the cuteness factor going for it. So, while I’m not sure you consider it a major contender, it feels like the right choice for the third spot.

Scorecard Ballot Rankings:

1. If Anything Happens I Love You

2. Burrow

3. Yes-People

4. Opera

5. Genius Loci

The Smart Choice: If Anything Happens I Love You. It fits what usually wins. Admittedly It’s a little sadder than usual, but I think it strikes a balance between unbearable tragedy and hope in the face of incalculable loss. It’s the only short that feels like it checks all the boxes and seems like a fairly easy choice.

The Deal: I think If Anything Happens I Love You should win this, but it is possible they don’t want to go dark, in which case the 2D colorful animation and overall cuteness of Burrow will be the most likely benefactor. It feels like a pretty straightforward 50/50 scenario, but I think If Anything Happens I Love You should take it.

The Vote: If Anything Happens I Love You

– – – – –

Now, based on everything I just said, I wanna look at what all that actually means. Because sometimes you make your deliberations and realize, “Wait, I just picked The Father to win 5 Oscars.” Sometimes you need that fresh perspective.

 

Mank
10 nominations

Will win:
Will likely win: Production Design
Could win: Cinematography
Won’t win: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Score, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound

It should have Production Design in the bag. It also has a shot in Cinematography, but that feels unlikely to happen (even if it is the film’s best shot at a second win). Score, Makeup & Hairstyling and Sound are also theoretically possible, but they feel like a stretch. It’s been coming in soft all season and honestly the 1 win is more than some films get. So I’m thinking 1 win here, maybe if it’s lucky it ekes out a second, but that feels like the absolute max.

 

The Father
6 nominations

Will win:
Will likely win:
Could win: Adapted Screenplay
Won’t win: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Production Design

It’s got no chance in the majority of its categories (Picture, Actor and Supporting Actress are out, and Production Design and Editing are both uphill battles I wouldn’t bet on), but it’s still got a chance to walk away Screenplay. It’s in a 50/50 category with Nomadland and split the precursors. It could happen. Which means this’ll either end up with 0 wins or 1 win depending on how Screenplay goes.

 

Judas and the Black Messiah
6 nominations

Will win: Supporting Actor (Kaluuya)
Will likely win:
Could win: Song
Won’t win: Picture, Supporting Actor (Stanfield), Original Screenplay, Cinematography

It’s got Supporting Actor in the bag for Kaluuya, which means it’ll lose the Stanfield nomination. Picture won’t happen. Song is theoretically possible given the lack of a surefire winner, but that feels like a ‘won’t’ more than a ‘could’. Screenplay and Cinematography aren’t out of the question, but feel more like surprises than legitimate possibilities. I expect just 1 win for this, but maybe 2 can happen if they really like the movie (though good luck figuring out what category).

 

Minari
6 nominations

Will win:
Will likely win: Supporting Actress
Could win: Score
Won’t win: Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay

This looks poised to win Supporting Actress, which will prevent it from going 0-6. Otherwise, it’s at-best third choice in Picture, Director, Actor and Screenplay and is a distant second in Score. This feels like 1 win, and if it does manage 2 the likely culprit is Score or an outside Screenplay surprise.

 

Nomadland
6 nominations

Will win: Picture, Director, Cinematography
Will likely win: Adapted Screenplay
Could win: Actress, Editing
Won’t win:

Every Best Picture winner this decade has had almost exclusively 3-4 wins (with one 5 and one 2). This has Picture and Director in the bag and is very likely to win Cinematography as well, so that’s 3. And if it manages to win the 50/50 tossup in Screenplay, that’s 4. It’s also very much in the Actress and Editing races too, though I’m not sure you want to bet on either of those coming through. You’re looking in the 3-5 range almost certainly. Start with Picture, Director and Cinematography as your assumed 3. That’s your base. If it wins anything else, Screenplay is your most likely bet. After that, Editing is the choice (though that one feels more like a cherry on top than a legitimate possibility). While the logistics could get funky, I still think no matter what version of events transpires this still ends up with either 3 or 4 wins. Aim there.

 

Sound of Metal
6 nominations

Will win:
Will likely win: Editing, Sound
Could win:
Won’t win: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay

This has no chance in Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor and Screenplay, but looks like it should win both of its other categories. Winning Sound should be no problem for it. Editing’s a little tricky, but it feels like a 60/40 favorite to win there too. So I’m thinking 1 win minimum, 2 wins maximum depending on how Editing goes.

 

The Trial of the Chicago 7
6 nominations

Will win:
Will likely win:
Could win: Original Screenplay, Song
Won’t win: Picture, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography

Picture’s out. Supporting Actor’s out. I don’t see Cinematography happening and at best it’s third choice in Song. Screenplay it’s a distant second but theoretically could surprise. I think the only category where this legitimately has a chance is Editing. It’s in a 50/50 with Sound of Metal and, while it’s slightly less likely to win, it very much could. So this is either 0 wins or 1 win (and the most likely options for the 1 are Editing, Screenplay, Song).

 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
5 nominations

Will win: Actor
Will likely win: Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling
Could win: Actress
Won’t win: Production Design

Despite being left off the Best Picture list, this is in contention for almost everything it’s up for. I don’t think Production Design is happening, but Actor’s in the bag and it seems like it should win both Costumes and Makeup & Hairstyling. Actress is also very much in play. My gut says 3 wins max. I’m not sure how the particulars will shake out, but it sure feels like this should end the night with 3 wins no matter what, with 4 a distinct possibility as well.

 

Promising Young Woman
5 nominations

Will win:
Will likely win: Original Screenplay
Could win: Actress
Won’t win: Picture, Director, Editing

Picture, Director and Editing are out, so at best we’re looking at 2 wins. Screenplay should be in the bag for 1. And Actress is a 50/50 that could just as easily happen as not happen. So depending on what happens there, this is either 2 wins or at worst 1 win.

 

News of the World
4 nominations

Will win:
Will likely win:
Could win:
Won’t win: Cinematography, Score, Production Design, Sound

This is an easy 0-4. Score isn’t happening, Production Design won’t happen, Cinematography’s a long shot at best. And Sound — maybe? But I can’t see that happening either. Anything this wins will be a surprise.

 

One Night in Miami
3 nominations

Will win:
Will likely win: Song
Could win:
Won’t win: Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay

Supporting Actor’s not happening and neither should Adapted Screenplay. The only shot this has is Song, which is likely, but not guaranteed. This is either 0 wins or 1 win depending on how Song goes. I say 1 win.

 

Soul
3 nominations

Will win: Animated Feature
Will likely win: Score
Could win: Sound
Won’t win:

Animated Feature’s obviously in the bag and Score seems to be as well. And Sound — not impossible, but it does feel unlikely. So I’ll call this 2 wins, with 3 not totally out of the question.

 

The rest:

  • Another Round will win International Feature (but not Director).
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm could (but likely won’t) win Supporting Actress and won’t win Adapted Screenplay.
  • Collective won’t win International Feature and has an outside shot at Documentary.
  • Emma could win Costume Design and has an outside shot at Makeup & Hairstyling (though both feel unlikely).
  • Hillbilly Elegy has an outside shot at Supporting Actress and likely won’t win Makeup & Hairstyling.
  • Mulan could (but likely won’t) win Costume Design and has an (also unlikely) outside shot at Visual Effects.
  • Pinocchio could win Makeup & Hairstyling and likely won’t win Costume Design.
  • Tenet should win Visual Effects and likely won’t win Production Design.
  • Greyhound has a shot at Sound, but a long one.
  • The Life Ahead has a very good shot at winning Song.
  • The United States vs. Billie Holiday has an outside shot at Actress.
  • My Octopus Teacher will most likely win Documentary Feature, with Crip Camp the most likely alternate.
  • Hunger Ward feels most likely to win Documentary Short, with A Love Song for Latasha also being a solid contender there and Do Not Split also having a legitimate shot.
  • The most likely winners of Live Action Short are Two Distant Strangers, The Letter Room or White EyeThe Present and Feeling Through also legitimately have a shot at well.
  • If Anything Happens I Love You should win Animated Short. Burrow could also win.

– – – – –

Final tally as I see it:

  • Nomadland — 4 wins (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography)
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — 3 wins (Actor, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling)
  • Promising Young Woman — 2 wins (Actress, Original Screenplay)
  • Sound of Metal — 2 wins (Editing, Sound)
  • Soul — 2 wins (Score, Animated Feature)
  • Another Round — 1 win (International Feature)
  • Judas and the Black Messiah — 1 win (Supporting Actor)
  • Mank — 1 win (Production Design)
  • Minari — 1 win (Supporting Actress)
  • One Night in Miami — 1 win (Song)
  • Tenet — 1 win (Visual Effects)

And then, My Octopus Teacher in Documentary Feature, Hunger Ward in Documentary Short, Two Distant Straners in Live Action Short and If Anything Happens I Love You in Animated Short.

All right, good talk, I’ll see you out there.

(And guess what? Did it in exactly 15,000 words. Hell yeah.)

– – – – – – – – – –

http://bplusmovieblog.com

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