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. (more…)
Today is Best Actress, the single most wide open acting category in years. We thought Supporting Actress was gonna be the difficult category this year and that turned into a veritable walk in the park compared to this. The last category I can remember off the top of my head being this wide open was maybe Best Supporting Actor 2012 (between Waltz, Jones, Hoffman, De Niro and Arkin).
We have, for the first time since Best Supporting Actress 2000, a situation where every single precursor has gone to a different nominee. Though whereas in 2000, the fifth nominee (who won without any precursors) wasn’t nominated anywhere else, here, the fifth nominee was. So you’re left with four people who split and the fifth who’s lost everything. Which means you’re either picking who makes the most sense on paper or which precursor feels most impactful. Which means… you’re basically just guessing and hoping for the best.
So let’s just get into the guessing. (more…)
And now Best Editing. This is one of the few categories this year that feels like it’s actually pretty open and can have multiple legitimate winners. Each year, you generally have your locks, your wide open stuff (which are usually the shorts and categories like that), your ‘it’ll almost definitely be this, but this other one could beat it’ categories and then your categories where you’re like ‘I know it’ll be this or this, but I have no idea which is more likely’. That’s what Editing is this year.
Let’s get into it. (more…)
Today is Best Live Action Short, which oscillates between years of an absolute clear winner and years of ‘fuck if I know, any of these five can win’. This year is one of the latter years. So, while most years you should be fully prepared to do horribly in this category because it is one of the most unpredictable categories there is, you should especially be ready for that to happen.
The thing about Live Action Short is that there are no precursor and it’s a category based entirely around people’s tastes. Which, if you’ve been around Hollywood at all, you realize that most people don’t actually have any taste (and if they do, it’s usually bad) and that a lot of their decision-making is reactionary based on what’s making money, what seems to be popular and what other people are saying is the best thing. So a category like this makes you have to think ‘okay, who’s actually watching all the nominees and casting a vote (whether it’s them or their assistant) and which seems like it’ll get the most votes?’ Which, as I said earlier… is a dicey proposition this year. (more…)
Today is Best Sound. We’re used to this being Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Which is how things have been for roughly 60 years. The Sound Editing category started in 1963, but after a few initial years disappeared for a while until Star Wars and blockbusters started happening, and it’s basically been a mainstay since 1982. Though they didn’t really take it all that seriously until 2006, since before then it had maximum three nominees in it. So we only had about 14 years of two Sound categories, five nominees apiece. And what did they notice was happening? By the end, nobody could tell the categories apart and the same stuff started getting nominated in both and then most years the same film would win both categories. So they made the executive decision to just combine the two back into a singular Best Sound category, which was something suggested by the sound branch of the Academy, so it’s not like they took it away from them or anything.
And so now, while we do have something new and we do have to figure two sets of ideologies competing in the same category (because remember, it was always — musicals win Mixing and war movies win Editing), we also have two sound guilds handing out precursors and BAFTA. So instead of all the cat juggling we used to have to do to figure all this out, now we have a wealth of information and only need to figure out a single category. We’ll see how these first few years go, but I imagine our lives just got a whole lot easier.
Here’s Best Sound: (more…)
Today is Best Documentary. Initially I tried to schedule this as late as humanly possible because this was one category I had zero idea about what was gonna happen. But, in the past ten days, this went from ‘I have no clue’ to ‘Oh, this is gonna win’. Which isn’t a gimme, but it sure does make it a lot easier to think about this one and not start to get panicked that any one of the five can win.
I am curious, though, if most people have any kind of rooting interest in this category or even knowledge of most of these nominees. I feel like unless you went out of your way to watch stuff… there wasn’t that one galvanizing documentary that it feels like there usually is (even if that doc usually gets left off this category). But that could just be a product of what this past year was.
Either way, here’s Doc Feature: (more…)
Today is Best Cinematography, a category that was not overly straightforward when trying to guess the nominees, but one I am very pleased about because I managed to guess all five nominees. There aren’t many things related to the Oscars and guessing stuff that make me legitimately happy, but being able to guess nominees 5/5 in a category that’s not so obvious going in is definitely one of them.
This isn’t the usual flashiness we tend to get in this category, but all five are a real solid set of nominees. ASC, the cinematographers guild, doesn’t actually announce a winner until tomorrow night, but even so, I think we’ve got enough evidence to be pretty certain how this one’s gonna go. (more…)
Today is Best Supporting Actress, a category that began as something you really weren’t sure about to now probably one of the safer categories of the night. Which is why I always tell people not to make any decisions about things until all the information is in. Too often do people overreact to one piece of the puzzle without looking at the entire thing.
A month ago, you’d have had absolutely no idea who was gonna win this category. Two weeks ago, you’d have went, “Wait, is she really gonna win this?” And now, you go, “Oh, yeah, she’s gonna win. That makes total sense. It feels a bit like the escape in Cast Away. Where all he had to do was get over those initial rough waters and as long as he could weather that it was all smooth ocean from there on out.
Anyway, here’s Best Supporting Actress: (more…)
Today is Best Production Design.
Funnily enough, when scheduling out these categories, I thought to myself ‘Costumes seem easier than Production Design, so I should put that first and then wait on BAFTA for Production Design’. Turns out, Production Design is one of the easiest categories on the night and Costumes is actually up for debate. Oh well.
Either way, we’ve gotta deal with this now, and based on how the precursors have gone, this should be a pretty straightforward one on the night. Which is good, since the more easy ones you have, it gives you more time to consider what you’re gonna do for the hard ones. (more…)
Today is Best Makeup & Hairstyling, a category that’s quietly gone over a bit of an overhaul the past few years that nobody noticed. Just three years ago, there were only three nominees in this category and no real precursor help to speak of. Now we’ve got it all — a shortlist, five nominees, three major precursors… and still generally the same stuff winning every year.
This year presents us with an intriguing referendum on the integrity of voters. Because we know they love actor transformations in this category, almost as much as they love ‘how did they do that’ makeup effects. So here, we have our classic actor transformation alongside a stunning achievement in makeup effects. However, one of those films is a foreign film. So now you have to wonder — are voters actually gonna watch all the nominees like they’re supposed to before they vote in this category? Or are they simply gonna vote for what they know and not consider the foreign film because it hasn’t come across their radar?
That’s what lies before us in this year’s Makeup & Hairstyling category. (more…)
Today is Best Original Screenplay, a category I wanted to wait on the BAFTAs to go over, just in case they decided to go against how the tide in this one was already going.
In the end, we’ve got a pretty straightforward one, and it’s pretty clear which choice is gonna win and who’s gonna win if that one doesn’t. You really couldn’t ask for better help than that.
So here’s what this one looks like: (more…)
Today we go over Best Director, a category we arguably could’ve gone over a week ago and nothing would’ve changed.
But hey, at least now we’ve got both DGA and BAFTA in, and they’ve confirmed what we already knew, so this one’s basically a walk in the park and there’s not much we need to discuss. (more…)
Today is Best Adapted Screenplay. A category that, in the 90s, used to dominate the writing categories. Most Best Picture nominees came from this category. But in recent years, that tide has turned. And it feels like now most Picture nominees come from Original, while there’s always those other few who end up here. And because it’s not as overly stacked as it used to be, most years there’s been that overwhelming #1 that you’re almost certain is gonna win.
This year is no different, and we pretty much know where this one’s gonna go and we really don’t need to waste too much time talking about it. (more…)
Today’s category is Best Original Score, which has largely been a really solid category throughout the years. And the reason I know that is because, even since they’ve started announcing a shortlist for the category, even those have been solid. Sure, like International Feature this year, there are a couple of entries on there that are more about the stature of the composers more than the scores themselves, but that’s why you have a shortlist of 15. To be able to have that extra padding. Overall, these categories have been really good most years and while I can quibble about some of their choices of winners, they generally get it right in terms of the nominees.
This year, we get a nice mix of great scores, respected composers and overall good movies represented. And, like most years, while I can quibble one choice over another, it’s a really nice list that really feels like it cares about quality above all else. And you have to respect that, especially given the ups and downs this branch has had in the Original Song category over the years. (more…)
Today is Best Costume Design. Normally I’d wait to go over a category like this until I see what BAFTA and the guild have to say, but given how this one looks I think we can make pretty solid guesses as to how it’s gonna turn out. If things change based on those other two, then we can recalibrate. But until then, we’re just gonna follow the usual logic for this category — follow the frills.
Everybody knows what normally wins in Costume Design, and I bet most people just glancing at all five nominees in this category will know automatically what’s most likely to win. That’s really the only kind of logic you need most of the time. (more…)
Today is Best Supporting Actor, a category that has been really solid in recent years. And also really easy to guess. This year is no different. We basically know who’s gonna win from a mile out. Which really just means that I have to figure out what the hell to say here to justify an intro rather than a one-sentence article.
Honestly, I don’t really have anything. So let’s just get into the category. (more…)
Today we’re going over Best Original Song. And the beauty of this category is that everyone can participate in it. You simply just have to listen to 5 songs and then pick which one you think is the best.
It’s weird because there aren’t any real precursors for this category and you’re pretty much just going based on what you think everyone’s tastes are gonna be, and yet almost every single year you pretty much know “Okay, this should win, but in case it doesn’t, this is gonna win instead.” It’s weird how that works out. But then, I guess Academy members are ultimately pretty predictable.
I’m not sure if this is one of the categories affected by the pandemic or if it’s just a weak year in film songs. Either way, we’ve got a pretty forgettable category here that came from a pretty forgettable shortlist. So this is a situation where we’re just gonna do our best and try to get through it. (more…)
Today is Best Animated Short. I know most people tune out during the shorts categories, but this one at least has cute stuff in it, so maybe some people pay a little bit of attention during it. Though I know most people could care less about them.
Most of the time this category is fairly easy to pick apart. You know Pixar or Disney is one of the top two most likely to win and then you have to decide if it’s gonna beat the other emotionally-affecting short that’s on the list. Most years you’ve got a really solid hold on the category and at worst it’s usually ‘will A win or will B win’?
This one feels kinda like that, though maybe more skewed toward ‘A should win, but… Pixar…” Which the argument I feel like I’m usually having when I pick this category every year. (more…)
Today’s category is Best Documentary Short, which is one of those categories the average viewer doesn’t know anything about and either just sort of guesses or looks up what people are saying is gonna win. But contrary to popular opinion, this is generally a pretty easy category to guess. I’ve started telling people — one of three things wins this category year in and year out: people in third-world countries overcoming dire circumstances, people with mental illness overcoming it to create art, or the occasional Holocaust short. That’s pretty much all that wins here. Go back and look at the winners. There’s maybe like one short over the past 15 years that falls out of that pattern.
Most years a clear winner presents itself just when you talk about what each is about. It’s really not that bad. This year is interesting because we’ve got a few interesting scenarios at play here. (more…)
Today we go over Best Actor. Which, when I think back over this category in the years I’ve covered these awards (or even watched them seriously), it’s hard for me to think of many categories that felt like legitimate toss-ups. Most of the time there’s a clear winner and then a nominal second choice and then sometimes we get the one versus the other, but the precursors tend to heavily favor one over the other, so you’re generally pretty sure how that’s gonna turn out. Which is odd to me, given how major a category this is.
This year feels like it’s another one of those situations where we all know what’s gonna happen going in, and it’s less about who’s going to win as much as it’s about appreciating who’s going to win and the impact they had on the film industry in such a short time. (more…)
Today’s category is Best Visual Effects, which is the single most compromised category this year. Which isn’t its fault. We had a pandemic and theaters were closed and a lot of films got pushed a year. And the films that are most affected by theaters being closed are the big budget effects films. So the crop of films for this year was admittedly very weak. Most years we get a longlist of 20 and then the shortlist of 10. This year we didn’t even get the longlist and the shortlist of 10 had at least three or four choices that wouldn’t have made it past the list of 20 any other year.
In the end we get a category that’s likely to go down as one of the more forgettable Visual Effects categories, but given that there’s a very obvious and clear choice at the top I’m not sure people will notice it. (more…)
We continue our category breakdowns with Best International Feature. They’ve been tweaking this one a bunch in recent years and all of the changes seem to be impacting this category for the better.
On top of changing the name of the category to be more inclusive, they increased the shortlist from 9 to 10 last year and this year increased it from 10 to 15. I’m not sure that change was meant to be permanent but I can’t see why it wouldn’t be. It eliminates all of the nonsense they had to implement about ‘executive committee saves’ and all that. Because, if you remember, after I believe 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days didn’t make the shortlist despite being one of the consensus best films of that year, they implemented a system whereby the top six vote-getters would automatically make the shortlist but reserved three spots for ‘saves’, which allowed the heads of the branch to basically pick three other movies to automatically make the shortlist no matter how many votes they got. Which kept a lot of higher profile films in competition and also seemingly allowed them to get a lot of newer countries into the fray, rather than having the category just be France, Germany, Italy and Russia every year. But now, making the shortlist 15 allows all those higher profile films to make the shortlist and allows for more countries to make it on.
This year, I think the only negative about the expanded shortlist was that there were about 3-4 spots that clearly were just people voting for directors they respected rather than simply quality of film. But other than that, it feels like this is as close to improvement this category’s seen in a long time (since people not watching more than a small handful of films is an Academy-wide problem. So you can’t expect this category to be the outlier). (more…)
And we’re finally on the downhill. It’ll be category breakdowns every single day from here on out and then it’s Oscar weekend, baby.
Since the theme of this year is brevity, I’m not gonna do the whole rigamarole I normally do. We’re gonna focus on this year and this category and only discuss what we need to know to figure it out. It’s just gonna be how we got this category, what general information you need to know and a ranking of how likely each nominee is to win at the present moment.
We begin with Best Animated Feature, because that is one of the most locked categories of the entire night and we really don’t need to stress about it all that much.