Final 93rd Academy Award Predictions

Well folks, the longest awards season in history is about to enter its final stretch. This Monday, the Academy will announce the final nominations for the 93rdAcademy Awards, and we will begin the final countdown to the Best Picture of 2020. I’ve been doing my best to cover this crazy, crazy season throughout the year (ok, it hasn’t been great, but it’s a global pandemic. Sue me), and it all leads up to this. So, who’s in, who’s out, and who’s poised for an upset? Let’s break everything down, category by category.

In order to break down the changes in the race, we need to look at the recent guild awards and Academy shortlists, because they are the best indicators of what the 10,000 Oscar voters are thinking. Normally, 4/5 nominees match the eventual lineup, with one outlier (usually a frontrunner, like The Revenant or Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. After the shortlists and guild nominations, we have a glimpse at what’s hot, what’s not, and what’s in a decent position. For example, Mank and Ma Rainey are likely feeling pretty good with themselves – they hit almost every precursor around. This isn’t really that surprising, considering they are two technical darlings with lots of nominations to spare. Minari and News of the World both had solid runs, although News of the World’s inability to land key nominations certainly puts it in a troubling situation. Other films have rocky roads ahead of them – for example, Promising Young Woman and The Trial of the Chicago 7 had a terrible day with the Academy shortlists, but the guilds really loved both films. And then there are the films looking to sneak up on us, like Jingle Jangle, Birds of Prey, and The Little Things, which keep popping up on lists without any rhyme or reason. Oh, and while it is impossible to include box office reports for this year, we do have streaming reports that tell us which films were most watched on Netflix, as well as which films were the most popular on rental sites. For example, Da 5 Bloods struggled with nominations from the guilds, but it’s one of Netflix’s most popular films. The same goes for Chicago 7, which is looking to have an excellent Monday. And if audience support were a clear indicator, I’d be shocked if News of the World and Promising Young Woman were left out. Now, with that all settled, let’s get into my updates for the top categories at this year’s Academy Awards.

The Top Awards

For the most part, the top races are pretty much sewn up. Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Mank are going to be your frontrunners, as well as your prediction leaders. All three will receive acting nominations, Director nominations, and writing nominations, and Nomadland will do nicely in Cinematography and Editing while Chicago and Mank sweep the technical (look for Chicago in Production Design, Editing, and maybe Costumes and Cinematography, while Mank should be…everywhere else). I’d also say it’d be foolish to bet against One Night In Miami…, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and especially Minari. All three are guild favorites, and I’d say that Ma Rainey will likely dominate the technical categories (Best Adapted Screenplay, Costumes, and Makeup) while the other two focus on the top categories. Miami… has a Supporting Actor, Original Song, and Adapted Screenplay nod in the bag, and is a major Editing contender (although I’m not sold yet). But it’s Minari I want to keep an eye on. Lee Isaac Chung’s quiet, intimate drama is quickly climbing the charts to compete for the top prize, and not only have I switched Steven Yeun for Delroy Lindo in Best Actor, but I’ve moved Minari into Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Score. If it gets a Best Cinematography or Best Editing nomination, this could be a whole different race.

The biggest surprise of the season thus far has to be Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman. While there have been rumblings since December that the Academy really loved this film, the nasty, scathing indictment of modern-day society never felt like it could be a real Oscar contender. Now? It could win the whole kit and caboodle. Fennell is a frontrunner for Best Original Screenplay, could sneak into Best Director (it’s her or Regina King, there’s no way the Academy goes for both), Mulligan is a likely Best Actress contender, and after its ACE nomination yesterday, I’d call it a likely Best Editing contender. If it can nab a Production Design or Costume Design nomination, it’s an open and shut case. Now, that’s a solid seven nominees, and the Academy could end up going with seven in such a weird, tough year. But if we’re looking at things based on history, there are at least two more slots to fill. And unfortunately, there are six films fighting for it: Da 5 Bloods, Judas and the Black Messiah, Sound of Metal, The Father, The Mauritanian, and News of the World. I’d be shocked if News of the World didn’t get in, just based on the way the Academy loves it. But don’t look for it to be the powerhouse it was once perceived to be: it should cap out with nominations for Best Original Score, Cinematography, Production Design, and Sound (we’ll get to Adapted Screenplay in a minute).

Which leaves one slot remaining. Now, the Brits have been very adamant about The Father and The Mauritanian, and both films could make a splash in the race. But I think it’s too late for The Mauritanian, while The Father’s botched campaign could leave it in just Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay (if it nabs Best Editing, it could get into Picture, though). I’ve been counting on Judas all season long, and I still think it’s a major frontrunner in Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Song, a likely contender for Best Original Screenplay, and maybe even a Best Cinematography contender. But sadly, one of the year’s best films just doesn’t seem to have the juice to get over the finish line. So I’m going with a film that has major support, Sound of Metal. Amazon has successfully borrowed Whiplash’s playlist for Metal, and the film could very easily end up with a Best Picture nomination alongside its Best Actor, Best Sound Design, and Best Editing locks. I’ve already conceded that critical darling Paul Raci will likely get that fifth Best Supporting Actor slot over my beloved Bill Murray. It’s coming on strong as a contender, and I think it’s one we’ll have to watch out for. Other major changes include Andra Day getting in over Zendaya after her surprise Golden Globe win, and a suggestion to watch for Jodie Foster or Dominique Fishback in Supporting Actress – Globe and BAFTA support is certainly worth watching.

Best Screenplay

There’s not much to say about the Screenplay categories. It’s mostly a matter of “Which four Best Picture nominees are getting in, plus one weird outlier?” Best Original Screenplay is pretty much locked up with Chicago 7, Promising Young Woman, Minari, and Mank all likely to get in. The only question is if Judas and the Black Messiah gets pushed out in favor of Sound of Metal or an off-the-wall choice, like Palm Springs (I’d take that over Mank any day). But Best Adapted Screenplay is where things get interesting. Oscar frontrunners One Night In Miami…, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Nomadland are your likely frontrunners here, and it’s a major snub if any of them miss out. I’d also say The Father is safe – much of that film’s success is in the strength of that script. But who’s nabbing that last slot?

If the Academy’s feeling lazy, it could be an Oscar frontrunner, like News of the World or The Mauritanian. Or they could go with a critical darling, like the trippy I’m Thinking of Ending Things. For a while I toyed with the idea of First Cow earning a nomination, based on a long-held NYFCC stat. But at the end of the day, I’m looking to the ballsy choices. The Academy loves a weird script, whether it’s humans falling in love with robos in Her or Tommy Wiseau making a movie in The Room. This could mean that Borat Subsequent Moviefilm makes the list – after all, we know the Academy nominated the first film, and reportedly loved the sequel. But I think they’ll go for something a little more highbrow: the twisty, turning Goodfellas-meets-Parasite smash hit The White Tiger. Maybe I’m reading too far into Priyanka Chopra Jonas announcing the nominees on Monday, but the film was a hit with both the WGA and the BAFTAs – I think it’s a pretty safe bet.

Best Music

The musical categories, consisting of Best Original Score and Song, are already gearing up to be some of the most competitive of the night. While Original Score’s shortlist boasted few surprises (mainly just Blizzard of Souls, a Latvian drama), it’s still a head-scratcher over who gets in. Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor are beloved in the industry, so I think a dual nomination is likely for their work on Mank and Soul. Score is also News of the World’s best chance at a win come Oscar night, so I’d say it’s a solid third choice. But after that, things get tricky. I think Tenet is safe, although it’s got an uphill climb for reasons I’ll get into later. This leaves three films: Da 5 Bloods, Minari, and The Midnight Sky. Alexandre Desplat may be too beloved to pass over Sky, but I’m giving the edge to Minari – its simple beauty drives the film, and it’ll mark what I believe will be a strong Monday showing.

Meanwhile, Best Original Song is a literal bloodbath. Frontrunners like Over The Moon (“Ultraluminary”), The Outpost (“Everybody Cries”), Trolls (“Just Sing”), The Prom (“Wear Your Crown”), no Taylor Swift song, and Andra Day’s Golden Globe-nominated song “Tigress and Tweed” all missed out. Meanwhile, comedic jams like Eurovision’s hauntingly beautiful “Husavik” and Borat’s scathingly funny “Wuhan Flu” both made the cut. As much as I’d love to see both songs make the cut, I think only the more-serious “Husavik” will make it in (in lieu of “Ja Ja Ding Dong”) along with Oscary fare like Leslie Odom Jr.’s One Night In Miami… song, Judas’ retro protest anthem, and Janelle Monae’s toe-tapping theme to All In. As for who will win, my money’s on the most-nominated writer of all time, Diane Warren, for “Io Sí,’” The Life Ahead’s lone nomination. If Chicago 7, Minari, or Sound of Metal manages to sneak in, we’re looking at a much more interesting Oscar ceremony than we thought.

Other Feature Categories

When it comes to the triple threat of International Feature, Animated Feature, and Documentary Feature, only the latter stands out as a real mystery. Best Animated Feature will likely see Disney (Soul and Onward) compete with an indie darling (Wolfwalkers), and you can throw in a Netflix film and Japanese film for good measure – here, those roles are filled by Over the Moon and Earwig and the Witch (watch out for The Croods 2 and Shaun The Sheep – their predecessors received Academy love). Similarly, Best International Feature featured few surprises, although the delightful The Mole Agent making it over Never Gonna Snow Again and Notturno certainly caught me off-guard. Consider Another Round, Dear Comrades, and Collective to be your only locks, while La Llorona and Two of Usseem very likely as consensus “What else are we gonna choose?” picks.

But that brings us to Documentary, which was shaken to its core when frontrunners like The Dissident (which likely missed out due to pressure by Saudi Arabia), Totally Under Control (which seemd like an anti-Trump shoo-in), and Athlete A(which likely missed due to Netflix’s focus elsewhere) all missed out on the shortlist. At this point, any of these fifteen could make it in, and it all comes down to how the Academy is feeling when they vote: optimistic, like The Truffle Hunters and The Octopus Teacher, incisive, like The Mole Agent and Boys State, or depressed, like 76 Days and MLK/FBI. I’d say the three safest choices are the delightful Dick Johnson Is Dead, one of the year’s best films, All In: The Fight For Democracy, which will give the Academy an excuse to honor and nominate the film’s star and producer, Stacey Abrams, and Collective, a depressing political thriller that’s being hailed as one of the year’s best films. Crip Camp also feels like a safe bet – it’s a feel-good hit, and has Barack Obama’s Academy Award-winning studio behind it. Which brings us to Time, the biggest question mark of the race. Time is by far the most beloved documentary in the race, with several critics awards backing it up. Which makes it the perfect film to get snubbed tomorrow. From Hoop Dreams to Apollo 11 to Stories We Tell, the critical darling of the documentary race has a lengthy history of being overlooked, and there’s a good chance Time goes the same way. I’m keeping it for now, but if there’s a snub coming, it’ll be here.

And The Rest

Finally, we come to the tech predictions, and it is here we must take two important pieces of information into account. First, it is a widely known fact that the Academy is sort of lethargic and apathetic with this year’s choices, like a man with low testosterone. When there’s a sense of apathy in the Academy, the choices become very…cynical. Look at last year: when the voters were forced to vote in a shortened half-month period, the end result was the same five or six films nominated for everything. Expect something similar to happen this year. Second, I’ve heard on good authority a rumor, seemingly confirmed by guild nominations, that Christopher Nolan refused to let Warner Bros. send out screeners for Tenet because “It’s not the way it was meant to be seen.” That’s all well and good, but if the voters can’t watch the screeners, then your film’s not getting nominated. While Tenet should still earn nominations in Sound, Production Design, and Visual Effects alongside its Score nomination, don’t be surprised if it misses out in Editing and Cinematography – or any of these categories, for that matter.

The technical shortlists were some of the messiest of the bunch, thanks to the hilarity of Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Visual Effects. While frontrunners Ma Rainey, Mank, and Hillbilly Elegy all made the Makeup shortlist, several major contenders ended up on the outside looking in – contenders like Chicago 7, Borat, Promising Young Woman, The Prom, Billie Holiday, and beyond. What’s even funnier is they got pushed out in favor of The Little Things (god I want that dumb little movie to get nominated in every category). I would say the three frontrunners will make the list, along with Birds of Prey, following in Suicide Squad’s Academy Award-winning footsteps (Prey’s makeup is much, much better, FYI), and Pinocchio, considering the film is all Makeup, no CGI. Because why the hell not? As for Visual Effects, the nominating body was even more ruthless than Makeup. Most of the major frontrunners missed out on the shortlist, including The Invisible Man, Greyhound, The Old Guard, Sonic the Hedgehog, and The Secret Garden. They were left out in favor of the YA project Love and Monsters and the critically panned Vin Diesel actioner Bloodshot, because the Academy lives for the chaos. Expect this to be one of Tenet’s few nominations, another nod for Mank, and then fill out the rest of the category with The Midnight Sky (its effects are the best part), The One and Only Ivan (Disney+CGI animals is a surefire lock), and Welcome to Chechnya (a documentary where they reconstructed every interviewee’s face to keep them from getting hunted by the government).

The Sound categories are where things start to get more interesting, in that there are no categories. Last spring, the Academy finally bit the bullet and merged Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing because even the members of those branches couldn’t tell the difference. While I’ll miss the Sound Mixing category terribly (at least I think that’s the one that got axed), it does make things easier with my predictions. Just pick the things that either sound coolest (Mank, Sound of Metal), or the things that go boom loudest (News of the World, maybe Tenet). Oh, and with its Visual Effects nomination now lost to the ether, expect Greyhound to earn its love in the Sound category. The “aesthetic” categories – Production Design, Cinematography, and Costume Design – are all likely to consist of the same Oscar period pieces. Mank and Ma Rainey will appear in all three. News of the World will get Production Design and Cinematography, but likely will miss Costumes. Chicago 7 will likely only in Production Design, although it’s also competitive in both of the other fields. Tenet will fight to compete in all three, but will likely only get Production Design. And One Night In Miami… and Promising Young Woman will fight it out for Best Costumes (I don’t think the Academy will go for Woman’s incredible Costume Design, but who knows). Best Cinematography will be rounded out by Dear Comrades, the black-and-white Russian film, and one of Newton Thomas Sigel’s two contenders – I’m hoping for Da 5 Bloods, but it’s probably gonna be Cherry. As for Costumes, just pick the two oldest-looking contenders, because Oscar loves a gown – I’m going with Mulan and Emma.

Finally, there’s Best Editing. This is the most important category to watch, because it decides the Oscar. Don’t believe me? With one exception, no film has won Best Picture without an Editing nomination since Ordinary People in 1980. It’s how we knew that Once Upon a Time In Hollywood was going to lose last year, and how we knew that Spotlight had the juice in 2015. The only time this rule failed us was in 2014 for Birdman, a film specifically designed to look like it wasn’t edited. Whoever gets nominated here will stand the best chance of winning Best Picture. Therefore, expect your three frontrunners to make an appearance: Chicago 7, which will probably win, Mank, which will get in because of course, and Nomadland, which has the added bonus of supporting Chloé Zhao’s victory lap (she will personally be nominated in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing. Which leaves us with two slots. The question is, who gets them? Will the Academy lean cool, like Tenet and The Father? Will they go comedic like Palm Springs, or artsy like Minari? Most likely, they’ll go with a little of everything, choosing artsy, cool outsiders Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal. With the former, the Academy loves a well-edited comedy (well, in this case, “comedy”), thus giving the film a unique edge for the nomination. With Sound of Metal, there’s precedent in Whiplash’s surprise nomination in 2014 for a sharply-cut, heart-tugging drama, which should help Metal over the finish line (I’d argue Whiplash is a perfectly edited movie while Metal isn’t, but I digress). And as always, the Shorts categories are a hot mess, so just pick the things that sound most interesting/political and throw them in. “Ooh, this one has abortion in the title, that’s a lock.” Something like that.

So that’s where we are with this race. I hope you’ve enjoyed traveling with me so far during this crazy, troubling awards season. I’m sorry I haven’t been as on top of the predictions as I should have been – hopefully I’ll pick things up going forward. The nominees will be announced on Monday at 8:19 a.m. EST by Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Jonas via the Oscar’s YouTube page (no word yet on a Good Morning America appearance). I’ll have the nominations up in real time, as well as a write-up later in the day. Until then, you can check out my updated predictions over here. I will see you all back here on Monday, bright and early, with the results. Get ready, everyone! It’s finally happening!

Best Picture

  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Mank
  • Minari
  • News of the World
  • Nomadland
  • One Night In Miami…
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Sound of Metal
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Actor

  • Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
  • Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Anthony Hopkins – The Father
  • Gary Oldman – Mank
  • Steven Yeun – Minari

Best Actress

  • Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday
  • Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
  • Frances McDormand – Nomadland
  • Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Best Supporting Actor

  • Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago Seven
  • Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
  • Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Leslie Odom Jr – One Night In Miami…
  • Paul Raci – Sound of Metal

Best Supporting Actress

  • Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  • Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy
  • Olivia Colman – The Father
  • Amanda Seyfried – Mank
  • Youn Yuh-Jung – Minari

Best Director

  • Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
  • David Fincher – Mank
  • Regina King – One Night In Miami…
  • Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Chloé Zhao – Nomadland

Best Original Screenplay

  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Mank
  • Minari
  • Promising Young Woman
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Father
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Nomadland
  • One Night In Miami…
  • The White Tiger

Best Animated Feature

  • Earwig and the Witch
  • Onward
  • Over The Moon
  • Soul
  • Wolfwalkers

Best International Feature

  • Another Round
  • Dear Comrades
  • Collective
  • La Llorona
  • Two of Us

Best Documentary Feature

  • All In: The Fight For Democracy
  • Collective
  • Crip Camp
  • Dick Johnson Is Dead
  • Time

Best Documentary Short

  • Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa
  • Colette
  • A Concerto Is A Conversation
  • Do Not Split
  • A Love Song For Latasha

Best Animated Short

  • Burrow
  • If Anything Happens I Love You
  • Opera
  • The Snail and the Whale
  • To Gerald

Best Live Action Short

  • Da Yie
  • The Human Voice
  • The Present
  • Two Distant Strangers
  • White Eve

Best Original Score

  • Mank
  • Minari
  • News of the World
  • Soul
  • Tenet

Best Original Song

  • “Fight For Me” – Judas and the Black Messiah
  • “Husavik” – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
  • “Io Si (Seen)” – The Life Ahead
  • “Speak Now” – One Night In Miami…
  • “Turntables” – All In: The Fight For Democracy

Best Sound

  • Greyhound
  • Mank
  • News of the World
  • Sound of Metal
  • Tenet

Best Production Design

  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Mank
  • News of the World
  • Tenet
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Cinematography

  • Da 5 Bloods
  • Dear Comrades
  • Mank
  • News of the World
  • Nomadland

Best Costume Design

  • Emma.
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Mank
  • Mulan
  • One Night In Miami…

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
  • Hillbilly Elegy
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Mank
  • Pinocchio

Best Film Editing

  • Mank
  • Nomadland
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Sound of Metal
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Visual Effects

  • Mank
  • The Midnight Sky
  • The One And Only Ivan
  • Tenet
  • Welcome To Chechnya

Mank – 13
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – 7
One Night In Miami… – 7
Nomadland – 6
Minari – 6
The Trial of the Chicago 7 – 6
Sound of Metal – 5
News of the World – 5
Promising Young Woman – 4
The Father – 3
Judas and the Black Messiah – 3
Tenet – 3
All In: The Fight For Democracy – 2
Collective – 2
Da 5 Bloods – 2
Dear Comrades – 2
Hillbilly Elegy – 2
Soul – 2

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