A Year On From Bong Joon-Ho’s Tour-De-Force PARASITE’S Big Night, Who’s Looking Good For This Year’s Oscars?
It’s been just over a year since us Brits woke up to the welcome news that the Oscars had crowned Bong Joon-ho’s tour-de-force Parasite as Best Picture.
A bit has happened since then. Cinema has been battling an existential threat. Theatres have shuttered, and buses still drift by with last spring’s tired The Invisible Man posters stuck to their sides.
But great films have continued to see the light of day. And, as ever, the Academy wants to pick a winner. The Awards Show must go on.
The Oscars may have been pushed back by a couple months, but we are now - officially - knee-deep in an awards season like no other. And with the Golden Globes and SAGs announcing their nominees over the last week, what better time to take a look at the state of play and run an eye over the current Oscar frontrunners…
The HFPA are a law unto themselves, but you can usually rely upon their Best Picture Drama nominees finding their way onto the ballot paper at the Oscars. In the last ten years, 45 of 51 Golden Globe Best Picture Drama nominees have gone on to an Oscar Best Picture nomination. The places of this year’s chosen five on the Academy’s own upcoming list are therefore all but assured.
Nomadland is the clear frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar - its prospects further underlined by its recent London Critics’ Circle success. Promising Young Woman has real momentum behind it, and is probably best placed to spring an upset. The Trial of the Chicago 7 has a strong base of support, while The Father and Mank will also surely be nominated. Mank - exactly the type of big Hollywood on Hollywood project that might have cleaned up a decade ago - has the feel of a film that will get nominated in practically every category but go home empty-handed.
The Golden Globe Best Picture Musical or Comedy category has launched a few films to Oscars glory over the years - including Green Book and The Artist - but is a much less reliable bellwether than the Drama category. Only 42% of nominees have gone on to an Oscar Best Picture nod in the last decade. This year’s nominations range from the head-scratching to the genuinely absurd. The filmed version of the stage-play Hamilton, Palm Springs, The Prom, and one star-magnet Music are all unlikely to make a mark on the Oscars landscape. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm - scourge of Rudy Giuliani - perhaps has an outside shot. High five!
The Screen Actors Guild differed wildly from the HFPA in the nominations for its top prize of SAG Best Ensemble. And it’s here that we’re likely to find the remaining Best Picture contenders. The Trial of the Chicago 7 was the only crossover with the Globes list, with Minari, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Da 5 Bloods, and One Night In Miami all scoring SAG nominations. These four stand a good chance of an Oscar nomination next month. Though was Da 5 Bloods complete shutout at the Globes a sign that its qualities are being forgotten by voters? Its release last summer feels like a very long time ago.
Other films in the mix include the superlative Sound of Metal and Pixar’s much-loved Soul. Judas and The Black Messiah and News of the World were both expected to be a major part of the awards conversation, but middling reviews might just have put paid to their Oscars chances. Their hopes might now rest on individual nominations for the electric Daniel Kaluuya and wunderkind Helena Zengel respectively.
Perhaps the brightest spark from the Golden Globe nominations was the unprecedented sight of three women on the Best Director list. Regina King, Emerald Fennell and strong favourite Chloe Zhao should all go on to secure Oscar nominations, as the Academy takes the first steps in addressing its incredible record of only ever previously nominating five women in the category. Lee Isaac Chung and David Fincher may round off the list, but they’ll face stiff competition from Aaron Sorkin, Florian Zeller, and the evergreen Spike Lee.
In the acting categories, the late great Chadwick Boseman is tipped to win what would be a hugely-popular Best Actor Oscar for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Indeed his performance in Da 5 Bloods could also see Boseman nominated in the Best Supporting category to become the first person to receive two posthumous Oscar nominations in the same year. Other Best Actor contenders include Anthony Hopkins, Steven Yeun, Delroy Lindo, Gary Oldman, Tahar Rahim, and - in what would cap off a sensational year - the brilliant Riz Ahmed.
Frances McDormand is on a seemingly-unstoppable winning streak in the various precursor awards, and stands a real chance of becoming only the seventh person in history to win a third Oscar for their acting. The momentum is with her. Viola Davis and Brits Vanessa Kirby and Carey Mulligan should also get nominations in the Best Actress category. Don’t be surprised to see Mulligan win the BAFTA too. The category’s remaining spot is up for grabs. Andra Day and Amy Adams are deep in the conversation after being picked by the Golden Globes and SAGs respectively. Rosamund Pike might be a wildcard for the upcoming I Care A Lot, and who wouldn’t want to see a nomination for the iconic Sophia Loren? However, expect Zendaya to ultimately clinch it for her searing turn in Malcolm & Marie.
Leslie Odom Jr. is the bookies’ favourite to bring home Best Supporting Actor for his riveting take on Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami. Brits Sacha Baron Cohen and Daniel Kaluuya will likely be his strongest challengers. Chadwick Boseman, Stanley Tucci, Bill Murray, Paul Raci, Mark Rylance, and Lakeith Stanfield are the other names in contention for a nomination.
And finally to Best Supporting Actress - possibly the most open field of them all. Olivia Colman and Youn Yuh-jung arguably hold a slender lead over a chasing pack that includes Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Seyfried, Dominique Fishback, Jodie Foster, and the aforementioned Helena Zengel. There’s a feeling that the great Glenn Close is due a win after seven Oscar nominations, but she surely won’t be taking to the podium on the back of the universally-panned Hillbilly Elegy, however strong her own performance. Don’t rule out the very real possibility that Borat scene-stealer Maria Bakalova pulls off what would be a huge upset.
Mid-February and still early days in the Oscar race. Mad times. All to play for.