The accelerated schedule for the next Academy Awards seems to have caught some studios off-guard. A late start can have more dire consequences than usual, and some awards hopefuls will miss a lot of precursors as they’re tinkering with the final product right up until the last possible minute. And some smaller studios have multiple award-worthy projects, but don’t have the resources to mount full campaigns for both. And then there are the films that are actually slotting their performers in the appropriate slots, but end up hurting the film’s chances overall.
Falling off: Ford v Ferrari, Just Mercy, Queen & Slim
Rising star: Bombshell
The skinny: Ford v Ferrari has plenty of good reviews and should be a decent hit at the box office, but I think voters may view it as a little too slight compared to the heavy themes of this slate. Also, now that Damon and Bale are properly being submitted as co-leads, neither is getting nominated. Thus, it seems highly unlikely this would be nominated for Best Picture and nothing else, so it’s looking more like this will only pick up a few technical nods. Just Mercy and Queen & Slim couldn’t be more timely, and both are made by people of color. But late openings and a lack of across-the-board raves have all but killed their buzz. The studios will have to work overtime now just to get an acting nod here or there. Bombshell is also a late arrival, but as more people see it, expect it to fit in where Vice did last year.
Falling off: Melina Matsoukas
Rising star: Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and Glory
The skinny: I feel pretty confident in this slate, though I think Baumbach is on the shakiest ground. It’s not that he’s undeserving, but his film is merely a drama featuring the best acting of the year, and he’s not considered a master of the form like three of these four (with the fourth a previous winner making one of the most technically complex films of the year). If Pain and Glory picks up more traction, expect to hear more about Pedro getting his first nod here since 2002’s Talk to Her.
Falling off: Daniel Kaluuya
Rising star: Taron Egerton, Rocketman
The skinny: It’s a crowded year, but I think this is probably our slate. Now, Paramount and Elton John have been hosting a number of well-attended screenings and events for Rocketman, and as more voters see it there, on screeners or just on VOD, the same people who were impressed enough by Rami Malek to give him the award last year will likely be even more impressed with Taron Egerton’s performance.
Falling off: Jodie Turner-Smith
Rising star: Alfre Woodard, Clemency
The skinny: Best Actress doesn’t have as much competition this year, so I feel pretty confident in these five. Alfre Woodard got raves for her turn in Clemency, but it’s also arriving after Christmas and Neon will be focused on Parasite. It’s her and Awkwafina currently on the outside looking in.
Falling off: Christian Bale (moved to lead), Jamie Foxx
Rising star: Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
The skinny: There are a lot of guys hoping to get in here, some of whom have never won or even been nominated. But don’t be surprised if this ends up being four guys who have won before, plus Brad Pitt.
Falling off: Annette Bening
Rising star: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dolemite Is My Name
The skinny: This category is going to be these five ladies, with Annette Bening possibly taking one of the slots. There isn’t a strong seventh. Da’Vine Joy Randolph got some good notices for Dolemite Is My Name, but at the Oscars that film’s best hope is Costume Design from reigning winner Ruth E. Carter.
Falling off: Queen & Slim, The Two Popes (moved to adapted)
Rising star: Knives Out
The skinny: There’s still the possibility The Farewell will be ruled as an adapted screenplay, which would really throw a wrench into things. So look to Knives Out as the dark horse. The film has received rapturous reviews, should play as good Thanksgiving counter-programming, and I think is looking more and more likely to pick up a Best Ensemble nod from the Screen Actors Guild Awards. It won’t get anything else, so this would be a good place to honor a well-regarded film from a great director whose non-Star Wars films have never been recognized.
Falling off: Just Mercy
Rising star: Joker
The skinny: Hustlers is in the most danger here, and as Warner Bros. pushes Joker hard, it’s possible it gets that nod Logan did a few years back, quality be damned. But the other four are essentially locks.
Falling off: Abominable
Rising star: I Lost My Body
The skinny: There’s always a hand-crafted film here, and Missing Link will take that slot, even though very few people saw it. I Lost My Body is Netflix’s big entry, and it could ride the wave of its three Best Picture nominees and almost certainly a Best Documentary Feature nominee as well.