Normally, I don’t do intros for these, but on August 8, the Academy announced they’re making some changes to shorten the length of the broadcast. Unfortunately, that shortchanges the brief time in the spotlight for the craftspeople who really make the movies. They’re also adding an “achievement in popular film award.” Until we know what the parameters of that are, I won’t add my predictions. But suffice to say, this could really mess things up.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Mary, Queen of Scots
On the Basis of Sex
The skinny: I used to start with 10, but that doesn’t make much sense. Since modifying their rules, we haven’t had 10 nominees, and right now there’s not a tenth film that makes much sense as a Best Picture nominee. So here are the nine, none of which have even premiered yet. That’s not fair to the excellent films we’ve already gotten, but almost all of these are slated for either big festival premieres or prime release dates.
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Damien Chazelle, First Man
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Steve McQueen, Widows
The skinny: It could be Chazelle vs. Jenkins yet again, with Lanthimos as the lone first-time nominee. While this list is still all dudes, it would be one of the most – if not the most – international slate this category has ever had.
Christian Bale, Backseat
Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Ryan Gosling, First Man
Joaquin Phoenix, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
The skinny: If this line-up holds (which it almost certainly won’t), this would be the first time all five nominees would be for actors playing real-life people. (It almost happened back in 2005, though Clint Eastwood’s boxing coach took Liam Neeson’s spot as Alfred Kinsey.) Bale certainly looks like Dick Cheney, though we’ll see if he’s truly transformed himself, and if Adam McKay’s historical dramedy is received more like Primary Colors or W.
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Viola Davis, Widows
Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex
Saoirse Ronan, Mary, Queen of Scots
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The skinny: Colman would be the lone first-time nominee, and she’s been putting in great work for a long time, though mostly on television. Viola Davis and Saoirse Ronan now seem like perennial nominees, though Felicity Jones is likely the frontrunner, playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Armie Hammer, On the Basis of Sex
Jonah Hill, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Sam Rockwell, Backseat
The skinny: Always a jam-packed category, so it’s certainly possible none of these five men will find themselves here again. Though fresh off a win in this category, Rockwell (as President George W. Bush) seems the closest to a lock. Then again, Richard E. Grant, the very definition of dry British wit, could be the surprise nominee and dark horse candidate.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Backseat
Claire Foy, First Man
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Margot Robbie, Mary, Queen of Scots
Emma Stone, The Favourite
The skinny: Amy Adams could finally win a long-overdue Oscar as Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney. Though she’ll face stiff competition from Regina King – an Emmy powerhouse – and Margot Robbie, who probably should be lead, but will almost certainly be moved here. Emma Stone, in another possible lead role, would be more of a threat if she hadn’t just won for La La Land.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
On the Basis of Sex
Sorry to Bother You
The skinny: Sorry to Bother You is the wild card. It might be too out-there for the Academy, but its recently inducted larger block of younger and more diverse voters might be able to reward it here. There are still at least a dozen smaller movies from the first half of the year that deserve a look, but will almost certainly be overshadowed.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Front Runner
If Beale Street Could Talk
The skinny: The Front Runner is the big question mark. Jason Reitman’s Gary Hart biopic could be a much more formidable threat if it’s well-received at TIFF. If it’s not, there are plenty more films waiting for a shot (including my beloved Annihilation).
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The skinny: There will be an independent movie that will knock one of these off (probably The Grinch), but until we know which one that will be, this slate is set.
Random Sure Things
Costume Design: Black Panther
Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Original Song: Hearts Beat Loud
Documentary Feature: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Sound Editing: A Quiet Place