Too Early for This: Oscar Picks – September 2021

Don’t Look Up
House of Gucci
The Humans
King Richard
Licorice Pizza
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog
The Tragedy of Macbeth

The skinny: The Academy finally did the right thing and pushed the number of nominees in this category back to an even 10. Even with a shortened eligibility window (just March to December this year), there are a lot of studios seeking to make up for lost time. Even so, almost all of these will crowd up the last two months of the year. Belfast is the default front runner, since it just won People’s Choice at Toronto, but there’s a lot of race left to go.

Leos Carax, Annette
Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza
Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley
Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

The skinny: While Annette is divisive and unlikely to be nominated for anything except Original Song, Carax is the front-runner for that “respected international director whose movie wasn’t as warmly received by the Academy at large” slot. Though if The Hero keeps getting the kind of rapturous praise that greeted A Separation and The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi could easily take it.

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog
Adam Driver, House of Gucci
Andrew Garfield, Tick Tick Boom
Will Smith, King Richard
Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

The skinny: All of these guys have previously been nominated, but only Denzel has won. Only he and Smith are locks at this point, but this feels pretty comfortable given how it’s a typically “weak” year for the kinds of turns the Academy goes for.

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Lady Gaga, House of Gucci
Jennifer Hudson, Respect
Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth
Kristen Stewart, Spencer

The skinny: Are we clearing out for another take on a real-life person or for Frances McDormand to somehow win her fourth Oscar? It all comes down to the campaigns.

Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar
Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza
Richard Jenkins, The Humans
Al Pacino, House of Gucci
Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog

The skinny: Not nominating Ben Affleck last year for The Way Back felt like a missed opportunity. But now my guy seems to be thriving, reunited with Jennifer Lopez and picking good projects again. George Clooney’s adaptation of the acclaimed novel might arrive too late to get the momentum it needs, but it feels like Affleck’s redemption tour will continue.

Judi Dench, Belfast
Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Marlee Matlin, CODA
Olga Merediz, In the Heights

The skinny: While Merediz felt like a slam dunk before In the Heights came out a thousand years ago, the movie’s muted reception (critically and especially commercially) means her chances of a well-deserved nomination are fading. But as usual, this feels like the toughest category to predict.

The Card Counter
Don’t Look Up
The French Dispatch
Licorice Pizza

The skinny: I’m probably dreaming if a movie as ugly as The Card Counter will be getting any Oscar nominations, but it’s the best movie I’ve seen so far this year. And a movie in a similar vein to the previously nominated First Reformed at least has a shot.

The Humans
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog

The skinny: A category with little competition actually has a lot of possibilities. I think Passing will get the typical “you were well-regarded but not enough to get a bunch of nominations, so here’s a consolation prize” slot.

Random Sure Things
Make-up & Hairstyling: Old
Costume Design: Cruella
Cinematography: The Green Knight
Visual Effects: Dune
Production Design: The Last Duel

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