Wednesday, May 22, 2024

My Final Thoughts On This Year’s Oscar Season

By Ryan C. Showers 

​We have reached the moment of truth. The 2020-2021 film awards season has been the most prolonged awards season that many of us have experienced. Most are ready to move on to a new year and new films, but even though this has been a prolonged process, I feel as though most of us are declaring our final predictions and leaving behind this season with warm regards.

The most recent main show of the Next Best Picture podcast covered the team’s final Oscar predictions. (Check it out if you haven’t listened already.) I was unable to participate in the show; thus, below are my final predictions for the 92nd Academy Awards:
Director: Chloé Zhao – “Nomadland
Actress: Viola Davis – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Actor: Chadwick Boseman – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn – “Minari
Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya – “Judas and the Black Messiah
Original Screenplay:Promising Young Woman
Adapted Screenplay:Nomadland
Art Direction:Mank
Costume Design:Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Film Editing:The Trial of the Chicago 7
Makeup/Hairstyling:Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Original Score:Soul
Original Song: “Speak Now” – One Night in Miami
Visual Effects:Tenet
Sound:Sound of Metal
Animated Feature:Soul
Documentary Feature:My Octopus Teacher
International Feature:Another Round
Animated Short: “If Anything Happens I Love You”
Documentary Short: “A Concerto is a Conversation”
Live-Action Short: “The Letter Room”
The majority of the categories at this year’s Academy Awards have a solidified frontrunner. However, there are outstanding races that have most pundits stumped even now as we enter the final days of the Oscar calendar.

This is the main event. We have never had an acting race quite like this. One where each of the contenders won a major precursor award, two of them helm from Best Picture nominees, and BAFTA voters used a jury system that eliminated three of the five women who could win. I wrote a piece in reaction to the SAG awards a few weeks ago, and although compelling cases have been made for certain contenders since then, I stand by most of the logic stated there. My final prediction is Viola Davis. In a fractured year like this, perhaps the SAG win weighs more than it would in another year where someone else loses SAG but still wins an Oscar by winning more than one of the other big three (Golden Globe, SAG, or BAFTA).
Many argue that “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” missing Picture, Director, and Screenplay shows that there isn’t enough passion in the Academy to win four Oscars: Actress, Actor, Makeup/Hairstyling, and Costumes. If “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” can’t win four, Actress is the least likely to prevail – and that’s probably a correct assessment. But I think it’s more likely for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to win four Oscars, rather than someone who lost both SAG and Golden Globe (Mulligan), someone delivering a subtle performance who would win their third Best Actress trophy (McDormand), or someone who is the lone nomination for a poorly reviewed film (Day). “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” reminds me of “Dreamgirls,” which also lacked these major above-the-line categories but ran the circuit with acting and craft awards.
When it comes to predicting Viola Davis for Best Actress, I keep returning to these facts:
1. Davis is one of the most respected people – from any branch of the Academy – in the industry.
2. Only one woman of color has ever won Best Actress. Most people would be happy to see Davis become the second.
3. Davis’s role in August Wilson’s adaptation is a quintessential example of the type of role that typically wins in style, presentation, and prestige.
4. Despite not having a Best Picture nomination, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is being seen because of the urgency surrounding Chadwick Boseman’s final performance. (With five nominations, it might as well have a Best Picture nominee.)
5. The film itself has proven to be thoroughly and widely respected even if the passion is lacking. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” has an impressive accumulation of wins with precursor and guild awards.
6. If voters namecheck any film or any contender, it could be “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” It comes across as the type of Oscar bait film that usually wins awards like acting and craft categories, with Davis having had even more public exposure during the time of voting than any of her competitors.
7. Davis is the establishment pick. If voters truly have an apathetic approach to voting this year, it benefits Davis because of her name recognition and profile. If people don’t watch the films, I could see most voters checking Davis’s name off because she’s tried, tested, and has never won Best Actress before. If there is low voter participation, like with elections, we can imagine older voters will participate more than younger voters. And thus, older voters will probably be most swayed by Davis’s work rather than by Mulligan’s unique performance or McDormand’s internal portrayal.
In the end, predicting Mulligan simply rings false to me. It seems like a recipe for disaster to predict someone who lost both SAG and Golden Globe, even if “Promising Young Woman” is beloved across the board by the Academy. McDormand’s BAFTA win has awoken a new sense of possibility for her Oscar win. In a year of “Nomadland” winning Best Picture, a Best Actress win would seem logical. Soberly thinking about Best Actress would lead to a McDormand win since she is an industry mogul, and the film is tracking for a big night. Although, I go back to this: Why did McDormand lose SAG when her nomination was the only chance for those voters to recognize the Best Picture frontrunner at that ceremony? Additionally, McDormand winning a third Oscar for such a subtle performance doesn’t seem to add up. In regards to Andra Day’s potential, the ironclad Golden Globe stat is something to consider. Still, I don’t feel it justifies predicting an Oscar win when you recognize the larger context of her campaign, narrative, and film itself “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”
Here are the odds I would give each of the contenders in terms of the likelihood to win:
Viola Davis: 35%
Frances McDormand: 22%
Carey Mulligan: 22%
Andra Day: 15%
Vanessa Kirby: 5%

For months, it seemed like “Nomadland” was going to add another tally to its win count with Best Adapted Screenplay after winning the predictive Critics Choice award and the USC Scripter Award. “The Father” won the title at the BAFTA. Neither were eligible for WGA, which would have been most illuminating for predicting the Oscar winner. It seems as though “Nomadland” had the early buzz for the majority of the season, and “The Father” could be facing a new sense of passion at the last minute.
The argument for “The Father” revolves around the film’s strengths in its screenplay, the amount and quality of dialogue, the intricate plot, and the fact that the film was adapted from its roots in British theatre. By contrast, “Nomadland” has a much more minimalist screenplay. All of this makes an overall compelling case for voters who are playing fairly, look at the merits of each script as pieces of writing, and spread the wealth among the nominated films, so each Best Picture nominee goes home a winner. But come on…that’s not the world we live in. Most voters are going to vote for what they know – which is likely that “Nomadland” is a beast of a contender this year across the board – and won’t overthink it.
Very little has stopped “Nomadland” from complete domination this year. The BAFTA win for “The Father” doesn’t provide me with sufficient evidence to predict it for the Oscar. Florian Zeller has a home-court advantage with British voters over Chloe Zhao, just as “The Favourite” did at the BAFTAs two years ago, which was the more creative and impressive screenplay that lost to the eventual Best Picture winner in “Green Book.”
I also don’t sense there is a “spread the wealth” mentality that some pundits tend to focus on. Look at the year “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won the BAFTA award for Best Original Screenplay, then “Birdman” swept Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. There were no misgivings by the Academy when they awarded Alejandro González Iñárritu three trophies, and Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson received zero. What would stop the Academy from doing the same exact thing to Chloe Zhao, when “Nomadland” has more control over this year overall than “Birdman” did in 2014?
The announcement of the Best Film Editing tie between “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Sound of Metal” at the Critics Choice Awards foreshadowed an interesting throwdown between the two films contending for the same title at the Academy Awards. “Sound of Metal” looks to be on track with certain statistical trends a Best Film Editing winner typically has had in recent years, most notably a BAFTA triumph and the trajectory to win Best Sound. However, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” has the more memorably edited work in the film, with a showstopping montage that begins the feature and bold cuts between the present and past throughout the film.
On paper, it would seem as though “The Trial of the Chicago 7” would be the more logical choice to win, especially since “Sound of Metal” has a gentler approach to its film form and construction. The flashier contender usually wins here. The fact that “The Trial of the Chicago 7” won the American Cinema Editors award just days ago foreshadows the tides may be turning. In the end, I am tending to be more sympathetic to the case of “The Trial of the Chicago 7” winning this category. If voters think about the most editing, they will land with Sorkin’s directorial debut in this category.
The Next Best Picture Team did a great job of showing the multiple vantage points of this category on the podcast predictions episode. Diane Warren is running her own campaign in an uphill battle for “The Life Ahead.” “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of the Fire Saga” has a sensational presentation of its song within its anti-Academy film, and Netflix has made this anthem its main concentration here. Overall, I would advise picking “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami.” It rewards Best Supporting Actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr., who has had a high profile for the past year since “Hamilton” began streaming on Disney+. It’s the most simple and direct answer to this question, even if the film’s overall buzz is not as consequential as it was three months ago.

I’m Not Predicting It, But There’s a World…

  • Mank” for Best Cinematography or Best Costume Design: “Nomadland” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” look poised to win Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design pretty handily. However, the double-digit nomination contender “Mank” looks to leave the Oscar ceremony with one win in Best Production Design. While I’m confident in all of the frontrunners prevailing, it wouldn’t be entirely shocking for me to see “Mank” pull off a surprise win in one of these categories. Even disliked films like “Memoirs of a Geisha” can dominate in these fields. Both the photography and costumes are overtly stylized and have the aesthetics to appeal to voters who may diverge for unknown reasons. This is based on no statistical evidence but rather an intuition.


  • Glenn Close in “Hillbilly Elegy” for Best Supporting Actress: She started out the default frontrunner after being denied the Best Actress Oscar two years ago, but ultimately, she could not overcome the damage done to her film by critics upon release. She has demonstrated no ability to tap into voters’ sensibilities for this performance, but crazier things have happened. Maybe voters just want her to be an Oscar winner and be finished with the “Glenn Close is Overdue” narrative once and for all.


  • The Trial of the Chicago 7” for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing: While I am predicting an Editing win for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” most pundits have moved on after giving Netflix’s big Best Picture push more than its fair due and humoring it as a lingering threat to upset “Nomadland” in Best Picture and “Promising Young Woman” in Best Original Screenplay. PGA, WGA, Critics Choice, and BAFTA have all weighed in and rejected this result. But there are still rumblings of paranoia that haunt me here. It’s not going to happen, but based on its SAG Ensemble win, there’s a hint that a major upset could happen – of “Crash” or “Moonlight” proportions. Probably not, though. And when it loses these categories, we can reflect upon why we continued to grant Sorkin and Netflix the benefit of the doubt over and over again this season.


  • “Burrow” for Best Animated Short: Recently, many pundits and predictors have moved away from “Burrow” to win Animated Short and have settled on “If Anything Happens I Love You.” The reason for this is simply subjective quality, overall impact, subject matter, and its platform on Netflix. I am by no means an expert at predicting shorts, but I have this sense that “Burrow” could still prevail, and the big switcheroo may be Film Twitter Film-Twittering.

Below are my personal preference selections for the Oscar categories, as though I had a ballot in this year’s voting contest. I always find these are fun to scan through since the majority of what we see around this time is more objective predictions rather than subjective preference:
1. “Promising Young Woman
2. “Nomadland
3. “Mank
4. “The Father
5. “Judas and the Black Messiah
6. “Minari
7. “Sound of Metal
8. “The Trial of the Chicago 7
Director: Chloé Zhao – “Nomadland
Actress: Carey Mulligan – “Promising Young Woman
Actor: Chadwick Boseman – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Supporting Actress: Olivia Colman – “The Father
Supporting Actor: Leslie Odom Jr. – “One Night in Miami
Original Screenplay: “Promising Young Woman
Adapted Screenplay: “One Night in Miami
Cinematography: “Mank
Art Direction: “Mank
Costume Design: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Film Editing: “Promising Young Woman
Makeup/Hairstyling: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Original Score: “Mank
Original Song: “Speak Now” – One Night in Miami
Visual Effects: “Tenet
Sound: “Sound of Metal
Animated Feature: “Wolfwalkers
Documentary Feature: “Collective
International Feature: “Quo Vadis, Aida?
Animated Short: “Burrow”
Documentary Short: “A Concerto is a Conversation”
Live-Action Short: “The Letter Room”

Who do you think is going to win at the Oscars this Sunday? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account and be sure to check out our latest predictions here.

You can follow Ryan and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @rcs818

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Related Articles

Stay Connected


Latest Reviews