Thursday, June 20, 2024

Predicting The 90th Academy Awards: The Acting Categories

By Matt Neglia

Now that the BAFTA Awards are out of the way, just as I did last year, it’s now time to start analyzing all of the Oscar categories as we head towards the 90th Academy Awards in less than two weeks on March 4th. As we get closer, I will be analyzing each category and making my final predictions for the Oscars and using lots of stats to help make up my mind on the more difficult categories. Usually, I start with the techs but today I figured I’d change it up a bit and move on to what has now become four of the biggest locks of the night: the acting categories! Those who know me, know that I am a stats guy and will always rely on those to help me with my predictions. Now, I’m not blind. I know that these four categories are pretty much locked up. However, take a few moments and journey with me as I use the past 23 years worth of winners at Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA to see if any upsets can take place on March 4th 2018.

Click below to see my in-depth analysis on each of the four acting categories.

Is there even a point to any of this? Why share the stats for previous winners in each category when we know what the outcome is going to be? Well, maybe someone else wants to use it for research purposes. Who knows. Could be a hand tool for next year when these acting races are not as locked up as they are. After winning Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG and now BAFTA, Allison Janney (“I, Tonya“), Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri“), Frances McDormand (Also, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri“) and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour“) are all heading towards Oscar glory in an unprecedented sweep of the acting categories across the board. This has never happened before but what has happened, is we have seen actors win the Oscar without winning any of these awards and only receiving critics groups mentions/wins and in a few rare cases, we have seen the other Golden Globe winner in the Lead categories, come in and win the Oscar.

Let’s take a look at Best Supporting Actress first…


Best Supporting Actress

Here are the nominees for Best Supporting Actress…

Mary J. Blige – “Mudbound
Allison Janney – “I, Tonya
Lesley Manville – “Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf – “Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – “The Shape Of Water

​And here are the stats for previous years…


Let’s be clear, after winning Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA, Allison Janney has this locked up. We’ve had people sweep the big four categories before in Best Supporting Actress starting in 2006 with Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”) and then again in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014 and most recently in 2016. The odds are heavily in Janney’s favor. The only year that sets a precedent for a surprise win for Laurie Metcalf (Who most will agree is the runner-up in this category) would be the year 2000 which is the only year where a winner for the Oscar in this category did not win a single one of the televised awards and that was for Marcia Gay Harden for “Pollock.” What did she have going into the race? The list is definitely shorter than Metcalf’s, that’s for sure…

New York Film Critics Circle – Winner
National Society Of Film Critics – Nomination
Independent Spirit Award – Nomination

That’s it. That is all Marcia had before she shocked everyone and won the Oscar. After a different winner won each of the major awards leading up to the Oscar and with no previous nominations from either, it remains to this day one of the biggest shockers in Academy history that they went with her. Metcalf would be less surprising as she has been a constant threat all season and at one point she was the presumed frontrunner once she started sweeping the critic’s awards (Metcalf has 28 wins while Janney has 17). But before that happened, most were predicting Janney and now most will stick with Janney. If you decide, however, to predict Laurie Metcalf, take comfort in knowing that there has been one instance where an even stranger occurrence happened in Oscar history with this category since the Critics Choice started handing out awards for Best Supporting Actress.

​PREDICTED WINNER: Allison Janney – “I, Tonya
RUNNER-UP: Laurie Metcalf – “
Lady Bird


Best Supporting Actor

Next up is Best Supporting Actor. Another category where one individual swept the critics awards but when it came time for Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA, the industry went another way.

Here are the nominees for Best Supporting Actor…

Willem Dafoe – “The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Richard Jenkins – The Shape Of Water
Christopher Plummer – “All The Money In The World
Sam Rockwell – “
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

​And here are the stats for previous years…


Almost like Best Supporting Actress, there have been 5 (Instead of 6) years where if an individual won Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA, they went on to win the Oscar (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2014). There has also never been a scenario where one individual swept all four of the major acting awards and went on to lose the Oscar. All of this is leading up to a predicted Best Supporting Actor win for long time character actor Sam Rockwell for his performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

However, also like in Best Supporting Actress, there is one year where an individual did not win Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG or BAFTA and with only two nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and the Independent Spirit Awards, went on to win the Oscar in a shocking upset and that was James Coburn for “Affliction” in 1998. Also, just like 2000, the major awards went to different actors and the Oscar went another way as well. This is the only precedent available if you are going to be bold and pick Willem Dafoe for an upset here. Like Laurie Metcalf, he swept the critic’s awards winning 25 against Rockwell’s 17 and starred in a beloved movie, The Florida Project. However, even more so than “Lady Bird,” The Florida Project” underperformed on Oscar nomination morning, scoring only the one nomination for Dafoe and that’s it. It’s clear that the love is simply not there for this film as opposed to “Lady Bird” in Best Supporting Actress where that film at least got Picture, Director, Actress and Screenplay nominations.

With the love that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has received all season long and Rockwell proving he can overcome voter splitting with his co-star Woody Harrelson at both SAG and BAFTA, this is yet another category where the odds are heavily in favor with the frontrunner. I know some people want to entertain other possibilities such as Richard Jenkins (On the basis that “The Shape Of Water” sweeps) or Christopher Plummer (Based on his narrative, but he’s a recent winner and let’s be honest, the nomination is the reward) and will look for any reason they can to avoid this scenario if they especially despise Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Well, to quote Christopher Walken in another Martin McDonagh film (“Seven Psychopaths”) – “Too bad.”

PREDICTED WINNER: Sam Rockwell – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
RUNNER-UP: Willem Dafoe – “
The Florida Project


Best Actress

Next up is Best Actress. Yet another category where one individual swept the major awards despite this being what many considered the most unpredictable and competitive category of the year. Is it still? Probably not. But let’s take a look anyway.

Here are the nominees for Best Actress…

Sally Hawkins – The Shape Of Water
Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie – “I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – “
Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – “The Post

​And here are the stats for previous years…


This is even more difficult to argue than the two Supporting categories. Had Frances shown weakness at any one of the four big awards shows, we might be having a different conversation. As is, there has never been a scenario where a Best Actress winner came from out of nowhere to win the Oscar without winning one of the major awards first. This leaves Saoirse Ronan as the only potential chance to upset Frances McDormand in Best Actress. Should the love for “Lady Bird” be larger than we possibly could have imagined with the Academy (Enough to overcome the lack of any technical nominations), we could see the ultimate of freak occurrences take place just as it did in 1994 when Jessica Lange won the Oscar with only the Golden Globe win and nothing else. However, Critics Choice was not around then so who’s to say she would not have won that as well? Simply put, there is no precedent for an upset. People are clinging on to three things when it comes to predicting Ronan over McDormand…

1. The general overall love for “Lady Bird” and a desire to not see it go home empty-handed
2. The general overall hatred for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” which has been felt online but not with the industry itself
3. Saoirse Ronan fits the mold of the young Best Actress winner

While the first two points have no data to speak to whatsoever, other than the wishful thinking and gut feelings of others, the last point is interesting because there is some data to chew on there.

Since 1994 the average age of the Best Actress winner has been 36 years old. There have been two instances where the winner was at or over the age of 60 (Which McDormand would be this year at age 60) and that was with sweeper Helen Mirren for “The Queen” in 2006 and Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady” where, while she did not sweep (Only won BAFTA and the Globe) she had a narrative that was pushing her to win another lead Oscar…because she’s Meryl ‘friggin’ Streep. And nine out of the last 23 years, the winner has been under the age of 30, which Saoirse Ronan is at age 23 and should she win, she will be one of the youngest winners ever, right above Jennifer Lawrence recently who won this award at age 22 in 2012.

Has Saoirse Ronan captured the hearts and minds of the world in the same way that Lawrence did that year with both her roles in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Hunger Games?” I would say no. However, what Saoirse is doing, is she’s forging a path for herself to win that Oscar very soon (My guess is within the next ten years). She’s constantly impressing and surprising us with her range and will continue to do as the already three-time nominee’s goodwill with audiences and critics grows. However, she will not surprise us on Oscar night. It is simply not her time and most will agree that even despite the hatred towards Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” virtually none of that has been directed at Frances herself. Come March 5th, she will be known as a two-time Best Actress winner.

PREDICTED WINNER: Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
RUNNER-UP: Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird


Best Actor 2018

And finally, we end with Best Actor. In what will go down as the most unnecessarily​ longest article you are to read all season explaining these categories before the Oscars, it goes without saying once again that this is yet another locked category. It has been locked since Telluride despite what anyone will tell you. But, like the other categories before, I will take a look anyway to see if an upset can possibly occur.

Here are the nominees for Best Actor…

Timothee Chalamet – “Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – “Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya – “Get Out
Gary Oldman – “Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington – “Roman J. Israel, Esq.

​And here are the stats for previous years…


Ok. I’ll do it. I’ll entertain the idea that Timothee Chalamet or (I’m not kidding) Daniel Day-Lewis can beat Gary Oldman for Best Actor. Why in heaven’s name would I possibly do that might you ask?

2001 and to a lesser extent but still valid, 2002.

​What happened in both of those years? Russell Crowe was on top of the world after starring in “L.A. Confidential,” (1997) receiving his first Oscar nomination for “The Insider” (1999), winning Best Actor for the Best Picture winner “Gladiator” (2000) and then scoring his third nomination in a row for another Best Picture favorite, “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) where he went on (Unlike the previous two years) to sweep the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG. You were an absolute fool if you thought Crowe was not going to pull a Tom Hanks and score back to back wins that year. And then everything changed the night of the BAFTAs as Russell Crowe had a much publicized incident that cost him the Oscar and tipped the favor towards Denzel Washington. “A Beautiful Mind” would go on to win Best Picture but Crowe would end up losing to Denzel Washington for his performance in “Training Day.” Russell Crowe has continued to work in Hollywood since then and has even received a few other industry honors but he has not been nominated for the BAFTA or Oscar since then.

And in 2002, either Daniel Day-Lewis (Critics Choice, SAG and BAFTA winner that year) or Jack Nicholson (Critics Choice & Golden Globe winner that year) were poised to add another Oscar to their shelves at home when the youngest Best Actor winner in history, Adrian Brody won Best Actor right from underneath them for his work in Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” which saw a surprising last-minute surge and went on to win Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay in the same evening. The Best Picture win went to “Chicago” but you could tell it was probably close. Was it vote splitting that propelled Brody to a win? Many have suspected since the race was so tight between Lewis and Nicholson. Maybe they wanted to reward a guy who had never received this same level of recognition before? Maybe the love for “The Pianist” was simply that strong.

There are a few takeaways here with both of these stories…

1. Russell Crowe lost due to his behavior which led to bad publicity during the Oscar voting period
2. “The Pianist” was clearly loved
3. Adrian Brody won with no wins from the other televised awards groups either due to vote splitting, because Academy members wanted to reward a new talent or because they simply felt he was the best.

How does this apply to Daniel Day-Lewis and Timothee Chalamet this year?

Gary Oldman has had a much-publicized history of domestic abuse against his ex-wife which surfaced around 2001 and even brought a negative cloud around him with some Anti-Semitic comments as recently as a few years ago! So why is this man getting rewarded for his work in “Darkest Hour?” Well, if last year is anything to fall back on, Casey Affleck had to also face baggage for a sexual abuse allegation which was settled between him and the accuser years prior to his awards season run with “Manchester By The Sea.” There were articles written on it. People were talking about it. But it was not enough. For some reason, that kind of publicity can hurt an individual’s chances at awards season (Looking at you Nate Parker and James Franco) and sometimes it simply gets brushed under the rug for reasons which I cannot quantify but ultimately add up to “he gave the best performance.” “We’re not rewarding the man. We’re rewarding the performance.” Whether you believe it is right or wrong is irrelevant to the fact that Gary Oldman has, like Russell Crowe in 2001, won Critics Choice, Golden Globe (Which many felt was an uphill battle for him due to public negative comments he made towards the awards group), SAG and BAFTA. Now, with all of that said, Gary Oldman was indeed granted full custody of his kids, the courts did not find him guilty of domestic abuse and he did publicly apologize for his outspoken remarks about the Jewish community. Now, unless if his behavior or mouth gets him in trouble within the next few days, this argument will not be a factor and we’ll see Gary Oldman win the Oscar. Also, keep in mind, his film has 6 nominations including Best Picture so it is clear that there is a tremendous amount of broad support both for him and the film.

Another film though that also has 6 nominations including nominations for Best Picture and Best Director is Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.” “Call Me By Your Name,” while only with four nominations, was also able to score a Best Picture nomination, a writing nomination (Where “Phantom Thread” did not) and even a Best Original Song nomination. While many felt that “Call Me By Your Name” underperformed, it still got what it needed to in order to be a part of this conversation. It is clear that there is love for both films and for their leading actors. Timothee Chalamet has won 11 critic’s awards this season including Los Angeles and New York Film Critics Circle. Daniel Day-Lewis has won 4 and while that may seem small, keep in mind that Adrian Brody only had Boston, National Society Of Film Critics and the Cesar Award for Best Actor heading into Oscar night. Gary Oldman has won 22 awards in total, double Chalamet’s haul, including all of the major televised awards, however, you cannot deny that should the unthinkable happen, it will be one of these two that unseats Gary Oldman.

How could it happen? Daniel Day-Lewis could be the benefit of voter sentiment. Arguably the greatest living Actor alive and already a three-time winner in this category for “My Left Foot,” “There Will Be Blood” and “Lincoln,” “Phantom Thread” has been heavily promoted as the legend’s last film performance. While we have heard this before from the actor, the time it feels real as the 60-year-old actor approaches retirement. Academy members may want to send him out on a high note and by rewarding him, make history by having him tie the all-time Oscar-winning record for acting (4) with Katherine Hepburn.

Timothee Chalamet, had he won any of the other awards such as Critics Choice or Golden Globe, I would feel more comfortable in predicting for an upset against Gary Oldman. Why? Have you seen this kid on the campaign trail?! He’s easily the most charming and likable person at every awards show and every event. From his good looks, to his kind and humble demeanor, to helping James Ivory up the stairs at BAFTA, there is seemingly nothing this young, talented, no baggage carrying kid can do wrong. His performance in “Call Me By Your Name” like Casey Affleck’s last year is more internal than Oldman’s (Similarly compared to Denzel Washington’s big and showy performance in last year’s “Fences“) more external performance. Many have proclaimed it is the best performance of the year and they’re certainly not wrong. However, there are two schools of thought on this matter when it comes to the big, showy, external performance involving weight gain, makeup and other gimmicks that the Academy has a history of rewarding versus the complex, internal, subtle yet powerfully commanding performance that Chalamet gives this year. A combination of love for both him and his film (It’s easily the most popular film online but the industry’s reaction has been more muted) could propel him to a surprise but deserved win.

While I firmly fall into the camp of wanting to wait to reward the now 22-year-old for another brilliant performance that will surely one day come, I can honestly say his work in “Call Me By Your Name” is certainly worthy. However, it unfortunately has the task of going up against an actor who despite his faults as a human being has had decades of goodwill built up through incredibly versatile and stellar performances in both big and small films. Also arguably considered one of the best actors alive today, Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” feels like a culmination for the veteran actor. It also feels like Oscar bait because much like Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as “Lincoln” in 2012, it’s the kind of role and performance that was made to win Oscars. You can complain all you want about how you would hope the Academy does not fall back into that territory again of rewarding performances that we typically associate with the term “Oscar bait.” However, that’s not the world we live in….yet.

PREDICTED WINNER: Gary Oldman – “Darkest Hour
​RUNNER-UP:​ Timothee Chalamet – “
Call Me By Your Name

And that’s that. I know that what I just put you all through might have been a long winded explanation of outcomes you already know will happen. I’m not predicting any differently and I am here to tell you that you should not be either. However, what I hope you got out of these are a thorough examination of why and how an upset could occur in any one of these four presumed “locked” categories. All will be revealed soon enough. So tell me, who do you think will win Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress at the Oscars? Was my insight helpful at all in either cementing your pick or changing it? Let us know in the comments below and be on the lookout as I dive deep into all the other categories on our march towards the 90th Academy Awards.

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

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Matt Neglia
Matt Neglia
Obsessed about the Oscars, Criterion Collection and all things film 24/7. Critics Choice Member.

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