It’s that time of the year. Those who know me know that I love using stats in my final Oscar predictions. However, I do not rely on them. I just love the process of compiling them all together and using them to identify trends within the Oscar winners. This year is no different as I will be using a combination of stats and gut intuition to deliver my final Oscar predictions. I will be releasing these in three separate articles, the first of which will find me examining Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Original Song, Best Original Score, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography & Best Film Editing. If you’d like to listen to my predictions you can check out our latest episode of the Next Best Picture Podcast where we discussed our final Oscar predictions at great length.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dive in!
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
What was originally one of the more obscure races of the year (due to a lack of contenders, thanks again, COVID-19) really solidified once the major precursors weighed in. Here are the nominees for Best Visual Effects…
It’s funny how after all of this time, the eventual winner will end up being “Tenet,” a film that many of us have been predicting well over a year in advance. Having a corresponding Best Production Design nomination originally sold me on it being the winner versus the other contenders. However, a loss at the Visual Effects Society to “The Midnight Sky” did start to cast some doubt, especially considering how much of a rocky campaign (or lack thereof) “Tenet” has had from Warner Bros. this year. However, the Christopher Nolan film was able to bounce back with a BAFTA win, confirming for me what we knew all along: “Tenet” is going to win Best Visual Effects.
I still genuinely hate that we only have one award for Sound now after the Academy decided to combine Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. However, this year’s race has only ever had one contender, and there is literally no chance of it losing in what is undoubtedly one of the biggest locks of the night. Here are this year’s nominees for Best Sound…
Don’t let anyone tell you anything differently. With its six nominations, including Best Picture, and wins at CAS & BAFTA (plus having the word “Sound” in the title doesn’t hurt), this award will be going to Darius Marder’s directorial debut “Sound of Metal.” “Greyhound” may have won the MPSE award over it, but if anything, that maybe tells us there could possibly have been a split if there still were two categories. Otherwise, you cannot bet against the Best Picture nominee here, which is another reason why I think David Fincher’s “Mank” may be the runner-up.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
And here we come to the first of many categories where I’m unsure as to how it will go. With not many stats to go by, Best Original Song is one of those awards that will make or break your Oscar pool this year. Here are this year’s nominees…
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga – “Husavik (My Hometown)”
Judas And The Black Messiah – “Fight for You”
The Life Ahead – “Io is (Seen)”
One Night In Miami – “Speak Now”
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 – “Hear My Voice”
I’m going to come right out and say it: the stats favor “Speak Now” from “One Night In Miami.” It is not a lone nominee in this category, and it did win the Critics’ Choice Award, which has a slightly better win ratio than the Golden Globes do for this particular category. Outside of that, there isn’t much to go off on except pure instinct. And my instincts are telling me to ignore the stats this year and predict Diane Warren, after twelve nominations, to finally win her first Oscar for the gorgeously sung “Io si” from “The Life Ahead.” Her name may not be on the ballot for when voters choose, but all they have to do is listen to the song to understand its power and beauty, sung wonderfully by international star Laura Pausini. Leslie Odom Jr. certainly has an advantage of being another known star, who is also nominated for Best Supporting Actor in “One Night In Miami.” Still, much like Cynthia Erivo and “Harriett” last year, that does not automatically mean a win is coming his way. As I said before though if you’re looking to make a smart choice, “Speak Now” is that choice. It’s a great way to recognize a film that should’ve been a Best Picture nominee, and who doesn’t want to see Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr himself) win an Oscar? However, the same can also be said for Warren. Now watch “Husavik (My Hometown)” come right up the middle and snatch the win from both of these films. Stranger things have happened, and that song is very much beloved, even if the film overall is not. This one will be a nail-biter for me.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
We go from the harder of the two music categories to the easier one. All season long, we were wondering if the frontrunner would show any signs of weakness and it has not, making this category another one of the locks of the night….almost. Here are the nominees for this year’s Best Original Score…
No one should bet against “Soul” here. Even if they were double-nominated along with their score for “Mank,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross did not lose a single major precursor all season. Critics Choice, Golden Globe & BAFTA, they won them all. It’s looking extremely likely that they will win their second Oscar, eleven years after winning their first for “The Social Network.”
However, it needs to be said…having a Best Picture nomination in this category helps a lot. This is something that “Soul” does not have. The last time a film won all three of the major precursors and won the Oscar without a Best Picture nomination was Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” and that is the only time. We can chalk that up to the narrative that was put forth that year for the late great Ennio Morricone finally winning a competitive Oscar. “Soul” does not have that kind of a narrative behind its win. It’s simply a beloved film made by two composers whose work everyone has primarily enjoyed over the last decade.
There would be a precedent for it happening if there were to be an upset here. In 2005 Rob Marshall’s “Memoirs A Geisha” similarly swept the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and BAFTA for Best Original Score. Still, it eventually lost the Oscar to Best Picture nominee “Brokeback Mountain.” Could a film like “Minari” or even Reznor and Ross’s own “Mank” cause such a scenario to play out again? I wouldn’t rule it out entirely, especially in favor of “Minari,” which has gained a ton of momentum over these past few weeks. However, I will not be that bold to predict it, and you shouldn’t either. But if it does happen, you’ll know why.
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
This is one of those categories where everyone is telling me not to overthink it, but I can’t help myself!! That’s what I do, even when categories feel as locked as this one does to everyone else. Here are the nominees this year for Best Makeup & Hairstyling…
The stats say go with “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” How could you not? It’s won every precursor and is the closest to feeling like a Best Picture contender compared to three of the nominees in this category (let’s face it, “Mank” doesn’t have a shot at winning this, even with the actual Best Picture nomination). The Makeup & Hairstylists Guild has a perfect track record (so far) when it comes to predicting this category, and they gave “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” two of their awards.
However, there is one other film which also won there: “Pinocchio.” The Italian re-telling of the popular children’s story features, hands down, the best makeup of the year. One only needs to look at the stills to know that the work here is on another level far and above what the other nominees are doing, no disrespect to them. Like “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Pinocchio” is not a Best Picture nominee and at least has another nomination (Best Costume Design) to suggest that enough voters did get a chance to see the film. There is a case to be made that if more members of the Academy, at large, do get a chance to see the work on display, “Pinocchio” could upset in a case of “most equals best,” something we have seen happen time and time again when stats crumble with the Academy (think “Alice In Wonderland” winning Production Design over sweeper “Inception” or “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” winning Best Costume Design over “La La Land” and “Jackie.”
Another factor that has me considering a “Pinocchio” upset is the question, “Without a Best Picture nomination, how many Oscars are you predicting “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to win?” No film has won more than two Oscars without a Best Picture nomination since the preferential ballot was re-introduced in 2009, and yet, I’ve spoken to many who are predicting “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to win 3, or even 4!! This is why I’ve been so hesitant with this category in particular. However, I will listen to the stats on this one, and the stats are overwhelmingly saying it will be “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” So I will predict it, but with great hesitation.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Another easy call. It’s hard to imagine the frontrunner losing here in what is its best chance at an Oscar win. Here are the nominees this year for Best Production Design…
It’s going to be “Mank.” I would be shocked if it was anything else besides “Mank.” It not only swept CCA, ADG and BAFTA, but it’s also a Best Picture nominee with a corresponding Best Costume Design nomination, which shockingly is the best stat of them all to have in this category (hence why I have “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” as the runner-up). It’s odd to me that with 10 nominations, this is the only win I’m predicting for David Fincher’s film, especially when many of us were expecting it to win multiple craft categories at the beginning of the season. That can still happen in some bizarre turn of events, but it isn’t very likely at this point. We even saw Netflix’s other Best Picture contender last year, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” go 0 for 10. So in a way, “Mank” should consider itself lucky that it has this walking in the door.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
And here we come to the other craft category where I feel more confident about predicting a win here for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” than I did for Best makeup & Hairstyling. Here are the nominees…
Had “Emma.” won a significant prize in the lead up to my final predictions, this would’ve been a more challenging call to make, as the costumes in that film resemble many past winners such as “Marie Antoinette,” “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “The Duchess,” The Young Victoria” and “Anna Karenina.” However, that did not happen and like Best Makeup & Hairstyling, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” continued to sweep. No film has ever won the CCA, CDG, and BAFTA and lost the Oscar. So, on a pure stats level, I feel much more confident saying this will 100% be one of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s” wins on the evening.
Another easy call. As odd as it might be, there has been one frontrunner this entire season, and I don’t see any reason, even with a late-breaking ASC Winner for its main competition, to deviate now. Here are this year’s nominees for Best Cinematography…
“Nomadland” has surprisingly dominated this season except for only a few critics awards and a loss at ASC yesterday to “Mank.” However, the ASC has a horrible track record when telling us the winner of this category unless it’s Roger Deakins or Emmanuel Lubezki. Since the CCA has been handing out awards for cinematography, there has never been a scenario where a film that won CCA/BAFTA lost the Oscar to the ASC winner. I do not see that happening here unless you’re predicting “Nomadland” to lose Best Picture and even then, it still feels unlikely to me, as deserving as the work in “Mank” is (it’s my preferred winner in the category). With beautiful vistas, a touch of Terrence Malick, and a lot of magic hour, I expect to see “Nomadland” winning this.
BEST FILM EDITING
One of the more complex categories to predict this year, Best Film Editing is also one of the most important categories when discussing the Best Picture race. There is such exceptional work nominated here this year that a win by any of these would make me extremely happy. Here are the five nominees…
This race has boiled down to two films; for as long as CCA, BAFTA, and ACE have been handing out awards simultaneously, no film has ever won the Oscar without winning one of these precursors. That immediately rules out “The Father,” Promising Young Woman,” and, yes, even Best Picture frontrunner “Nomadland.” Now we’re down to BAFTA winner “Sound Of Metal” and ACE winner “The Trial Of The Chicago 7.” Both films tied at CCA this year too, making things more confusing.
Statistically, the ACE has the better correlation to the Best Film Editing category going all the way back to 1967, but that’s also because they have two awards which they can hand out for Comedy and Drama (although the last time a Comedy ACE winner won the Oscar for Best Film Editing was “Chicago” way back in 2002). If we start just from 2000 (when the BAFTAs changed their date to be before the Oscars), the ACE’s correlation is still at 65% to BAFTA’s 45%. More often than not, the BAFTAs will go with the flashier edited film, and ACE will go with the more subtly edited film. However, this year it was reversed, throwing myself and others for a loop. Just editors voted at ACE, while an entire voting body filled up with many branches and personalities chose “Sound Of Metal” over “The Trial Of The Chicago 7.”
Many people will point out that “Sound Of Metal” has a Best Sound nomination while “The Trial Of The Chicago 7” does not. This stat has been vital in recent years (since 2007) for this category. However, with only one sound category now, I’m choosing to ignore it. Though, if you wanted to get picky with me about it, I could make the argument that “The Trial Of The Chicago 7’s” recent win at the MPSE is indicative that it could’ve shown up with a Sound nomination if there were two categories this year. But that’s neither here nor there.
I would argue that while the stats favor “The Trial Of The Chicago 7,” there’s another problem: It’s highly likely, that this will be “The Trial Of The Chicago 7’s” only win on the night, thus making this a lone winner for Best Film Editing. While this did happen recently with “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” in 2011 (also the Critics Choice winner), you have to go all the way back to “Bullitt” in 1968 to find the last time a film won Best Film Editing and nothing else at the Oscars. However, if you go back even further than that, you will find that this was more common than you think. “Eskimo” (1934), “North West Mounted Police” (1940), “The Pride Of The Yankees” (1942), “Air Force” (1943), “Body and Soul” (1947) and “Champion” (1949) were all lone editing winners. So why not “The Trial Of The Chicago 7?” After all, it fits the description of “most editing means the best editing.” Even those who aren’t the movie’s biggest fans have admitted that the editing is pretty fantastic and impressive in its own right. I think the fact that it’s easily the flashiest of the nominees will help it to stand out and thus, get over the lone editing winner hurdle and on to an Oscar victory.
PREDICTED WINNER: “The Trial Of The Chicago 7“
RUNNER-UP: “Sound Of Metal“
PREFERRED WINNER: “The Trial Of The Chicago 7“
And that does it for today with my predictions of the craft categories. On Wednesday I will return with my predictions for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay, Best Animated Feature, Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short and Best Documentary Short. Until then you can see my final predictions below and listen to our latest episode of the Next Best Picture Podcast for additional commentary and discussion.
FINAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS
Best Supporting Actress:
Best Supporting Actor:
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Best Original Screenplay:
Best Cinematography: Nomadland
Best Costume Design: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Film Editing: The Trial Of The Chicago 7
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Production Design: Mank
Best Original Score: Soul
Best Original Song: The Life Ahead – “Io is (Seen)”
Best Sound: Sound Of Metal
Best Visual Effects: Tenet
Best Animated Feature:
Best Documentary Feature:
Best International Feature Film:
Best Animated Short:
Best Documentary Short:
Best Live Action Short:
What do you all think of my final Oscar predictions? Be sure to let me know in the comments section below or on my Twitter account. Also check out the Next Best Picture team’s updated Oscar predictions here.
You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @NextBestPicture