By Matt Neglia
As of this writing, the ballots for the 93rd Academy Awards have officially be handed in, and the winners are being counted. There’s nothing left to be done now but speculate. 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. I’m continuing to use a combination of stats and gut intuition to deliver my final Oscar predictions. I am releasing these in three separate articles, the first of which I posted the other day on the craft categories. Today, we’re looking at half of the above-the-line categories, which include Best Animated Short, Best Documentary Short, Best Live-Action Short, Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Click below to see my final predictions in these categories. 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.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
First of all, let me start off by saying that our writer Daniel Howat did an excellent job dissecting the shorts in this piece he wrote the other day. I highly encourage you to check that out for added context on these always difficult to predict categories. With that said, here are this year’s nominees for Best Animated Short…
If Anything Happens I Love You
”Burrow” may be cute and digestible (it’s only six minutes long!!), but “If Anything Happens I Love You” is the clear winner here as far as I’m concerned, both in terms of animation but also emotional impact. “Burrow” simply does not resonate in the same manner as “If Anything Happens I Love You” does. My personal favorite is “Opera” as I was blown away by its concept and execution, but even still, I would have to side with “If Anything Happens I Love You” taking this. No offense to the other nominees, but I fail to see how anything else can compare.
PREDICTED WINNER: “If Anything Happens I Love You“
PREFERRED WINNER: “If Anything Happens I Love You“
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Didn’t click on Daniel Howat’s article yet? Well, here’s your second chance to do so. This one is a bit more split than the last, where I could see the category going one of two ways. Here are the nominees for Best Documentary Short…
A Concerto Is A Conversation
Do Not Split
A Love Song For Latasha
This one is between “A Concerto Is A Conversation” and “A Love Song For Latasha” for me. It’s a tough call as one is uplifting and may appeal to Academy voters who are not only taken in by the subject but are also “Green Book” fans (which is featured prominently in the film). “A Love Song For Latasha” hits appropriately hard and has a lot of creative filmmaking on display, is widely accessible on Netflix, and will feel topical to viewers due to its subject matter. Honestly could go either way, but I’m leaning towards “A Concerto Is A Conversation” for this one.
PREDICTED WINNER: “A Concerto Is A Conversation“
RUNNER-UP: “A Love Song For Latasha“
PREFERRED WINNER: “Do Not Split“
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Last chance to read Howat’s article. Ok I’m done. Thanks. Here are this year’s nominees for Best Live-Action Short…
The Letter Room
Two Distant Strangers
I have to admit; I was severely underwhelmed by this year’s nominees. My personal favorite of the bunch, “Feeling Through,” is the one I’m hearing is most people’s favorite, and maybe that will be enough to get it over the edge, assuming the Academy has seen all of the nominees. However, let’s assume they haven’t. The two that are most likely to succeed are either “The Letter Room” due to the presence of well-known actor Oscar Isaac or “Two Distant Strangers,” which is streaming on Netflix and is once again, topical (even if it’s done in a tasteless way, in my opinion). Conventional wisdom says to go with “The Letter Room,” despite the fact that I personally found it a bit of a slog to get through, and I’ve spoken to enough people who feel the same way. Even BAFTA winner “The Present” could repeat here. However, despite how many moments of bad optics it may contain, that didn’t stop “Skin” from winning this category a short time ago. This is why I think enough voters will watch “Two Distant Strangers,” assume they’re doing the right thing, and vote for it to win. But I hope I’m wrong because after the year we’ve had this year, this racially insensitive time-loop movie is not it.
PREDICTED WINNER: “Two Distant Strangers“
RUNNER-UP: “The Letter Room“
PREFERRED WINNER: “Feeling Through“
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
What should’ve been a more competitive category this year is looking like a slam-dunk for one nominee in particular. However, here are the five films nominated this year for Best International Feature Film…
While everyone was busy (in-correctly) handing out their Best Foreign Language Film prizes to “Minari” this season, Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round” was going unchecked as the default frontrunner in this category. Had “Quo Vadis, Aida?” picked up a distributor earlier on in the season, it’s possible that it could’ve built up enough momentum to dethrone the Danish drinking film starring International superstar Mads Mikkelsen. Such star power, coupled along with Vinterberg’s surprising but welcome Best Director nomination, will be impossible to defeat, which is why “Another Round” will be walking away with this one pretty easily. It’ll make a fine winner regardless, and I’m personally a fan, but I feel “Quo Vadis, Aida?” deserved so much more.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
It’s kind of crazy to see how this category went all season. It started off with so many presumed frontrunners that it was tough to tell who would even get nominated for the Oscar. Then, most of the movies that won the majority of the precursors this season weren’t even nominated, leading us all to wonder how this race would go. Quietly, though as if it was swimming beneath us underwater, a frontrunner suddenly emerged, making this now one of the locks of the night. Here are nominees for this year’s Best Documentary Feature Oscar…
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
The Documentary Feature race has the worst stats of all, mostly because the Academy keeps snubbing the frontrunners every year. However, in the days since the nominations were announced, “My Octopus Teacher” has managed to win the PGA, the BAFTA, and the ACE. With such a combination of wins, it’s pretty clear that the unlikely Netflix contender is going to run away with this. Audiences surprisingly flocked towards its sentimental storytelling, with emotional music and breathtaking cinematography. It may not have been the critics’ pick for this category, but when discussing the Academy membership, they’re more akin to regular people than critics anyway. In this case, the critics’ darling, “Time,” will have to settle on a possible Indie Spirit Award win tomorrow night, unless it manages to lose out there as well. Either way, no matter who wins that prize, it’s unlikely that they will be able to go against the octopus and his teacher.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Another lock and maybe one of the easiest ones of the night. Seriously, if you predict anything other than the frontrunner here, I simply don’t know what to tell you. Here are the nominees for this year’s Best Animated Feature…
Congratulations, Pixar, on another win in this category. At some point, people are going to have to really broaden their horizons a bit and realize that there are other animated films out there besides Disney/Pixar. However, I very much enjoyed “Soul” and don’t begrudge it winning here. Do I think it deserved to sweep the season though virtually unchallenged when “Wolfwalkers” was right there? No. I’m happy with either film winning, but only one is going to do so, and we all know which one that is.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
One of my favorite categories of the year has a pretty solid frontrunner with a sizable lead on the competition, with one other film contending for a win. Here are the nominees for Best Original Screenplay…
There are many who are having last-minute doubts about this category. But I am here to tell you; you shouldn’t. Look at the stats above. No film has ever won three of the main precursors and then gone on to lose the Oscar here. “Promising Young Woman” has the CCA, BAFTA, and most importantly, the WGA award, while “The Trial Of The Chicago 7” has only the Golden Globe. Both are Best Picture nominees, and one can make the argument that both are contending for a win in that category along with the frontrunner. We know that Screenplay has been more important than Director lately in this new age of the preferential ballot for Best Picture, so if we see “Promising Young Woman” lose here, it may be a sign of things to come. However, “Promising Young Woman” is easily the most “original” of all of the screenplays nominated this year. It was one of, if not the most talked-about film of the year. And it has a very passionate fanbase behind it. I fully expect it to prevail here, and if nothing else happens later in the evening, it will be a good way to recognize Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
And here we have a very intense and heated battle between two Best Picture nominees with the other three nominees happy to be there. Here are the nominees this year for Best Adapted Screenplay…
For the longest time, this looked like it would be a close race between “Nomadland“ and “One Night In Miami” but then something happened: “One Night In Miami” failed to get a Best Picture nomination and in its place, “The Father” emerged as the direct challenger to CCA & USC Scripter winner, “Nomadland.” All season long, “The Father” was a movie that had barely been seen but once it was, everyone who saw it, raved about it. From the writing, to the acting, to the direction, it became an embraced powerhouse that left an emotional impact on all who finally had a chance to see it.
Now, we’re caught in an unusual situation. Because of its Best Picture frontrunner status, “Nomadland” was picking up wins in the screenplay category to complement its Best Picture/Best Director wins. It’s led in the Best Adapted Screenplay wins this season with 20 wins. Many felt early on that even if “Nomadland” was not going to win Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay could be another consolation prize for the film. However, Chloe Zhao became the default frontrunner in Best Director also, with an upcoming win there most assuredly coming her way this Sunday.
Now, voters can do one of two things. They can either continue to reward the film they simply love more, or they can spread the wealth, knowing full well that Zhao will 100% win Best Director. In comes Florian Zeller’s “The Father.” The film is peaking at the absolute right time in terms of its buzz and love from voters, scoring as many nominations as “Nomadland” did with six, including Best Picture. Considering how low-profile the film was heading into nomination morning, there are many who feel that “The Father” overperformed, showing a sign of strength at this phase in the race when it matters most. Then the BAFTAs happened. With almost the same nominations as it has at the Oscars on Sunday, “The Father” took home two prizes: Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Considering there is voter overlap between the British Academy and this Academy, one is led to believe that such a showing for “The Father” will translate somewhere.
So why here? It is my belief from the voters I’ve spoken to that many feel “Nomadland” is highly improvised, kind of aimless, and lacking in a strong story that could be found on the page. Where, by contrast, “The Father” has a ton of dialogue, is all about screenplay structure, and relies on creativity to thrust us into its protagonist’s nightmarish headspace. It’s definitely the more overly “written” movie between the two, and that might be enough to convince voters to throw it a win here if they’re looking for a place to reward the film. I’ll be completely honest; Smart money says to vote for “Nomadland.” I mentioned before that when it comes to Best Picture, screenplay is king. If you believe “Nomadland” is winning Best Picture, it makes complete sense to predict it to win here as well. In the last 20 years, one of the screenplay categories went to the Best Picture winner 15 times. That bodes very well for “Nomadland.” But something in my gut tells me the love and campaign for “The Father” (as frustrating as it was at first that Sony Picture Classics wouldn’t release it sooner) will peak at the perfect moment to translate into a win for it here. This is one of the tougher and more exciting races to call on the night.
FINAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS
Best Supporting Actress:
Best Supporting Actor:
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Father
Best Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman
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: Soul
Best Documentary Feature: My Octopus Teacher
Best International Feature Film: Another Round
Best Animated Short: If Anything Happens I Love You
Best Documentary Short: A Concerto Is A Conversation
Best Live Action Short: Two Distant Strangers
What do you all think of my final Oscar predictions so far? 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