Monday, July 15, 2024

Surveying The Oscar Field: Updated Oscar Predictions (12/30/2020)

By Matt Neglia 

The precursors have started to chime in as we heard the results of this year’s New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) and many more (with a lot more than that still to come). This is the phase where our long list starts to get more narrow as the critics help us to understand where the consensus is. However, and I must stress this…critics are not Academy voters. So, while the critics do help, they re not the be all end all of Oscar predicting. We still have a long way to go. As we close out 2020 and say hello to 2021, let’s take a look at where the Next Best Picture team stands with their rankings as of today. If you want to see our predictions broken down individually, category by category, click here.

​Best Picture
1. The Trial Of The Chicago 7
2. Nomadland
3. Mank
4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
5. One Night In Miami…
6. Judas and The Black Messiah (^)
7. The Father (^)
8. Minari (v)
9. Promising Young Woman (NEW)
10. Da 5 Bloods (NEW)

Dropped Out: Soul & News Of The World

The Trial Of The Chicago 7” is still the frontrunner for us here at Next Best Picture. While “Nomadland” has been building up steam as the “critics darling” of 2020 like “Roma” or “Parasite” did these past two years, we maintain that Academy voters will not go for Chloe Zhao’s breathtaking film the way many others have and will instead go with something more traditional. “Da 5 Bloods” made its way back into our predictions after having a very strong early showing with the critics (we always suspected the Spike Lee film would come roaring back later on after it started to fade following its Netflix premiere this summer). At the same time, Emerald Fennell’s scorching debut “Promising Young Woman” landed in our top 10 for the first time all season. The Carey Mulligan starring film has been building up a steady wave of momentum ever since its Sundance debut and the buzz around it is hotter than ever before as it proves to be one of the most passionately talked about films of the year. However, Disney Pixar’s “Soul” is lacking that same enthusiasm, as is Paul Greengrass’s “News Of The World.” Both premiered over the Christmas holiday to warm responses but not the kind of earth-shattering praise that is needed to place in a Best Picture lineup (those number one votes matter). While I suspect “News Of The World” to do a little bit better as the season goes on, I think “Soul” may be forever out of the Best Picture race. No animated film has been able to get nominated in the sliding scale yet and Pete Docter’s latest, while still receiving very strong reviews, hasn’t had the earth-shattering level of praise that is needed. In a year of ten? Like “Up” and “Toy Story 3” before it, I think it would’ve made it. But not this time.

Best Director
1. David Fincher – Mank
2. Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
3. Aaron Sorkin – The Trial Of The Chicago 7
4. Florian Zeller – The Father
5. George C. Wolfe – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
6. Regina King – One Night In Miami…
7. Spike Lee – Da 5 Bloods (^)
8. Lee Issac Chung – Minari (v)
9. Shaka King – Judas and the Black Messiah
10. Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman (NEW)

Dropped Out: Darius Marder – Sound Of Metal

It’s pretty amazing to see how much the buzz generated online by social media comes and goes. One week, Darius Marder is the talk of the town for his debut film “Sound Of Metal,” the next week, Emerald Fennell is receiving that same level of Oscar buzz for her own debut film “Promising Young Woman.” It will be interesting to see if she can stay in the top 10 as the remaining nine names above her have pretty much stayed in contention all season long. Spike Lee rose up the ranks after being cited in a few Best Director categories by the critics (don’t be surprised to hear his name again on Oscar nomination morning). Simultaneously, frontrunners David Fincher and Chloe Zhao remain neck and neck (by a single point from our team). The thought process right now is that Chloe Zhao will find herself in the same situation David Fincher found himself in, in 2010. That year, he had “The Social Network” and won every Best Director prize you could possibly imagine, including the Critics Choice, Golden Globe and BAFTA. But then “The King’s Speech’s” Tom Hooper won the DGA and the rest is history. Our gut instinct is that a similar situation is about to happen here with David Fincher being on the receiving end of the industry’s goodwill this time around. We won’t know until much later but expect to see Chloe Zhao’s momentum continue to climb.

Best Actress
1. Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
2. Frances McDormand – Nomadland (^)
3. Vanessa Kirby – Pieces Of A Woman (v)
4. Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
5. Amy Adams – 
Hillbilly Elegy
6. Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit
7. Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday (^)
8. Meryl Streep – 
The Prom (^)
9. Sophia Loren – The Life Ahead (v)
10. Kate Winslet – Ammonite

After failing to place with a majority of the so far announced critics groups, Vanessa Kirby has slid out of the top two and been replaced by Frances McDormand for her work in the much-hailed “Nomadland.” Winning a third Oscar is HARD and many of us don’t expect McDormand to actually pull off a win but she’s in a much better position now than she was before. Andra Day continues to climb up the rankings after word that “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” will be selling to Hulu and other contenders such as Sidney Flanigan for “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (who has had a surprisingly good start with the critics’ awards so far) and Robin Wright for her directorial debut “Land” (pending strong reviews out of Sundance, of course) are lurking to crack the top 10 any day now.

Best Actor
1. Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
2. Anthony Hopkins – The Father
3. Riz Ahmed – Sound Of Metal
4. Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods (^)
5. Gary Oldman – Mank
6. Kingsley Ben-Adir – One Night In Miami… (v)
7. Steven Yeun – Minari
8. Tom Hanks – News Of The World
9. Lakeith Stanfield – Judas And The Black Messiah (^)
10. Ben Affleck – The Way Back (v)

Delroy Lindo rose a spot after receiving a huge endorsement from the early critics’ prizes so far, winning the prestigious NYFCC award for Best Actor. He’s looking better and better for a nomination every day, as Chadwick Boseman and Anthony Hopkins remain the only sure bets within this category. Whether it’s due to category confusion or lack of enthusiasm, Kingsley Ben-Adir is slipping for his magnetic performance as Malcolm X in Regina King’s “One Night In Miami….” We’ll have to pay close attention to see if he can bounce back after the film debuts on Prime Video in a few days. And the early buzz on LaKeith Stanfield’s performance in “Judas And The Black Messiah” is progressing as several early social media reactions have singled him out. We’ll be keeping a close eye on that one as its HBO Max premiere draws near.

Best Supporting Actress
1. Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy
2. Olivia Colman – The Father
3. Amanda Seyfreid – Mank
4. Ellen Burstyn – Pieces Of A Woman
5. Youn Yuh-jung – Minari
​6. Saoirse Ronan – Ammonite (^)
7. Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (^)
8. Helena Zengel – News Of The World (v)
9. Natasha Lyonne – The United States vs. Billie Holiday
10. Jodie Foster – The Mauritanian (

Maria Bakalaova has received a massive boost from the critics’ awards so far, as she currently leads in precursor wins. However, many of the NBP team are not convinced that such a comedic performance will charm the AMPAS voters the way many are hoping. While she continues to build a case for herself in this year’s race, she’s still on the outside as more traditional Oscar-bait performances from previously nominated actresses sit above her. Jodie Foster has slipped for her performance in “The Mauritanian,” which early word says is good but not great. However, she’s holding on as there aren’t many other contenders outside of these ten….yet.

Best Supporting Actor
1. Daniel Kaluuya – Judas And The Black Messiah (^)
2. Sacha Baron Cohen – 
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (v)
3. Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night In Miami… (v)
4. Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods (v)
5. Bill Murray – On The Rocks (v)
6. Paul Raci – 
Sound of Metal (^)
7. Mark Rylance – The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (v)
8. Frank Langella – The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (v)
9. Stanley Tucci – Supernova (v)
10. Glynn Turman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (NEW)

Dropped Out: Robin de Jesus – The Boys in the Band

Glynn Turman enters the top 10 after shockingly winning the LAFCA award for Best Supporting Actor. While he was not previously on anyone’s radar for his sympathetic performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” we’ll see if Netflix can take that big win and use it to kick start his campaign. Daniel Kaluuya finally (I’ve been predicting this ever since the trailer dropped but it’s taken others a while to get there) took the top spot at the charts for his sight unseen turn in “Judas And The Black Messiah” while Paul Raci is building momentum as a critics favorite for his beautiful work in “Sound of Metal.” This race is one of the biggest head-scratchers this season, with so many possibilities. We eagerly await to see how it continues to shape.

Best Original Screenplay
1. The Trial Of The Chicago 7
2. Mank
3. Promising Young Woman (^)
Soul (v)
5. Minari
6. Judas and the Black Messiah
7. Sound Of Metal (^)
8. Da 5 Bloods (v)
9. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (NEW)

10. On The Rocks (v)

Dropped Out: Palm Springs 

Promising Young Woman” continues to slowly move up on the rankings as more and more people see it. It won the LAFCA award for Best Screenplay this past week, which gave it a considerable surge, while “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” also made a large impact with the critics’ groups, replacing Hulu comedy “Palm Springs.” This is another race where there are so many avenues which it could go down but one thing still remains the same. Aaron Sorkin is in that number one slot and it’s going to take a lot to take him out of that position.

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. One Night In Miami…
2. Nomadland (^)
3. The Father (v)
4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
5. First Cow (^)
6. ​I’m Thinking of Ending Things (^)
7. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (v)
8. News Of The World (v)
9. Hillbilly Elegy
10. French Exit (NEW)

Dropped Out: The White Tiger

French Exit” regained its placement in the top 10 after more members of the team saw “The White Tiger.” A film many of us liked but didn’t love. Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” rose to the number two slot as the critics push it to become this year’s Best Picture frontrunner and if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last decade, it’s that Best Picture and screenplay are joined at the hip. However, the two films to receive the biggest boosts this week were Charlie Kaufman’s maddeningly brilliant adaptation “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” and Kelly Reichardt’s critical darling “First Cow.” One is a previous Academy Award winner, while the other is looking for her first nomination. Both are not your typical Oscar films and while “First Cow” has the edge right now (No NYFCC Best Picture winner has ever gone on not to be nominated for at least one Oscar), don’t count out Charlie Kaufman yet.

​Best Animated Feature
1. Soul
2. Wolfwalkers
3. Over the Moon
4. Onward
5. The Willoughbys
6. The Croods: A New Age
7. Trolls World Tour
8. Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (NEW)
8. Connected (^)
10. Bombay Rose (v)

Dropped Out: Earwig and the Witch

Many of us had forgotten that last year’s BAFTA nominee “Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” was streaming on Netflix and eligible for this year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar. Once we realized this, many of us put it in our predictions and now it is here in the top 10. There is still very little movement otherwise in this category, especially after the world has had the chance to see both “Soul” and “Wolfwalkers.” Although the latter is outpacing the former in critics’ wins for the moment, no one should ever doubt the Disney machine. We won’t be able to know for sure what is going on with this category until we start hearing from the Globes, BAFTA, Annies but most importantly, the PGA.

Best Documentary Feature
1. Dick Johnson is Dead
2. Totally Under Control (^)
3. The Dissident (v)
4. All In: The Fight for Democracy
5. Boys State (^)
6. Crip Camp (v)
7. Time
8. The Truffle Hunters
9. Collective (NEW)
10. The Mole Agent

Dropped Out: 76 Days

Like a few other races this year, there are so many ways Best Documentary Feature could go. Will they reward renowned documentary filmmaker Kirsten Johnson for her beautifully personal work in “Dick Johnson is Dead?” Or will they want to put a highlight on the Trump administration’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic with “Totally Under Control?” If Stacey Abrams is able to pull off another miracle in Georgia, expect to see a massive bump for “All In: The Fight for Democracy.” And what do we make of International/Documentary contender “Collective?” Or critics’ favorite “Time?” It’s simply still too early to know.

Best International Feature Film
1. Another Round
2. Quo Vadis, Aida?
3. Night of the Kings
4. Collective (^)
5. I’m No Longer Here (^)
6. Dear Comrades! (^)
7. A Sun (NEW)
8. My Little Sister (v)
9. Never Gonna Snow Again (v)
10. Notturno

Dropped Out: Atlantis

Another Round” continues its stronghold on the Best International Feature category despite not being a juggernaut the same way “Roma” and “Parasite” were these past two years. “Collective” received a boost from critics. Many of us suspect it will be nominated in either Documentary or International Feature but we don’t know which one quite yet (it could always go the way of last year’s “Honeyland” and get nominated in both). A lot of interest has been built around the Taiwanese drama film “A Sun,” which is currently streaming on Netflix. While the campaigns for “Dear Comrades!” and “I’m No Longer Here” have been growing as the studios and publicists try to get as many people to see their films as they can. That’s the name of the game this year. Push your films. Get them seen. Without the benefit of in-person screenings, those who are not campaigning are going to suffer.

Happy New Year, everyone! All of our predictions can be seen broken down category by category here, along with the craft categories. Let us know your predictions and where you see the race as of today. You can either drop us a comment in the comments section below or message us on our Twitter account.

​​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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