Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The State Of The Acting Races For The 95th Academy Awards

We’re currently in the whirlwind post-holiday portion of awards season. It’s the time of year when critics groups decide on their winners, top ten lists are finalized, and major precursor awards announce their nominees. Contenders whose awards prospects have been talked about in hypothetical terms for most of the year suddenly start to either see their likelihood of Oscar success increase to the point of inevitability or, in certain unfortunate cases, become the also-rans and could-have-been that will be discussed by award season lovers with a solemn tone of disappointment. The Critics’ Choice Awards recently announced their nominees for the best of film in 2022. With the Golden Globe nominations also announced, we now have nominations for half of the four major televised precursor awards (the SAG nominees will be unveiled on January 11th, and BAFTA will announce their nominees on January 19th). As such, the big contenders for this year’s Oscars are starting to truly take shape, especially in the acting races, which are the only categories recognized by all four award ceremonies.

There are essential things to remember when taking the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes into account for your Oscar predictions. Most importantly, unlike the SAGs and BAFTAs, the Critics’ Choice and Globes share zero voter overlap with the Academy Awards. As such, these award shows are better indicators of which films and creative individuals are accumulating buzz as the season progresses rather than a preview of how Oscar voters may actually cast their ballot. In addition, the Critics’ Choice has a reputation for attempting to be the best predictor of the Oscars rather than awarding the actual critics’ choices (although those two ideals can occasionally combine in their actual winners). As such, they’ll notably stretch the number of nominees in different categories to ostensibly include more eventual Oscar picks, thus increasing the percentage of their awards’ accuracy to the forthcoming Academy nominations. And, of course, the Golden Globes have their own much more unsavory baggage, including a history of bribery, non-inclusive membership, and abuse allegations against the organization’s former president Philip Berk by one of this year’s nominees – Brendan Fraser. Because of all these factors, last year’s ceremony was pulled from NBC, and the Hollywood Foreign Press’s already-spotty reputation was further tarnished. However, this year’s ceremony will once again be broadcast on NBC, and because of this platforming, all signs indicate that the Golden Globes’ power as a tastemaker and testing ground for future Oscar candidates may be just as formidable as ever, whether we like it or not.

At this point in the Oscar race, nothing can help a performer maintain their awards buzz like a nomination from either the Globes or the Critics’ Choice. And if a performer receives nominations from both, the likelihood of hearing their name called on Oscar nomination morning only increases. Of course, some eventual nominees will likely come from actors who weren’t recognized by either organization (Jessie Buckley, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, and Jesse Plemons all pulled off this feat just last year). However, if history is any indication, the majority of this year’s Oscar nominations will be bestowed upon performers who were recognized by either the Critics’ Choice, the Globes, or both.

In the name of organization and sanity, it’s best to analyze the acting races category by category. First up is Best Actress. This year, the performers who were nominated by both the Critics’ Choice and the Globes are Cate Blanchett (“TÁR“), Viola Davis (“The Woman King“), Margot Robbie (“Babylon“), Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans“), and Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once“). All five of these women have been considered top-of-the-line contenders by awards predictors, and their mentions by both awards bodies shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. The most important thing to note when discussing the Golden Globe’s acting nominees is that for the lead acting races, the prizes are split into two categories for both male and female performances – drama and musical or comedy. Blanchett, Davis, and Williams were all recognized for their dramatic performances, while Robbie and Yeoh fall into the musical or comedy category. This genre split severely increases the chances of a lead performer being nominated, and, subsequently, when a notable lead performance misses, it can feel quite conspicuous. This year, the only actress who was nominated by the Critics’ Choice but not by the Golden Globes is Danielle Deadwyler for her performance in “Till.” However, she’s still a formidable contender, and the universal acclaim that her powerful performance has received means she should still be counted as a potential candidate for an Oscar nomination. 

Conversely, two actresses were nominated by the Golden Globes in the drama category but not by the Critics’ Choice: Olivia Colman (“Empire of Light“) and Ana de Armas (“Blonde“). Both are previous Globe nominees, with Colman winning twice for her television work and once for her performance in the film “The Favourite.” However, both women are undoubtedly their divisive films’ best chances at an Academy Award nomination in any category, making the road to the Oscars more demanding to traverse. One would think that Colman would stand a good chance at being nominated by her fellow Brits at the BAFTAs but curiously, the only one of her three Oscar-nominated performances that the BAFTAs also nominated is her winning work in “The Favourite.” If she can manage to secure a nomination from them for her emotional performance in “Empire of Light,” it might be wise to predict her for a fourth Academy Award nomination. On the other hand, de Armas has a much harder battle regarding her Oscar chances. A controversial film surrounds her impressive portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, and many in the industry may be put off by how it depicts the ultra-glamorous movie star.

Additionally, a handful of lead actresses were nominated in the musical or comedy category of the Globes but not mentioned by the Critics’ Choice – Lesley Manville (“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris“), Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Menu“), and Emma Thompson (“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande“). Thompson has had Oscar buzz since her film premiered nearly a year ago at Sundance and the beloved two-time Oscar winner is very much still in the running for an additional nomination. On the other hand, Manville and Taylor-Joy’s nominations are classic Globes comedy picks, and while their performances are certainly worthy of praise, this is likely as far as either will get in this year’s Oscar race.

Moving onto Best Actor, four talented men received nominations from both the Critics’ Choice and Globes – Austin Butler (“Elvis“), Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin“), Brendan Fraser (“The Whale“), and Bill Nighy (“Living“). Once again, these gentlemen have long been considered frontrunners by most prognosticators, and these double nominations only further solidify their status in the race. Similarly to Best Actress, three dramatic leading male performances were recognized by both award shows (Butler, Fraser, and Nighy), with the Globes additionally nominating Hugh Jackman (“The Son“) and Jeremy Pope (“The Inspection“). Jackman’s film has received lackluster reviews since it premiered at the Venice Film Festival; however, his status as a major star and a previous Oscar nominee means that he shouldn’t be counted out just yet. Pope’s nomination is a welcome surprise as he may have seemed like a more likely nominee at the Critics’ Choice Awards. At this point in the race, the four men nominated by both award shows feel reasonably solid in terms of their Oscar chances, leaving a wide-open race for that coveted fifth slot. Pope may still stand a chance to nab it in such a fractured season.

In the comedy category, the Globes nominated four men who weren’t mentioned by the Critics’ Choice (Farrell is the only nominee from this category who was cited by both awards bodies). These nominees are Diego Calva (“Babylon“), Daniel Craig (“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery“), Adam Driver (“White Noise“), and Ralph Fiennes (“The Menu“). As previously mentioned, there is still a case to be made for many actors to take the fifth spot at the Oscars, with Calva and Driver, in particular, having a decent chance given the pedigree of their admittedly divisive films. Craig and Fiennes are worthy nominees but are unfortunately considered longshots when it comes to Oscar chances. 

Two men were notably snubbed by the Globes but embraced by the Critics’ Choice – Tom Cruise (“Top Gun: Maverick“) and Paul Mescal (“Aftersun“). Many predictors have mentioned Cruise as a potential Oscar nominee both because of the high-profile film he’s attached to and because it’s been over 20 years since his last nomination for “Magnolia.” A nomination for Cruise would be a tip of the hat to one of the final remaining bankable movie stars. Mescal has racked up nominations from smaller precursor awards, such as the Film Independent Spirits and the Gothams. His Critics’ Choice Award mention indicates that this indie darling may have the stuff to go all the way. 

Things become more straightforward as we move on to the supporting categories. Both awards shows only have one category for both male and female supporting performances, making the pool of contenders much smaller than in lead. In Best Supporting Actress, the Globes and Critics’ Choice both extended nominations to Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever“), Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin“), and Jamie Lee Curtis (“Everything Everywhere All at Once“). This category has been particularly difficult to predict thus far, as proven by the exclusion from both sets of nominations of such oft-predicted names as Hong Chau (“The Whale“), Claire Foy (“Women Talking“), and Keke Palmer (“Nope“). Given how spread out the field is, this category will likely surprise us on Oscar nomination morning. 

Bassett’s towering work in the sequel to the 2018 blockbuster is a welcome addition to cinephiles who’ve long been clamoring for her to return to the Oscars after her single nomination for “What’s Love Got to Do With It” nearly 30 years ago. The Screen Actors Guild will likely recognize her work, making her a powerful contender for an Oscar nomination. Condon and Curtis are both featured in films that are major award players, and there’s a sound chance that they will be one of several Oscar nominations their films receive. Curtis, in particular, has a spectacular narrative as an overdue and overlooked actress when it comes to awards recognition. Shockingly, she’s never received a nomination from the Academy.

Curtis’s co-star Stephanie Hsu was nominated by the Critics’ Choice despite missing at the Globes, as was Jessie Buckley (“Women Talking“) and Janelle Monáe (“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery“). All three have been considered contenders for nearly the entire awards season thus far, and this will likely not be the last time we hear any of their names in a nomination announcement. Buckley is a notable inclusion as she’s part of a sizable cast of supporting actress performances in her film. With a large ensemble film, it can sometimes be difficult for a single actor to rise above the crowd and become the performance that award bodies center around, so Buckley being the only nominee from “Women Talking” may help her case. Two women were mentioned only by the Globes – Dolly De Leon (“Triangle of Sadness“) and Carey Mulligan (“She Said“). The former has been noted as a standout ever since the film’s premiere, and her scene-stealing work is exactly the kind of performance that the Oscars sometimes gravitate towards. However, it’s slightly surprising that Critics’ Choice didn’t nominate her, given how much critics have kept her name in the conversation. Mulligan is in contention for her third Oscar nomination, and while “She Said” has a strong chance of being nominated in Best Adapted Screenplay, it will likely have a harder time making it into other categories, which of course, makes it even more difficult for Mulligan to secure an Oscar nomination. Still, it’s possible, and the Academy clearly likes her.

Over in Best Supporting Actor, three men received recognition from both awards shows – Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan (both for “The Banshees of Inisherin“), along with Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once“). All three are from top-tier Oscar-contending films, and it appears likely that we’ll continue to hear their names all season long. Quan, in particular, feels like the type of winning performance combined with a lovable real-life personality that the Academy finds irresistible, and a vote for him could be considered a vote for the film as a whole. 

Beyond those three, the race gets more complicated. The Critics’ Choice went for two men from “The Fabelmans” who have been long predicted for Oscar glory – Paul Dano and Judd Hirsch. However, both men have considerable marks against them when it comes to typical Academy recognition. While many consider Dano long overdue for his first nomination, he plays a very mild-mannered and pointedly unemotional man. On the other hand, Hirsch gives a flashy performance but is onscreen for less than 10 minutes. While it may seem counterintuitive given the very nature of supporting performances, the Oscars have lately mostly avoided rewarding performances that take up limited screen time. In addition, Critics’ Choice gave a nomination to Brian Tyree Henry for “Causeway.” The respected actor has seen his career quickly rise in the past decade, and an Oscar nomination would be the cherry on top. His nominations at the Film Independent Spirit Awards and the Gotham Awards indicate that his name is still in the conversation.

The two supporting male performances only to receive Golden Globe nominations are Brad Pitt (“Babylon“) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Good Nurse“). Pitt feels like precisely the kind of standout performance from an undeniable movie star (and former winner) towards which the Academy would naturally gravitate. However, given the divisive nature of his film and the recent revelations of unpleasant stories from the actor’s past, he may not be returning to this year’s Oscars. Redmayne’s nomination is the closest thing the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did this year that resembles what many awards lovers come to expect from the Golden Globes – a nomination for a star in an otherwise underseen and unheralded film such as Ben Affleck in “The Tender Bar” or Jared Leto in “The Little Things.” Netflix’s “The Good Nurse” received respectable reviews, but it’s doubtful that Redmayne will continue to be a significant player in this year’s awards race.

Awards season is only just beginning. The races for the four acting categories still have plenty of time to mold and alter beyond the contenders that precursor awards have already mentioned. As always, the changing nature of the race is exactly what keeps those of us who obsess over it returning year after year. Here is who I am currently predicting to be nominated for the Oscar as of today…

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett – TÁR
Viola Davis – The Woman King

Danielle Deadwyler – Till
Michelle Williams – The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Actor
Austin Butler – Elvis
Tom Cruise – Top Gun: Maverick

Colin Farrell – The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser – The Whale
Bill Nighy – Living

Best Supporting Actress
Angela Bassett – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Jessie Buckley – Women Talking

Kerry Condon – The Banshees of Inisherin
Jamie Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Dolly de Leon – Triangle of Sadness

Best Supporting Actor
Paul Dano – The Fabelmans
Brendan Gleeson – The Banshees of Inisherin
Barry Keoghan – The Banshees of Inisherin
Brad Pitt – Babylon
Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All at Once

Wo are you currently predicting will be nominated at SAG and ultimately, the Oscar for Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor? Please let us know in the comments below or over on our Twitter account and check out our recently updated Oscar Predictions.

Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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