Awards Circuit: How Toronto Shook Up the Oscar Race With ‘Nomadland,’ Regina King and Kate Winslet

The first set of predictions drops just after Venice and TIFF concludes and NYFF gets underway.

Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

As we try to squint our way to see what the next seven months hold, TIFF and Venice unveiled the first crop of awards contenders for the 2020-2021 year. At the top of that list is Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” which took the Golden Lion on Saturday evening. Poised to do wonders for distributor Searchlight Pictures on the circuit, Zhao has four possibilities at awards attention (producing, directing, writing, and editing), which could tie her with Warren Beatty who achieved four nominations, in one year, on two separate occasions (“Heaven Can Wait” in 1978 and “Reds” in 1981). Depending on how the rest of the film year shakes out, “Nomadland” is at the top of the heap in several categories.

Another big hit was Regina King’s directorial debut, “One Night in Miami” from Amazon Studios. With a robust ensemble, the film received outstanding notices but the streamer is still discussing the category placements for its four stars Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom, Jr.. This could take some time to figure out a la “Spotlight” in 2015, which did eventually find a consensus around Mark Ruffalo who was nominated for supporting actor. Perhaps “Miami” can go the way of “Bugsy” and the recent “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which both received two supporting actor nominations.

Francis Lee’s “Ammonite” with Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan came with praise but a few detractors. You must always remember, critics are not Oscar voters, so nothing is done until the final ballots are in. As we sit on the pre-season mark, acting citations are still very much in play.

A few purchases have thrown some new movies in the mix. “Pieces of a Woman” went to Netflix showcasing another best actress hopeful in Vanessa Kirby, who showcases her very best turn yet. No official word on whether it’s coming this year but with strong reviews like the ones it received at Venice and TIFF, expect a hardy campaign for the film and its stars including Shia LeBeouf. The streaming giant also picked up Halle Berry’s “Bruised” and Sam Levinson’s “Malcolm and Marie,” both all, however, have not been officially dated for this calendar year.

Florian Zeller’s highly-regarded “The Father,” continued its run that started in January at Sundance, and has put Anthony Hopkins, at the forefront of best actor. Nineteen years after winning the Oscar as Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs,” taking his chances with the first-time director Zeller looks to be paying off, which could bring love in other categories such as Oscar-winner Olivia Colman in supporting actress and even best picture.

After failing to make the supporting actor lineup in 2015 for “Beasts of No Nation,” and becoming the first person to win a SAG award and not be nominated for an Oscar, British star Idris Elba is playing double duty as the star and producer of “Concrete Cowboy.” Still looking for distribution, the reviews have been positive with interest from studios to possibly throw it in the mix. An incredible force in the film, if it were picked up, he could definitely be a factor to consider in supporting actor. Perhaps even the screenplay by director Ricky Staub and Dan Walser can make some headway in original screenplay as well.

It’s very early, and this is only the beginning of what is sure to be a long, ever-changing season. Next on the horizon is the New York Film Festival where we’ll see our first glimpse at Michelle Pfeiffer in “French Exit” from Sony Pictures Classics.

Variety’s Awards Circuit predictions will live in two spaces, that can be accessed from the main “Awards Circuit Hub,” where you can visit all the individual categories and see the buzz that’s happening each week on “The Collective,” which you can visit for all the top predictions in one place; the individual category pages, where a full breakdown and ranking can be found. All eligible films are subject to change and predictions will be updated only on Thursdays.

Happy Awards Season!