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A Condensed Year for Contenders
It may seem insignificant, but moving up the Academy Awards two weeks has caused a ripple effect in the industry that makes this year’s nominees more difficult than ever to predict. With the exception of the PGA and SAG awards, usually held in late January,  most of the major precursors — WGA, DGA and BAFTA — have all moved up at least a week.

What this means is earlier deadlines and that translates to less time to see films — and sometimes an uphill battle for pics released later in the year. Even when a movie screens for voters long before its release, there’s something to be said for easy access and a head start. December releases including “1917,” “Little Women” and “Richard Jewell” were shut out of SAG nominations, while “Just Mercy” landed only a nom for supporting actor Jamie Foxx.

Best Picture Possibles
No film has ever won best picture without a PGA nomination, which announces Jan. 7. Here are some of the films likely to be in contention.
“1917”
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
“Bombshell”
“The Farewell”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Hustlers”
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Joker”
“Just Mercy”
“Little Women”
“Marriage Story”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Parasite”
“The Two Popes”

A Director’s Medium
While DGA won’t announce its five nominees until Jan. 7, it’s looking like Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”), Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) are safe bets for Oscar. But despite many deserving female directors (Greta Gerwig, Lulu Wang, Marielle Heller among them), it’s shaping up to be another all-male race with other names in the mix such as  Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”), Todd Phillips (“Joker”), Sam Mendes (“1917”) and Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit.”) Because the directors’ branch votes for the helming nominees — then the entire voting body votes on the winner — they tend to include one auteur outside-the-box vote (see Pawel Pawlikowski and his drama “Cold War” from last year). In 2020, that could be Pedro Almodóvar (“Pain and Glory”) or Fernando Meirelles (“The Two Popes”), both of whom have previously been nominated for director for foreign films that were not nominated for best picture.

Narrowing Down Best Actor
Unless you’re Adam Driver or Joaquin Phoenix, you should be a little nervous considering the incredible list of potential lead actor nominees. Driver and Phoenix landed Golden Globe and SAG Awards nominations in the drama category, for “Marriage Story” and “Joker,” respectively. As did Christian Bale for “Ford v Ferrari,” which caught some off-guard, but he’s always great and the film is an undeniable crowd-pleaser. The other two SAG nominees, Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) and Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) were recognized in the less competitive comedy/musical category at the Globes, but are very much in this race. Still, it’s hard to count out Golden Globe nominees Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”), Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name”) and especially Antonio Banderas (who also won the actor prize at Cannes for “Pain and Glory”). Though he missed out on SAG and Golden Globes, Adam Sandler’s “Uncut Gems” just opened great in wide release, and he landed a Spirit nom and was named best actor by the National Board of Review. And while Robert De Niro was snubbed by both voting bodies for his work in “The Irishman,” he’s still De Niro and “The Irishman” is going to do well across the board. All this is to say: it’s still anyone’s game.

Actresses as Reel People
Renée Zellweger was all but proclaimed lead actress winner when “Judy” premiered on the festival circuit last fall. But then Charlize Theron came along as Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” a movie that is still picking up steam. Also playing a real-life person is Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman in “Harriet.” All three earned Golden Globe and SAG Awards nominations. A Gotham Award winner and Golden Globe nominee, Awkwafina sort of plays a real person in “The Farewell” — her character is based on the film’s writer-director Lulu Wang, whose family chose not to tell her beloved grandmother she had a fatal disease. On the fictional side, Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”) earned both Globe and SAG noms, while Lupita Nyong’o (“Us”) snagged a SAG nom. But two Christmas releases could shake things up: Saoirse Ronan’s Globe-nominated turn in “Little Women” and Spirit Award nominee Alfre Woodard in “Clemency.”

Showing Support
In the supporting categories, look to previous nominees and winners. The likely nominated actors are previous Oscar-winners Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Al Pacino (“The Irishman”), Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”) and Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), who is an Oscar winner for producing “12 Years a Slave.” All landed SAG and Golden Globe nominations. Anthony Hopkins, also a previous winner, snagged a Globe nom for “The Two Popes,” but was shut out of SAG in favor of another previous Oscar winner, Jamie Foxx, for “Just Mercy.” There could be surprises in the form of previous nominees Willem Dafoe (“The Lighthouse”) or Alan Alda (“Marriage Story”). The only real “newcomer”? South Korean star Song Kang Ho of “Parasite.”

On the actress side, previous winner Kathy Bates (“Richard Jewell”) and previous nominees Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”) and Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”) look likely. All earned Globe nominations and Dern and Robbie landed SAG. (Bates probably would have, but was erroneously submitted as lead.) Then there’s never-nominated Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers,” who has scored Spirit, Globe and SAG noms, and 76-year-old breakout star Zhao Shuzhan of “The Farewell,” also a Spirit Award nominee. Annette Bening landed a Globe nom and could earn her fifth Oscar nomination for “The Report.” And though she’s never been nominated before, Scarlett Johansson could be looking at dual nods for her lead work in “Marriage Story” and supporting turn in “Jojo Rabbit.”

 

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