It’s finally (almost) here! After an unusually long season, voting for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards opens April 15, closing on April 20. The winners will then be announced at a unique ceremony held across the globe on April 25. All the speculation about how the length of the season and pandemic viewing may have affected things will at last be put to an end. So as we go into these final days, we take a look at the top categories.
Close-Up on Best Picture
On paper, “Nomadland” is the clear frontrunner, having won the top prize at PGA, Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe Awards. But the Oscars love nothing more than to toss a curveball and a case could be made for any of the nominated films. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” just won the SAG Ensemble prize and one could point to the films “Parasite” and “Spotlight,” which also won ensemble but lost PGA, as a bellwether. It’s worth noting that actors are the largest branch of the Academy. “Promising Young Woman” has a lot of passion behind it and Emerald Fennell winning WGA and landing PGA and DGA nominations bodes well. Though it wasn’t eligible for WGA, “Minari” was the only other best picture nominee nominated for SAG Ensemble and scored a PGA and a DGA nod for Lee Isaac Chung. “Sound of Metal” has quietly been building momentum all season; it’s liked by pretty much everyone. “Judas and the Black Messiah” couldn’t be more timely and with two of its actors nominated (including a surprise nod for LaKeith Stanfield), it is likely to be No. 1 on a lot of lists. “The Father” is starting to be seen by a lot of voters, just in time for those ballots, and its artistry is undeniable. And of course, “Mank” goes into the night with the most nominations at 10 — and Hollywood loves movies about movies.
Calling the Shots
Again, all signs point to a historic victory for “Nomadland” helmer Chloé Zhao, who has already won DGA, the Golden Globe and the Critics’ Choice Award. A win would make Zhao only the second woman ever to win best director, following Kathryn Bigelow’s win for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010. Zhao is up against several first-time nominees, including Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), Chung (“Minari”) and Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round.”) Finishing out the category is David Fincher for “Mank,” landing his third Oscar nod for directing.
Taking the Lead
The lead actress race has been one of the most unpredictable ever, with all the major precursor awards going to different people: Viola Davis won SAG for her work in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Andra Day took home the Golden Globe for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” Frances McDormand triumped at BAFTA and Carey Mulligan scored at the Critics’ Choice Awards for “Promising Young Woman.” “Pieces of a Woman’s” Vanessa Kirby has been nominated for a slew of awards, including BAFTA, and the fifth nominee, “Nomadland’s” Frances McDormand, has picked up several critics prizes and in the movie favored to win best picture. So it seems impossible to predict what will happen on Oscar night, though SAG tends to overlap best with Oscar voters.
On the lead actor side, the late Chadwick Boseman had won every precursor thus far for “Ma Rainey,” until Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) took home the prize at BAFTA. The other three nominees — Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) Gary Oldman (“Mank”) and Steven Yeun (“Minari”) — all star in best picture nominees, which indicates strong support. Still, it would be a surprise to see Boseman miss posthumous kudos at this point.
Daniel Kaluuya has been on a streak, winning Golden Globe, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice and SAG awards for his turn as Illinois Black Panther party chairman Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The only actors who have been nominated alongside him for all three of those awards are Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) and Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”). Interestingly enough, both of those actors are eligible in other categories — Cohen for writing “Borat” and Odom for best song. They’ll face off against Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”) and LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas”), both of whom missed out on SAG and Globes but landed Oscar nods. And it looks doubtful that Stanfield will split votes with Kaluuya, who has yet to miss.
Supporting actress is a bit less predictable, but seems to be a race between BAFTA and SAG Award winner Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”) and Critics’ Choice winner Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”). Both are making their American film debuts in scene-stealing roles. The Golden Globe went to Jodie Foster (“The Mauritanian”), who ultimately didn’t score an Oscar nomination, so anything is possible here. There’s a lot of support for Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”) despite missing out on a SAG nom. Olivia Colman stuns in “The Father” and has pulled an Oscar upset before. And never count out Glenn Close, landing her eighth nomination for “Hillbilly Elegy.”