Pencils down, pass your ballots to the front because the Oscar nomination voting is now closed.
Speaking to voters over the past week, it’s been relatively clear about what voters like and who they’re supporting in a strong year for film.
Nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 8, and we have the 10 burning questions we want to be answered.
Which movie will lead the nomination tally?
There have been three films that have been nominated for 14 Oscars in history — “All About Eve” (1950), “Titanic” (1997) and “La La Land” (2016). We likely won’t see any film get near tying or beating that record. The three most likely candidates to lead the charge are “Belfast” from Focus Features, “Dune” from Warner Bros. and “The Power of the Dog” from Netflix. You could also add “West Side Story” from 20th Century Studios as a dark horse possibility, especially since its tally seems to be trending between seven and 12 noms. Still, the latter number would mean a perfect day that also included Rachel Zegler in lead actress and an accompanying Rita Moreno in supporting actress, alongside Ariana DeBose, in addition to six tech mentions. In the last decade, the most nominated film of the year has won best picture twice: 2014’s “Birdman” (which tied with “The Grand Budapest Hotel” with nine) and 2017’s “The Shape of Water” (with 13).
For the first time since 1950, will the best director category be devoid of any first-time nominees?
It’s been 71 years since the all once-nominated for best director lineup included George Cukor (“Born Yesterday”), John Huston (“The Asphalt Jungle”), winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“All About Eve”), Carol Reed (“The Third Man”) and Billy Wilder (“Sunset Boulevard”). Judging by the DGA Awards lineup that included Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”), Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”), Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”), Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”) and Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”), all signs are pointing to this 71-year-old record being broken. To be clear, this is referring to first-time nominees in the best director category.
What makes this scenario even more likely is that there are only about four possibilities that could break up the party, and they all feel like long shots – Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”), Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”) and Siân Heder (“CODA”). You could feasibly add viable filmmakers from best picture nominee contenders like Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Tick, Tick … Boom!”) and Aaron Sorkin (“Being the Ricardos”). Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”) was BAFTA longlisted, and he could benefit from a pocket of international support that helped Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”) nab an unexpected spot last year.
Something like this is a rarity, especially within the director’s branch. The closest we’ve come to this feat was when Charles Crichton squeaked into the lineup for “A Fish Called Wanda” (1988) alongside Mike Nichols (“Working Girl”), Alan Parker (“Mississippi Burning”), Martin Scorsese (“The Last Temptation of Christ”) and eventual winner, and also first-timer Barry Levinson (“Rain Man”). It’s also worth noting that it’s been 23 years since we had an entire first-time director nominee lineup (Lasse Hallström, Spike Jonze, Michael Mann, eventual winner Sam Mendes and M. Night Shyamalan).
Will there be any women of color nominated in the acting categories?
After last year presented a record number of POC recognized in the acting categories (nine out of the 20), we seem to be trending towards a significant drop in that arena. Despite this historic feat, only three of those nine from last year were women (Viola Davis, Andra Day and winner Yuh-Jung Youn). With only Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) looking like a sure thing in supporting actress, we hope to see others alongside her, such as her co-stars Rita Moreno and Globe winner Rachel Zegler, SAG nominees Jennifer Hudson (“Respect”) and Ruth Negga (“Passing”), and possibly Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”).
It’s not looking much better for the men as Will Smith and Denzel Washington are the only ones tracking to be included in the two male acting categories.
Will Paul Thomas Anderson and Bradley Cooper add three more noms to their resumes?
Both Paul Thomas Anderson and Bradley Cooper have been nominated for a staggering eight Oscars in their impressive careers, albeit in various categories. Anderson seems likely to add three more for writing, directing and producing “Licorice Pizza.” Cooper, who co-stars in Anderson’s film, was nominated for a SAG Award in supporting actor, which bodes well for his Oscar chances. In addition, he’s also playing double duty on “Nightmare Alley” as a producer and lead actor. Both men could have up to 11 career Oscar nominations by Tuesday morning, though it’s not entirely clear if either of them can win any of the categories. Coincidentally, if Cooper is nominated for “Nightmare Alley” in best picture and supporting actor for “Licorice Pizza,” he would be the first to be nominated in both of those categories in the same year.
Was the “Parallel Mothers” surge real and how will that affect the best actress race?
Oscar-winner Penélope Cruz had a palpable surge in the last week for her work in “Parallel Mothers,” which has a solid chance to be recognized in several categories, including best picture, original screenplay and actress. But, if Cruz does enter the best actress lineup, one that has been topsy-turvy all season long, how will that affect the makeup of the category? Hudson was a shocking inclusion at SAG over presumed frontrunner Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) and the only two women that seem locked for nods are Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”) and Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”). So, does that mean Cruz takes the spot that seemed reserved for Hudson or Stewart? Or does she replace either of the two women that have been shortlisted at Globes, SAG and Critics Choice – Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) or Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”).
How many “Belfast” boys will there be?
After both Jamie Dornan and Ciarán Hinds unexpectedly missed SAG nominations for their performances in “Belfast,” the snubs could either signal a lack of support in the actor’s branch or something that could bring its nomination tally down, leaving only Caitríona Balfe to represent for the cast. In a supporting actor field that seems to have only one assurance with Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”) and Troy Kotsur (“CODA”), about seven others are vying for spots. It’ll be a photo finish, but Hinds seems to be the more likely of the two.
Will “Spider-Man: No Way Home” be nominated for best picture?
There are votes for the third installment of the Tom Holland outing as the web-slinging superhero, and that looks to be translating into nominations for best sound and visual effects. However, based on the feedback from voters, it’s a pipe dream. If there is a blockbuster to make the field, the final Daniel Craig outing as James Bond in “No Time to Die” has a strong chance. Let’s see if we see the signal of that at BAFTA.
Which two films get the last spot in best picture?
The PGA nominees revealed a 10 picture field that could be carbon copied onto the best picture ballot, though Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos” and Miranda’s “Tick, Tick … Boom!” seem to be the two films with the most potential to be ousted at the Oscars. Fun fact: if “Tick Tick” makes it in alongside “West Side Story,” it would be the first time two musicals were nominated for best picture since “Funny Girl” and the winner “Oliver!” (1968).
In addition to the two PGA nominees mentioned, the last spots seem to be between “Drive My Car,” “House of Gucci,” “Nightmare Alley,” “No Time to Die,” “Parallel Mothers” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”
Will there be a screenplay nominee with no appearances across other categories?
Since the expansion of the best picture lineup from five to 10 nominees, at least one film has been nominated for screenplay only (either original or adapted). The past ones have been: “In the Loop” (2009), “Another Year” (2010), “The Ides of March” and “Margin Call” (2011), “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012), “Before Midnight” (2013), “Nightcrawler” (2014), “Straight Outta Compton” (2015), “The Lobster” and “20th Century Women” (2016), “The Big Sick” and “The Disaster Artist” (2017), “First Reformed” (2018), “Knives Out” (2019) and “The White Tiger” (2020).
Potentials include “C’mon C’mon” from Mike Mills, “The French Dispatch” from Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman (if you don’t see any tech nods coming) and “Pig” from Michael Sarnoski and Vanessa Block, all of which are eyeing original screenplay noms. In adapted, “Passing” from Rebecca Hall (if you foresee a Ruth Negga snub coming) and even “The Green Knight” from David Lowery (which has some support out there).
Will “Flee” make history in animated, documentary and international feature?
After taking stock of the conversation, it seems like international feature is the safest bet for a nomination for Neon’s animated doc. If it failed to make the cut in a category, animation could be the spot. But as we’ve seen in years past, the documentary branch lives to snub the frontrunners (i.e., “Jane” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”). Gut check says it’s making history as the first film to be recognized in the three categories. But unfortunately, it won’t be able to muster enough support for best picture.
Final predictions will be announced on Thursday.