If this was an ordinary year, we’d be half-way to Venice and Telluride right now. We’d be gathering our ideas about which films and which performances were potentially going to the big show. We would be speculating on what Telluride would have on offer and we’d be preparing ourselves for traditional procession of festival season, film critics season, Golden Globes season, the guild awards and at last, the Oscars. We don’t even know, at this point, if there will be any semblance of a normal Oscars ceremony that would stack thousands of people in a cramped auditorium. They could theoretically do it outside, like at the Hollywood Bowl. Then guests could social distance. The Dolby seats just 3,400. The Hollywood Bowl, by contrast, can seat 17,000. That could mean more people could theoretically go to the Bowl or some other outdoor venue to watch the awards go down.
But more likely, Oscar Night will be virtual, as the Emmys will be. With acceptance speeches even potentially on Zoom. The horror. The horror.
In today’s podcast with Clarence and Ryan we talk about Best Actor, plus we talk about how we think the race might roll out. You can listen to that here.
In ordinary times, we would not be so dependent on the taste makers. But this year, people like me will be mostly in charge of driving the race, unless publicists somehow find a way to gather voters in non-traditional ways – private screenings at people’s homes. Drive-in events, etc. In ordinary times the chatter online would be countered with real life happenings – word of mouth at industry parties and the like. Without that, it is going to be worse case scenario: FILM TWITTER GONE WILD.
Film Twitter, where various high status tweeters will gather in their groups and decide which films they want to push – and those high status tweeters will broadcast their picks from their various websites – on platforms large and small. People like Kyle Buchanan, Anne Thompson, and the folks at Vanity Fair, and of course the rankings at Gold Derby and Movie City News. The tastemakers will be the most important voices to help shape the race.
But as usual, in looking over the films we have no idea which of them will be good. How many of them voters will like or how many voters will tolerate for five minutes and then switch over to something else, go do yoga, or walk the dog. We don’t know what they’re going to do but you can bet that Film Twitter will have a very good idea of what they SHOULD do. Never before in the 20 years I’ve been doing this site has there been more power put in the hands of critics and bloggers than there will be this year. This is good in some ways, bad in others. Good because how fun that will be for people like me. Bad because how awful that will be for industry voters who will see their choices continually scrutinized, popularized, or criminalized.
We have to factor in the daily low-level anxiety and depression we’re all feeling from the coronavirus and lockdown isolation, among other things, such that how we watch movies, what we will WANT to watch will be impacted. This is also an election year. That could flip the whole race on its head, depending on who wins on November 3, before Oscar season has even really started. Remember last time it was thought the election derailed La La Land’s chances to win and tipped the scales to Moonlight. Who knows if that was really why but many seem to think it was.
First up will be the critics awards. Each of the choices, as we saw last year, by any major critics will be scrutinized as carefully as every other thing on Twitter is – it will just take one person to be offended or to call out a choice and hundreds, thousands will pile on. Most people who know social media is watching will want to lean into the way that social media will approve of. In this case, Twitter mostly.
But either which way, voters will have ballots and they will have to vote and sooner or later ten Producers Guild films will emerge, five Directors Guild and five Screen Actors Guild choices, and from thence, the Oscars.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (MOVIE movie)
The Irishman (MOVIE movie)
1917 (MOVIE movie)
Ford v Ferrari (MOVIE movie)
Little Women (MOVIE movie)
Untitled Todd Haynes
The Good Liar (MOVIE movie)
There are so many other potential titles, and we have no idea if any of these (save Tarantino’s movie) will go. It is a wide open race as we start the season.
Other titles that catch my eye right now:
So three weeks before Telluride, before Toronto I had 8 out of the ultimate 9 movies already on my radar. That is pretty amazing, you gotta admit. I don’t know if that means anything but that’s how it shook down last year.
I wasn’t so lucky with Best Actor, which I jotted down at the end of September. Best Actress I had by late September, give or take.
At any rate, if this was an ordinary year, which it isn’t, these are how I would roughly roll out an early list for Oscar, starting with Best Picture, as I would do it if it wasn’t COVID times.
It’s all just sort of nuts this year. We have nothing to go on, nothing to really hang our hats on – not even a Cannes Film Fest or a Telluride lineup or a Tiff lineup or anything. We’re all just flying blind with what looks like it might be the kind of movie that 1) is good at all and 2) will be something Oscar voters might like.
With all of that said, and for the fun of it — AND FOR THE RECORD — herewith, based on nothing so much as sight unseen.
Best Picture (sight unseen)
West Side Story
MacBeth (if ready)
News of the World
Trial of the Chicago 7
Next Goal Wins
United States vs. Billie Holiday
Possibly contenders (sight unseen):
On the Rocks
Da 5 Bloods
The French Dispatch
The Midnight Sky
David Fincher, Mank
Steven Spielberg, West Side Story
Joel Coen, MacBeth (if ready)
Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
Christopher Nolan, Tenet
Taika Waititi, Next Goal Wins
Paul Greengrass, News of the World
Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks
Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy
Lee Daniels, United States vs. Billie Holiday
Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods
And then onward to Best Actor — and again, this is really sort of pointless but it is probably what we would do in an ordinary year. Note how John David Washington and Denzel Washington COULD be up against each other in the same category.
Denzel Washington, Macbeth (if ready) – Father
John David Washington, Tenet – Son
Gary Oldman, Mank
Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (unless supporting)
Tom Hanks, News of the World
Contenders (Sight unseen)
Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Timothée Chalamet, Dune
George Clooney, The Midnight Sky
Matt Damon, Stillwater
Ansel Elgort, West Side Story
Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins
Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Bill Murray, On the Rocks
Joaquin Phoenix, C’mon, C’mon
Best Actress (Sight Unseen)
Jennifer Hudson, Respect
Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy
Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Rachel Zegler, West Side Story
Contenders (sight unseen)
Kate Winslet, Ammonite
Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit
Andra Day, United States vs. Billie Holiday
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
That’s all I got for now. We will watch. We will wait.