Oh boy. Right about now I think people who cover the Oscars are chewing the walls. That’s because we’re all used to a rushing river that all happens and is over in two months. Now it’s a drip drip drip drip – and since so much of the race is out of the hands of the publicists – no parties, no media events, etc – it’s just a lot of people hunched over their keyboards fretting.
In past years when the Oscars were held in late March it was possible to change the trajectory of a movie or a contender. Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, for example, caught late buzz through word of mouth and people began to discover just how great it was. Shakespeare in Love was also a late breaking success
With the pandemic, though, it is impossible to move or shake the race the way some have in the past, like Bong Joon Ho showing up at literally every party in Hollywood. While Parasite might have won anyway, there is little doubt that the standing ovation at the SAG awards and the charismatic director making the rounds made the Oscar race.
Here are a few more examples – Jeff Bridges also hit the campaign trail (sorry, no other way to say it) and was everywhere, shaking every hand, smiling along, Lebowski-style – he didn’t just sit around waiting to win. He knew that you have to be out there putting yourself in the minds and hearts of voters so they feel good voting for you. It doesn’t always work, of course. I’ve seen plenty of actors make the rounds but not win. But to change the course of an Oscar race that is what you would need to do.
Jennifer Lawrence, Marion Cotillard, Brie Larson, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, even Kate Winslet had to work for it, Helen Mirren, you name it. This is especially the case with women but it is not always just women. Somehow the appearances on the virtual Zooms doesn’t really cut it in terms of shifting buzz. It is hard to make an impact in any way.
Now I know for sure that you can’t substitute the human element for Oscar campaigning. Honestly, it is the Oscar race overall. If you remove the excitement of the events themselves there would not be the same kind of excitement for the big night. We’re emotional creatures. We thrive on emotion. The pandemic has removed both the market pressure on films to be hits, which drives power in Hollywood, and it’s removed our emotional response to the award wins themselves.
There are some who can not campaign and still win just from their performance alone, like Mo’nique for Precious, all of Katharine Hepburn’s performances. In general, though, and especially now to know them is to love them and to love them is to vote for them.
Of course, someone might ask the obvious: who cares what people who cover the race feel? And maybe that’s right. Who cares? No one. Except those who cover the race. And those who win awards. And those who attend awards shows. The general public overall misses out on the publicity events as they trickle down and make news.
The next big awards show will again be virtual. That will be the SAG awards. So let’s say, for the sake of it, that Viola Davis wins Best Actress at the SAG. While her winning on camera would be exciting – it would be nothing like winning in a room of people who would leap to their feet with clips of it making the news and reaching outward and driving up buzz. That can’t happen. Chadwick Boseman winning Best Actor would have been, very likely, one of the most moving moments in SAG awards history – but that won’t be possible either. There isn’t going to be a room full of people standing up, applauding and celebrating this great actor.
You aren’t seeing a lot of “why this person deserves to win” columns – probably some of that is down to fear (no one wants to criticize many of these frontrunners for obvious reasons) but also because many are satisfied with the way it’s going. You can’t really make people vote for what you want them to vote for, trust me on that one. I’ve been trying for 20 years. The best you can do is show them why films are so great and maybe they will rethink their decision.
There are two categories that feel open at the upcoming SAG awards – Supporting Actress and Ensemble.
This is assuming that the frontrunners to win are: Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor, Carey Mulligan for Best Actress, Daniel Kaluuya for Supporting Actor.
In Supporting Actress, the nominees are:
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari
Olivia Colman, The Father
Maria Bakalova, Borat
Helena Zengel, News of the World
At the Oscars, Zengel was replaced by Amanda Seyfried for Mank. Over at Gold Derby, Glenn Close is in the lead. However, the only one of the five that has a corresponding SAG ensemble nomination is Yuh-Jung Youn. Does that make it a difference? It sometimes does. A quick look through their past shows that it makes no difference whatsoever if there is a SAG ensemble nomination – the voters do not vote that way.
These are all great performances – Bakalova could even win. Youn is absolutely fantastic in Minari, and if voters love the movie they might award her if their vote is going elsewhere in ensemble, or vice versa.
But for my money there is no question that Glenn Close gives the best performance of the five. Not only has she never won an Oscar – and deserves one by now – but because she is unrecognizable in the role. Worse, she and the cast and the film were treated badly by the snooty film critics who seem to delight in being bullies when it suits them.
To be able to appreciate her performance, and the film overall, requires being able to empathize and humanize people that the majority of the Left in this country can’t. I think that is why the film was attacked so viciously and why Close has a Razzie nomination. It was an extension of the last four years. But if you do humanize them, if you do see where they’re coming from, if you’ve come from a background of that kind of hard living you will be able to recognize just how great of a performance this is.
If I were an actor, would I vote for Glenn Close? Yes. But votes aren’t always about the performance. Much of the time they’re about how much people “like” the character and the movie overall. They might love Glenn Close as an actress, and they might want to see her win, but they probably like Youn’s character more. That is, I think, what will drive this vote. Minari is such a great film overall and there is no doubt that it’s beating heart is the grandma who tests the family and brings them together.
It is interesting that it’s between Grandmas and how they inspired their young grandsons, in’nt it? Clearly, both JD Vance and Lee Isaac Chung were moved deeply and inspired by their grandmas who intervened at key moments in their lives and shaped the adults they would become. Both films are tributes to them.
Of course, it’s possible neither of them will win and Bakalova will. I’m not feeling Colman but you never know.
In terms of the ensemble cast, that would seem to be down to the only two that have Best Picture nominations – Minari and The Trial of the Chicago 7.
Chicago 7 is the guild champ but Minari did slightly better with Oscar voters. This is a tough one because it might not be either of these films to win here. It is unusual for a non-Oscar nominee to win but it does happen. Idris Elba won for Beasts of No Nation after not getting an Oscar nomination. Emily Blunt won for A Quiet Place and she too was not nominated for the Oscar. In terms of ensemble, you have to go back to 1996 to find a year when the ensemble winner did not have a corresponding Best Picture nomination.
On the other hand, if voters want to award Viola Davis, let’s say, but they are voting for Carey Mulligan they might shift their vote to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, riding on the love for Chadwick Boseman and to celebrate the dominance of black driven films this year. There is also One Night in Miami and Da 5 Bloods, two that don’t have Best Picture nominations but are full of brilliant performances. Ma Rainey is the one with the lead actor performance in it, however, and that, to me, might drive the win. Might. I do think that Minari and Chicago 7 have the strongest chance to win here.
In terms of industry veterans and respected actors there is no question that Chicago 7 has the edge. Oscar winners Mark Rylance and Eddie Redmayne, along with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Alex Sharp, and Jeremy Strong.
And again, Chicago 7 is among the films that is having a much harder time campaigning this year because they would likely be the most entertaining if they ever had the chance to get on stage. The visual of all of those actors together would be quite influential. Star power and all of that. But that is gone.
Minari is the real threat to watch here because they can also award Youn if they aren’t voting for her in Supporting, but also Steven Yeun, Noel Kate Cho, Han Ye-ri, Scott Haze, Alan Kim, Will Patton. Alan Kim cried when he won a Critics Choice award – so I imagine that video might have made the rounds and warmed more than a few hearts. Minari is a threat because it is so moving, so beloved overall.
And now, onto predictions.
The way it stands now, it seems to me, the race is more or less decided. People have their minds made up and are just waiting to log their votes. Our job, then, is to figure out what the locks are in every category.
For the most part I am being objective in my predictions. The only places where my advocacy is showing is that I believe Mank deserves to win Cinematography, Costumes and Makeup. Of course, I also think it deserves Best Director and Best Picture but it is along for the ride this year. The cinematography on this film is not only the best of the year, but it’s arguably among the best of the last ten years at least.
I know that Nomadland is the frontrunner in Cinematography but it’s hard for me to imagine Mank not winning in the category (even if I know it is inevitable). At least for now, I’ll hold the line.
1. Nomadland (Globe/Critics Choice/Scripter/PGA winner)
2. The Trial of the Chicago 7
4. Promising Young Woman
6. Judas and the Black Messiah
7. Sound of Metal
8. The Father
1. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (DGA)
2. David Fincher, Mank (DGA)
3. Lee Isaac Chung, Minari (DGA)
4. Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman (DGA)
5. Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
1. Chadwick Boseman (Globe/Critics Choice Winner)
2. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
3. Anthony Hopkins, The Father
4. Steven Yeun, Minari
5. Gary Oldman, Mank
1. Andra Day, The United States v. Billie Holiday (Globe Winner) or Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman*
3. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
4. Frances McDormand, Nomadland
5. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
*I know it’s a cop-out to have two at the top but at the moment I just don’t know. I suspect Mulligan has the advantage.
Best Supporting Actor
1. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
2. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
3. Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
4. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
5. Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Best Supporting Actress
1. Youn Yuh-jung, Minari
2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
3. Maria Bakalova, ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
4. Amanda Seyfried, Mank
5. Olivia Colman, The Father
Best Adapted Screenplay
2. One Night in Miami
3. The White Tiger
4. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
5. The Father
Best Original Screenplay
1. Promising Young Woman
2. The Trial of the Chicago 7
4. Judas and the Black Messiah
5. Sound of Metal
Best Costume Design
1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Ann Roth
2. Mank, Trish Summerville
3. Emma, Alexandra Byrne
4. Mulan, Bina Daigeler
Best Original Score
1. Soul, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste
2. Mank, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
3. Minari, Emile Mosseri
4. Da 5 Bloods, Terence Blanchard
5. News of the World, James Newton Howard
1. Sound of Metal
5. News of the World
Best Film Editing
1. Sound of Metal
3. The Trial of the Chicago 7
4. Promising Young Woman
5. The Father
3. Judas and the Black Messiah
4. News of the World
5. The Trial of the Chicago 7
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
3. Hillbilly Elegy
Best Production Design
3. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
4. News of the World
5. The Father
Best Visual Effects*
2. Love and Monsters
3. The Midnight Sky
4. Mulan, Sean Faden,
5. The One and Only Ivan
*No clue. No Best Picture nominees. But Tenet is the only one with both Prod and VFX.
Best Documentary Feature
1. My Octopus Teacher
2. Crip Camp
5. The Mole Agent
Best Animated Feature Film
4. Over the Moon
5. Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Best International Feature Film
1. Another Round, Denmark
2. Better Days, Hong Kong
3. Collective, Romania
4. The Man Who Sold His Skin, Tunisia
5. Quo Vadis, Aida?(Bosnia and Herzegovina
Best Documentary Short Subject
1. A Love Song for Latasha
3. A Concerto Is a Conversation
4. Do Not Split
5. Hunger Ward
Best Animated Short Film
1. If Anything Happens I Love You
4. Genius Loci
Best Live Action Short Film
1. Feeling Through
2. The Letter Room
3. The Present
4. Two Distant Strangers
5. White Eye
Best Original Song
1. Speak Now, One Night in Miami
2. Fight for You, Judas and the Black Messiah
3. Hear My Voice, The Trial of the Chicago 7
4. Húsavík, Eurovision Song Contest
5. Io Si, Seen, The Life Ahead