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Oscar Nominations: Who’s Safe and Who Could Be Snubbed?

Oscars! Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

The Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards have been handed out, and the guilds and the Brits have made their favorites known. Finally, on Tuesday, the Academy itself will weigh in with its own nominations, when we’ll see if, after four months of predictions, we’ve actually learned anything this season. To celebrate the occasion, this week we’re doing an expanded version of our usual Oscar Futures column, looking at the ten biggest categories: picture, director, and the four acting races, as always, and adding the two screenplays, foreign film, and animated feature.

Oscar-watching is an inexact science. We can pore over the preliminary awards as much as we want, but every year brings its own snubs and surprises. Studying the occasions on which the Academy went its own way recently, a few patterns emerge:

The Oscars can handle a problematic nominee, but not if they’re already on the bubble. The Oscars handed Gary Oldman the Best Actor trophy last year despite domestic-violence allegations against the Darkest Hour star, but James Franco was left out of that same category once his own sexual-misconduct stories emerged after the Golden Globes.

If the Academy really likes a movie, it’ll nominate its actors even in unshowy performances. Spotlight stunned observers by getting a Supporting Actress nomination for Rachel McAdams, who’d been left out of every precursor save SAG. But voters liked the movie, so they liked her in it.

A late-breaking movie can pull through even if it missed the earlier ceremonies. Phantom Thread spent most of its season under wraps, only emerging as the beautiful butterfly it was in early December. It scored only two nods at the Globes, and was completely shut out of the SAGs, but come Oscar morning it pulled six nominations, including two acting honors. But you still need to have passion behind you — another late-breaker, The Post, was everyone’s sixth-favorite movie, and only managed two nods. (One of them was Best Picture; sixth-best is still good!)

The Oscars have been slightly more auteur-friendly than the rest. Paul Thomas Anderson didn’t crack any of the main precursors last year, but he made it into Best Director at the Oscars alongside Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig, both of whom were snubbed at the Globes and BAFTAs. Arty filmmakers with a strong personal brand should never count themselves out of the race.

Perfect overlaps rarely happen. Every year, around a dozen actors manage to score Golden Globe, SAG, and Critics’ Choice nominations, and every year, around two of these seeming locks miss out at the Oscars. Before this year, the last time the DGAs and the Globes nominated the same five filmmakers was in 2010, but Oscar didn’t repeat the feat — only four got into Best Director. If you’re not predicting anything unexpected, you’re predicting wrong.

With all that in mind, let’s get to the predictions.


Safe: A Star Is Born, BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, Roma

On the Bubble: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Rich Asians, The Favourite, First Man, If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place, Vice

A Star Is Born, Green Book, and Roma have shown up in every single important precursor, and they’re joined in the top tier by BlacKkKlansman, which only missed out at the National Board of Review. After the saga of the Popular Oscar, I suspect the Academy will not pass up the chance to reward big mainstream hits like Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody (I think A Quiet Place may juuust miss out). Adding in The Favourite for the art-house crowd gets us to seven nominees, with Beale Street and Vice competing for the eighth spot — the same number as the 2016 Oscars, which saw a Best Picture race that felt similarly unsettled. I think Beale Street has slightly more passion behind it, so that’s my pick.


Safe: Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born; Alfonso Cuarón, Roma; Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

On the Bubble: Ryan Coogler, Black Panther; Peter Farrelly, Green Book; Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk; Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite; Adam McKay, Vice; Paweł Pawlikowski, Cold War

Cuarón has been winning almost every single Best Director prize; he’s not sweating this nomination. Cooper hasn’t been campaigning as heavily as some of his competition, but he came out with a major Best Picture contender his first time behind the camera. And Spike Lee brings the chance to correct the astounding fact that he’s never been nominated in this category before. They’re both in. McKay and Farrelly rounded out the category at the Globes and the DGAs, but it’s not silly to assume that at least one of them will miss the cut here. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the influx of foreign talent in the director’s branch leads to them both being passed over for European talent: Lanthimos, who made his most accessible film without abandoning his trademark style, and Pawlikowski, a passion pick whose name I’ve been hearing more and more.


Safe: Christian Bale, Vice; Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born; Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

On the Bubble: Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate; Ethan Hawke, First Reformed; Viggo Mortensen, Green Book; John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

Bale and Malek won Golden Globes for achieving nearly impossible transformations, and if you’ve been paying attention to how different Bradley Cooper looks when he’s not playing Jackson Maine, his own transformation becomes apparent, too. Mortensen can probably rest easy with his entire pizza. If BlacKkKlansman is as strong a player as it seems, I anticipate that Washington’s code-switching policeman will nab the final spot, though it feels wrong to deny Hawke, who’s taken home the lion’s share of critics’ prizes this season.


Safe: Glenn Close, The Wife; Olivia Colman, The Favourite; Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born

On the Bubble: Yalitza Aparicio, Roma; Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns; Viola Davis, Widows; Nicole Kidman, Destroyer; Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Rosamund Pike, A Private War

It’s funny how quickly narratives can change. Two weeks ago, this seemed like a three-way race; now, after a stunner of a Globes speech, Best Actress seems like it might be Close’s for the taking. Gaga and Colman will get the chance to turn it back around, and despite occasional rumblings that she might not have it, McCarthy looks like she’ll make it in, too. I’ve gone back and forth on the fifth Best Actress nominee all season long, but right now I’m leaning toward Aparicio, under the McAdams rule. (Thus making Blunt the Golden Globe/Critics’ Choice/SAG nominee who hits the wall.)


Safe: Mahershala Ali, Green Book; Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

On the Bubble: Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy; Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman; Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born; Sam Rockwell, Vice

Ali is leading the pack here, with Grant serving as the backup for voters who don’t want to award the same actor twice in three years. Then you’ve got four guys competing for three spots. Since his film died on the vine, a lot of people are suggesting Chalamet as the surprise dropout, but I think he’ll earn a nod in recognition of how close he came to winning last year. My money’s on Rockwell, who has a small part in a polarizing film, and who already took home this trophy last time around.


Safe: Amy Adams, Vice; Emma Stone, The Favourite; Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

On the Bubble: Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place; Claire Foy, First Man; Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk; Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots

Five-time loser Adams has a solid shot at a make-up award, and I don’t think voters will dare split up the Favourite trio. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. King took home hardware at the Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards, but was snubbed by SAG and BAFTA, which have a lot of overlap with the Oscar electorate. Those voters both went with Robbie, but she carries the baggage of repping a not-so-great movie. And then there’s Blunt, a double SAG nominee who might find this category easier to crack than Best Actress. In the end, I predict King will find enough No. 1 votes to make it in here, joined by Foy, the sole survivor of the First Man flameout.


Safe: The Favourite, Roma, Vice

On the Bubble: A Quiet Place, Eighth Grade, First Reformed, Green Book

As the most quotable movie in the Best Picture field, The Favourite is, well, the favorite here, and should easily get in. Roma, Vice, and Green Book all scored nods at the Globes, the BAFTAs, and the WGA, though as co-writer Nick Vallelonga has played a central role in the Green Book backlash, I could see his script getting left out Tuesday morning. Spring hit A Quiet Place and A24 efforts Eighth Grade and First Reformed round out the field. This category tends to be friendly to indie darlings, so I’ll take a risk and go with Bo Burnham and Paul Schrader. Gucci!


Safe: BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk

On the Bubble: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, The Death of Stalin, First Man, Leave No Trace, A Star Is Born

Beale Street hasn’t quite followed in Moonlight’s footsteps awards-wise, but it’s been hitting in this category at least, picking up nods even at ceremonies like BAFTA, where the movie itself has underperformed. BlacKkKlansman is considered the other front-runner, though it did miss out at the USC Scripter Awards, often an Oscars bellwether. A Star Is Born couldn’t manage a script nod at the Globes, and if that happens here, you should start looking elsewhere for Best Picture. Still, though the script is Star’s weakest entry in the “big five” categories, I think voters will want to take another look at it. Can You Ever Forgive Me? should get the “Sorry We Didn’t Nominate You in Best Picture” consolation prize, but the last slot is a little more up in the air. The WGA went with Panther, the BAFTAs with First Man, but I’ll go for Death of Stalin, the most verbally dexterous movie in the field.


Safe: Cold War, Roma, Shoplifters

On the Bubble: Ayka, Birds of Passage, Burning, Capernaum, The Guilty, Never Look Away

Foreign film has already been narrowed down to an official short list, so we can be confident that the nine titles above really are top in their field. Roma is Roma, Shoplifters won the Palme d’Or, and Cold War is getting buzz higher up the ballot; they’re all in. Though I’ve heard from voters who said the Capernaum campaign made them actually support the movie less, I think the Lebanese drama should still make it in. And I anticipate the final spot will go to Lee Chang-dong’s neo-noir Burning, which should make my colleague E. Alex Jung very happy.


Safe: Incredibles 2, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

On the Bubble: Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Smallfoot, Tito and the Birds

The Oscars’ animation nominations tend to be a touch more international than the Golden Globes’, with the Red Turtles of the world making it in over something like Sing. But in a year when all the big American movies have scored well with critics, too, I don’t think that will matter. Like last year, I’m seeing another five-for-five with the Globes: Incredibles, Spider-Verse, Isle of Dogs, Ralph, and the Japanese time-travel drama Mirai.

Finally, I’ll leave you with my craziest prediction of all: Welcome to Marwen is getting nominated in Best Visual Effects. Everyone has a place in Marwen!

Oscar Nominations: Who’s Safe and Who Could Be Snubbed?