Every week between now and January 13, when the Academy Award nominations are announced, Vulture will consult its crystal ball to determine the changing fortunes of this year’s Oscars race. In our “Oscar Futures” column, we’ll let you in on insider gossip, parse brand-new developments, and track industry buzz to figure out who’s up, who’s down, and who’s currently leading the race for a coveted Oscar nomination.
Bong Joon-ho’s film wound up pulling in the year’s best per-screen average in its opening weekend, besting by 50 percent the mark set by The Farewell. Of course, that’s because the movie only played three theaters, forcing anyone who wanted to see it to shell out for 10:30 a.m. screenings — a bit of artificial scarcity the Park family could appreciate. If you’re outside New York or L.A., you may have to wait a while to see what everyone’s talking about: Neon is slow-playing the expansion, not taking the film nationwide until mid-November. Parasite is the distributor’s priceless Fabergé egg, and they’re doing everything in their power not to drop it.
After its Toronto premiere, I wrote about the furor I expected Jojo Rabbit to kick up. With Taika Waititi’s Nazi comedy opening in limited release this week, that controversy has yet to materialize — maybe because we’re all still burnt out from Joker, or maybe because, now that festival fever has settled down, critics’ takes on Jojo have become slightly less polarized. Even A.O. Scott, who’s cooler on the film than most, says “the spirit of the movie is too warm and the filmmaking intelligence too invigorating to provoke a strong objection.” Muted praise, but for a movie that’s trying to damper a potential backlash that may be just what the doctor ordered. We’ll find out this weekend if audiences go as crazy for Jojo as they did at TIFF.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Bombshell, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
If Jojo cracks Best Picture, could Waititi manage a Best Director nod as well? Adam McKay and Yorgos Lanthimos got in for comedies last year, and Waititi has the benefit of being the literal face of his film. (It’s a face that looks like Adolf Hitler, but still.) Waititi’s fellow filmmakers can surely appreciate the way he cashed in his Thor: Ragnarok capital, though I have doubts about how well his particular brand of mischief will go down with this branch’s more po-faced members.
Melina Matsoukas, Queen & Slim
Matsoukas’s lovers-on-the-run drama started screening last week in advance of its AFI Festival premiere. Conventional wisdom has it that Queen & Slim is more of an acting play, but the former music-video director — she did “We Found Love” and “Formation” — has been getting good buzz for her feature debut, including a cosign from none other than M. Night Shyamalan.
Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and Glory; Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story; Bong Joon-ho, Parasite; Martin Scorsese, The Irishman; Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Daniel Kaluuya, Queen & Slim
Official reviews for Queen & Slim are embargoed, but I can say that Daniel Kaluuya turns in a finely shaded performance as one half of the titular couple. For male romantic leads, how they look at their female co-stars is half the game, and Kaluuya treats his leading lady Jodie Turner-Smith to some awfully fine ones. (More on her below.) The 30-year-old actor may be younger than voters’ usual taste in this category, but that Get Out nomination under his belt could cause them to take a longer look.
Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse
Hark, ye mateys! Robert Eggers’s incredibly weird follow-up to The Witch opens today on the coasts, appropriately enough. I’ve been skeptical that this absurdist period piece about self-abusing maritime workers and their mermaid fleshlights will be a player outside the Indie Spirits, but others I’ve spoken to are more bullish on its chances. Though Willem Dafoe’s crusty lighthouse keeper has been garnering most of the attention, Pattinson turns in an equally gonzo performance as his young apprentice. Actors who break out in teen franchises typically have a tough go of it with the Academy, but Pattinson has done his penance and then some.
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory; Robert De Niro, The Irishman; Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Adam Driver, Marriage Story; Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
The Fox News sexual-harassment drama launched its first-look screenings last weekend, and the explosion was palpable. (And yes, despite that trailer, it apparently is a drama.) AwardsDaily’s Sasha Stone dubbed the film a “juggernaut,” while THR’s Scott Feinberg declared that Theron’s performance as Megyn Kelly “is the true standout and a slam-dunk for a lead actress nom.” The real Kelly is hardly a beloved figure among Oscar voters, but Theron’s been spinning the character’s moral murkiness as a positive, telling Deadline she had “no interest in playing heroes.” Expect her to be a powerful force on the trail.
Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim
While the Academy prefers its male actors with a bit of seasoning, when it comes to actresses, they love falling in love with a new face. You don’t get faces much newer than Turner-Smith, a former model whose highest-profile role before Queen & Slim was on TNT’s The Last Ship. The British actress exudes presence in her first lead film role, and Best Actress this year feels particularly crackable. Don’t rule her out.
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story; Lupita Nyong’o, Us; Saoirse Ronan, Little Women; Charlize Theron, Bombshell; Renée Zellweger, Judy
Best Supporting Actor
John Lithgow, Bombshell
Kazuhiro Tsuji’s silicone jowls won Gary Oldman a trophy for Darkest Hour, and they’ve made their grand return to the Oscars race on the cheeks of Lithgow, who’s playing the late Roger Ailes in Bombshell. Word is that the actor could be a strong contender, but in a film all about female empowerment, I wonder how many voters will come out of the theater aching to mark a ballot for the hideous man.
Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse
After his Florida Project performance became 2017’s supporting-actor bridesmaid, Dafoe snuck into Best Actor last year with the little-seen At Eternity’s Gate. Now The Lighthouse provides an opportunity for him to make it three in a row. In his favor: He’s got the track record, and he’s in an easier category than Pattinson. Working against him: the film’s copious shitting, pissing, and onanism. GoldDerby currently has Dafoe taking the fifth spot in this race, which I’m not sure I buy, but in this case I’d be very happy to be wrong. Mermaid fleshlights for everyone!
Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari; Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Al Pacino, The Irishman; Joe Pesci, The Irishman; Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Supporting Actress
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Unless they’re big action movies like Black Panther or Dunkirk, films that get nominated for Best Picture almost always wind up with a corresponding acting nomination. Jojo’s strongest contender on that front is probably Johansson as the title character’s idealistic mother, in what Peter Travers calls “a performance of uncommon complexity and feeling.” Marriage Story remains Johansson’s best shot at earning her first nomination; getting in for both would recall her breakout year of 2004, which saw the actress receive double Globe noms for Lost in Translation and Girl With a Pearl Earring.
Margot Robbie, Bombshell
Robbie doesn’t have a similar shot at doubling up, since Academy rules prevent an actor from being nominated twice in the same category. Pundits will be arguing all season about whether Bombshell or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is her stronger horse, and for now I’m backing Bombshell, which by all accounts gives her a more compelling arc as a composite character based on numerous Fox News employees who signed NDAs.
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers; Laura Dern, Marriage Story; Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit; Margot Robbie, Bombshell; Meryl Streep, Little Women