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.
As Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama begins its pre-Netflix theatrical run this weekend, critics are hailing the film as one of the year’s best. Marriage Story seems sure to score in the acting categories, but could it make waves in Best Picture as well? The film wrings a lot of knowing chuckles from industry viewers, and such broad relatability could boost it in the preferential ballot. One potential snag: Oscar voters typically like to send a message with their top picks, and finding that sort of angle for Marriage Story will be a challenge.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
For a would-be Oscar contender that comes out in two weeks, it sure seems like few pundits are talking about this movie outside of Tom Hanks’s performance. Beautiful Day was well received at TIFF, so what’s behind the lack of buzz? Is it the film’s soft and gentle vibe, which isn’t spurring the passion a Parasite or Jojo Rabbit engenders? Or, after Won’t You Be My Neighbor, are people simply Mr. Rogers-ed out?
Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite, The Two Popes
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
“Noah Baumbach’s latest will win over even those who don’t love Noah Baumbach,” writes Slate’s Dana Stevens, a compliment/insult calzone that would be right at home in Marriage Story. Baumbach’s tonally dexterous efforts seem likely to land him his first directing nomination, though he’ll have tough competition from inside his own household.
Alma Har’el, Honey Boy
The Israeli filmmaker’s feature debut is filled with moving performances and arresting visual imagery, though Honey Boy is so linked to the outsize figure of writer/co-star Shia LaBeouf, who based the film on his own childhood, that voters may overlook Har’el’s contributions.
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story; Bong Joon-ho, Parasite; Greta Gerwig, Little Women; Martin Scorsese, The Irishman; Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Marriage Story is such a critics’ fave that pundits are starting to slate Driver as this category’s new front-runner ahead of Joaquin Phoenix. I’m not ready to go there yet — Phoenix has the track record, and the transformation, on his side — but the pair do feel like this extremely competitive category’s only two locks
Noah Jupe, Honey Boy
How darkly ironic that Honey Boy, a movie about the horrors of child acting, should launch a great new child actor. The 14-year-old Jupe has been getting raves for his precocious performance as the LaBeouf stand-in, with Peter Travers calling him “astounding.” With a small turn in Ford v Ferrari coming up, as well, the young Brit is one to watch.
Robert De Niro, The Irishman; Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Adam Driver, Marriage Story; Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name; Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
I’ve seen critics question whether the storytelling in Marriage Story is really as balanced between Driver and Johansson as initially appears, but that doesn’t discount how great the actress is in the scenes she does get. Stevens calls her and Driver “superb performers, attentive, generous, versatile, and able to register minute shifts of feeling and understanding on their admittedly well-proportioned features.” These raves will have to speak for themselves: After her recent PR kerfuffles, the gun-shy Johansson is letting her co-stars do the bulk of the gladhanding.
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
With her Harriet Tubman biopic earning only polite respect from critics, Erivo needed audiences to show up to keep some wind in her sails. That’s exactly what happened, with Harriet debuting to a solid opening weekend and an A+ CinemaScore to boot. The British actress has been putting in work on the circuit, too, as voters have come away charmed by her ebullient presence.
Awkwafina, The Farewell; Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story; Saoirse Ronan, Little Women; Charlize Theron, Bombshell; Renée Zellweger, Judy
Best Supporting Actor
Ray Liotta, Marriage Story
I’ve mentioned Alan Alda in this column before, but let’s also spare a minute for Liotta as Driver’s other attorney, who tears into his lines like they’re a bloody steak. Alongside Laura Dern as Johansson’s lawyer, the trio “collectively come close to stealing the movie,” A.O. Scott writes, “in part because they are playing performers fully in their element.” Individually, the two men probably lack the screen time to mount a showing in this category. It’s a pity they can’t fuse themselves into one contender, Ralan Aldotta.
Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy
Is LaBeouf playing his own father a brilliant impersonation, a filmed therapy session, or both? Glenn Kenny in the Times hails his performance as “a bravura incarnation of resentment,” though he also sniffs, “It must be nice to have someone finance a movie of your 12-step qualification.”
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes; Al Pacino, The Irishman; Joe Pesci, The Irishman; Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Supporting Actress
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
A beloved actress putting a capstone on her career renaissance with a scene-stealing role in a Best-Picture contender. Who knows what’ll happen when actual voting begins, but at the moment, of the four acting front-runners, Dern is the one who feels closest to having their category locked up.
FKA Twigs, Honey Boy
As a neighbor who strikes up a close bond with young Jupe, Twigs does what she can with a slightly thankless role. Her new album’s apparently great, though!
Laura Dern, Marriage Story; Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit; Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers; Florence Pugh, Little Women; Margot Robbie, Bombshell