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.
Before the season began, I noted the bevy of would-be contenders opening in late December, and wondered whether any would be able to run the gauntlet in this shortened season. I can see 1917, Bombshell, and Little Women each getting a boost, but I think it’s safe to say that Cats, with its 20 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, will not be among this year’s Best Picture nominees. And there’s no doing anything abou-a-wow-t it!
Also fading? Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell, which some had predicted to be this year’s Green Book, the movie the Academy embraced despite scorn from the Twitterati. For that to happen, though, the film would have had to position itself as the choice of “real people,” and a sub-$5 million debut — the worst wide opening of Eastwood’s long career — isn’t gonna do it on that front.
1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite
Bong Joon Ho, Parasite
How beloved is Parasite? Bong managed a surprise entry into this week’s Best Original Song short list for the film’s closing-credits number, “A Glass of Soju.” (He wrote the lyrics; composer Jung Jae Il did the music.) “Soju” made the grade while “Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats did not — if the next Taylor Swift album has a few passive-aggressive slams on Korean directors, we’ll know why.
Greta Gerwig, Little Women
What’s behind Little Women’s unexpected slump? In an interview with Vanity Fair this week, producer Amy Pascal pinpointed one reason: They can’t get guys to see it. An on-the-record callout is a high-risk, high-reward strategy; after the snubs at the Golden Globes and SAGs last week, nerves may be running high in the Little Women huddle.
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story; Bong Joon Ho, Parasite; Sam Mendes, 1917; Martin Scorsese, The Irishman; Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
George MacKay, 1917
The technical feats of 1917 have been justifiably getting most of the plaudits, but spare some praise for George MacKay, the 27-year-old Brit whose determined performance anchors the film. He’s earned himself a lot of new fans: As Leah Greenblatt raves, MacKay “isn’t just a surrogate Everyman; he’s hope and fear personified, and you couldn’t look away if you wanted to.” This race is going to be near impossible for an unknown to crack into, but great box office and love from the BAFTAs could put MacKay on the map.
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Driver’s third movie of the fall, debuted to mediocre reviews this week. I’ve heard murmurs about the film possibly Norbit-ing his chances, but I don’t buy it: Driver is still a lock for the nomination, and if he does lose the trophy to Joaquin Phoenix, Rise of Skywalker will be very far down the list of reasons.
Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari; Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory; Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Adam Driver, Marriage Story; Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Team Bombshell cannily set the embargo date for reviews until after the SAG and Globes voting period, which muted the impact of those pans. After its strong showing at the former, the Fox News drama is circling around the Best Picture bubble, feeling somewhat like this year’s Vice. With Scarlett Johansson basically sitting out the trail, Theron increasingly feels like the Zellweger backup in this race.
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Erivo made it onto the Best Original Song short list with “Stand Up,” the song she co-wrote for Harriet. We saw last year how that trophy can sometimes act as a consolation prize, but hey — when it comes to EGOT, an Oscar is an Oscar.
Awkwafina, The Farewell; Cynthia Erivo, Harriet; Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story; Charlize Theron, Bombshell; Renée Zellweger, Judy
Best Supporting Actor
Ian McKellen, Cats
You know who’s actually good in Cats? Ian McKellen, who brings grace and gravitas to the role of Gus, the Theater Cat. Our own Alison Willmore notes that McKellen “does wonderful things with a lesser song,” and proclaims that, in the moment the actor “pauses in the middle of a sentence to casually butt his head against a pillar in a truly tabbyish fashion, [he] wins the Oscars of Cats.” He will probably not win the Oscar of Oscars.
Song Kang-ho, Parasite
Don’t look now, but Song has climbed into sixth place on Gold Derby’s experts’ predictions. With Willem Dafoe fading, and Jamie Foxx’s and Anthony Hopkins’s films treading water, he could really do it!
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Al Pacino, The Irishman; Joe Pesci, The Irishman; Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Song Kang-ho, Parasite
Best Supporting Actress
Judi Dench, Cats
The old pros come out of Cats with their dignity basically intact, for whatever that’s worth. Turns out, not a lot. “Few verse-speakers are as eloquent as Dame Judi, and no one is better equipped to convey the difficult beauty of [T.S.] Eliot’s lines,” writes Anthony Lane, “but somehow — call me picky — they lose a good deal of their force when recited by a kind of luxury Garfield.”
Jennifer Hudson, Cats
It’s Hudson who gets the worst of Tom Hooper’s direction, as the close-up-addled filmmaker keeps his camera plugged straight at her face during her rendition of “Memory,” Les Mis style. Except this time, instead of a penniless French factory worker, we’re gazing at an anthropomorphic feline with digital cat ears that quiver every time she hits a high note. So it is somewhat harder to empathize. But don’t worry — as if on cue, here comes the trailer for Hudson’s Aretha Franklin biopic to remind us how good she is at playing a human.
Laura Dern, Marriage Story; Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit; Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers; Margot Robbie, Bombshell; Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell