Every week between now and March 15, 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.
What the Mank? Pundits have pegged David Fincher’s Old Hollywood drama as one of the top-tier contenders in the Best Picture race, but those predictions are looking awfully wobbly right now. The film barely made a dent on Netflix’s top-ten list, and at the risk of going Full Douthat, its Rotten Tomatoes audience score has dropped noticeably lower than its critical one. To top it off, Mank all but blanked at this week’s critics’ awards, earning zero wins from the New York Film Critics Circle and Boston Society of Film Critics, and only managing one major nomination from the Chicago Film Critics Association. “If normals aren’t gonna go for this, and critics aren’t going to bat for it,” asks Awards Circuit’s Sam Coffey, “why are we still predicting it?”
In Mank’s place, the NYFCC chose to turn back the clock to the before times and award the Best Film trophy to Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, a March release that has been discounted by most major pundits. The Oregon trail bromance remains a Best Picture long shot, particularly as A24 appears to prioritizing Minari, but still, this is the kind of outside-the-box choice we love to see from critics’ groups. Oily cakes for everyone!
Da 5 Bloods, The Father, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, Minari, News of the World, Nomadland, One Night in Miami, Soul, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
The Zhao juggernaut began its slow roll this week, as the filmmaker took home directing honors from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Boston Society of Film Critics. Nomadland has been a staple of year-end lists, and Zhao seems to have stolen a march on Mank’s David Fincher, her chief competition. Expect more wins to come.
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Reviews for Promising Young Woman have started to trickle in ahead of its Christmas release, and the film’s spiky appeal has not dimmed since its Sundance debut. Many reviewers highlight Fennell’s canny mix of pitch-black satire and hyperfeminine aesthetics, which Sasha Stone compares to “a bright pink frosted birthday cake with razor blades inside.” It’s been a good week for the first-time feature director, who got the New York Times profile treatment — an introduction for voters who may only know her from The Crown — as well as a Best Director nod from the Chicago Film Critics Association.
David Fincher, Mank; Paul Greengrass, News of the World; Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Florian Zeller, The Father; Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
In Best Actor, the NYFCC honored Lindo, the longtime character actor who’s riveting in his star turn as a bitter, Trump-voting veteran in 5 Bloods. It’s a key surge of momentum for this June performance, which was at risk of losing ground to more recent entrants. Now that the election’s behind us, can voters breathe a little easier about supporting a MAGA character?
Shia LaBeouf, Pieces of a Woman
With Vanessa Kirby and Ellen Burstyn stealing all the headlines, LaBeouf was always a long shot to be nominated for this grieving-parent drama. But following the news that FKA twigs is suing the actor for abuse, Netflix has quietly scrubbed his name from both the plot summary and the For Your Consideration section of the Pieces of a Woman awards page.
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal; Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami; Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Anthony Hopkins, The Father; Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Released the week the country went into lockdown, Eliza Hittman’s low-key indie was counting on love from critics to bolster its awards-season chances. It got some: Flanigan notched a pair of Best Actress honors from the New York and Boston critics for her understated performance as a teen seeking an abortion, and Hittman also picked up Best Screenplay from the NYFCC. Like First Cow, the downbeat drama may be the definition of a “critic’s film,” but these wins should hopefully inspire voters to go back and check out both spring standouts.
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Critics generally like Promising Young Woman, but they love Carey Mulligan in it. “Mulligan is uncannily good in this movie,” says Vulture’s Alison Willmore, who notes that the actress wields “her sweetheart smile like a ballistic weapon.” Despite well-regarded appearances in movies like Wildlife and Mudbound, Mulligan hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since her breakout role in An Education ten years ago. This larger-than-life turn could be voters’ chance to reward the young woman they once saw promise in, too.
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman; Frances McDormand, Nomadland; Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman; Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit
Best Supporting Actor
Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods
After naming Lindo in Best Actor, the NYFCC handed Spike Lee’s Vietnam epic another win by honoring Boseman in the supporting-actor category. This may have been a makeup win for not giving his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom the prize in Best Actor — as the category’s ostensible front-runner, the critics likely assumed he didn’t need the boost — but as the New York Times’ recent wake for the actor proves, the beloved Boseman certainly has the support around the industry to get in for both of his final film roles. If he does, he’d be the first person ever to be nominated for two posthumous acting Oscars in a single year.
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Raci scored big with critics’ groups this week, earning a supporting-actor win from the Boston ones, and a nomination from their Chicago peers. Sound of Metal seems to be catching on with viewers — among Oscar hopefuls, it’s currently second only to Trial of the Chicago 7 in audience score — making Raci’s turn as a deaf therapist who dispenses tough love into an intriguing dark horse.
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods; Bill Murray, On the Rocks; Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami; David Strathairn, Nomadland
Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Could this nomination really happen? The New York critics did their best to speak it into existence, handing Bakalova their supporting-actress prize in another delightful surprise. Even without in-person appearances, the Bulgarian newcomer has gained a lot of fans. Of course, it helps too that Rudy Giuliani keeps finding a way to stay in the news.
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Regardless of what happens with Mank, I suspect Seyfried is safe, since her winning turn as Marion Davies is widely regarded as the best thing about the movie. Her supporting-actress nomination from the Chicago Film Critics Association was the only above-the-line love Mank got all week.
Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy; Olivia Colman, The Father; Amanda Seyfried, Mank; Yuh-jung Youn, Minari
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