oscar futures

Oscar Futures: Could Minari Be This Year’s Underdog Success Story?

Photo-Illustration: Vulture and A24

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.

Best Picture



After Minari’s show of force at the SAGs, everything’s coming up roses for the Korean-immigrant drama: The film heads to “virtual cinemas” this weekend boasting glowing reviews, a bushel full of Critics Choice nominations, and two spots on the Oscar shortlists. Is it a quiet threat to take Best Picture? Minari is the kind of emotionally potent contender that could do well on a preferential ballot, and its underdog status should shield it from the slings and arrows that inevitably beset early frontrunners.


Judas and the Black Messiah

With six or more nominees per category, the Critics Choice Awards are the participation trophy of Oscar season, so it’s usually more enlightening to see not who gets in, but who gets left out. That’s where Judas found itself this week, as the Black Panther drama couldn’t crack a ten-nominee Best Picture category that found room for fellow bubble occupants News of the World and Sound of Metal. Can love from critics (well, most of them) power a late-season breakthrough, or will Shaka King’s film continue to be merely a Supporting Actor play?

Current Predix

Da 5 Bloods, The Father, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, Minari, News of the World, NomadlandOne Night in MiamiPromising Young WomanThe Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Director


Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

While the intimate Minari lacks the technical fireworks we often associate with this category, voters do tend to appreciate an auteur who brings a personal stamp to their project. That Chung’s film is so clearly rooted in his own Arkansas upbringing could help him follow in the footsteps of nominees like Greta Gerwig and Alfonso Cuarón, who also cracked Oscar with semi-autobiographical stories.


Paul Greengrass, News of the World

The Critics Choice nominations put a little wind back in News of the World’s sails, handing the Western seven nominations. Unfortunately, none of them came in Best Director. Neither an industry legend nor a buzzy newcomer, Greengrass seems to occupy an uncomfortable middle ground in this race.

Current Predix

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari; David Fincher, Mank; Regina King, One Night in Miami; Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

Best Actor


Tom Hanks, News of the World

He lives! Hanks showed up for the first time in Critics Choice’s double-stuffed Best Actor category, and while I suspect he’ll have a tough time repeating that feat at ceremonies with only five nominees, his film’s strong showing across that ballot is telling. News of the World more or less has the “dad lane” all to itself this year, and unexpected nominations could be in store.


Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami

Even with Critics Choice going eight deep in Best Actor, the British newcomer still couldn’t make the cut. Whether he’s too much of an unknown, or not enough of a traditional lead, Ben-Adir just isn’t gaining traction.

Current Predix

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal; Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Anthony Hopkins, The Father; Gary Oldman, Mank; Steven Yeun, Minari

Best Actress


Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead

This week brought more evidence for the theory that Loren could be our nomination-morning surprise. Though The Life Ahead wasn’t Italy’s official selection, it still managed to crack the Oscar shortlists for Score and Song, while its companion doc What Would Sophia Loren Do? did the same in Documentary Short. Che bella!


Robin Wright, Land

This year’s post-Sundance premieres are taking place within the Oscar eligibility period, which means that for the first time, Academy members won’t have to wait a year before not voting for them. Wright’s debut feature was among the most mainstream of this year’s offerings, but the woman-in-the-wilderness drama is earning tepid reviews, and praise for her performance rarely goes beyond “watchable.”

Current Predix

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman; Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead; Frances McDormand, Nomadland; Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Best Supporting Actor


Jared Leto, The Little Things

Also showing up on the Academy shortlists was The Little Things, which made the cut in Score and Makeup & Hairstyling — a category for which Leto is a notable good-luck charm. Is it possible that those Globe and SAG noms were not a fluke?


Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

If the Leto thing is real, that’s bad news for Raci, who has been unable to repeat his critics-group success at the industry awards. No matter what happens, he’ll always have the Critics Choice Awards, where he made it in over Leto in the six-man Supporting Actor field.

Current Predix

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods; Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah; Jared Leto, The Little Things; Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami

Best Supporting Actress


Helena Zengel, News of the World

After earning surprise Globe and SAG nods last week, the German tween’s case for a nomination is looking stronger than ever. But who does she bump? Glenn Close and Olivia Colman feel like an inseparable duo. Youn Yuh-jung is the standout performer in a Best Picture dark horse. Amanda Seyfried was, until last week, considered a possible frontrunner. That leaves …


Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Yes, Bakalova, whom some pundits have pegged as possibly being this year’s Jennifer Lopez. I know, I don’t like it either. But consider the Oscar shortlists: While the Borat sequel did nab a surprising place in Best Song for “Wuhan Flu,” it also missed out in Makeup & Hairstyling, a spot it probably should have nailed if Bakalova was as strong as we hope.

Current Predix

Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy; Olivia Colman, The Father; Amanda Seyfried, Mank; Yuh-jung Youn, Minari; Helena Zengel, News of the World

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Oscar Futures: Could Minari Be This Year’s Underdog Success?