oscar futures

Oscar Futures: How the Globes and Critics Choice Shaped the Conversation

Emilia Jones in CODA. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Seacia Pavao/Apple TV+

Every week between now and February 8, 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



This week brought nominations from three precursors: the Golden Globes, which function best as a televised dress rehearsal for the Oscars but won’t be televised this year; the Critics Choice Awards, which are more of a rubber stamp of pundits’ predictions than an influence in their own right; and the Independent Spirit Awards, which decided to give some shine to relatively unheralded contenders. In other words, they’re hardly decisive, but together they at least give a sense of who’s in the conversation. Take CODA, the record-breaking Sundance acquisition that quietly debuted on AppleTV+ in August but has since shown up everywhere it needed to, scoring Best Picture noms from both the Globes and the Critics Choice. (Perversely, even CODA’s Best Feature snub at the Spirits might have been a good sign — voters apparently considered the family dramedy enough of a sure thing that it didn’t need their help.) It’s not hard to imagine CODA becoming this year’s Winter’s Bone, the well-liked indie that sneaks into a ten-strong Best Picture field.



How much does West Side Story’s underwhelming opening ding the musical’s chances? Not much, I’d say, since most of its competition similarly underperformed (if it didn’t go straight to streaming). But the box-office struggles of this year’s Oscar crop clear a path for Dune, which can boast of being the biggest hit in the Best Picture race. In a year where the Academy might be self-conscious about its populist bona fides, could they satisfy all parties by awarding an IP-based sci-fi spectacle that also carries the patina of prestige?

Current Predix

Being the Ricardos, BelfastCODADon’t Look UpDune, King Richard, Licorice PizzaNightmare AlleyThe Power of the DogWest Side Story

Best Director


Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter

You could argue that a directing nomination at the Globes is an even higher honor than a Best Picture nom since there are only half the slots. That’s great for Gyllenhaal, who was a surprise inclusion in the Globes’ five — though thanks to the industry’s soft boycott, she didn’t exactly brag about it. But she also got in at the Spirit Awards, where The Lost Daughter pulled in four nominations. With her Ferrante adaptation proving a darling of the smarty-pants set, Gyllenhaal’s first time around could be the charm.


Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley

After blanking at the Globes, Nightmare Alley rebounded by scoring Picture and Director nods at the Critics Choice to go along with its six craft nominations. Snubs for Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett indicate the carnival noir may have limited appeal in the acting races, but the director branch adores technical mastery, and that’s a quality del Toro’s film has in spades.

Current Predix

Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza; Kenneth Branagh, Belfast; Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog; Steven Spielberg, West Side Story; Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Best Actor


Peter Dinklage, Cyrano

While I had a pretty good time in Cyrano at Telluride, the overall reception to Joe Wright’s musical there was so chilly that seeing Dinklage continually pop up in predictions over the fall made me wonder how many of my fellow pundits had actually seen it. But as the film heads toward its qualifying run, things are looking up. Critics like Mike D’Angelo praise Dinklage for nailing the iconic character’s “unusual mix of bravado and insecurity” (even while noting that, as a singer, he’s one hell of an actor), and he cracked both the Globes and Critics Choice lineups. There’s considerable affection inside the industry for the Game of Thrones star: Career tributes at Telluride and the Gothams underlined Dinklage’s status as the kind of performer other actors speak of in awestruck tones.


Joaquin Phoenix, C’mon C’mon

Critics like our own Angelica Jade Bastién have hailed Phoenix’s turn in Mike Mills’s parenting drama as a career best. But a performance this quiet and intimate needs loud boosters to catch voters’ attention, and so far, they haven’t materialized. Even the Spirit Awards, which otherwise went hard for C’mon C’mon, declined to nominate Phoenix, preferring instead to highlight performers who have not won Oscars for playing the Joker.

Current Predix

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog; Peter Dinklage, Cyrano; Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick … Boom!; Will Smith, King Richard; Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Actress


Jennifer Hudson, Respect

S-N-U-B-B-E-D. If you’re an early release that doesn’t get any traction at the Globes or Critics Choice, you may be in trouble. While fellow Best Actress blankers Frances McDormand and Penélope Cruz can console themselves by noting their films haven’t come out yet, Hudson’s Aretha Franklin biopic doesn’t have that excuse. Say a little prayer for SAG.


Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Look who did make it in! Sure, you can chalk up Chastain’s double nomination to the fact that both the Globes and Critics Choice have expanded acting lineups. But on the other side of the ledger, note that her Globe nom did come in the more competitive Drama category, where she beat out the likes of McDormand and Cruz for a seat. By the grace of God, Chastain and her eyelashes are staying in the race.

Current Predix

Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter; Lady Gaga, House of Gucci; Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos; Kristen Stewart, Spencer; Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

Best Supporting Actor


Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar

It is a universal law of the universe that every good news cycle for Ben Affleck must immediately be followed by a bad news cycle for Ben Affleck. Accordingly, Affleck’s Globe nom for George Clooney’s coming-of-age film (it’s already become a Film Twitter cliché to say it should have been for The Last Duel) was overshadowed mere days later by a terrible quote about his marriage to Jennifer Garner. If this Oscar campaign continues, I can’t wait to see what else fate has got in store.


Troy Kotsur, CODA

Months of pundits calling the Best Supporting Actor race “unsettled” didn’t stop the Globes and Critics Choice from landing on what seems to be a solid top four: Kodi Smit-McPhee, both Belfast guys … and Kotsur, who seems to be following Paul Raci’s path from TV bit parts to awards-season stages.

Current Predix

Jamie Dornan, Belfast; Ciarán Hinds, Belfast; Troy Kotsur, CODA; Jared Leto, House of Gucci; Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Best Supporting Actress


Ruth Negga, Passing

The gerund queen is the kind of contender who could get a boost from this week’s precursors: She gives an acclaimed performance in a film that’s gone under the radar but is easily available on streaming. Negga made the grade at both the Globes and the Spirit Awards, and those honors will hopefully lead more voters to check out Rebecca Hall’s film, which seemed at risk of being overshadowed by Netflix’s other directorial debuts.


Kathryn Hunter, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Futures is off for the holiday next week, so I wanted to leave you with a word for one of my favorite performances of the year: Hunter’s impressively contorted version of the Wyrd Sisters in Macbeth, which goes limited on Christmas Day. You won’t believe the human body is physically capable of doing the things she does!

Current Predix

Caitríona Balfe, Belfast; Ariana DeBose, West Side Story; Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog; Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard; Ruth Negga, Passing

Oscar Futures: How This Week’s Noms Shaped the Conversation