Our predictions are locked and we all feel 100% good about them, right? Eh, not so fast. Oscar predicting isn’t a science, otherwise it would be too easy. This year could really shake things up from an historic standpoint and, like a California earthquake, it’s only a matter of time for a big one hits.
Here are 7 things that could happen when Tracee Ellis Ross and Leslie Jordan announce the Oscar nominations for the 94th Academy Awards tomorrow at 5:18am PT.
Kenneth Branagh could make Oscar history
Kenneth Branagh is already a 5-time Oscar in five different categories: Best Director and Best Actor (1989’s Henry V), Best Supporting Actor (2011’s My Week with Marilyn), Adapted Screenplay (1996’s Hamlet) and Live Action Short Film (1992’s Swan Song). That puts him just one category nomination away from three all-time leaders, George Clooney, who has nominations in six different categories (including two wins, Best Supporting Actor for 2005’s Syriana and Best Picture for 2012’s Argo); Walt Disney, who was nominated for Best Two-reel Short eight times (four wins), Best Documentary Short six times (three wins), Best Live Action Short four times (two wins), and once each for Best Documentary Feature (win) and Best Picture; and Alfonso Cuaròn, who has nominations for Original Screenplay (2001’s Y tu mamá también), Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing (2007’s Children of Men), Best Director for 2014’s Gravity (which he won, along with editing) and Best Cinematography for 2018’s Roma (which he won along with director). This year, Branagh could add two more new category nominations with Belfast (Best Picture and Original Screenplay) and pull ahead of Clooney. As those are two of Belfast’s most secure places to earn nominations, Branagh should easily break this record.
Parallel Mothers earns three nominations
When Spain skipped on submitting Parallel Mothers for the International Feature Film Oscar (and instead submitting The Good Boss, starring Javier Bardem aka Penélope Cruz’s husband) it was a bit of a shock. They had had plenty of success with Pedro Almodóvar films in this category with seven submissions that resulted in three nominations (including 2019’s Pain and Glory) and one win (1999’s All About My Mother). Spain’s choice to not submit Parallel Mothers was pretty clearly a political one as Almodóvar paints Spain’s post-Franco world in a rather negative light. No one is really predicting The Good Boss to show up and there’s an argument that the snub could work to the film’s advantage. As it can’t earn one for IFF, it could still show up in three major categories: Original Score (Alberto Iglesias, a three-time nominee here), Original Screenplay (Almodóvar is a winner here for 2002’s Talk to Her) and Best Actress (Penélope Cruz, a nominee here before and a winner in supporting actress). There is an interesting parallel, if you will, to Talk to Her as that film was also not selected to represent Spain that year and the film that was ended up not being nominated (it didn’t even make the shortlist). Not only did Almodóvar win original screenplay, he was nominated for Best Director (something that has a much more outside chance of happening this season). For Cruz, she failed to earn any of the major precursors and didn’t even make the BAFTA longlist of 15 names. What she does have behind her is her Volpi Cup win at Venice, LAFCA and NSFC (and that AACTA nomination), but is it enough to vault her ahead of names that have showed up more consistently? It’s very possible. We saw something similar happen in 2014 when previous Oscar winner Marion Cotillard made a triumphant return after missing SAG, the Globe and BAFTA and only landing a Critics Choice nomination.
Best Actress will either be a biopic bonanza or be bracingly original
This year’s Best Actress predictions look like the newest Wordle. Everyone’s got something slightly different; some green picks, lotsa yellow. It’s been one of this season’s hardest categories to pin down with more variables at play than usual. BAFTA took out some top contenders in Golden Globe winner Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman and Kristen Stewart. On the surface it was shocking but they did the same thing last year, the first year of their new juried voting structure, and snubbed both SAG winner Viola Davis and Critics Choice winner Carey Mulligan. We already know that this category is also overflowing with biopics and actresses playing real-life people. Yes, the Academy loves them but it’s not very common for this category to have 4/5 become the nominees. 3/5, sure, a little more common. But this year we have Kidman (Lucille Ball), Stewart (Princess Diana), Lady Gaga (Patricia Reggiani), Jessica Chastain (Tammy Faye Bakker) and Jennifer Hudson (Aretha Franklin) all vying for spots with actresses playing fictional characters: Colman (The Lost Daughter), Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza, semi-fictional, loosely based on a real person), Renate Reinsve (The Worst Person in the World), Tessa Thompson (Passing) and again, Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers).
It’s hard to make much of an argument for Gaga or Kidman to miss, or Colman even, but there is a small chance as her film isn’t as strong as The Favourite and The Father were for her. Just look at all the possible scenarios, each making just as much sense as the one before and after it:
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Jennifer Hudson, Kristen Stewart
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Jennifer Hudson, Alana Haim
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Jennifer Hudson, Penélope Cruz
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Alana Haim, Penélope Cruz
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, Kristen Stewart
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Alana Haim, Kristen Stewart
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, Jessica Chastain
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Kristen Stewart, Jessica Chastain
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Alana Haim, Jessica Chastain
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Alana Haim, Renate Reinsve
- Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Alana Haim, Penélope Cruz, Renate Reinsve
There’s even a case for Passing’s Tessa Thompson to find her way in after that BAFTA nomination (or maybe even CODA’s Emilia Jones), or NBR and Golden Globe winner Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) but it’s a much tougher road.
Netflix could do something that hasn’t happened in 61 years: get three (or four) Best Picture nominations
Netflix has been angling harder than any studio for a Best Picture win but we do know this; it’s the best at getting nominations. The sheer volume of contenders the streamer puts forth every year allows them to dominate category after category, racking up the highest nomination totals year to year. But not only have they struggled with topline wins (still no Best Picture), even in the expanded era they keep falling short of getting three films in Best Picture. But, to be sure, this isn’t solely a Netflix thing. No one has in 61 years, when United Artists had Elmer Gantry, The Alamo and the Best Picture winner The Apartment from 1960. This year they have locks with The Power of the Dog and Don’t Look Up. tick, tick…BOOM! has a Golden Globe, Critics Choice and PGA nomination and could give the streamer that third nomination. But there’s also The Lost Daughter, which doesn’t have any major precursors coming in but will have acting and writing nominations to make its case.
There could be no newcomers in Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress
Several Oscar stats and streaks could fall this year, including one that’s been 71 years strong. Best Director has had a first-time directing nominee every year after 1950 when George Cukor (Born Yesterday), John Huston (The Asphalt Jungle), Carol Reed (The Third Man), Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard) and winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve) all earned their first nominations. This is, like many categories, is packed with previous nominees and winners including Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Steven Spielberg (West Side Story) and Denis Villeneuve (Dune), the DGA five. The main contender set to break that lineup apart is Drive My Car’s Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who earned a BAFTA nomination. Pedro Almodóvar (Parallel Mothers), Paolo Sorrentino (The Hand of God) and possibly Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Lost Daughter) could fit that bill.
Best Actor has had a first-time nominee (in any category) for the last 41 years in a row and this year’s bench is extra full with previous winners like Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Leonardo DiCaprio (Don’t Look Up), Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos), Mahershala Ali (Swan Song) and nominees Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog), Will Smith (King Richard) and Andrew Garfield (tick, tick…BOOM!). They’ve all earned at least two or more top tier precursors, putting them in strong contention. The only candidate remotely able to break into that group is Peter Dinklage (Cyrano), who managed Golden Globe and Critics Choice nods but fumbled at SAG and BAFTA.
Best Supporting Actress by most estimations look like a lineup of all first-timers save one: Ariana DeBose (West Side Story), Caitríona Balfe (Belfast), Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog) and Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard) would earn their first nominations. Ruth Negga (Passing) would keep the category from being all first-timers but she has Ann Dowd (Mass) waiting in the wings to foil. But then again, so are former winners Cate Blanchett (Nightmare Alley), Judi Dench (Belfast) and Marlee Matlin (CODA).
There’s even an argument to made that Best Actress could deny a first-timer too. As mentioned above, a lineup of any combination of Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Jennifer Hudson, Penélope Cruz and/or Jessica Chastain would accomplish that, leaving Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza), Emilia Jones (CODA), Renate Reinsve (The Worst Person in the World) and Tessa Thompson (Passing) on the outside looking in.
We could have dual husband/wife nominations in two different categories
Hollywood acting couples being nominated in the same year isn’t really a new thing, it’s happened half a dozen times in acting categories alone. From Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier in 1940 (she won, he lost), Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in 1967, both for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (she won, he lost), Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (she won, he lost…sensing a theme here) to Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain (they both lost). This year is especially unique as one of the husband/wife team would be earning their first-ever nominations and the other are already acting Oscar winners. The Power of the Dog’s Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons are both contenders in the supporting categories and have had a nearly opposite trajectory this season. Dunst earned Golden Globe, Critics Choice and SAG nominations then missed BAFTA; Plemons missed everything and snagged BAFTA. While Dunst is pretty safe and their film has a clear frontrunner in supporting actor in Kodi Smit-McPhee, we’ve seen three of the last four years with double supporting actor nominations from the same film after a 25-year draught. For lead actors Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos) and Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers) it’s a little bit harder. Bardem landed GG and SAG and his co-star, Nicole Kidman, is a Best Actress frontrunner. Cruz, on the other hand, missed everything, not even landing on the BAFTA longlist. Her journey to a nomination would need to be very passion-based and fall under one of the scenarios above.
‘Flee’ could make Oscar history
Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated, LGBTQ+ Danish documentary Flee hits ticks so many boxes it could make Oscar history as the first film to be nominated for Animated Feature, Documentary Feature and International Feature Film. The film is as much a lock for all three as it is vulnerable in all three. It was a critics hit with the second most animated and doc wins but the closest two comparisons we have are 2019’s Honeyland, which earned nominations for Documentary Feature and International Feature Film (making Oscar history) and 2008’s Waltz with Bashir, another non-English language animated doc, which only managed a (then called) Foreign Language Film nomination.