Venice and Telluride are over, TIFF is in full swing, and predicting the Oscars at this rate is becoming ever so slightly easier. At this rate, it’s way too early to say any film is a lock for any nomination, so keep that in mind when I give my predictions here. And also keep in mind that these are the first predictions, so maybe by the time you’ve read this, I’ll have changed my mind and half of the nominees listed may no longer be predicted by me. Okay, now we’ll take a look at the top eight categories: screenplays, acting, directing and picture.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Looking over the competition, most of the films aiming for Best Picture nominations are coming from previously published materials, so that means this category will be packed to the brim. A word of advice if you’re new to the predicting game: when predicting screenplay nominations, look first for Best Picture contenders, then look for previous Oscar nominees. I know sometimes it’s tempting to put a favorite film of your own down for predictions in most categories, and especially in screenplay and picture. If you want to do well, however, that’s where you start.
So with that in mind, I’ll start with If Beale Street Could Talk, BlacKkKlansman, First Man, Widows, and Beautiful Boy as the five nominees here, with A Star is Born, Boy Erased, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Crazy Rich Asians, The Front Runner, Mary Queen of Scots, Black Panther, and The Sisters Brothers as films with the potential to take up a spot later in the game.
Best Original Screenplay
Last year all but one of the Best Picture nominees, Call Me by your Name, had a screenplay not based on a book, play, or other published materials. This year, however, the category is a little more open. So that means that we’ll see a couple of Best Picture nominees here, with a few open slots for films that don’t have the gas to receive love in the top category.
I’m planting a flag early for The Favourite, Backseat, Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and Eighth Grade to be the five nominees. A few back-ups include Bohemian Rhapsody, Isle of Dogs, Peterloo, The Rider, Sorry to Bother You, Green Book, Mid90s, Destroyer, Colette, On the Basis of Sex, and A Quiet Place.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Looking over the acting categories at this rate, I’m seeing Supporting Actress as the weakest competition-wise. Then again, it’s very early so I could be eating my words in a few weeks.
I’m putting an early bet on Regina King to be the early frontrunner in a couple of months for If Beale Street Could Talk. Otherwise I have Margot Robbie for Mary Queen of Scots, Nicole Kidman for Boy Erased, Claire Foy for First Man, and Amy Adams for Backseat to fill out the five. Keep in mind we don’t know how big a role Amy Adams has in Backseat, so she could also be viable in the Best Actress category. For the rest of the field, I’m keeping an eye on both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz for The Favourite, Michelle Yeoh for Crazy Rich Asians, Sissy Spacek for The Old Man and the Gun, and either Maura Tierney or Amy Ryan for Beautiful Boy.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
For this category, we usually see a few character actors and veterans fighting with newcomers and lead performances hiding in supporting categories. And as per usual, looking over the field at this stage, there’s a lot to choose from.
Another early frontrunner bet I’m placing is on Sam Rockwell to win this category for playing George W. Bush in Backseat. If he does so, he’ll be the first actor since Tom Hanks to win back-to-back Oscars. That’s a lot to live up to, and it is an early call, so I might abandon it later. Otherwise I’m betting on Timothee Chalamet for Beautiful Boy, Daniel Kaluuya for Widows, Joel Edgerton for Boy Erased, and Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me? As for the rest, look out for Sam Elliott for A Star is Born, Russell Crowe for Boy Erased, J.K. Simmons for The Front Runner, Nicholas Hoult for The Favourite, Stephan James for If Beale Street Could Talk, Steve Carell for Backseat, and either Adam Drive or Topher Grace for BlacKkKlansman.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Best Actress is looking like a promising one this year. In years past, this category has been hard to fill, but with more female-led films being made, it’s making this category a little harder to predict all the time. And that, for my money, is a good thing.
For me, I’m putting Saoirse Ronan out front early for Mary Queen of Scots, with nominations also coming for Viola Davis for Widows, Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Felicity Jones for On the Basis of Sex, and Olivia Colman for The Favourite. For the competition, keep the following in mind: Glenn Close for The Wife, Lady Gaga for A Star is Born, Nicole Kidman for Destroyer, Amy Adams for Backseat (if she’s not in supporting), Kiki Layne for If Beale Street Could Talk, Amandla Stenberg for The Hate U Give, Keira Knightley for Colette, Elsie Fisher for Eighth Grade, Natalie Portman for Vox Lux, Carey Mulligan for Wildlife, Toni Collette for Hereditary, and newcomer Yalitza Aparicio for Roma. Aparicio picked up some awesome reviews at the festivals.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Like Best Supporting Actor, Lead Actor tends to see more competition than the actress categories, and at this stage that may be true, but I have a feeling this category won’t be as competitive as it has been the last five years.
For the early frontrunner spot, I’m saying Christian Bale for Backseat. Also nominated will be Ryan Gosling for First Man, Lucas Hedges for Boy Erased, Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody, and Steve Carell for Beautiful Boy. For the rest of the pack, keep an eye out for Bradley Cooper for A Star is Born, Robert Redford for The Old Man and the Gun, Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate, Lucas Hedges for Ben is Back (he could get swapped in for this instead of Boy Erased), Hugh Jackman for The Front Runner, John C. Reilly for The Sisters Brothers, John David Washington for BlacKkKlansman, Jake Gyllenhaal for Wildlife, and either Mahershala Ali (who could go supporting) or Viggo Mortensen for Green Book.
Unlike the screenplay categories, the directing branch of the Academy likes to throw in a whole bunch of twists and turns, with some nominees coming seemingly out of nowhere. In the last few years we’ve seen the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread, Lenny Abrahamson for Room, Bennet Miller for Foxcatcher, Michael Haneke for Amour, and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild. I have no idea if we’ll see something like that again this year, but there’s no telling at this stage.
For this year’s nominees, I have Spike Lee as the early frontrunner for BlacKkKlansman, and if he does win he’ll be the first African-American to have a Best Director Oscar on his mantle. Also nominated will be Damien Chazelle for First Man, Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk, Alfonso Cuaron for Roma, and Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite. I’d look out for Adam McKay for Backseat, Bradley Cooper for A Star is Born, Steve McQueen for Widows, Ryan Coogler for Black Panther, Josie Rourke for Mary Queen of Scots, and Felix Van Groeningen for Beautiful Boy, though.
The number of nominees in this category can go up to ten, but that’s determined by which films receive 5% plus one of the popular vote. Since Academy voters’ tastes usually aren’t that extremely different from one another, mathematically speaking ten nominees is almost an impossibility, seven to nine nominees is the best bet. But just in case, I always give out ten possible nominees for this category.
So for the first bets for which ten films make the cut for Best Picture, I have First Man as the frontrunner, since it’s essentially the film that will likely have the most nominations Oscar morning, followed by If Beale Street Could Talk, BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Roma, Beautiful Boy, Mary Queen of Scots, A Star is Born, Black Panther, and Backseat. Some of the hopefuls wishing to break in, by my estimations at least, are Widows, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Boy Erased, Crazy Rich Asians, The Front Runner, Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Hate U Give, and Mary Poppins Returns.
Again, these are the first early predictions, and I plan to update these many, many times through the rest of the season. It all leads up to Oscar nominations morning, which will be January 22nd, where we find out who the nominees are, which of them are surprises, and which films were snubbed. A lot could and will happen over the next few months. Strap yourselves in. There’s going to be a lot of bumps in the road.