November is where the next phase of the awards season begins: the early frontrunners stage. Here, we have a better perception of where the categories are going, and we usually have at least one or two contenders that have a decent shot at winning their category. With that, I’ll go ahead and give an update on the top eight categories as they stand right now.
Best Adapted Screenplay
I have the same five contenders in this category, but the order is switching up a bit. I still have Spike Lee & company winning for their work on BlacKkKlansman. However, the rest of the contenders appear in this order: If Beale Street Could Talk, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Widows, and First Man. The box office disappointment of First Man has me thinking the film could have serious trouble in the next few weeks leading up to Globe, SAG, and Critic’s Choice nomination announcements. I remember Steve Jobs from three years ago, which was a solid lock for a lot of the top categories, but its bombing at the box office led to it only receiving two acting nominations. That could very well be the case for Damien Chazelle’s latest. In the meanwhile, the strong limited performance by Can You Ever Forgive Me has me thinking it could be a stronger performer than it was at first glance.
Best Original Screenplay
Changes: Eighth Grade out, First Reformed in
After careful consideration, I’m taking Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade out of my predictions and putting in Paul Schrader’s First Reformed in. That film scored a massive push after the Gotham nominations, and I’m reminded of Flight from 2012, where the film featured a strong leading performance that was nominated, and the screenplay went along for the ride. I have Reformed ranked fifth right now, but I still have The Favourite out front, but it will be challenged by Green Book in second, then Roma and Vice in third and fourth, respectively.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Changes: Margot Robbie out, Rachel Weisz in
Since Mary Queen of Scots still has not been screened, I’m going to hold off on predicting it in the top categories for now. Rachel Weisz, in the meantime, seems like a formidable contender, even if she has to fight with her co-star, Emma Stone. Just last year we saw both Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell make it in for Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, so it can be done. The field, for me, is still lead by Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk, but I have Claire Foy as a strong second place contender for her brilliant performance in First Man. Some have argued it’s the strongest part of that film, and I think that could lead to a win. Also remember that Foy is coming off an Emmy upset for The Crown. On that front, King has won three Emmys in the last four years, so there’s a lot of clout there, too. The others I have in this category are the previously mentioned Emma Stone, then Amy Adams in Vice, then Weisz in fifth place.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Not a lot of developments here in the Supporting Actor race. I still have this wild theory about Sam Rockwell (Vice) being the first actor in over two decades to win two years in a row (the last was Tom Hanks). Still, both Mahershala Ali (Green Book) and Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy) are big threats to win as well. My argument against Ali, who I have in third place, is his winning two years ago for Moonlight. And sure, that’s the pot calling the kettle black since Rockwell just won a few months ago, but I’m not ready to say Rockwell’s down yet, just in case that ends up happening. My other two nominees remain, in this order, Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me and Daniel Kaluuya for Widows.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Changes: Saoirse Ronan out, Glenn Close in
This category has proved to be the toughest to decide thus far in terms of who could win. Sure, this category and Best Actor are going to be hard to call as far as who gets in, but there’s a lot that can happen for these five ladies, as well as a few other contenders, over the next three months. So my big news here is Glenn Close making the list for The Wife, and I have her now winning the category. I see her following the footsteps of Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Christopher Plummer, and most recently Julianne Moore, all of whom were Oscar favorites over the years who were bridesmaids but never a bride, and I find it fitting to use that expression since the name of Close’s film is The Wife. As long as her studio, Sony Pictures Classics, as well as her reps and she herself spread the news about her previous six losses, that narrative can drive her to a win in February.
My second place pick for now is Olivia Colman, who can win the Golden Globe for Comedy/Musical, as well as BAFTA and potentially SAG if Close doesn’t cut it. She also has a lot of TV clout over the years to back her up. In third place is Melissa McCarthy, whose first big dramatic performance has a narrative of its own. Even if famous cases like Jim Carrey going serious for The Truman Show didn’t lead to an Oscar win (or even nomination), it’s an impressive feat that is often rewarded by voters. My fourth place pick is Viola Davis in Widows, who has, from what I hear, a great role that shows leadership, sexiness, sadness, and grit, and being a very popular actress can also lead a path to victory at the Oscars. And for Lady Gaga, who I have down in fifth, her path to the Oscars would follow Barbra Streisand, who tied for Best Actress for Funny Girl, or Bette Midler’s first big film role in The Rose, where she was nominated. If Gaga manages to win the Globe for Drama, where she has to take down everyone already listed except Colman, she’ll probably have an easier shot at an Oscar win as well.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Changes: Rami Malek out, Ethan Hawke in
Big news here is Hawke getting in for First Reformed, which means my previous fifth place pick, Rami Malek, is shoved out of the category. Unfortunately, the negative reviews for Bohemian Rhapsody may help the push out, especially with Hawke’s big support from Gotham. I can also see Hawke getting in on the regional awards in early December, like New York Film Critics Circle Award and Los Angeles Film Critics awards. For me, Christian Bale still leads this category with Vice, then Bradley Cooper for A Star is Born, then Viggo Mortensen for Green Book, and I do believe these three men will be the ones fighting it out for the Oscar win. My fourth place pick is Ryan Gosling for First Man, then Hawke, both of whom will be happy with a nomination in this crowded category. As far as narratives to win in this category, Bale has the physical transformation for playing Dick Cheney, and he’s very well liked with three previous Oscar nominations and one win for The Fighter. Cooper is the director for Star is Born, as well as a co-producer and co-writer, and he’s also got three Oscar noms in his rearview to back him up. Then there’s Viggo, who’s also very popular with two previous noms, and both his and Cooper’s films are possible future Best Picture winners. Remember, the Academy likes to award their Best Pictures with an acting win sometimes.
Changes: Damien Chazelle out, Bradley Cooper in
I have been a little reluctant over the past few weeks to put Cooper in for director, but with the long history of actor-turned-directors receiving nominations, usually for their first try, Cooper fits that mold very well. With First Man beginning to collapse a bit in the box office, that leaves Chazelle as the likely man out. For the rankings, I have Spike Lee still winning this category. I think if there’s a big social media push for an African-American to finally win Best Director this year, either Lee or Barry Jenkins, who I have in second place for If Beale Street Could Talk, will be the ones fighting out the honor. Third place is Alfonso Cuaron, whose film Roma will now see a limited theater run before streaming on Netflix, just won five years ago for Gravity, but he’s a big threat to win this category. Yorgos Lanthimos is in fourth place for me, and I see The Favourite as the possible most-nominated film Oscar morning, and then Cooper in fifth.
Changes: Widows out, Can You Ever Forgive Me in
Not a lot of change here except Widows out and Forgive Me in, but the ranking has changed big time for me. I still have If Beale Street Could Talk out front, but now I have the rest of the field in this order: Green Book, Roma, BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, A Star is Born, Black Panther, First Man, Vice, and Can You Ever Forgive Me. Beale Street still leads the pack for me based off of word-of-mouth and that amazing trailer. However, when looking at narratives, Green Book is shaping up to have a good one. It won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, showing acclaim from its audiences. It’s looking at two big acting nominations, a possible win for Original Screenplay, and word-of-mouth also says the feel-good nature the film leaves you with all lead up to the potential win. That feel-good nature helped Shape of Water take down Three Billboards last year, in my opinion, so that should not be discarded. Roma could be the first streaming film to win this category, and it’s one of the most acclaimed films of the year. If the members of the Academy who frown upon the streaming services breaking into the industry are pleased with the theatrical run, that leaves the door wide open. A Star is Born is also looking at being one of the highest grossing films of the bunch (nobody will beat Black Panther if it gets in), and if Gaga or Cooper or both win their races, it might just begin sweeping. All in all, there’s a lot of mystery left in this category.