The First Wave of Awards Are In – What This Means for the Oscars

The Critics Awards

Critics Society Awards from all across the country have let their voices be heard. We had some surprises, and some lived up to expectations. Front-runners won, dark horses won, and some downright came out of nowhere. But, what all these have in common - they don't really have any bearing on the Oscar race. Historically, the Critics Awards winners, in some cases, have not gone on to win Best Picture. So, why am I telling you this? What is the point of this article? It's a completely different kind of year when anything can happen. The critics usually award the films that may not go on to have success at the Academy Awards, but this year not only feels different - it IS different. Not to mention, streaming has been giving everyone access to these films. Films that may not typically get in front of the right people, WILL this year. Films that may not have a shot in past years now stand a fighting chance. Crazy, right? We'll start first with the ones that I felt were most noteworthy.

Boston Online Film Critics Association Awards

Boston honored what most would expect at this point in the circuit. Nomadland seems to be the odds on favorite to win Best Picture, and it won that among other awards here. In addition to winning the biggest prize here, Nomadland also took home Director, Cinematography, Editing, and Actress for Frances McDormand. What I feel is interesting is that Wolfwalkers won Best Animated Feature. Pixar's Soul seems to be capturing the hearts of many, but this dark horse is coming for it and looking to shake things up come Oscar time. And right now, for that matter. Other surprises to come out of Boston are Maria Bakalova for Supporting Actress in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Paul Raci in Sound of Metal, and Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things for Best Screenplay. Bakalova is emerging as a supporting actress who can come out of the woodwork and sneak in as a nominee and possibly a favorite in that race, at this rate. Paul Raci is also making noise in his respective category as supporting actor. Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things had really lost steam after its release on Netflix. It seemed to come and go, but if it racks up more wins like this, it could potentially re-emerge as a contender. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross also won Best Score for Pixar's Soul. This could show that their Mank score may not earn recognition, but at least they'll have something if not their double nomination.

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

New York is interesting to me because their winner has never won Best Picture at the Oscars, not at least for the past decade or so. This begs the question: does it really matter who comes out on top in New York? Maybe not. But, the law of large numbers dictates that it should eventually. What's funny here is that Kelly Reichardt's First Cow won according to New York critics. Now, this does not mean I do not believe it's a worthy film. I believe it's one of the best films of the year and more than deserving of the top prize. However, considering New York's track record, it's not likely that First Cow will win or even be nominated at the Oscars, for that matter. I do hope that Kelly Reichardt's pristine film will achieve any sort of recognition, as well as she herself as a filmmaker. Chloe Zhao won Best Director here for Nomadland, which should not come as a surprise anymore at this point. Now, what are surprises here are Eliza Hittman's screenplay for Never Rarely Sometimes Always won, as well as the lead actress, Sidney Flanagan. I also believe these are well deserved. Bravo to them. Da 5 Bloods saw some love in the acting categories with Chadwick Boseman for Best Supporting and Delroy Lindo for Lead Actor. Bakalova racked up another win for Best Supporting here for the controversial Borat sequel. Wolfwalkers won yet again for Animated Feature, pulling off another upset. Steve McQueen's anthology 5-film series "Small Axe" won Best Cinematography - put a pin in that one, we'll return to it later. More surprises here than expected wins, which is something that I love. I'm glad to see that New York favors more of the unseen films rather than frontrunners or boring picks.

Chicago Film Critics Association

Speaking of frontrunners and expected picks winning, Nomadland dominated the Chicago Film Critics Association's awards taking home Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Actress, and Director. These are to be expected here, but I did not predict it to have a clean sweep like that come time for the Globes or the Oscars. Wolfwalkers once again took home Animated Feature, leaving Soul trembling for the remainder of the awards circuit. Eliza Hittman hit another time with an original screenplay win with her film Never Rarely Sometimes Always. I wouldn't expect a film like this to make waves at the Oscars, but it most certainly could if it continues to pick up steam like this. Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg's dramatic comedy starring Mads Mikkelsen took home Best International (foreign language) Feature here in Chicago, which is my favorite to be a lock for a nomination and possibly win the Oscar. Reznor and Ross won for their Soul score again here as well. Expect that to gain momentum throughout also. The Invisible Man won Best Use of Visual Effects which is a surprise here as most would expect either Tenet or Wonder Woman 1984. Other tentpole blockbusters are expected to win that, so that was a nice come from nowhere win. Mank won Art Direction which I expect to win at the Oscars as well. Emma. won Costume Design which is another prediction of mine. And yes, those will be out soon. Also, I will point out whenever a prediction of mine proves true because of who I am as a person.

Florida Film Critics Circle

I was going to skip this one, but it had so many interesting picks I just could not keep from mentioning it. Best Picture went to First Cow, which, again, is not an expected pick at all. But, with wins like this, it could gain enough momentum to stay in the consciousness of the Academy and steal away a nomination. Best Actor went to Anthony Hopkins for The Father. In my predictions article (coming soon, if it isn't out already) I mentioned that he would be the odds on favorite, if not for Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. I still believe he should win this, even though I have yet to see Hopkins' performance. What's interesting here too is that John Magaro from First Cow was their selected runner-up in this category. I'm not sure if it's enough to be considered, but he might have legs to stand on once the time comes for nominations to roll around. Actress went to Frances McDormand for Nomadland again. Another win for her here in Florida is starting to make me lose faith in my predictions for Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman and Viola Davis for Ma Rainey. Paul Raci added another statue to his shelf with his Floridian supporting actor win. If he keeps this up, I'm gonna have to rethink this category entirely. And possibly edit my predictions article. Bakalova won yet again for supporting actress in Borat here, and this is another case in which I'm not sure if critics across the nation are trolling here or if she will be a serious awards contender with this performance. This was her first major performance as well, mind you. Zhao won Director here again for Nomadland, leaving me to believe my Fincher prediction (for Mank) grows weaker by the day. Lee Isaac Chung won Best Original Screenplay for his writing work on Minari. This makes me very excited for the prospects of this film, and that Aaron Sorkin may not lead the race anymore. One can only hope. Kaufman added another victory for his adaptation of I'm Thinking of Ending Things. Continued wins for his adapted screenplay could land him a nomination, if things keep up this way for him. Mank won cinematography here which is the first win I've seen for Mank in that particular category. I predicted that this will win the Oscar, but with so many Nomadland wins in this category, it's really hard to say. This is probably the most interesting victory for me here: Possessor winning Visual Effects. Now, I am happy about this - and you would know if you read my article about it. I absolutely adore this film and am very happy about this win. Tenet was the runner-up, which I believe to be the favorite at the Oscars and awards circuit leading up to the ceremony. Reznor and Ross walk away with another win for Soul. I'm noticing a trend here. Soul finally takes its first win over Wolfwalkers in Animated, that I've seen, anyway. This will be an interesting race to watch. Minari was runner-up for Foreign Language Film, which I believe to be entirely up for grabs.

LA Film Critics Awards

We now arrive at the moment we've all been waiting for. Or, at least, we were all waiting for it if we really care about these things. LA seems to be the hub for the critics who are right near the action. So they have to mean something, right? Sure. Cinematography went to Small Axe - which, from what little I've seen of it, is deserving. Soul wins another score award for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Safe to say that's a lock for a nomination, at the very least. Supporting Actor was interesting: Glynn Turman for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom with Paul Raci as a runner-up for Sound of Metal. We may have to look out for Turman winning a nomination now if he continues to gather recognition and accolades. Mank won Production Design again, surprising no one.  The Father won Best Editing, which is a surprising win here. First Cow and Nomadland had been taking all of the wins I had been seeing to this point. The Father will likely garner an Editing nomination, as well as a Best Picture nomination in my personal, and humble, opinion. Editing is typically tied to Picture, so that's where that thinking comes in. Youn Yuh-Jung won Best Supporting Actress for Minari over Amanda Seyfried in Mank. This is a huge upset as most expect Seyfried to win this in April, myself included. Wolfwalkers secured another victory over Soul here in LA. It's safe to say critics are heels over head with this one, but I'm sure Pixar and Soul won't go down without a fight. Promising Young Woman was chosen to be the Best Screenplay by the LA critics, with the runner-up being Never Rarely Sometimes Always. It's possible that this is a huge statement by the critics to include these in the conversation when considering nominess for the Oscars. Whether or not the Academy will hear this plea, is another story entirely. Chadwick Boseman took Best Actor for his extraordinary performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, as expected. Runner-up was Riz Ahmed, who has been gaining a lot of needed and well deserved attention for his performance in Sound of Metal. Carey Mulligan won an unexpected Best Actress award for her efforts in Promising Young Woman. This is another performance that is sure to shake things up in that race, as well. Viola Davis took the runner-up for her transformative performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom in the titular role. Zhao took home Director for Nomadland again, pretty much sealing up her crown in that category, if you ask me. Although, it is possible that Fincher could still win the Oscar, if the Academy decides that "it's his time." Steve McQueen was runner-up for his direction of the five anthology films in the Small Axe film series. Speaking of, that is actually what took home Best Film. All five anthology films together took home the top prize from the LA film critics. This is a controversial pick, as we now must consider an anthology series or miniseries as one film. Or do we? Only time will tell. Another interesting pick here is that Beanpole won Best Foreign Language Film. I feel this is an interesting pick because it's uncertain whether or not this film will even be eligible for the Oscars this year, due to its release date and if it was already submitted last year or not. This film had its initial release in 2019 and I simply do not know whether this will be able to contend or not. As for its merits, I believe it's well deserved as it's a fantastic film.


As I mentioned before, it's hard to know whether these will have any bearing on how the Oscars will play out or not. What I do know is that most of the films discussed will be leaders in the conversation surrounding awards. Nomadland clearly is ahead of the pack when it comes to the major categories. It has a good shot at some of the technical stuff, as well. Cinematography seems to be a big component to this. As I had stated, and will mention in subsequent articles, is that Mank seems to be (or seemed to be) the frontrunner for Cinematography due to the black and white presentation, the nods to Citizen Kane, the reverence paid to Old Hollywood/Golden Age filmmaking tactics, and the unique camera movements. However, this could all change once I finally get to see Nomadland. I had believed there to be frontrunners in the acting categories across the board, but with the revelation of the critics' choices, it's anybody's guess now. I still firmly believe Chadwick Boseman will win Best Actor for his portrayal of Levee in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. As for the other categories, it's honestly a toss-up between a select few. And even more names seemed to have been thrown into the hat now. Whether the Academy will consider those new names is another discussion entirely. Possibly the most intriguing name to be mentioned, and win, multiple times is Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. This may seem like a strange trolling attempt or something - but again, she won so many times it may be impossible for the Academy to ignore. I also would not be shocked to see her in the running for a Golden Globe in the comedy acting category. The Director race as a result of all this seems to be heavily one-sided. I am happy for Chloe Zhao, but a bit frustrated for David Fincher. The Charlie Kaufman wins for Adapted Screenplay was a welcome surprise. This will almost force the Academy's hand to give him a nomination, but I would be willing to wager they were going to anyway, given they love his work. I thought it had been locked down for Chloe Zhao, but not so. Original Screenplay seems to be a whole new race now. My original thoughts were that Jack Fincher had it all but locked down for Mank. Additionally, the Academy seems to just give Sorkin nominations, even if it's not deserved. As is the case with The Trial of the Chicago 7, in my opinion. Alas, he'll still probably get one. But, here's the catch: all these new names and dark horse candidates shaking up the race could crowd it to the point where we have no idea who or what will win - or even be nominated. Here's what I saw: Eliza Hittman for Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, Lee Isaac Chung for Minari. Sorkin for Trial had one runner-up award. No mention of Jack Fincher for Mank anywhere. Well, shit. There goes my prediction. (I still think he'll see at least a nomination, wherever he is now). I still stand by my statements for Visual Effects. Tenet should be leading the way, we just might see different nominees pulling up the rear. Mank has production design all but locked down. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross may not see a double nomination in the score category, but they should have a nomination for Soul locked down, or even a win. Costumes is a toss-up to me, even if I think it should go to Emma.

Am I missing anything here? That's all I got.

Rob McNeil

My name is Rob McNeil. I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois and I am a 28 year-old award winning screenwriter. I am very passionate about film, so much that I watch far too many films on a daily basis. I have written fifteen feature screenplays, a spec pilot thriller series, and several short scripts. I aim to make filmmaking a career, but for now, I will write about it.

Rob McNeil

My name is Rob McNeil. I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois and I am a 28 year-old award winning screenwriter. I am very passionate about film, so much that I watch far too many films on a daily basis. I have written fifteen feature screenplays, a spec pilot thriller series, and several short scripts. I aim to make filmmaking a career, but for now, I will write about it.

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