Recent Oscar Developments

The 2021 Oscar races are heating up. New contenders have popped up. Actors, films, and filmmakers who were on the outside looking in have now surged forward and can easily earn a nomination. Early frontrunners have either solidified or wilted. To say the least, the latest developments in the Oscar races have left me fascinated and intrigued - I just had to share them with you. Without further ado, I'll list the new contenders, and the old and dilapidated.

Editing and Costume Design

A couple of interesting developments before we get to the bigger stuff. Best Editing has become a tighter race as of late. Tenet is surging upwards to be a part of the five nominees, Nomadland and The Trial of the Chicago 7 have both increased their odds and are now more crowded at the top, and Mank and The Father have dropped a bit. They're still holding onto their 3 and 4 spots as of now, but Tenet, News of the World, and Judas and the Black Messiah are all now rising towards their spots, gunning for them. Not far behind are Sound of Metal, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and Da 5 Bloods. Currently, they're on the outside looking in, but anything could happen between now and the official announcement. With the release of Judas and the Black Messiah imminent, it's no surprise its Oscar prospects are increasing in likelihood. Notably, Best Editing has been said by experts to be tied in with Best Picture, be it a win or a nomination.

As for Best Costume Design, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has shot ahead as the frontrunner. Mank, previously being the frontrunner, has lost its foothold at the top of that race, for now. Emma., the Jane Austen adaptation, and a period piece, has burst into the top five at the #3 spot right now. News of the World has entered into the top 5 at this point, and the live-action remake of Mulan has lost some steam as of late. What has been a surprise of late are the recent odds boosts of The United States vs. Billie Holiday and The Personal History of David Copperfield both being tied as the films to be the next to be bumped in, if Mulan is kicked out. This race has been interesting as I predicted Emma. would be the winner of this category when in all actuality, it wasn't even in the top 5 at the time. It has now soared into the top 3, and could, in all likelihood, steal the win away from favorites Mank and Ma Rainey. Clearly, some massive campaigning has taken place recently for the film and its distributor.

Best Cinematography

Cinematography is another interesting one. Checking the recent developments in this race, it appears the race at the top is razor thin as far as the difference between Mank and Nomadland, which have been the favorites for quite some time. Malcolm and Marie hopes to be the newcomer that can make a big splash, bursting onto the scene late in the race with its black and white, intimate cinematography. Judas and the Black Messiah, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and Da 5 Bloods are all packed sardines to try to grab that #5 spot, slipping in as the last possible nominee. Tenet and News of the World are currently clutching onto their 3 and 4 spots, as of now. Odds may change slightly every day, but the films in the lead really haven't. I felt is was worth mentioning that the race is tighter, and that a couple of newcomers seem to be surging towards that last available spot.

Original and Adapted Screenplay

Original Screenplay has not changed much, except that Promising Young Woman has skyrocketed into the #4 spot currently. It shot ahead of Pixar's Soul, and everyone else in its wake. Soul is still clutching onto that final nomination spot, but Da 5 Bloods, Sound of Metal, Judas and the Black Messiah, On The Rocks, and Malcolm and Marie might have something else to say about that. These films have all increased their odds of earning a nomination in that fifth and final spot, but as of right now, Soul holds onto that spot by a fairly significant margin (Gold Derby). The Trial of the Chicago 7 has solidified its lead over Mank as the frontrunner, while Minari has held strong to its #3 spot behind them. Anything can happen in the month of February, which will see the release of a good number of Oscar films before the deadline on the 28th.

Adapted Screenplay has a bit of a closer race than the fairly spread out race in Original. Some interesting developments here as One Night in Miami, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Father, News of the World, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, First Cow, and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm have all increased their chances at a nomination recently.  Nomadland is still the heavy favorite to be nominated and to win, but these other adaptations have boosted their odds to try to make it a closer race and there are now some outsiders that have a fighting chance at bringing a tighter grouping to this intriguing fight. It will be a fight to the finish as three screenplays have 4-5 to 1 odds (Gold Derby), News of the World has made it more fun, and I'm Thinking of Ending Things and First Cow can certainly make it more interesting.

Best Supporting Actor

This race was all but wrapped up several weeks ago, but lately I'm not so sure anymore. After seeing Leslie Odom Jr.'s fantastic performance in One Night in Miami, it would come as no surprise to me seeing him not only gain a nomination, but to grab the win here. However, what has shaken up this race seems to be Netflix's campaign strategy for the other nominees. Yes, Odom Jr. remains to be the frontrunner. That much is clear. But, Netflix had three Trial of the Chicago 7 actors in there for a good while. Now, two have dropped out of the top 5. This is significant because it appears Chadwick Boseman's supporting performance in Da 5 Bloods is now in the top 5. If you're unaware, this is another Netflix film, and perhaps Netflix is now seeing that they have a greater shot at his performance gaining a nomination rather than multiple for The Trial of the Chicago 7. Additionally, Paul Raci for Sound of Metal has gained some steam after the Critics' Circle Awards across the country and Daniel Kaluuya's performance in Judas and the Black Messiah has shot up into the top 3 with the upcoming release of the film. This race looks entirely different now from when Netflix and Trial of the Chicago 7 were dominating this category just weeks ago.

Best Supporting Actress

This race fascinates me in a number of ways. Firstly, Amanda Seyfried in Mank had been the frontrunner for as long as predictions for this race started. But then, the tide turned once word of Olivia Colman's performance in The Father came out. She appears to be the new frontrunner as of right now. Ellen Burstyn in Pieces of a Woman, Yuh Jung Youn in Minari, and Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy have been the other three for the race's entirety. Now that the critics awards have come to light, Maria Bakalova's campaign for an Oscar nomination in this category is not just a pipe dream anymore. She has blasted off into the #5 spot, taking down Glenn Close, for now. Many have joked that Borat Subsequent Moviefilm receiving an Oscar nominations for acting could be a serious possibility, but now it's becoming a reality.

Best Actress

While the Best Actor race largely remains unchanged, the Best Actress race has just been upended but a couple latecomers. Zendaya in Malcolm and Marie gives a powerful and emotional performance in the film based on early critical reception. You may have also heard that Carey Mulligan's multi-faceted and highly courageous performance in Promising Young Woman has taken this race by storm as well. She has slid up to the #4 spot, while Zendaya has quietly crept up into the #5 spot. These actresses have effectively dethroned Andra Day of The United States vs. Billie Holiday and Sophia Loren in The Life Ahead. Andra Day had all but sealed up her nomination until she had her day ruined, whereas Sophia Loren seemed to be living on borrowed time. As for the top three, these are still held by Viola Davis for Ma Rainey, Frances McDormand for Nomadland, and Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman, who, consequently, has lost the wind in her sails of late. All three are practically guaranteed a nomination at this point, but it appears that the winner is likely between Viola Davis and Frances McDormand by a small margin.

Best Director

Best Director hasn't had any real significant changes since I last wrote about it. I did, however, see at least one interesting development that was worthy of note. Lee Isaac Chung for Minari has surged upwards from being on the outside looking in, to pass up a couple previous directors who held solid spots. He's now sitting at #4 most likely to be nominated and to win. He seemed to have bumped out Regina King for One Night in Miami, Paul Greengrass for News of the World, and Spike Lee for Da 5 Bloods who currently holds that #5 spot. Spike is likely to grab a nomination since the Academy loves him so much, and the Netflix campaign is probably pretty strong since he's been Jonesin' for that Best Director Oscar for decades now. However, I would not count out Regina King as her direction is not only worthy of a nomination, but also it's the type of direction that gains the attention of the Academy. Not to mention, it's her feature directorial debut. Moving up to the top of the pack, Chloe Zhao for Nomadland still holds a considerable lead over David Fincher for Mank, while Aaron Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7 inexplicably has held steady at #3.

Best Picture

The Best Picture race is another that hasn't changed in a huge way in a long while. However, the bottom of the list has been seeing some newcomers of late. For instance, upon the release of Promising Young Woman, its Best Picture prospects certainly have skyrocketed. It's now shot its way into the top ten, edging out Pixar's Soul, slightly. Now, this does not mean it will be guaranteed a nomination, perse. Yes, the Academy can nominate up to 10 films for Best Picture, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will. In 2018, they nominated eight films while in 2019 they nominated nine. For some unknown, arbitrary reason, the Academy likes to omit that tenth film. Who knows why? Certainly, I will never know. So, what does this mean? Hell if I know. You probably want to know what I think if you're reading this, so, here goes: Promising Young Woman just as easily could be nominated for Best Picture as Pixar's Soul can. But, experts are predicting the timely spin on the revenge thriller has more of a chance than the Pixar animated feature film apparently does. To go even deeper, I think it also has just as much of a chance as Sound of Metal, Judas and the Black Messiah, News of the World, and Da 5 Bloods all do. These are all *pretty* close in terms of odds, but some better than others, of course. Do I think it has a shot? Yes. Do I think it will? I have no fucking idea. Same as the next (wo)man. But, I will say, I really freakin' hope it does receive the nomination.

As for the rest of the field, it remains largely unchanged. And they are:

  1. Nomadland
  2. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  3. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom 
  4. Mank
  5. One Night in Miami
  6. Minari
  7. The Father

Yes, Nomadland has remained to be the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture for quite some time now. However, the major change here is that Mank has dropped considerably since I wrote my predictions. It's since been passed up by Trial and Ma Rainey. One Night in Miami and Minari have held steady for the most part, while The Father maybe has solidified its position as well. Although, it has dropped in odds a bit. This tells me that it's got absolutely zero chance of winning Best Picture, but it's almost certain to grab a nomination. The odds do seem favorable in that regard. However, all of this can change once it sees a wider release as well as the other films listed. As for the films that have already enjoyed their wider releases, it's up to the distributors to do their part in the campaigning and hope for those ever-coveted awards in the increasingly important awards circuit leading up to the Oscar nominations on March 15th.

 

I will be looking on with much anticipation and will keep you guys posted with any and all meaningful developments.

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By 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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