Are We In The Midst Of The Most Competitive Oscar Season This Decade?

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Almost every awards season has at least one category which is a barn burner. A category where when the Oscar nominations are finally announced not one, not two, but sometimes even three legit performances (or films) are snubbed. Look no further than the 2015 Best Actor nods where incredible turns by Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”), David Oyelowo (“Selma”), Ralph Fiennes (“Grand Budapest Hotel”), Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner”) and Matthew McConaughey (“Interstellar”) all failed to make the cut. And, on the flip side, there are often major categories that are so desperately scrounging for nominees that a nomination can come almost out of nowhere (we’re looking at you Marion Cotillard for “Two Days, One Night”). Let’s make one thing clear, it’s not even October 1st and it’s painfully obvious 2019 will resemble the former significantly more than the later.

Beyond a Best Picture race which has arguably 13 major players (nothing to scoff at), there are extremely competitive nomination races in Best Actor, Best Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director and Adapted Screenplay. Even the often weak Original Screenplay category has some legitimate drama in its midst. And we might be months away from formally diving into it, but it’s obvious there are going to be snubs aplenty when it comes to Original Song. But, we digress because there is a lot to ponder.  Let’s just take a quick overview, shall we?

Best Actor finds Christian Bale (“Vice”) vs. Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”) vs. Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”) vs. Ryan Gosling (“First Man”) vs. Hugh Jackman (“The Front Runner”) vs. Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) vs. Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”). Are you sure you know who’s gonna drop out of that group, because you can expect that John C. Reilly (“Sisters Brothers”), Robert Redford (“Old Man and the Gun”), Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased”), Steve Carell (“Beautiful Boy”) and Ethan Hawke (“First Reformed”) will make some legitimate noise during the season if anyone in the first group falters.

Best Actress still has Fox Searchlight deciding on whether Olivia Coleman should be lead or supporting (cough, the latter), but without her in the mix her “Favourite” co-star Emma Stone still has to place in a race versus Viola Davis (“Widows”), Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”), Felicity Jones (“On the Basis of Sex”), Nicole Kidman (“Destroyer”), Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), Julia Roberts (“Ben is Back”) and Saoirse Ronan (“Mary Queen of Scots”). And of course, that’s assuming Keira Knightley (“Colette”) and Glen Close (“The Wife”) fade to the background, Toni Collette (“Hereditary”) isn’t taken seriously because she starred in a horror movie and Emily Blunt (“Mary Poppins Returns”) is deemed too commercial a performance by voters after expected Golden Globe and SAG love. That’s a significant amount to count on.

But, please. It only gets worse with the murderer’s row in Supporting Actress.  Again, we potentially have Olivia Coleman (“The Favourite”) joined by Claire Foy (“First Man”) — yes, the former and future “Crown” queens — Margot Robbie (“Mary Queen of Scots”), Amy Adams (“Vice”), Sissy Spacek (“The Old Man and the Gun”), Elizabeth Debecki (“Widows”), Nicole Kidman (“Boy Erased”), Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) and Rachel Weisz (“The Favourite”). Want to assume Spacek will fall to the wayside? Well, watch out for Michelle Yeoh (“Crazy Rich Asians”) waiting in the wings to fill the gap.

Supporting Actor is only slightly easier to gauge because the unseen “Vice” includes potential nominated turns from Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell. Even with those two out of the field you’ve got former winner Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”), Timothée Chalamet (“Beautiful Boy”), Sam Elliott (“A Star is Born”), Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), Michael B. Jordan (“Black Panther”) and Matthew McConaughey (“White Boy Rick”). Perhaps Jordan or McConaughey don’t make the cut, but Nicholas Hoult (“The Favourite”) and Daniel Kaluuya (“Widows”) will both be stealth players and word is Lin-Manuel Miranda is the best performance in “Mary Poppins Returns” so don’t overlook that beloved multi-talent either.  So sure, maybe Chalamet and Elliott are locks but good luck figuring out the rest before the voting deadline.

As for Adapted Screenplay, “A Star is Born,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “First Man,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Leave No Trace,” “The Sisters Brothers” and “Widows” should all land nominations, but three of those films will be pushed to the side. And that assumes the Writer’s Branch doesn’t decide to reward “Black Panther,” “The Front Runner,” “Crazy Rich Asians” or even “Love, Simon” (granted, some with better shots than others). At least Original Screenplay nods are pretty much a given for “Roma” and “The Favourite” with “Sorry To Bother You” having an excellent shot to also get in the club (which would not have been the case last year).

And do you want to discuss Director? Honestly, I don’t think you do because if it’s already such a headache for every consultant in town that it might drive you batsh*t crazy. In theory Damien Chazelle (“First Man”), Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”), Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”), Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”), Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”), Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Steve McQueen, (“Widows”) would all be frontrunners for a nod in any other year. You wanna cut Coogler? O.K., who’s next? McQueen? Fine. Really hard to land a five after that, isn’t it? Oh and that assumes Adam McKay doesn’t deserve a nod for “Vice” or, dear god, Clint Eastwood isn’t back in the game with “The Mule” assuming it gets a last-minute push. Oh, and do you really want to ignore the incredible work Marielle Heller did on “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” or  or Jacques Audiard’s miraculous “Sisters Brothers”? Maybe you ignore the later, but the former? Really? In 2018? (And the branch could always surprise by remembering Chloé Zhao’s work on “The Rider”.)

Like much this year or this past two years, these races aren’t normal and why there is such an abundance of riches is unclear. It may be as simple as the fact there are so many good movies being released during the last quarter of the year. It may be that the studio product is even stronger than normal and we’re assuming the Academy will embrace it. It may also be that the line between movies the industry loves and movies the industry likes will be much smaller than in previous seasons. Whatever the case there are a ton of races upon us and the fight for Oscar’s embrace is going to be fiercer than ever.

Prepare yourself.

Updated prediction pages for your pleasure.

Best Picture
Best Director
Actress
Actor
Supporting Actress
Supporting Actor
Original Screenplay
Adapted Screenplay
Foreign Language Film

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