Awards Index: Best Picture and Acting Categories (November)

It is November and we are entering genuine awards season now. There are only a number of unknown factors left and half those are only press embargoed.

Let’s get to it!

FRONTRUNNERS
KING RICHARD (ORIGINAL)
BELFAST (ORIGINAL)
THE POWER OF THE DOG (ADAPTED)
DUNE (ADAPTED)

VERY LIKELY
NIGHTMARE ALLEY (ADAPTED)
LICORICE PIZZA (ORIGINAL)
WEST SIDE STORY (ADAPTED)

IN CONTENTION
BEING THE RICARDOS (ADAPTED)
DON’T LOOK UP (ORIGINAL)
THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH (ADAPTED)

LOOK OUT FOR:
SPENCER (ORIGINAL)
C’MON C’MON

Analysis: Your current Best Picture frontrunner is King Richard. A widely appealing and tremendously crowd-pleasing sports drama. Richard Williams was a man with a mission that fulfilled all aspirations he set out for his daughter, and now Will Smith will only supplement his legacy with an Oscar statuette, but a Best Picture win is now looking also possible. It’s an old-fashioned biopic that hits many of the usual tropes of the genre, but stands out with its attention to craft and overall performances. The whole cast stands out so much I would be shocked if this movie lost the Screen Actors Guild Ensemble Award. Right on its tails is Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, which will play exceedingly well to the Academy. I adore the movie, but it may be too niche and personal to connect broadly with American Audiences to go all the way. While King Richard is a classic American underdog story, the sport of Tennis also appeals very well internationally. In the end, it’ll be a tale of two Audience friendly Best Picture contenders, and I’m placing my bets on King Richard. The Power of the Dog is being pushed as Netflix’s top contender, and until Licorice Pizza is seen, it’s an all-bet favorite to win a significant critic award or two. I don’t think it has a single assured Oscar win, with its best chance being in Adapted Screenplay. It may go the way of The Irishman and receive a sea of Oscar nominations, but not have the passion to win any of them. The biggest test for the movie will be SAG, as I think it could struggle as being audience-friendly due to its deliberate-paced and minimal plot nature.

Dune is on the surge thanks to it performing against the odds at the box office despite its day-and-date release nature on HBO Max. It’s a significant part of the cultural zeitgeist, and also stands out due to its blockbuster nature and attention to techs. Nightmare Alley is racing to be finished at this very moment and will be seen in the upcoming weeks. Yet it will be a difficult movie for Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro to screw up, and the trailer looks promising enough to likely succeed. Very few have seen Licorice Pizza, and the buzz is strong. It’s being described as a PTA-hangout movie that does give me some hesitation in terms of a Best Picture, but the competition is weak enough where it could sneak Paul Thomas Anderson a win for its Original Screenplay in the vein of Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous. Aaron Sorkin likely feels like he’s on top of the world after hitting it big with the first two films he’s ever directed, Molly’s Game and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Now he’s tapping into the Academy’s favorite genre, Old Hollywood, and from the trailer for Being the Ricardos, I think he’s going to nail it too. At worst, it’s an acting contender quite like Trumbo. At best, Hollywood and audiences will be once again in the palm of Aaron Sorkin’s hand. The Tragedy of Macbeth isn’t the most universally accessible movie thanks to Shakespeare, but it’s a defining adaptation of the text and one industry that will respect and reward. The adaptation is also crafted in a way that should inspire passion and hopefully strike a chord with audiences closer to its theatrical release date. Like Vice, Adam Mckay’s Don’t Look Up is going through numerous rumored edits until Adam McKay is satisfied for the rest of the world to finally see it. Given his last two movies, it’s hard to bet against him even if critics are not on board. The social satire apocalypse film features an all-star cast and is allegedly a significant metaphor for Global Warming. Finally, Spencer is not exactly warming up to audiences and critics in the way Neon likely hoped, but Kristen Stewart looks like a sure thing for the Best Actress award, so I wouldn’t wholly dismiss its Best Picture chances. Once again, the technical elements of a Pablo Larrain film are as lush and brilliant as ever. Still, it may prove not easy to crossover awards-wise beyond Production Design, Acting, and Score.

BEST ACTOR
WILL SMITH, KING RICHARD
DENZEL WASHINGTON, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, THE POWER OF THE DOG
BRADLEY COOPER, NIGHTMARE ALLEY
ANDREW GARFIELD, TICK TICK BOOM

Look out for:
JAVIER BARDEM, BEING THE RICARDOS
LEONARDO DICAPRIO, DON’T LOOK UP

Analysis: Will Smith delivers the performance of his career in King Richard and will be on his way to an Academy Award. He shows off his cinematic range in ways we have not seen before, embodying a character filled with passion, sensitivity, and rage. The film does not shy away from showcasing Richard Williams’ flaws, and Smith’s performance is all the better for it. You can also pencil in Denzel Washington for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Washington has never looked more rugged and badass in a role, and I’ll personally champion him all season long. Cumberbatch has also assured a nomination for his impressive performance as a repressed homosexual in the Old West. Bradley Cooper is looking reliably strong. As long as Del Toro delivers, based on the source material Coopper should be at the peak of the race, Andrew Garfield was given the role of a lifetime playing Jonathan Larson in Tick Tick Boom, whose life is both beautiful and tragic. The big question remains will Lin Manuel Miranda deliver with his directorial debut or was it hidden from the fall festival circuit for a reason? There’s also a lot of buzz on Javier Bardem’s performance in Being the Ricardos, so if Garfield disappoints, look out for that one. While DiCaprio’s star power and comedic wind could ride the coattails of Don’t Look Up if it proves to be a formidable Best Picture nominee.


BEST ACTRESS
KRISTEN STEWART, SPENCER
NICOLE KIDMAN, BEING THE RICARDOS
FRANCES MCDORMAND, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH
ALANNA HAIM, LICORICE PIZZA
JENNIFER HUDSON, RESPECT

Look out for:
OLIVIA COLMAN, THE LOST DAUGHTER
RACHEL ZEGLER, WEST SIDE STORY
LADY GAGA, THE HOUSE OF GUCCI
JESSICA CHASTAIN, THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE
LADY GAGA, THE HOUSE OF GUCCI

Analysis: Kristen Stewart has Spencer’s award in the bag, and the royal family always being a popular topic of conversation should solidify this chapter for her career. Despite this, I would count out Stewart being a critical juggernaut quite like Natalie Portman was not for Jackie in 2016. The trailer may have kept Nicole Kidman a bit more hidden than expected, playing entertainment icon Lucille Ball, but her performance in Being the Ricardos is supposedly strong. It will be hard to bet against multi-Oscar winner Frances McDormand’s larger-than-life performance as Lady Macbeth in The Tragedy of Macbeth, and I would not be starting to do so now. Alanna Haim should not be underestimated for Licorice Pizza. Haim is already getting the lion’s share of attention for the PR Team while only very few have seen it, and everyone loves a Hollywood success story. Take note of what that likely means toward your Best Actress predictions. I also wouldn’t doubt Jennifer Hudson for Respect quite yet. While the movie may have dipped in overall enthusiasm, the campaign is still running strong, and an Aretha Franklin movie starring an Oscar winner will be a hot screener t watch. Olivia Colman deserves an Oscar nomination for her magnificent performance in The Lost Daughter. Still, I’m getting some Annette Benning in 20th Century Women vibes, where the subtly of the performance may struggle to connect with awards audiences.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
JAMIE DORNAN, BELFAST
CIARAN HINDS, BELFAST
KODI SMI-MCPHEE, THE POWER OF THE DOG
BRADLEY COOPER, LICORICE PIZZA
JARED LETO, HOUSE OF GUCCI

Look out for
JON BERNTHAL, KING RICHARD
MARK RYLANCE, DON’T LOOK UP
SEAN PENN, LICORICE PIZZA

Analysis: The Belfast men should deservedly ride the strength of the movie, but neither feels like an Oscar winner. The same goes for Kodi Smi-McPhee, whose internalized performance in The Power of the Dog could bring his first Oscar nomination to the young actor. All bets are off on which Licorice Pizza actor will bring the gold to the table. Cooper’s role is rumored to be small in Licorice Pizza, but distinctive quite like Sam Rockwell in Vice. Penn supposedly has a slightly larger role, but one wonders could we be underestimating the acclaimed actor quite like we did years ago with Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained over Leonardo DiCaprio? The movie will be seen by Hollywood on Saturday in Los Angeles, so we should have a firm answer soon. Jared Leto will ride the category on the fact he transformed himself under very heavy-glam makeup to play the film’s most larger-than-life character in The House of Gucci, but will its likely polarizing reception and a performance that could border on caricature affect his chances? It did not stop Glenn Close last year, so he’s likely in the race regardless. I would have more doubt if Leto wasn’t an Oscar winner who almost was nominated last year as a serial killer in the also heavily divisive and lesser seen, The Little Things. Hate it or not, actors in Tinseltown respect Jared Leto. Mark Rylance supposedly plays a Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk-type character in Don’t Look Up, and it sounds like showy work which could evolve into an Oscar nomination. Finally, Jon Bernthal is on the edge of receiving breakout attention for his colorful turn in King Richard. Sporting a ridiculous and thick midwest accent, he steals multiple scenes and stands out. The full story of his awards chances will live or die at SAG which should love King Richard the most.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
CAITRIONA BALFE, BELFAST
AUNJAUNE ELLIS, KING RICHARD
CATE BLANCHETT, NIGHTMARE ALLEY
ARIANA DEBOSE, WEST SIDE STORY
JUDI DENCH, BELFAST

Look out for
MERYL STREEP, DON’T LOOK UP
RUTH NEGGA, PASSING
ANN DOWD, MASS
JESSIE BUCKLEY, THE LOST DAUGHTER

Analysis: Being lightly frauded to Supporting Actress, Caitriona Balfe for Belfast should have her run away with the Supporting Actress category and deservingly so. Also, Aunjaune Ellis for King Richard looks suitable for her first Oscar nomination for a character that defies the traditional wronged-wife role. She stands tall to her husband in the movie, and those are likely her best clips that will secure her a nomination. Blanchett is a big question mark for Nightmare Alley, but one shouldn’t underestimate the acting royalty in a well-sized role that’s also likely going to be at the top of the Best Picture race. Ariana Debose for West Side Story is stepping into Rita Moreno’s character’s shoes, and it will be a tough act to follow, but if anyone can pull it off, it will be Steven Spielberg directing her. Judi Dench for Belfast feels like your classic throwaway coattail for the category that gets thrown in with the overall love and passion of the movie. Meryl Streep supposedly plays a version of Donald Trump in Don’t Look Up that’s either going to make her a shoo-in or possibly a Twitter meme-filled laughing stock. Finally, Ruth Negga for Passing may be a critical favorite for the category and even possibly one of the best performances of the year, but the eyes on the film will likely be extremely limited. Ann Dowd could happen for Mass, but the Academy actually has to watch it. The movie has already been theatrically released, but I’m not sure many moviegoers have realized that! Look out for Dowd making an awards mark at SAG if anywhere.

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