2022 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

We have reached Best Actress in my deep dives of the major Oscar races. If you didn’t catch my takes on the supporting derbies and lead actor, you can access them here:

Before we get to this very competitive Actress competition, let’s see how I did at this point in the calendar from 2019-21. Three years ago, I managed to identify all 5 eventual nominees – winner Renee Zellweger (Judy), Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell). For the late October/early November frame in 2020 and 2021, I correctly called 3 of the 5. In 2020, that was Frances McDormand (Nomadland), who won her third Oscar along with Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman). Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) were mentioned in Other Possibilities. The victor was also named last year with Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye as well as Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) and Kristen Stewart (Spencer). Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers) and Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) were in Other Possibilities.

So if the last three years are any precursor, you should find the eventual quintet in my ten picks! Frances McDormand could have company with performers sporting a trio of gold statues. A Supporting Actress winner in 2004 for The Aviator and lead actress recipient for 2013’s Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett is drawing some career best kudos for Tár. She’s been in my #1 spot for weeks and if she wins, she’d join McDormand, Katherine Hepburn, and Ingrid Bergman as the only actresses to win more than two Oscars.

Her main competition could come from several performers. Michelle Yeoh is receiving a massive push for Everything Everywhere All at Once, which is a threat to win numerous big races including Best Picture. There’s another Michelle and it’s a surprise… Michelle Williams. As I discussed in my Supporting Actress write-up, her performance in The Fabelmans would likely be a guaranteed winner in that category. With the more competitive vibe of lead actress, it’s not even a guarantee that she makes it in.

While Till may struggle to get recognition elsewhere despite strong reviews and an A+ Cinemascore, Danielle Deadwyler looks pretty strong to make the cut. On the other hand, so-so critical reaction could prevent Olivia Colman (Empire of Light) from getting her fourth nod in five years.

There are two performances yet to be seen that could both make a splash: Margot Robbie for Babylon and Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance with Somebody. It’s easy to envision either rising up if the reactions are positive enough.

Despite solid box office, Viola Davis could face an uphill battle for The Woman King. That narrative could change if both Robbie and Ackie falter. Some intensely negative audience and critical buzz for Blonde may leave Ana de Armas out. And there’s always potential dark horses. Emma Thompson will probably get a Golden Globes nom for Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, but Academy inclusion could be a reach. Women Talking‘s Rooney Mara might be ignored in favor of her supporting costars like Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley. Causeway may not draw enough attention for Jennifer Lawrence to make it and the same holds true for The Wonder‘s Florence Pugh. Decision to Leave (despite having a chance to take International Feature Film) may not see its cast be a factor. That would leave out Tang Wei.

Here’s my state of this race!

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1 . Cate Blanchett, Tár (Previous Ranking: 1) (Even)

2. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 2) (E)

3. Danielle Deadwyler, Till (PR: 3) (E)

4. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans (PR: 4) (E)

5. Margot Robbie, Babylon (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Olivia Colman, Empire of Light (PR: 6) (E)

7. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Viola Davis, The Woman King (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Jennifer Lawrence, Causeway (PR: 9) (E)

10. Rooney Mara, Women Talking (PR: 10) (E)

Best Director is up next!

2022 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

My detailed look at six of the top Oscar categories – Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies – arrives at Best Actor. If you missed the posts covering the supporting races, you can find them here:

At this late October/early November stage of forecasting in the previous three years, my picks in the lead acting competitions have been more accurate than the supporting ones.

In 2019 at this juncture, I managed to correctly identify four of the five eventual nominees: winner Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes). The fifth was Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory and he was listed in Other Possibilities.

Three of five was the story in 2020 and 2021. Two years ago, I had The Father‘s Anthony Hopkins (who won), Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Gary Oldman (Mank) pegged with Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) and Steven Yeun (Minari) as possibles.

You may remember that Will Smith took gold last year for King Richard. I had him correctly called with two months remaining on the calendar. Same with Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog and Denzel Washington for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick… Boom!) was mentioned in Other Possibilities. Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos) had yet to enter my top ten.

Had a certain slap heard around the world not occurred, it’s totally possible that Will Smith (Emancipation) might be listed in my top 5. However, with his current ban from attending the ceremony, I question whether he could make a return to the ballot so quickly after the controversy. Therefore he’s not in my top 10. We’ll see if the reviews (coming soon) change the dynamic.

We do have a frontrunner and that’s Brendan Fraser in The Whale. Since its Venice and Toronto fest bows, he’s drawn raves. This is also a comeback narrative that the Academy should fall for. I’ve had Fraser listed in 1st for several weeks and I see no reason to change that.

There are two viable runners-up in Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin) and Austin Butler (Elvis). I’ve been switching them in 2nd and 3rd place over the past few posts. Farrell is 2nd because I think Banshees stands a better shot at a BP nod. You have to go back to 2009 and Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) where the Best Actor recipient’s movie didn’t achieve BP inclusion. If Elvis makes the big dance – an argument could be made that Butler is Fraser’s most serious competition to shake the race up.

After those three names, it could be a free for all for the final two slots. The only other performer I had listed in 1st place other than Fraser was Hugh Jackman for The Son. This was before it premiered at the festivals and garnered middling reviews. Now the question is whether Jackman gets in at all.

Someone who has fared well on the fest circuit is Bill Nighy for Living. Sony Pictures will need to mount a spirited campaign, but they’re good at that kinda thing. I’m starting to feel better about Nighy than Jackman.

Diego Calva is the biggest remaining question mark for Babylon. Screenings coming up in two weeks should help answer his viability. There’s a pair of indie performances that could bubble up if critics groups assist – Paul Mescal for Aftersun and Jeremy Pope in The Inspection. One possible hindrance for both of them is their movies are both A24 and that studio could be distracted with crowning Fraser. We could see foreign film leads Song Kang-ho (Broker) and Park Hae-il (Decision to Leave) make a play.

Netflix is apparently going in on a spirited campaign for Adam Sandler in Hustle. I have a hard time seeing that pan out (especially since he couldn’t get in for Uncut Gems). The streamer could also focus on Christian Bale (The Pale Blue Eye) or Adam Driver (White Noise). Bale also has Amsterdam, but it failed with critics and audiences.

Finally… there’s Tom Cruise. A three-time nominee, it’s been 23 years since he was in the mix. And a little pic called Top Gun: Maverick was easily the largest blockbuster of his career and the runaway hit of 2022. I’m not ready to put him in my five. I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up there.

Here’s my current state of this race:

1 . Brendan Fraser, The Whale (Previous Ranking: 1) (Even)

2. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 2) (E)

3. Austin Butler, Elvis (PR: 3) (E)

4. Bill Nighy, Living (PR: 4) (E)

5. Hugh Jackman, The Son (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Diego Calva, Babylon (PR: 6) (E)

7. Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick (PR: 7) (E)

8. Jeremy Pope, The Inspection (PR: 8) (E)

9. Adam Driver, White Noise (PR: 9) (E)

10. Paul Mescal, Aftersun (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Song Kang-ho, Broker

Best Actress is up next!

Oscar Predictions: The Son

Two awards seasons ago, Florian Zeller’s The Father premiered at Sundance all the way back at a time known as January 2020. For over a year (and with the Oscars delayed due to COVID), the performance of Anthony Hopkins stayed in the minds of voters and he scored an upset Best Actor victory over the late Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). The pic nabbed five other nominations including a win for its Adapted Screenplay.

Zeller’s follow-up is The Son and prognosticators including me anointed Hugh Jackman as the Best Actor frontrunner sight unseen. That dynamic has changed as it’s screened at Venice before moving to Toronto (the actual release is November 11th). The supporting cast includes Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath, and Hopkins.

Unlike The Father where reviews were basically all laudatory, the Italian buzz for The Son is wildly mixed. Some are calling it an emotional gut punch and highly effective. Others are claiming it’s a big failure. If there seems to be agreement on one item, it’s the potency of Jackman. He still seems likely to make the Actor cut for his second nod after 2012’s Les Miserables. Yet I’m feeling more confident that I made the right call by placing Brendan Fraser (The Whale) in 1st place on Monday’s update and sliding Jackman to second.

Beyond its star, any other nominations for The Son appears questionable at press time. Perhaps Toronto reaction will help flesh it out – for better or worse. From the initial reaction, I’d say Kirby and McGrath could be possible in the supporting fields. Hopkins is said to have a smaller role and Dern’s character reportedly has less to work with than Kirby. It could find its way into Adapted Screenplay, but a win seems like a reach already.

Bottom line: Jackman should be safe though nothing else is with this one. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

22 for ’22: Oscars Early Look

It’s been an entire week since The Slap… check that, the 94th Academy Awards where CODA parlayed its Sundance buzz from January 2021 all the way to a Best Picture victory.

That also means I’ve managed to wait a whole week without speculation for the next Academy Awards which will hopefully be a slap free zone. So what are some titles that could be vying for attention?

On May 27th and after numerous delays, Top Gun: Maverick will find Tom Cruise returning to his iconic role some 36 years after the original. There’s a decent chance it could be up for similar prizes that its predecessor landed like Sound, Film Editing, and Song (courtesy of Lady Gaga apparently). Visual Effects is a possibility as well.

My weekly Oscar prediction posts won’t begin until mid to late August. In the meantime, you’ll get individualized write-ups for pics that open or screen at festivals.

Yet for today – I feel the need. The need to identify 21 other 2022 titles that might end up on the Academy’s radar. Enjoy!

Armageddon Time

Despite acclaimed movies like The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra, James Gray has yet to connect with awards voters. This drama, rumored to be centered on his Queens upbringing, is the next hopeful and features a stellar cast including Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, and Jeremy Strong. Release Date: TBD

Avatar 2

The 2009 original amassed nine nominations and won took home three. The first sequel (there’s three more on the way) arrives in December from James Cameron. Will it capture the critical and box office magic of part one? That’s impossible to know at this juncture, but one can safely assume it’ll be up for some tech categories like Sound and Visual Effects. Release Date: December 16th

Babylon

Damien Chazelle is no stranger to the big dance. Whiplash was a BP nominee and J.K. Simmons won Supporting Actor. Chazelle took Director for his follow-up La La Land along with Emma Stone’s Actress victory and it almost famously took BP. First Man nabbed four nominations, but missed the top of the line races. Babylon is a period drama focused on Hollywood’s Golden Age and should be right up the Academy’s alley. The cast includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Tobey Maguire. Release Date: December 25th

Canterbury Glass

Robbie also turns up in David O. Russell’s latest ensemble piece. Anytime he’s behind the camera, Oscar nods typically follow (think The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). Slated for November, the dramedy also features Christian Bale, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, and… Chris Rock. Release Date: November 4th

Elvis

Arriving in June but with a Cannes unveiling in May, Baz Luhrmann’s musical bio of The King stars Austin Butler in the title role and Tom Hanks as The Colonel. If this doesn’t contend for the major awards, I would still anticipate potential tech recognition (Production Design, Sound, etc…). Release Date: June 24th

Empire of Light

Sam Mendes was likely in the runner-up position in 2019 for Picture and Director (behind Parasite) with 1917. His follow-up is an English set romance starring Olivia Colman (who would be going for her fourth nomination in five years), Michael Ward, and Colin Firth. Release Date: TBD

Everything Everywhere All at Once

From two filmmakers known collectively as Daniels, Once is already out in limited release with spectacular reviews (97% on RT). The sci-fi action comedy might be too bizarre for the Academy, but I wouldn’t count it out as its admirers are vocal. Picture, Director, Actress (Michelle Yeoh), and Original Screenplay are all on the table. Release Date: out in limited release, opens wide April 8th

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg directs a semi-autobiographical tale and cowrites with his Lincoln and West Side Story scribe Tony Kushner. The cast includes Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Paul Dano. Needless to say, this is a major contender on paper. Release Date: November 23rd

Killers of the Flower Moon

Alongside The Fabelmans, this might be the most obvious nominee from a personnel standpoint. Martin Scorsese helms this western crime drama featuring Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, and his two frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Apple TV just became the first streamer to get a BP victory with CODA. This could be the second in a row. Release Date: November

Poor Things

In 2018, The Favourite scored a whopping ten nominations. Based on an acclaimed 1992 novel, Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up and it reunites him with Emma Stone along with Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, and Mark Ruffalo. The plot sounds bizarre but it could also be an Oscar bait role for Stone and others. Release Date: TBD

Rustin

One of Netflix’s contenders is George C. Wolfe’s profile of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (played by Colman Domingo). In 2020, Wolfe directed Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman to nods for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Look for Domingo to be a competitor and the supporting cast includes Chris Rock (maybe he will be back at the show), Glynn Turman, and Audra McDonald. Release Date: TBD

See How They Run

The 1950s set murder mystery could provide 27-year-old Saoirse Ronan with an opportunity to land her fifth nomination. Sam Rockwell, David Oyelowo, Adrien Brody, and Ruth Wilson are among the supporting players. Tom George directs. Release Date: TBD

She Said

Five years after the scandal rocked Hollywood, She Said from Maria Schrader recounts the New York Times sexual misconduct investigation into Harvey Weinstein. Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, and Patricia Clarkson lead the cast. Release Date: November 18th

The Son

Florian Zeller won Best Adapted Screenplay in 2020 for The Father along with Anthony Hopkins taking Best Actor. This follow-up (based on the director’s play) finds Hopkins reprising his Oscar-winning part in supporting fashion. Other cast members seeking awards attention include Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby. Release Date: TBD

TAR

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Todd Field behind the camera. Previous efforts In the Bedroom and Little Children received 8 nominations between them. A decade and a half following Children comes this Berlin set drama with Cate Blanchett, Noemie Merlant, and Mark Strong. Release Date: October 7th

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Scheduled for a Cannes bow in May, Longing is a fantasy romance from the legendary mind of George Miller (who last made Mad Max: Fury Road which won six tech Oscars). Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton star. Release Date: TBD

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky directed Mickey Rourke to a comeback narrative nod for 2008’s The Wrestler. Two years later, his follow-up Black Swan earned Natalie Portman a statue. Brendan Fraser is hoping for the same treatment with The Whale as he plays a 600 pound man attempting to reconnect with his daughter. Costars include Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Samantha Morton. I’d expect Makeup and Hairstyling could also be in play with this. Release Date: TBD

White Noise

Not a remake of the Michael Keaton supernatural thriller from 2005, this is Noah Baumbach’s follow-up to Marriage Story. Based on a 1985 novel, it’s the filmmaker’s first picture based on other source material. Marriage landed three acting nods (with Laura Dern winning Supporting Actress). The cast here includes frequent Baumbach collaborator Adam Driver, real-life partner Greta Gerwig, Raffey Cassidy, Andre Benjamin, Alessandro Nivola, and Don Cheadle. This could be Netflix’s strongest contender. Release Date: TBD

The Woman King

Expect this West Afrian set historical epic from Gina Prince-Bythewood to be heavily touted by Sony with awards bait roles for leads Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu. The supporting cast includes John Boyega and Lashana Lynch. Release Date: September 16th

Women Talking

Based on a 2018 novel, Sarah Polley writes and directs this drama focused on eight Mennonite women and their story of abuse. The sterling cast includes Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Claire Foy, and Rooney Mara. Release Date: TBD

And that’s just a small preview of the features that could materialize for the 95th Academy Awards! As always, the speculation on this site will continue throughout the year and into the next. Stay tuned…

2021 BAFTA Awards WINNERS Predictions

As if Sunday’s Critics Choice Awards weren’t enough, the British Academy Film Awards air the same day. The BAFTAs, as of late, have been a rather reliable predictor for Oscar races (especially the acting derbies). Last year, the BAFTA/Oscar matched in all 4 thespian derbies and that included the surprise Anthony Hopkins (The Father) victory over Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. 

That can’t occur this time around because none of the Best Actress contenders at BAFTA are nominated for the Academy Award (go figure!). As I have with other ceremonies, I’m giving you my winner pick with a runner-up. On Monday, expect recaps for Critics Choice and this show!

Best Film

Nominees:

Belfast

Don’t Look Up

Dune

Licorice Pizza

The Power of the Dog

Predicted Winner: The Power of the Dog

Runner-Up: Belfast

Best Director

Nominees:

Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Audrey Diwan, Happening

Julia Ducournau, Titane

Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car

Aleem Khan, After Love

Predicted Winner: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Runner-Up: Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Nominees:

Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

Alana Haim, Licorice Pizza

Emilia Jones, CODA

Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World

Joanna Scanlan, After Love

Tessa Thompson, Passing

Predicted Winner: Joanna Scanlan, After Love

Runner-Up: Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees:

Adeel Akhtar, Ali & Ava

Mahershala Ali, Swan Song

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up

Stephen Graham, Boiling Point

Will Smith, King Richard

Predicted Winner: Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Runner-Up: Will Smith, King Richard

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominees:

Caitriona Balfe, Belfast

Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Ann Dowd, Mass

Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

Ruth Negga, Passing

Predicted Winner: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Runner-Up: Ruth Negga, Passing

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees:

Mike Faist, West Side Story

Ciaran Hinds, Belfast

Troy Kotsur, CODA

Woody Norman, C’Mon C’Mon

Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog

Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Predicted Winner: Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Runner-Up: Troy Kotsur, CODA

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

Being the Ricardos

Belfast

Don’t Look Up

King Richard

Licorice Pizza

Predicted Winner: Belfast

Runner-Up: Licorice Pizza

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

CODA

Drive My Car

Dune

The Lost Daughter

The Power of the Dog

Predicted Winner: The Power of the Dog

Runner-Up: The Lost Daughter

Best Animated Film

Nominees:

Encanto

Flee

Luca

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Predicted Winner: Flee

Runner-Up: Encanto

Best Documentary 

Nominees:

Becoming Cousteau

Cow

Flee

The Rescue

Summer of Soul

Predicted Winner: Summer of Soul

Runner-Up: Flee

Best Film Not in the English Language

Nominees:

Drive My Car

The Hand of God

Parallel Mothers

Petite Maman

The Worst Person in the World

Predicted Winner: Drive My Car

Runner-Up: The Worst Person in the World

Best Casting

Nominees:

Boiling Point

Dune

The Hand of God

King Richard

West Side Story

Predicted Winner: West Side Story

Runner-Up: Dune

Best Cinematography

Nominees:

Dune

Nightmare Alley

No Time to Die

The Power of the Dog

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Predicted Winner: Dune

Runner-Up: The Power of the Dog

Best Costume Design

Nominees:

Cruella

Cyrano

Dune

The French Dispatch

Nightmare Alley

Predicted Winner: Cruella

Runner-Up: Dune

Best Editing

Nominees:

Belfast

Dune

Licorice Pizza

No Time to Die

Summer of Soul

Predicted Winner: Dune

Runner-Up: No Time to Die

Best Makeup and Hair

Nominees:

Cruella

Cyrano

Dune

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

House of Gucci

Predicted Winner: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Runner-Up: House of Gucci

Best Original Score

Nominees:

Being the Ricardos

Don’t Look Up

Dune

The French Dispatch

The Power of the Dog

Predicted Winner: Dune

Runner-Up: The Power of the Dog

Best Production Design

Nominees:

Cyrano

Dune

The French Dispatch

Nightmare Alley

West Side Story

Predicted Winner: Dune

Runner-Up: Nightmare Alley

Best Sound

Nominees:

Dune

Last Night in Soho

No Time to Die

A Quiet Place Part II

West Side Story

Predicted Winner: Dune

Runner-Up: No Tme to Die

Best Special Visual Effects

Nominees:

Dune

Free Guy

Ghostbusters: Afterlife 

The Matrix Resurrections

No Time to Die

Predicted Winner: Dune

Runner-Up: No Time to Die

Outstanding British Film

Nominees:

After Love

Ali & Ava

Belfast

Boiling Point

Cyrano

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

House of Gucci

Last Night in Soho

No Time to Die

Passing

Predicted Winner: Belfast

Runner-Up: After Love

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer

Nominees:

After Love

Boiling Point

The Harder They Fall

Keyboard Fantasies

Passing

Predicted Winner: Passing

Runner-Up: After Love

My predictions mean the following movies get these numbers of wins:

6 Wins

Dune

5 Wins

The Power of the Dog

2 Wins

Belfast, West Side Story

1 Win

After Love, Cruella, Drive My Car, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Flee, Passing, Summer of Soul

Oscars 2021: The Case of Will Smith

My fourth Case Of post for the Best Actor competitors is Will Smith in King Richard. If you missed the previous entries, they can be found here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Javier Bardem

Oscars 2021: The Case of Benedict Cumberbatch

Oscars 2021: The Case of Andrew Garfield

The Case for Will Smith:

As the doggedly determined father of eventual tennis royalty Venus and Serena Williams, Smith has held frontrunner status for months. He lost his first two bids in 2001 and 2006 for Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, respectively. As one of the most bankable stars of the past quarter century, Hollywood could certainly feel like it’s time to honor him. The Golden Globe and SAG voters moved in the that direction as he took both awards for his work. Richard also over performed at the Oscars with six nominations.

The Case Against Will Smith:

There’s not much of one except there’s been upsets previously in this race. That includes last year when Anthony Hopkins (The Father) took the statue over the favored Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Playing the role of spoiler could be Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog, which dominated overall nods at 12. If Cumberbatch wins the Critics Choice award or BAFTA, look for plenty of chatter on the tightness of this competition.

Previous Nominations: 2

Ali (2001 – Actor); The Pursuit of Happyness (2006 – Actor)

The Verdict:

Look for Smith to be crowned the victor, but there’s a nagging feeling that Cumberbatch could surprise.

My Case Of posts will continue with Kirsten Dunst’s Supporting Actress bid for The Power of the Dog

Oscars 2021: The Case of Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch is the second Best Actor hopeful covered in my Case Of posts for that category. If you missed the first on Javier Bardem for Being the Ricardos, it’s here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Javier Bardem

The Case for Benedict Cumberbatch:

We might be witnessing a right year and right movie matchup for Cumberbatch to nab his first Oscar. After being previously nominated seven years back for The Imitation Game, he’s starring in the Best Picture frontrunner and garnered career best reviews. He’s been mentioned in all key precursors such as the Globes, SAG, BAFTA and Critics Choice. Furthermore, he had an impressive 2021 beyond Dog with kudos for the title role in The Electrical Life of Louis Wain and appearing as Doctor Strange in box office behemoth Spider-Man: No Way Home.

The Case Against Benedict Cumberbatch:

Only 3 Best Actor recipients in the 21st century came from the BP winner. Yet the most compelling case against comes courtesy of Will Smith, who stands as the favorite for King Richard. This is Smith’s third try and Benedict’s second. Voters may figure Cumberbatch will have other opportunities. The Academy has three other options to bestow gold on the Dog cast (with the best possibility being Kodi Smit-McPhee in supporting actor).

Previous Nominations: 1

The Imitation Game (2014 – Actor)

The Verdict:

I do believe Cumberbatch is a strong second to Smith at the moment.  If Cumberbatch manages to grab the SAG or BAFTA, he could play the spoiler role that Anthony Hopkins (The Father) managed last year over the favored Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

My Case Of posts will continue with Supporting Actress and Ariana DeBose in West Side Story

Benedict Cumberbatch vs. Will Smith: A Best Actor Showdown

When King Richard came out in November, the preceding reviews and buzz pointed to a likelihood in the Best Actor race for this year’s Oscars – Will Smith would be on his way to his first gold statue. Playing Richard Williams, patriarch of the family that gave us tennis royalty Venus and Serena Williams, the film provides us multiple Academy bait scenes for the actor.

Mr. Smith has gone to the Oscars before as a nominee. 20 years ago, he was up for Ali (where to lost to Denzel Washington in Training Day). 15 years back, he scored his second nod for The Pursuit of Happyness (coming up short to Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland).

This time around felt different. Obviously Smith is a beloved figure across the entertainment spectrum from movies to music to TV and he’s had blockbuster upon blockbuster in the last quarter century. Richard seemed like the right role for him to get that Oscar. Third time’s the charm.

That could still absolutely happen. In fact, I still have him ranked #1 in the Actor derby where he’s been perched for months. Yet I must admit, doubts are creeping in.

Why? A couple of reasons. First off, King Richard underwhelmed at the box office and that’s being kind. The sports drama has taken in less than $15 million. Part of the reason has to be due to its simultaneous release on HBO Max, but there’s no sugarcoating that it’s a subpar performance.

Secondly, there’s the rise of Benedict Cumberbatch in Netflix’s The Power of the Dog. The actor (who’s about to land his second nod after 2014’s The Imitation Game) is becoming the critical favorite and he’s picking up hardware from their associations. It also helps that Cumberbatch has been highly visible in 2021 with four pics (including financial behemoth Spider-Man: No Way Home).

In that sense, the 2021 Best Actor race is starting to look like what we witnessed in 2020. As an aside, I do see this a two-person competition at the moment (though Andrew Garfield from Tick Tick, Boom! may have a remote shot). There’s a head vs. heart vibe emerging. Last year, the sentimental favorite was the late Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The performance that was equally if not more hailed by critics came from Anthony Hopkins in The Father. And it was Hopkins who ultimately and somewhat surprisingly prevailed.

Could we see a repeat in 2021 and a slight upset by Cumberbatch over the favored Smith? Stay tuned…

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

The Oscar race for Best Actress takes center stage in my latest rundown of where the major competitions stand in early November. If you missed my posts covering lead actor and the supporting categories, they can accessed right here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

As I have with the others, let’s start with my track record during the same time period from 2019 and 2020. Two years ago, I somehow had all five nominated actresses forecasted correctly with two months to go: winner Renee Zellweger as Judy in addition to Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell). For 2020, it was three: gold recipient Frances McDormand for Nomadland and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman). Both Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) were listed in Other Possibilities.

In 2021, we already have a strong frontrunner and that’s Kristin Stewart in Spencer. Playing the high profile role of Princess Diana, Ms. Stewart is practically guaranteed to nab her first nod after plenty of critically appreciated post Twilight turns. She’s a serious threat to win and Stewart has been atop my chart ever since the picture screened back in September at the Venice Film Festival.

Her biggest competition could come from an as yet unseen performance – Lady Gaga in House of Gucci. Judging from the trailers alone, her part seems like the kind of bait that would cause Academy voters to bite. If so, the pop superstar would receive her second nomination three years after her breakout cinematic role with A Star Is Born. 

After that, there’s a lengthy list of hopefuls for the three remaining slots. When The Eyes of Tammy Faye premiered on the festival circuit, it was a given that Jessica Chastain would make the cut. I still think she will, but the pic’s barely existent box office numbers are reason for some uncertainty.

Screenings were also kind to Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter and that momentum could result in her third inclusion in the last four years after a 2018 Actress victory for The Favourite and a supporting nod for last year’s The Father. 

Colman isn’t the only actress from a Netflix offering eyeing the prize. There’s Tessa Thompson in Passing, Jennifer Lawrence in Don’t Look Up, Sandra Bullock for The Unforgivable, and Halle Berry with Bruised. All could factor in. Other than Thompson (her costar Ruth Negga stands a greater chance in supporting), the three others have yet to be unveiled. The streamer may have to pick and choose whose campaigns they go all in with.

There’s other possibilities in the unseen column where the buzz will shortly materialize: Cate Blanchett for Nightmare Alley, Alana Haim in Licorice Pizza, Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball with Being the Ricardos, and Rachel Zegler (West Side Story). At press time, I only have Kidman in the top ten but that could change as soon as reviews start posting.

As for pictures that have been available for awhile, I feel Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur’s supporting parts in CODA are more likely to be recognized than lead Emilia Jones. Renate Reinsve will have her share of supporters for The Worst Person in the World, but its best chance lies with an International Feature Film nomination. Bad financial returns could negatively impact Jodie Comer for The Last Duel, though I will note that a number of prognosticators have her in.

For the fifth spot, I currently see three performances with roughly equal chances. Frances McDormand took the prize last year and that might make the Academy think twice about putting her up again for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Penelope Cruz is just on the outside looking in for Parallel Mothers. That leaves me with Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect. Even though the film received mixed reviews and so-so box office, praise for the Supporting Actress winner in 2006’s Dreamgirls was universal. Voters may have to think all the way back to summer to include her but I do believe it’s feasible.

And with that, here’s my standings:

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 3)

3. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 2)

4. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 4)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 7)

7. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6)

8. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 8)

9. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 10)

10. Tessa Thompson, Passing (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

Now that the acting derbies are wrapped, I’ll have Best Director up next!

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

We come to Best Actor in my deep dive of the major Oscar races covering the four acting showdowns in addition to Picture and Director. If you missed the first two covering Supporting Actor and Actress, they’re here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

Looking at the past two years in my early November estimates in this competition, there’s a better track record than with the supporting categories. In 2019, with two months to go, I rightly had four of the five nominees pegged: winner Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes). Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) was mentioned in Other Possibilities. For the 2020 experience, that number was three – winner Anthony Hopkins in The Father, Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), and Gary Oldman (Mank). The other two were named as possibilities – Riz Ahmed for Sound of Metal and Minari‘s Steven Yeun.

In 2021, it appears that three hopefuls have probably punched their tickets. The conversation begins with Will Smith. He’s a two-time nominee – once 20 years ago as Ali and 15 years past in The Pursuit of Happyness. As King Richard, it may well be the Fresh Prince’s time to be crowned for the true life sports drama that is said to be a massive crowdpleaser.

When Smith lost for Ali, it was to Denzel Washington in Training Day. The two-time winner looks to be back in the mix with The Tragedy of Macbeth. While I’m feeling confident in his nomination, I don’t see Mr. Washington emerging victorious here.

The other probable player is Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog, gunning for his second nod seven years after The Imitation Game. Several festival reviews are calling it career best work and I don’t see him sliding.

After that, there’s quite a few of performers vying for the remaining two spots. There’s a few in the “not yet seen” silo. That includes Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley. We are all waiting to see how big his supporting role is in Licorice Pizza. I’ve had Cooper listed #1 there for months. If he ends up falling shot in that one, he could rise with this.

Andrew Garfield’s performance in Tick, Tick… Boom! is a trendy selection. He’s also a possibility in supporting with The Eyes of Tammy Faye (though I’m skeptical he makes it through there).

We also have Leonardo DiCaprio for Don’t Look Up. I’m not as high on the film as some other prognosticators, but laudatory screenings could change that dynamic. There’s also Adam Driver for House of Gucci and Cooper Hoffman for the aforementioned Pizza. With all these gentlemen, time will tell and we won’t have to wait long.

Back to the performances we do know about. Nicolas Cage garnered some of the best notices of his career for Pig. He’ll have internet chatter on his side but I wouldn’t bet the farm on him making it. Speaking of web love, expect the same for Timothee Chalamet (Dune). I believe he’s less likely than Cage. Same goes for former MTV veejay Simon Rex in Red Rocket.

Belfast is the frontrunner for Best Picture and its quartet of supporting thespians (Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds) could all show up in their races. The film’s young lead Jude Hill is more of a long shot. Clifton Collins Jr. drew raves beginning at Sundance with Jockey. I would say Sony Pictures Classics needs to up their game with his campaign for him to enter this derby. There’s also a slight chance that Amir Jadidi could be a factor in A Hero (which could take International Feature Film).

For now, I’m sticking with two actors that I’ve had in my five for awhile. Peter Dinklage has gotten plenty of Emmy love for his Game of Thrones stretch and his musical and dramatic stylings in Cyrano could cause the Academy to take note.

Even though he won just two years back for Joker, Joaquin Phoenix could be up again for C’Mon C’Mon if none of the unseen candidates rise in the polls.

Bottom line: Smith (especially), Cumberbatch, and Washington are all relatively safe at press time. About a dozen others will vie for slots four and five. Here’s where I have it at this beginning of November time frame:

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Will Smith, King Richard (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 4)

5. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 6)

7. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 8)

8. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 7)

9. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 9)

10. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

Best Actress is up next, folks!