Numlock Awards: Michael's Ballot

From Best Picture to Best Visual Effects.

Numlock Awards is your one-stop awards season newsletter, and it’s back! Every week, join Walt Hickey and Michael Domanico as they break down the math behind the Oscars and the best narratives going into film’s biggest night. Today’s edition comes from Michael.

The Oscars are tomorrow night, so here’s my ballot in case anyone wants to compare their own. I’m going to throw in some tidbits along the way of some fun narratives I haven’t yet had a chance to cover, and we’re coming down to the wire!

Best Picture

The Father Judas and the Black Messiah Mank Minari Nomadland Promising Young Woman Sound of Metal The Trial of the Chicago 7

Yes, I am going against Walter’s model here. But after reading Walter’s interview on ranked-choice voting, it got me thinking — which movie is the consensus pick? If movies like The Father, Sound of Metal, and Judas and the Black Messiah are eliminated in some of those early rounds of voting, what are the other top choices on those ballots? This is a merely a hunch, but Minari has felt a lot less divisive than Nomadland, which has inspired multiple articles about its depiction of Amazon working conditions and general frontrunner fatigue. (I’m hearing a lot of, This is the likely Best Picture winner??? from Nomadland viewers.) Does any of this matter? We’ll see. It’s not like Green Book was without controversy. But I’m going with my gut that Minari’s charms will inure to its benefit in ranked-choice voting.

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round David Fincher, Mank Lee Isaac Chung, Minari Chloé Zhao, Nomadland Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

While I am skeptical on Nomadland’s Best Picture chances, Zhao is the most dominant frontrunner in recent Oscar history in any category, so I’m going to go with the odds.

Best Actress

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holliday Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman Frances McDormand, Nomadland Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Walter and I are pretty much in agreement that Viola Davis has a key advantage: she’s in a 94-minute film that’s easy to find on Netflix and stars soon-to-be Best Actor winner Chadwick Boseman. Even if the math tilts McDormand, her recent Oscar win for Three Billboards means this would be her third Oscar. Davis also won pretty recently for Fences, but even then it felt weird that Viola Davis’ only Oscar was for a supporting role. Time to correct that and give her the Best Actress Oscar, which would make her only the second Black woman in history to win the award.

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Anthony Hopkins, The Father Gary Oldman, Mank Steven Yeun, Minari

Easy lock. Not much competition here.

Best Supporting Actress

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy Olivia Colman, The Father Amanda Seyfried, Mank Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

Ever since the Oscar nominations came out, this has been Yuh-jung Youn’s to lose. I’m including a clip of her accepting the BAFTA just in case you missed it a few posts back. She’s wonderful.

Best Supporting Actor

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami... Paul Raci, Sound of Metal Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Daniel Kaluuya is only 32 and has starred in Get Out, Black Panther, Widows, Queen & Slim, and Judas and the Black Messiah. So an Oscar feels like the next logical step.

Best Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah Minari Promising Young Woman Sound of Metal The Trial of the Chicago 7

Promising Young Woman has had a bizarre awards season — like when it got nominated for Best Film at the BAFTAs but its British star did not, despite showing up at all the other big precursors — but I think its finding a sweet spot in picking up screenplay awards, like at the aforementioned BAFTAs and the WGA Awards.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm The Father Nomadland One Night in Miami... The White Tiger

Borat has eight people (!) nominated, but despite not being the most COVID-friendly nominee, this movie has a ton of love and support, even picking up the WGA Award. (Also a fun fact here: One Night in Miami… was written by Kemp Powers, who also co-wrote and co-directed Pixar’s Soul. Even so, he is not nominated in the animated feature category because of Academy rules barring co-directors from receiving a statue.)

Best Animated Feature Film

Onward Over the Moon A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon Soul Wolfwalkers

Even when Pixar has a movie that’s not super well-received, it’s a juggernaut in the category.

Best International Feature Film

Another Round (Denmark) Better Days (Hong Kong) Collective (Romania) The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia) Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

The director nod for Another Round’s Thomas Vinterberg should translate into a win, but if there’s a spoiler I’m guessing it’s Quo Vadis, Aida? which just won the Independent Spirit Award.

Best Documentary Feature

Collective Crip Camp The Mole Agent My Octopus Teacher Time

Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company produced last year’s Best Doc winner (American Factory), and I think the three-year-old company is going to have a repeat win with Crip Camp.

Best Documentary Short Subject

Colette A Concerto Is a Conversation Do Not Split Hunger Ward A Love Song for Latasha

I did a whole deep dive on this category, so check it out if you missed it. Because we have basically no precursors, I’m going more on a hunch than anything else — A Love Song for Latasha is topical and easy to watch since it’s on Netflix. You can watch all of these in an afternoon if you want to get up to speed!

Best Live Action Short Film

Feeling Through The Letter Room The Present Two Distant Strangers White Eyes

Despite Oscar Isaac and Alia Shawkat starring in The Letter Room and Oscar winner Marlee Matlin exec producing Feeling Through, the conventional wisdom is that Two Distant Strangers — about a Black man stuck in a time loop forcing him to relive a fatal interaction with the police — will take home the Oscar. Directed by Emmy Award-winning Daily Show writer Travon Free, Two Daily Strangers is available to stream on Netflix now.

Best Animated Short Film

Burrow Genius Loci If Anything Happens I Love You Opera Yes-People

Academy Governor and Best Supporting Actress winner Laura Dern exec produced the Netflix short If Anything Happens I Love You, about two parents dealing with the grief of losing a child in a school shooting. It really sucks to keep saying “this movie is about a really violent and sad topic, so it’s timely!” but that’s just sort of where we are.

Best Original Score

Da 5 Bloods Mank Minari News of the World Soul

When a score is actually integral to the film’s storytelling, like in La La Land or The Artist, there’s an undeniable edge, so Soul is the likely winner given that it’s about a music teacher/jazz musician. This would be the second Oscar for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and the first for Jon Batiste.

Best Original Song

"Fight for You" from Judas and the Black Messiah "Hear My Voice" from Trial of the Chicago 7 "Husavik" from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga "Io sì (Seen)" from The Life Ahead "Speak Now" from One Night in Miami...

This category is wild. You have H.E.R., a 23-year-old breakout artist fresh off multiple Grammy wins, nominated for “Fight for You.” You have Diane Warren, who landed her 12th Oscar nomination for “Io sì (Seen)” and has never taken home an Oscar — her first nomination was for “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from Mannequin, which topped the Billboard charts for two weeks in 1987. (And she’s thirsty for it — just check out her Instagram to see the evidence.) And you have Best Supporting Actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr. nominated for One Night in Miami… I’m going to go with Diane Warren — even Glenn Close has got nothing on her when it comes to missed wins.

Best Sound

Greyhound Mank News of the World Soul Sound of Metal

Bummer that they merged Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. Again, because Sound of Metal’s sound mixing/editing are so integral to the story, I’m going with it.

Best Production Design

The Father Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Mank News of the World Tenet

Same logic as above, so I’m going with The Father.

Best Cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah Mank News of the World Nomadland The Trial of the Chicago 7

Joshua James Richards (Nomadland) won the BAFTA while Erik Messerschmidt (Mank) won the American Society of Cinematographers Award. Given how dominant Nomadland has been, it would be unusual for the film to only walk away with two top awards (let’s say Picture and Director, as has generally been predicted) — some craft awards should follow, so I’m going with Nomadland.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Emma Hillbilly Elegy Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Mank Pinocchio

Best Makeup often means most makeup, with past winners like Bombshell and Vice really showing off dramatic makeup and hairstyling changes to the film’s stars. Maybe if Pinocchio were a bigger movie, there’d be an argument there, but I think it’s between the transformation of Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy and Viola Davis in Ma Rainey. I’m going with Ma Rainey because it was much more well-received than Hillbilly Elegy, which really petered out as awards season continued. Also, Viola is the lead of her movie, and Glenn is in a smaller, supporting role, so there are less chances to show off the makeup and hairstyling.

Best Costume Design

Emma Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Mank Mulan Pinocchio

I did another deep dive on this category, so check it out. I’m going with the legendary Ann “I actually have only ever had fun once and it was on Mamma Mia and I don’t remember any of it” Roth for Ma Rainey.

Best Film Editing

The Father Nomadland Promising Young Woman Sound of Metal The Trial of the Chicago 7

I currently have Chicago 7 winning zero awards, so consider this me hedging my bets a little bit. It did also pick up the American Cinema Editors Award for dramatic film.

Best Visual Effects Love and Monsters The Midnight Sky Mulan The One and Only Ivan Tenet

Tenet may not have saved cinemas from an awful pandemic year, but it was a big, flashy, special effects-heavy movie, and two of Nolan’s previous movies (Interstellar and Inception) have taken this.

It’s been a really weird season, but thanks so much for following along! Walter will follow up with some other things of note tomorrow, and feel free to email me if you have your own out-there predictions you want to share — love some good Oscar theory.