Numlock Awards: The critics have picked the contenders

The acting prizes are weird, but the supporting acting prizes have some contenders

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 Walter.

Welcome back! I spent the past two weekends updating the model with all the data needed, and today I’m going through the current weightings and also what the preliminary data from the critics’ awards is telling us.

Just a reminder, the model works by determining a point value for each precursor award based on their recent historical accuracy in “calling” the Oscar winner. When you’re nominated for that precursor, you get credited a fifth of the points, and should you win it you get the full value. The top five most-predictive local critics’ awards — things like the New York Film Critics Circle (bad at predicting the Oscars) or the Iowa Film Critics (weirdly excellent!) — are rolled into one prize, you can read how they’re scored in this fun explainer.

It’s still early, but this should give you a heads up on the state of play at least going into the Globes.

Best Picture

About 26 percent of the Best Picture score is derived by the Producers Guild, followed by the DGA (19 percent) and SAG (15 percent). Of the big three, only SAG nominations are out. Beyond that, about 8 percent of the score comes from each the BAFTAs and Critics’ Choice award. Just 4 percent comes from the Golden Globes. Most of the rest comes from one of the two Writers Guild (8 percent), Editors (6 percent), and local critic prizes (5 percent).

So far, we have absolutely no idea what the Best Picture race looks like. We know what’s in contention: besides the SAG Awards, the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice, and the Writers have unveiled nominees. The Critics’ Choice has 10 nominees this year, so any film with a pulse got a nod, and the Golden Globes are pretty worthless on Best Picture.

If you’re looking for a watchlist, the 12 films with decent points on the board include The Trial of the Chicago 7, Minari, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night In Miami…, Da 5 Bloods, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, Mank, News of the World, Palm Springs, and Judas and the Black Messiah. The bulk of your Oscar nominees are probably on that list.

Best Actor

Just shy of two-thirds of the score for Best Actor comes from SAG (33 percent) and BAFTA (30 percent), with the rest mostly coming from the Globe for drama (16 percent) and the local prizes (12 percent)

We have some pretty agreed-upon frontrunners here, and basically they’re the five folks up at SAG: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Steven Yeun (Minari), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), and Gary Oldman (Mank). Only the first three caught any heat from the local critic prizes, though they’ve split them up pretty well so we’ll lack a frontrunner likely until the week of the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes.

Best Actress

BAFTA is really the one to watch here, accounting for 37 percent of the Best Actress point pool, followed by SAG (30 percent) and then the Globe for drama (11 percent). All the other awards are pretty much just icing on those cakes, and given our lack of BAFTA, this category is still very unknown right now.

That means the SAG nominees are really setting the pace here, because of the 5-most predictive local critics’ prizes in this category, only one has given their awards out so far, to Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman). Other strong contenders include Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman).

Best Director

The DGA crowns the winner here, and so it accounts for 42 percent of the point pool, followed by BAFTA with 22 percent, the Critics’ Choice with 14 percent, and the local prizes with 12 percent.

This category is fascinating this year. The local critics’ prizes are typically only useful as an early signal when they’re pretty much in agreement. When Brad Pitt reliably hauled in the majority of the critic prizes last year, it was a clear signal of what’s to come. But this year, we have never seen anything like Chloé Zhao’s domination among local critics’ awards for Best Direction, never. Of the 19 critics’ groups I monitor that have awarded their prizes this year, 18 of them gave Zhao the win for Nomadland.

The 19th, the London Film Critics’ Circle, gave it to Steve McQueen for Small Axe, which is likely ineligible for the Oscars since it was intended for television.

Normally I’d hesitate to call a favorite this early in the cycle but I can’t make an argument against it being Zhao’s to lose at this point, there’s no other year I can find where a contender so dominated in the local critics’ awards.

Best Supporting Actor

A very even category where every win counts: SAG’s worth 29 percent of available points, BAFTA 24 percent, the Globe 17 percent, the local prizes 16 percent, and the Critics’ Choice 14 percent. All of them are really meaningful.

After SAG, the Critics’ Choice, and the Golden Globes (which is actually good at predicting this one!), we have the smallest list of names of any category for Best Supporting Actor, with seven men actually in the mix: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night In Miami), Jared Leto (The Little Things), Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods), Bill Murray (On The Rocks), and Paul Raci (Sound of Metal).

Quick aside: Simply as a voting analysis, Boseman — who tragically died last year — seems favored in the Best Actor category for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, where he’s been winning local critics’ prizes and getting nominated. That he was left off the Globes’ list in supporting — the category they’re actually good at predicting — leads me to believe that the posthumous push will most likely come in Best Actor, but were he nominated in both lead and supporting, the electoral implications are confusing.

Best Supporting Actress

SAG sets the pace here, accounting for 35 percent of the point pool, but every award counts: BAFTA accounts for 24 percent, Critics’ Choice for 13 percent, and Golden Globe and local critics aggregate each for 14 percent. I tend to think with the supporting actors it’s all about getting often-unfamiliar faces in front of the most people and on the most television broadcasts, so it makes sense that every win counts.

Here we actually have some separation! Yuh-jung Youn (Minari) may have missed out on a Globe nomination, but she racked up three of the five most-predictive local prizes, which has put her in the lead. There are five other serious contenders: Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), Helena Zengel (News of the World), Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) and Amanda Seyfried (Mank). Each of those latter three missed out at one of the Globes, SAG or Critics’ Choice (Bakalova only because they put her in Lead for Comedy at the Globes). The only other two names in the mix are Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) and Ellen Burstyn (Pieces of a Woman).