The Oscar nominations are sneaking up on us early this year: The list will be announced bright and early on Monday, Jan. 13 (that’s approximately 5:18 a.m. on the West Coast, for you completists). As always, many questions await: Will “Parasite” be nominated for both best picture and best foreign language film? (Probably.) Will “Little Women” suffer from a reported lack of enthusiasm from male academy voters? (Maybe, but I hope not.) Will voters remember Lupita Nyong’o’s ferociously great performance in “Us,” from all the way back in last March? (They’d better.)
As we await the nominations — and the awards themselves, coming Sunday, Feb. 9 — here’s a look at what we might see in the main categories, in the categories of sure things, strong possibilities, long shots, and my vote (if I had one). And let’s toss in one key question per category.
The question: Will all 10 possible slots in this category be filled? (Quite possibly not; last year, there were only eight.)
Sure things: Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” Sam Mendes’ “1917,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” and — yes, I think it’s in — Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” seem already engraved on the ballot.
Strong possibilities: In no particular order, titles we might see making up the list include “Jojo Rabbit,” “Pain and Glory,” “Little Women,” “Knives Out,” “Joker,” “A Hidden Life,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “The Two Popes.”
Long shots: Way too many acclaimed small-budget movies might not get the push they deserve; among these are “The Farewell,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” “Waves,” “Peterloo” and “The Lighthouse.”
My vote: I’m grabbing two votes here, as it’s a bigger category: “The Farewell” and “Little Women.”
The question: Will a director whose movie didn’t make Best Picture sneak onto this list this year? (Last year, it was Pawel Pawlikowski for “Cold War,” though that film was a best foreign-language film nominee.)
Sure things: Scorsese, for “The Irishman,” is the one absolute lock here. Everyone else is a bit debatable …
Strong possibilities: I’m guessing the ballot will continue with Mendes (“1917”), Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), Baumbach (“Marriage Story”) and Ho (“Parasite”). But quite possibly there’ll be a wild card; maybe Greta Gerwig for “Little Women” (though she may be more of a lock in adapted screenplay), Pedro Almodóvar for “Pain and Glory” or Taika Watiti for “Jojo Rabbit” (a surprise Directors Guild of America nominee).
Long shots: Rian Johnson (“Knives Out”), Terrence Malick (“A Hidden Life”), Jordan Peele (“Us”).
My vote, and may it be heard: Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
The question: In both actress categories, how dominant will the “Bombshell” trio of Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie be? (The film didn’t live up to expectations, but the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominated all three — and there’s a lot of overlap between the SAG membership and the academy actor’s branch, which votes on acting nominees).
Sure things: Renée Zellweger (“Judy”) and Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”) seem like the only absolute locks here.
Strong possibilities: Theron (“Bombshell”), Nyong’o (“Us”), Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet,” and another SAG nominee), Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”), Awkwafina (“The Farewell”).
Long shots: Hearing lots of praise for Alfre Woodard in “Clemency,” but will enough voters see the film?
My vote: Nyong’o
The question: Will the academy go for a veteran or a newcomer?
Sure things: Look to the veterans: Robert De Niro (seven previous nominations, two wins) for “The Irishman”; Joaquin Phoenix (three previous nominations) for “Joker”; Leonardo DiCaprio (five previous nominations, one win) for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Strong possibilities: Christian Bale (four previous nominations, one win) for “Ford v Ferrari”; Eddie Murphy (one previous nomination) for “Dolemite Is My Name”; Adam Driver (one previous nomination) for “Marriage Story”; Antonio Banderas (no previous nominations) for “Pain and Glory.” And yes, many people are talking about Adam Sandler getting his first nomination, for “Uncut Gems.”
Long shots: Their names are new, but they might make an impression: George MacKay for “1917”; Paul Walter Hauser for “Richard Jewell”; Taron Egerton (watch him, he was a surprise SAG nominee) for “Rocketman.”
My vote: Banderas
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
The question: Will Meryl Streep notch her 22nd acting nomination for her work as Aunt March in “Little Women,” breaking the record held by, well, herself?
Sure things: Laura Dern’s name is a lock here, but whether it will be for “Little Women,” “Marriage Story” or both remains to be seen. Also looking likely: Jennifer Lopez’s first nomination, for “Hustlers,” and Nicole Kidman’s fifth, for “Bombshell.”
Strong possibilities: Streep’s in this category, but she’s got some tough competition from her own film: breakout “Little Women” star Florence Pugh, whose Amy March has much more screen time. Zhao Shuzhen, the grandmother in “The Farewell,” may turn up as well.
My vote: Pugh
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Key question: Just what exactly is a supporting role, anyway? Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”) and Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”) are being heavily promoted in this category, despite them really being co-leads. But let’s clarify: The academy does not define whether a particular role is lead or supporting. Studios decide and campaign for their nominees, and their decisions often have less to do with the size of a role than with the level of competition in a particular category. So, that said, here’s what this group looks like:
Sure things: Yep, Hanks should be in here, for his eerily perfect Mister Rogers. Also a done deal: Joe Pesci in “The Irishman,” and probably Brad Pitt in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Strong possibilities: Hopkins; Song Kang-ho, who played the beleaguered working-class father in “Parasite”; Jamie Foxx in “Just Mercy”; and, because the academy loves octogenarians, Alan Alda in “A Marriage Story.”
Long shots: Timothée Chalamet’s performance in “Little Women” isn’t getting much buzz, but it’s award-worthy. As is his hair in the film.
My vote: Hanks. And may it be a beautiful day on Oscar-nomination morning.