Tomorrow morning is the morning everyone in Hollywood waits the whole year for – the crack-o-dawn announcement of the filmmakers, actors and craftspeople the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have collectively deemed responsible for the year’s best work.

With the glut of excellent productions from streaming studios like Netflix and Amazon jumping into an already crowded pool, there’s been less room than ever for smaller players to gasp some rarified air, so expect fewer surprise nominees. The suspense will be in which of those already lauded in their categories get left out due simply to the limit of 5. 

Following are my guesses at the nominees. The ‘locks’ are those sure to get nominated, and the ‘bench’ are the group from which the other nominees will likely be drawn, with notes on the issues voters may have in mind when deciding.




The Irishman

Marriage Story


Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood

Little Women



Jojo Rabbit: polarizing, but director Waititi is a proven money-maker on the franchise side

Harriet: with many race-issue films falling flat this year, this is the only one that held a little momentum from critics and audiences

The Two Popes: lots of love from critics and guilds, but it would be a third Netflix film in Best Picture, and it’s hard to see Hollywood stomaching that

Ford v Ferrari: Oscar likes lots of testosterone in the Best Picture race to prove the men are still running things



Martin Scorsese: The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino: Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood

Sam Mendes: 1917


Greta Gerwig: Little Women: with 3 white men and their white-men-filled movies as locks, voters will almost surely put Gerwig in. But Little Women hasn’t been blowing up the guild or critics awards, so it could be another year the Academy gets slammed for it’s non-inclusion

Bong Joon Ho: Parasite: would the Korean director of one of the years most respected films be considered salve for the wound of not nominating Gerwig?

Todd Phillips: Joker: the 3 locks plus Gerwig and Bong make a much more interesting group, and the direction isn’t what everyone most remembers about Joker

Noah Baumbach: Marriage Story: though his film is certainly top five in most voters mind’s, he’s that director who can be left off because he’ll have a writing nomination. And if he’s left off for Gerwig, it’s still all in the family.




Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood

Marriage Story


Jojo Rabbit: this is a category that accepts polarizing films more readily than Best Picture

Booksmart: Eighth Grade won this last year, and this film is an even better example of a fresh, unflinching look at this genre

Knives Out: hard to imagine a light farce getting a spot over these others, but it was more popular with audiences than anything here

1917: a film whose success is lead more by its directorial bravado than its script, but there could be a huge 1917 wave that this rides



The Irishman


Little Women


The Two Popes: one of those simple plots where dialogue is crucial, and a place to recognize this if it’s left off Best Picture

The Farewell: gotta work more women into the top-tier categories, and this was widely liked. But the writers guild did not consider this adapted, so it could have trouble with Oscar as well

Hustlers: if Farewell gets knocked out on a technicality, this could represent for the ladies

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: this film was expected to do more than just a Hanks nomination, so here’s the only place that could happen



Renee Zellwegger: Judy

Scarlett Johansson: Marriage Story

Charlize Theron: Bombshell


Saoirse Ronan: Little Women: the closest to being a lock on this bench, but again, Little Women – and Ronan – have been left off of important EOY lists, notably SAG

Cynthia Erivo: Harriet: she’s on almost all the critics and guild lists, but if Academy voters only make room for one POC here, there were better performances…

Lupita Nyong’o: Us: the fact that people – and SAG –  are remembering her when her movie came out so long ago bodes well

Awkwafina: The Farewell: after her Globes win and lovely acceptance speech, voters may jump on the buzzy optics of a hip Asian performer on their list 



Joaquin Phoenix: Joker

Adam Driver: Marriage Story

Leonardo di Caprio: Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood


Jonathan Pryce: The Two Popes: there’s an unusually low number of Brits on the acting lists this year, and The Academy loves the elder Shakespeareans for the air of quality they lend

Christian Bale: Ford v Ferrari: perennially lauded, no matter the film, and this one is a potential Best Picture nom

Robert DeNiro: The Irishman: oddly absent from most other best-of-year lists, maybe due to being overwhelmed by his two supporting players. But he’s DeNiro, and better here than he’s been in a long time

Eddie Murphy: Dolemite Is My Name: the ‘he wants it too much’ narrative is rude, and voters need to finally recognize his range

Adam Sandler: Uncut Gems: a huge long-shot, but one with a hype machine working overtime, and he plays a basketball-loving hustler, which describes so many Hollywood players

George MacKay: 1917: if there’s a 1917 wave, he could ride into a category that he really shouldn’t be near



Laura Dern: Marriage Story

Margot Robbie: Bombshell

Jennifer Lopez: Hustlers


Florence Pugh: Little Women: like lead Ronan, she didn’t make the SAG cut, but Oscar is likely to recognize the film more, and she’s the best thing in it

Scarlett Johansson: Jojo Rabbit: the Oscars love a double nominee, and she’s on fire lately

Kathy Bates: Richard Jewell: older voters won’t like to completely snub Clint Eastwood, and this has shown to be the only place other lists felt comfortable recognizing his problematic film

Zhao Shuzhen: The Farewell: one of those delightfully unexpected ‘woke’ nominations that lets Oscar pat itself on the back

Nicole Kidman: Bombshell: far and away the least impressive of the trio that lead this movie, but Academy voters love Kidman even when she’s far in the background (Remember Lion?)



Joe Pesci: The Irishman

Al Pacino: The Irishman

Brad Pitt: Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood


Tom Hanks: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: everyone’s favorite actor playing everyone’s favorite childhood hero, but the movie was a downer for many, so I’m not locking him

Jamie Foxx: Just Mercy: recognized by SAG even though the film was late-breaking and below the radar, and with #Oscarslookingsowhiteagain…

Anthony Hopkins: The Two Popes: this could be the surprise multi-nominee this year, but again, the too-much-Netflix issue…

Willem Dafoe: The Lighthouse: never count him out. He’s been nominated the past two years for scrappy indie films almost no one saw, so like Kidman he has a strange hold on voters


The films grabbing the most multiple nominations here should be:

The Irishman: Cinematography, Production Design, Score, Editing

1917: Cinematography, Production Design, Score, Editing, Sound, Sound Mixing

Joker: Cinematography, Production Design, Score, Editing, Costume Design

Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood: Cinematography, Production Design, Editing, Costume Design

Little Women: Production Design, Score, Costume Design

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