As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave Hollywood studios in flux, there are still key decisions being discussed internally about the Oscars, such as actors’ placements in the acting categories. With six months until the Academy Awards, there are several factors needed in order to set a film up for awards season success. Without events to campaign and (metaphorically) kiss babies, the performances and films will be speaking for themselves.
Like the industry, Oscar predictions are in flux, but the biggest unknown is in the male acting categories, which are showing a real fluidity and will continue to do so throughout the season. One of the major questions regards the late Chadwick Boseman and where Netflix will campaign him for his upcoming work in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” While many pundits and prognosticators assume he will ultimately fall within the supporting actor category, there are rumblings that he could be campaigned as a lead actor. A representative from Netflix did not confirm either scenario, but multiple sources who have seen the film say Boseman is one of the rare cases that straddles the line between lead and supporting. Charles S. Dutton, who was nominated for a Tony award for playing the same role, was cited in supporting, but the late Theresa Merritt, who played Ma Rainey, was also nominated in supporting. We fully expect a Viola Davis best actress push for the title role, but nowadays you never know where the chips may fall.
If Boseman were to be nominated in best actor, that would leave a wide-open space in the best supporting actor category, which is full of seasoned veterans looking for their due. Bill Murray (“On the Rocks”) and David Strathairn (“Nomadland”) may be the most prime candidates to take up the mantle, but Leslie Odom, Jr. is having a hell of a year. His work as Sam Cooke in Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” is definitely one of the films’ brighter spots (and there are many). While Amazon Studios has yet to confirm the category placement of the actors, it’s suggested that Odom will ultimately fall within the supporting route. His co-star Kingsley Ben-Adir may find his way into a lead actor push, but no one from his camp has confirmed the placement.
The other Boseman vehicle, “Da 5 Bloods” from Spike Lee, is getting a considerable push from Netflix. Boseman’s work as Stormin’ Norman is another career highlight which begs the question: Is there a possibility for double acting nominations? There have been 12 actors in the history of the Academy who have received two acting nominations the same year, most recently with Scarlett Johansson last year for “Marriage Story” and “Jojo Rabbit.” In those 12 instances, seven of them have resulted in wins (Fay Bainter, Teresa Wright, Barry Fitzgerald, Jessica Lange, Al Pacino, Holly Hunter and Jamie Foxx). There has never been an actor to receive two posthumous acting nods in the same year. James Dean received two in back-to-back years for “East of Eden” and “Giant.” The late Massimo Troisi received two nominations for best actor and original screenplay for 1995’s “Il Postino.” The most posthumous nods ever received occurred when Howard Ashman received three in the same category for best original song for 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast.” He won for the title number.
Another category to watch is best actress, which may include Meryl Streep’s upcoming turn in the musical “The Prom.” Streep, the most-nominated actress in Oscar history, could be going for another best actress nomination against her young co-star Jo Ellen Pellman.
With no set release from Warner Bros., Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah” is eyeing a drop in the eligibility window. There hasn’t been a category discussion yet by the studio, but multiple sources say that stars Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield are pretty close in screen time, the former of which is said to be the standout. There is also likely to be an original song in play as well.
Harry Macqueen’s “Supernova” received outstanding notices from the London Film Festival, where it screened. Just getting picked up by Bleecker Street, the film is expected to land in the eligibility calendar and could be a big factor for previous Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci. The consensus from those who have seen it is that there are co-leads, but the Oscars are never that simple. Watch for a Tucci push in best actor, which could make things very interesting. That wasn’t the only surprise announcement for the film year as John Patrick Shanley will drop his “Wild Mountain Thyme” in December, and Bleecker Street will look to get stars Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan in the mix. Everyone should expect the HFPA to eat this one up.
The last but most glaring nugget is the case surrounding “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” There are multiple rumors flying around the beat, none of which have been confirmed by Netflix or any of the awards strategists. They range from a best actor push for only Sacha Baron Cohen; or Eddie Redmayne joining him as a lead to make room for one or two men in the supporting categories; or they could all go the supporting route. Either way, even with a lot of time before the Oscars, trying to land on a consensus pick in a large ensemble is tricky.
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