How Extensive Open Is the Greatest-Image Race?

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How Wide Open Is the Best-Picture Race?

In a year when almost every award ceremony was awkward and remote, Minari produced two of the season’s most memorable and heartfelt acceptance speeches: When Minari took the Golden Globe for a foreign language film, Chung’s baby daughter fell into his arms and exclaimed: “I prayed!”; and when 8-year-old star Alan Kim won Best Young Actor at the Critics’ Choice Awards, he was so overwhelmed that he burst into tears. Many Oscar voters may choose Minari simply because winning it would guarantee a moment as moving as the film itself.

If the Oscars were to take place today, “Nomadland” could certainly be the best argument for the best picture: this Frances McDormand-directed drama has won the top honors of the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards and Gotham Awards, to name but a few to name some of his awards. Could Chloé Zhao also be the first woman of color to win the best director? From what we’ve seen so far, your chances are terribly good.

But the best picture race has proven fluid in recent years, and voters may prefer a more open political film to portray such a tumultuous year. With a budget of less than 5 million US dollars, “Nomadland” would also be one of the most humble best picture champions ever made. Can such an intimate film maintain its top position during an awards season extended by two additional months?

Underestimate “Promising Young Woman” at your own risk. This dark drama about sexual assault is the only best-picture nominee besides Nomadland that shows general strength in four key categories – a nomination for best director for Emerald Fennell; an acting nod for his guidance, Carey Mulligan; and nominations for script and editing. On Oscar night, a key win or two could pave the way to the best picture: Mulligan has a strong chance of winning the Oscar for Best Actress, but an even better omen would be a win for Fennell in the original script category.

It won’t be easy to face Aaron Sorkin, an Oscar-winning nominee for The Trial of the Chicago 7 again, but Promising Young Woman is brave enough to have another chance. Even better, a win there would make history: if Fennell wins the Oscar for the original screenplay and Zhao triumphs in the adapted screenplay category, it will be the first time both screenwriting races have been won by women who were the only writers in their films.

The Toronto International Film Festival often catapults big Oscar contenders, but when that Riz Ahmed drama debuted there in the fall of 2019, its awards show was all but negligible. The Oscar campaign for “Sound of Metal” required the patience and effort that would not have been possible in any other year when the film may have been inundated by a larger budget competition: instead, in a reduced pricing landscape, This Story of a Drummer, who deals with deafness earned six Academy Award nominations.