Here are our Oscar predictions for the acting races. And tips on others to consider

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Glenn Whipp
·5 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Actress Nicole Beharie is photographed in the backyard, of a Los Angeles, CA, home, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, promoting her role in the film, "Miss Juneteenth." Beharie plays Turquoise, a former beauty queen-turned-bartender, who struggles to pay her bills and deal with her teenage daughter. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Nicole Beharie won the Gotham Awards' lead actress prize for "Miss Juneteenth." (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Remember when Steven Soderbergh was hired to produce the Oscars and he mused that this year's ceremony would "skew more indie-cinephile"? Or when critics' favorites like "First Cow" and "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" were considered serious possibilities for best picture because movies like Wes Anderson's "The French Dispatch" and Steven Spielberg's adaptation of "West Side Story" had moved out of the season and people thought maybe, just maybe, academy members would dig a bit deeper when doing their homework this year?

Instead, judging from appearances and conversations, it seems that this year's Oscars are going to skew toward streaming platforms — and I don't mean ones with a Criterion Channel sensibility. Now, I could be wrong. For all I know, Oscar voters are marveling at Pietro Marcello's marvelous "Martin Eden" at this very moment and have Pedro Costa's hypnotic "Vitalina Varela" next up in the queue. Personally, I don't know these voters, but I'm sure they exist — probably somewhere in the shadows that engulf Costa's masterwork.

Anyway, as Oscar voting begins Friday, perhaps it's time to take a look at the acting races while offering a reminder of some special work deserving of attention. It's not too late to fulfill Soderbergh's prophecy, people.

LEAD ACTRESS

Carey Mulligan, "Promising Young Woman"

Frances McDormand, "Nomadland"

Viola Davis, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

Vanessa Kirby, "Pieces of a Woman"

Andra Day, "The United States vs. Billie Holiday"

On the cusp: Amy Adams, "Hillbilly Elegy"; Yeri Han, "Minari"; Zendaya, "Malcolm & Marie"; Sophia Loren, "The Life Ahead"

For your consideration: Nicole Beharie should have been on everyone's radar after she won the lead actress prize from the Gotham Awards, the season's first notable event. In "Miss Juneteenth," she plays Turquoise Jones, a struggling single mother who wants her 15-year-old daughter to follow in her footsteps, wear the Miss Juneteenth crown and win the college scholarship that comes with it. Beharie conveys Turquoise's longings and worries with an empathy that lingers long after the film ends. She also picked up a Spirit Awards nomination for the performance, another sign of its potency. Basically, anyone who takes the time to find Channing Godfrey Peoples' movie recognizes that Beharie's work is among the year's best.

Mads Mikkelsen stars in Thomas Vinterberg's "Another Round."
Mads Mikkelsen stars in Thomas Vinterberg's "Another Round." (TIFF)

LEAD ACTOR

Chadwick Boseman, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

Riz Ahmed, "Sound of Metal"

Anthony Hopkins, "The Father"

Steven Yeun, "Minari"

Gary Oldman, "Mank"

On the cusp: LaKeith Stanfield, "Judas and the Black Messiah"; Delroy Lindo, "Da 5 Bloods"; Kingsley Ben-Adir, "One Night in Miami"; Tahar Rahim, "The Mauritanian"

For your consideration: Mads Mikkelsen is known mostly for playing tortured souls — murderers, terrorists, cannibals, film nerds. He's tortured too in Thomas Vinterberg's wild and wonderful friendship drama "Another Round," but in an altogether different way. Mikkelsen plays a depressed middle-aged man afraid that he's becoming boring. So he and a few other midlife-crisis cohorts decide to undertake an experiment and get — and remain — a little buzzed every day. Mikkelsen's portrayal of a man awakening from years spent on autopilot is exhilarating. People love this movie, which will likely earn a nomination for best international feature. Its star should be invited to the party as well.

Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder in "Never Rarely Sometimes Always."
Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder in "Never Rarely Sometimes Always." (Focus Features)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Yuh-Jung Youn, "Minari"

Olivia Colman, "The Father"

Glenn Close, "Hillbilly Elegy"

Amanda Seyfried, "Mank"

Maria Bakalova, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm"

On the cusp: Helena Zengel, "News of the World"; Ellen Burstyn, "Pieces of a Woman"

For your consideration: I mentioned "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" at the outset, and Eliza Hittman's frank, tender drama merits consideration across the board, including Sidney Flanigan's memorable lead turn as Autumn, which, considering it's her film debut, ranks as something of a miracle. But Flanigan has picked up a few honors already (the New York Film Critics Circle gave her its lead actress prize), and I don't think enough attention has been paid to her costar, Talia Ryder, who brings remarkable tenderness and strength to Skylar, Autumn's protective cousin. Skylar's willing to do anything — and if you've seen the film, you understand she goes to considerable lengths — so Autumn can determine her future on her own terms. Meanwhile, Ryder's future looks bright. She'll be seen, somehow, someday, somewhere, in Spielberg's "West Side Story."

Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts and Colman Domingo in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."
Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts and Colman Domingo in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." (David Lee / Netflix)

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Sacha Baron Cohen, "The Trial of the Chicago 7"

Leslie Odom Jr., "One Night in Miami"

Daniel Kaluuya, "Judas and the Black Messiah"

Paul Raci, "Sound of Metal"

Chadwick Boseman, "Da 5 Bloods"

On the cusp: Mark Rylance, "The Trial of the Chicago 7"; Jared Leto, "The Little Things"; Stanley Tucci, "Supernova"; Frank Langella, "The Trial of the Chicago 7"; Glynn Turman, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"; Colman Domingo, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

For your consideration: Boseman could earn two posthumous Oscar nominations this year, a distinction few would begrudge him. But Oscar voters should also remember his bandmates, played by Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Michael Potts, part of a group that's already pulled in a SAG Awards ensemble mention. Turman and Domingo also picked up individual honors from the Spirit Awards for their piercing performances as Black men defining and defending their place in the world. In a work that centers on Black voices being heard, their acting rings strong and true.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.