Awards Daily soothsayer Sasha Stone attempts to look ahead to a far-from-ordinary Oscar season

A wistful Sasha Stone, one of Gold Derby’s esteemed Experts and the queen of the Awards Daily website, took a stab this week about what kind of year this will be for cinematic hopefuls searching for trophy gold. She starts by saying that the usual attendees who go to film festivals at Telluride and Venice right now would be halfway there by now. But with our health crisis persisting and tight quarters a no-no, such gatherings won’t result in the usual buzz that contenders feed on.

While the academy’s website suggests that the 93rd Oscar ceremony will still take place at the Dolby Theatre on April 24, 2021, Stone believes that “Oscar night will be virtual, just like the Emmys will be. With acceptance speeches even potentially on Zoom. The horror. The horror.” 

She adds, “In ordinary times we would not be so dependent on the taste makers. But this year, people like me will be mostly in charge of driving the race, unless publicists somehow find a way to gather voters in non-traditional ways” That includes private screenings at people’s homes, drive-in events. But without word of mouth building at get-togethers, Stone fears that it will basically boil down to film Twitter gone wild.

What I would add is that streaming sites like Netflix, which has a slew of top-notch titles including David Fincher‘s “Mank,” Ron Howard‘s “Hillbilly Elegy” and Aaron Sorkin‘s “Trial of the Chicago 7,” will take the place of screenings at glitzy gatherings and packed film festival auditoriums. Publicists will likely provide links to critics and entertainment writers as coronavirus remains a threat.

Also, this is the last year that the academy will send out physical screeners. Instead, a virtual screening room will be provided for voting members. But watching a movie alone in your viewing room is never going to replace seeing a film with others in a crowded theater. Given how many vroom-vroom-loving males surrounded me when I caught “Ford v Ferarri” at the Middleburg Film Festival in Virginia last year, I doubt I would have enjoyed it even two-thirds as much if I saw it on a TV screen alone while pausing for breaks.

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Stone, who is also politically astute, brings up the fact that the outcome on Nov. 3 could also play a part in what is deemed as worthy candidates in the awards race. She observes that some thought the 2016 election “derailed ‘La La Land’s’ chances to win and tipped the scales to ‘Moonlight’ ” This longtime predictor also throws caution to the wind and takes a stab at some categories, guessing what might make the cut sight unseen. We will just include her Best Picture lineup for the time being. But as she says, “It’s all just sort of nuts this year.” Here are her picks for now:

“Mank”
“West Side Story”
“Tenet”
“The Tragedy of Macbeth”
“News of the World”
“Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Hillbilly Elegy”
“Next Goal Wins”
“Nomadland”
“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”

Stone’s second tier:

“On the Rocks”
“Stillwater”
“The Father”
“Da 5 Bloods”
“Dune”
“The Midnight Sky”

For more of Stone’s picks in other categories, click on the link to Awards Daily here.

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