Oscar Nomination Predictions 2020: Look for ‘Once Upon a Time,’ ‘1917,’ ‘The Irishman’ and White Men to Dominate

By our reckoning, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” “The Irishman,” “1917” and “Joker” will have the most nominations

Last Updated: January 12, 2020 @ 10:42 AM

If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has voted the way I think they have, Monday morning’s Oscar nominations will be followed by an inevitable outcry that the slate is too male and too white.

While African American actors like Eddie Murphy, Lupita Nyong’o, Jamie Foxx, Wesley Snipes and Alfre Woodard all have shots at landing nominations, as do Asian or Asian-American actors Awkwafina, Zhao Shuzhen and Song Kang Ho, I expect that there will be precisely one non-white acting nominee, “Harriet” star Cynthia Erivo, along with two Hispanic ones, Antonio Banderas and Jennifer Lopez.

And even though Greta Gerwig could well receive a Best Director nomination, I suspect she’ll be edged out by Pedro Almodovar, who will fill out a very international but completely male slate.

The Academy has grown substantially and become significantly more international in the last few years, and we’re still trying to gauge the effect that will have on nominations. But with the 92nd Academy Awards coming up in a hurry, here’s what I expect to see on Monday morning.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Picture
The major guild awards seem to indicate pretty clearly that the top five is “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” “The Irishman,” “1917,” “Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit.” Beyond those five, “Joker” certainly seems to have enough support to get in, as does “Marriage Story.”

The variable number of nominees in this category causes confusion from there. “Little Women” and “Ford v Ferrari” might be the next two films in line, with the former holding a slight edge as the only top contender with a predominantly female ensemble. But “Bombshell,” “The Two Popes,” “Knives Out” and “The Farewell” have a chance to slip in as well – and it wouldn’t be out of the question, given the way the votes are counted in this category, for a small but passionate contingent to get a surprise nomination for “Pain and Glory” or “Uncut Gems.”

Predicted nominees:
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Joker”
“Little Women”
“Marriage Story”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
“Parasite”

If the number of nominees goes to nine:
“Ford v Ferrari”

And if it somehow goes to 10 (which it won’t):
“Bombshell”

Best Director
The Directors Guild nominated Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite,” Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman,” Quentin Tarantino for “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” Sam Mendes for “1917” and Taika Waititi for “Jojo Rabbit,” which would seem to stand them in good stead at the Oscars. But the guild and the Academy have had the same slate of nominees only five times in 72 years – more often, four of the DGA’s nominees receive Oscar nominations and one doesn’t.

Waititi seems the likeliest to be left out, because Bong, Scorsese, Tarantino and Mendes all feel like locks here. But the fifth slot is completely up in the air, with the prime candidates, in addition to Waititi, perhaps being Greta Gerwig for “Little Women,” Noah Baumbach for “Marriage Story,” Todd Phillips for “Joker” and Pedro Almodovar for “Pain and Glory.” The Directors Branch of the Academy isn’t known for trying to bring in diversity for its own sake, but it nominated Gerwig for “Lady Bird” two years ago and could easily do so again. And then there’s Almodovar, whose film probably won’t get a Best Picture nomination but is so intensely personal that the branch might give him a nomination anyway. It’s hard to find much common ground in the directors that are overlooked by the DGA but nominated by the Academy recently, but both of them last year were European directors, and the branch is becoming increasingly international. That may give Almodovar a slight edge.

One extra wrinkle is that the branch has been known to bypass directors who seem to be locks (Ben Affleck for “Argo,” Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty”) in favor of more offbeat choices. If that happens, the Safdie brothers would be an off-the-wall but worthy choice for that extra spot for their bold and relentless “Uncut Gems.”

Predicted nominees:
Pedro Almodovar, “Pain and Glory”
Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”
Sam Mendes, “1917”
Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Best Actor
It’s impossible to imagine a slate of nominees in this category that doesn’t include Joaquin Phoenix for “Joker,” Adam Driver for “Marriage Story” and (probably) Leonardo DiCaprio for “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” And I refuse to believe that voters won’t recognize Antonio Banderas’ exquisite performance in “Pain and Glory,” which has won at Cannes and with the New York and L.A. film critics.

But that only leaves one slot for at least eight guys who deserve a nomination and have a chance to get one: Robert De Niro for “The Irishman,” Jonathan Pryce for “The Two Popes,” Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite Is My Name,” Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems,” Christian Bale in “Ford v Ferrari,” Taron Egerton for “Rocketman,” George MacKay for “1917,” Michael B. Jordan for “Just Mercy” …

It’s not a good sign that De Niro was bypassed by both the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, but he’s still way too formidable to dismiss. It’s probably between him, Pryce, Egerton and Murphy – and while I’m tempted to say Murphy, I’ll go with De Niro in the film that will be one of the leaders in overall nominations.

Predicted nominees:
Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
Robert De Niro, “The Irishman”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”

Best Actress
Golden Globes winner Renee Zellweger is the clear frontrunner, “Bombshell” star Charlize Theron the dark horse with a chance to upset. Scarlett Johansson and Saoirse Ronan are likely nominees for “Marriage Story” and “Little Women,” respectively. And just as in Best Actor, that fifth slot is a mystery.

It’s also a slot that could mercifully help the Academy escape another #OscarsSoWhite debacle, because its contenders include Cynthia Erivo for “Harriet,” Alfre Woodard for “Clemency” and Lupita Nyong’o for a tricky performance in “Us” that should be getting far more awards attention. Awkwafina also has a shot for “The Farewell,” but this seems likely to go to Erivo, who’s looking to duplicate Lady Gaga’s feat from last year of landing Best Actress and Best Original Song nominations.

Predicted nominees:
Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”
Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
Renee Zellweger, “Judy”

Best Supporting Actor
In a category that will be full of actors who were actually giving co-lead performances, you can’t escape the three guys whose last names start with P: Al Pacino and Joe Pesci for “The Irishman” and Brad Pitt for “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.”

Tom Hanks would seem to be a shoo-in for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – but the Academy hasn’t nominated him since 2000, a rather remarkable sustained snub that has encompassed “The Road to Perdition,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Captain Phillips,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Sully” and “The Post.” Still, they have to be nice to a guy who just played Mr. Rogers, don’t they?

Other contenders include Anthony Hopkins for “The Two Popes,” SAG Awards nominee Jamie Foxx for “Just Mercy,” Willem Dafoe for “The Lighthouse,” Wesley Snipes for “Dolemite Is My Name,” Alan Alda for “Marriage Story” and what could be the most delicious surprise, veteran Korean actor Song Kang Ho for “Parasite.” Hopkins might have an edge because he’s the best way to recognize “The Two Popes,” a film that at one point seemed likely to be an across-the-board contender.

Predicted nominees:
Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”
Al Pacino, “The Irishman”
Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

laura dern marriage sotry

Netflix

Best Supporting Actress
The three locks look to be Laura Dern for “Marriage Story,” Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers” and Margot Robbie for “Bombshell.” (Robbie will also get some votes for “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” but Oscar rules don’t allow an actor to have two nominations in the same category.) And if “Jojo Rabbit” is as strong as the guild awards make it out to be, Scarlett Johansson will likely score a supporting nomination to go with her “Marriage Story” Best Actress nod.

And then what? Kathy Bates will probably be hurt by the controversy over the inaccuracies in “Richard Jewel.” Annette Bening will probably be helped by the fact that she played Democratic senator Diane Feinstein in “The Report,” a timely film in today’s political climate. Nicole Kidman could add a second “Bombshell” nomination as a once-powerful man stands accused of sexual misconduct in a New York courtroom. Florence Pugh could be helped by a year that has also included “Midsommar” and “Fighting With My Family” in addition to her standout role in “Little Women.” And 75-year-old Chinese actress Zhao Shuzhen could land a nomination for “The Farewell” because, well, everybody loves Zhao Shuzhen in “The Farewell.”

Bening and Shuzhen are strong, but I suspect it’s Pugh’s year.

Predicted nominees:
Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”

Best Adapted Screenplay
This may be where we find out how strong “Joker” really is. While “The Irishman,” “Little Women” and “Jojo Rabbit” are obvious choices and WGA nominees, and while you’d expect the entertainingly talky “The Two Popes” to recover from being overlooked by the guild (which slotted it in the original, not adapted category), “Joker” is a less typical writing nominee than, say, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Dark Waters” or “Just Mercy.”

Still, the “Joker” script was nominated by the WGA and by BAFTA, and it’s the furthest thing from a regular comic-book movie.

Predicted nominees:
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Joker”
“Little Women”
“The Two Popes”

1917 George MacKay

Best Original Screenplay
In many ways, this category is a moment of truth for “1917.” The film will load up on below-the-line nominations, to be sure – but if it wants to really compete for a Best Picture win, it could really use a screenplay nomination to show that voters think of it as more than a technical accomplishment. It got one from the Writers Guild, it didn’t get one from BAFTA, and it’s definitely on the bubble here, along with “Knives Out,” “The Farewell,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “Dolemite Is My Name” and a few others.

Not on the bubble: “Parasite,” “Marriage Story” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” the last of which wasn’t eligible at the WGA but is a lock here.

Predicted nominees:
“Knives Out”
“Marriage Story”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Parasite”

Best Cinematography
The American Society of Cinematographers nominated “1917,” “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” “The Irishman,” “Joker” and “Ford v Ferrari.” The first three of those will undoubtedly repeat with the Academy’s Cinematographers Branch, but the last two might be vulnerable and could be replaced by “The Lighthouse,” “Parasite,” “Marriage Story” or “A Hidden Life.”

Since the ASC and the Academy usually only agree on four out of five, and since the Academy often gets daring on the choice that doesn’t match, I’m guessing that “Ford v Ferrari” drops out and “The Lighthouse” slides in.

Predicted nominees:
“The Irishman”
“Joker”
“The Lighthouse”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Ford v Ferrari

Best Film Editing
The last big movie that was designed to look as if it were a single shot, “Birdman,” didn’t get an editing nomination. Will “1917” suffer a similar fate, even though it actually contains five or six dozen carefully hidden cuts? Maybe not, since its team has been very active in putting editor Lee Smith out front and talking about his contribution.

On other fronts, the kinetic “Ford v Ferrari” is made for this category, as is the structure of “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and the deliberate rhythms of “The Irishman.” (Will it hurt that last film that lots of people think it’s too long? Maybe, but it’ll help that the languor comes at the hands of the legendary Thelma Schoonmaker.)

Then there’s “Marriage Story” and “Parasite,” both of them quiet but intricately structured; “Joker,” bolder and brasher; and “Uncut Gems,” the ultimate editor’s tour de force but a longshot just because it is so deliberately and deliciously assaultive.

Predicted nominees:
“Ford v Ferrari”
“The Irishman”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
“Parasite”

Best Original Score
Thomas Newman, with 14 nominations and not a single win, is the frontrunner for “1917.” Golden Globe, Emmy and SCL winner Hildur Gudnadottir might be the one with the best chance to beat him for “Joker.” They’re both all but assured nominations.

Beyond those two, the Oscars’ shortlist of 15 scores gives voters a wealth of distinctive, different and terrific musical experiences. Alexandre Desplat’s “Little Women” is stately and elegant; Theodore Shapiro’s “Bombshell” puts female voices front and center, as does the movie; Marco Beltrani and Buck Sanders’ “Ford v Ferrari” borrows from its 1960s setting to create a playful and driving instrumental rock soundtrack; “Marriage Story” is as intimate and as light on its feet as most of Randy Newman’s scores; and Alan Silvestri’s “Avengers: Endgame” is an epic action score that concludes with some of the most beautiful and emotional cues of the year.

And that’s only half the shortlist, which also includes the eccentric choral compositions of “Us” and “The Farewell,” the sultry jazz of “Motherless Brooklyn,” the dark soundscapes of “The King,” the orchestral splendor of “Frozen II” and the emotional but playful compositions of “Jojo Rabbit” and “Pain and Glory.”

And, oh yeah, there’s 51-time nominee John Williams with his final “Star Wars” score. Yes, when you think of “Star Wars” music, you think of what he wrote in the ’70s and ’80s (the themes of which are used liberally in “The Rise of Skywalker,” but surrounded by enough new music to make this a new score). But how on earth do voters deny the last John Williams “Star Wars” score?

With a rich and varied field to choose from, voters just might bypass Williams in favor of “Jojo Rabbit” or “Ford v Ferrari.” But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Predicted nominees:
“Joker”
“Little Women”
“Marriage Story”
“1917”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Best Original Song
This is another category where the field was narrowed down to 15 by a first round of voting, eliminating Taylor Swift’s new song for “Cats” but leaving Elton John (twice), Beyonce, Cynthia Erivo, Pharrell Williams Diane Warren and others.

You have to figure that Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, after winning for “Frozen” and “Coco,” will be back for “Frozen II.” Elton John seems all but assured to land a nom for his and Bernie Taupin’s song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman” (over his “Lion King” song “Never Too Late”), and Cynthia Erivo and Joshuah Brian Campbell will likely be represented by “Stand Up,” the song from “Harriet” for which they just won an award at the first Society of Composers and Lyricists Awards.

But that still leaves Beyonce for a new song from “The Lion King,” Pharrell Williams for one from “The Black Godfather,” Radiohead’s Thom Yorke for “Motherless Brooklyn,” Randy Newman for “Toy Story 4,” and the formidable team of Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Alan Menken for “Aladdin.” One from that group will likely get in (Beyonce?), and probably one from three fine songs written for smaller films: Diane Warren’s inspirational “I’m Standing With You” from “Breakthrough,” Kathryn Bostic’s sultry, gospel-spiked “High Above the Water” from “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” and Mary Steenburgen, Kate York and Caitlin Smith’s triumphant “Glasgow” from “Wild Rose.” It’s foolish to go against 10-time nominee Warren, but I have a feeling “Glasgow” could be the one.

Watch out for two wild cards, though. One is “Da Bronx” from the documentary “The Bronx, USA,” because the song is written by songwriting legends Charles Fox (a former Music Branch governor) and Paul Williams. The other is “A Glass of Soju,” the end-credits song from “Parasite.” It’s in Korean and it’s not subtitled, but it would be another way to salute that movie, and another nomination for its director and the song’s lyricist, Bong Joon Ho.

Predicted nominees:
“Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II”
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman”
“Spirit” from “The Lion King”
“Stand Up” from “Harriet”
“Glasgow” from “Wild Rose”

Dolemite Is My Name

Dolemite Is My Name

Best Costume Design
Big ‘n’ frilly designs still show up in this category, but in recent years they haven’t come close to dominating the nominations. Instead, look for period films of more recent vintage, including “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” “Rocketman,” “The Irishman” and “Dolemite Is My Name.” But “Little Women” and “Downton Abbey” are still strong contenders, with the former perhaps feeling fresher than the latter. “Jojo Rabbit,” “Joker” and “The Two Popes” are definitely in the mix as well.

Predicted nominees:
“Dolemite Is My Name”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Little Women”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Rocketman”

Best Production Design
As in costume design, lavish period reconstructions are on the wane in this category, replaced by films that look back a few decades rather than a few centuries. Many of the costume nominees should show up here as well, though the scale of “The Irishman,” the drama of “Joker” and the particular challenges of “1917” should make them strong contenders as well. And since the whole point of “Parasite” is to dramatize the difference between rich and poor, the design of the film’s two homes will likely impress voters as well.

Predicted nominees:
“The Irishman”
“Little Women”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
“Parasite”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The shortlist has narrowed the field to 10, and for the first time the slate of nominees will consist of five films, not just three. And here’s the thing to remember, for starters: In recent years, voters in this category have loved makeup artists who transform actors into other famous people: “Vice,” “Darkest Hour,” “The Iron Lady” … That’s good news for “Bombshell,” which makes Charlize Theron look like Megyn Kelly and Nicole Kidman look like Gretchen Carlson; “Judy,” which makes Renee Zellweger look like Judy Garland; and “Rocketman,” which makes Taron Egerton look (a little) like Elton John.

“Dolemite Is My Name” transforms Eddie Murphy as well, but most voters don’t know what Rudy Ray Moore looked like so they may not have the same level of appreciation for the work. None of the other nominees contain the kind of prosthetic work that has led to nominations for films like “Border,” “Wonder” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” though “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” comes closest. This may come down to elegant makeup (“Downton Abbey,” “Little Women”) v. tougher makeup (“1917,” “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”). The scale of that last film may tip the scales in its favor if “Maleficent” doesn’t grab the voters.

Predicted nominees:
“Bombshell”
“Joker”
“Judy”
“Rocketman”
“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker Rey

Photo credit: Walt Disney Studios

Best Sound Editing
The two sound categories may well be combined into a single category in a year or two, but for now they’re still separate. Sound editing is designed to honor the creation of artificial sounds, and the nominees are usually big, loud movies, which this year definitely means the likes of “Ford v Ferrari,” “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “1917” and “Joker.” Musicals like “Rocketman” are a staple in the sound mixing category but often bleed over here (though perhaps not this year), while the scale of “Once Upon a Time … in America” could be persuasive as well.

Predicted nominees:
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Joker”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Best Sound Mixing
The sound mixing category honors the way all sound elements are integrated into a film’s soundtrack – and while the lineup of nominees is always similar to the one in Best Sound Editing, it often swaps in a music-heavy film, which this year will likely be “Rocketman.”
And if the impeccably assembled “Parasite” sneaks into categories like this one, its competitors had better watch out.

Predicted nominees:
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Joker”
“1917”
“Rocketman”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Best Visual Effects
Of the 10 films on the VFX shortlist, you can probably rule out “Cats” and its digital hair that so many people found creepy. But while the reviews were mixed on the digital de-aging done on the lead actors in “The Irishman,” it has a very good chance of advancing in this race, as does the work that was done in “1917” to not only extend backgrounds and add battle footage but to splice together different takes into what appears to be a single seamless shot.

In more traditional VFX work, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” “Avengers: Endgame” and maybe the Visual Effects Society’s leader in nominations, “Alita: Battle Angel,” appear to have the strongest chance, though “Terminator: Dark Fate” could slip in. But the 800-pound gorilla in this category is “The Lion King,” in which the entire movie is a visual effect once you get past a single opening shot of a sunrise.
Lion, yes. Cats, no.

Predicted nominees:
“Avengers: Endgame”
“The Irishman”
“The Lion King”
“1917”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Parasite Bong Joon Ho

Best International Feature Film
Every discussion about this category begins with all parties accepting the fact that “Parasite,” “Pain and Glory” and “Les Miserables” are going to be nominated, and the other seven shortlisted films are competing for the final two spots. And yes, that’s probably right.

(OK, here’s one crazy scenario: Like the documentary voters last year who figured “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was safe and didn’t need their vote, maybe too many international voters figured that “Parasite” was a lock and they didn’t have to vote for it. If that happened, which it didn’t, it would be the best thing possible for “Parasite” in the Best Picture race, which it would definitely win.)

To figure out who gets those final two spots, it helps to know that the final voting this year is done by any Academy member who sees the 10 shortlisted films in a theater or on an AMPAS link. That puts the final judging in the hands of a larger and more mainstream group of voters than the hand-picked committees that used decide the final five – and it means that the three challenging films that were put on the shortlist by an executive committee (most likely “Atlantics,” “The Painted Bird” and “Beanpole”) may have a hard time advancing, though of the three “Atlantics” has a real shot.

“Honeyland,” the one documentary on the list, could well make the final five, with the decades-spanning Estonian entry, “Truth and Justice,” a slightly longer shot. But I’m guessing that the final two will be Hungary’s “Those Who Remained,” which finds a new and touching way to deal with the Holocaust by quietly focusing on those who survived and carry the mental scars; and Poland’s “Corpus Christi,” a fascinating character study of a convict who manages to pass himself off as a priest.

Predicted nominees:
“Corpus Christi”
“Les Miserables”
“Parasite”
“Pain and Glory”
“Those Who Remained”

Best Animated Feature
With “Toy Story 4,” “Frozen II,” “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” and “Missing Link,” American studios have produced enough well-received animation this year to almost fill the slate of nominees – or to completely fill it, if you add “Abominable” to that list. But in recent years, the nominees have virtually always included one or two smaller European or Japanese films, with the French film “I Lost My Body” being this year’s likeliest entry.

Netflix is distributing “I Lost My Body,” and the question is whether another of its animated films, “Klaus,” could find a way in as well, or whether the Japanese film “Weathering With You” could do so. It doesn’t seem likely, even given Oscar voters’ reluctance to fully embrace sequels in this category.

Predicted nominees:
“Frozen II”
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“I Lost My Body”
“Missing Link”
“Toy Story 4”

Apollo 11

Best Documentary Feature
Of the 15 documentaries on a strong shortlist, “American Factory” and “For Sama” won at the two main nonfiction film awards, the Cinema Eye Honors and the IDA Documentary Awards; they’re likely to get a chance to add an Oscar to their trophy cases. “Apollo 11,” the top-grossing doc released in 2019, should make it as well, though voters in the category haven’t always been kind to the sort of commercially successful films that could well win if they’re nominated.

With the increasingly international makeup of the Documentary Branch, the Macedonian film “Honeyland” has a strong shot at landing a nomination – and if there’s room enough for another Syrian documentaries after “For Sama,” Feras Fayyad’s “The Cave” has lots of fans. (It probably didn’t hurt that the news that Fayyad was denied entry into the U.S. broke during the voting period.)

Other possible nominees include “The Edge of Democracy,” “The Great Hack,” “One Child Nation,” “Knock Down the House” and “Midnight Family.”

Predicted nominees:
“American Factory”
“Apollo 11”
“The Cave”
“For Sama”
“Honeyland”

Best Documentary Short
There was a time when the Oscar doc-short category, with its strict 40-minute time limit, was always full of serious, issue-oriented 39-minute-and-50-second documentaries either made by HBO or acquired by the company once the shortlist came out. These days, it’s dominated by Netflix, which has four of the 10 shortlisted films. But the emphasis on serious issues continues.

The closest thing to a sure thing in an uncertain category is probably “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl),” which won the IDA Award and deals with young women in Afghanistan learning to read and write as well as skateboard. The Netflix films deal with Hurricane Maria (“After Maria”), the devastating California wildfires (“Fire in Paradise”), the radicalization of a Muslim youth (“Ghosts of Sugar Land”) and a coma-like affliction that affects refugee children (“Life Overtakes Me”); “Fire in Paradise” is a harrowing chronicle that hits close to home for Southern California voters (and Australian ones).

“St. Louis Superman” follows Ferguson activist, rapper and now Missouri state representative Bruce Franks Jr., and is one of the first films to be released by former HBO documentary chief Sheila Nevins, a titanic figure in the doc community, in her new role at MTV. And veteran documentary director and producer Laura Nix is behind the camera on “Run Walk Cha-Cha,” about a Vietnamese couple who fled their home country after the war and reinvented themselves as ballroom dancers in Southern California.

Predicted nominees:
“Fire in Paradise”
“Ghosts of Sugar Land”
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
“Run Walk Cha-Cha”
“St. Louis Superman”

Sister

Best Animated Short
Seven of the 10 shortlisted animated shorts this year are made outside the United States, with only Pixar’s touching “Kitbull,” Sony Pictures Animation’s sweet “Hair Love” and Siqi Song’s affecting “Sister” coming from U.S. based animators – and the last of those films is a stop-motion piece from a Chinese-American filmmaker who finds an imaginative way to deal with China’s one-child policy. Two other entries, the Russian film “Dcera (Daughter)” and the French “Memorable,” are also stop-motion, with the Student Academy Award winner “Dcera” particularly noteworthy for the way in which it is filmed as if it’s a live-action drama.

Canadian animator Theodore Ushev’s “The Physics of Sorrow” feels like the most monumental film on the shortlist; it uses the dramatic encaustic painting technique to tell a story that is part biography and part mythology, stretching from prehistoric days to the end of the world. It is nearly half an hour long, as is “Mind My Mind,” a Dutch film that animates the struggles of an autistic man to read social cues and begin a relationship with a young woman.

Predicted nominees:
“Dcera (Daughter)”
“Kitbull”
“Mind My Mind”
“The Physics of Sorrow”
“Sister”

Best Live-Action Short
Last year’s live-action short category was distressingly long of films about children in jeopardy – and this year’s 10-film shortlist has a couple of those as well, starting with the Cesar-winning “Little Hands,” in which a disgruntled worker kidnaps his boss’ young son. “Netfa Football Club” finds two kids becoming drug dealers, but starts with a setup amusing and ends with a comic punchline.

International films include “The Christmas Gift,” which uses a child’s letter to portray the paranoia and danger of dictator Nicolai Ceaucescu’s Romania; “Refugee,” which finds a new way to deal with the refugee crisis through a Syrian doctor; and “Saria,” in which director Bryan Buckley, best known as the king of Super Bowl commercials, deals with dozens of orphans fleeing for their freedom in Guatemala.

Two shortlisted films from the U.S. also seem right in the Academy’s sweet spot: past documentary feature and short nominee Marshall Curry’s “The Neighbors’ Window,” which starts out as a funny, sexy riff on “Rear Window” and turns richer and deeper; and Asher Jelinski’s Student Academy Award winner “Miller & Son,” which explores gender identity within the macho environment of an auto shop.

Predicted nominees:
“Little Hands”
“Miller & Son”
“Nefta Football Club”
“The Neighbors’ Window”
“Refugee”