Though the numbers may be against them, by now, we shouldn’t be too surprised if these contenders in top categories are called out during the nominations announcement.
Here are the top five most jaw-dropping inclusions that might conceivably happen:
#5: Steve Carell (“Battle of the Sexes”) in Best Supporting Actor
Have we been underestimating Steve Carell this whole time? A past Best Actor nominee for “Foxcatcher” (2014), Carell has contended at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Critics Choice Awards for his showy performance as tennis pro Bobby Riggs in “Battle of the Sexes.” True, the fact that he competed as a lead at the Globes and as a supporting actor at SAG could cause some category confusion (just ask Hugh Grant from “Florence Foster Jenkins”).
But Carell might just be popular enough to overcome it, despite being ranked way down in 27th place in our predictions with 100/1 odds.
#4: Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”) in Best Supporting Actress
So far the only major group to nominate Lesley Manville for playing Daniel Day-Lewis‘s possessive sister in “Phantom Thread” has been BAFTA, and that may just be the Brits sticking up for one of their own. She competed there before for her film role in “Another Year” in 2010 and for TV roles in “River” in 2016 and “Mum” in 2017.
On the other hand, it could be a sign of things to come. We know voters are already watching the film because it’s (supposedly) Day-Lewis’s final performance.
Manville could be that classic coattail supporting nominee like Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart,” 2009) or Tom Hardy (“The Revenant,” 2015). They were carried to nominations on the Jeff Bridgesand Leonardo DiCaprio Best Actor bandwagons, respectively. But Manville currently holds seventh place odds of 66/1.
#3: Diane Kruger (“In the Fade”) in Best Actress
After winning Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, Diane Kruger looked like a dark horse Oscar contender for “In the Fade.” Yet she’s been conspicuously absent from several awards ceremonies despite her film’s victories at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
Can she bounce back from her 17th place odds of 100/1? If recent history is any indication, she most certainly can. Look no further than Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour,” 2012), Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night,” 2014), and Isabelle Huppert (“Elle,” 2016) to find proof that the academy loves to recognize international actresses. Cotillard, in fact, won this prize for “La Vie en Rose” in 2007, so while a victory may be out of reach for Kruger, a nomination certainly isn’t.
#2: Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”) in Best Director
Is Sean Baker more of a threat than we think? After winning the New York Film Critics Circle Award for “The Florida Project” the indie auteur fell off the map, missing at the Globes, BAFTA, Critics Choice, and DGA Awards. Now he’s barely hanging on in ninth place with 100/1 odds.
But like past surprise nominees Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of No Nation,” 2012) and Lenny Abrahamson (“Room,” 2015), Baker may impress the directors branch by helming a film centered on a young child.
#1: “Mudbound” in Best Picture
Will this be the year the Oscars finally recognize Netflix? If any film can do it, it’s Dee Rees‘s period epic “Mudbound.” Despite being a strong contender for Best Supporting Actress (Mary J. Blige), Best Adapted Screenplay (Rees and Virgil Williams), Best Cinematography, and Best Song, the film is currently outside of our top 10 for Best Picture. It trails in 12th place with odds of 66/1.
However, if there’s one thing to glean from its SAG Award bid for its ensemble cast, it’s that actors really like this movie. And the influx of new voters in the academy over the last few years may include several who don’t mind watching a film for the first time via a streaming service.
Be sure to check out how our experts rank Oscar contenders in this and the other top races. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other categories. Then take a look at the most up-to-date odds before you make make your Oscar nomination predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.