And the winners of the Golden Globes will be...

As the film awards season heats up with the Golden Globes on Sunday, Esther McCarthy assesses this year’s runners and riders.

And the winners of the Golden Globes will be...

As the film awards season heats up with the Golden Globes on Sunday, Esther McCarthy assesses this year’s runners and riders.

Can Saoirse Ronan pick up her fourth Oscar nomination for her role in Little Women? Will a foreign-language film become the first ever to win BestPicture? Can Joaquin Phoenix nab a Best Actor Oscar in one of the most competitive categories in years?

All of these questions and many more will be answered over the coming weeks as awards season reaches fever pitch. Starting with the Golden Globes on January 5, swiftly followed by the Bafta and Oscarnominations just days later, it allculminates in the biggest of them all — Oscars night on February 9.

This year’s awards race is wide open, with just a handful of movies and stars considered lockdowns for a nomination, let alone a win. Last year’s surprise Best Picture win for Green Book under the preferential ballot system (voted in order of preference rather than with a single vote) also showed that the most broadly liked, least polarising movie can win cinema’s top prize.

As awards season starts to take shape, we look at the big contenders.

Best Picture

Unlike all the other Oscars categories which feature five nominees, voters can pick up to 10 nominees, from a minimum of five, for Best Picture. This is also the only award voted under the preferential ballot system, making it a hard one to call.

The Golden Globes, voted for by about 90 members of foreign press working in Hollywood, are too often bigged up as an Oscars predictor, but they can certainly build momentum. The guilds and indeed in recent years the Baftas, can be a better indicator of who’s at the races.

A few things seem likely — Netflix is leading a strong charge this year, with expectations high that both Martin Scorsese’s epic crime drama The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s wonderful Marriage Story will contend. One to seriously watch out for is South Korean black comedy Parasite.

Following rave reviews, the top prize of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and strong box-office returns in the US and internationally, many now regard it as a shoo-in for a nomination. Some are even predicting it could be the first foreign-language film to take Best Picture.

Others possibly in the mix for Oscar’s top prize include Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, QuentinTarantino’s much admired nod to Tinseltown’s heyday (Hollywood loves films about itself).

Sam Mendes’ forthcoming 1917, which sees two young soldiers in a race against time to save thousands of their peers in the frontline in WWI, is an extraordinary film-making achievement and it would be a surprise not to see multiple nominations.

If we get more than five in the shortlist, expect to see films like Hitler satire Jojo Rabbit, dark comic-book thriller Joker, racing drama Ford Vs Ferrari and Little Women coming into the mix.

Best Director

Martin Scorsese is currently a favourite for his three-and-a-half-hour mob movie The Irishman, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can hold momentum in the coming weeks. Incredibly, the seven-times-nominated filmmaker has won only once, for 2007’s The Departed.

Others likely to be in the race include Quentin Tarantino, Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) and Sam Mendes for his impressive work on 1917. Others in the conversation include Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), Todd Phillips (Joker), Greta Gerwig (Little Women) and Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit).

Best Actress

Will Saoirse Ronan bag her fourth nomination for playing Little Women’s plucky and determined Jo March? Some regard her as a shoo-in, others think she could be squeezed out in a tight race. Worryingly for Ronan fans, she wasn’t nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award.

She was shortlisted for a Golden Globe but those awards celebrate big screen acting across two categories so have twice as many nominees.

At this point, three likely front runners are Renee Zellweger, favourite for playing Judy Garland in her latter years in Judy, Scarlett Johansson forMarriage Story and Charlize Theron for playing Meghan Kelly in Bombshell. It looks set to be a tussle between Ronan, Cynthia Erivo for Harriet, Awkwafina for The Farewell and Lupito Nyong’o for Us in theremaining places.

Best Actor

Regarded as this year’s awards-season bloodbath, with several fine performances fighting for the top five places. Robert De Niro was regarded as a certain nominee for The Irishman before his shock omission from the Screen Actors Guild shortlist, but he could recover.

Other likely nominees could include Joaquin Phoenix for Joker, Adam Driver, excellent in Marriage Story and Leo Di Caprio for his star turn in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

But a great many others deserve the nod in an awards run where some are sure to be disappointed.

Antonio Banderas, so good in Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory, should be in the running, and cases could also be made for Christian Bale (Les Mans 66), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes) and Taron Edgeton (Rocketman).

Best Supporting Actor and Actress

In this category, the Golden Globes shortlisted both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci for their fine work on The Irishman, Anthony Hopkins for The Two Popes, Tom Hanks for A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood and Brad Pitt, hilarious in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time.

Threats could come from Alan Alda’s great work on Marriage Story and Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy. And watch out for Song Kang-ho, getting raves in the momentum-gathering Parasite.

The Globes shortlisted Kathy Bates for Clint Eastwood’s forthcoming drama Richard Jewell, Annette Bening for The Report, Laura Dern, excellent as a sharky lawyer in Marriage Story, Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers and Margot Robbie in Bombshell.

The SAGs differed on two significant fronts, opting for Nicole Kidman over Robbie in Bombshell, and Scarlett Johansson over Bates for Jojo Rabbit.

If Johansson gets nominated in both female acting categories in the Oscars, she’ll be the first to do so in the same year since Cate Blanchett in 2007.

Best Screenplays

The Oscars, unlike the Golden Globes, divides its screenplay categories into Original and Adapted works, which means there are 10 places up for grabs.

In Original Screenplay, Baumbach’s Marriage Story is currently a narrow favourite over Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time, with both likely to feature through awards season. Others in the mix include Parasite, The Farewell, Pain and Glory, Knives Out and 1917.

In Adapted Screenplay, only The Irishman looks like a lock-in, with several others jostling for positions that should become clearer in the coming days. They include Jojo Rabbit, The Two Popes, Little Women, Joker, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.

Best Cinematography

Ireland’s Robbie Ryan is certainly in with a shout for his work on Marriage Story, with the Hollywood Reporterciting him as “a major threat” for an Oscar nomination.

Growing awards-season love for the film could boost his chances in what is always a very crowded field.

The legendary Roger Deakins looks like the one to beat for his excellent work on the great-looking 1917. Others in the running include Once Upon a Time, The Irishman, Joker and Le Mans 66.

The Golden Globes take place onSunday; highlights on RTÉ2 on Monday

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