HOLLYWOOD─There is something different about awards season for 2020 because it seems like everything has been moved up in terms of its initial air date. I mean I cannot remember when the Oscars transpired like the first week in February. I recall the ceremony years ago taking place at the end of March. So with the Golden Globes long past us, the SAG awards upon us, it’s time to predict who might see love from the ultimate prize in the entertainment industry, and who might come out short.

This year is quite different because there are indeed some shoo-ins where I don’t see any competition whatsoever. When it comes to Best Picture, I don’t have a clear favorite, this isn’t 2013 where the caliber of movies were fantastic, I couldn’t pick just one favorite. For 2019, there were good movies and some phenomenal performances, but the competition seems one-sided in most cases. We’ll focus on the BIG 6 as I call it: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor.

Let’s kick off our discussion talking about Supporting Actress. I think there are at least three virtual locks in this race: Laura Dern “Marriage Story,” Jennifer Lopez “Hustlers” and Margot Robbie “Bombshell.” Now, the last two slots are a bit dicey for me because there is plenty of competition. One name generating plenty of buzz is Scarlett Johansson for “Jojo Rabbit,” but I’m not certain the film has enough clout to push it over with Academy voters. I sense Shuzhen Zhao “The Farewell” and Florence Pugh to nab a nomination for “Little Women.”

The one category that has only one opening in my opinion is Supporting Actor. People just pencil in Brad Pitt “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Al Pacino “The Irishman,” Joe Pesci “The Irishman” and Tom Hanks “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” who will all earn nominations. That leaves ONLY 1 spot, and it’s going to be a battle. I suspect a surprise contender in this race, while many suspect Anthony Hopkins to earn a nomination for “The Two Popes,” he didn’t earn a SAG nomination, Jamie Foxx did for “Just Mercy” which makes me suspect Foxx might have an edge in this race.

Moving onto Best Actor, we have two locks in Adam Driver “Marriage Story” and Joaquin Phoenix “Joker.” I already know who should win, but that is another discussion for a later date. Some are thinking Leo is a lock for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” but I don’t agree. There are a lot of contenders for 2020, but Leo earned a SAG nomination, as did Christian Bale “Ford v. Ferrari” and Taron Egerton “Rocketman.”

Robert De Niro has been ignored for his performance in “The Irishman,” but I don’t see the Academy ignoring this titan. So expect him to fill a slot. It’s that fifth slot that has Egerton, Antonio Banderas “Pain and Glory,” Eddie Murphy “Dolemite is My Name” and Jonathan Pyrce “The Two Popes” competing for. I think Egerton has the edge, but my gut is telling me Murphy is getting a nomination. So if De Niro misses the cut expect Egerton to grab his spot with Murphy rounding out the contenders.

Best Actress is similar to Best Actor with three locks in Scarlett Johansson “Marriage Story,” Charlize Theron “Bombshell” and Renee Zellweger “Judy” all earning nominations. It’s those last two slots that will be interesting. I absolutely think Cynthia Erivo is earning a nomination for her performance in “Harriet,” but it’s that fifth slot that is quite competitive. Lupita Nyong’o earned a SAG nomination or her performance in “Us,” but has been ignored otherwise this awards season, but the actors are a big indicator of where Oscar could be heading. We have Saoirse Ronan “Little Women’ and Awkwafina for “The Farewell.” The Academy loves to deliver a surprise, so I think Awkwafina is earning that fifth nomination for her phenomenal turn in “The Farewell.”

When it comes to Best Director, Oscar is notorious and I mean notorious for always having 1-2 contenders no one ever expects, and I don’t see it being any different for 2020. Are there locks? Yes, three to be exact in Martin Scorsese “The Irishman,” Bong Joon Ho “Parasite” and Quentin Tarantino “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Those last two spots are the interesting ones. Sam Mendes is generating buzz for “1917,” but the movie has yet to hit theaters (well it opens January 10 nationwide), and with voting already over, I’m not sure how many Academy members actually saw the film.

I sense the notion that Mendes is a lock is not so certain, and I’m reserving that spot for Todd Phillips for “Joker.” What Phillips did with that movie was beyond amazing. There is one spot left, with a ton of contenders each very deserving of the prize. Noah Baumbach is high on the list for “Marriage Story” and rightfully so, and then we have Greta Gerwig for “Little Women.” I feel the pressure is on the Academy to nominate at least one woman for Best Director which might give Gerwig the edge, but I sense Lulu Wang might be a contender also for “The Farewell.” I think Gerwig is going to take a spot that may have been reserved for her hubby Baumbach.

Best Picture might be the hardest for me as I have no favorites in this race at all. As you all know, I think things should return to five contenders, but I don’t think that will ever happen. Will we have 10 nominees? No. I’m thinking somewhere between 5-7 nominees in total. If there are locks, then pencil in “Parasite,” “Marriage Story,” Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “The Irishman.” That is four nominees locked. So who are others likely to earn a nomination? “Bombshell” is a strong contender considering it earned a SAG nomination for Outstanding Ensemble. Other contenders could include “1917” which just picked up the Best Picture prize at the Golden Globes, there is also “Little Women” and the movie that she be at the top of the list, but could be a decisive one for voters is “Joker.”

I think seven nominees are the safe bet with “The Irishman,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Parasite,” “Marriage Story,” “Joker,” “Bombshell” and “1917” as the candidates for the Best Picture race. Will I be right with my predictions? Who knows, but if we do have surprises, I’m all for it because it makes things that much more fun in my opinion.