If it’s February, it must be Awards Season. But that’s actually something new: The traditional string of awards shows, from the Golden Globes to the Oscars (and everyone’s favorite Movies for Grownups Awards!), used to kick off in January, but this year it’s different (like everything else in life, it seems). First, top awards shows delayed their ceremonies and broadcasts by weeks or months, praying that COVID would relent. The Palm Springs Film Festival, crucial to promoting foreign Oscar hopefuls, was canceled. The Golden Globes “happened” but were not on TV (although in this case owing to the organization’s ethical scandals, not COVID). It’s feared the Oscars broadcast, scheduled for March 27, will even underperform last year’s all-time, COVID-driven low of 10.4 million viewers (the show’s high-water mark was 55 million in 1998 — the year of Titanic).
But the shows must go on, and there’s still plenty of awards drama to get excited about. Here’s a guide to the big awards coming up and who’s apt to win. And if you watch the contenders, you’ll be the winner.
Feb. 26: NAACP Image Awards
Why they’re important: At a time of horrible news, the biggest change for the good in Hollywood is the rise of Black talent (and about time). The Image Awards are a good way to track who’s hottest in movies and TV.
Our critics predict: Netflix wins! It has the most nominations — 52 — including The Harder They Fall, Passing, Bruised, The Upshaws and Maid. But Judas and the Black Messiah and King Richard are likeliest for outstanding motion picture and the show’s host, Anthony Anderson, for outstanding actor in a comedy series (the must-see black-ish).
When: Feb. 26, 8 p.m. ET on BET
Feb. 27: Screen Actors Guild Awards
Why they’re important: The members of the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA definitely influence the Oscar voters, and their ensemble award helps predict the best picture nominees. They cover both TV and film. Kevin Costner’s smash hit Yellowstone, whose popularity arose mostly in America’s heartland, was mostly ignored by coastal showbiz powers, but SAG nominated it.
Our critics predict: Squid Game, Yellowstone or Succession for TV; House of Gucci, CODA or Belfast for film. But our favorite is Helen Mirren, who is already announced as the winner of the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award.
March 6: Film Independent Spirit Awards
Why they’re important: The only awards show that happens in a big tent on the Santa Monica beach, it’s the one that keeps grownup-beloved indie films in the limelight (including the Oscar limelight). And for the second year in a row, all but one of the best feature nominees are by women: A Chiara, The Lost Daughter, The Novice and Zola. (C’mon C’mon is directed by Mike Mills, who also helmed 20th Century Women.)
Our critics predict: Zola has the most nominations — seven — which makes us think it’s got some serious upside. And Mass has already been announced as winner of this year’s Robert Altman Award for best ensemble cast.
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March 18: AARP Movies for Grownups Awards
Why they’re important: Since 2002, AARP has recognized movies (and now also TV shows) by and for folks over 50 — maybe that’s partly why today five of the 10 all-time top-grossing actors are over 50. “It’s a vital stop on the awards-season circuit,” says top Hollywood awards strategist Lea Yardum of Perception PR. The Los Angeles Times rated Movies for Grownups one of its “favorite ceremonies of award season.” Grownup fave Alan Cumming hosts the awards for the second time this year.
Our critics predict: Definitely Lily Tomlin, the comedian who makes you think and winner of AARP’s top honor, the career achievement award. As for the rest of the nominees, it’s up to you to make your bets! Check the full list here.
When: March 18, 9 p.m. ET on PBS Great Performances in a 20th anniversary special (check local listings), pbs.org/moviesforgrownups and the PBS Video app.
March 27: The Academy Awards
Why they’re important: Grownups over 50 are the core audience for the kinds of movies that deserve awards, and the Oscars are crucial to getting them an audience so that art-house, indie and non-superhero movies can survive.
When: Nominations are announced with fanfare Feb. 8. The Oscar telecast is March 27, 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
April 3: Grammy Awards
Why they’re important: Grammys are to music what Oscars are to film, even though they cause even more grumbling by fans of all ages and don’t recognize anywhere near enough grownup talents — who have never been more prominent in the music biz than they are today, partly thanks to algorithms that favor older artists.
Our critics predict: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga for their Cole Porter album Love for Sale. He’s the oldest artist (at 95 years, 57 days) ever to release an album of new material but only the second-oldest Grammy nominee, after bluesman Pinetop Perkins, whose Joined at the Hip album won when he was 97.
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.