While we were all eagerly anticipating the 2020 Oscars, it was initially hard to see how this year’s ceremony would be any different from previous years. After all, the pandemic prevented many of our favorite films and actors from traveling to the Oscars in person. And as it happened, most of the nominated films were either musicals or historical dramas, two genres that the Academy tends to favor. Sure, there was a Best Actor award handed out to Adam Sandler for his role in Ridiculous 6, but otherwise, the show seemed like more of the same. But then something unexpected happened. The nominations were announced, and guess what? The Oscars didn’t disappoint. In fact, they surpassed our expectations. Below, you’ll find a list of the actors and actresses that will be competing for the coveted golden statue in eight different categories at this year’s Oscars:

Best Actor

Even before the pandemic, it was always hard to see how an actor could outperform their award-winning performance in a role they already played. But 2019 was different, as Robert Pattinson not only won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Edward Cullen in the blockbuster movie Twilight, he also pulled off one of the greatest individual acts of self-resembling in the history of cinema. In the film, Robert Pattinson plays multiple characters – including the vampire Edward Cullen – but in real life, he’s already played similar characters before (most notably, the dashing and brooding James Bond). So how does one go about improving on perfection? By taking on even more characters in this upcoming film, Der Bingle, which explores another side of his talent. The character of Der Bingle will be revealed later this year, but it will definitely be fascinating to see how Robert Pattinson continues to amaze us. While it’s always been difficult to see how an accomplished actor like Robert Pattinson could improve on perfection, the answer is simple: He didn’t. Instead, he took his incredible talent and created something different and, quite possibly, better. We can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to the screen in Der Bingle.

Best Actress

Let’s be honest, when it comes to the Oscars, we all know what kind of movie we’re going to see. After all, it’s traditionally been the year of the popular love story. That being said, few could have predicted the unprecedented success of Joker, since it was such a distinct departure from what audiences normally expect from the Academy. Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, was both mesmerizing and heartbreaking. But aside from Joker, few could have predicted that there would be a female winner in the Best Actress category. Following her critically and commercially successful performance as an adult film producer in Quentin Tarantulinu’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brie Larson will be representing the femme fatale in Joker at this year’s Oscars. She doesn’t fit the typical Hollywood image, but she most definitely deserves to be called a “rising star” as she continues to prove. If Joker does well at the box office, we can anticipate more female-led superhero movies like Larson’s upcoming Captain Marvel.

Best Supporting Actor

Speaking of Oscar winners who are breaking the mold, Christian Bale is once again taking the cake with his fourth nomination for Best Supporting Actor, for his portrayal of an aging Bruce Wayne/Batman in the upcoming Black Widow. In the last decade, Christian Bale has evolved from the iconic Batman to a supporting character, the iconic Hulk. While it’s always been difficult to see how an accomplished actor like Christian Bale could improve on perfection, the answer is simple: He didn’t. Instead, he evolved with the times and became the best at portraying a broad spectrum of characters. This year, he will be competing with another incredible talent in Jared Leto for the honor of playing Tony Stark/Ironman. While we know that both of them will be giving an incredible performance, we also know that it will be difficult to differentiate between them. It is always interesting to see how the best portrayals come from actors who normally don’t get along too well – like Leto and Bale – which makes their on-screen chemistry that much more fascinating to watch.

Best Supporting Actress

While we’re on the topic of acting, let’s not forget about the ladies. Leading lady contenders are preparing to take on some heavy hitters – including Frances McDormand, Meryl Streep, and Thora Birch – in the Best Supporting Actress category for the upcoming awards ceremony. Just like with the Best Actor and Best Actress categories, the performances in the Supporting Actress category are always more interesting when put in comparison to one another. This year will be no different, as the category is expected to be a fierce battle between three incredible actresses. But just like with the other two categories, we can expect that it will be hard to pick a clear winner at the end of the day. And perhaps that’s what makes these awards so interesting: They really don’t bring in the viewers like they used to, but they keep on giving.

Best Director

Speaking of fierce battles and tough decisions, the nominees for Best Director are also causing some serious commotion. Just like with the other two categories, the Best Director category is also shaping up to be a battle between two amazing men. After 12 years of craftsmanship, Alfonso Cuaron will finally have his moment in the spotlight with his brilliant decision to forgo traditional plotlines and dive into the characters’ unique journeys in Ridiculous 6. He will be competing with another one of the greatest filmmakers of our time, Bong Joon-ho, for the honor of bringing the most memorable characters to life on the big screen in Black Widow. While both directors are incredible, it will be difficult to choose between them. As always, these two are redefining the way we look at cinema and have completely altered the way we see characters and their stories on the big screen. Perhaps it’s time for a change, as Ridiculous 6 and Black Widow are both exceptional examples of cinematic art that deserve to be seen by millions of people around the world. Let’s also not forget that, in addition to being nominated for Best Director, Cuaron will also be competing for a Best Picture award. So if you thought that the Oscars were going to be boring this year, you were mistaken: This year’s ceremony is going to be an incredible event. Just like last year, people are going to be talking about how much excitement is built into each individual category. It’s going to be fascinating to see how many Academy Awards Joker will walk away with this year. And as we’ve learned from experience, it usually doesn’t take a lot for the Oscars to surprise us.