Oscars 2021: Academy Award preview and predictions | Pittsburgh City Paper

Oscars 2021: Academy Award preview and predictions

click to enlarge Oscars 2021: Academy Award preview and predictions
Photo: David Lee/NETFLIX
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
We’ve had many milestones recently on the path back to normalcy. But one stands out among them all: the return of celebrities congratulating each other for truly incomprehensible amounts of time. That’s right, the Oscars are BACK.

In all seriousness, like all industries, it was a strange and subpar year for movies. As you’ll read in any Oscars preview this year, there were a ton of films that got delayed, stuck in limbo, or even worse in 2020 which means the slate of movies nominated for the Academy Awards on Sun., April 25 is just not the banner crop you’d see in a normal year.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a bunch of interesting films here. And I’d know because I’ve tried to watch as many of them as humanly possible. So let’s try and pick all of them, shall we? I’m not reinventing the wheel here. Below are the nominees, who I think will win, and then who I think should win. Oh, and stay 'til the end for an added bonus: our very own Pittsburgh-themed category. Ok, onto the picks:

Best Picture

• The Father
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Judas and the Black Messiah

Who Will Win: Nomadland. This hasn’t been a year with a dominant front runner in the Best Picture race, but it seems as though Nomadland’s quiet, lived in story is pulling away from the rest of the pack. Mank, Minari, and Promising Young Woman are all seemingly still in play, with the main question here being whether Nomadland can fend off the inevitable frontrunner backlash (in this case for being too kind to Amazon).
Who Should Win: Judas and the Black Messiah. I would be fine with a Nomadland victory. But in a year so defined by the simmering racial tension in America turning into a furious boil, Judas feels like the film that best tied those themes together, all while just being a damn good character study and history lesson.

click to enlarge Oscars 2021: Academy Award preview and predictions
Photo: 20th Century Studios
Frances McDormand and director/writer Chloé Zhao on the set of Nomadland

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round)
David Fincher (Mank)
Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)
Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)
Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)

Who Will Win: Chloe Zhao. At the helm of the Best Picture favorite, and guiding the movie with massive amounts of nuance, it’s looking like Zhao will win this, becoming the first woman of color and only the second woman to take home the trophy overall.
Who Should Win: Zhao. Fincher is a master and was just as meticulous and interesting as ever, but Zhao’s restraint and feel for her characters in this movie is deserving of being rewarded.

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
Gary Oldman (Mank)
Steven Yeun (Minari)

Who Will Win: Chadwick Boseman. The easiest call of the night. Not to undersell his stunning turn as the ambitious, furious, and funny trumpeter Levee Green, but this will be an award dedicated to a brilliant actor who gave an entire generation of fans someone to look up to, and someone who battled like hell until his last day. This is a shoo-in, and it should be.
Who Should Win: Boseman. All the things said above apply, I just want to also give love to Riz Ahmed, who has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most interesting stars and beautifully carries Sound of Metal.

Best Actress

Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Andra Day (The United States v. Billie Holiday)
Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)
Frances McDormand (Nomadland)
Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Who Will Win: Carey Mulligan. This might be the closest race of any of the major categories. If McDormand hadn’t won so recently, and if Nomadland wasn’t running through so many other categories, she’d be a lock. But it feels like the winds are shifting towards Mulligan, who has to carry a very tough role of someone seeking vengeance for sexual assault.
Who Should Win: Frances McDormand. Listen, I’ll fully confess that I have an irrational love for McDormand as an actress and that skews my perception. But I really believe hers was the best performance here, fully embodying an extremely challenging character without ever having to become gimmicky or “too much.”

Best Supporting Actor

Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)
Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)
Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah)

Who Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya. This one kind of feels like cheating honestly, considering Kaluuya’s performance is absolutely a leading turn, and there’s no real good reason he wasn’t included in the Leading Actor category. But since he’s here, his fiery, spot-on, and complex portrayal of Fred Hampton is rightfully going to get its praise.
Who Should Win: Paul Raci. Honestly, this is a really strong category, so I wouldn’t have gripes with anyone. But Raci’s out-of-nowhere performance as the quiet, kind leader of a deaf community in the wilderness ... with respect to Kaluuya, this is the type of performance the Supporting Actor category is made for. Raci is someone who you don’t see coming who makes every scene he’s in pop.

click to enlarge Oscars 2021: Academy Award preview and predictions
Photo: Netflix
Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies in Mank

Best Supporting Actress

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)
Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)
Olivia Colman (The Father)
Amanda Seyfried (Mank)
Yuh-jung Youn (Minari)

Who Will Win: Yuh-jung Youn. This is another one that seems really up in the air, but I’m going with Youn here for her performance as the matriarch in Minari, a movie that it feels like the Academy will try and reward in at least one category and may get shut out in some others.
Who Should Win: Amanda Seyfried. It feels incredible that we’re at the point of figuring out whether Mank will score any wins after months of inevitability for Oscar dominance. But this is a category where it feels like the tides turning is undeserved, as Seyfried surprised viewers with a career best performance. She was witty, smart, and nuanced as Marlon Davies, and is still worth highlighting.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad
The Father, Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
One Night in Miami, Kemp Powers
The White Tiger, Ramin Bahrani

Who Will Win: Nomadland. The hot streak continues. One Night in Miami felt like it was gaining some traction, as the Oscars love a good self-contained story where famous people gather around discussing important topics. But the consensus still seems to be leaning towards Nomadland’s simple, honest conversations.
Who Should Win: I’m Thinking of Ending Things. I’m cheating here, and I don’t care, because the best film of the year didn’t get nominated for a single Oscar, so it’s winning one in my hypothetical. Charlie Kaufman’s latest was the perfect 2020 film: surreal, closed off, deeply unhappy, and lost in its own thoughts. It was the best screenplay of the year even if it wasn't really nominated.

Best Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah. Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas
Minari, Lee Isaac Chung
Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell
Sound of Metal. Screenplay by Darius Marder, Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Aaron Sorkin

Who Will Win: Promising Young Woman. Predicting that the Academy is going to go against an Aaron Sorkin script feels strongly like sacrilege. But the momentum is on Promising Young Woman, which took a very sensitive topic and made it, for lack of a better word, entertaining? It gets a little schlocky at times, but it deftly handles its subject matter, and feels like the winner here.
Who Should Win: Palm Springs. Cheating again here. Don’t care again. The most original script of the year came from one of the most tried and true concepts: the Groundhog Day. Palm Springs takes this concept and once again, makes it feel so relevant, injecting boredom and nihilism of doing the same thing with creativity and humor. Even if it, again, wasn't nominated.

Best Cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah, Sean Bobbitt
Mank, Erik Messerschmidt
News of the World, Dariusz Wolski
Nomadland, Joshua James Richards
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Phedon Papamichael

Who Will Win: Nomadland
Who Should Win: Mank

click to enlarge Oscars 2021: Academy Award preview and predictions
Image: Disney/Pixar

Best Animated Feature

Onward (Pixar)
Over the Moon (Netflix)
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix)
Soul (Pixar)
Wolfwalkers (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Who Will Win: Soul
Who Should Win: Soul

Best Original Song

• “Fight for You,” (Judas and the Black Messiah). Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas
• “Hear My Voice,” (The Trial of the Chicago 7). Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite
• “Húsavík,” (Eurovision Song Contest). Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson
• “Io Si (Seen),” (The Life Ahead). Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
• “Speak Now,” (One Night in Miami). Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

Who Will Win: “Speak Now”
Who Should Win: “Fight For You”

Best Original Score

Da 5 Bloods, Terence Blanchard
Mank, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Minari, Emile Mosseri
News of the World, James Newton Howard
Soul, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste

Who Will Win: Soul
Who Should Win: Soul

click to enlarge Oscars 2021: Academy Award preview and predictions
Photo: Amazon Studios
Sound of Metal

Best Sound

Greyhound, Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman
Mank, Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin
News of the World, Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett
Soul, Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker
Sound of Metal, Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh

Who Will Win: Sound of Metal
Who Should Win: Sound of Metal

Best Costume Design

Emma, Alexandra Byrne
Mank, Trish Summerville
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Ann Roth
Mulan, Bina Daigeler
Pinocchio, Massimo Cantini Parrini

Who Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Who Should Win: Emma

Best Animated Short Film

Burrow (Disney Plus/Pixar)
Genius Loci (Kazak Productions)
If Anything Happens I Love You (Netflix)
Opera (Beasts and Natives Alike)
Yes-People (CAOZ hf. Hólamói)

Who Will Win: If Anything Happens I Love You
Who Should Win: If Anything Happens I Love You

Best Live Action Short Film

Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers
White Eye

Who Will Win: The Letter Room
Who Should Win: Feeling Through

Best Documentary Feature

Collective, Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana
Crip Camp, Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht and Sara Bolder
The Mole Agent, Maite Alberdi and Marcela Santibáñez
My Octopus Teacher, Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster
Time, Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino and Kellen Quinn

Who Will Win: Time
Who Should Win: Time

Best Documentary Short

Colette, Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard
A Concerto Is a Conversation, Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers
Do Not Split, Anders Hammer and Charlotte Cook
Hunger Ward, Skye Fitzgerald and Michael Scheuerman
A Love Song for Latasha, Sophia Nahli Allison and Janice Duncan

Who Will Win: A Love Song for Latasha
Who Should Win: A Concerto is a Conversation

Best Film Editing

The Father, Yorgos Lamprinos
Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
Promising Young Woman, Frédéric Thoraval
Sound of Metal, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Alan Baumgarten

Who Will Win: Sound of Metal
Who Should Win: Sound of Metal

Best International Feature Film

Another Round (Denmark)
Better Days (Hong Kong)
Collective (Romania)
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Who Will Win: Another Round
Who Should Win: Another Round

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Emma, Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze
Hillbilly Elegy, Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, Matthew Mungle
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson
Mank, Kimberley Spiteri, Gigi Williams, Colleen LaBaff
Pinocchio, Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, Francesco Pegoretti

Who Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Who Should Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Production Design

• The Father. Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone
• Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton
• Mank. Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale
• News of the World. Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan
• Tenet. Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

Who Will Win: Mank
Who Should Win: Mank

Best Visual Effects

Love and Monsters, Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox
The Midnight Sky, Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins
Mulan, Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram
The One and Only Ivan, Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez
Tenet, Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher

Who Will Win: Tenet
Who Should Win: Tenet

Most Pittsburgh Film of 2020

An American Pickle
• Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
• Happiest Season
• I’m Your Woman

Winner: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I thought about going Happiest Season here, as it is the only one that’s specifically set in Pittsburgh and references the city multiple times (and is a sneaky fun holiday rom-com). But Ma Rainey is too strong, both in its quality and how it uses the charms of Pittsburgh’s old buildings to craft a great vision of 1920’s Chicago. A Primanti’s and IC to you, Ma Rainey.