April 24, 2021
TRUENEWSBLOG – “Nomadland” has won nearly every major award this season, including top honors from the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild and the Golden Globes. By all accounts, this Frances McDormand road drama should be able to steamroll its way to the Oscars for best picture.
Then again, “1917” took the same prizes last year and still lost at the Oscars to “Parasite.” Could “Nomadland” find its charmed voyage cut short, too?
Let’s look at the would-be insurgents. For many voters, “Promising Young Woman” is playing much like “Parasite” — it’s fresh and contemporary, tackles an important issue with a dark sense of humor, and ends in a way that demands conversation. There’s also “Minari,” which showed across-the-board strength similar to “Nomadland” and “Promising Young Woman”: In addition to nominations for best picture and directing, each of those three movies got nods for its screenplay, editing, and at least one member of its cast.
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” won the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild, but I’m still iffy on its best-picture chances: Aaron Sorkin couldn’t land a directing nomination, and the film isn’t assured of a win in any other category. (Only three films have ever won best picture without picking up another Oscar first, and the last one was 1935’s “Mutiny on the Bounty.”)
If any contender can sneak past “Nomadland,” I think it would be “Promising Young Woman.” But the field is so diffuse that ultimately, I think the front-runner will hold.
No matter what happens in the best-picture category, I still expect the “Nomadland” director Zhao to win this Oscar after collecting every major directing prize this season, including the bellwether Directors Guild Award. It also helps that Zhao has a giant Marvel movie, “Eternals,” coming out in several months: That’s the sort of meteoric rise to A-list director that Oscar voters want to feel they helped facilitate. Zhao would become only the second woman to win the best-director Oscar, after Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), and the first woman of color to ever take this trophy.
Chadwick Boseman, with Michael Potts, left, and Colman Domingo, is the front-runner for best actor.
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
✓Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Gary Oldman, “Mank”
Steven Yeun, “Minari”
The dementia drama “The Father” is peaking at the right time, and the 83-year-old Hopkins delivers a titanic performance that could win votes at the last minute. Still, Hopkins already has an Oscar, and it’s hard to imagine voters won’t seize their only opportunity to give one to Boseman for a flashy role that showcased the late actor’s immense range.
Viola Davis won the Screen Actors Guild Award for “Ma Rainey.”
✓Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”
Of the four acting categories, this is almost certainly the closest race. McDormand leads the season’s strongest contender, but she has already won two best-actress Oscars and voters may not feel compelled to dole out a third so soon. Mulligan has never won an Oscar but is considered one of the greatest actresses of her generation, and her film is the category’s most talked-about entry. And then there’s Davis, the Screen Actors Guild winner, who won a supporting-actress Oscar four years ago for “Fences.” Of these three actresses, Davis has the most physically transformative role, and that sort of thing is catnip for voters. I’m projecting her to win in a squeaker.
Best Supporting Actor
Look for Daniel Kaluuya to win for his “Judas and the Black Messiah” performance.
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.”
The Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA victor Kaluuya will win this Oscar in a walk for his fiery, charismatic performance as the Black Panther activist Fred Hampton. Yes, there’s the possibility he’ll split a few votes with his co-star Stanfield, and yes, it’s utterly illogical that voters deemed them both to be supporting actors, but there’s ultimately no denying what Kaluuya has accomplished here. (And we can consider it a make-good for his should-have-been-nominated performance in “Widows”!)
Best Supporting Actress
Yuh-Jung Youn in “Minari” won the SAG and BAFTA honors.
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”
Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
✓Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”
Just a few weeks ago, this felt like anybody’s race, but after Youn won the SAG Award for playing the feisty grandma in “Minari” — and especially after she made a charming BAFTA acceptance speech that lightly tweaked the British voters for being “very snobbish people” — she’s assumed the pole position. The downside of what could be one of the night’s warmest wins is that her competitor Close is about to face her eighth acting loss, tying the record. Is it time to give the 74-year-old actress an honorary Oscar?
Carey Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman,” which could end up with a screenplay Oscar.
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
✓“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
This category is filled with first-time nominees and then there’s Aaron Sorkin, who’s been nominated four times for his screenplays and won once, for “The Social Network.” That’s a hard competitor to knock off, but Emerald Fennell just managed it: At the Writers Guild Awards, her screenplay for “Promising Young Woman” beat out Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Voters appreciate nerve in the original-screenplay category and Fennell’s story has undoubtedly got that, so while this race will be close, I project her to triumph in the end.
“The Father,” starring Anthony Hopkins, has surged among voters and could win a screenplay Oscar.
Sean Gleason/Sony Pictures Classics, via Associated Press
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
“One Night in Miami”
“The White Tiger”
The best-picture winner almost always wins a screenplay award first, so the safe bet here would be “Nomadland.” Still, I think the late surge for “The Father” will ultimate pay off in this category: The wily way “The Father” scripts its story to keep you off balance registers as a writing achievement in a way that the semi-improvised “Nomadland” can’t quite manage.
Pixar has performed strongly at the Oscars over the years and its “Soul” may be no exception.
“Over the Moon”
“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon”
The plucky “Wolfwalkers” has plenty of support in the industry, but “Soul” managed additional Oscar nominations for its score and sound, and was also close to nabbing an original-screenplay slot. A nominated Pixar film rarely falters in this category, so a happy afterlife for “Soul” is virtually guaranteed.
Period films like “Mank,” starring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman, often do well in this category.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“News of the World”
Films set in the modern day or the future very rarely take this award, a strike against the clever staging of “The Father” and the day-after-tomorrow sci-fi of “Tenet.” Among the other three contenders, “Mank” is the only best-picture nominee — another key advantage — and the film’s re-creation of golden-age Hollywood is maximal and expensive-looking in the way Oscar voters like to reward.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” has the momentum in this category.
✓“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
The costume-design winner is usually the period movie with the most frocks, which ought to favor “Emma” and its eye-catching collection of macaron-colored dresses. But the movie hasn’t picked up many prizes this season. Instead, all the momentum is with “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which outfits Davis and Boseman with such memorable panache. Should it triumph, the 89-year-old costume designer Ann Roth will become the oldest woman to ever win an Oscar.
Frances McDormand, left, and David Strathairn in “Nomadland,” with cinematography by Joshua James Richards.
Sean Bobbitt, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Erik Messerschmidt, “Mank”
Dariusz Wolski, “News of the World”
✓Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”
Phedon Papamichael, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Mank” is Erik Messerschmidt’s first feature-film credit, and it’s a dazzling debut made in very showy black and white. But over the last five decades, only two black-and-white films have scored victories in this category: “Schindler’s List,” which won best picture, and “Roma,” which came awfully close. Since “Mank” now feels like a best-picture also-ran, I expect this award will go to the front-runner, “Nomadland,” with its expressive collection of cool dawns and warm sunsets in the American West.
Riz Ahmed in “Sound of Metal,” which is up for best editing.
“Promising Young Woman”
✓“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Sound of Metal” took this award at BAFTA, which surprised me, given how subtle and unflashy its editing is: Did Riz Ahmed’s heavy-metal drummer remind voters of “Whiplash,” a much more vigorously cut Oscar winner? If that’s the case, “Sound of Metal” could sneak away with the Oscar, too, though the constant crosscutting of “The Trial of the Chicago 7” calls so much attention to itself that it can’t be counted out.
Makeup and Hairstyling
The makeup and hairstyling experts on “Ma Rainey” made Viola Davis look as we haven’t seen her before.
✓“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
In other tech categories, more is better, but not here: To win the makeup and hairstyling Oscar, you can get away with just a single character makeover that resonates. (Think of when “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which put Tilda Swinton in old-age makeup, won over the vast and plentiful alien looks of “Guardians of the Galaxy.”) “Hillbilly Elegy” does a good job of weathering Glenn Close, but the film is too derided to win. The front-runner here is “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which gives you a Viola Davis you’ve never seen before: sweaty and swaggering, with her eyes encased in dark makeup, her skin and gold teeth both glistening.
Sound is the subject of “Sound of Metal,” making it a likely winner here.
Amazon Studios, via Associated Press
“News of the World”
✓“Sound of Metal”
This is perhaps the night’s most slam-dunk winner. “Sound of Metal” is all about the main character’s relationship to sound, from the aural assault of the heavy metal he plays to the more subtle sonic vibrations picked up as his hearing begins to fade. That puts the movie a significant cut above its meticulously assembled competition.
Elizabeth Debicki and John David Washington in “Tenet.”
“Love and Monsters”
“The Midnight Sky”
“The One and Only Ivan”
Since most of the effects-heavy blockbusters were pushed back a year because of the pandemic, this category was filled out with lower-profile films like “Love and Monsters” and “The One and Only Ivan.” That clears the field for “Tenet”: Yes, Christopher Nolan’s action sequences were a bit confusing, but you can’t quibble with the incredible craft required to bring them to life.
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste worked on the music for “Soul.”
“Da 5 Bloods”
“News of the World”
The composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are double-nominated in this category: Though they worked on the nomination leader “Mank,” their best shot at winning is the jazz-inflected “Soul,” which they scored with Jon Batiste. The fact that the film is about a musician will give “Soul” the edge.
Leslie Odom Jr. composed “Speak Now” for “One Night in Miami” as well as co-starring in the film.
“Husavik” (“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”)
“Fight for You” (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
“Io Sì (Seen)” (“The Life Ahead”)
✓“Speak Now” (“One Night in Miami”)
“Hear My Voice” (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”).
Look, it’s not a sterling year for the best-song category. There’s no megastar here on the level of the last two winners, Elton John and Lady Gaga, nor is there even a radio hit or an inescapable Disney banger.
Four of these nominees don’t even play until the end credits — and in the streaming era, are people really staying put through the end credits? That could give the edge to “Husavik,” which is actually performed during its movie … but that movie is a Will Ferrell comedy called “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” a title that doesn’t exactly scream prestige. So I’ll go with the safe bet: “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami,” performed by the supporting-actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr.
“My Octopus Teacher” has been a fan favorite on Netflix.
“The Mole Agent”
✓“My Octopus Teacher”
A man, his octopus and an Oscar? The unlikely duo at the heart of “My Octopus Teacher” may find their bond consecrated with an Academy Award, as both BAFTA and PGA voters went big for this nature documentary, vaulting it over more acclaimed films like “Time” and “Crip Camp.”
Mads Mikkelsen in “Another Round,” from the best-director nominee Thomas Vinterberg.
✓“Another Round,” Denmark
“Better Days,” Hong Kong
“The Man Who Sold His Skin,” Tunisia
“Quo Vadis, Aida?” Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The shattering war film “Quo Vadis, Aida?” deserved more awards attention, like some best-actress recognition for its powerful lead, Jasna Duricic. But the well-liked Danish dramedy “Another Round,” with a recognizable star in Mads Mikkelsen and a directing nomination for Thomas Vinterberg, will be hard to beat in this category.
“If Anything Happens I Love You” is about the aftermath of a school shooting.
✓“If Anything Happens I Love You”
In a field that’s mostly dominated by wordless, whimsical shorts, “If Anything Happens I Love You” stands out by virtue of its thematic heft: It’s about two parents grieving the daughter who perished in a school shooting. It also doesn’t hurt that the film is available on Netflix and lists the Oscar winner Laura Dern as an executive producer.
Colette Marin-Catherine, the star of the documentary short named after her.
“A Concerto Is a Conversation”
“Do Not Split”
“A Love Song for Latasha”
Some pundits favor “A Concerto Is a Conversation,” a warm story about the composer Kris Bowers and his grandfather (the film premiered on the New York Times site as part of Op-Docs), or “A Love Song for Latasha,” about a Black teenager killed the year before the Los Angeles riots.
“Hunger Ward,” about starving children in Yemen, may be too harrowing for voters, while “Do Not Split,” with its you-are-there footage of recent protests in Hong Kong, has got to be the most galvanizing. Still, I predict the winner will be “Colette,” a tear-jerker about an elderly woman visiting the World War II concentration camp where her brother died:
Historically, you don’t want to bet against an Oscar nominee that involves the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.
Joey Bada$$, left, and Andrew Howard in “Two Distant Strangers.”
“The Letter Room”
✓“Two Distant Strangers”
It’s still outrageous that the year’s best short film, Pedro Almodóvar’s fabulous Tilda Swinton psychodrama “The Human Voice,” wasn’t even nominated in this category. Among the shorts that did make it through, “The Letter Room” boasts star power in lead Oscar Isaac (it’s directed by his wife, Elvira Lind), but the front-runner here is “Two Distant Strangers,” about a Black man trapped in a “Groundhog Day” scenario where he is killed over and over by a white cop. Though the movie has kicked up a small backlash online — a Los Angeles Times article called it “Black trauma porn” — voters often gravitate toward blunt shorts about big issues.–