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Oscar 2021 Predictions: Who will win and what surprises are in store

April 22, 2021

We are coming down the home stretch.  It felt like the never-ending awards season and yet, here we are.   We saw some surprises over the weekend with Mank topping Nomadland at the American Society of Cinematographers and Greyhound and Trial of the Chicago 7 beating out Sound Of Metal at the Motion Pictures Sound Editor’s awards.  While I do not believe this will have any effect on the Best Picture category, it can help predict some of the other categories.   Below are some of my predictions for this year’s Oscars.  Enjoy, comment, debate, because no one knows what will happen!

BEST PICTURE
Will Win: Nomadland
Should Win: Nomadland
Surprise:  Promising Young Woman

Nomadland has dominated since its premiere back at the Venice Film Festival in September where it won the top prize, the Golden Lion and has not looked back.  Directed by Chloé Zhao and starring Frances McDormand who plays Fern.  Fern loses her husband and job in very short period.  She decides to pack up and leave her home to live on the road.  Nomadland takes you on a journey of a lost soul looking to find herself and truly rises to the moment.  Promising Young Woman is a formidable foe.  Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut could not have gone any better.  Carey Mulligan was superb, playing Casey, a medical school dropout in her late 20’s living wither parents.  Promising Young Woman tackles the #metoo movement head on.

BEST DIRECTOR
Will Win: Chloé Zhao
Should Win:  Chloé Zhao
Surprise:  Emerald Fennell

Two women are nominated for Best Director for the first time in Oscar’s history and they are only the sixth and seventh to be nominated for this category ever.  Chloé Zhao will join Kathryn Bigelow as the second woman to ever win Best Director.  Emerald Fennell is no slouch and was masterful in her directorial debut with her revenge/fantasy thriller.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
Should Win:  One Night in Miami (Kemp Powers)
Surprise:  The Father (Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller)

This is one of the tightest races this year.  Nomadland was not eligible for the Writers Guild and The Father won at the BAFTAs in this category.  I still believe Chloé Zhao depiction of Jessica Bruder’s book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century is the front runner.  Kemp Power’s One Night in Miami received WGA, USC Scripter and Critic Choice nomination and frankly, is not getting the love it deserves.  One Night in Miami is takes you on a night you will never forget.  Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcom X spend the night in a hotel discussing their responsibilities as in the civil rights movement.  Then you have Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller’s The Father.   The Father has been sitting comfortably in the middle of the pack until it picked up steam with its huge upset at the BAFTAs.  My gut says Nomadland will win, I believe One Night in Miami should win and I wouldn’t be too shocked to see The Father prevail. 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
Should Win:  Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
Surprise:  Minari (Lee Isaac Chung)

This is Emerald Fennell’s to lose.  She has a Golden Globe nomination to go along with wins at both the WGA and BAFTAs.  I would not be shocked to see Aaron Sorkin’s Trial of the Chicago 7 win.  He took home the Golden Globe and this is his 4th Oscar nomination.  He won back in 2011 for The Social Networking.  One interesting note, this is the first year all original screenplay nominees are up for best picture.

BEST ACTOR
Will win: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Should win: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
Surprise: Anthony Hopkins (The Father)

Chadwick Boseman has been leading the field since the onset.  If he wins, he will become only the 3rd winner to win this award posthumously.  Chadwick plays Levee Green who is a brash and overconfident trumpeter.  He has lived in the background his whole life and is looking for a way to take centerstage.   Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal was superb.  He received nominations at almost every stop for his role as a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing.  His role as Ruben Stone is relatable and draws you in as you watch him overcome this unforeseen obstacle.  Ahmed is also the first Muslim to ever be nominated for the lead acting role.  Anthony Hopkins has picked up steam as of late for his role as an aging man who refuses to allow his daughter Anne to help him as his dementia progresses.  Like Riz Ahmed, his role is all too familiar.  He is constantly forgetting important life events and lashes out at anyone around him.  This is an incredibly close race, but I believe Chadwick Boseman will finish off what he started.  

BEST ACTRESS
Will win: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Should win:  Frances McDormand (Nomadland)
Surprise: Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Honestly, your guess is as good as mine.  I have flip flopped every day and finally decided to put a stake in the ground.  I could have made a case for every single nominee and wouldn’t be shocked if Vanessa Kirby or Andra Day won.  Carey Mulligan won at the Critics Choice awards, McDormand won at the BAFTAs and Davis won at the Screen Actors Guild awards.  

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will win: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Should win: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Surprise: Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)

Daniel Kaluuya won at the Globes, Critics Choice, BAFTAs and SAG.  There’s a strong case to be made for Leslie Odom Jr, who plays Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami, but this is Kaluuya’s to lose.  

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will win: Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)
Should win: Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)
Surprise: Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)

Similar to the best actresses’ category, I was baffled, up until Youn Yuh-Jung took control in the last month.  After both SAG and BAFTA wins, this seems like a open and closed case.  I will be shocked to see anyone upend Youn Yuh-Jung.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE
Will Win: Another Round
Should Win: Another Round
Surprise:  Collective

Denmark’s Another Round has owned this year’s awards season in this category.  It won Best Film Not In English which is the BAFTAs equivalent to Best International Feature.  It also won a variety of other awards at the European Film Awards as well as many critic’s groups.  In short, the film is one big party.  The premise of this film takes you on a journey with 4 friends who test their theory that if you drink a specific amount of alcohol each day, your quality of life is immensely enhanced.  

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Will Win: My Octopus Teacher
Should Win: Time
Surprise:  Collective

My Octopus Teacher has had one impressive run.  So far it won Best Edited Documentary at the ACE awards, Best Documentary at the BAFTAs, 2 Critic Choice Awards (Best Cinematography and Science/Nature Doc), 2 at the International Documentary Association (Best Music Score and the Pare Lorentz Best Doc Award) as well as Outstanding Producer of a Documentary Film at the PGA awards.  Heading into this weekend, it is the clear favorite to win the Oscar.  Time has had a decent season as well picking up wins at the Gotham Awards (Best Doc), International Documentary Association (Best Director) and Critics Choice (Most Compelling Living Subject of a Doc).  My Octopus Teacher takes you on a journey of a diver and an octopus and the unusual friendship they form.  Not typically known as a friendly creature, its fascinating to watch as the bond grows.  Time follows Fox Rich on her fight for the release of her husband, Rob Rich, who is serving 60 years for a bank robbery they committed back in the early 90’s. It eloquently showcases love, devotion, and the unforgiving side of the American prison system.  My Octopus Teacher is available on Netflix and Time is available to watch on Amazon Prime

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Will Win: Soul
Should Win: Soul or Wolfwalkers
Surprise:  None

I know, I know.  I should be picking a side and sticking with it, but I simply loved both films.  Soul hits home for so many of us-  “Follow your heart.”  Soul takes you through all the twists and turns as Joe Gardner (played by Jamie Foxx) tries to make his childhood dream come true of becoming a full-time musician.  Wolfwalkers is a beautifully constructed story of two girls from two very different upbringings instantly connecting and becoming best friends.   I don’t want to give too much away so go check out Soul on Disney + and Walkwalkers on Apple +.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Will Win: Tenet
Should Win: The Midnight Sky
Surprise: Mulan

The Midnight Sky pulled in 2 awards at the VES awards this.  However, Tenet is formidable foe and most notably made headlines last year when WB decided to release it into theatres.   This will be a tight race, but in the end Tenet will prevail.  Keep in mind, last years winner, 1917, wasn’t even nominated for the top category at the VES awards.

BEST SOUND
Will Win: Sound Of Metal
Should Win: Sound Of Metal
Surprise: Soul

Interestingly, AMPAS consolidated sound mixing and sound editing into 1 category this year.  Sound of Metal was upset at the Motion Pictures Sound Editor’s Golden Reel awards over the weekend, walking away with no awards.  In the last 10 years, 6 times the winner of the Golden Reel went on to win the Oscar.  However, in previous years, the Oscars had 2 sound categories (Sound Mixing and Sound Editing).  That doesn’t bode well for Sound Of Metal, however, if I were a betting man, I still have faith in the front runner throughout the season.  

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Will Win: Mank
Should Win: Mank
Surprise: Tenet

A couple of weeks ago Mank won top periodic feature at the ADG awards.  Since the inception of the ADG awards the film that went on to win the top periodic feature went on to win the Oscars almost 50% of the time.  Tenet can give Mank a run for its money as it went on to win the fantasy feature at the ADG awards.  Don’t expect to see upset here, Mank should win pulling in it’s only win of the night.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Should Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Surprise: Emma

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom took home both the top make-up and top hairstyling award for a period piece at the MAUH awards.  Since 2015, 4 of the 5 winners of the Best Period of Make-Up in a full feature film have gone on to win at the Oscars.  The only other Oscar contender to win an award was Pinocchio for best make up effects.    

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Should Win: Emma
Surprise: Mank

Once again, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom reigned supreme at the CDG awards last week winning Excellence in a Period Piece.   I believe Ann Roth will win here, but I think Alexandra Byrne should win for Emma.  Alexandra has been nominated 7 times pulling in 1 Oscar for Elizabeth: The Golden Age back in 2007.  

BEST FILM EDITING
Will Win: Sound of Metal
Should Win: Sound of Metal
Surprise: Trial of the Chicago 7

This is Alan Baumgarten’s second Oscar nomination and recently picked up his 3rd ACE Eddie Award for Trial of the Chicago 7.  This is Mikkel E.G. Nielsen’s first Oscar nomination and he recently picked up a win at the BAFTAs for his work on Sound of Metal.  This is a complete toss up, but I am going with my gut here and running with Sound of Metal

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Will Win: Husavik (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga)
Should Win: Speak Now (One Night in Miami)
Surprise:  Fight For You (Judas and the Black Messiah)

This is a tight race and I could probably swap out any of the 3 above and make a case.  I believe Speak Now will win.  Leslie Odom Jr. is a star and One Night in Miami is easily accessible.  Husavik most likely will win, however it is the least known film out of this bunch.  H.E.R. really does a magnificent setting the final tone for this best picture nominee. 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will Win: Soul
Should Win: Soul
Surprise:  News of the World

Trent Renzor and Atticus Ross have 2 scores nominated (Mank & Soul).  The later (Soul) was also composed with Jon Batiste and is the clear front runner.  Nine-time Oscar nominee, James Newton Howard, has an outside shot.  When it is all said and done, expect Renzor, Ross and Batiste to pick up the win.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Will Win: Nomadland
Should Win: Nomadland
Surprise:  Mank

Over the weekend, Erik Messerschmidt (Mank) took home the top feature film prize at the ASC Awards shocking Joshua James Richards (Nomadland).   Joshua won the top cinematography prize at the BAFTAs and I expect him to do the same at the Oscar’s.  Since 2010, all but 2 BAFTA winners went on to win the Oscar.

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Will Win: The Present
Should Win: Two Distant Strangers
Surprise: White Eyes

I expect to see The Present win here, however, Two Distant Strangers should win.  Both Two Distant Strangers and The Present tackle incredibly poignant topics.  The Present takes place in the Westbank and follows a Palestinian father and his daughter as they navigate the Westbank through security checkpoints so they can go shopping.  It shows the reality and constraints of life in the Westbank.   Two Distant Strangers tackles police brutality in America. Starring rapper Joey Bada$$, each time he has a run in with the police and is killed, he wakes up from what appears to be a nightmare to only relive it over and over again. Fun sidenote, Kevin Durant is listed as a producer on Two Distant Strangers.   Both films are available on Netflix and I can’t recommend them enough

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Will Win: Burrow
Should Win: If Anything Happens I Love you
Surprise: None

This is battle between two powerhouses, Netflix and Pixar.  Frankly, your guess is as good as mine, but I am going with If Anything Happens I Love you.  Gateway Film Center is offering all of the 2021 Animated shorts on their site or you can find Burrow on Disney + and If Anything Happens I Love you on Netflix.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Will Win: A Love Song for Latasha
Should Win: A Love Song for Latasha
Surprise: Collette

Like the live action shorts, A Love Song for Latasha can be found on Netflix.  This tells the tragic tale of Latasha Harlins murder in 1991.  Sophia Allison focuses more on the life that Latsha Harlins lived and not her tragic death.