Oscars 2021

There wasn’t a chance I was going to try and prediction nominations this year given all the rules changes and expanded eligibility rules (no screen release necessary). Heck, even the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX) didn’t bother to hold their annual trading on the nominations. But, now that they are in, I’m willing to try and predict winners.

While there were some odd gaps and snubs, there are some nicely competitive categories. The big question is how much Netflix-hate and politics will play into the results. With rare exception, there are few winners that could be selected that wouldn’t be worthy in the following lists, but when choosing “the best” things always get a little dicey.

And with that preamble, here are my first impressions and some thinking out loud. I’ll post a final call before the night as per tradition.

Actress in a Leading Role

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)

What a great range of talent and styles…which only makes prediction that much harder. However Frances McDormand has been buzzed about for months now. And while Davis and Day delivered amazing performances, Mulligan is still my favorite for the levels and tightrope. Only Day challenges it for me, but she had less of a plot to work with some ways. My guess is still McDormand.

Actor in a Leading Role

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

Boseman, regardless of performance, is likely to get this on the upswell of loss alone. For me, Oldman was the more complete and believable character and performance.

Actress in a Supporting Role

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

Yuh-Jung Youn stole Minari. And Seyfried was luminescent in Mank. I’d bet on Seyfried if Minari didn’t have such growing support and if we all didn’t need such a good laugh (which Youn delivers). Colman was wonderful, but her performance doesn’t quite gel without the rest of the ensemble, by design. And though Bakalova has been gathering accolades, she’s much younger than Youn and has “plenty of time” in the voter’s eyes to prove herself.

Actor in a Supporting Role

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)

There is no good answer here. Cohen truly captured Hoffman in a way that deserves to walk away with the statuette. But Odom navigates a complex problem with savvy and Stanfield delivers an oily and complex man with conviction. As much as I’d like this to go to Cohen on the merits, I think Odom is the likely winner here.

Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
The Father
One Night in Miami
The White Tiger

There is no perfect choice in this group. All have their challenges. One Night in Miami is probably the front-runner, though there may be a surprise in here.

Original Screenplay

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

Again a great list, but Promising Young Woman was the most impressive of this list for me, especially as a first feature. However, Trial may get this due to Sorkin love (and not undeservedly).


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

Best Picture

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

There are times I’m glad it isn’t up to me. There is no question that Nomadland is the front-runner, whether it should be or not. For the record, I don’t think it should be in this list. Mank is by far the best crafted and fully complete vision delivered. Promising Young Woman is the most surprising and delicately crafted. The Father is unique and clever. Judas and Trial are incredible windows into events and people of the past. Sound of Metal and Minari are peeks into worlds you most likely aren’t familiar with. But Nomadland has somehow grabbed the attention. It may still fall to split votes or political tides, but of this list, it is among the weakest films in my opinion.

International Feature

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

Another Round is the most familiar title, but Collective and Skin are currently gaining recognition. I’m hoping to see them all before the day of reckoning, but for now I’m going with Another Round based solely on press and buzz.

Original Song

“Fight For You” (Judas and the Black Messiah)
“Hear My Voice” (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
“Husavik” (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga)
“Io Sì (Seen)” (The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se))
“Speak Now” (One Night in Miami)

I honestly just don’t care enough to have an opinion yet. Suspect, though, that it will be Fight For You or Speak Now.

Original Score

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

Soul is the score to beat, no pun intended. All were solid, but Soul’s already snagging awards for its score and that is likely to continue, and is certainly worthy.

Documentary Feature

Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher

Don’t know enough yet here to discuss the possible outcomes.

Documentary Short Subject

A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
A Love Song for Latasha

Don’t know enough yet here to discuss the possible outcomes.

Live Action Short Film

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

Don’t know enough yet here to discuss the possible outcomes.

Animated Feature Film

Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

All entertaining, but Soul is the walkaway here. It is a full look at a difficult subject, done in an inventive and effective way.

Animated Short Film

Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You

Don’t know enough yet here to discuss the possible outcomes.


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

Judas, News, and Trial are all cut from the similar cloth of classic cinematography. Judas and Trial also have the added skill of mixing in historical or seemingly historical footage. All are done very well. But Nomadland and Mank are more stylistic and more characters within the story. Mank is, by far, the most impactful delivery of the group, and the most artistic, but I am not sure that it can overcome its stream-only origins. I can also see Judas walking with this as a consolation prize.

Film Editing

The Father
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Father and Promising Young Woman are neck and neck for me in this category. Nomadland was very harsh in its edits, causing the flow to falter rather than flow. Trial has some clever editing to tell the story, but it felt more driven by the necessities of the script than the editor. Father may get this if folks don’t want to give it Production Design. Nomadland is likely to take it as part of its potential tsunami.

Production Design

The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
News of the World

You couldn’t have put together a list of more different films that relied on their production design, and all done excellently. Three are period pieces, but Mank is highly stylized, while Ma Rainey’s and News are more invisible. But The Father tells its story through the production design and Tenet creates an entire world and mythos. Honestly, The Father should get this, but Tenet may get this as one of its few opportunities for the gang of Nolan.

Costume Design

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Ma Rainey’s, hands down for me, for the range of economics and cultures it covered. As wonderful as Mank’s were, the Black and White aspect mutes the magic of what was done. Mulan was just a bit too forced, as was Emma, though that latter would typically win this category.

Visual Effects

Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
The One and Only Ivan

Yeah, Tenet. No question.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank. Makeup and hair for black and white photography is a bear and this was done flawlessly and on a huge scale.


News of the World
Sound of Metal

As wonderful as Soul is, Sound of Metal uses sound (beyond just the music) as more of an essential character and story element. It also is one of its few chances this year, so think this may be where it gets its nod.


Provided just for reference, but certainly interesting to consider when considering who has the attention of the voters. Only films with 2 or more noms are listed.

Mank (Netflix) — 10
The Father (Sony Pictures Classics) — 6
Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros.) — 6
Minari (A24) — 6
Nomadland (Searchlight) — 6
Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios) — 6
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix) — 6
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix) — 5
Promising Young Woman (Focus Features) — 5
News of the World (Universal) — 4
One Night In Miami (Amazon Studios) — 3
Soul (Walt Disney) — 3
Another Round (Samuel Goldwyn Films) — 2
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Studios) — 2
Collective (Magnolia Pictures/Participant) — 2
Emma (Focus Features) — 2
Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix) — 2
Mulan (Walt Disney) — 2
Pinocchio (Roadside Attractions) — 2
Tenet (Warner Bros.) — 2

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