2021 Oscars Preview

Nomadland is going to have a big night, unless it doesn’t. Our unqualified pundits make their predictions.

Last February, David rode Parasite‘s coattails to victory with 20 correct calls. We all know what happened next.

BEST PICTURE
The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
Minari
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

CHASE: There’s no reason to believe that anything other than Nomadland is going to win after cleaning up in the early season trail-marking awards, and that would be totally deserved (Minari is my spoiler pick). But let’s take a second to talk about this slate. This is the best group of films top to bottom that the Academy has produced in a decade or more. Do I wish Ma Rainey and One Night in Miami had made the cut? Sure I do. I’ve never understood why there aren’t ten nominations every year. It would put some extra spotlight on deserving films. Still, these are eight films I really like to varying degrees. This is the dream!

TYLER: The upset Minari pick is extremely exciting, and I’m very fond of the Cinderella appreciation run it has gotten over the last three months considering its really lovely Kore-eda meets Malick-doing-Totoro flavor. I like elements of most of the rest of the crew (save Chicago 7, which I think is trash) to varying degrees. But nothing on this list, including Minari, comes close to Nomadland, a truly special film that combines Zhao’s adoration of the landscape of the American West with the impossible damage done to the West’s citizens. Hoping that we get to wrap this weird year with at least the second best picture (First Cow, duh) winning Best Picture.

DAVID: Thank you for mentioning First Cow, because I would have brought up my #1 Film of 2020 if you hadn’t. Of course, when I made that list I hadn’t seen Nomadland or Minari, either of which would be  more than worthy winners this Sunday. It will be the former for all the reasons stated above. Like Chase, though, I do like all eight nominees (even Chicago 7, though it’d be the least deserving) and also wish that One Night in Miami had made it in.

SEAN: I’ll echo everyone else’s sentiments here. For the most part, this is a pretty remarkable set of nominees. Nomadland is by far the favorite and as much as I’d love to see Minari (my favorite film of 2020) upset, it’s hard to be disappointed by the presumptive winner. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a legitimate threat though. It has done far better than most could have predicted during the precursors (how in the world has it managed cinematography nominations?) and it won the SAG for Acting Ensemble. That’s a sign that it’s well-liked in the industry.  Never count out the actor’s choice. 

Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand

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

CHASE: Kathryn Bigelow is about to have company. The list of female Best Director winners is set to double, as Chloe Zhao appears to have this one in the bag. This is also the first time multiple women have been nominated for this award at the same ceremony, and, depressingly late as that is, I guess that’s progress. Bigelow’s win came for helming the war film The Hurt Locker, but Zhao’s would be for something much quieter and more reflective in Nomadland. That’s another form of diversity, and it’s good to see female directors winning for all types of films — not just the macho-themed ones.

TYLER: Incredibly excited for Zhao to win this, as it appears she will. It’s a weak-ish field — Fincher’s second worst movie, Fennell & Vinterberg I can take or leave, and Chung’s late-breaking run. Despite that, she clearly deserves it. Nomadland is the promise of her first two films come into full bloom and allowed to breathe and transcend. Thankfully the bad faith crits about her not speaking out enough about Amazon haven’t slowed her down much.

DAVID: I’m even more confident about Zhao winning than I am for Nomadland winning Best Picture. After a historic run of triumphant Mexican directors, has the gaze of the film world shifted to East Asia? I would have happily swapped Fincher out for Regina King, but I’m stoked to see Fennell and Vinterberg get the recognition they deserve — especially at Aaron Sorkin’s expense.

SEAN: Even if Nomadland somehow misses in Best Picture, Chloe Zhao becoming the second woman to ever win Best Director is a certainty. There are scores of other directors I’d have loved to see here including Shaka King, Florian Zeller, Darius Marder, and Regina King. But this is a mostly worthy list and Zhao will be a historic and deserving winner for her contemplative, beautiful work. 

Chadwick Boseman

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

CHASE: It’s not that I’m against Chadwick Boseman winning this award. He’s great in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I’m just wary of this and Heath Ledger’s win starting a trend of actors automatically winning posthumously. If it weren’t for Boseman’s tragic passing then this would be Anthony Hopkins’s award for one of his illustrious career’s greatest performances in The Father. He is absolutely stunning, and has small shot at pulling an upset after that BAFTA win. Again, Boseman’s will not be undeserved. It’s a shame that it worked out this way, but not nearly as shameful as the decades of great performances we’re robbed of with his passing.

TYLER: Bizarre, incredible year for Best Actor that could’ve awarded seven different men with deserving trophies: Ahmed’s wounded dog, Hopkins’ late-career highlight, Yeun’s betrayed American Dream, Kinglsey Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X in the wilderness, Delroy Lindo’s titanic restless soldier or a slew of others (John Magaro — First Cow; Ethan Hawke — Tesla; Luca Marinelli — Martin Eden). But this is Chadwick Boseman’s award, and deservedly so. He somehow encapsulates many of the adjectives about the performances above and channels them into a chamber piece that doesn’t deserve him (or Viola Davis). It’s amazing, and tragic.

DAVID: Should and will be Boseman, and his widow’s speech is guaranteed to be the most emotional of the night. The only injustice to be found is who isn’t here in this most diverse slate ever — specifically, the already-mentioned Lindo (a travesty, frankly) and Ben-Adir. Gary Oldman evolving from unsung character actor to biopic rubber-stamp is kind of depressing, and he was woefully miscast in Mank. Go with, say, Michael Stulhbarg, and it’s a much better movie.

SEAN: Posthumus wins are still exceedingly rare, so I doubt we have to worry too much about it becoming the norm. And while I wouldn’t quite put Boseman up there with Ledger (one of the greatest and most iconic acting wins in Oscar history), it’s still a notable performance that would have been nominated and a threat to win in almost any year. That said, this should be Hopkins’ second Oscar for his extraordinary performance in The Father. I hate to say it, but I’m rooting for an upset. 

Carey Mulligan

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

CHASE: In recent years I’ve complained that the acting awards are always locked up by Oscar night, so now let me excitedly introduce you to this year’s Best Actress race! This one is wide open. Day won the Globe, Davis won the SAG, McDormand won the BAFTA, and somehow the betting hunch is still that Mulligan will scoop up the Oscar. I’ll take McDormand because there’s a big crossover in the Oscar and BAFTA voting blocks and because the Academy is terrible at giving actors their due until late into their careers. That bodes ill for Mulligan. Voters are comfortable with McDormand who’s already won this award twice, and she would join the extremely elite club of actresses with 3 Oscars: Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and Meryl Streep. What a club to be in.

TYLER: Conversely, I felt like this was a very weak year for Actresses. I have a few dozen outside candidates (Carrie Coon — The Nest; Radha Blank — Forty Year Old Version; Elizabeth Moss — Shirley OR Invisible Man; Jasna Duricic — Quo Vadis, Aida?;  Isabel Sandoval — Lingua Franca), but most of the nominees left me cold. I don’t love Mulligan’s performance really at all; the chemistry of her woundedness and snark is off. Andra Day is a nomination based on her impeccable singing voice, because the role is thin and she’s thinner in it. Kirby would’ve gotten in based on the ludicrous long take pregnancy if the film didn’t leave her behind towards its climax. That leaves McDormand and Davis, two apex performers who are doing what the role asks for. If this were who I’d want to win? Probably Davis. Who will win? Probably Mulligan. Meh.

DAVID: Pour one out for Julia Garner, who’s unforgettable in the totally forgotten The Assistant. Anyway, as an unabashed raving fan of Promising Young Woman, I have no problem taking the betting odds on Mulligan even knowing that she’s far from a sure thing. Davis and McDormand are both incredible, and neither winning would surprise me (but if I’m picking one spoiler, it’s Davis). I don’t think Day or especially Kirby have the traction, so we can eliminate them. But PYW — an an awards-season late-breaker that’s going to pick up a ton of #1 ballots, even if it’s more polarizing overall — can’t be underestimated in any category.

SEAN: This is the category where anything could happen and that is a very infrequent occurrence in the Oscar race. All five of the nominees have picked up a major award along the way. This is probably unlikely, but how amazing would it be if there were a tie in this category for the first time since 1969? If it were to happen in any year, this is it. There’s a case to be made for all of them, but if I’m going with my gut it’s got to be Viola Davis. A second career win and a matching Best Actress win to go along with Boseman’s Best Actor Oscar feels like perfect symmetry. Still, so many are quick to write off Day and they do so at their own Oscar prediction pool peril. Y’all are clearly forgetting how much Academy voters love biopic performances, especially of tragic gone-too-soon singers. 

Daniel Kaluuya

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

CHASE: Remember everything I just said about the Academy not giving awards to young actors? Well, Daniel Kaluuya is 32 and he’s got this one in the bag for his fiery performance as Black Panther Fred Hampton. It’s really more of a guideline than a rule.  My quibble here is the absence of Kingsley Ben-Adir, who never got the awards traction he deserved for his portrayal of Malcolm X in One Night in Miami.

TYLER: Baron Cohen in here is laughable, especially considering Rylance in the same movie (not that I’d have nominated either of them). Stanfield is the lead of the film (which is a problem). I would really love to see Paul Raci win this for what I think is one of the best therapist portrayals in contemporary American cinema. But I can’t see this not going to Kaluuya, even if the role he’s given is not up to his considerable chops. He makes it work.

DAVID: Chalk, again. Daniel Kaluuya is going to win for the “I am a revolutionary” speech alone. But… in case he doesn’t, if there’s some unfortunate vote-splitting amongst the two Judas actors, watch out for Leslie Odom Jr. His was honestly my least favorite performance of the four Miami leads, but that Hamilton goodwill is self-sustaining.

SEAN: If there’s anyone more of a lock than Boseman, it’s Kaluuya. He’s sensational in the film and would be a deserving winner… in Best Actor where he belongs. This is among the most shameless cases of category fraud ever. Paul Raci should take this by default for being one of the only real supporting performances in the category. And he’s pretty great in it too. 

Yuh-jung Youn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman, The Father
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

CHASE: If Yuh-jung Youn wins for her hilarious and touching performance in Minari then Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress will all have gone to minority winners. Better yet, none of it feels like pandering. Yuh-jung Youn is the bright light that buoys Minari as other characters deal with the hardships of the immigrant experience. Pour one out for Glenn Close though, as she stands to lengthen her winless record. One of the best actresses of her generation is about to be 0-for-8.

TYLER: The conflicted feelings of wanting Glenn Close to have hardware and simultaneously wanting Hillbilly Elegy to not exist rages in my heart always. She’s not even that good in it! I’m glad that she’s been most outshone by Yuon and Bakalova. Colman is doing work in The Father, but it’s a chamber piece that belongs to Hopkins, and she’s amiably serving stuff to him. God honest, I don’t get what people are seeing in Seyfried’s Marion Davies; I also don’t get what people see in Mank, to be fair. I hope that Yuh-jung Youn wins.

DAVID: I was jonesing for a Bakalova win until I had spent a couple of days pondering Minari, and the incredible depth the unheralded (in the Western world, anyway) Yuh-jung Youn brought to her performance. I don’t think even Close wants to win for Hillbilly Elegy, especially not now. She’s about to start shooting a friggin’ Sunset Boulevard musical remake, and if that’s not a plea for the Academy to hold their horses, nothing is.

SEAN: As much as I love Minari and Yuh-jung Youn’s touching work in it, my heart belongs to Maria Bakalova. Comedy is hard and getting recognized for it is even harder. There is generally a whole lot of bias towards the genre in the Academy, but in this category in particular there have been some significant breakthroughs — Marissa Tomei and Mira Sorvino come to mind. Bakalova is running circles around both of them and she manages to steal the entire film out from star Sacha Baron Cohen. It’s a fearless highwire act of improvised comedy filled with genuine heart. Performances like this come along once in a generation. Bakalova deserves this Oscar. 

One Night in Miami

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
The Father
Nomadland
One Night in Miami
The White Tiger

CHASE: As much as I would love to see One Night in Miami win this award, Oscar just doesn’t seem to love it. As for what I didn’t love, I don’t get what The White Tiger is doing here. None of the things that work in that movie are its voiceover-filled, truncated script. The Academy has been good about spreading the love around in recent years, but it seems like Nomadland is riding a strong wave this time around.

TYLER: The White Tiger‘s script is excerable, its performances and direction not much better, agree I have no idea what it’s doing here. I would love to see One Night take it here; I have serious quibbles with King’s direction of the play, but the script is managed fantastically. But yes, in a weak year for nominees, I think Nomadland wins for the weird “we adapted this from non-fiction” element.

DAVID: I can’t speak to The White Tiger as I haven’t seen it, but I agree with both of you about Miami’s unfortunate also-ran status. I’m fine with Zhao picking up another statue for Nomadland; it’s that good, and so is she.

SEAN: Count me as a big fan of The White Tiger, but its script wouldn’t be the element I’d single out for awards consideration (that goes to Adarsh Gourav’s breakthrough performance). Nomadland is the easy prediction, but I have a feeling The Father isn’t going home empty-handed considering they liked this chamber play adaptation enough to give it a Best Picture nomination. If Hopkins can’t win, perhaps Zeller can. 

The Trial of the Chicago 7

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Judas and the Black Messiah
Minari
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

CHASE: Maybe Emerald Fennell becomes the first woman to win the Original Screenplay award since Diablo Cody, but I’m not keeping my fingers crossed. Sorkin, for better or for worse, is who and what people think of when they think of a screenwriter. Chicago 7 is an a combination of everything he does that’s great and everything he does that’s frustrating. He should probably have a second award, but I’ll always wish it was for Moneyball or A Few Good Men rather than this one. No shots at The Social Network though. That one’s perfect.

TYLER: A similarly weak year for originals. Sound of Metal is probably my favorite of the bunch here, script-wise? Minari gets awfully big towards it’s climax in ungainly ways. Judas at times feels like a TV writer working in film, constantly reaffirming what the audience is seeing through unnecessary dialog. The less said about Chicago 7, the better, and Promising Young Woman has issues that I am not remotely qualified to opine about. Still, I think Chicago 7 gets it, and we get to see Sorkin wax poetic for five minutes about… I dunno… the sanctity of the filibuster. Oscars!

DAVID: Going to keep stepping onto that Fennell/PYW limb until it breaks beneath me. Even against Sorkin. Original Screenplay often goes to fresh, idiosyncratic projects (Parasite, Get Out, Her) and I’m anticipating a similar result this year.

SEAN: I’m of the mind that Chicago 7 has to win something and if it’s not going to spoil in Best Picture then this category is its best chance. But it’s hard to not notice the surge of support Promising Young Woman has gained in the months since its release. It’s gonna be close… but Fennell takes it. 

Wolfwalkers

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Onward
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul
Wolfwalkers

TYLER: In my Top 50 of the year I put Soul in and didn’t put Wolfwalkers, and with some time away I feel like I probably made a mistake on that. I think it’s Wolfwalkers’ baffling music video second act that really threw me. But Soul has really faded in my estimation over time with looking into its creation, script problems, and the somewhat exhausted Pixar-ness of its subject matter. So I hope that after four tries, Cartoon Saloon breaks through and Wolfwalkers wins. (The less said about Onward, the better).

CHASE: Tyler, I have to completely disagree. Tomm Moore is the Irish Miyazaki, and I loved Wolfwalkers. That beautiful animation! Those colors! I admire the first two parts of Moore’s “Irish Folklore Trilogy,” but Wolfwalkers is on a whole other level. Soul is lovely and heartfelt, but they’ve done similar work before, and they’ve done it better (see: Inside Out). That said, Oscar loves Pixar. Anything but Over the Moon, a film that led me to words I never thought I would say: Ken Jeong was the best part.

DAVID: I love Tomm Moore’s work. Wolfwalkers isn’t my favorite film of his (that’d be Song of the Sea), but it’s the most dazzlingly animated and thematically resonant, and it’d be a shame about it inevitably losing to Soul if I wasn’t such a big fan of that as well. While I’ve cooled slightly on it since first watch in December — enough to say that Inside Out is better, anyway — nobody does this kind of kid-friendly but shockingly existential storytelling like Pete Docter. I really liked Onward, too, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the other two.

SEAN: Soul is top-tier Pixar and it deserves this award. While it would be nice to see someone else take this category just for variety’s sake (Pixar isn’t the only great animation studio), it’s hard to argue when the work is this good. 

Time

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Collective
Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
Time

TYLER: Watching the trades the last month, I’ve been horrified to watch people talking themselves into a win for My Octopus Teacher which, despite being very pretty, is a pretty weak, treacly film about being obsessed with a sea creature. Recent Oscar Best Picture wins supporting that subject matter aside, there are three truly great docs in this list, and two have a real shot. Collective is a timely look at Romanian journalists trying to hold back a tsunami of corruption with their small paper. But Time is a beautiful, tragic and redemptive work channeling a life lived fighting the carceral system. It should win. I hope it does.

CHASE: I struggled with Time, which I felt constantly showed characters reacting to information that wasn’t fully presented to the viewer for appropriate context. Where is Boys State on this list? I guess America is too exhausted from harrowing politics to deal with them on Oscar night, but if it was here it would be my pick. My Octopus Teacher‘s title is fun to joke about (does someone teach about octopi? Is the octopus the teacher? Is this not an animated kids film?), but it’s a heavy betting favorite.

DAVID: Annoyed by the absence of Boys State and Dick Johnson is Dead, both of which I raved about last year. There are so many great documentaries out there and we got… Octopi. I’m not sure which way to go here, except to say that Time, Collective, and Sundance fave Crip Camp would all be worthy winners, so just to keep things interesting I’ll go with the one produced by the Obamas: Crip Camp.

SEAN: The absence of Boys State is ridiculous. I’ll be honest and say that for as many documentaries as I watched at home this past pandemic year I’m pretty shocked at how few of these nominees I’ve actually seen. My Octopus Teacher is the feel-good, life-affirming film of the category and after the year we just had perhaps that’s more than enough reason for it to win. 

Another Round

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE
Another Round
Better Days
Collective
The Man Who Sold His Skin
Quo Vadis, Aida?

TYLER: God bless it leave it to the Academy to nominate the ONE (ONE) international film of the shortlist that I hadn’t seen (The Man Who Sold His Skin). Among the other four, this is actually a kind of down year, as Better Days is little more than an anti-bullying PSA and I am decidedly not so hot on Another Round as others are (ending dance scene is perfect, yes). The two deep underdogs, Collective and Quo Vadis, Aida? are really impressive, deeply felt and powerful films, but I can’t see them winning given Vinterberg’s nomination. So Another Round it is, twirling to the stage.

Also just to call out some of the other fantastic nominees that SHOULD have made it: La Llorona, Night of The Kings, The Mole Agent, Bacurau, The Twentieth Century and I am No Longer Here all could’ve made it easily.

CHASE: Tyler is exactly correct that Vinterberg’s directing nomination seems to make Another Round a lock. My favorite shortlister that didn’t make the cut is the Ivorian Night of Kings. Probably a little out there for the general academy, but it’s also about the power of storytelling so I thought it had a chance.

DAVID: Unlike Tyler I am very high (drunk, even) on Another Round, which was one of my four or five favorite films overall of last year. I’d have even made room for Mads in Best Actor if I could have, especially over Oldman. It’s also awesome that Collective — an urgent, enraging, and extraordinarily lucky piece of documentary filmmaking — got double-nominated. But I’m excited as anyone to see Vinterberg take the stage.

SEAN: With the corresponding director nomination, Another Round is about as much of a lock as Boseman and Kaluuya. 

Mank

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
News of the World
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7

CHASE: Shots! Shots! Shots! Nomadland looks to continue to clean up with Joshua James Richards picking up this award for shooting all those gorgeous desert vistas. That’s all I’ve got this year for a category that usually gets me wildly excited. 

TYLER: I sincerely hope that Nomadland wins. The betting odds had Chicagoin the mix which makes me think we allowed TV cinematographers to vote on the nominees. That’s the only explanation. News of the World is pretty to look at but I can’t see it winning. I think Mank shortchanged itself with the blank-and-white. I think I understand why they did what they did, I just don’t agree with it.

DAVID: Once again, should and will be Nomadland. It’s not even a contest. But why didn’t Lachlan Milne’s work on Minari make the cut? 

SEAN: This is Nomadland‘s to lose, though Mank could potentially spoil even though I think its 40’s-inspired black and white cinematography is one of the most inconsistent things about the film…  but the Academy loves black and white photography almost as much as they love sweeping vistas.

Emma

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Emma
Mank
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mulan
Pinocchio

CHASE: I don’t sense a clear frontrunner here, so probably best go to go with the heavily costumed period piece. That means Emma.

TYLER: Again hope is all I’m holding on to and hoping that Emma. makes it. It’s a clever contemporization of the heavily-costumed period piece, including brash detailing and modern color palettes that are anachronistic, but serve the fluffy story. It’s aces.

DAVID: Emma. was the first film we paid to watch at home once quarantine began, and if it were still as fresh in more voters’ minds as it is in mine, we could have seen it acknowledged for its production design and cinematography as well. But while I’m glad you two are also tipping it to win this, if I’m being objective it’s a coin flip with Ma Rainey — which notably just won at the guild awards, so if there’s money on the line, take that one. That wouldn’t be nearly as fun as Alexandra Byrne triumphing for her confection-colored Regency dresses. 

SEAN: Y’all are crazy. This is a can’t-miss win for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and a deserved one at that. 

The Father

BEST FILM EDITING
The Father
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

CHASE: This one is tough. Both Chicago 7 and Sound of Metal seem in the hunt, and The Father is in the mix as well. I’ll take Sound of Metal simply because it’s what sticks out in my own head when I think about editing this year. Voters probably have the script and performances in mind for Chicago 7 more than anything in the technical categories. Hopefully.

TYLER: Again, for some reason Chicago 7 is in this. I would honestly enjoy someone walking me through why it’s considered a well-edited movie, because I just don’t really see it. Then again the Academy saw fit to give Bohemian Rhapsody an editing Oscar, so maybe it’s them that’s the problem, not me. I would be happy for Sound of Metal to win, but think that what The Father does in one apartment is really special, and elevates that film from being a total downer.

DAVID: I think Alan Baumgarten’s cross-cutting on Chicago 7 is pretty good and effective, but I do generally like that movie more than some. Regardless, if I had a ballot I would personally choose any of the other four. I think most of the attention on Sound of Metal is on, — appropriately — the sound, while the film’s pacing got a little sluggish for me in the middle; what The Father does is really clever; Promising Young Woman‘s episodic structure is propulsive, give or take your mileage on its tonal control. I wonder if we’re missing the obvious in Nomadland on what will surely be a big night for the film, but to bring it full circle, Chicago 7 won the ACE Eddie, so that’s my pick.

SEAN: If Chicago 7 picks this up it will be for good but not showy traditional editing that we tend to ignore in favor of much flashier and obvious work. It’s the kind of workmanlike craft that the industry can appreciate. That said, The Father should win here for its expert use of utilizing its cuts to make the viewer just as disorientated as its protagonist, putting the audience into the mind of an elderly man suffering from Alzheimers. It’s sensational stuff.   

Pinocchio

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Emma
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Pinocchio

TYLER: There’s certainly a world where Pinocchio wins this, and it’s horrifying to behold. That movie is a nightmare. In a better world, I think Emma.‘s designs are top-notch and should win. But I can’t argue with the job Matiki Anoff and Jamika Wilson did with Viola Davis on Ma Rainey, so I think for that showpiece it takes it.

CHASE: I, too, will take Ma Rainey’s Black Bottombut worry about Pinocchio winning. There’s a history of weird films pulling an upset here (see: Oscar winner Suicide Squad). 

DAVID: You can’t imagine my confusion when I learned that Roberto Benigni not only made a second Pinocchio film, but that it was nominated for two Oscars. I’m still confused, man. But I have no hesitation in predicting a win for the Ma Rainey team.

SEAN: Will Ma Rainey actually take home the most Oscars on Sunday without a Best Picture nomination? It’s certainly possible. 

Soul

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Da 5 Bloods
Mank
Minari
News of the World
Soul

TYLER: I thought this was a pretty weak year for scores? My massive Google sheet with likely candidates was pretty spare in music this year, and these nominees reflect that. I don’t particularly like Soul‘s take on jazz; it’s tacked on to another story (as evidenced by the fact that it was not a key part of the script until late in rewrites). And since I think it has some serious upset special juice, I will take a wild stab and say Minari gets this one.

CHASE: Congratulations to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for their double nominations for Soul and Mank. A lot of musicians take a stab at film scoring, but few are as good at is as those two. Will they split the vote? I don’t think so. I think Soul has this one pretty secure.

DAVID: Let’s not forget to honor erstwhile Late Show bandleader Jon Batiste, who had to compose the kind of jazz music that comes from, well, your soul. And while I expect Soul to win and will be happy when it does, I also think James Newton Howard’s score for News of the World was memorable, and Ludwig Göransson was robbed for Tenet.

SEAN: I second the absurdity of the Tenet omission. No one is taking this away from Soul

Eurovision Song Contest

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Fight for You,” Judas and the Black Messiah
“Hear My Voice,” The Trial of the Chicago 7
“Húsavik,” Eurovision Song Contest
“Io Si (Seen),” The Life Ahead
“Speak Now,” One Night in Miami

TYLER: I am not as big a fan of Eurovision as others are (I think Dobkin ruins it with some shoddy direction), but “Húsavik” is a genuinely great song that plays a pivotal role in the arc of the best character in the movie (McAdams’ Sigrit). It’s rare that a non-animated Oscar-nominated song can say that, so that’s my pick, even though it has very little contextual argument to win against these “End Credits” songs.

CHASE: “Speak Now” seems like an easy pick here, if only because people like the songwriter a lot. If Leslie Odom, Jr. wins this award then he will only need an Emmy going forward to complete the EGOT. That would seen inevitable down the line. 

DAVID: I’m darkly amused by how many nominees I’m having to defend to Tyler, and add Eurovision to that list. We agree, at least, that “Húsavik” is a banger, and would be a well-deserved triumph for the people of Iceland should it pull off the upset. But that’s probably wishful thinking, and Chase makes a good point — the Academy probably isn’t giving Odom, Jr. an Oscar for his acting, but they can give him something anyway. “Speak Now.”

SEAN: I finally watched Eurovision the other night because I was bored and I was shocked at just how much I loved it. And yes, “Húsavik” is fantastic and unlike the rest of the songs, it actually has a significant presence in the film outside of the end credits. Also, how could you not vote for it after the adorable campaign Netflix has been running involving the actual town itself? 

News of the World

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
News of the World
Tenet

CHASE: If Mank is going to avoid getting swept in its ten nominations than it needs to pick up this award. This is its best shot aside from a puncher’s chance at Cinematography. Ma Rainey might pull a spoiler for its recreation of 1920s Chicago, but I’ve got Mank to win this one award.

TYLER: I think Ma Rainey has a shot, but it’s such a chamber piece it’s hard to reward it over something with the scope and execution of Mank or Tenet. Again, The Father really works its magic in the technical spaces, but I can’t see it winning. I’ll pick Mank, it’s the award the film most deserves.

DAVID: Am I wrong for wanting Mank to pull an Irishman and go 0-for-10? It’s not a bad film, I’d just find it really funny. Still, you guys are right — this is its best chance to win something, and I don’t think any of the others have the juice. It probably should be The Father, though.

SEAN: I’m less confident about Ma Rainey’s chances here than I am in the other categories, but I think it will ultimately prevail. That movie really was quite the crafts package. And although I’m not particularly fond of Mank, it has quite a few fans outside of this blog and it will be joining really good company if it goes 0-10.  I’m still not over The Irishman being shut out.  That film is and always will be a masterpiece. 

Sound of Metal

BEST SOUND
Greyhound
Mank
News of the World
Soul
Sound of Metal

CHASE: This feels like the biggest lock of the technical awards. It’s like when Phantom Thread, a film about designing clothes, won the costume award a few years ago. Sound of Metal is about sound. It’s right there in the title. What the film does in its quiet moments is just as impressive as what it does for the metal music and the recreation of hearing loss.

TYLER: My one quibble with Sound of Metal is the portrayal of the metal music and the metal scene comes from a “screenwriter who doesn’t fully understand what he’s looking at while doing research” perspective. But I doubt anybody voting in this Academy block knows what metal music should look or sound like in a contemporary space, and that’s such a bougie garbage quibble that I have to believe it will win.

DAVID: Sound of Metal is a lock. What Nicolas Becker achieved is extraordinary. Next.

SEAN: Yeah… there’s no way Sound of Metal loses here. 

Tenet

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Tenet

CHASE: Tenet looks cool. That and Ludwig Göransson’s score are about the only things it’s got going for it. There’s not really a lot of competition here, but I wonder if there are any lingering hard feelings about the film’s failure at the box office and the resulting decision for Warner Media to release their films over streaming that might keep it from winning.

TYLER: God, Tenet looked incredible. Watching that movie was a feast for the eyes, and hearing about the ways in which it was pulled off only increases my belief it’ll win in a walk. Honestly don’t get Mulan, Midnight Sky or Ivan, which I find pretty ugly visually. Love and Monsters, lol, but, I mean, it’s not a bad-looking visual effects movie. But no, it’s Tenet.

DAVID: It better be Tenet. Say whatever you want about the film’s storytelling, but the visuals were a marvel, and it’s honestly pretty rude that Warner Bros. only submitted it for this category. I mean, Nolan’s Savior-of-Cinema complex is pretty rude too, but still.

SEAN: Tenet would have likely done better on all fronts without a worldwide pandemic. It deserves this and I hope that it eventually gets a second look later on. I would have loved to have seen it in a packed theater. 

The Letter Room

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Burrow
Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You
Opera
Yes-People

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Colette
A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
A Love Song for Latasha

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers
White Eye

CHASE: While I didn’t write up every nominee this year, I did see them all again. I’m happy to report that this year’s slate of nominees isn’t quite the bummer as recent years — especially the live-action nominees. They deal with serious subjects, but in a less-maudlin way. There’s some clever work here. I’ll take If Anything Happens I Love You in animation (that one is a bummer), A Concerto is a Conversation in documentary because it says art is important and the Academy may still shamefully love Green Book. I’ve seen all the shorts four years in a row now, and I’ve never managed to predict the live-action one successfully to my shame. I’ll take Two Distant Strangers for its cultural importance and the way it does something interesting with a well-worn story device. But, again, I don’t have a good history with this category.

TYLER: Saw these as well. Two Distant Strangers had me on a roller-coaster of “oh no don’t do this” to “oh wait, that’s really clever,” and ended on a positive, so for that I commend them and hope they win, especially because the rest of the nominees in the category are frustratingly treacly. Where’s Tilda and Pedro’s The Human Voice?! Thought the animated shorts were especially weak this year — Pixar’s nominee is straight up bad, I found If Anything Happens 50% too long (we get what it’s going for, you don’t need the recap), and Yes People is just bizarre. I will pick a wacko upset with Opera, which is a wonderful oner-style film that is richly detailed and powerfully told sans dialog. The documentaries were a slog – lots of sadness porn, not all of it well constructed. Hunger Ward and Collette felt very exploitative of their subjects in ways that made me squirm. A Concerto is a pure nothingburger. I liked Do Not Split a lot for its boots on the gorund perspective of Hong Kong, but I can’t see the Academy doing China like that and voting it in. Therefore Love Song for Latasha is it for me, because it’s a clever take on a sad subject, keeps things lively, and has historical background to boot. But god, what do I know.

DAVID: No idea, no knowledge, so I’ll just go with stuff I’ve read and pure gut instinct: Opera, A Love Song for Natasha, and Two Distant Strangers.

SEAN: As much as I love the Oscars it really is ridiculous that I’ve still never sat down to see all the shorts in all the years I’ve been watching the ceremony. So yet another year where I just guess: Burrow, Hunger Ward, Two Distant Strangers. It’s my Oscar tradition. 

Results: Chase wins with 16 correct!

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