The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently released the 93rd Oscars’ ‘all-star cast’, with a promo that spoke of the event like a motion picture itself. We also know that the event will take place over multiple locations. There will be physical attendance of nominees and presenters at the main venue, but there will also be some people connecting remotely. It’s going to be a hybrid sort of event I gather.
As for the results, I suspect that a few of the strongest emerging frontrunners will make their Oscar acceptance speeches from their homes and hotel rooms, despite so many categories being quite unpredictable this year. For instance, last year, we all knew it would be Joaquin Phoenix for Joker, Renée Zellweger for Judy, Laura Dern for Marriage Story and Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. They had won everything leading up to the Oscars. For many years before even—barring a few exceptions—we knew who all were going to win the acting Oscars. This year though, the only acting nominee who enjoys a largely unchallenged lead like that is Daniel Kaluuya, who’s won practically every award that he’s been nominated for, for Judas and the Black Messiah. So that’s one predictable outcome we’ll see this Sunday. Let’s take a look at the rest.
SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN
I have some strong opinions about some of these films, all of which I have managed to watch. So I shall offer my picks of which films should win, while predicting the films that will.
Best motion picture of the year
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7—SHOULD WIN
Nomadland was a sweet film—endearing, heartbreaking, and even funny, while reflecting a sense of isolation and loneliness a lot of us have experienced this past year. So it would probably be nice to see the Academy awarding a movie so strong on quiet and simple, yet layered storytelling—more on the lines of Moonlight than any other recent best picture winners. However, no other best picture-nominated film had me gripped and in awe like The Trial of the Chicago 7 did. It was invigorating and powerful, and so well-written, with a tremendous set of performances, sharp directing, and extremely socially relevant. So I really do think …Chicago is more deserving. And it might just be the dark horse in this race. I’ll tell you why I think so.
The best picture winner is decided by all the voting members of the Academy, and its largest branch is the actors’ branch. The people who decide the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice and others are not Academy voters. However, the actors of the SAG-AFTRA membership (who are also Academy voters) voted for …Chicago 7, at the SAG Awards earlier this month, despite Nomadland having won other major awards up until then, including the PGA (Producers’ Guild) award for best picture. Now the PGA is often considered to the most indicative of the best picture outcome at the Oscars. Yet, just last year, the PGA gave it to 1917, while Parasite won at the Oscars. Three years ago, the PGA gave it to La La Land, and everyone knows that film did not win at the Oscars. So, even though Nomadland’s chances are high, don’t be too sure that the actors’ branch won’t prefer The Trial of the Chicago 7. Yes, they chose it for its acting ensemble at the SAGs, but that award is often considered as a best picture equivalent. And in the polls, …Chicago 7 isn’t that far behind Nomadland.
Moreover, the best picture’s ‘preferential ballot’ system—of multiple rounds of counting ballots’ lower-ranked films, until the top-ranked film secures a clear majority of over 50 percent—may work in the favor of pictures that aren’t frontrunners in most voters’ minds, but are very likely to be in their top three or four ranks. In the additional rounds of counting, second-, third-, or fourth-choice films could catch up to secure the majority before the top-ranked film of the first count can. As for whether a film can win without even being nominated for directing—sure it can! The Trial of the Chicago 7 could pull an Argo (2012), for which Ben Affleck was not nominated for directing, but the film still won best picture. So you never know!
Achievement in directing
Another Round | Thomas Vinterberg
Mank | David Fincher
Minari | Lee Isaac Chung
Nomadland | Chloé Zhao—SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN
Promising Young Woman | Emerald Fennell
Chloé Zhao is winning here. She’s won everything so far this awards season. And she’s done such a tremendous job with Nomadland, treating the subject matter with sensitivity, giving it the tenderness that it needed, with an effective smattering of lighter moments even with the raw appeal of its realism.
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Viola Davis in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom—WILL WIN
Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand in Nomadland
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman—SHOULD WIN
It’s anyone’s game here really. Andra Day won at the Globes, Carey Mulligan was the Critics’ Choice, Viola Davis won the SAG Award, and Frances McDormand was awarded the BAFTA. The SAG voters overlap with the Academy voters the most. So it seems like Davis will be the Academy’s choice here.
Viola Davis is a powerhouse performer—an actress extraordinaire. She’s outstanding at everything she does. However, in Ma Rainey, while her delivery was effective, it was more ‘staged’ if you will. One can probably attribute that to the directing, by George C. Wolfe, who seemed to have gone for a more over-the-top appeal, which was probably an attempt to capture the essence of the source material—a stage play. On the other hand, Carey Mulligan’s delivery in Promising Young Woman was a lot more nuanced, yet made for a captivating and haunting presence on screen, and I believe that she should be awarded for carrying the film with such aplomb. Yet, this award has only been given to one black performer (Halle Berry, for Monster’s Ball, 2001), which was 19 years ago. And given the recent political climate in America, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, I think the Academy voters will seriously consider leaning accordingly.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—WILL WIN
Anthony Hopkins in The Father—SHOULD WIN
Gary Oldman in Mank
Steven Yeun in Minari
The late Chadwick Boseman has won everything so far, except for the BAFTA. However, his performance in Ma Rainey, in particular, was over-the-top, as the directing probably demanded. Moreover, his role was more of a supporting role, as the film didn’t rest on the shoulders of his character. His nomination and inevitable win seem like more of an honorary gesture really, which is fine, since he was a very talented actor. However, it makes one wonder about all the other greats who have died in the past… Those who probably deserved honorary gestures and awards, but didn’t receive them because they didn’t have a picture under consideration for awards out in the year that they died.
On the other hand, there’s Sir Anthony Hopkins, who was fantastic in The Father. He portrayed the confusion, the panic, the indignation and even the delusional amusement of someone descending into dementia, with sheer bafflement. Some are calling it one of his career’s best performances, and we all know that Hopkins has a greater volume of acclaimed work than many actors who have lived. He should win this, but I don’t think he will.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman in The Father
Amanda Seyfried in Mank
Yuh-Jung Youn in Minari—SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN
Yuh-Jung Youn wasn’t a frontrunner initially this awards season, losing to Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) at the Globes, and Maria Bakalova at the Critics’ Choice. But then Youn won at the SAG Awards, and then the BAFTAs. And she stole hearts all over, with her endearing and funny and earnest acceptance speeches. At the BAFTAs, she even said she was honored to have the approval of the British people who are such snobs about what they like. And she was terrific, of course, as the grandmother in Minari—equally funny and moving. So I think I’d definitely like to see her being awarded, especially because Yuh-Jung Youn accepting an Oscar is sure to be worth watching.
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah—SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN
Leslie Odom, Jr. in One Night in Miami...
Paul Raci in Sound of Metal
Lakeith Stanfield in Judas and the Black Messiah
Like I said earlier, Kaluuya’s the only clear favorite among all 20 acting nominees this year, having won everything else. And he was really the best part of the film. He delivered impassioned speeches, frustration, angst, and everything with amazing conviction. Kaluuya stole every scene and even made me forget he was British in real life.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan | 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 | Screenplay by Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
Nomadland | Written for the screen by Chloé Zhao—WILL WIN
One Night in Miami… | Screenplay by Kemp Powers—SHOULD WIN
The White Tiger | Written for the screen by Ramin Bahrani
This one should go to One Night in Miami… It was an out-and-out writer’s film, with more resting on the content of dialogue than anything, even more than the delivery of the dialogue. And it succeeded in heaps, giving us an engaging and invigorating imagining of the conversation that may have taken place in that motel in Miami. However, given its lack of a best picture nomination, I think the Academy will not go for it. Nomadland seems to be the favorite in this category, based on its previous wins, so I think that’s the way the Academy will go.
Judas and the Black Messiah | Screenplay by Will Berson & Shaka King; Story by Will Berson & Shaka King and Kenny Lucas & Keith Lucas
Minari | Written by Lee Isaac Chung
Promising Young Woman | Written by Emerald Fennell—SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN
Sound of Metal | Screenplay by Darius Marder & Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder & Derek Cianfrance
The Trial of the Chicago 7 | Written by Aaron Sorkin
The Academy are known to give a screenplay award to a best picture frontrunner that won’t win the big prize. In this category this year, all five are also best picture nominees. Promising Young Woman, though is a film that deserves to be recognized for its brilliance in storytelling that is nuanced, and sensitive, and funny in parts, while also being chilling with its dark humor, all the while keeping us at the edge of our seats. It’s arguably the best-written film among these five, and since it’s not winning best picture, I believe the Academy will give the Emerald Fennell this one.
Achievement in cinematography
Judas and the Black Messiah | Sean Bobbitt
Mank | Erik Messerschmidt
News of the World | Dariusz Wolski
Nomadland | Joshua James Richards—SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN
The Trial of the Chicago 7 | Phedon Papamichael
Nomadland was all about the visual presentation of not just the beautifully barren landscape shown, but also being a strong lens through which we saw the many quiet moments that captured the poignancy of Fern and her story. The cinematography was an absolute triumph with its success in showing us all of the above. Nomadland deserves this more than any other award it’s nominated for, in my opinion. And I suspect the Academy will opine similarly.
Achievement in film editing
The Father | Yorgos Lamprinos
Nomadland | Chloé Zhao
Promising Young Woman | Frédéric Thoraval
Sound of Metal | Mikkel E.G. Nielsen—SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN
The Trial of the Chicago 7 | Alan Baumgarten
In Sound of Metal, the compilation of visuals, synchronized with the rhythm of what we hear—and its irregularity—creates an impact that is disturbing, and provoking. From the snappy editing to dishevel the kitchen counter of the protagonist’s mobile home to using cuts to portray his visual perspective while we hear what he hears, the film editing is used effectively to challenge our senses. And the Academy members often love to be challenged.
Achievement in 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—SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN
It’s literally in the name of the film, but that’s not why Sound of Metal will win achievement in sound. It’s because of how effectively sound is used as a tool in the narrative, to convey audio perspective, of what can be heard by whom and how. The use of sound or the lack thereof are also executed outstandingly, with deafening silences, and pitch irregularities to put us in the protagonist’s head, as he readjusts to his corrected hearing. If there was ever a film for which sound played such an integral part, Sound of Metal is it. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who heard it.
Achievement in production design
The Father | Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone—SHOULD WIN
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—WILL WIN
News of the World | Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan
Tenet | Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
While sound was the most important tool in Sound of Metal, the use of physical spaces becomes an integral part of conveying the illusion of truth and the betrayal of perspective for a man questioning his reality in The Father. Every inch of furniture shifted, every alteration in the hues of the walls was by design, and the production designer and set decorator of The Father painted a disturbing and alarming picture in the film’s poignant narrative. However, Mank’s triumph in creating lavish spaces portraying Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s, and giving them depth in black and white—which often flattens a frame—is commendable. And I believe the Academy will reward that.
Now I haven’t watched every film in each category that follows, so I can’t objectively have an opinion about which film should win. So I shall only predict the ones that will win for these.
Achievement in costume design
Emma | Alexandra Byrne
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom | Ann Roth—WILL WIN
Mank | Trish Summerville
Mulan | Bina Daigeler
Pinocchio | Massimo Cantini Parrini
It may be easier to design beautiful costumes and style them well, but to bring out the imperfections in garments and accessories, while helping paint a solid picture of the era and inform the characters and how they carry themselves is an achievement. Ann Roth will win because of it.
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
Emma | Marese Langan, Laura Allen and Claudia Stolze
Hillbilly Elegy | Eryn Krueger Mekash, Matthew Mungle and Patricia Dehaney
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom | Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson—WILL WIN
Mank | Gigi Williams, Kimberley Spiteri and Colleen LaBaff
Pinocchio | Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli and Francesco Pegoretti
Likewise with the makeup. While getting the look right the makeup and hair people for Ma Rainey got the smudging of liner and kohl right. The greasy faces and the sweaty décolletages, the hair and everything were all just perfectly done.
Achievement in 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—WILL WIN
If there was one award that Tenet could win, hands-down, it’s visual effects.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (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—WILL WIN
The hypnotizing and haunting, yet lively and uplifting scoring of Soul became the extraordinary backdrop of the film. And I think it’s going to win for it.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
‘Fight for you’ from 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’ from The Trial of the Chicago 7 | Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite
‘Husavik’ from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga | Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson
‘Io sì (seen)’ from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se) | Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
‘Speak now’ from One Night in Miami... | Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth
‘Speak now’ is relevant, has a call to action, and speaks to present times in its theme and lyric. And it also sounds very contemporary and catchy with its current, yet distinctive sound.
Best animated feature film of the year
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul’s won at all the awards, and enjoys other nominations, so this one’s a no-brainer.
Best international feature film of the year
Another Round | Denmark—WILL WIN
Better Days | Hong Kong
Collective | Romania
The Man Who Sold His Skin | Tunisia
Quo Vadis, Aida? | Bosnia and Herzegovina
If the Academy has recognized its directing among every film in consideration overall, one can safely say that Another Round has an edge over the others in this category.
Best documentary feature
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher—WILL WIN
Best documentary short subject
A Concerto Is a Conversation—WILL WIN
Do Not Split
A Love Song for Latasha
Best animated short film
If Anything Happens I Love You—WILL WIN
Best live-action short film
The Letter Room—WILL WIN
Two Distant Strangers