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2021 Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win And Who Should

Oscars
Matt Sayles/Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
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Invision
The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony will be held Sunday, April 25.

This Sunday caps an abnormally long award season for Hollywood. The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony, which was originally slated for Feb. 28, 2021, was rescheduled to April 25 due to the pandemic.

This year is different for other reasons, too. It is no doubt a novel year for diverse nominees. With nine actors of color earning nominations, two women receiving nominations for best director and an all-Black production team nominated for best picture, the #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale movements of past years appear to have made a meaningful impact.

That said, notable exemptions exist, including Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” which seemed like a shoo-in for best picture and best actor (Delroy Lindo) nominations. The film received just one nomination for best original score.

Pandemic fuels a new mix of nominees

2020 NYFF - "Nomadland" Screening
Evan Agostini/Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
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Invision
Filmgoers attend a "Nomadland" screening at the Queens Drive-In at the New York Hall of Science. At the same time that the releases of some films were delayed, audiences around the world were given greater access to Academy-Award nominated films via streaming apps and virtual cinema platforms.

This year’s Oscars will be marked by some other conspicuous absences. Due to theaters closing across the country, several major motion pictures planned for 2020 releases were held back. Many likely would have been Oscar front-runners, such as Steven Spielberg’s new version of “West Side Story,” Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” and Denis Villeneuve’s remake of “Dune.” With such prodigious filmmakers out of the running, this year’s ceremony is bound to feel different, though no less esteemed. To be sure, a handful of excellent films are getting the recognition they deserve — recognition they might not have received otherwise — but it is important to acknowledge that the withheld prestige pictures willingly surrendered the spotlight, prioritizing box office revenue over storytelling.

At the same time that some films were held back, audiences around the world were given greater access to Academy Award nominated films via streaming apps and virtual cinema platforms. Due to the Academy’s altered eligibility guidelines in 2020, movies were not required to have a theatrical release, which opened the door to a number of unlikely contenders. With more wildcards in the mix, this year’s awards are more of a toss up than ever.

Below, I have outlined both my predicted and preferred winners for eight of the top categories to be awarded at this Sunday’s ceremony.

Chloe Zhao
Taylor Jewell/Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP
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Invision
“'Nomadland,' is director Chloé Zhao’s sweeping docu-fiction about a woman’s life on the road in the aftermath of the Great Recession."

Best Picture Nominees

  • “The Father”
  • “Judas and the Black Messiah”
  • “Mank”
  • “Minari”
  • “Nomadland”
  • “Promising Young Woman”
  • “Sound of Metal”
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Will Win: “Nomadland”

Should Win: “Sound of Metal”

With no major blockbusters competing in this year’s Best Picture race, the category is populated with many smallerscale, intimate dramas. Among these, the clear front-runner is “Nomadland,” director Chloé Zhao’s sweeping docu-fiction about a woman’s life on the road in the aftermath of the Great Recession. While “Nomadland” would certainly be a deserving Best Picture winner, my pick is “Sound of Metal.” The stunning first feature by director Darius Marder is about a metal drummer who loses his hearing. It’s a wholly unique sensory experience, threaded with evocative sound design and punctuated by the year’s best lead performance by Riz Ahmed.

Sound-of-Metal.jpg
"The stunning first feature by director Darius Marder is about a metal drummer who loses his hearing."
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Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Riz Ahmed as Ruben in SOUND OF METAL

Directing Nominees

  • “Another Round” – Thomas Vinterberg
  • “Mank” – David Fincher
  • “Minari” – Lee Isaac Chung
  • “Nomadland” – Chloé Zhao
  • “Promising Young Woman” – Emerald Fennell

Will Win: Chloé Zhao

Should Win: Lee Isaac Chung

Lee Isaac Chung directs the achingly beautiful “Minari” with a rare sense of delicacy, allowing his immigrant story to unfold through the gentle rhythms of lived-in experience. However, Chung’s film may be too quiet, too unobtrusive, to catch the Academy’s attention and will likely be overshadowed by the pictorial beauty and on-the-road authenticity on display in Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland.”

MINARI
Josh Ethan Johnson
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"Lee Isaac Chung directs the achingly beautiful 'Minari' with a rare sense of delicacy."

Actress in a Leading Role Nominees

  • 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”

Will Win: Frances McDormand

Should Win: Viola Davis

Viola Davis embodies the larger-than-life blues singer Ma Rainey boldly and without reservation. From the ever-present sweat dripping off her crushed velvet costumes to her fierce defiance in the face of bigotry, Davis fully embraces the weight of the role. She should win. However, two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand remains the likely front-runner in this category as the rugged vagabond Fern in “Nomadland.”

Viola Davis (David Lee-David Lee-Netflix).jpg
David Lee/NETFLIX/David Lee/NETFLIX
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Netflix
"Viola Davis embodies the larger-than-life blues singer Ma Rainey boldly and without reservation."

Actor in a Leading Role Nominees

  • Riz Ahmed – “Sound of Metal”
  • Chadwick Boseman – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
  • Anthony Hopkins – “The Father”
  • Gary Oldman – “Mank”
  • Steven Yeun – “Minari”

Will Win: Chadwick Boseman

Should Win: Riz Ahmed

The late Chadwick Boseman’s mighty acting skills are on display as an ambitious and overconfident trumpeter in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” He holds nothing back, allowing the scars of his character’s past to break open in a vivid and unforgettable climax that will surely earn him the Oscar – making him the first Black actor to receive the award posthumously. Still, I believe Riz Ahmed’s quieter, more introspective performance in “Sound of Metal” should take the cake (or crushed donut).

Riz Ahmed (Amazon Studios).jpg
Courtesy of Amazon Studios/Courtesy of Amazon Studios
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Amazon Studios
"Ahmed’s quieter, more introspective performance in 'Sound of Metal' should take the cake (or crushed donut)."

Actress in a Supporting Role Nominees

  • Maria Bakalova – “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”
  • Glenn Close – “Hillbilly Elegy”
  • Olivia Coleman – “The Father”
  • Amanda Seyfried – “Mank”
  • Yuh-Jung Youn – “Minari”

Will Win: Yuh-Jung Youn

Should Win: Maria Bakalova

Yuh-Jung Youn’s hilarious and heartfelt performance as the unconventional grandma in “Minari” will likely score her a win, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for a possible Maria Bakalova upset for her outrageous and courageous breakout role in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”

Maria-Bakalova.jpeg
AP
Maria Bakalova's performance was "outrageous and courageous."

Actor in a Supporting Role Nominees

  • 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”

Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya

Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya

Daniel Kaluuya will (and should) win for his commanding performance as Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” He brings depth and humanity to the mythologized figure, despite split screen time with fellow nominee LaKeith Stanfield.

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture/Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture
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"He brings depth and humanity to the mythologized figure."

Documentary (Feature) Nominees

  • “Collective”
  • “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution”
  • “The Mole Agent”
  • “My Octopus Teacher”
  • “Time”

Will Win: “Time”

Should Win: “Crip Camp”

The top two contenders in this category have a lot of weight behind them. It is really a toss up. “Time” is a New York Times Op-Doc that follows a Black family’s battle with America’s criminal justice system. Its intimacy and creative structure set it apart. But “Crip Camp” offers an uplifting recount of the often overshadowed disability rights movement of the 1970s and has backing from Higher Grounds Production, whose previous nominee, “American Factory,” took home the gold in 2020.

campjened_stevehonigsbaum_mst_14-1-
Steve Honigsbaum
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"'Crip Camp' offers an uplifting recount of the often overshadowed disability rights movement of the 1970s."

International Feature Film Nominees

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

Will Win: “Another Round”

Should Win: “Quo Vadis, Aida?”

Thanks to director Thomas Vinterberg’s masterful tonal balancing act, “Another Round” is sure to take home the award in this category. The movie was already gaining momentum throughout award season, but Vinterberg’s unexpected Best Director nomination is a clear sign that the Danish drinking dramedy landed big with the Academy. A worthy choice. Yet, “Quo Vadis, Aida?” should win for its harrowing and intimate depiction of the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

Qua Vadis, Aida (Super LTD).jpg
Super LTD
“Quo Vadis, Aida?” is a "harrowing and intimate depiction of the Srebrenica massacre of 1995."

The Academy Awards will be broadcast on ABC 7 p.m. CT.

Nicole Baxter is a Sales Assistant and covers film for Iowa Public Radio.