While the 93rd Academy Awards are going to be a bit of a mess (as has been with every pandemic-era awards show), the films themselves are nothing to scoff at. I scratched the surface a bit in my initial Oscars reaction piece, but this year's crop of nominees are impressive across the board.
Will the absolute dominance of 'Nomadland' win it all? Could 'Wolfwalkers' be another crack in the Pixar win machine? Will 'Mank's overflow of nominations actually result in any wins? And, most importantly, could we soon be saying "Oscar winner 'Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm?'"
I re-teamed with my fellow Odyssey writer and film critic Samantha Incorvaia to break down this years nominees. Like last year, we'll be splitting the predictions between our two articles, so go check out her article for the categories I didn't cover.
*Note: Like last year, our predictions don't cover the categories for Best Live Action Short and Best Documentary Short. We respect the categories, but sadly, no one on our team had seen enough of the nominees to make predictions that we were confident in.
Best Production Design
Nominees: 'The Father' (Peter Francis and Cathy Featherstone), 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' (Mark Ricker, Karen O'Hara and Diana Sroughton), 'Mank' (Donald Graham Burt and Jan Pascale), 'News of the World' (David Crank and Elizabeth Keenan), 'Tenet' (Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas)
Here begins the start of my apologies for not having seen 'The Father' yet, although I've heard so many good things about it that are going to influence a lot of my predictions, including production design. Personally, I think 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' deserves this one, for no other reason than so much of the film is in confined space and has to have so much detail in so little.
However, I think 'Mank' is going to wind up taking this one. The old saying that the Oscars eat up any film about Hollywood kind of rings true here, as Donald Graham Burt and Jan Pascale's work does a lot in recreating so much of the glitz and glamour of the 1930's Hollywood. 'Mank' may not be the sweep Netflix wants it to be, but this is pretty good bet.
Should Win: 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom'
Will Win: 'Mank'
Nominees: 'Greyhound' (Beau Borders, Michael Minkler, Warren Shaw and David Wyman), Mank' (Ren Klyce, Drew Kunin, Jeremy Molod, Nathan Nance and David Parker), 'News of the World' (William Miller, John Pritchett, Mike Prestwood Smith and Oliver Tarney), 'Soul' (Coya Elliot, Ren Klyce and David Parker), 'Sound of Metal' (Jaime Baksht, Nicolas Becker, Philip Bladh, Carlos Cortes and Michelle Couttolenc)
'Sound of Metal' should win and I believe it will win. Darius Marder's film is entirely based in sound, specifically the human value of sound. That kind of deeply personal approach, combined with the film's recent BAFTA win, make this a fairly confident frontrunner to the Academy.
The other films all are deserving nominees, but the only other sizeable contender I see here is 'Soul.' Between having sound as a central motif of the film and the adoration that the Academy has shown for Pixar, it could wind up sneaking in for a win. But if 'Sound of Metal' has the best chance in any category, it would be its namesake.
Should Win: 'Sound of Metal'
Will Win: 'Sound of Metal'
Nominees: 'The Father' (Yorgos Lamprinos), 'Nomadland' (Chloe Zhao), 'Promising Young Woman' (Frédéric Thoraval), 'Sound of Metal' (Mikkel E.G. Nielsen), 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' (Alan Baumgarten)
Honestly I wouldn't count out any of these films aside from maybe 'Sound of Metal' (mainly just lack of momentum). All of the pundits seem to be revolving around Alan Baumgarten's work on 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' and I just don't see the same dominance for that film as I did a few months ago.
From everything I've heard about 'The Father,' aside from Anthony Hopkins' performance, this is where it has the best shot. Yorgos Lamprinos' work has already gotten BAFTA, Critics Choice and Satellite nominations and the film revolves a lot around pacing tricks and camera angles to add to its storytelling. Personally, I prefer Chloe Zhao's personal touches on 'Nomadland,' but I think 'The Father' might have the clearest run of all of these.
Should Win: 'Nomadland'
Will Win: 'The Father'
Nominees: 'Judas and the Black Messiah' (Sean Bobbitt), 'Mank' (Eric Messerschmidt), 'News of the World' (Dariusz Wolski), 'Nomadland' (Joshua James Richards), 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' (Phedon Papamichael)
It is a bit weird that Dariusz Wolski is only up for his first Academy Award this year between his other work (the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' films, 'The Martian,' etc.). 'Mank' could sneak in for a win here, between the massive love for 'Mank' in the technical departments, Messerschmidt's win from the American Society of Cinematographers, and other black-and-white shot films in the last few years like 'Roma' nabbing nominations.
But frankly this is Joshua James Richards' award to lose. Refining his already stellar collaboration with Chloe Zhao from 'The Rider,' Richards captures so much of the film's stunning contrast of beauty and loneliness (if I may sound so pretentious) with stunning light mixes, fascinating character frames and helping to build the expanse of the American Southwest that helps drive the central journey. In other words, everything needed and more.
Should Win: 'Nomadland'
Will Win: 'Nomadland'
Best Original Song
Nominees: "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 si (Seen)" (The Life Ahead), "Speak Now" (One Night in Miami)
It's not the most fascinating year for Best Original Song, but all of the nominees are solid enough choices. H.E.R. is one of my favorite artists working today and she delivers a fantastic performance on "Fight for You," on top of the song being exactly the right coda for Shaka King's story of Fred Hampton's assassination.
I would also love for "Io si" to sneak in for a win, as 'The Life Ahead' got way too little buzz this year as a whole and the song is lovely for what it is. But it seems like Leslie Odom Jr.'s "Speak Now" from One Night in Miami is the favorite, and with his natural charisma and poignancy to the film, I wouldn't be mad in the slightest seeing it win.
Should Win: "Fight for You" (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Will Win: "Speak Now" (One Night in Miami)
Best Original Score
Nominees: 'Da 5 Bloods' (Terrence Blanchard), 'Mank' (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), 'Minari' (Emile Mosseri), 'News of the World' (James Newton Howard), 'Soul' (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
James Newton Howard's work on 'News of the World' is actually fantastic and it only goes to how much more momentum the film might have had if theaters were prevalent last year. Emile Mosseri absolutely stunned me with 2019's 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco,' so seeing him get recognized for 'Minari' feels legitimately earned. Then there's Terrence Blanchard's work on 'Da 5 Bloods' and I'm just happy the film is recognized in some capacity (yeah not salty at all).
It's nothing short of remarkable that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross dropped two full Nine Inch Nails albums last year and still had time to craft not one, but two Oscar nominated film scores. Of those two, while 'Mank's commitment to period authenticity is absolutely admirable, it's 'Soul' that has seen the most buzz with it's jazz-inspired ethereal movements courtesy of Stay Human's Jon Batiste. Thus far, 'Up' is the only Pixar film to take home an Original Score Oscar, but 'Soul' looks to join the party very soon.
Should Win: Soul
Will Win: Soul
Best Animated Short
Nominees: 'Burrow,' 'Genius Loci,' 'If Anything Happens, I Love You,' 'Opera,' 'Yes-People'
I admittedly don't usually go too deep into the short film side of Oscar predictions, mainly because I don't wind up watching them until the last minute (and this year was no exception). At first, I was ready to cynically declare Pixar dominance again with 'Burrow,' the short film attached to 'Soul' that was delightful, if not a bit simple. It seemed like the obvious pick until I delved into predictions a bit further and, for myself, watched 'If Anything Happens, I Love You.'
People, if you haven't seen this, it is heavy, but well worth the 12-minute runtime and apparently the pundits (and a segment of TikTok) seem to think so too. Netflix's first animated short entry looks to be right alongside 'Burrow' for frontrunner, but given it's unorthodox style and growing popularity on the streaming service, I think it might wind up a deserving, if not tear-worthy, winner.
Should Win: If Anything Happens, I Love You
Will Win: If Anything Happens, I Love You
Best Animated Feature
Maybe it's just my Twitter timeline, but aside from anything involving 'The Trial of the Chicago 7,' this might be the most contentious race I've seen this year in terms of predictions. Let's ignore the other three films for a minute: in one corner, you have 'Soul,' Pete Docter and Kemp Powers' metatextual opus, beautifully crafted and pushing Pixar into territory rarely explored before. In the other, you have 'Wolfwalkers,' Tomm Moore's wonderfully spiritual, constantly exciting conclusion to Cartoon Saloon's "Irish Folktale" trilogy (this, 'The Secret of Kells' and 'Song of the Sea').
So the question stands: will Pixar lose? It's not unthinkable, with more of the Academy recognizing animation more frequently (if gruelingly slowly) and it wasn't that long ago that 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' beat TWO Disney/Pixar projects for this award, it COULD happen! At this point, it's a 50/50 shot and all 'Wolfwalkers' fans can do is pray that Apple TV pushed the project to enough voters and 'Soul' has had it's fill of acclaim...but just how likely is that?
Should Win: Wolfwalkers
Will Win: Soul
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Maria Bakalova (Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), Amanda Seyfried (Mank), Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)
It's the much anticipated rematch between Glenn Close and Olivia Colman, get your tickets now! It is a bit funny thinking about the absolute crash of momentum 'Hillbilly Elegy' got towards the end of last year, even though there's still a section of fans that are rooting for this to be Glenn Close's Oscar (spoiler: it shouldn't be).
Amanda Seyfried does have some really lively moments in 'Mank' and, even though I haven't seen 'Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm,' don't be shocked if the buzz might wind up being more ingrained in the Academy then we expect. However, much like Daniel Kaluuya in Best Supporting Actor, this looks like Youn Yuh-jung's award to lose. She's been up for dozens of Supporting Actress awards for her work in 'Minari' this awards season and her performance is everything the Academy looks for on a consistent basis. If 'Minari' has a shot in anything, it's going to be for her phenomenal performance here.
Should Win: Youn Yuh-jung
Will Win: Youn Yuh-jung
Nominees: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Gary Oldman (Mank), Steven Yeun (Minari)
Why did this year have to be so stacked in terms of lead performances? Anthony Hopkins has gained a shocking amount of acclaim for 'The Father,' 'Steven Yeun breaks so much ground with 'Minari,' Riz Ahmed absolutely has my vote after 'Sound of Metal,' and even Gary Oldman is electric in 'Mank' (even if his stranglehold on this category is getting tiring).
But then we have to turn to the late Chadwick Boseman, who gave pitch perfect performances his entire career and unfortunately passed last August, just before what might be his all-time best work in 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.' It's inevitable to turn to his death as a factor, but put aside that and just remember how focused, tragic, and convincing he plays Levee Green, bringing new life to August Wilson's immortal dialogue. If that's not worthy of a statue, I don't know what is.
Should Win: Riz Ahmed
Will Win: Chadwick Boseman
Nominees: 'The Father,' 'Judas and the Black Messiah,' 'Mank,' 'Minari,' 'Nomadland,' 'Promising Young Woman,' 'Sound of Metal,' 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'
Here we are, the eight films that made the Best Picture race (and bringing up the eternal question "if 10 possible slots, why make a complicated voting system?").
Personally, I love all of these films (minus 'The Father,' again, I'll see it soon), but there have to be some immediate exclusions. 'Mank' has basically sunk as Netflix's de facto awards leader despite it's copious nominations and promise in the tecnical categories. That honor falls to 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' and, even if I don't love all of it's choices, I will never doubt the Academy's love for a timely, Aaron Sorkin penned, docudrama, even in a year as stacked as this.
'Promising Young Woman' and, unfortunately, 'Sound of Metal' have better shots in other categories, in addition to 'Judas and the Black Messiah' which, despite HBO Max's late awards season push, might have missed the window just barely as a frontrunner. That leaves 'Minari,' 'The Father,' and 'Nomadland' as the remaining frontrunners.
Of those three, while I can't deny the growing momentum for both 'Minari' and 'The Father,' 'Nomadland' looks like the strongest contender. It's momentum hasn't depleted in the slighest, it's messages have only become more timely, and the film's dual theater/Hulu release strategy has proven effective for audiences. It's not the out-of-the-box pick to make me look smart, but then again, that rarely happens. There could very easily be a handful of surprises in this category alone, but Chloe Zhao is walking away with at least one Oscar come next week, might as well be the big one.
Should Win: Nomadland / Sound of Metal
Will Win: 'Nomadland'
What about you? Who do you think will take home the gold, and who might split the vote for Best Picture?
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