Reel Talk: 2021 Oscar Predictions

The Academy Awards nominations announcement comes to us much later in the year than it normally does, pushed back to reflect the release date delays which plagued so many would-be contenders. This year’s awards season understandably looks much different now than it did at the beginning of 2020, but there are still plenty of wonderful films that deserve the recognition they will get as Oscar season kicks into high-gear. Notably, there should be a healthy combination of both studio and streaming offerings, and hopefully a diverse field of nominees across categories. Here are my predictions for the six major categories:

Best Picture

Nomadland, Courtesy of Vulture

Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros)

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

Mank (Netflix)

Minari (A24)

Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures)

One Night in Miami (Amazon Studios)

Promising Young Woman (Focus Features)

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)

Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios)

Potential Spoilers: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Da 5 Bloods, News of the World, The Father

Thankfully, the Academy will be changing the rules beginning next year so that 10 films will always be nominated, thus saving me the guesswork about how many films they will recognize for the top prize. Like last year, though, I think nine pictures are in contention, with Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland in top position as of today. Due to its Producers Guild nomination, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm might slot into that tenth spot. I would also be happy if Da 5 Bloods found its way back into the race as well, which I could see usurping either something like Sound of Metal or Judas and the Black Messiah, both of which gained steam in more recent weeks with PGA nominations.

Best Director

Chloé Zhao, Courtesy of IndieWire

Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)

David Fincher (Mank)

Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)

Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)

Potential Spoilers: Regina King (One Night in Miami), Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods)

The Best Director category feels locked up for the most part, with Academy favorites like Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher (a The Social Network face-off!) and rising stars Chloé Zhao, Lee Isaac Chung, and Emerald Fennell all in the running. Notably, if the momentum and Directors Guild recognition precursors are to be believed, two women will be nominated in this category — which has the potential to be upped to a historic three women nominated should Regina King break into the category. For her directorial debut, King received a nomination for Best First Time Director with the DGA, so this momentum could continue into tomorrow’s announcement.

Best Actress

Viola Davis, Courtesy of Vanity Fair

Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday)

Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Frances McDormand (Nomadland)

Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)

Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)

Potential Spoilers: Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit), Yeri Han (Minari)

I don’t foresee any major upsets with this category based on consistency across different awards nominations. This will likely be a two-way race between film legends Frances McDormand and Viola Davis come Oscars night. Although Andra Day did not receive a Screen Actors Guild nomination, she seems to have gained momentum due to her recent Golden Globe win for Best Actress in a Drama. It’s always possible that a Hollywood favorite like Michelle Pfeiffer slides into the fifth spot instead, or that they might recognize Yeri Han for Minari because the film has maintained a steady presence throughout awards season.

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman, Courtesy of Quartz

Anthony Hopkins (The Father)

Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)

Gary Oldman (Mank)

Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)

Steven Yeun (Minari)

Potential Spoilers: Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)

I expect the Best Actor category to remain consistent with the five lead actors nominated for SAG awards. The late Chadwick Boseman leads this group with his titanic final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and it’s tragic that we lost such a talented, passionate actor too soon. Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman will likely receive recognition yet again, while Steven Yeun and Riz Ahmed will look for their first (of hopefully many) Oscar nominations. As much as it pains me, I don’t know that Delroy Lindo will break into this group. As I mentioned in my Top 10 Films of 2020 discussion, Lindo gives an emotional, deserving performance, but Da 5 Bloods has been largely shut out of awards races, so the path forward looks thinner now.

Best Supporting Actress

Maria Bakalova, Courtesy of The New York Times

Amanda Seyfried (Mank)

Dominique Fishback (Judas and the Black Messiah)

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)

Olivia Colman (The Father)

Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)

Potential Spoilers: Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Ellen Burstyn (Pieces of a Woman)

This was the trickiest category to predict simply because the category feels less locked up than the other performance races. Amanda Seyfried, Maria Bakalova, and Olivia Colman should be safe bets due to the buzz around their respective performances and films. Youn Yuh-jung’s SAG nomination could translate to an Oscars nomination as well. Judas and the Black Messiah released relatively late in the race this year, but its momentum has only grown in that time, which may be reflected with a nomination for Dominique Fishback. Regarding potential spoilers, Jodie Foster’s recent win at the Golden Globes could foreshadow her break into the top five, and while Hillbilly Elegy was dismissed by critics, Glenn Close’s SAG nomination in addition to her Hollywood star-power might make the difference for her.

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya, Courtesy of The Independent

Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)

David Strathairn (Nomadland)

Leslie Odom, Jr. (One Night in Miami)

Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)

Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

Potential Spoiler: Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods)

The Supporting Actor category should also be clear-cut for the most part, although it remains to be seen who will take top prize simply because I don’t see a clear frontrunner out of the pack. Sacha Baron Cohen has had a big year with regards to awards season, which will likely be reaffirmed with a Supporting Actor nomination (rather than Lead Actor for Borat). Due to his dual SAG nominations and awards presence, Chadwick Boseman could in turn receive recognition in both the Lead Actor and Supporting Actor categories for his 2020 performances. If Da 5 Bloods were to be recognized in any of these six categories, I actually think the most feasible route might be with Boseman in this category.

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