Reel Talk: 2021 Oscar Winners Predictions

It’s been a long gap between Academy Awards shows, but now that the ceremony has finally arrived, I am left with my annual, self-assigned task of predicting every category correctly. We are down to 23 major categories this year (with Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing having been combined into one Sound category), and a number of categories remain extremely competitive as we approach Oscar Sunday — which, of course, only makes it more fun. Here are my final predictions for the 94th Academy Awards:

Best Supporting Actress: Youn Yuh-Jung (Minari)

Courtesy of A24

Ahead of the nominations, this was initially one of the more difficult categories to predict, but Youn Yuh-Jung has emerged as a frontrunner for her performance in Minari following her win at the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA awards (the latter of which earned her attention for her fun acceptance speech). These wins indicate that she’s on the right path to take the Oscar this weekend, in what could be the film’s only win of the night. 

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)

Courtesy of YouTube

When the Academy Award nominations were announced last month, many people (myself included) scratched their heads upon seeing that both Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield were nominated in the supporting category for Judas and the Black Messiah, given that they are both arguably the leading men of their film with two of the year’s best performances. As we near the awards ceremony, Kaluuya is poised to win following his consecutive wins at the Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA awards. 

Best Actress: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)

Courtesy of IndieWire

Hands-down, this has been the toughest of all 23 categories to narrow down, primarily because each of the Best Actress trophies at the preceding major awards shows have gone to different people: Andra Day at the Golden Globes, Carey Mulligan at Critics Choice, Viola Davis at SAG, and Frances McDormand at BAFTA. At this rate, I almost want to give the Oscar to Vanessa Kirby just to even things out (and who knows, that could still happen!). It seems like a three-way race between Mulligan, Davis, and McDormand. I’m giving the edge to Davis, not only because she took home the SAG (whose voting body overlaps with the Academy) but because she has yet to win in the Lead Actress category. Her transformative performance in Ma Rainey is worthy of recognition. 

Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)

Courtesy of The New York Times

The Best Actor race has felt pretty locked ever since Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom premiered on Netflix a few months ago. In his final film role, Chadwick Boseman gives what is arguably a career-best performance. This, coupled with his SAG, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice wins, makes him all but sure to receive a well-deserved top-honor at the Oscars.

Best Director: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)

Courtesy of Sky News

This year’s directing category has made history with two women, Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell, having received nominations for the first time in the Academy’s history. Zhao, who recently won the Directors Guild award, is the frontrunner to take home the Oscar as well. If she wins, Zhao will be only the second woman to win in the category (the first being Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2010) and the first woman of color to win. The Academy, like much of Hollywood, still has a long way to go when it comes to recognizing diverse talent, and hopefully they will continue to do so moving forward.

Best Picture: Nomadland 

Courtesy of Variety

For the past few years, the Best Picture race has come down to at least two films vying for the ceremony’s top award (Parasite and 1917 last year, Green Book and Roma the previous year, etc). However, this year seems to be more straightforward, with Nomadland having won Best Picture at each of the major awards shows — including the Producers Guild Award, which is often a strong indicator for the direction the Academy is headed. Zhao’s momentum in the directing and writing categories have also helped to propel Nomadland to the forefront, which should be capped off by a Best Picture win.

Best Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman

Best Adapted Screenplay: Nomadland 

Best Cinematography: Nomadland

Best Animated Feature: Soul

Best Short Film (Animated): If Anything Happens I Love You

Best Documentary (Feature): My Octopus Teacher

Best Documentary (Short): A Love Song for Latasha

Best Short Film (Live-Action): Two Distant Strangers

Best International Film: Another Round 

Best Editing: Sound of Metal

Best Sound: Sound of Metal

Best Visual Effects: Tenet

Best Production Design: Mank

Best Costume Design: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Original Score: Soul

Best Original Song: “Speak Now” (One Night in Miami)


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