Thursday 22 April 2021 1:17 pm

The Oscars 2021: Our predictions for the big winners

James City A.M.'s film editor and a regular on both TV and radio discussing the latest movie releases

Hollywood’s big, back slapping Oscar party arrives on Sunday, but as with other awards ceremonies, the film industry will have to congratulate itself from a distance. It will be a different kind of awards, with a rumoured additional venue in London, but the same amount of anticipation regarding who will take home a gold statuette. 

Will Netflix finally score a Best Picture award after years of being shut out? How will the Brits fare? Will it be eighth time lucky for Glenn Close? Here are our picks for the major categories, as well as wild card choices to cover our backsides highlight the dark horses.

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. 

Our Pick: Nomadland 

It’s won Best Picture with The Golden Globes, The London Film Critics Circle, The BAFTAs, and about a dozen other ceremonies and festivals. It would take an awful lot to unseat Chloe Zhao’s marvellous drama from the top prize, not least because for us it’s the best of a very strong category. Stranger things have happened, but at this point it would be a shock for it not to win. 

Wild Card: The Trial Of The Chicago 7

Oscars are always politically motivated in some sense. The Revenant was not Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performance, but it got him the Oscar in 2016 partly because it was felt that it was “his time”. In this context, the studio establishment could reward Netflix’s historical drama on the basis that the streamer has been the unlikely protector of cinemas during 2020, churning out new releases when traditional studios ran for the hills. 

BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees: Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), David Fincher (Mank), Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Chloé Zhao (Nomadland), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)

Our Pick: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)

Separate winners for Best Picture and Best Director have happened quite a lot recently (five times in the 2010s), but Zhao’s direction is such a big part of Nomadland, it seems right for the film to take both.

Wild Card: Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman). 

The British filmmaker has everyone talking with her hard-hitting drama, which excelled thanks to some excellent directorial choices. She’s perhaps more likely to win for her screenplay, but a surprise director win wouldn’t be out of the question.

BEST 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).

Our Pick: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). 

Like Nomadland, this one seems like destiny. Not just for what the late Boseman meant to so many, but because his performance in the musical drama is the best of his career. What voter would deny him that legacy?

Wild Card: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal).

In the unlikely event Boseman doesn’t win, Ahmed’s heart-wrenching turn could be what takes home the gold. Honestly, all of the nominees would be favourites in a quieter year, but this seems wrapped up.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Andra Day (The United States v. Billie Holiday), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

https://youtu.be/ViHi0-Justs

Our Pick: Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Well, it would be boring if we went with all the favourites, wouldn’t it? Frances McDormand is the front runner for this year’s award, but as brilliant and deserving as she is, she’s won it twice (for Fargo and Three Billboards…). Carey Mulligan swings for the fences with a darkly comic performance, and if Oscar wants to subvert expectations this may be the pick. 

Wild Card: Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)

You can’t really describe McDormand as a dark horse, so we’ve gone for Kirby’s devastating portrayal of grief in the Netflix drama. The first half hour alone stayed with us for weeks. 

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), Amanda Seyfried (Mank), Yuh-jung Youn (Minari)

Our Pick: Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)

Our second surprise of the night will be Bakalova, going against the run of form that has seen her lose out on a BAFTA and Golden Globe to Minari’s Yuh-jung Youn and Rosamund Pike (I Care A Lot) respectively. We think she might come out of nowhere to take the gong for being the stand out in Sacha Baron Cohen’s film, in a move that will also likely enrage ‘scene partner’ Rudy Giuliani.

Wild Card: Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy). 

Come on guys, she’s been nominated eight times! Hillbilly Elegy is not a great film, but Close is terrific in it despite an odd speech about The Terminator. An emotional pick, it would be a shock but it would be nice to see a legend of the screen honoured.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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)

Our Pick: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and The Black Messiah). 

It’s an odd category this year given that both Kaluuya and his co-star Lakeith Stanfield are nominated for Best Supporting Actor, implying the film has no lead. Studios decide the categories to campaign for, and clearly decided to get creative to avoid the packed Best Actor category. That’s The Oscars for you! Politics aside, Kaluuya steals the show as the man with a movement on his shoulders, and having been quietly great in so many great dramas before, it would be a welcome moment in the spotlight. 

Wild Card: Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)

It’s been a quiet awards season for Regina King’s fictional meeting of legends, but we wouldn’t begrudge Leslie Odom Jr’s Sam Cooke winning a big award. A pragmatic counter to Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X, he brings complexity to a famous face from the past. 

ELSEWHERE…

We’d go for Lee Isaac Chung winning Best Original Screenplay for Minari (and avoiding a shut out for the film), and the same for The Father in Best Adapted Screenplay. Disney normally dominates the Best Animated Feature category, and while we loved Apple’s Wolfwalkers, we can see Soul walking away with that one. Tenet may be rewarded for its pandemic heroics with an award for Visual Effects or Productions Design, and while it’s unlikely we’d love to see “Húsavík” win Best Original Song, solely so we can say Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of The Fire Saga is an Oscar winning film. 

The 93rd Academy Awards take place in the early hours of Monday morning, and will be available to watch on Sky Cinema Oscars Channel and NOW. 

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