It’s finally back. While not in full swing yet, the world’s biggest award show, the Oscars, will not be presented through zoom this year. It’s the 93rd annual awards, just three years older than me. It will still be different as for the first time in history the event will not take place exclusively at the Dolby Theatre but will also have half of the attendees at the L.A. Union Station Theatre. Nominees, guests, and presenters will be the only ones allowed in the building. Let us also add most of the best films had to be watched on a television screen. Pandemics are fun aren’t they. No matter, its still the Oscars! Here are my picks for who will win as well as who should win. Get your office pool’s ready!
Best Motion Picture:
Nominees: “Nomadland”, “Judas and the Black Messiah”, “The Father”, “Mank”, “Minari”, “Promising Young Woman”, “Sound of Metal”, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
This race is over, but there were some great pictures in the mix. “The Father” and “Sound of Metal” were both fascinatingly unique looks into afflictions that hit us hard in life. Three very relevant social issues were brought up in this category. Black Lives Matter has been a huge movement recently and “Judas and the Black Messiah” shows what race war really looked like. “Promising Young Woman” deals with the sexual harassment issues every woman has to go through all the time. Finally we have the heart warming journey of an Asian family trying to make their way in rural America without tearing themselves apart in “Minari”. All good to great pictures. But the story of downtrodden U.S.A that is “Nomadland”, a true encapsulation of a culture that is struggling to survive everyday while also maintaining a sense of humor, is your winner.
Will Win: “Nomadland”. Should Win: “Promising Young Woman”.
Nominees: Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), David Fincher (“Mank”), Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”), Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”)
An award that almost always goes the exact same direction as Best Picture. It’s kind of a package deal. Shout out to Thomas Vinterberg getting a nod for his darkly hilarious comedy about alcoholism that is “Another Round”. David Fincher is hit and miss, but his films are always his own and “Mank” is one of his stronger forays in the art form. My most exciting new filmmaker in this group is Lee Isaac Chung for the nuanced (“Minari”). But we all know Chloe Zhao is going to win, not an issue for me but also not who I would go with.
Will Win: Chloe Zhao “Nomadland”. Should Win: Emerald Fennell “Promising Young Woman”.
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 Yuen (“Minari”)
We lost a special talent and overall human being this year when Chadwick Boseman suddenly passed. He left behind a brief yet phenomenal career from superhero movies to historical figures to his final turn in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. Based on the play of the same name, Boseman was phenomenal in his roll as a jazz musician with a hot streak. Being objective, he was the third best performance in this group behind Riz Ahmed and Anthony Hopkins. Stephen Yeun also did fantastic nuanced work and Gary Oldman was phenomenal as always playing his crazy self. But in the end, this will be a tribute award, and well deserved.
Will Win: Chadwick Boseman. Should Win: Riz Ahmed.
Best Actress In a Leading Role:
Nominees: Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Andra Day (“The Untied States vs. Billie Holiday”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”), Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)
Bit of a tough one here, no clear front runner. Frances McDormand has been getting a lot of love on the critical awards circuit, but is the Academy really going to give her a third statue? Viola Davis has been gaining momentum, but she won just a few years ago. Andra Day has no chance. One of those just happy to be nominated situations. Carey Mulligan would be well deserved, but I have a feeling “Promising Young Woman” is going to be mostly shut out which disappoints me . Then you have Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman”. The movie overall is the weakest in this group, but her performance as a young hopeful mother tragically losing her child during a home birth is absolutely breathtaking and has warranted several wins with the critics. This one is anybody’s game.
Will Win: Viola Davis. Should Win: Vanessa Kirby.
Best Actor In a Supporting Role:
Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen (“Trial of the Chicago 7”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night In Miami…”), Lakeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”)
Man is this a socially charged category. Apparently if you were not in a racial movie based on a true story then you pretty much do not qualify this year. Tis a pity as there were plenty of excellent supporting performances not politically driven (Arinze Kine for “I’m Your Woman” or Dan Levy for “Happiest Season” anyone?). That aside, this is a solid group with Sacha Baron Cohen being the least worthy here. But this one is a done deal. Lakeith Stanfield was great in “Judas and the Black Messiah”, but Daniel Kaluuya was absolute dynamite. Every time he was on screen it was impossible to turn away. Consider this one a lock, and a well earned one at that.
Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya. Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya.
Best Actress In a Supporting Role:
Nominees: Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”), Olivia Coleman (“The Father”), Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”), Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Film”), Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”)
Another lock. Amanda Seyfried is winning everything for her performance as Marion Davies in the ode to old Hollywood hit “Mank”. Her sultry play on the classic on screen dame is on point. I would love to see Maria Bakalova win for “Borat” just for the scene in which she messes with Rudy Giuliani and shows he’s a sexual predator alone. Olivia Coleman was also good, but “The Father” was more Anthony Hopkins’s movie. My dark horse is Yuh-Jung Youn in “Minari”. Her quirky grandmother character without a care in the world is impossible not to love.
Will Win: Amanda Seyfried. Should Win: Yuh-Jung Youn.
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay):
Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat: Subsequent Film”), Christopher Hampton (“The Father”), Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”), Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami…”), Ramin Bahrani (“The White Tiger”)
The “Nomadland” train continues here as Chloe Zhao will keep on cleaning up. “Borat” makes no sense here as that is not a fully scripted movie. The night of four legends coming together in “One Night in Miami…” is well done, but it is more of an actors movie. Depicting one’s mind going down the drain with “The Father” is brilliant, but there is not one element of screenwriting that stands out as it is a collection of excellence. My unsung hero is “The White Tiger”, an incredibly complex tale of a poor driver moving his way to the top of corrupt rich Indian culture. The film has layers and shows how corruption is all encompassing.
Will Win: “Nomadland”. Should Win: “The White Tiger”.
Best Writing (Original Screenplay):
Nominees: Shaka King (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), Darius Marder (“Sound of Metal”), Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
No clear cut frontrunner here. Both “Minari” and “Sound of Metal” are excellent, but not exactly leaning on the words on the page. Shaka King may very well be getting a consolation prize here for “Judas and the Black Messiah”, a popular practice for the Academy throughout the years. Aaron Sorkin also has a shot with “The Trial of the Chicago 7” because his name is Aaron Sorkin. They will not be legit with who really should win because the best screenplay written by Emerald Fennel for “Promising Young Woman” was not written by a made man. Let us hope I am wrong.
Will Win: “Judas and the Black Messiah”. Should Win: “Promising Young Woman”.
Nominees: Sean Bobbitt (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”), Dariusz Wolski (“News of the World”), Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”), Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
No true standouts this year on the visual side of things. “Chicago 7” and “Judas” have some breathtaking shots, but nothing to blow you away. It captures old school Hollywood, but “Mank” never really thrills. “Nomadland” captures the poor side of society with slow long takes, but its visual style never evolves. It won’t win, but by default I have to go with “News of the World” as my personal pick. The vastness of the old west as Tom Hanks journey’s towards returning a young girl to her rightful place is beautifully captured by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski.
Will Win: “Nomadland”. Should Win: “News of the World”.
Best Film Editing:
Nominees: Yorgos Lamprinos (“The Father”), Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”), Frederic Thoraval (“Promising Young Woman”), Mikkel E.G. Nielson (“Sound of Metal”), Alan Baumgarten (“Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Two clear cut standouts in this category, one of which is a lock. “Nomadland”, “Promising Young Woman”, and “Chicago 7” are not made good due to their editing. The top two are both fantastic in very different ways. “Sound of Metal” is able to cut together concert scenes that are normal while also switching things up once our main character’s hearing is going out. A different editing style, “The Father” juxtaposes between the real as well as the imaginary, depicting ones decent into madness. Either one is an excellent choice.
Will Win: “Sound of Metal”. Should Win: “The Father”.
Best International Film:
Nominees: “Another Round” (Denmark), “Better Days” (Hong Kong), “Collective” (Romania), “The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia), “Quo Vadis, Aida?” (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
An odd year for the Foreign Film category. Hong Kong brings us a lament on bullying and isolation as a young girl befriends a street kid with “Better Days”. Corruption leading to the tragic death of multiple young musicians is discovered to be a cover up by determined journalists in “Collective”. A man sells his skin to the highest bidder to do with what they want in “The Man Who Sold His Skin”. And finally, the story of a woman struggling to allow political refugees into Bosnia is told with extreme reality in “Quo Vadis, Aida?”. They are all going to lose to a movie about a bunch of drunks. “Another Round” is a fascinating look at a group of buddies who decide to test the limits of drinking just enough while still remaining functional. Led by Mads Mikkelson, the crew tries to balance a level of sanity as well as not falling into true alcoholism. Is the idea of a functional alcoholic sustainable?
Will Win: “Another Round”. Should Win: “Another Round”.
Best Animated Feature:
Nominees: “Onward”, “Over the Moon”, “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon”, “Soul”, “Wolfwalkers”
Of all the nominees, the only one I have not seen is the one I think is going to win because I am not paying for apple+. It sounds like “Wolfwalkers” is going to take it. Similar to the Japanese anime revolution in the early 2000’s, the Gaelic animation scene is here to stay with its unique vibrant style. “Onward” was solid while “Over the Moon” and “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” were both just ‘meh’. “Soul” was absolutely delightful, another hit for Pixar. But also not Mount Rushmore level for that studio. I’m going with the Irish to take it home, but I would have no issue with “Soul” winning either.
Will Win: “Wolfwalkers”. Should Win: “Soul”.
Best Documentary Feature:
Nominees: “Collective”, “Crip Camp”, “The Mole Agent”, “My Octopus Teacher”, “Time”
Looks to be a three horse race here. “Time” appears to be the front runner, but both “Collective” and “Crip Camp” are catching steam. “Time” is a complex documentary about a man who did commit a crime, but his penalty far outweighed what he did and the struggle his loved ones had to go through in hopes of freeing him are gut wrenching. The other two contenders are “Collective” and “Crip Camp”. “Collective” follows the story of reporters in Romania trying to uncover the truth involving a mass health cover-up by business owners which resulted in a fire that killed 27 people. A much more hopeful story, “Crip Camp” tells the story of a collection of disabled people given shelter and resources immediately following Woodstock. Produced by the Obama’s, “Crip Camp” is a true wild card in this category.
Will Win: “Time”. Should Win: “Crip Camp”.
Best Music (Original Score):
Nominees: Terence Blanchard (“Da 5 Bloods”), Trent Reznor (“Mank”), Emile Mosseri (“Minari”), James Newton Howard (“News of the World”), Trent Reznor (“Soul”)
Most of these nominees are fairly tame. Four of the five do not stand out in any way when it comes to the score. That leaves the only movie who’s music is noteworthy, “Soul”. Trent Reznor is not exactly known for his grasp of jazz music, but he is also considered the world over as a musical genius. His work on “Soul” is inspired and will have you tapping your foot in the theatre from the beginning to the end. “Soul” is a movie centered around ones love of a tune and this score represents that perfectly.
Will Win: “Soul”. Should Win: “Soul”.
Best Music (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”), Seen (“The Life Ahead”), Speak Now (“One Night in Miami…”)
I have no idea on this one. There is no song that stands out, whether it be happy or hopeful or timely. None of these songs became staples in any way pop culture wise. So I’m just going to shut my eyes and call the H.E.R. song “Fight For You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah” with my eyes closed and hope that it is a winner. This is one category I am not gambling a penny on in Vegas.
Will Win: “Fight For You”. Should Win: Couldn’t tell ya’?
Best Costume Design:
Nominees: “Emma”, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, “Mank”, “Mulan”, “Pinocchio”
For all of its glaring faults, Disney spared no expense when it came to the lavish costumes on display. “Mulan” was not a good movie. It was flat and lacking the dragon comic relief. But it sure was pretty visually. Much better enjoyed with the dialogue turned off. I am going to guess when it comes to the actual award we’re looking at either “Emma” or “Mank” as both are standard awards fare. Alexandra Byrne’s work on “Emma” is probably the odds on favorite given her track record.
Will Win: “Emma”. Should Win: “Mulan”.
Nominees: “Emma”, “Hillbilly Elegy”, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, “Mank”, “Pinocchio”
No movie blew us away this year when it comes to makeup/hairstyling. There was no Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill. Pretty much a benign category here. Gotta go with Viola Davis in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. It is not a complete transformation, but I am sure her morning routine consisted of an hour or two in order to age/liquor her up visually. “Mank” was pretty straight forward, more of what was done in the camera. Visual effects drove “Pinocchio” and “Emma” was more costume design. The winner seems very clear.
Will Win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. Should Win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”.
Best Visual Effects:
Nominees: “Love and Monsters”, “The Midnight Sky”, “Mulan”, “The One and Only Ivan”, “Tenet”
Another category ravished by Covid-19 as many of the big blockbusters got pushed. From “Dune” to the Marvel movies, the big blockbusters known for their effects did not see the light of day in 2020. Of the ones that did, it was slim pickens. Both “The Midnight Sky” and “Mulan” were garbage as movies. So once again, by default, we’ve got to go with a movie that was just ok. Director Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”, a so-so action thriller that acts as though it is way more complicated than it truly is, will take it. But hey, they did crash a plane into a hanger!
Will Win: “Tenet”. Should Win: “Tenet”.
Best Production Design:
Nominees: “The Father”, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, “Mank”, “News of the World”, “Tenet”.
Look, “Mank” is going to win. Designer Donald Graham Burt recaptured the classic Hollywood look in black & white. I would argue the true deserved winner has got to be Nathan Crowley for his work on “Tenet”. Not only did he have to create an alternative future, his crew had to create an atmosphere based on time going back and forth. The other three pictures have no reason being here in this particular category. Default numero dos award for “Tenet” in my book.
Will Win: “Mank”. Should Win: “Tenet”.
Nominees: “Greyhound”, “Mank”, “News of the World”, “Soul”, “Sound of Metal”
The winner of this category is in the title. “Sound of Metal” is the clear frontrunner with its transition from hardcore rock concerts to the loss of your money maker that is your ability to hear. “Soul” is a great soundtrack, but it is not great ‘sound’. No clue what “Mank” and “News of the World” are doing in this category. I would fight for “Greyhound” here. While not a great movie overall, the intense sound design on the seas is top notch with sound mixer Warren Shaw and his team creating an atmosphere of intense moments that must hit a soldier straight to the heart whilst battling on the sea.
Will Win: “Sound of Metal”. Should Win: “Greyhound”.
Best Short Film (Animated):
Nominees: “Burrow” (Disney+), “Genius Loci” (France), “If Anything Happens I Love You” (U.S.A.), “Opera” (Korea), “Yes-People” (Iceland)
This one is not even close as far as what is the best. French director Pascal Griesshammer’s brilliant “Genius Loci” is a tour-de-force. Starting with a heist gone wrong, our main character Franzi finds herself concealed in a room with a haunting life of its own, brining about memories from the past. The animation is very reminiscent of the works of Picasso and is captivating. “If Anything Happens I Love You” will probably win due to the subject matter. Director Will McCormack showcases the aftermath of a school shooting. But it is not the best short. The sleeper is the impressionistic “Yes-People” from Iceland, a movie that shows a gamut of emotions without any discernible dialogue.
Will Win: “If Anything Happens I Love You”. Should Win: “Genius Loci”.
Best Short Film (Live Action):
Nominees: “Feeling Through” (U.S.A.), “The Letter Room” (U.S.A.), “The Present” (Israel), “Two Distant Strangers” (HBO MAX), “White Eye” (Israel)
I’m not even going to make any type of argument on this one. “The Letter Room” is going to get some love because it stars Oscar Isaac. It’s solid, but nothing special. The true standout here is the amazing Israeli picture “White Eye”. Taking place in a true one take, the story centering around a supposed stolen bike develops into a tale of illegal immigration and corrupt police officers meeting head on when all the protagonist wanted was his bike back. “White Eye” hits multiple levels of the human experience within a matter of minutes, and is an absolute triumph.
Will Win: “White Eye”. Should Win: “White Eye”.