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Never Mind The 'Rona, Here Are Your 2021 Oscar Picks

Even Oscar is feeling a little funky after last year.
Even Oscar is feeling a little funky after last year.
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It's been a weird movie year (been a weird everything year, if we're being honest), with dozens of big budget films pushed from 2020 release to this year or beyond and studios leveraging streaming services to do small screen rollouts, some (Godzilla vs. Kong) more successful than others (Mulan).

But thank ... someone we still have the Academy Awards. This year's ceremony will again (mercifully) be host-free, with a variety of presenters attempting to make the proceedings as awkward as possible by tiptoeing around the Scott Rudin situation.

This year also marks a number of firsts: it's the first time there have ever been two women (Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell) nominated for Best Director at the same time, the first Muslim (Riz Ahmed) nominated for Best Actor, the first Asian-American man (Steven Yuen) nominated for Best Actor, and the first South Korean (Youn Yuh-jung) to be nominated for an acting Oscar.

In case you forgot how everyone in the cast of Parasite got hosed.

Anyway, there's a lot to get through, so here we go.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Maria Bakalova - Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close - Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman - The Father
Amanda Seyfried - Mank
Youn Yuh-jung - Minari

Who Should Win? It's quite a feat to go from literal unknown to Oscar nominee, all while fending off Rudy Giuliani's advances, but that's where we are with Bakalova. Holding your own alongside Sacha Baron Cohen is no mean feat, either.

Who Will Win? However, all the momentum at this point favors Youn Yuh-jung, which is doubly hilarious considering how little the lifelong performer apparently cares.

Who *Really* Wins? Not Glenn Close. Maybe next time don't hitch the wagon to a dude who supports "white replacement" conspiracies.

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

Who Should Win? There's an argument to be made for pretty much everyone here, though kind of weird that both Stanfield and Kaluuya were given Supporting nods. Raci was low-key great, and if you had to select only one performer from One Night in Miami..., Odom, Jr. is a fine pick.

Who Will Win? Again, it's kind of unfair to drop him into the Supporting category, but Daniel Kaluuya all the way.

Who *Really* Wins? Fans of crowd shots of uncomfortable white people.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Judas and the Black Messiah - Will Berson & Shaka King
Minari - Lee Isaac Chung
Promising Young Woman - Emerald Fennell
Sound of Metal - Darius Marder & Abraham Marder
The Trial of the Chicago 7 - Aaron Sorkin

Who Should Win? Again, it's hard to find fault with any of these. The most "Oscar-baity" of the lot is — big surprise — the one written by Aaron Sorkin.

Who Will Win? This category can go either way (Get Out one year, Green Book the next), and this year comes down to Chicago 7 and Promising Young Woman, with the edge going to the latter.

Who *Really* Wins? Man, I really want to hear Fennell go off on Scott Rudin.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm - Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Dan Swimer & Peter Baynham & Erica Rivinoja & Dan Mazer & Jena Friedman & Lee Kern
The Father - Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
Nomadland - Chloé Zhao
One Night in Miami... - Kemp Powers
The White Tiger - Ramin Bahrani

Who Should Win? It feels like consideration should be given to how much gut reaction your script gets, which would clearly favor Borat. Then again, for a movie that's probably going to go home empty-handed, The Father should be getting more love. And One Night in Miami... gave a bunch of fine actors a bunch of fine moments.

Who Will Win? I fear it's going to Nomadland, and not because I have anything against it, but because the movie's power really came more from what wasn't said.

Who *Really* Wins? Hope you're ready to see Rudy Giuliani with his hand down his pants at least three times, because they're probably going to use it for everything Borat's nominated in.

PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Father
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Mank
News of the World
Tenet

Who Should Win? Call it COVID-related, but the lack of quote-unquote Big Screen Event pictures really muted this category. Personally, I felt Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was the most immersive experience.

Who Will Win? It'll be Mank, because Hollywood can't help fetishizing its past. We'll be lucky if this is all it wins.

Who *Really* Wins? Fans of awards-bait drama about insider Hollywood, because it's hard to imagine who else Mank would appeal to.

CINEMATOGRAPHY
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

Who Should Win? Some great (and largely unfamiliar) names are up this time around. This one comes down to a fight between "New Western" and "Old Hollywood."

Who Will Win? I give the edge to Nomadland, mostly because Messerschmidt relied a lot on digital effects. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Who *Really* Wins? Anyone looking for scenic distraction from the ravages of late-stage capitalism.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Onward
Over the Moon
A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul
Wolfwalkers

Who Should Win? I feel like every year I'm looking for an alternative to the Pixar entry. This year, however, Wolfwalkers really deserves it.

Who Will Win? Which means of course it'll be Soul.

Who *Really* Wins? Everyone currently unaware of the existence of Wolfwalkers.

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Another Round (Denmark)
Better Days (Hong Kong)
Collective (Romania)
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia & Herzegovina)

Who Should Win? Tunisian satire? Bosnian atrocity recap? Hong Kong bullying study?

Who Will Win? Nah, it'll be drunk Mads, in a movie that'll take the prize largely because it shows people doing things we haven't been able to in over a year.

Who *Really* Wins? Don't know about you, but I've been living vicariously through the bar scenes in Another Round for months.

ORIGINAL SONG
"Hear My Voice" - The Trial of the Chicago 7, Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite
"Io sì (Seen)" - The Life Ahead, Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
"Speak Now" - One Night in Miami..., Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth
"Fight for You" - Judas and the Black Messiah, Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas
"Husavik" - Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson

Who Should Win? Call me a purist, but I tend to think a Best Song nominee should actually play at some point *during* the movie in question, not just over the closing credits. Given that criteria, "Husavik" is the only one that qualifies.

Who Will Win? It's not a bad song, but even though "Speak Now" doesn't meet my stringent criteria, it will take the prize.

Who *Really* Wins? Whoever stuck those pins in 1a voodoo doll of 12-time nominee (and still no wins) Diane Warren.

ORIGINAL SCORE
Terence Blanchard - Da 5 Bloods
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - Mank
Emile Mosseri - Minari
James Newton Howard - News of the World
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste - Soul

Who Should Win? I didn't hate any of this year's nominees. Howard's entry is the only one that felt fairly stock, and Mosseri's music packed the most emotional heft. And I hate to say it, especially considering it's the only nomination the movie got, but Blanchard's done better.

Who Will Win? I think Jon Batiste's contributions push Soul over the top.

Who *Really* Wins? Dunno if it counts, but there's an entire generation of Americans who've only ever known Trent Reznor as a film composer.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Viola Davis - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Andra Day - The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby - Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand - Nomadland
Carey Mulligan - Promising Young Woman

Who Should Win? This is probably the tightest race of the night, featuring four nominees with a strong chance of winning (maybe next time, Vanessa Kirby). But really, it comes down to Davis v Mulligan v Day (Frances McDormand can comfort herself with her other two Oscars).

Who Will Win? I ... still don't know. The cynic in me thinks Mulligan takes it because the Academy wants to shore up its #MeToo bona fides, but I can't ignore how electric Viola Davis is.

Ask me again Sunday.

Who *Really* Wins? This is a category where not only are all the nominees impressive, but the movies are worth your time as well. Ergo, the winner is you if you go watch them.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Riz Ahmed - Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins - The Father
Gary Oldman - Mank
Steven Yeun - Minari

Who Should Win? Not Oldman, but we've been over my Mank issues already. It's also notable how the buzz surrounding Ahmed following Sound of Metal's release has all but disappeared. Speaking personally, I thought Hopkins was devastating in The Father, and he'd probably get my vote.

Who Will Win? But only just. I hate that people are going to diminish Chadwick Boseman's performance and treat his win as some sort of consolation prize, when he's toe to toe with Hopkins. Momentum's on his side, however.

Who *Really* Wins? If you've got actual money on this category, this is as close to a lock as you're going to get.

DIRECTING
Thomas Vinterberg - Another Round
David Fincher - Mank
Lee Isaac Chung - Minari
Chloé Zhao - Nomadland
Emerald Fennell - Promising Young Woman

Who Should Win? It's pretty academic at this point.

Who Will Win? Because it'll be Chloé Zhao in a walk.

Who *Really* Wins? Will we get a rare in-the-wild Fincher sighting?

BEST PICTURE
The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
Minari
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Who Should Win? I think we need to pause to appreciate how positively low-fi this year's slate of nominees are (Mank aside). It almost looks like the Independent Spirit Awards.

Who Will Win? It's hard to imagine a scenario where Nomadland doesn't take it. Trial of the Chicago 7 feels more "conventionally" Oscar, but rat-a-tat editing and snappy dialogue can't distract from how shallow it ultimately is.

Who *Really* Wins? All of us, if the ceremony comes in under four hours.

As for the rest ...

ANIMATED SHORT: "If Anything Happens I Love You"
LIVE ACTION SHORT: "Two Distant Strangers"
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: "A Love Song for Latasha"
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: My Octopus Teacher
COSTUME DESIGN: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
SOUND: Sound of Metal
FILM EDITING: The Trial of the Chicago 7
VISUAL EFFECTS: Tenet
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

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