Oscars 2021 predictions: what will be nominated?
From Nomadland with Frances McDormand to Soul with Jamie Foxx, here's our list of probable nominations for the 2021 Oscars
The nominations have to
include films that didn’t play in cinemas, allowing the VOD releases to thrive.
Considering the power of streaming services, it was perhaps an inevitable step,
but the virus has accelerated the process. Regardless, the Academy has a
fascinating selection to choose from. And considering Parasite’s
monumental win last year, the 2021 Oscars have a lot to live up to. Here’s our
list of probable nominees.
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography
This picturesque examination of nomadic life in the American West is currently the favourite, following a successful global premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Director Chloé Zhao (The Rider) adapts the non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder, and creates the fictional traveller Fern to move through that remote world.
Two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand plays Fern, so she’s naturally in the running for the Best Actress nomination. Joshua James Richards could also be nominated for Best Cinematography, with his vast and rural visuals – compared by many to those of Terrence Malick.
Promising Young Woman
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay
Killing Eve showrunner and The Crown actor Emerald Fennell writes and directs this #MeToo revenge drama. Carey Mulligan (previously nominated for 2009’s An Education) stars as Cassie, a woman who deliberately lures suspicious, rapey men into a false sense of security and fulfils her vengeance. But she seeks out the males who are, apparently, ‘nice guys’ – the ones who outwardly want to help, but inwardly want to cause harm.
Reviews have been lukewarm so far, but Mulligan’s performance has been praised throughout – making her likely contender for Best Actress.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay
The Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, 2010) is among the best known in Hollywood, and this 60s courtroom drama is his second effort as director (after the Oscar-nominated Molly's Game in 2018). The political resonance could raise it to Best Picture, and Best Director seems tangible. A nomination for Best Original Screenplay feels like a certainty, considering Sorkin's engagingly dense and musically intelligent dialogue.
Netflix is campaigning for every performance to be considered for the Best Supporting Actor category, which means Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Yameen Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance and Eddie Redmayne et al could be competing against each other. Our money’s on Sacha, whose Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is also eligible for the Oscars.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography
The Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield reunite for this French Connection-inspired political drama Judas and the Black Messiah. The story follows Black Panther member Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), who was killed by law enforcement in 1969. He was betrayed by William O’Neal (Stanfield), who befriended Hampton and infiltrated the Panthers. Considering their enviable backgrounds as actors (Widows, Sorry to Bother You, Atlanta) Kaluuya and Stanfield have a decent chance for the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nominations.
According to Variety, the film was incredibly difficult to make. Many studios, including the risk-takers at Netflix and A24, passed up the opportunity because of the budget and subject matter. It would be a brilliantly defiant moment if Judas won Best Picture.
One Night in Miami...
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay
The If Beale Street Could Talk actor Regina King makes her directorial film debut with One Night in Miami… Although Culture Whisper gave it only three stars, the racial politics discussed among such titans in African-American culture – Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown – is worth a look-in.
The film will probably find nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, but it’s the central performances that could bring the gold to Amazon – in particular: Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and Leslie Odom Jr as Sam Cooke.
Pieces of a Woman
Possible nominations: Best Actress, Best Cinematography
This English-language debut from Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó had a promising start, but endures a rocky continuation (much like the script). Vanessa Kirby delivers a flawless, Oscar-worthy performance as a mother who loses her child during a homebirth and bears all the trauma afterwards. But the film is somewhat tainted by new abuse allegations against Shia LaBeouf, who stars as Kirby's partner. He’s been subsequently removed from all the Netflix campaigns and promotional materials.
Pieces of a Woman isn’t all that absorbing, but there’s a beautiful, horrific 24-minute shot that takes you through the doomed birth. Cinematographer Benjamin Loeb deserves at least a nomination for that exhausting scene.
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar-winners Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) and Olivia Colman (The Favourite) are pretty much guaranteed to be nominated this year. Theatre-to-film adaptations tend to ensure this: elevating the central performances above everything else.
But Florian Zeller’s daring dementia drama, based on his play, unfolds with vividly cinematic direction and elliptically intelligent writing. As such, we could also see nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, with a small opening for Best Picture too. The Academy tends to favour movies about illnesses and disability, so The Father might be a strong contender.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Possible nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Cinematography
Okay, this is a bit of a wildcard. But considering that Charlie Kaufman’s I'm Thinking of Ending Things was rated the best film of 2020 by Culture Whisper, it’d be rude not to include it. It’s unlikely competition because the story’s so weird and absurd and frightening, comparable to the surrealism of David Lynch. But Kaufman is no stranger to the Oscars, winning for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as well as being nominated for Anomalisa, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.
Jessie Buckley delivers a confusing, multi-layered performance as a woman moving through different personalities, and deserves a nomination for Best Actress. Lukasz Zal, shooting in Academy Ratio, should also be considered for Best Cinematography because of his quietly disturbing imagery.
News of the World
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography
Back in the day, Westerns weren’t a popular choice for Oscar nominations. They were often seen as crowd-pleasing B-movies before people woke up to their aesthetic and entertaining integrity. In recent years, it’s the modern, revisionist Westerns made by the Coen Brothers (True Grit, No Country for Old Men) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight) that take home the gold.
Will Paul Greengrass’s News of the World fit into a similar category this year? Although it’s clearly inspired more by the classics, the messages about a divided America and the importance of news connects with the current state of things. Tom Hanks deserves a nom, and it’s also looking promising for his 12-year-old co-star Helena Zengel, who was recently nominated for a Golden Globe. Dariusz Wolski’s sweeping, scenic cinematography also screams for some recognition.
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score
Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood, so David Fincher’s black-and-white passion project about the writer of Citizen Kane might collect a few statuettes. The directing is innovative, returning to the common style of performance in the 30s (when the film is set). The cinematography glistens in monochrome. The intelligence of the screenplay, penned by Fincher’s late father, matches that of Aaron Sorkin. And Gary Oldman’s central performance as Herman J Mankiewicz is predictably outstanding.
Oldman has won previously for Darkest Hour. Incredibly, Fincher has only been nominated for two Oscars: for The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Maybe 2021 will be his year...
Malcolm & Marie
Possible nominations: Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Cinematography
Writer-director Sam Levinson isn’t best when he’s repressed, and Malcolm & Marie demonstrates that. Instead of the bright colours and whirling camera angles from his excellent teen drama Euphoria, he reigns it all in – opting instead for staid black-and-white, following two characters over the course of one night. A long, long dialogue unfurls between a narcissistic filmmaker (John David Washington) and his recovering girlfriend (Zendaya). Their arguments always waver between vindictive silences and aggressive shouting matches.
But despite the faults of the film, the central performances by Washington and Zendaya at least strap your attention and are worthy of nomination. Marcell Rév’s monochrome visuals will be out-glossed by Erik Messerschmidt’s work on Mank, but that doesn’t exclude him from the competition entirely.
Possible nominations: Best International Feature
Because the Academy treats laughter with a similar value to fear, comedies are rarely nominated. But although the premise for Another Round sounds like something Seth Rogen would’ve smoked up, there’s more depth than that. Mads Mikkelsen stars as a teacher, who tests an apocryphal theory that his life will be improved if he maintains a state of consistent drunkenness. Not too much, just enough.
The film's been successful at recent film festivals, opening at TIFF and
even winning Best Film at the London Film Festival.
Da 5 Bloods
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score
Because the Oscars also favour war movies, Spike Lee's latest film Da 5 Bloods could win big. The Vietnam War is wrapped around a splintered, contemporary narrative with four veterans returning to the jungle to recover some CIA gold. Although it's moving through a collision of two mainstream genres – war and treasure-hunting – Lee inserts racial politics into the mix: examining the status of African-American soldiers in Vietnam.
The late Chadwick Boseman stars as Stormin' Norman, seen only in flashbacks and casting a strong, unforgettable presence. A posthumous Best Supporting Actor nomination could be on the cards. But Delroy Lindo's breathlessly Shakespearean performance shouldn't be overlooked, deserving a Best Actor nod.
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score
This 80s family drama from Korean-American director Lee Isaac Chung sparked some controversy back in December. When the Hollywood Foreign Press announced its Golden Globe considerations, they placed Minari in their Best Foreign Language category – thus excluding it from the top honours. Although much of the film is spoken in Korean, the story is based around an immigrant family in the States. It’s also produced by the American company Plan B Entertainment, which was co-founded by Brad Pitt.
The Academy’s decision to
rename the Best Foreign Language Oscar as ‘Best International Feature’ will hopefully allow Minari to compete in all the major categories.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay
Another likely nomination will go to Chadwick Boseman, who stars alongside Viola Davis in this absorbing adaptation of the August Wilson play. In Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Boseman explodes with energy across the screen as a young, smug and ambitious horn player. It’s also impossible for Davis to be snubbed for this, playing the blues diva Ma Rainey as she records her latest album.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Possible nominations: Best Actress
The Academy love movies that sing and dance, so The United States vs. Billie Holiday could have a chance – specifically Andra Day's portrayal of Holiday. Day delivers a crushing performance, the most memorable aspect of an otherwise lukewarm biopic.
The film tracks the last ten years of Holiday’s life, struggling
through patriarchal abuse and heroin addiction. This builds to a conviction by the
US government, motivated by her anti-lynching song Strange Fruit.
Possible nominations: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score
By Pixar standards, Soul didn’t entirely deliver. But it’s still a beautifully surreal, existential adventure that taps into universally philosophical ideas. The animation is among the most beautiful Pixar has produced, as the jazz musician Joe (Jamie Foxx) suddenly falls into death and through many planes of existence. He accidentally winds up in a before-life spiritual realm, where souls wait to enter the correct bodies.
The film is co-written and co-directed by Kemp Powers, who also wrote One Night in Miami…, so he could be up for two Oscars. Similarly, the Soul composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross also made the soundtrack for Mank – which means they can also be nominated twice. It’ll be a curious night.
The 93rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Monday 15 March, and the ceremony will take place on Sunday 25 April.