Oscar Predictions: Crazy award season ending as cinema's biggest night could offer surprises
The 93rd annual Academy Awards are Sunday, April 25th at 8pm
The 93rd Academy Awards are finally here, and I say that with the utmost excitement and exhaustion. Set to unload Sunday, April 25th (the latest date any Oscar ceremony has been held), it marks the end of the craziest award cycle those who cover the industry have ever seen. (And it still could throw audiences for a loop once those gold statues start going out). Pushed back to late April last year after the pandemic, producers of the ceremony were hopeful the delay would allow the award show to proceed without the worry of COVID-19 impacting the most glamorous event in Hollywood. While the push was a solid move as vaccinations rates are increasing and daily cases are trending downward (unless, like me, you live in Michigan), we’re still in the midst of the global pandemic, albeit, in a much better place than one year ago (unless you live in Michigan).
The Oscars is going hybrid for their 93rd year with a mixture of satellite feeds (the producers have made it clear this isn’t a “Zoom” affair) and in person. Only the presenters, nominees (and their one guest) can attend the ceremony live, whilst others – those filmmakers overseas who can’t make the trip – will beam in via Oscar hubs across the globe. The goal is to create a seamless experience where audiences won’t know who is in Los Angeles and who is in Dublin. The usual performances of the Best Original Song nominees will be pre-recorded and cut into the live broadcast.
Then comes the question of who, if anyone, will tune into the ceremony? The Golden Globes, Emmy’s, and Grammy’s all turned in historic low viewership this past year. Considering all the best picture nominees grossed under $20 million combined, despite the advantage of streaming, most folks just haven’t seen as many of the films. This batch of Best Picture nominees are missing the reliable blockbuster ala “Black Panther,” “A Star is Born” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” to peak their interest. This year – with theaters shuttered and Netflix and Amazon stepping in to release projects – the Academy made an amendment that gave films eligibility regardless of their release strategy (theatrical or streaming). In pre-pandemic times, a film would have a one-week qualifying run in either New York or LA.
Now comes the awards themselves and save for a few categories (Best Actress is a complete toss-up) most statues might as well already be engraved for their eventual winners. That said, I’m going against the grain in the Best Picture field and making the gutsy call of betting against the favorite. It’s likely the wrong move, but sometimes it's fun to root for an underdog.
The obvious (and most probable) winner is Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” – the endearing Frances McDormand drama that’s campaign began in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. Since then, it has snagged every major precursor award imaginable, and you’d be a fool to bet against it at this late stage. But, if history is an indication, the frontrunner can be derailed at the finish line (just ask “La La Land” which was on the same path as “Nomadland” before “Moonlight” had something to say about it). Same happened again when “Boyhood” got stomped by “Birdman” and even last year’s come-from-behind “Parasite” victory – the first foreign language film to ever nab the top prize – was a shock from presumed favorite “1917.”
In other words, most prognosticators have this one pegged for “Nomadland” and they’re probably right, but my prediction is Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” which is the type of feel-good, traditional grand-slam Oscar flick that voters love to reward. No directing nomination for Sorkin makes it a tough sell, but its Screen Actors Guild (SAG) ensemble win is noteworthy because the actor’s branch of the academy has the most cross-over between voting bodies. This is a long-shot, and if I were a betting man, “Nomadland” is the way to go, but I feel an upset is brewing. If not from “Chicago 7” don’t be shocked if Emerald Fennell’s invigorating rape-revenge thriller “Promising Young Woman” creeps in to steal the spotlight. It has all the major indicators of an upset, including the “holy grail” of nominations: Screenplay, Editing, Actress, Director and Picture (Fun Fact: No Best Picture nominee has ever won without an editing nomination).
And if I had it my way, Lee Isaac Chung’s beautiful “Minari” would win all the awards.
My prediction: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
Could win: NOMADLAND/PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
My heart wants: MINARI
It would be the upset of the century if anyone other than Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland” took home Oscar gold. When she wins (and she will win) it will be a historic achievement: not only would Zhao be the second woman in Oscar history (besides Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”) to take home the top directing prize, but also the first Asian-American. History will be made, and I can’t wait to see it.
My prediction: Chloé Zhao for NOMADLAND
There’s been chatter in recent days that the late Chadwick Boseman’s performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is only riding the momentum train because of his untimely death and that’s untrue. If it were any other year – and if Boseman was still with us – he’d be winning regardless for his transformative role as Levee, the trumpet player at the heart of the August Wilson adaptation. Some could make the case Anthony Hopkins portrayal as an ailing senior with dementia in “The Father” is the superior performance – and his convincing BAFTA victory lends to this narrative – but it will be Boseman’s name called Sunday night.
My prediction: Chadwick Boseman for MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
Could win: Anthony Hopkins for THE FATHER
There’s always one major category that can spoil an entire office pool and this year appears to be Best Actress, which nobody has a clear read on. All the major award indicators: Critics, BAFTA, Globes, and SAG have each awarded someone different. So you mine as well flip a coin and hope for the best, my gut is telling me Carey Mulligan’s dominant performance in “Promising Young Woman” has the edge, but no one is safe. My favorite performance of the year was Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman” – which if you haven’t seen on Netflix, you should right now – but she’s failed to pick-up any momentum to indicate a victory. In any case, nobody knows who will win until Joaquin Phoenix opens the envelope. All bets are off.
My prediction: CAREY MULLIGAN for PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Could win: Literally anyone
My heart wants: VANESSA KIRBY for PIECES OF A WOMAN
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
For a minute, the Best Supporting Actress field was heading the way of Best Actress in that it was getting harder and harder to predict. But it seems that Yuh-Jung Youn’s versatile performance in “Minari” has emerged as the heavy favorite over Maria Bakalova for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” and Glenn Close for “Hillbilly Elegy.” Don’t count out the latter though as I could see the Academy giving Close her “due” for a role in an otherwise hokey award bait contender. Crazier things have happened.
My prediction: YUH-JUNG YOUN for MINARI
Could win: Glenn Close for HILLBILLY ELEGY/Maria Bakalova for BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
The world stood in shock when LaKeith Stanfield – who didn’t campaign nor was on anyone’s radar – was nominated alongside his co-star Daniel Kaluuya in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” the presumptive winner. Will that split votes and allow Sacha Baron Cohen, a double nominee for supporting actor and screenplay, to slide in? Probably not, but it's fun to stoke the pot! Look for Kaluuya to handily win this category for playing Black Panther party founder Fred Hampton in a fiery, electrifying performance.
My prediction: Daniel Kaluuya for JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Could win: Sacha Baron Cohen for THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
ELSEWHERE: “Soul” should have no issue cleaning up the Best Animated Category – despite a passionate campaign for Apple’s “Wolfwalkers” – while “Promising Young Woman” and “Nomadland” have screenplay categories on lock (though it's hard to bet against Sorkin).
MY PREDICTIONS in all 23 categories can be found below. The 93rd annual Academy Awards will air live on Oscar Sunday, April 26th at 8pm on ABC.
BEST PICTURE: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
BEST DIRECTOR: CHLOE ZHAO - NOMADLAND
BEST ACTRESS: CAREY MULLIGAN – PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
BEST ACTOR: CHADWICK BOSEMAN – MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: YUH-JUNG YOUN - MINARI
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: DANIEL KALUUYA – JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: NOMADLAND
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: SOUL
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: MY OCTOPUS TEACHER
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM: ANOTHER ROUND
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: SOUL
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Husavik” from EUROVISION SONG CONTEST
BEST SOUND: SOUND OF METAL
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: MANK
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: MANK
BEST FILM EDITING: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: TENET
BEST DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT): A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION
BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION): TWO DISTANT STRANGERS
BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED): BURROW