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Two Critics, 23 nominations with 37 total predictions for 2021


(042321) The 93rd Annual Academy Awards (aka: Oscars) will be held on Sunday, April 25th at the Los Angeles Union Station in Los Angeles, California, and will be shown on ABC. If this years awards seem to be coming a little later that usual-they are. The Academy pushed back their original ceremony from February 28 to April due to Covid-19 and its impact on the film industry over the last year. This marks the fourth time the Awards have been pushed back in the Academy's ninety-three year history. Because of this, the eligibility window for this years awards was lengthened allowing for more films to be in contention. Additionally, the previously philosophical argument of streaming vs theatrical presentation being the determining factor for nomination eligibility has been rendered moot. The reality of the last 12 months has forced the issue and this year streaming releases carry just as much weight for contention as their theatrical counterparts. If streaming releases were again excluded one assumes there wouldn't have been much in the way of Awards to be given out.

 The Academy continues the tradition it began two years ago of televising the show "host-less" (again, thank you Kevin Hart). Instead there will be a rotating "ensemble" cast of 15 presenters this year. The ceremony itself being delivered in a "film style" presentation-we'll see what that means Sunday night.

This marks our 15th Academy Awards predictions (see the links above for our previous 14) and as in past years we invited our critics to weigh in with their predictions for this years Oscar race and once again they rose to the task. Back again is reviewer emeritus "Good Old JR" Jim Rutkowski and he is again being joined  "Big Tuna" Vito Carli. Each turned in their picks early and as always they are all thoughtfully done. Of the 23 principle categories this year (all listed below) neither has tackled every single nomination, but all were given the option. "None picked" means the reviewer chose to skip that category for whatever reason. Out of the 23 categories there are thirty-seven predictions by both reviewers.  Vito logged in with 18 picks while JR tackled 19 categories. I want to thank both of our stalwart cinephile's  for taking the time to make and in many cases elucidate their picks.

A word on the format: If you are reading this before April 25th the order of the nominations conforms to the order awards were announced at the 2020 Oscar telecast. If this years order deviates from last years, the appropriate structural change to this list will be made after this years telecast to conform with the 2021 broadcast. Beyond that (and the final tally) no edits will be made to this list. The linked film titles below are to reviews on this site for the film being cited. The links themselves do not correspond to the reviewers themselves but rather to the review located on this site.

Thanks again gentlemen.

Enjoy, good luck to all and pass the popcorn...


This year’s Oscar race is unlike any before, and that’s kind of exciting. The dearth of blockbusters plus the eligibility of all streaming titles has, in a way, opened the floodgates this Oscar season for a number of different kinds of films to break into the awards race. Major titles were pushed to 2021, making more room for not just smaller but more intimate stories – told by burgeoning filmmakers – to shine in the spotlight.

There's certainly reflected in this year's eight Best Picture nominees, which are almost all small-scale, character-centric pieces. The two "biggest" movies from a pure budget perspective are "Mank" and "The Trial of the Chicago 7", and even then those are dramas and not spectacle films.

A couple of major things are different about the 2021 Oscars in the wake of the pandemic. For one, films released in 2020 were eligible regardless of whether they received a theatrical release or not, because major theaters were closed for much of the year. Additionally, the deadline to have your film released and still be eligible for the Oscars was extended from December 31st to February 28, 2021, which is how "Judas" and the "Black Messiah" scored a nomination despite being released in January.

I don’t know if it is strictly because of Covid but most of the directors that are usually considered cinematic giants (Scorsese, Spielberg, Tarantino and the Andersons etcetera) whose films are usually guaranteed to earn at least some nominations were missing in action this year. Alas, we will have to wait until next year for Scorsese’s "Killers of the Flower Moon" and Spielberg’s "West Side Story".

This year did see the release of films by two cinematic masters on Netflix: Spike Lee ("Da 5 Bloods”) and David Lynch (his short "What Did Jack Do?" just missed my top ten), Paul Greengrass ("News of the World") and Dave Fincher ("Mank") also returned to do substantial works, but only Fincher’s flick was awarded with multiple Oscar nom's.

On the bright side  there was an unprecedented amount of strong Indy films and mainstream hits that were directed by exciting brand new female or  minority (or both)  directors such as Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”),  Shaka King ("Judas and the Black Messiah"), Emerald Fenell (“Promising Young Woman”),  and Cloe Zhao (“Nomadland”). We will have to see if they end up having the staying power of a Hitchcock or if they disappear like Charles Laughton or Richard Kelly (Both directed only one great film.)

Incredibly all except King earned best director nominations and for the first time ever two women got nominated for best director. The 60s really did not arrive until around 1964, but perhaps the 2020s are arriving early. 

Let me preface my picks with this prediction: I will get more Oscar predictions correct this year (I got them all wrong last year.)

You can read more of my writings at

Best Supporting Actor
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”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Will win: Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7"
Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

I have not seen several of the nominees. My hunch is that "Judas" multiple nom’s will split the votes so Cohen may win, although Kaluya arguably had a bigger and more substantial role. Baron is great too though.

Best Animated Feature Film
“Over the Moon”
“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon”

I would love to see Wolfwalkers win. But Pixar has a stranglehold on Oscar. Not that I dislike Soul. It's captivating. But Wolfwalkers seems vibrant and fresh.
Will win: "Soul"
Should win: "Wolfwalkers”

"Soul" has great word of mouth, tremendous popularity, critical acclaim and it was made by Disney so it will win. I prefer Asian animation to Disney style cartoons so I will go with "Wolfwalkers" for should win.
Best Animated Short Film
“Genius Loci”
“If Anything Happens I Love You”
None picked
None picked
Best Original Screenplay
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7"
"The Trial of the Chicago 7"

More love for Sorkin.
Will Win: “The Trial of the Chicago 7"
Should win: “Promising Young Woman”

Will Win: All good choices, but my hunch is Trial of the Chicago 7 will win because the  best aspect of it is the script. If Trial loses, the second most likely one to win is Minari. It reminds me of past Oscar old nom's like Country and Places in the Heart, and its story is populated by sympathetic and likeable characters (except the mom). Also, in a year in which Asians are being harassed perhaps the voters will have Asian related issues on their mind.

Should Win: I thought that "Promising Young Woman" and "Judas" were the bravest and most timely stories that appeared all year. I am narrowly going with the ultimate MeToo era film, "Promising".
Best Adapted Screenplay
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
“The Father “
“One Night in Miami...”
“The White Tiger”
Will and should Win: The Academy tends to downgrade and underrate comedies so "Borat" is a long shot. "Nomadland" should take this,
Best Live Action – Short Film
"Feeling Through”
“The Letter Room”
“The Present”
“Two Distant Strangers”
“White Eye”
None picked
None picked
Best Production Design
“The Father”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“News of the World”

Should and will Win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and "Mank" both effectively transported us to the past, but my choice is "Mank" by a narrow margin. The best aspects of the film are its look and setting.
Best Costume Design
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Should and will win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. Maybe I just think it just deserves something, but I visually conjured up the elegant costumes from the film in my mind as I read through the list.
Best Documentary – Feature
“Crip Camp”
“The Mole Agent”
“My Octopus Teacher”
Will and should win: "Collective”

I love, love, love "My Octopus Teacher" but my hunch is that a film about bureaucratic incompetence will resonate with Oscar voters in the year of Covid, plus "Collective" is also nominated for best foreign language film, but if it gets overlooked because of "Minari" then it may win here. Damn good film too.
Best Documentary – Short Subject
“A Concerto Is a Conversation”
“Do Not Split”
“Hunger Ward”
“A Love Song for Latasha”
None picked
None picked

Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”
Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”
Yuh-Jung Youn, "Minari"

 Another category that is a close call. Olivia Coleman could take this too.
Will and should win: I know Glenn Close is widely respected, but her performance was lukewarm and he film was a dud. Maria is not well known and Oscar voters are unlikely to reward a foreign newcomer doing a comic performance (Although some pundits favor her). That leaves Youn and Seyfried both of which are worthy and have a shot. I am going to go with Seyfried because she was an unexpected delight in "Mank" playing a character loosely based on William Randoph Heart’s wife plus she steals every scene she is in.
Best Sound
(Best Sound Mixing + Best Sound Editing combined into one Award starting this year)

Greyhound" – Beau Borders, Michael Minkler, Warren Shaw and David Wyman
"Mank" – Ren Klyce, Drew Kunin, Jeremy Molod, Nathan Nance and David Parker
"News of the World" – William Miller, John Pritchett, Mike Prestwood Smith and Oliver Tarney
"Soul" – Coya Elliot, Ren Klyce and David Parker
"Sound of Metal" – Jaime Baksht, Nicolas Becker, Philip Bladh, Carlos Cortés and Michelle Couttolenc
"Sound of Metal"
None picked
Best Cinematography
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
“News of the World”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7"
Will and should win: "Mank " has some of the most gorgeous black and white photography I have ever seen. It should win unless there is a "Nomadland" sweep.
Best Film Editing
“The Father”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7"
"The Trial of the Chicago 7"
Will and should win: I am picking "The Father" for a weird reason. They way the film is put together going seamlessly from scene to scene makes the main character’s confusion of the past and present that much more disturbing.
Best Visual Effects
“Love and Monsters”
“The Midnight Sky”
“The One and Only Ivan”

This is a category that barely resembles previous years. Without any blockbusters released in 2020 it seems sparse.
None picked
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Hillbilly Elegy”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Should and will win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” for the great period look.
Best Foreign Language/International Film
“Another Round” (Denmark)
“Better Days” (Hong Kong)
“Collective” (Romania)
“The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia)
“Quo Vadis, Aida?” (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
"Another Round"
Will win: "Another Round"

Should win: "Collective"

Both "Collective" and "Another Round" are worthy films that got other nominations and either could win, but since "Another Round" also got nominated for a major category, best director, I feel it has the edge, although "Collective" is the better overall film.
Best Original Score
"Da 5 Bloods”
“News of the World”

Reznor and Ross competing with themselves. I don't believe they'll cancel themselves out.
Will and should win: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are widely respected and have been on a roll lately and they also got in the Rock Hall of Fame last year (as Nine Inch Nails). Also, their score for "Soul" is evocative, effective and original. They will win. If they lose, there is always the dependable Terrance Blanchard (who I once met him at a Borders) who is a phenomenal jazz composer and he has already been nominated several times. His score for "Da Five Bloods" has a fairly good chance winning for his score for that films’ only nomination (in my opinion this was the most robbed film this year.)
Best Original Song
“Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7"
“Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
“Io Sì (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)”
“Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami...”
Speak Now from "One Night in Miami"
Will and should win: Well "Eurovision" is a music film and the whole thing is about music, so it will win. H.E.R. also has a shot and she is extremely popular with young audiences, but less so with old fogies like most of the Oscar voters.
Best Actor
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Gary Oldman, “Mank”
Steven Yeun, “Minari”
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

There will be those that say this will be given due to the untimely death of Boseman. I would argue that Boseman had a career year in 2020. Not only with this movie but also his performance in "Da 5 Bloods" (a film that deserves to be in the running for best film).
Will win: Boseman gave a blisteringly powerful performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” plus he won the SAG award, and his death should make him a sentimental favorite and front runner.

Should win: While Boseman was great, he was part of an ensemble cast (I might agree that he should get a best supporting actor performance)
Hopkins completely carries "The Father". It is basically an acting showcase for him.
Best Actress
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”
Carey Mulligan, "Promising Young Woman"

This is the category that is the biggest horse race of the ceremony. It's a 3 way dead heat. Viola Davis and Andra Day could also take the gold.
Will win: McDormand is beloved by the Academy, is respected by the whole industry, and I think it is hers to lose. But if she wins it will be for her whole career. Davis would be my second choice if McDormand loses.

Should win: Carey Mulligan gave the darkest, edgiest and most dangerous performance in “Promising Young Woman", but Oscar voters don’t usually reward edgy.
Best Director
Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
David Fincher, “Mank”
Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”
Chloe Zhao Zhao made my favorite film of a few years ago called "The Rider". "Nomadland" cements her as a major talent.
Will win: Although "Mank" got 10 nominations, I don’t think it has the momentum to win any major ones. Although the director’s part of the academy usually makes smarter choices than the rest of the academy, Foreign directors don’t generally win without any other major nominations. Lee Isacc and Emerald Fennell seem like they have less momentum even though Fennell’s film came out at the right time and is my runner up choice. But the director’s guild gave it to Zhao and she also won a Golden Globe, and I think she will win here too.

Should win: I saw everything except for "Nomadland", but of the rest, although "Minari" affected me the most emotionally, "Promising Young Woman" was the one I kept thinking about and kept comparing to the other films. I was haunted by  it.
Best Picture
“The Father”
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7"


Not only does it have several awards under its belt already, but it's certainly the best film I've seen this year.
Will Win, ”Nomadland’ has it all but sewn up. If any other film wins it will be an upset. Judas would be my dark horse second choice.

Should win: "Mank" definitely deserves to win in some of visual or supporting categories, but it is not a full fledged timeless masterpiece, just a very good stylish biopic. "The Father" has a great script and lead performance, but it is only a three star film. I did not see "Nomadland" yet, so I am going to go with "Promising Young Woman" which was the strongest and most surprising of the choices (Judas was the only film that came close.)


JR's total: 19 predictions out of 23 categories. 11 right
Vito's total: 18 predictions out of 23 categories. 8 right

Review © 2021 Alternate Reality, Inc.