My Oscars 2021 Wish List, Part One

After a two-month delay, which resulted to the eligibility period being stretched up to February, the Oscars is finally pushing through. This year’s ceremony promises to feel different for reasons we all know by now, especially with Steven Soderbergh (himself a winner 20 years ago) now at the helm. For starters, there will still be a semblance of a physical event. That means red carpet dress code will still be observed and Zoom will only be the last resort. This is most probably to avoid audio and connectivity issues that marred previous ceremonies (i.e. awkward breakout rooms, muted acceptance speeches). No more pyjamas either.

The event will be held simultaneously in multiple venues, an approach earlier employed by both the Golden Globes and the Grammys last March. The hub will be at the Union Station in downtown L.A., with portions to be held in erstwhile go-to venue Dolby Theatre. It remains to be seen how else pandemic precautions will address the usual ceremony pitfalls, i.e. prolonged running times. But one thing’s for sure, the structure of the telecast as we know it will substantially change.

Here are my predictions, in the order by which last year’s awards were presented:

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)

Much has been said about Lakeith Stanfield’s confusing 11th hour inclusion, given that he was supposedly the lead of that film. But head-scratching as it is, it now puts a Judas split vote within the realms of possibility, since some might argue that both actors were second fiddle to each other at certain points. The edge, though, still probably belongs to Daniel Kaluuya, who’s been sweeping victories since the season began. PICK: Daniel Kaluuya

Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

There’s clamor for Wolfwalkers to pull a surprise, but it’s almost certain that voters will default to Pixar, which has two nominees this year. Forget Onward; that one’s more than a year old and virtually upstaged at this point. Soul will likely be the runaway pick, given its frontrunner status in another category and awards season track record thus far. PICK: Soul

Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You

A casual viewer might be inclined to place bets on Pixar’s entry (Burrow), but odds are currently favoring If Anything Happens I Love You. The Netflix entry follows two parents dealing with the aftermath of their daughter’s untimely death, which easily makes it the most gut-wrenching among this eclectic bunch. PICK: If Anything Happens I Love You

Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

This seems too tough to call, since it’s the first time for this category to be completely dominated by Best Picture nominees. Underrated Minari could use an upset or two. And there might be votes for Aaron Sorkin, who won the merged Golden Globe equivalent of this category last March. But the odds-on favorite, really, is Emerald Fennell, who swept the Critics’ Choice, the BAFTAs, and the WGAs. She will likely continue her momentum here. PICK: Promising Young Woman

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
The Father
One Night in Miami
The White Tiger

Best Picture frontrunner Nomadland is in the mix. It is said that the film likeliest to garner the top plum will win the writing award it’s qualified for. Well, not all the time. There have been noteworthy exceptions to that unwritten rule, like Almost Famous beating Gladiator in 2001 and Midnight in Paris beating The Artist in 2012. Plus, there have been prior indicators of Chloé Zhao’s lead not being that secure in this particular race, e.g. the Golden Globes where she lost to Sorkin and Writers’ Guild Awards where she was snubbed from the equivalent category altogether (and, surprise! Borat won that). Still, there’s reason to believe Zhao can win, not just one, but two of her individual nods. For one, she turned non-fiction into fiction, and still made it feel like non-fiction. It’s a peculiar feat and it deserves to be rewarded. Though if she wins, it will likely be by a hair, especially with The Father gathering steam. PICK: Nomadland

Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers
White Eye

The Letter Room boasts star power in Oscar Isaac, who also executive produced the said short,  but the familiarity and timeliness of Two Distant Strangers are just hard to ignore. Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe allude to a recent tragedy by giving it a Groundhog Day spin, with Joey Bada$$ giving a performance that lives up to his stage name. PICK: Two Distant Strangers

The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
News of the World

Oh, to have the most nominations, but to still be the underdog. Fortunately, this might be the category that will save Mank from becoming this year’s Irishman. Donald Graham Burt and Jan Pascale effectively resurrected 1930s Hollywood and, in effect, recreated the world that inspired Citizen Kane. PICK: Mank

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

18 out of the last 20 winners of this category were period pieces, and it looks like that status quo will remain. The legendary Ann Roth evocatively captured the audaciousness of the film’s title character and the spirit of 1920s Chicago through her bold creations. PICK: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Diving – False Bay

Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher

It’s frustrating to see Dick Johnson is Dead miss out. But then, every single nominee here aren’t short of merits. Time and Crip Camp were Sundance showstoppers. Collective, which marks Romania’s Oscar debut, is also up for Best International Feature Film, while Chile’s The Mole Agent was short-listed. However, there seems to be mounting support for My Octopus Teacher, the offbeat man-meets-molusk story about a diver who forms a strange bond with an octopus. PICK: My Octopus Teacher

A Concerto is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
A Love Song for Latasha

Sophie Nahli Allison honors the memory of the late Latasha Harlin through symbolisms, animation, and haunting voice-over accounts from her sister and best friend. The near-absence of the subject’s image highlights both the void she unexpectedly left after her fatal shooting and the world she would have wanted to see. In doing so, this piece lives up to its title without downplaying its tragic backstory. PICK: A Love Song for Latasha

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)
Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)
Olivia Colman (The Father)
Amanda Seyfried (Mank)
Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)

Prior to awards season, the race was being envisioned to be a Glenn CloseOlivia Colman rematch with Bulgarian ingenue Maria Bakalova crashing the party and possibly emerging victorious. Things shook up at the Golden Globes when Bakalova was elevated to Lead Actress and Jodie Foster won for The Mauritanian. But with Foster shockingly out of the running, it seemed that Bakalova had regained the lead. Not entirely. South Korean veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung seized the momentum in both the SAGs and BAFTAs for her turn as a lovably quirky grandmother who ventures to America for the very first time. Her candid reactions and bemused acceptance speeches left her fellow nominees in stitches. Academy voters will probably want to see more of that. PICK: Youn Yuh-Jung

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