My Oscars 2021 Wish List, Part Two

BEST SOUND
Greyhound
Mank
News of the World
Soul
Sound of Metal

In case you missed it, the Sound categories are merged again this year. Last time that happened was 1981, with The Empire Strikes Back winning the award. 40 years later, it’s interesting to see two Tom Hanks movies in the mix. But honestly, it would be so ironic – near-tragic, even – if Sound of Metal misses out. And it’s not just because the word “Sound” is in the title. Much of that film’s storytelling achievements is attributable to its sound design. As Ruben (Riz Ahmed) gradually lost his hearing, it felt like we were one in his plight. This should be a no-brainer. PICK: Sound of Metal

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
News of the World
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Mank earns distinction for being the lone black-and-white nominee, but Nomadland’s rich vistas were vital to the experience of getting lost and finding one’s self in the Great American West. This is Joshua James Richards’ to lose. PICK: Nomadland

BEST FILM EDITING
The Father
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

It’s a toss-up between The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Sound of Metal who tied at the Critics’ Choice Awards, though the latter eventually gained the edge at the BAFTAs. Somehow, Alan Baumgarten could use more recognition for Trial’s hyperkinetic vignettes. PICK: The Trial of the Chicago 7

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Tenet

Two would-be blockbusters are in this category. One’s a Disney remake whose release was marred by the start of the pandemic. The other was expected to bring us back to cinemas once the pandemic ended, which obviously hasn’t. Between the two, the edge goes to Christopher Nolan’s time-bending thriller. PICK: Tenet

BEST MAKE-UP AND HAIRSTYLING
Emma.
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Pinocchio

Kudos to Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, and Jamika Wilson for transforming Viola Davis into the indomitable Ma Rainey. With Ann Roth already being an odds-on favorite for Best Costume, it seems the film’s a near-lock for the styling categories. With Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom‘s lead acting prospects also being bright, it’s curious that it missed a shot at Best Picture. PICK: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

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

The last two years were a godsend for winners of the category formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film. South Korea’s Parasite made history for winning Best Picture last year. Mexico’s Roma, arguably, should have the year before. While none of this year’s nominees are eligible to duplicate that feat, two at least scored nods in other categories. Romania’s hard-hitting Collective is also up for Best Documentary Feature, so that might give it some edge. Though others might wonder if it should have yielded to Guatemala’s La Llorona here instead. But if Thomas Vintenberg’s surprise Best Director nomination were any indication, Denmark might score its fourth trophy. PICK: Another Round

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Da 5 Bloods
Mank
Minari
News of the World
Soul

It’s frustrating to see Da 5 Bloods relegated here. When Spike Lee’s Vietnam War throwback caper hit Netflix last June, it felt like a shoo-in, especially when it came at a time we doubted movies would be even made. Now, it faces an uphill battle against Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who are competing against themselves with Mank and Soul. The duo is poised to win for the jazzy stylings of the latter, where they collaborated with Jon Baptiste. PICK: Soul

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Fight for You (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Hear My Voice (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
Husavik (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga)
Io sì (The Life Ahead)
Speak Now (One Night in Miami)

Husavik is backed by the Netflix-binging demographic, that’s for sure. And there’s understandably even stronger push for the long-overdue Diane Warren. But the momentum seems to belong to Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth for One Night in Miami’s soulful Speak Now. It will also likely be Odom’s consolation for being a long shot for Best Supporting Actor. PICK: Speak Now

BEST DIRECTOR
Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round)
David Fincher (Mank)
Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)
Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)
Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)

With David Fincher being the lone American in the mix, history has already been made in this category. Among the remainder, two are Asian and two are female. So, it feels only apt that the one favored to win it all fits both descriptions. It’s virtually impossible to bet against Chloé Zhao at this point. The immersive (and multi-hyphenate) work she poured onto Nomadland was vital in crafting it into the landmark road movie that it is. PICK: Chloé Zhao

BEST ACTOR
Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
Gary Oldman (Mank)
Steven Yeun (Minari)

Even with two previous winners in the roster, this category made huge strides this year. Among the three first-timers, we have the first Muslim nominee (Riz Ahmed), the first Asian American (Steven Yeun), and the eighth actor to be bestowed with a posthumous Lead Actor nomination (Chadwick Boseman). It’s easy to root for the late Boseman to follow the footsteps of Peter Finch, who passed away before winning for Network in 1977, and his early awards season sweep justifies it as much. However, there’s one valid point raised by Anthony Hopkins‘ recent BAFTAs shocker, and it goes beyond homecourt advantage. If one thoroughly reviews the performances, Boseman didn’t carry that film alone. The spotlight truly belonged to the title character, ergo, the true lead, played by Viola Davis. Among the nominees still with us, it was Hopkins who arguably conveyed the most defining performance. Point being: while sentimentality is likely to prevail, an upset won’t be far-fetched either. Can they just declare a tie? PICK: Chadwick Boseman AND/OR Anthony Hopkins

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)

This is, by far, the most mercurial Best Actress race in recent years, if not Oscar history as a whole. Four out of these five nominees have already scored accolades throughout the season. To recap: Andra Day got her Golden Globe, Frances McDormand got her BAFTA, Carey Mulligan was the Critics’ Choice, and Viola Davis soared at the SAGs. Heck, why not even give it to Vanessa Kirby just to even it out? So, it probably boils down to pros-vs-cons at this juncture: Day was a revelation, but her film was uneven. Kirby was dynamite, but probably too much of a wildcard at this point. Davis won five years ago, albeit for Best Supporting. And McDormand? She won three years ago and is most probably set to win as one of her film’s producers anyway. That leaves Mulligan, who simply exuded range as a sociopathic med-school dropout hungry for revenge in Promising Young Woman. It’s a stark contrast to the demure schoolgirl she played in An Education, the role which first put her under the Academy’s radar back in 2009. Now that’s she’s finally back, she can conceivably earn her due. PICK: Carey Mulligan

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

It may sound ironic that one of the most celebrated films released last year, the year we were mandated to stay at home centers on functionally not having a home. But as one journeys along, it’s easy to see the connection. Nomadland may be set a decade ago, but its overall theme of stripping down to basics and relentlessly holding one’s head high even in the most destitute situations resonates stronger than ever. That explains its victory sweep so far, and most probably why it will win. PICK: Nomadland

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