Combustible Celluloid

93rd Academy Awards (2021)

Gold Standard

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Here is the full list of 2021 Oscar nominations, with links to the films I've reviewed during this bizarre year, as well as notes, my picks and predictions. Films released between January 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021 were eligible. (I make no promises with my predictions. I usually don't score much better than 66%, and with this year as off-the-rails as it is, there could be quite a few left turns and surprises.) The ceremony will be held on Sunday, April 25, 2021.

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

Notes: Not one of the films on my ten-best list received a nomination in this category, or in any category except one (Da 5 Bloods in Best Score). However, while I do think that all eight of these movies are good, I don't really have a horse in this race. Nomadland is the projected winner, with only the caveat that The Trial of the Chicago 7 took the all-important SAG ensemble award.

If I Had a Vote: Promising Young Woman
Prediction: Nomadland
The Winner: Nomadland

Best Director
Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
David Fincher, Mank
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

Notes: Again, none of my favorites are here. I do have to say that I'm flabbergasted that, when the Academy had a chance to nominate a Black woman (Regina King, who was a front-runner), they went all the way over to Denmark to find another white guy instead. Old habits are hard to break, I guess... Fincher is probably the most talented of these, and its his third nomination with no wins, but Mank is just not one of his best films. Film nerds love it, but there's very little there for regular viewers. Chloé Zhao is the most unique and promising of the five, and she has a new Marvel film coming up!

If I Had a Vote: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Prediction: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
The Winner: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Gary Oldman, Mank
Steven Yeun, Minari

Notes: I'm bummed that Delroy Lindo didn't make the cut, but my next choice, Boseman, is here. It's his last role, and the impact he made on the movies in just a short time cannot be underestimated. Plus I really liked Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Ahmed is great, too, and posthumous awards are always a little bittersweet, but I'd like to see Boseman get it. He's also the current front-runner.

If I Had a Vote: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Prediction: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
The Winner: Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Andra Day, The United States v. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Notes: This is a fun one. The five women have split almost evenly in all the pre-awards hoo-hah, and no one seems to know which way is up. A poll I saw had Carey Mulligan ahead by a fraction, but I'm going to go with Viola Davis. She checks off a lot of the boxes that award-winning performances usually do, plus everyone loves her, and a second win for her (after Fences) would look really good for the Academy.

If I Had a Vote: Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Prediction: Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
The Winner: Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
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

Notes: I can't figure out why both Stanfield and Kaluuya are in the same category. To my eyes, Stanfield should be lead since he was the story; he was the driving force. Kaluuya had the showier, more powerful role, but he's the true supporter. My original pick for this category was Raci; he just blew my mind, but that was before I saw Judas.

If I Had a Vote: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Prediction: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
The Winner: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman, The Father
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

Notes: Glenn Close has eight Oscar nominations and has never won, so I guess she could sneak in there. (Ironically, the woman who beat her last time is also nominated here! Heh.) But the front-runner throughout awards season has been the saucy Yuh-jung Youn, the grandmother from Minari. One large issue here is that Close's film is a Netflix film, and readily available to most people in the US, while Minari is still a fairly pricey rental. (If this and my above 4 other predictions are correct, then 5 people of color could win the acting and directing categories, for the first time ever!)

If I Had a Vote: Yuh-jung Youn, Minari
Prediction: Yuh-jung Youn, Minari
The Winner: Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

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

Notes: I loved both of Pixar's movies this year, but Soul was the best. My other favorite, the weird The Wolf House, never even entered the conversation.

If I Had a Vote: Soul
Prediction: Soul
The Winner: Soul

Best Adapted Screenplay
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern, Nina Pedrad
The Father, Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
One Night in Miami, Kemp Powers
The White Tiger, Ramin Bahrani

Notes: Chloé Zhao's Nomadland is the front-runner here, and given the absense of Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things and Kelly Reichardt & Jonathan Raymond's First Cow, is perhaps the best pick.

If I Had a Vote: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Prediction: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
The Winner: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, The Father

Best Original Screenplay
Judas and the Black Messiah, Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas
Minari, Lee Isaac Chung
Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell
Sound of Metal. Screenplay by Darius Marder, Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Aaron Sorkin

Notes: Aaron Sorkin's script seems to be the front-runner at the moment, and perhaps the most traditional, with its peppy, rapid-patter dialogue. And I like that film a lot, but for me the greater achievement, both in terms of structure and storytelling, and in impact, is Promising Young Woman.

If I Had a Vote: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Prediction: Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Winner: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

Best Original Song
"Fight for You," Judas and the Black Messiah. (Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas)
"Hear My Voice," The Trial of the Chicago 7. (Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite)
"Húsavík," Eurovision Song Contest. (Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson)
"Io Si (Seen)," The Life Ahead. (Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini)
"Speak Now," One Night in Miami. (Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth)

Notes: This category again. Two of these movies I hadn't seen, and of the other three, I can't recall even hearing any songs. But at least Leslie Odom, Jr. plays a righteous Sam Cooke. On another note (get it?) this is the 12th nomination, with zero wins, for songwriter Diane Warren, who goes all the way back to "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" from Mannequin (1987), and performed by Starship. Voters may throw her a bone this year.

If I Had a Vote: n/a
Prediction: "Speak Now," One Night in Miami
The Winner: "Fight for You," Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Original Score
Da 5 Bloods, Terence Blanchard
Mank, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Minari, Emile Mosseri
News of the World, James Newton Howard
Soul, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste

Notes: This is the only category in which one of my top ten films, Da 5 Bloods, was nominated, but as well as Blanchard's score works with the film, it sounds kinda overblown without it. My own #1 was Colin Stetson's Color Out of Space, which never had a prayer. I loved Howard's Western-y News of the World score, and it was also a top pick for me. But the clear winner here is Reznor and Ross's Soul, a score that makes the movie, and continues to enchant on its own.

If I Had a Vote: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Soul
Prediction: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Soul
The Winner: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Soul

Best Sound
Greyhound, Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman
Mank, Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin
News of the World, Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett
Soul, Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker
Sound of Metal, Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh

Notes: Usually this one goes to movies with lots of explosions, but in this weird year, it has turned to smaller films, and only one stands out. Sound of Metal is so intricately designed sonically, that I spent several paragraphs of my review raving about it. So...

If I Had a Vote: Sound of Metal
Prediction: Sound of Metal
The Winner: Sound of Metal

Best Costume Design
Emma., Alexandra Byrne
Mank, Trish Summerville
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Ann Roth
Mulan, Bina Daigeler
Pinocchio, Massimo Cantini Parrini

Notes: I know so little about this category, and it usually seems to go to period pieces anyway. The front runner is probably Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and it's also my favorite of the ones I've seen here. Plus... Netflix.

If I Had a Vote: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Prediction: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
The Winner: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Best Animated Short Film
Burrow (Disney Plus/Pixar)
Genius Loci (Kazak Productions)
If Anything Happens I Love You (Netflix)
Opera (Beasts and Natives Alike)
Yes-People (CAOZ hf. Hólamói)

Notes: You'll have to read my reviews of the shorts to understand why Opera is my favorite and Genius Loci is my second favorite, and my least favorite, If Anything Happens I Love You, will be the winner.

If I Had a Vote: Opera
Prediction: If Anything Happens I Love You
The Winner: If Anything Happens I Love You

Best Live-Action Short Film
Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers
White Eye

Notes: Didn't have time to see these this year. The favorites seem to be Two Distant Strangers and Feeling Through.

If I Had a Vote: ?
Prediction: Two Distant Strangers
The Winner: Two Distant Strangers

Best Cinematography
Judas and the Black Messiah, Sean Bobbitt
Mank, Erik Messerschmidt
News of the World, Dariusz Wolski
Nomadland, Joshua James Richards
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Phedon Papamichael

Notes: My favorites First Cow, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, The Vast of Night, and She Dies Tomorrow aren't here, but one of my favorites is: Mank. Just LOVE that widescreen black-and-white, and it was so exquisitely, precisely composed here.

If I Had a Vote: Erik Messerschmidt, Mank
Prediction: Joshua James Richards, Nomadland
The Winner: Erik Messerschmidt, Mank

Best Documentary Feature
Collective, Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana
Crip Camp, Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht and Sara Bolder
The Mole Agent, Maite Alberdi and Marcela Santibáñez
My Octopus Teacher, Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster
Time, Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino and Kellen Quinn

Notes: Logic would dictate that Collective, which won most of the awards-season trophies, and which is also in International Feature, would be the front-runner here, but everyone (myself included) loves Netflix's My Octopus Teacher. I think I see an upset coming.

If I Had a Vote: Collective
Prediction: My Octopus Teacher
The Winner: My Octopus Teacher

Best Documentary Short Subject
Colette, Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard
A Concerto Is a Conversation, Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers
Do Not Split, Anders Hammer and Charlotte Cook
Hunger Ward, Skye Fitzgerald and Michael Scheuerman
A Love Song for Latasha, Sophia Nahli Allison and Janice Duncan

Notes: No notes here except to say that Hunger Ward was made by a kid I used to know in elementary school (and Cub Scouts), and it's amazing. You should see it.

If I Had a Vote: Hunger Ward
Prediction: A Concerto Is a Conversation
The Winner: Colette

Best Film Editing
The Father, Yorgos Lamprinos
Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
Promising Young Woman, Frédéric Thoraval
Sound of Metal, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Alan Baumgarten

Notes: This is one of my favorite categories, because it sometimes takes a right turn and does something cool, like giving awards to Bullitt or The Matrix or Mad Max: Fury Road. Nomadland is probably the safe bet, but in terms of sheer craft, I'd personally give a little love to both Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal.

If I Had a Vote: Sound of Metal
Prediction: Nomadland
The Winner: Sound of Metal

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)

Notes: I clearly saw all the wrong international feature films this year, but it doesn't matter because Another Round is also in the directing category, which puts it pretty significantly over the edge. I like the film, but I wish I liked it more...

If I Had a Vote: n/a
Prediction: Another Round
The Winner: Another Round

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Emma., Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze
Hillbilly Elegy, Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, Matthew Mungle
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson
Mank, Kimberley Spiteri, Gigi Williams, Colleen LaBaff
Pinocchio, Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, Francesco Pegoretti

Notes: For this I guess I'd have to go with the film I like the best out of the ones I've seen, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which also happens to be the current favorite.

If I Had a Vote: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Prediction: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
The Winner: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Best Production Design
The Father. Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara and Diana Stoughton
Mank. Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale
News of the World. Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan
Tenet. Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

Notes: My pick would be Ma Rainey's Black Bottom for the brilliant way it used its limited set, its various layers, levels of light and dark, and doors and hallways, for specific emotional effect in tune with the story's rhythms. The front runner is, of course, the movie with the most production design.

If I Had a Vote: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Prediction: Mank
The Winner: Mank

Best Visual Effects
Love and Monsters, Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox
The Midnight Sky, Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins
Mulan, Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram
The One and Only Ivan, Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez
Tenet, Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher

Notes: I somehow missed three of these movies, despite being a big nerd. Despite only being released in theaters and not being seen by a lot of people until home video, (and despite not being very good) Tenet is probably the front runner here.

If I Had a Vote: n/a
Prediction: Tenet
The Winner: Tenet

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