In just under a week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will belatedly hold its most illustrious event, honouring what they perceive to be the most exceptional films from a pandemic-stricken year. Like most over events that have occurred over the past twelve months or so, this year’s ceremony will be unlike any before it, with the Academy having made several concessions to ensure strong and healthy field of nominees.
Even so, there is one tradition that the Academy has continued, and that’s igniting endless debates about whether this year’s list of nominees has really encapsulated the best offered by the medium. This author plans on adding to that same conversation, but would also like to note what the Academy got right, and whether any of those nominees even stand a chance of garnering an Oscar.
Let’s begin this dissection by discussing…
It’s wasn’t all that long ago that social media was bemoaning the lack of diversity and representation with the #OscarsSoWhite discussions on social media; now though, the Academy appears to be a champion of such causes, with this year’s list of nominees being the most diverse in the ceremony’s history. There are three men of colour nominated in the Best Lead Actor category; two African-American women nominated for Best Lead Actress; and three Black men competing for Best Supporting Actor. What’s more impressive is that in each of the Acting categories, a person of colour is considered the odds-on favourite for the prize.
Additionally, in a major first for the Oscars, two women have been nominated for Best Director: Chloe Zhao for Nomadland, and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. Just five other women have been nominated in this category previously, with Kathryn Bigelow being the sole female director to win in the Academy’s near-century of existence. Consequently, should either Zhao or Fennell be bestowed an Oscar – at this stage, all signs are pointed toward a victory for the former – they will become the second woman to earn the directorial prize.
Furthermore, following-on from the success of Parasite at last year’s ceremony, the Korean-American drama Minari garnered six nominations, including one for Best Supporting Actress, with Youn Yuh-jung looking certain to claim a statuette following her wins in the same category at both the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the BAFTAs this past month. Minari’s recognition is something of a consolation prize for A24, which failed to secure any nominations for another of its releases, The Farewell at the previous ceremony.
Most commentators have been very quick to note the snubbing of Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods these past few weeks, with the picture securing just one nomination for Terence Blanchard’s soundtrack. Despite earning widespread praise, neither Delroy Lindo nor the late Chadwick Boseman were nominated for their respective performances, while the film also failed to earn recognition for either its Direction or Screenplay. It seems that even after his success at the Oscars just two years prior, Lee’s work still struggles to resonate with the Academy’s voters.
Also pertinent was the absence of Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, possibly the most acclaimed release of the past year. While some have claimed that a limited release mid-2020 is what hurt its chances, the film’s omission is more than likely due to a lack of funds from distributor A24, which instead lobbied for another of its releases, Minari – efforts which, as noted above, paid-off handsomely.
The Academy also baffled cinephiles by offering multiple nominations to certain films, yet omitting them from categories they arguably deserved more. Such examples include David Fincher’s Mank, nominated in ten categories yet shut-out of the Original Screenplay award; One Night in Miami, which didn’t gain a Best Picture nomination despite the immense praise; and The Trail of the Chicago 7, which saw writer-director Aaron Sorkin ignored for a Best Director nod.
Thomas Vinterberg, who helmed the Danish-language feature Another Round, was one of the surprises in this year’s list of nominees, earning recognition in the Best Director field. This nomination is as clear a sign as any that his picture will earn an Oscar for Best International Feature Film, yet he stands almost no chance of being awarded for his directorial efforts because, as mentioned, Chloe Zhao is the clear favourite here.
Another of the surprises was LaKeith Stanfield – not only for earning a nomination, but also for being placed in the exact same category as his co-star. Stanfield has always been an exceptional actor, so it’s fantastic to see him being acknowledged for his work in Judas and the Black Messiah; but the likelihood of him winning is non-existent, since he is competing against Daniel Kaluuya for his performance as Fred Hampton, and all signs are pointed towards a victory for the Briton.
The real outsiders for this year’s Academy Awards though, are the four pictures competing against Soul in the Best Animated Feature Film category. While Onward, Over the Moon, Farmageddon and Wolfwalkers are undoubtedly good movies, the critical success of Soul – plus its nominations in two other fields, plus the unparalleled dominance of Pixar at the Oscars – means it is certain to earn a statuette.
Finally, as per tradition on this blog, here are this author’s predictions for who will win in each category…
Best Picture: Nomadland
Best Director: Chloe Zhao (Nomadland)
Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Best Actress: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Best Supporting Actress: Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)
Best Original Screenplay: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Father
Best Animated Feature: Soul
Best International Feature: Another Round
Best Documentary Feature: Time
Best Documentary Short Subject: A Love Song for Latasha
Best Live Action Short Film: Feeling Through
Best Animated Short: If Anything Happens I Love You
Best Original Score: Soul
Best Original Song: “Fight for You” (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Best Sound: Sound of Metal
Best Production Design: Mank
Best Cinematography: Nomadland
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Costume Design: Emma
Best Film Editing: Nomadland
Best Visual Effects: Tenet