Well, here it is at last. The Oscars are finally upon us, and I could not be more excited (well, okay, unless Dune were in the mix and didn’t get delayed, but still). By now, readers of this blog and followers of mine on pretty much any social media site know that I’m a tad obsessed with movies’ biggest night of celebration, and consistently track the awards conversation starting months before it even begins, especially in regards to the Oscars. To that end, you may have seen one or more of my Nomination Predictions lists floating around at various points in this extended awards season, which pushed the submissions deadline for Oscar consideration from its usual date of December 31 to February 26 in order to allow more films to open in wider markets (whichever ones were open by then, anyway). It’s been an extremely long and often slow road getting to this point, but now the Oscars are finally here, and that means final predictions are also here. It’s been a long time coming, but finally, finally, we have arrived at the day. Here are my final predictions for the winners of the 93rd Annual Academy Awards!
Best Documentary Short
Will Win: A Love Song for Latasha
Could Steal: A Concerto Is a Conversation
Dark Horse: Do Not Split
Should Have Been Nominated: N/A
Once again, this category really mostly comes down to accessibility, and the Netflix short, A Love Song for Latasha, is by far the most accessible of the five nominated here. Given what’s been happening in the U.S. as well, with the systemic oppression and needless executions of Black people, Latasha’s half-animated/half-doc memorial of sorts strikes a fairly poignant chord, so a win here seems most likely for this particular nominee. If anything could steal it, A Concerto Is a Conversation’s celebration of Academy member and composer Kris Bowers might (Bowers composed the score for 2019 Best Picture-winner Green Book), as it’s a rare, joyful portrait of Black success that’s devoid of cynicism, rather than some glorified Black trauma porn meant to assuage white people of their guilt by watching it. Hunger Ward’s portrait of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen makes for a devastating watch but, being by far the longest of these, likely will lose any shot at winning due to being about twice as long as it needs to be, and for calling out the U.S. in its complicity in the crisis (the U.S. provides aid to Saudi Arabia, the largest cause and perpetrators of the crisis). The dark horse in this race is Do Not Split, and on-the-ground documentation of the Hong Kong protests and police brutality that arose as a reaction to them. Documentary (both Feature and Short) tend to be the most politically-charged categories, so a win here would certainly send a message to those who know what it would be meant to say. I wouldn’t count on it though.
Best Animated Short
Will Win: If Anything Happens I Love You
Could Steal: Burrow
Dark Horse: Opera
Should Have Been Nominated: Kapaemahu or The Snail and the Whale
This category tends to have a pretty clear front-runner early on in most years, and this year, that’s the beautifully devastating If Anything Happens I Love You, the subject matter of which is tragically well-timed to the current circumstances of gun violence in the U.S. Given that the film is on Netflix (so it’s widely accessible), and is produced by Academy Award-Winner Laura Dern’s production company, it’s safe to say it doesn’t really have any real competition here, even if Disney’s Burrow does offer an adorable counterpart. (But really, Opera is weirdly transfixing and impressive, so if anything’s a dark horse in this race, it’s that.)
Best Live-Action Short
Will Win: Two Distant Strangers
Could Steal: The Letter Room
Dark Horse: White Eye
Should Have Been Nominated: The Human Voice
“Should Have Been Nominated” will largely fall on what was expected to appear in the short film categories, rather than personal preference (I don’t often get to see many of these ahead of time), and to that end, Pedro Almodóvar’s The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton, feels like the biggest absence here, especially considering what a splash it made when it released. (I haven’t personally seen it, but given that it was on every list, not being nominated seems curiously snub-ish.) Two Distant Strangers is by far the weakest of these to me, so a win for it would be pretty disappointing, but odds being what they are, it looks like that is the most likely scenario. Accessibility is the name of the game with short films, and it’s the only one on Netflix. However, Oscar Isaac brings enough star power to The Letter Room that I’m still hoping it will take home the gold, as it currently occupies second place for the win. More people should see Feeling Through, though, as it’s definitely my favorite of the bunch, and White Eye’s one-shot work could make it an unexpected winner for the category.
Will Win: Sound of Metal
Could Steal: None
Dark Horse: Soul
Should Have Been Nominated: None
Wanna win some money? Place your bets on Sound of Metal in this category. There’s virtually no competition to speak of.
Best Visual Effects
Will Win: Tenet
Could Steal: The Midnight Sky
Dark Horse: Love and Monsters
Should Have Been Nominated: Welcome to Chechnya
The Midnight Sky winning the Visual Effects Society’s big award was a big surprise, but the Oscars doesn’t really do surprises in this category too often, opting usually for the more subtle implementation of VFX in films. Hell, last year they gave it to 1917 over The Lion King, and the latter of the two was entirely made up of VFX. Tenet will likely take the win here, although the absence of Welcome to Chechnya in this category is disappointing, considering its employment of VFX has a far greater purpose than any other nominee here in protecting the identities of LGBTQ Chechens fleeing extermination.
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Could Steal: Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Dark Horse: Derek Cianfrance, Darius Marder, and Abraham Marder, Sound of Metal
Should Have Been Nominated: Pete Doctor, Mike Jones, and Kemp Powers, Soul
It is insane to me that Soul, of all things, missed out on original screenplay nomination, even if Mank is the more surprising absence here. I am very happy for Judas and the Black Messiah’s nomination, though. Moving onto the potential winners, Sorkin is an Academy darling who regularly appears in this category due to his very wordy scripts, but hasn’t won any major pre-cursors that really matter here, losing instead of Emerald Fennell’s bold and pronounced debut in Promising Young Woman, which is my prediction to win here as well. For my money, Minari actually has the best screenplay of the bunch by a slim margin, but it doesn’t really have a shot at winning here, which I’m okay with anyway.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, The Father
Could Steal: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Dark Horse: Kemp Powers, One Night in Miami…
Should Have Been Nominated: Charlie Kaufman, i’m thinking of ending things
The Academy shafted the incredible work on i’m thinking of ending things in every category, none more egregious than this, but Kaufman tends to be pretty absent at these things anyway, so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. I’m pulling for The Father here, and it could very well take the win, especially after its WGA and BAFTA wins, but at every other major ceremony where Nomadland has also been present, that latter has taken the win, so it really comes down to where the momentum feels strongest (Nomadland also was not eligible for a WGA nomination, so that factors into The Father’s win there). Zhao’s threading of a narrative thread through a non-fiction book that doesn’t really follow a central story has been greatly remarked upon, but something is telling me that because it’s not expected that Hopkins will win his own statuette, the Academy may feel that rewarding The Father in this category will act as recognition enough – not a consolation prize, but something to say “we noticed.”
Best Original Song
Will Win: “Io Sì (Seen),” The Life Ahead
Could Steal: “Speak Now,” One Night in Miami…
Dark Horse: “Husavik,” Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Should Have Been Nominated: “Rain Song,” Minari
This category really shouldn’t even be part of the nominations unless the songs are included in the actual movies, such as surprise contender “Husavik,” but rather than debate the ridiculousness of tacking on a song to the end credits of something to score a nomination, let’s just celebrate that the musical performances this year are being moved to a pre-show so they don’t needlessly take up 25 minutes of the show in order to put on a concert. In terms of winners, this could go to any one of three winners between “Io Sì,” “Speak Now,” and “Husavik.” If I were less worrisome about this category, my money would be on the one that Best Supporting Actor nominee and Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. sings. However, don’t count out “Io Sì;” Diane Warren hasn’t won an Oscar yet for all the iconic original songs she’s written, and this could well be a legacy award category where she could pull off a steal pretty easily, so I’m pushing that as a hope vote.
Best Original Score
Will Win: Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Soul
Could Steal: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Mank
Dark Horse: Emile Mosseri, Minari
Should Have Been Nominated: Ludwig Göransson, Tenet
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy enough for Terence Blanchard (who is a wonderful composer) being nominated here, but Ludwig Göransson’s hall-of-fame work in Tenet is one of the best action scores in recent memory, and yet another huge hit for the guy behind Creed and Black Panther. Göransson absolutely should have been recognized here for crafting a score with such visceral energy that matches the pacing of the action sequences in which it’s most heavily utilized, and it’s a real shame that Tenet’s only nomination outside of Visual Effects was for one of its weaker elements, rather than by far its strongest. That being said, this is Soul’s award to lose. If it loses to anything, it will still end up in the same hands, just for a different score, but this category is pretty well tied up.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Could Steal: Hillbilly Elegy
Dark Horse: Pinocchio
Should Have Been Nominated: Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
The Oscars love prosthetics in makeup, but Hillbilly Elegy doesn’t feature a ton of them outside of Glenn Close, and the makeup in Ma Rainey is employed as an essential part of the characters, whereas Elegy just uses it to make Close look older. Once again, not much to say here, except that I really hope there’s not a surprise win in this category. Please don’t give Hillbilly Elegy any Oscars.
Best Costume Design
Will Win: Ann Roth, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Could Steal: Trish Summerville, Mank
Dark Horse: Alexander Byrne, Emma
Should Have Been Nominated: Suzie Harman and Robert Worley, The Personal History of David Copperfield
On “Should Have Been Nominated,” see below. On everything else, Ma Rainey pretty much has these next two categories lined up. There’s not much to say outside of that.
Best Production Design
Will Win: Donald Graham Burt, Mank
Could Steal: Mark Ricker, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Dark Horse: Peter Francis, The Father
Should Have Been Nominated: Cristina Casali, The Personal History of David Copperfield
It is absolutely absurd that every awards body with a design category basically forgot The Personal History of David Copperfield even existed; the design work in that movie is exquisite and deserves to be recognized, especially over Tenet, a film where the production design is smothered in so much silver and grey, it all blends together by the end. (That’s not a slight to the rest of the film, which I still quite enjoyed.) That being said, this is likely Mank’s only win for the night, but not an underserving one. The design of Mank is stunning, from the costumes to the makeup to the recreation of any number of locations and sets, particularly the famous Hurst Castle. Creating those environments with so much detail is remarkable, and Mank deserves the nod here, though Ma Rainey’s attention to period detail could win as well.
Best Film Editing
Will Win: Alan Baumgarten, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Could Steal: Mikkel E.G. Nielsen, Sound of Metal
Dark Horse: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Should Have Been Nominated: N/A
The Oscars do love showy editing (Whiplash, Ford v Ferrari), but Sound of Metal has picked up a lot of momentum in this category. Taking on Trial is a tall order, but if any movie can do it, it’s Sound of Metal. That being said, there have been plenty of two-horse races in this category, and the showier pick usually comes out the victor (think Ford v Ferrari vs. Parasite last year). Plus, this could be Trial’s only award of the night, and after winning the ACE Eddie award for Best Editing in a Feature Film, I’d say its odds for winning here are pretty solid. It should be going to Yorgos Lamprinos though, for his brilliant editing in The Father, which is used not only to confuse in the big moments, but in all the tiny details as well. Those who have seen the film will know exactly what I’m referring to by the “big moments,” but alas, it remains the 4th place finisher for this category.
Will Win: Joshua James Richards, Nomadland
Could Steal: Erik Messerschmidt, Mank
Dark Horse: Darius Wolski, News of the World
Should Have Been Nominated: Andrey Naydenov, Dear Comrades! or Christopher Blauvelt, First Cow
Mank did pull of a surprise win at the ASC awards (American Society of Cinematographers), ending Nomadland’s huge streak of wins in a row, but I don’t think that means it’ll take the Oscar as well. So often, the Academy rewards the framing of the camera, rather than what’s contained within the image, so a movie that looks really beautiful with every shot has a better chance at winning than one with more colorization or advanced lighting techniques. It could happen for Mank, but Nomadland’s patient, gentle-moving camera sweeping across the vast American heartland remains the front-runner in this category, all but a lock for a win here. In fact, the only movie that doesn’t belong here is The Trial of the Chicago 7, which looks pretty ugly in all honesty. One can tell the Academy didn’t care much for Da 5 Bloods, but apparently they didn’t see Dear Comrades! or First Cow either, both of which are more worthy than Trial. Phedon Papamichael deserved to be nominated, yes, but for Ford v Ferrari last year (in place of The Irishman), not for this.
Best Documentary Feature
Will Win: My Octopus Teacher
Could Steal: Time
Dark Horse: Crip Camp
Should Have Been Nominated: Boys State
Somehow, the small Netflix doc about a man falling in love with a sea creature has become the front-runner to win Documentary Feature and I will never understand why. It’s a perfectly fine documentary, but truth be told, it was fairly low on my shortlist rankings when I watched all of the shortlisted films in this category (except The Truffle Hunters, which I still haven’t been able to see). I would rather see Collective or Time win here, both fantastic documentaries about broken systems within governmental bodies, the former being the result of a shocking find during a separate investigation, the latter a reflection on the relationship between time and broken institutions. Both of those films are fantastic, and I would gladly see either of them take the win here, especially since even better docs like Boys State and The Dissident weren’t even nominated (and the latter wasn’t even shortlisted).
Best Animated Feature
Will Win: Soul
Could Steal: Wolfwalkers
Dark Horse: A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Should Have Been Nominated: N/A
Last year, I predicted that Klaus, which won the Annie, the BAFTA, and several other major animation awards, could take down Toy Story 4 in this category, and I was roundly shut down on Oscar night, so I’ve learned never to bet against Pixar here. That being said, Soul was genuinely the best animated movie of the year, so I can’t be too cynical about Pixar taking home yet another one of these, even if Wolfwalkers does pose some significant competition for the studio. The surprise nominee here is Farmageddon, which I found delightful, stealing a spot from Croods, but I’m totally okay with that. Clearly a lot of the Academy saw it and enjoyed it a great deal, so if anything’s a dark horse candidate, it’s that. But the award is still going to Soul.
Best International Feature Film
Will Win: Another Round
Could Steal: Quo Vadis, Aida?
Dark Horse: Collective
Should Have Been Nominated: Dear Comrades! or La Llorona or I’m No Longer Here
Pretty much anything here, apart from The Man Who Sold His Skin, is worthy of a win for me, but nothing is stopping Mads Mikkelsen’s drunken dancing from winning an award for Another Round. It’s not just the best international film this year, but one of Mikkelsen and director Thomas Vinterberg’s best collaborations (even earning Vinterberg a surprise Best Director nomination). There’s no denying its win here, though Quo Vadis, Aida? has picked up significant support recently. Collective is the second film in a row to pick up nominations for both International and Documentary Feature, after Honeyland was the first at last year’s ceremony, so while its shot is miniscule, it’s not nonexistent. Strangely though, neither La Llorona (Guatemala) nor Two of Us (France) made an appearance. The former is more understandable, given the Academy’s aversion to horror, but France typically shows up in this category, so their absence here is curious. Still, it’s not like they would have won anyway, so there’s no need to fight for its inclusion here, though I would have like to see the masterful Dear Comrades! snag a spot.
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari
Could Steal: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Dark Horse: Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Should Have Been Nominated: Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah
For a long time, this one seemed like Bakalova was the heavy front-runner, and she still has a shot for sure, but the Academy has a weird allergy to comedies that don’t end up as dramas by the end, and Borat is about as irreverent and silly as one of those can get. Bakalova is a breakout star in it, and the thing that makes the whole movie work, but after two major wins for Yuh-Jung Youn, it looks like she has it in the bag for Minari, which is she is genuinely great in, so it’s a good win. Glenn Close is nominated for Hillbilly Elegy, so they could give her a legacy Oscar here, but I doubt it happens.
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Could Steal: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Dark Horse: Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
Should Have Been Nominated: N/A
This is one of the much easier predictions to make in the acting categories. I don’t even have to say it for everyone to know, but there’s absolute no chance in hell Lakeith Stanfield has a shot at winning this category, especially since no one really considers him to be supporting in a movie where his character is literally the first word of the title. The movie is told from his perspective, and he is very much a lead. Kaluuya could also be considered lead, given his screen-time is about equal with Stanfield, but the story’s not centered on his perspective, so Supporting Actor for him feels more appropriate, and you can take it to the bank that he’s winning it all. Ever since awards voters had the chance to see Judas and the Black Messiah, Daniel Kaluuya has won just about every single award for which he’s been nominated, and his is by far the showiest performance of the five, which the Academy loves. Kaluuya commands the screen as Fred Hampton, and it is genuinely another level of performance from him that’s far above anything he’s done before. If there is a surprise here, it’ll be for Paul Raci’s stellar work as an ASL instructor in Sound of Metal, but given that his performance is far more subdued and internal, don’t expect a surprise to take place.
Will Win: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Could Steal: Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom or Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Dark Horse: Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Should Have Been Nominated: Yeri Han, Minari
This is by far the most difficult category to predict, and by the time this is published, I may have changed my answer yet again. It’s terribly unfortunate that Yeri Han, the best performance in Minari, wasn’t even one of the top 8 candidates in the running for a nomination, but the conversation now has shifted to just who the hell the winner is actually going to be. Pretty much everyone but Vanessa Kirby (who’s great in Pieces of a Woman but hasn’t won a single major Oscars pre-cursor award) has a path to winning this category. Andra Day is the least likely of the other 4, in my opinion, since The United States vs. Billie Holiday was fairly ill-received (even Zellweger’s Judy had mostly positive reviews), but then again, the Oscars do love a transformation – especially a singing one – and Day is genuinely the best thing in that movie, plus she did win the Golden Globe in the biggest upset win of that night. Frances McDormand is terrific in Nomadland, and won the BAFTA, but she also already has an Oscar from the same category for Three Billboards, and hasn’t one many other major awards, though she’s stayed a consistent presence. The real race here, it seems, is Carey Mulligan vs. Viola Davis. Mulligan is fresh off an Independent Spirit Award win as of this writing (though those don’t tend to have much of an effect on the Oscars), and has been extremely popular with Critics groups, but hasn’t won that many pre-cursors, despite having the most wins of the group overall. Davis, on the other hand, took home the SAG award for Best Actress, and could easily win here for her electrifying performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, given (as we’ve noted) the size of the actors branch. Although, she too already has an Oscar for Supporting Actress in Fences…and I’ve just talked myself into putting Mulligan back on the “will win” train. Which I might change again about eight more times. You see what I’m dealing with here?
Will Win: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Could Steal: Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Dark Horse: Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Should Have Been Nominated: Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
This category is…complicated to say the least. The passion votes are there for Hopkins, but I don’t know that there are enough of them to turn the tide in his favor. The passing of Chadwick Boseman was something that shook the world and affected us all in deeply personal ways that are hard to communicate due to how different those ways are. I do think Hopkins overall gave the better performance, so if he wins I won’t be one bit upset, but awarding Boseman a posthumous Oscar not only for this role (a career-best in my opinion) but to honor his incredible legacy of work also seems perfectly appropriate. As far as who should win, I’m torn between the two, but I think Boseman just barely edges out the win on account of his passing and his legacy. In terms of other nominees, it is insane that they gave a spot to Gary Oldman (who I liked in Mank, though it’s certainly not a career-best by any stretch) that should have gone to Delroy Lindo’s incredible work in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. Just insane.
Will Win: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Could Steal: David Fincher, Mank
Dark Horse: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Should Have Been Nominated: N/A
More than Best Picture, even, this category is locked up pretty tight for Nomadland. Chloé Zhao has already broken records as the single most-awarded filmmaker during an awards season (by a huge margin), so it’s safe to say that come Oscar night, that record will be added to. Really the only person who could steal the award out from under her here is David Fincher for his work on Mank, which garnered the most nominations due to its technical prowess. It’s not unusual for the Academy to do a Best Director/Best Picture split when the Director selection is attached to the more technically impressive film, and it’s happened 4 out of the last 8 times, so there’s plenty of precedent. This is Zhao’s award to lose, however, and she’s on the biggest winning streak ever right now, showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Will Win: Nomadland
Could Steal: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Dark Horse: Sound of Metal
Should Have Been Nominated: Soul
Nomadland was my #1 movie of 2020, so naturally, I’m perfectly happy with it being the front-runner here, having bested all other candidates at pretty much every other awards show (even the ones where its win was not expected). That said, I would also be totally fine with a Minari win here, or an out-of-nowhere surprise for Judas and the Black Messiah. Unfortunately, the most likely upset would be a win for perfectly fine but not nearly deserving enough The Trial of the Chicago 7 since it did win the SAG Ensemble award (the equivalent of Best Picture for that voting body), and actors make up the largest branch of the Academy overall. Plus, with the preferential ballot system, a shakeup isn’t entirely out of the question. Still, Nomadland seems to have this one locked up pretty tight, which again, I’m more than okay with.
And, at long last, those are my final predictions for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards! What do you think of these predictions? Any we disagree on? What are you hoping to see win? Let me know in the comments section below, and thanks for reading!
- The Friendly Film Fan
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Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time.