93rd Academy Award Nominations & Thoughts

It may be (unnecessarily) later in the year, but we now have the 93rd Academy Award nominations, and, yes, I have thoughts. Firstly, I'm not sure if this post tends to come off grouchy or not, but I do have fun with this, largely because I tend to more or less like the films being represented and largely find it a shame that there's not room for everything I was a fan of from the previous year. So, with that in mind, there's once again plenty to praise, even if several films I had the most praise for were left off the list entirely. With that said, there's once again a decent amount of representation for on-screen diversity, as well as what's going on behind the camera. There are some major highlights for films starring international actors, along with people of color. One can also see a bit of "same old stuff" regarding some of these categories. Regardless, the ceremony won't air until April 25, so there's more to come in the weeks ahead. For now, enjoy what I have to say about this year's nominees and the potential winners.

A quick breakdown of the films with the most nominations:

Mank - 10, Nomadland - 6, The Trial of the Chicago 7 - 6, Judas and the Black Messiah - 6, Sound of Metal - 6, Minari - 6, The Father - 6, Promising Young Woman - 5, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - 5, News of the World - 4, Soul - 3, One Night In Miami - 3

Films sadly left out of the conversation entirely (regardless of inevitability):

Boy's State, Dick Johnson is Dead, First Cow, The Forty-Year-Old Version, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, The Invisible Man, Jalikattu, The Nest, On the Rocks, Palm Springs, The Personal History of David Copperfield

And The Nominees Are:

BEST PICTURE

(Ranked in order of preference - only this category)
"Mank"
"Judas and the Black Messiah"
"Nomadland"
"The Father"
"Minari"
"Sound of Metal"
"Promising Young Woman"
"The Trial of the Chicago 7″

As has been the case for the past few years now, this category was less about surprises and more about whether or not there'd be more than 8 nominees. There weren't, and the results are a pretty solid lineup of films. I have reservations about the good enough but not great Chicago 7, but it's hard to say I'd be against most of these winning the big prize. Of course, there could have been room for more. I'll probably talk about the lack of recognition for Da 5 Bloods plenty, but even seeing Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and One Night in Miami missing out on a nomination, despite landing some big nominations elsewhere feels off, and serves as another reason why a straight set of ten nominees would be preferred. With all of that being said, given what's left and my favorite films from 2020, I'm currently Team Mank, with strong support for Judas as my runner-up pick.

DIRECTOR

Thomas Vinterberg, "Another Round"
David Fincher, "Mank"
Lee Isaac Chung, "Minari"
Chloe Zhao, "Nomadland"
Emerald Fennell, "Promising Young Woman"

The big surprise up top is the presence of another foreign language film breaking into this category. Emerald Fennell defying the odds to make this the first time two women competed in this category at the same time is also notable, let alone noting how the category is not made up of a majority of white men for the first time. The notable misses that were surly right on the outside were Regina King and Aaron Sorkin. Florian Zeller and Darius Marder could have snuck in there as well for The Father and Sound of Metal, but it's not as though those films didn't take in a good haul. With that in mind, while I'd be happy to finally see Fincher take home an Oscar, I wouldn't be opposed to Zhao or Chung coming out on top either.

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"

On the one hand, this is about what I'd expect in this category. All of these are strong performances, and no one should feel bad for making the lineup. It's a shame my realistic expectations pretty much told me not to see Delroy Lindo's magnificent performance from Da 5 Bloods represented here. It will go down as one of the all-timer performances not to be nominated. However, good for Steven Yeun, who has been building up credit over the years. This 5th slot could have gone to Mads Mikkelsen's career-best work in Another Round or a different surprise with Tahar Rahim for The Mauritanian. As it stands, this category has the first lead Muslim nomination and the first Asian American nomination, with a posthumous award more than likely going to Chadwick Boseman's terrific work.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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"

Further proof the useless sham that is the Golden Globes mean next to nothing, as Rosamund Pike came nowhere near a nomination for I Care A Lot. With that in mind, there was no room for veteran actress Sophia Loren or young Zendaya to make it in either (let alone anything for other indie films that had strong pushes). Instead, you have a more predictable but quite solid set of performances. Davis and McDormand seem like the more traditional wins that could happen, though sheer force of will has seemingly helped propel Mulligan and Promising Young Woman much further than many would have initially thought. Meanwhile, Day and Kirby are in not-so-great films, doing very good work, so they're just happy to be nominated.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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

Remember my thoughts on the Globes a second ago? That's why Foster was never a factor either (and it's a fairly unmemorable effort). As this category stands, no surprises. Too much support has been behind Bakalova for coming out of nowhere in the Borat sequel and both matching Cohen and enduring a risky situation with Guiliani. Hillbilly Elegy may have received its share of (over-the-top) scorn, but the Academy is devoted to forcing Close to smile during any ceremony, even if she's bound to lose again. Yuh-jung is easily the most deserving nominee here, but it's sad other strong or out there picks couldn't have come to fruition.

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"

So, my first reaction here was along the lines of, "Whaaaaaaaaa?" After being campaigned as lead, Stanfield has suddenly arrived like a true Judas to compete alongside his co-star, Kaluuya. I'm all for both of the guys getting the credit where it's deserved (and the award is still more than likely going to Kaluuya), but the voters sure like going their own way when they want to. The others are a mix of fitting and inevitable. Odom Jr. was my favorite performance from One Night in Miami, and he landed his nomination. Raci has gotten so much support that it's nice to see it pay off. And then there's Cohen, a good performance, but not on Rylance or Langella's level. At least everyone was wise enough to realize Leto did not belong on this list. Sorry to Bill Murray though, I know I did what I could. And hey, Minari's Alan Kim has had a wonderful ride that one at least hopes leads to more movies. And really, for a category that could have had some real wild cards, it's too bad that didn't amount to much beyond the surprise category change.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

"Borat Subsequent MovieFilm"
"The Father"
"Nomadland"
"One Night in Miami"
"The White Tiger"

Three of these were a given. Borat managed to follow through on coming out at the right time to be one of the rare sequels to have both first and second entries in a franchise to get a nomination. The final slot was a little up in the air, and while I would have loved to see the truly bizarre I'm Thinking of Ending Things (let alone my pie in the sky dream of First Cow or David Copperfield) land a spot, The White Tiger is a solid pick as well. Ramin Bahrani is a great filmmaker, and his work to assemble this gritty Indian tale was quite strong. Given the prestige that comes with August Wilson's name, I suppose Ma Rainey's Black Bottom had a good shot as well, but this film has had a weird run given the strong nominations and curious misses.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

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

Mank missing out on a screenplay nomination is a huge blow to the film's chances, honestly. It is a shame, as I may have expected great things on a technical level, but I was truly impressed by the work the late Jack Fincher put into making the film a lot more than just a look back at the Golden Age of Hollywood. Something quirky and just as deserving like Palm Springs or The Forty-Year-Old Version would have been a welcome surprise as well. Still, this lineup is pretty great. I'm happy Judas was able to come on so strong in the end, given its late release date. It joins the other Best Picture nominees, which only makes sense.

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

"Another Round" - Denmark
"Better Days" - Hong Kong
"Collective" - Romania
"The Man Who Sold His Skin" - Tunisia
Qu Vadis, Aida? - Bosnia and Herzegovina

While the winner tends to be fairly locked up by the time of the ceremony, there are so many potential nominees that it's compelling to see who makes the cut here. Lots of misses from some notables such as La Llorona, Night of the Kings, and A Sun. Collective is now a dual nominee, so perhaps that puts it in a good spot. Or maybe we should watch out for Quo Vadis, Aida? Not too likely though, as Another Round has a Best Director nomination for Thomas Vinteberg. He went home empty-handed for his excellent film The Hunt back in 2012. Now it looks like he's back with a vengeance. 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

"Collective"
"Crip Camp"
"The Mole Agent"
"My Octopus Teacher"
"Time"

The biggest wild card category of them all - Best Documentary. This guild is insane when it comes to keeping track of what qualifies, what pattern to look for, and what to choose from their shortlists. Dick Johnson is Dead and Boys State are fantastic films. The Painter and the Thief is quite compelling. All In, 76 Days, and Welcome to Chechnya certainly had the support. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Still, Time is excellent, Collective is incredibly dark but effective, and My Octopus Teacher is quite lovely in its own weird way. I'll see the others in due time.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

"Onward"
"Over the Moon"
"A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon"
"Soul"
"Wolfwalkers"

Good for you, Shaun the Sheep! I haven't caught up with these films yet, though they seem right up my alley. That said, it seems like there were some options for the 5th slot, after the two Pixars, Over the Moon, and the acclaimed Wolfwalkers. It just wasn't time for The Croods, I suppose. The less said about Earwig and the Witch, the better. This is going to be a big match, though, as Soul and Wolfwalkers are heavy favorites. Pixar does have what seems like home field advantage, given all of the studios wins, let alone co-director Pete Docter. At the same time, Cartoon Saloon has built up plenty of credit over the years, and this is their most well-received film yet. We shall see!

ORIGINAL SONG

"Fight For You" from "Judas and the Black Messiah"
"Hear My Voice" from "The Trial of the Chicago 7"
"Husavik" from "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga"
"lo Sì (Seen)" from "The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)"
"Speak Now" from "One Night in Miami..."

If I was a bigger fan of Eurovision Song Contest, I would join the chorus of people excited for that film's presence at the Oscars. I'm not against it, as it did provide a breath of fresh air for many last year, I just have little investment in it. That said, it joins a nice set of songs. "Fight For You" is my favorite of this bunch, I suppose. "Speak Now" makes Odom Jr. a double nominee, so good for him. Given the progress Borat made, I have expected "Wuhan Flu" to make the cut. Who will win? I have no idea yet, but is twelve the lucky number for Diane Warren, who wrote "lo Si (Seen)" for the Sophia Loren film, The Life Ahead?

ORIGINAL SCORE

"Da 5 Bloods"
"Mank"
"Minari"
"News of the World"
"Soul"

Well, I can't say I'm unhappy for Terence Blanchard, as the man is quite talented. Still, of all the potential nominations for Da 5 Bloods, this is what we get? Fine, I'll take it, but this is a competition between Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and John Baptiste. Minari's is exceptional, as one would expect after The Last Black Man in San Francisco. News of the World has a lot of average all over it, but the score is a bright spot as well. So, this is a good list, even if Tenet once again came up short, despite the tremendous work to have the themes truly match its tricky narrative.

FILM EDITING

"The Father"
"Nomadland"
"Promising Young Woman"
"Sound of Metal"
"The Trial of the Chicago 7"

Once again, another huge miss for Mank in another area that was a huge success for the film, given its flashback structure. Not a great one for Judas to miss either, given where my priorities lie as far as favorites go. There's even a lack of a fun action movie nomination for Tenet (and sure, the pandemic certainly held other big action films back from coming close). It's all Best Picture noms in this category, which gives you a good idea of which films to expect to win fairly big on Oscar night. That doesn't mean it's a bad crowd. Chicago 7's best quality is its editing. The same can easily be said for The FatherNomadland being the frontrunner certainly earns its editing nomination. There's a lot to like about this highly competitive category.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

"The Father"
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
"Mank"
"News of the World"
"Tenet"

Welp, this is where I had hoped to see a lone nomination for David Copperfield thanks to its blend of period and fantasy elements to create its world. As it stands, The Father played its cards right (which is impressive for a Sony Pictures Classics film) and landed a well-earned spot, given the nature of the film. Tenet showed up here as well, which is nice, given the scale of that film. Having a Chicago-set period film, a Hollywood-set period film and a western are all nice ways to mix things up as well. The Midnight Sky would have been a nice entry, let alone something wild like I'm Thinking of Ending Things. Regardless, many could learn a lot from how specific these sets are to these films, and it's no surprise that there was a lot of potential.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

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

Justice for Bobbitt! Having spent years getting less credit than deserved for his work with Steve McQueen, among others, his striking work on Judas now puts him on a bit of a pedestal, along with several other greats. Sure, News of the World looks good enough, and Papamichael's work on Chicago 7 is a solid counter to Sorkin's TV-level direction, but without Tenet as a possible spoiler (which is crazy to not see here), this is a race between Mank and Nomadland. I'm expecting those magic hour shots to go the distance. What missed out? Newton Thomas Siegel had a duel run going with Da 5 Bloods and his "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to Cherry. Otherwise, again, Tenet looks phenomenal, so I don't know what else to say.

COSTUME DESIGN

"Emma"
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
"Mank"
"Mulan"
"Pinocchio"

Early last year, I couldn't imagine Emma. not receiving at least a costume nomination for its heavily pastel-colored designs. The rest is a grab bag of options because it's all the sort of period films one expects. Sure, Pinocchio has such a low profile that it could count as a surprise in overtaking News of the World, let alone the wonderful David Copperfield. Something contemporary such as Promising Young Woman would have been an interesting nominee, given how specific the film is in its choices. And fun fact: The Glorias is the first Julie Taymor film (her 5th) not to be nominated for a Costume Design Oscar.

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND

"Greyhound"
"Mank"
"News of the World"
"Soul"
"Sound of Metal"

This is the year that turned the Sound Oscars into one category, and I think that sucks. I really like thinking of the different qualities that go into mixing and editing sound for film, but so be it. As it stands, I'm hoping Sound of Metal pulls off a Whiplash and is awarded for being an indie film that so effectively relies on the sound design to help tell its story. At the same time, Mank went for a throwback approach to create its unique sound quality, evoking the past. Maybe it's because of all the uproar, but Tenet was not the action film to get a nomination here. Instead, Greyhound was given credit for delivering on its war-torn seas featuring above and below-water sound effects to deliver on. Not to be outdone, Tom Hanks films appear twice in this category, for News of the World is not going out without a fight for its technical achievements. Again, it would have been nice to see something like The Invisible Man land a spot for its creative use of sound to evoke terror. If only there were two categories worth of potential...

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

"Emma"
"Hillbilly Elegy"
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
"Mank"
"Pinocchio"

Just as a way to break things up from the more traditional entries, I really thought Birds of Prey was going to go all the way. It's actually odd, as you usually get a film of that nature here, and if the terrible Suicide Squad could pull it off (let alone a win), I don't know what happened. I guess Pinocchio just had a really strong presentation for the guilds (or at least better than Jingle Jangle, a film I know has a large share of fans). And who knows where this is going, having recently expanded to five nominees. It could go to Mank or even a Bad Terminator. We'll just have to wait and see.

VISUAL EFFECTS

"Love and Monsters"
"The Midnight Sky"
"Mulan"
"The One and Only Ivan"
"Tenet"

Mank is looking like the most nominated underdog of recent years, given all these crucial categories it missed out on. Instead, there's a mix of old and new school nominees, with Tenet touting its lack of CG in favor of practical and in-camera visual effects. Meanwhile, Disney must have blown people away with their presentations for Mulan and The One and Only Ivan. Creating stunning animals is nothing new for the Mouse House, so maybe we should prepare for a win for the gorilla. That said, Disney had Soul as well, which could have been a cool nom, given the photoreal environments, fantastical concepts, and other areas Pixar excelled at in their wonderful jazzy film. Another missed opportunity as Welcome to Chechnya, as I'd be happy to see a documentary land a spot in this category. At least we'll always have Love and Monsters though.

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

"Burrow"
"Genius Loci"
"If Anything Happens I Love You"
"Opera"
"Yes-People"

As of now, I've only seen Burrow, but I'm always excited to catch up with the short films.

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

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

Not yet seen any, and I guess Pedro Almodovar couldn't land his nom here with The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton.

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)

"Colette"
"A Concerto Is a Conversation"
"Do Not Split"
"Hunger Ward"
"A Love Song For Latasha"

No sign of the quite wonderful Speed Cubers. Still, I am looking forward to seeing which of these are the most compelling.

***


And that will do it for the nominations and my commentary for now. The Academy Awards will be held later this year, on April 25, featuring a limited audience at the Dolby Theater and no plans for a host, once again. There will be podcasts and possibly more to come on my end.

Comments

Popular Posts

Out Now 424: Borat, Witches, Hubie & Synchronic

Out Now 428: Hillbilly Elegy

Out Now Bonus: Aaron And His Mom Discuss ‘The Babadook’

Weekly Recap: The Top Ten Films of 2020, Top Movie Moments & More!

Weekly Recap: Wonder Woman 1984, Soul, The Midnight Sky & More!

Search This Blog