93rd Academy Awards: Predictions and Insight

Now that we’ve reached the end of the way overlong award season brought on by uncertainty thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s time to finally get to the 93rd Academy Awards. The show will be broadcast live on Sunday, April 25th, so it’s time to go through my predictions for where I think things will be headed on Hollywood’s biggest night (semi-virtual edition). As many know, there are several safe bets in certain categories, while other nominees are still in a pretty close race to the finish. Surprises are always welcome, so here’s hoping for some fun outcomes regardless, to at least spice up the night. That said, I like to think I have some good reasons behind each of these predictions. And so, setting aside any issues with the nominations, let alone the quality of the various films, I have laid out each of the categories, highlighting my thoughts on who will win throughout.


BEST PICTURE

"Mank"

"Judas and the Black Messiah"

"Nomadland"

"The Father"

"Minari"

"Sound of Metal"

"Promising Young Woman"

"The Trial of the Chicago 7″

Everything seems to be in favor of Nomadland when it comes to the biggest prize of the night. Having won nearly all of the major awards, there’s even less of a chance of an upset than similar films from previous years such as 1917 and La La Land. Really, the award season has largely been focused on Nomadland, and I think this is how it will close as well.


DIRECTOR

Thomas Vinterberg, "Another Round"

David Fincher, "Mank"

Lee Isaac Chung, "Minari"

Chloe Zhao, "Nomadland"

Emerald Fennell, "Promising Young Woman"

A safer bet than Best Picture, given the heaps of praise Nomadland has received for Chloe Zhao’s direction, in particular, there’s little working against an Oscar victory for the second female director and first female person of color. Not hurting are the many prizes Zhao has taken along the way, including the DGA, which serves as the strongest indicator of what’s to come. The race seems so wrapped up, I’m not even sure who the spoiler would be. Perhaps Fincher, a director the Academy likes enough to have nominated him for his third directing Oscar, with the “movies about Hollywood” factor ruling slightly in his favor. But no, this is Zhao’s to lose.


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"

In terms of the right film at the right time, the path to Oscar doesn’t get much stronger than Chadwick Boseman’s. It’s just a shame it’s so tragic. Despite an incredibly promising career, he’s most likely going to at least receive a posthumous win for his big and fiery performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. There’s certainly great competition around him, most notably Anthony Hopkins, who delivers some career-best work at his advanced age. Riz Ahmed also gained plenty of steam with Sound of Metal. Still, with the SAG award, the Critics Choice award, and a Golden Globe (for whatever that’s worth), let alone the general enthusiasm for what is a great performance, there’s little doubt Boseman’s legacy will include an Oscar win for his final performance.


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"

This Best Actress race has easily been the most exciting one to watch, as there’s really no telling who will win (although with everyone but Kirby having earned one of the major awards, it’s a bit telling who won’t). The recent BAFTA win for McDormand and Nomadland’s overall chances may put her in slightly higher favor, but I’m still thinking Davis, with her SAG Award win, is going to come in and take the Oscar, making her the second Black leading actress to win the award.


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"

It’s kind of wild how much the tide has shifted over the past several months. Close was the earliest lead (followed by Colman) for her Oscar-bait role in Hillbilly Elegy, ideally to finally snag her a win on her 8th nomination. Then Seyfried received plenty of praise for Mank. However, it’s as though the internet willed Bakalova’s award chances into being, given the breakout star’s path to this point. But, now that we’re at the end of the line, with several awards already claimed, it looks as though Youn Yuh-jung’s terrific work in Minari will actually yield her the win.


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"

Even with the dual nominations for the film, of the four acting awards, this is the safest bet of the night. Kaluuya has won every major award leading up to the ceremony. Unless Trial is more liked than many think, it will be time to Get Out and celebrate Kaluuya’s powerful portrayal of Fred Hampton.


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

"Borat Subsequent MovieFilm"

"The Father"

"Nomadland"

"One Night in Miami"

"The White Tiger"

Three of these are major players, and only two of those are up for Best Picture, which leaves One Night in Miami out of the discussion. So, it comes down to Nomadland, which has been the favorite, given its Best Picture prospects and the chance to see Zhao win three Oscars in one year. However, The Father is a showier screenplay from the director, Florian Zeller, who adapted his own play and has already claimed a BAFTA. This one is close, but I’m leaning on The Father to scoop out the trophy.


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

"Judas and the Black Messiah"

"Minari"

"Promising Young Woman"

"Sound of Metal"

"The Trial of the Chicago 7"

Early on, this award seemed to be a chance for Aaron Sorkin to clean up once again with The Trial of the Chicago 7, however, more momentum built up for Promising Young Woman, and the wins from the Critics Choice, BAFTA, and the WGA all speak to another win where the most “challenging/quirky” film can claim a victory.


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 one can argue for the important events covered in Qu Vadis Aida? and Collective, Another Round has the advantage. With a nomination for director Thomas Vinterberg in the Best Director category, that automatically puts the film ahead of all of the others, with little cause to think differently. That said, much like the next category, the international branch of voters sometimes make interesting pushes. However, with everyone voting, taking on the more enjoyable film featuring a very strong lead performance from Mads Mikkelsen will very likely work in its favor.


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

"Collective"

"Crip Camp"

"The Mole Agent"

"My Octopus Teacher"

"Time"

It feels like My Octopus Teacher is the “Little Engine That Could” of Oscar nominees. This intimate documentary became a strong contender simply by being so enriching in a more innocent way that it has gone on to claim plenty of credit as a solid documentary dropped onto Netflix and working its way up to the big leagues. Of course, Collective is also a Best International Film nominee, and Time is both innovative and quite timely as far as its subject matter. This is another tricky area as far as who is thinking what, but it seems like folks have stretched their arms (or tentacles) toward nature.


ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

"Onward"

"Over the Moon"

"A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon"

"Soul"

"Wolfwalkers"

I’m aware there’s a lot of thoughts on the domination in this category when it comes to Pixar, which includes some suspect picks for the winner in the past. However, despite the intense amount of love that’s out there for GKIDS latest animated fantasy-adventure, Wolfwalkers, it’s not as though Soul was given a pass. The film earned additional nominations for sound and score (another category the film has pretty much locked down), and the various praise and awards that have held Soul up over the past few months make the film one to expect a happy jazz medley from come Oscar night.


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..."

Despite competition from 12-time nominee Diane Warren, there’s an interesting pattern that has come in the form of double nominees missing out on a win for their acting but taking home a prize for their effort with the Best Original Song. Leslie Odom Jr. has a lot of credit that has come his way this past year, and despite the campaigning each of these films has done, it may be time to Speak Now for One Night in Miami.


ORIGINAL SCORE

"Da 5 Bloods"

"Mank"

"Minari"

"News of the World"

"Soul"

I’ll say this, after his incredible work on The Last Black Man in San Francisco, it was great to see Emile Mosseri so quickly bumped up to Oscar nominee so early in his cinematic composing career with Minari (another excellent score). That said, he’s going to have to wait (I’m sure he’ll be back) because Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste delivered an ambitious, jazz-infused score for Soul that can be easily singled out in this category. And that comes with Reznor and Ross competing with themselves with their Mank nomination, another score that throws the duo well out of their comfort zone.


FILM EDITING

"The Father"

"Nomadland"

"Promising Young Woman"

"Sound of Metal"

"The Trial of the Chicago 7"

Plenty of risks to be found in predicting this category. All the contenders make a solid argument for being here. The Father, in particular, is a film that can’t exist without its use of editing (which is odd for a film adapted from a play). However, it is all coming down to Trial of the Chicago 7 and Sound of Metal. The highlight of Trial is the editing, and the way the action moves along thanks to putting flashbacks alongside the court case, and adding punch to the dialogue through cuts. However, my prediction for the winner, Sound of Metal, feels like it’s in the zone with Whiplash as far as these areas playing best to its chances to score an award. The way it relies on putting together scenes that operate without certain senses to make things any easier for Ahmed's Ruben is vital to the narrative, which helped to put it to this point.


PRODUCTION DESIGN

"The Father"

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

"Mank"

"News of the World"

"Tenet"

While it leads the pack with the most nominations, without some key areas, Mank doesn’t have much chance of landing Best Picture. With that in mind, I do think its big chance to not go home empty-handed comes in the form of Best Production Design. The recreation of the Golden Age of Hollywood, utilizing practical and visual effects, makes for a stunning picture, and the kind the Academy loves to reward. It sits among good company, with a special shoutout going to The Father, which relies on some clever touches in regards to its production design choices.


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" 

Especially after the nominations came out, it seems like this has always been a race between the black & white photography found in Mank and the dusk-lit environments in Nomadland. Perhaps this is still a closer competition than it may seem, but I’m still betting on the dreamlike look of the barren areas Fern visits throughout Nomadland, which adds both beauty and a further understanding of the life she lives. The Malick-like quality of the way Joshua James Richards captures the environment provides for a very memorable visual aesthetic already familiar from Zhao’s previous film, The Rider, specifically. The others are certainly worthy, but there appears to be a standout.


COSTUME DESIGN

"Emma"

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

"Mank"

"Mulan"

"Pinocchio"

At the beginning of last year, I was sure Emma would at least get a nomination here. For a while, little got in my way of thinking it wouldn’t go home with the prize. However, while it’s a possible spoiler, Ann Roth is on track to become the oldest woman to win a competitive Oscar for Ma Rainey. It would be her first win since 1997’s English Patient, and her being the favorite for a while, at this point, makes me think I’m going to go home with a new pair of mustard-color shoes.


ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND

"Greyhound"

"Mank"

"News of the World"

"Soul"

"Sound of Metal"

It’s in the film’s title. Sound of Metal should easily take this one. Even with the consolidation of the sound categories, the role sound design plays in this film is crucial to its success and emotional weight. The other films are solid choices, Mank and Soul, in particular, try to do some interesting things to evoke a different time and space, but there should be little doubt who will win here.


MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

"Emma"

"Hillbilly Elegy"

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

"Mank"

"Pinocchio"

Sometimes a fantasy film can pick up an award here, with voters enjoying a chance to embrace otherworldly elements. That means Italy’s Pinocchio has a minor shot. Still, while costume and makeup do not always go hand-in-hand, this is another chance for Ma Rainey to shine (possibly making it the most awarded film of the night). The trio of artists involved would also mean seeing the first Black winners in this category.


VISUAL EFFECTS

"Love and Monsters"

"The Midnight Sky"

"Mulan"

"The One and Only Ivan"

"Tenet"

Another category that has become trickier over the years, as the obvious pick hasn’t always come to be. I’ve heard lots of things about the visual effects presentation reels for each of these films, and while Mulan could swoop in, Tenet has one a lot of prizes already, including a BAFTA. Being nominated for production design may be a help to the film as well, let alone the emphasis on practical effects being just as crucial. Short of something stunningly new, the Academy does appreciate the old school.


ANIMATED SHORT FILM

"Burrow"

"Genius Loci"

"If Anything Happens I Love You"

"Opera"

"Yes-People"

These last three categories are usually wildcards, though availability on streaming services and the relevant messaging tends to help. Both are reasons If Anything Happens I Love You is poised to win. This year’s set of animated shorts aren’t all that wondrous compared to previous years, but a short, well-done film focused on the parents of a child killed in a school shooting is hitting in a lot of the right places.


LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

"Feeling Through"

"The Letter Room"

"The Present"

"Two Distant Strangers"

"White Eye"

This is tricky. When in doubt, choose the film with the big star, and The Letter Room features Oscar Isaac (the short was written and directed by Elvira Lind, his wife). However, Two Distant Strangers has been available on Netflix, and combines the enjoyable time-loop concept with the incredibly relevant plot involving racially-charged police killings. With the murderer of George Floyd being on trial (and recently convicted) during the Oscar voting process, it’s hard not to think the relevance is going to play into a win for one of the best in this category.


DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)

"Colette"

"A Concerto Is a Conversation"

"Do Not Split"

"Hunger Ward"

"A Love Song For Latasha"

This may make or break an Oscar bracket. With no pattern to go with, one could choose A Love Song for Latasha given its availability on Netflix. There’s also Colette and Do Not Split playing well for international members. Strong campaigning has been seen for A Concerto Is a Conversation, which may ultimately be the right choice.

***

That’s it for predictions. We’ll see what happens, and stay tuned for a couple upcoming Out Now with Aaron and Abe episodes featuring even more prediction thoughts, as well as a fun results show arriving the same night as the ceremony, following the broadcast!

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