The 93rd Academy Awards: My Picks and Predictions

Oscar Sunday is finally here! Though we spent much less time seeing movies in theaters in 2020, there were still plenty of good movies that came out over the past year that we had access to at home more than ever before, from screenings at virtual film festivals to premiering on streaming services. And with a lot of the big, blockbuster movies delaying their releases, that made way for an even more diverse selection of new movies to watch, as is evident in this year’s Oscar nominees. While the 93rd Academy Awards are largely honoring movies that came out over the past year, there are a couple of 2021 releases here as the Academy extended the eligibility dates after pushing back the ceremony from February to April. Still, it’s an exciting set of nominees, which I’ll delve a bit into here. As is my annual tradition on my blog, I’ll make predictions on which films will win the Academy Award in each category. And for the top eight categories (the four for acting, the two screenplay categories, Best Director, and of course, Best Picture), I’ll be including which of the nominees I’d pick for my own ballot. So without further ado, my thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominees…

Best Picture

First, my personal ranking of the nominees, from best to worst:

  1. Nomadland
  2. Minari
  3. Promising Young Woman
  4. Sound of Metal
  5. The Father
  6. Judas and the Black Messiah
  7. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  8. Mank

This is overall a great line-up of nominees, though I’ll be glad to see the Academy going to a solid ten nominees for Best Picture next year, as over the past few years we’ve seen between eight to nine nominees. There were several acclaimed films that came out in 2020 focusing on Black stories, such as Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night in Miami…, and Da 5 Bloods, that should’ve made the cut here and probably would have taken up the other two spots had the category been set at ten nominees. Instead, we only have one represented here with Judas and the Black Messiah; but with its nomination, we have an all-Black producing team nominated for Best Picture for the first time, which is one of several historic records we’re seeing with this year’s nominations (more on that later).

As for the other nominees, the only one I really wasn’t into was Mank, which was especially disappointing for me as I of course love the time and place it’s set in. Still, I do admire much of its craft and don’t begrudge it being included among the nominees here, and it does have the most Oscar nominations this year with ten. Turning to the ones I did like, I thought The Father and Sound of Metal were especially good as they placed the audience in the point of view of characters with disabilities instead of being told from the outside. I also loved Promising Young Woman and Minari and the different, timely experiences they were portraying from being a woman to being an immigrant in America. My favorite above all though is Nomadland, and I’m happy a movie as quiet and reflective as this has received many of the Best Picture awards at other ceremonies, and I’m sure that will be the same case with Oscar.

My Pick: Nomadland
My Prediction: Nomadland


Best Director

Nominees (in alphabetical order by movie):

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

This is an excellent set of nominees, which includes both two women and two directors of Asian descent nominated for the first time in the same year. We also have the first Danish director nominated in this category for the first time this year with Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round, which I loved seeing show up here. I watched a few of his other movies shortly after his nomination, and he really is a skilled filmmaker, so it’s great to see him recognized here as well as in the International Feature Film category. Another nominee here whose filmography I delved into was Chloé Zhao, who is the first woman of color nominated for Best Director, and I imagine she will be the first to win too as she’s won most if not all the awards this season from critics and guilds and beyond. It’s a truly deserving win, and I can’t wait to see it.

My Pick: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
My Prediction: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland


Best Actor

Nominees (in alphabetical order by last name):

  • Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
  • Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Anthony Hopkins, The Father
  • Gary Oldman, Mank
  • Steven Yeun, Minari

Overall, I haven’t been a fan of the Best Actor category over the past decade, as many of the performances nominated I found to be a little lackluster over ones that were overlooked. Fortunately, that is not the case here, and this is truly the best set of nominees this category has seen in years. Of course, it’s not perfect, as one of the very best performances of 2020 wasn’t recognized, and that’s Delroy Lindo’s powerful work in Da 5 Bloods. Ideally, it would’ve been great to see him here in a category that predominantly features actors of color. Still, it’s great to see two actors of Asian descent recognized in this category: Riz Ahmed, who is also the first Muslim actor nominated for Best Actor, and Steven Yeun, who is also the first East Asian and Asian American actor nominated for Best Actor. Both give more subdued performances, so I’m especially glad to see them here as the Academy more often goes for showier work. Anthony Hopkins also gives one of the very best performances of the year with his engrossing portrayal as a man suffering from dementia in The Father. But the actor here that I think deserves the win and who I think ultimately will is Chadwick Boseman, who gives what is, unfortunately, his final on-screen performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. But he is simply magnetic here, going above and beyond what we’ve seen him do before. It turned out to be a fitting swan song to a career cut too short, so it’ll be great to see his performance and his overall contribution to the film industry and pop culture honored.

My Pick: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
My Prediction: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


Best Actress

Nominees (in alphabetical order by last name):

  • 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

Unlike most years with many of the precursor awards going to the same actor or actress, this year the Best Actress award has gone on to a different actress, so it’s really anyone’s guess who will win the Oscar! It’s a fantastic set of nominees too, and anyone here would deserve the win. I will say though, with Andra Day (who won the Golden Globe) and Vanessa Kirby being the sole nominees of their respective films, it seems unlikely that either will take home the Oscar, but their performances are easily the best elements of their movies. So I can see Best Actress more likely going to one of the other three nominees. Carey Mulligan has only received a Critics Choice Award and an Indie Spirit Award, which doesn’t really overlap with the voting members of the Academy, so I feel less confident in seeing a win happening for her. But she is my personal pick here as she’s one of my favorite actresses of her generation, and her performance in Promising Young Woman is probably the very best I’ve seen from her, so I’d just love for her to be an Academy Award winner. That leaves Viola Davis and Frances McDormand in practically a coin flip for me, as the former won at SAG and the latter won at BAFTA, both of which do share voting members with the Academy. Nomadland is the frontrunner, so I can see McDormand getting swept up with the other wins for the movie, and I would love to see her get a well-deserved third Oscar, as her performance here is actually my favorite of the nominees. I’m ultimately going with Davis for my prediction, and if it does indeed happen, it’ll be great to finally see another Black actress win in this category. But it would be amazing if we somehow got a tie in this category this year, which of course happened back at the 41st Academy Awards when Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand tied for Best Actress (one of my favorite Oscar moments!).

My Pick: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
My Prediction: Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


Best Supporting Actor

Nominees (in alphabetical order by last name):

  • 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

Now the Best Supporting Actor category is pretty strange, as both the titular categories of Judas and the Black Messiah are nominated here… in supporting (so who’s the lead of the movie!?). Still, while I see Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield as co-leads, both give incredible performances in their film, and it’s nice that they were recognized, even if it was in the wrong capacity. Both Sacha Baron Cohen and Leslie Odom Jr. stood out among the ensemble casts of their respective films and I admired their work overall. For my personal pick, I’m going with Paul Raci, who gives an actual supporting performance compared to his fellow nominees. It’s a really nuanced performance as he’s able to incorporate his real-life experience as the son of deaf parents into his character of a deaf mentor in Sound of Metal. I’m glad he and his co-star Riz Ahmed were recently recognized at the Indie Spirit Awards with their wins in their respective categories, as it’s pretty unlikely either will win on Oscar night. So with that said, and after seeing who’s been winning in this category at previous award shows, I’m going with Kaluuya for the win here. And despite my grievances with the category placement, I’m looking forward to calling him an Academy Award winner as he’s a truly incredible actor.

My Pick: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
My Prediction: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah


Best Supporting Actress

Nominees (in alphabetical order by last name):

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

This is a really solid category overall, featuring quite a variety of nominees. While Hillbilly Elegy is not a great movie at all, I will say Glenn Close is easily the best part of it, though I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s Oscar-worthy. Olivia Colman is also admirable in The Father, and I’m glad to see her nominated again following her recent Best Actress win for The Favourite. I really enjoyed both Amanda Seyfriend and Maria Bakalova in their respective films, and also found their performances to be the best elements of their movies. But my personal pick and prediction are going to Yuh-Jung Youn’s scene-stealing work in Minari. Looking at the rest of my predictions later on, this is also the only category where I see Minari winning an Academy Award, so I’m glad the movie is likely to be recognized through her engaging performance.

My Pick: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari
My Prediction: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari


Best Original Screenplay

Nominees (in alphabetical order):

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

I think the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay will go to Promising Young Woman, which seems to be the only category the movie will be able to get recognized in (though Carey Mulligan has a solid chance of winning Best Actress). It definitely has the most original story of the nominees, though I love the inspiration of Minari coming from memories of writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s childhood. I could see Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for The Trial of the Chicago 7 winning though, as he’s a favorite in the Academy, being a previous winner with multiple nominations. Still, writer-director Emerald Fennell has been winning most of the screenplay prizes for her film, so I believe the Oscar will ultimately go to her screenplay for Promising Young Woman.

My Pick: Promising Young Woman
My Prediction: Promising Young Woman


Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees (in alphabetical order):

  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  • The Father
  • Nomadland
  • One Night in Miami…
  • The White Tiger

This category seems a little tougher to predict, as the frontrunner Nomadland is here, but it’s a movie that’s being more praised for its naturalness and improvisation than the actual screenplay. Despite some of the improv in that movie, I could however see this going to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, as it touches on current political topics that many Academy members probably agree with. But as I’ve been mentioning with the “spread the wealth” mentality the Academy seems to often have with its Best Picture nominees in recent years, this is a good opportunity to recognize The Father which feels less likely to win in the other categories it’s nominated in. This is also my personal pick, as writer-director Florian Zeller and co-writer Christopher Hampton do an excellent job of translating what was originally a play into a movie that really does feel cinematic.

My Pick: The Father
My Prediction: The Father


And now the rest of my predictions…

  • Best Animated Feature Film: Soul
  • Best International Feature Film: Another Round
  • Best Documentary Feature: My Octopus Teacher
  • Best Cinematography: Nomadland
  • Best Film Editing: The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Best Production Design: Mank
  • Best Costume Design: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Best Visual Effects: Tenet
  • Best Sound: Sound of Metal
  • Best Original Score: Soul
  • Best Original Song: “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami…
  • Best Animated Short Film: If Anything Happens I Love You
  • Best Live Action Short Film: Two Distant Strangers
  • Best Documentary Short Subject: A Love Song for Latasha

A few thoughts on some of the categories:

  • This year I managed to see all the nominees up for Best Animated Feature Film category (I usually try to see most if not all of them). This year Pixar has two movies nominated (Soul and Onward), and the studio has a good track record of winning here. Since Soul has won virtually every award in this category at other ceremonies, and it has a couple of other Oscar nominations, I’d be shocked if it didn’t win the Academy Award as well. But I would enjoy a surprise win for Wolfwalkers, which would be my personal pick, with Soul pretty close behind.
  • I could see Best Cinematography going to either the frontrunner Nomadland or Mank, the winner at American Society of Cinematographers. I’m going with Nomadland though because those beautiful vistas featured throughout the film are hard to ignore.
  • Best Film Editing is another tough category for me to predict, as I could see it going to either The Trial of the Chicago 7 or Sound of Metal. I’m ultimately going with the former, as its editing is the showiest of the nominees, and it’s also the only place where I could see the film winning an Oscar. My personal pick would be for the subtle and effective work in The Father, which I could also possibly see pulling off a surprise win.
  • Even though Mank leads with the most Oscar nominations, I can only see it winning in one category, and that’s for Best Production Design with its recreation of 1930s Hollywood. It would follow the previous winner of this category, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, which famously recreated 1960s Hollywood. My personal pick would go to The Father, which, along with what I mentioned about its editing, is really effective in the way it helps tell the film’s story.
  • The overall history of the Best Original Song category is one that I find intriguing, even though as of late the nominees are going to songs that play in the credits of a movie instead of one that is actually integral to the film itself. This year there’s only one that accomplishes that with “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. And along with its role in the movie, it’s a legitimately great song, and it would be wonderful to see it win. But the win feels like it will go to either “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami… or “Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead, whose co-writer Diane Warren has yet to win an Oscar following what is now exactly a dozen nominations. I’m ultimately going with “Speak Now” as a way to honor One Night in Miami… and one of the song’s writers Leslie Odom Jr., made famous from his Tony-winning work in Hamilton and also an Oscar-nominee in the Best Supporting Actor category. By the way, this marks the fourth year in a row that an Oscar-nominated actor has also been nominated for Best Original Song in the same year, following Mary J. Blige for Mudbound, Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born (who did win for the iconic song “Shallow”), and Cynthia Erivo for Harriet.

And that wraps up my Oscar predictions! I’m excited to see what the producers have come up with for the show, as it will feature multiple locations from London and Paris to the historic Union Station in Los Angeles and the traditional Oscars location of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. I do hope they make some sort of mention of the role Union Station played when Claudette Colbert won the Best Actress Oscar for It Happened One Night (you can read about it here). I’m also curious about the show’s production, as among the producing team is Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh, who did direct the virus pandemic film Contagion, so I’m sure he has some interesting ideas up his sleeve for the ceremony. Either way, it’ll definitely be an Oscars ceremony like none other we’ve seen before. Hope you enjoy the 93rd Academy Awards as much as I expect I will!

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