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Predicting the 2021 Academy Awards

By Caleb Dukes     3/23/21 10:56pm

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released their nominations for the 2021 Oscars and for the first time in a long time, I am pleasantly surprised. While there’s always room to improve, this year’s list is actually both one of the most diverse ever — with several nominations making history — and one of the most quality, at least in my opinion. After seeing how my Golden Globes predictions shored up against the results,  I have an updated list of who I think will and should win, as well as who I think was snubbed and who maybe should have been, in some of the biggest categories at the Oscars.

Best Picture

Should Win: “Promising Young Woman” or “Minari”

Will Win: “Nomadland”

Least Expected Nomination: “Sound of Metal”

Biggest Snub: “One Night In Miami…”

After winning big at the Golden Globes, “Nomadland” has become the film to beat at this year’s Oscars. The story of a woman named Fern (Frances McDormand) traveling across the country with other like-minded people in her van, “Nomadland” is the crown jewel of Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao’s career. While I am hopelessly in love with “Promising Young Woman” and “Minari” (justice has finally been served!), I will still be delighted to see “Nomadland” take it on the big night. I’ll just quietly mourn the brilliance of Emerald Fennell and Lee Isaac Chung going unrecognized the whole dang show. Seriously, go watch these movies.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Should Win: Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Will Win: Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”

Least Expected Nomination: Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”

Biggest Snub: Zendaya, “Malcolm & Marie”

This category ended up shaking out to be the exact same as the list of Golden Globe nominees for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. However, this time, my predictions have changed. Following Andra Day’s surprise win that night, the singer-actress has gained serious momentum. While previously doubted to even be nominated, she is now at the top of many people’s predicted winners lists. I have to say, before my last predictions, I hadn’t even watched the movie, but now I certainly have and … wow. Day is incredible as Holiday and portrays the nuance of drug addiction and stardom far better than Renée Zellweger, who took home the award last year for “Judy.” I’m only disappointed to see Zendaya snubbed for her “Malcolm & Marie,” considering her Critics’ Choice Awards nomination and surprise rave reviews.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Should Win: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Will Win: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Least Expected Nomination: Steven Yeun, “Minari”

Biggest Snub: Sacha Baron Cohen, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

In another, though far less shocking, surprise, Chadwick Boseman posthumously took home the Globe over Riz Ahmed, so I am now predicting he will snag the Oscar as well. And rightfully so. Boseman gave a career-defining performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and it seems only right to memorialize him in this way. However, other nominees broke barriers with their nominations. Ahmed is the first Muslim man to be nominated in the category and Steven Yeun the first Asian man. All three were astounding in their pictures and would be more than worthy of the prize. I would have liked to see Sacha Baron Cohen recognized for a comedic role, but I know that’s rare at the Oscars.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Should Win: Yuh-jung Youn, “Minari”

Will Win: Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

Least Expected Nomination: Yuh-jung Youn, “Minari”

Biggest Snub: Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian”

At first, I thought there was no way Glenn Close was going to lose another Oscar, but it now seems like it’s getting more and more likely. And while I have been rooting for Yuh-jung Youn since the beginning, I have doubts either name will be able to beat out Maria Bakalova in her debut role. The Bulgarian actress, previously nominated in the lead actress category for the same role at the Globes, found her way into the supporting category here, where she has better chances of winning big, especially with this year’s Golden Globes winner, Jodie Foster, pushed out of the picture. She’s already hilarious when watching without context, but knowing that everything was real takes it to another level.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Least Expected Nomination: Lakeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Biggest Snub: Chadwick Boseman, “Da 5 Bloods”

Here we have another confusion about what category an actor should be placed in. While Daniel Kaluuya will almost certainly win following his Golden Globe win for portraying Fred Hampton, the “Black Messiah” half of “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Lakeith Stanfield was also nominated for his role as the film’s “Judas,” Bill O’Neal. Warner Brothers campaigned for Stanfield to be nominated in the lead actor category, so his announcement here surprised a lot of people, including him. The Academy has no real distinction between what makes a role a lead or supporting, so it’s really up to the voters. Apparently, voters this year saw “Judas and the Black Messiah” as an ensemble piece, scoring Stanfield enough tallies to make an appearance on this list.

Best Director

Should Win: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Will Win: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Least Expected Nomination: Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round”

Biggest Snub: Regina King, “One Night In Miami…”

While each of the nominated directors had their own reasons for being nominated, whether it be gorgeous camera work, incredibly stylized setting, or leading just outstanding performances, two certainly stand out above the rest. For the first time in Oscars history, two women have been nominated for the best director category in the same year. Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) and Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) both turned out great movies, but Zhao has the upper hand here after her Golden Globe win. I’m just flabbergasted that Regina King was denied the Oscar nomination and a Globe win. How amazing would it have been if three women had been nominated in the same year, two being women of color? What a leap forward that would have been!

Best Adapted Screenplay

Should Win: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Will Win: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Least Expected Nomination: Ramin Bahrani, “The White Tiger”

Biggest Snub: Kemp Powers, “One Night In Miami…”

Once again, “Nomadland” will take it, and once again, “One Night In Miami…” has been snubbed. I’m not very upset about this one though, especially considering that I think “Nomadland” had a better screenplay, but it’s still of note that the Academy really had a preference here. It was also very exciting to see “The White Tiger” get a nomination after taking Netflix audiences by storm this year with its ingenious twists and turns in the story of Indian driver Balram (Adarsh Gourav) who strives to become an entrepreneurial mogul. The best way I can describe it is a rollercoaster in the best way possible.

Best Original Screenplay

Should Win: Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”

Will Win: Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Least Expected Nomination: Darius Marder, Abraham Marder, Derek Cianfrance, “Sound of Metal”

Biggest Snub: Jack Fincher, “Mank”

While I would jump up and down and dance around if Emerald Fennell took this home, I know it’s probably going to Aaron Sorkin. I just cannot get over the absolute masterpiece that is the “Promising Young Woman” screenplay. Sorkin may have crafted a wonderful reenactment of a huge historical event, but Fennell wins out for originality in my mind. It is taking everything within me not to spoil it for you, it is just so genius. So for me, this is the award that will either make or break this year’s Academy Awards. Fingers crossed!

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