Oscar Predictions 2021

Happy Oscar weekend movie friends—we made it! This awards season and this year has been so different, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had some trouble keeping up, from the lack of theatrical releases to virtual film festivals to the extended eligibility for this awards season to the postponement of the 93rd Academy Awards by almost two months. But the most fun night of the year for movie fans is finally here and I’m so excited. And I finally sat down and really made some predictions for who I think will be taking home Oscars, and who I’d personally like to see win. As usual, some of the categories are pretty much a given (Best Supporting Actor, for instance) while others are still up in the air (the Best Actress race this year is the most unpredictable one I can remember).

You can read my predictions and my wish list organized by category below, and can click the links to read my reviews of some of the films. For a full list of all of this year’s nominees, head on over to the official Oscars site. As usual, I’ll also be live-tweeting the ceremony over on my twitter @katiel_carter, so feel free to follow along and watch with me. Have a great weekend everyone!

Frances McDormand in “Nomadland”

BEST PICTURE

Who will win:Nomadland

Who should win: “Nomadland”

Notes: I don’t have as strong an allegiance to any of this year’s Best Picture nominees as I have in the past (particularly compared to last year, when I was Team Parasite ride or die). But none of the other films I watched last year topped how I felt about “Nomadland,” which I first watched at the NYFF in the early fall. It’s a surprisingly hopeful film about isolation that came at a time when the negative effects of pandemic isolation were about at their peak. It would be easier for me to say which films I’d rather not see win: “Mank” (a disappointment for this major Old Hollywood fan) and “Trial of the Chicago 7” (a fine movie that just feels like it strives a little too hard to be awards bait, not to mention the abysmal treatment of its Black characters). But “Nomadland” and its director have been sweeping just about every award this season, and I’m predicting they’ll win big on Oscar night as well. Anything else at this point would be an upset, although the crowd-pleasing “Trial” shouldn’t be counted out of the race entirely just yet.

DIRECTING

Who will win: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Who should win: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Who will win: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Who should win: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Notes: This is a category where I would truly be excited for any of the nominees to win (even though Delroy Lindo—whose performance in “Da 5 Bloods” was my favorite of 2020—should be there and I’m going to stay mad about it). But I believe it will and should go to Chadwick Boseman for his explosive performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Released after Boseman passed away from cancer last year, seeing him put all his talents on display in his final film role is such a gift. He deserves the award, and I don’t think the Academy will miss their only chance to recognize him.

Andra Day in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Who will win: Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Who should win: Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Notes: This is the most open race of the night, and one of the most up in the air categories in recent memory. Each nominee, with the exception of Vanessa Kirby, has taken home an award at some point this season. Carey Mulligan has picked up the majority of those awards for her performance in “Promising Young Woman,” and I’m tempted to say she will also take home the Oscar. But Viola Davis won the SAG, and I have a feeling that the Academy’s large body of voters in the acting branch will show her that same love. I would be happy either way—I loved Mulligan’s performance and she would be a first time winner, while Davis would be only the second Black woman to win in this category in Oscar history.

As for who I’d like to see win though, I’m going to just come out and say it: singer Andra Day’s feature film acting debut as Billie Holiday immediately floored me more than any of the other nominees. Maybe some of that has to do with the fact that it is an incredibly impressive first performance, but she owns this role in a movie filled with challenging scenes. The film itself was mediocre, but anybody complaining about that needs only to remember that this is not the first time a great performance in an average film was recognized; it was just last year that Renee Zellweger swept awards season playing Judy Garland in the decidedly so-so “Judy,” after all.

Daniel Kaluuya in “Judas and the Black Messiah”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Who will win: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah

Who should win: Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night in Miami

Notes: Again, I’d be happy with just about anyone in this category. Kaluuya will win easily, but I was swept away from Odom’s portrayal of singer Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami.” Maybe I’m a bit biased—I’ve been a big fan of Odom for a while, and getting to see him play one of my favorite singers is a dream come true (maybe I took a little video of Odom singing Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” in the film’s sensational finale on my phone so I can watch it whenever I want, it’s fine). His performance is much more than just his vocal prowess, however. I’d also love to see Paul Raci win for his incredible performance in “Sound of Metal”—he hasn’t been recognized enough.

Yuh-Jung Youn (third from left) is nominated for an Oscar for her endearing role as the grandmother in “Minari”

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Who will win: Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari

Who should win: Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”

Notes: If the Academy decides to finally give Glenn Close her Oscar for “Hillbilly Elegy” I swear to God—

Carey Mulligan stars in “Promising Young Woman”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Who will win: Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell

Who should win: “Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell

Notes: I loved “Promising Young Woman” when I first watched it back in December, although I’ve gone back and forth on its controversial ending so much—on top of inhaling other critics’ reviews of the film—that I’ve admitted stepped back from it a bit in the last couple months. But I still think it’s wildly original and daring, and deserving of the Oscar. I would also be happy to see Lee Isaac Chung win for his very personal screenplay for “Minari.”

A scene from director Regina King’s “One Night in Miami”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Who will win: “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao

Who should win: “One Night in Miami,” Kemp Powers

Notes: “Nomadland” seems to be the frontrunner in this category, but the documentary-like structure to the movie doesn’t make it my first pick for a screenplay award. Powers’ dialogue-driven adaptation of his play “One Night in Miami” wowed me with its ideas and its depiction of what a conversation between four Black icons at the height of the Civil Rights Movement would look like.

“Wolfwalkers”

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Who will win: Soul

Who should win: Wolfwalkers

Notes: The Academy is almost guaranteed to award the more big-name studio movie, in this case Pixar’s “Soul,” as opposed to the smaller Cartoon Saloon’s feature “Wolfwalkers.” But there’s no doubt in my mind that “Wolfwalkers”—the best animated film of 2020 and one of the best and most beautiful movies of the year overall—deserves the Oscar over the ambitious but very flawed “Soul.”

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Who will win: “Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards

Who should win: “Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards

COSTUME DESIGN

Who will win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Who should win: Emma

Activist Judy Heumann, one of the key figures in “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution”

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Who will win: “My Octopus Teacher”

Who should win: Crip Camp

Notes: There were so many remarkable documentaries released in the last year, some of the best still got shut out of the Oscars (think “Dick Johnson is Dead,” one of the most clever and unique docs I’ve seen in recent memory). So it stands to reason that the worst film in this stacked category is the most likely contender to win. Not to imply that “My Octopus Teacher” is a bad movie, because it isn’t; it contains gorgeous underwater photography and is remarkable emotional by its conclusion. But it’s merely fine, especially compared to the other nominees. “Time” is incredibly moving. “Crip Camp” is an important film in the way it tells the stories of people with disabilities, a group frequently either underrepresented or misrepresented on screen. And “Collective” is a staggering investigative piece; you couldn’t make up a more enthralling thriller. “Collective” is a double nominee, but I don’t see it taking the Best International Feature Film category either.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Who will win: “A Love Song for Latasha”

Who should win: “A Love Song for Latasha”

FILM EDITING

Who will win: Sound of Metal

Who should win: The Father

Mads Mikkelsen in “Another Round”

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

Who will win: “Another Round”

Who should win: “Collective”

Notes: In my perfect world, a split vote would see “Crip Camp” winning documentary and “Collective” taking this category. “Another Round” is quite good though thanks in large part to its star Mads Mikkelsen, and the fact that its director, Thomas Vinterberg, nabbed a surprise Best Director nomination, pretty much cements it as the winner.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Who will win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Who should win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

ORIGINAL SCORE

Who will win: “Soul,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Who should win: “Minari,” Emile Mosseri

Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams perform in “Eurovision”

ORIGINAL SONG

Who will win: “Io Si” (“Seen”) from “The Life Ahead

Who should win: “Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

Notes: Leslie Odom Jr.’s beautiful song from “One Night in Miami,” “Speak Now,” has a good chance of winning, and I’d be happy if it did (see my love for Leslie above). But I think voters will want to finally give 12-time nominee Diane Warren her first win for her lovely song from “The Life Ahead.” “Husavik” is arguably the nominee that is most integral to the plot of the movie it is from, however, and I like to see those sort of song nominees win this category (and “Eurovision” was one of my favorite comedies from last year).

Gary Oldman in “Mank”

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Who will win: Mank

Who should win: “Mank”

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Who will win: “If Anything Happens I Love You”

Who should win: “If Anything Happens I Love You”

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

Who will win: “Two Distant Strangers”

Who should win: “The Letter Room”

Notes: “Two Distant Strangers” is likely to win this award, for two big reasons: it’s the most visible and easily accessible of all the nominees (it’s streaming on Netflix) and it tackles a very heavy and topical issue (police brutality). But it’s bad on many fronts, particularly how it exploits its subject, a Black man, through its time loop narrative, forcing the viewer to watch him be killed by a white police officer over and over. I got a bad taste in my mouth as I watched it and it only lingered and got worse as time went on. If “Two Distant Strangers” wins the Oscar, it may end up being one of the least deserving wins of the night.

Riz Ahmed in “Sound of Metal”

SOUND

Who will win: “Sound of Metal”

Who should win: “Sound of Metal”

Notes: Keep in mind that this year the Academy combined the previously separate “sound mixing” and “sound editing” categories into one. It’s frustrating as those are two very different crafts, but “Sound of Metal” ought to have easily taken both anyway.

VISUAL EFFECTS

Who will win: Tenet

Who should win: “Tenet”

Notes: If only “Tenet” was a good as it looked *sigh*

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