Once again that time has come around, the time where Hollywood hands out awards for what it claims to be the best films of the year (as voted on by Hollywood, so they’re totally not biased in the slightest). That’s right, it’s Oscar time! This year has naturally been a little different, what with a world ending plague putting a dead stop to Hollywood’s output. 

You can definitely tell that things changed cinematically in 2020 just by one glance at Box Office Mojo and see that, domestically (US), in 2019 the movies brought in $11 billion… in 2020? $2 billion. It went from 911 credited releases to 454. It’s no wonder we’re witnessing a whole mess of cinemas closing, they were already getting a raw deal thanks to how studios divvy up the profits so with half the releases and being closed for most of the year I’m stunned there are any cinemas left! This also means that the Oscar nominee list was going to have to pull from a more limited pool… or they would have to change the eligibility rules in such a way as to avoid being interesting.

I personally believe that they should’ve let the 2020 awards stand as a point of reference so we could look back and remember that one weird year where nothing came out by keeping the same eligibility rules as previous years. Some of the rule changes I agree with, such as removing the need to have a film screen in an LA cinema or letting VOD films be eligible as long as they upload a copy to the Academy Screening Room within 60 days of release. No, the problem change is the eligibility window growing to Feb 28th of 2021 which undoubtedly changed what films made the short list… and it’s going to bite them in the ass nest year when they only have 10 months of films to work with.

A normal Oscar eligibility window could have let the few genre films that were worthy of a nomination have a real chance, we could have had some of the desperate blockbusters vie for best picture. It would have been the most fascinating year that the Oscar’s have ever had, but instead they stretched it out long enough that we could just have as close to normal as possible.

So it’s time for me to go to go through the Oscar nominees and see who I think will win, who I believe should win, and of course, who I feel was snubbed. I’ll even throw in a wild card that could come in from nowhere, because why not make this pointlessly complicated?

I will be skipping shorts (cos I don’t review those), foreign (because I cannot get my hands on most of them) and Documentary (I can only get hold of maybe 2 of those, unfair to judge when I can’t even see half the category). I want it noted that I was not able to see Judas and the Black Messiah or The United States vs Billie Holiday in time for the ceremony because neither of them was readily available (OK Judas became available on Wednesday of last week, for 30 bucks on an off pay week. I like doing this, I ain’t going to pay that much when I can’t afford it!) which is weird enough when this ceremony normally happens in February, the fact it’s April and I still can’t easily SEE all the best picture nominees is why piracy exists. Just. Saying.

I will try to review both of those films at a later date when they’re available in a way I can afford to see them, but for now I can only talk about them in terms of what other awards they’ve been taking this season.

BRING ON THE OSCAR PICKS!

Best Picture Oscars

I won’t lie, I’m a tiny bit disappointed by this lineup. Not because there’s any bad films here, every film (that I have been able to see) was good and worthy of being here. I’m just kind of bummed that they had to extend the eligibility window to make this happen because we could’ve had some weird as hell Oscar nominees had they kept to the normal 12 month period. Theoretically I could be making an argument about why Bad Boys 3 should win the Oscar and it would’ve been hilarious but no, we had to extend eligibility long enough to get a normal set of nominees.

Out of this list, Nomadland is the one with the most buzz and really fits the definition of what one might consider to be an Oscar film. It’s a deserving entry, clever and original with a great leading performance and enough visual flair to impress anyone. It’s easily the odds on favourite to take this… even though I would love it more if Promising Young Woman took it. Promising Young Woman feels like the more modern movie, more exciting and intelligent than almost any other film of the last year and would show a shift in what can be considered an Oscar film. My money’s on Nomadland, my heart’s with Promising Young Woman.

Best Actor Oscar

This is a category that, with only the performances to go on, feels like it could go to just about anyone. All these actors are great, they did great work and deserve all the praise they’ve gotten. Steven Yeun is making history just by being nominated as the first Asian-American to be nominated for an Oscar in this category, as is Riz Ahmed who is the first Muslim ever nominated in this category. You also have two Oscar darlings in Hopkins and Oldman who both really deserve to have more than one Oscar to their names, ESPECIALLY Hopkins who gave the best performance of his career and any other year would probably be the one to beat… but we know it’s not his time though.

This Oscar belongs to Chadwick Boseman, it has since the moment his name was read at the nomination ceremony. Not only because he sadly passed away and this is his final role (Though that is a factor) but because his final role was his best work, a role that grabs hold of you and never lets go. It’s a performance that’s been praised everywhere for good reason, it’s an absolutely incredible showing by an actor who should’ve had more time. This award belongs to him and I’m prepared to bawl my eyes out when his name is read out.

Maybe Hollywood will shock everyone and throw this to Anthony because his performance is just that good, but Anthony is still putting out enough good work that he’ll have another chance for an Oscar and we all know this is the last time Chadwick’s name will be available to pick so they’re going to go with that.

Actress in Leading Role Oscar

So, let’s play the game we’ve all been waiting for… “Who do I believe should’ve been nominated in this category” because I’m on my soapbox complaining about how Elizabeth Moss seems to have been completely ignored for her exemplary work in The Invisible Man (indeed, that film was ignored completely this year and it deserved some love). Honestly, I could’ve seen Elizabeth either taking Frances’ or Vanessa’s spot, both of those actresses were great but Elizabeth was easily better than both of them (indeed, someone said she gave the best performance of 2020 but I can’t quite remember who that was) and it’s just further proof of the Oscar’s bias against genre films.

With the nominees we have, it feels correct that Viola Davis takes this one. Her performance as Ma Rainey holds that film together and is such a committed performance by the iconic actress that it deserves all the love in the world, on top of just how nice it would be to have both Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom lead performances win. Now, I personally would be voting for Carey Mulligan because Promising Young Woman is stunning and it takes a special actor to make a character lovable and hateable at the exact same time and Carey just created an icon.

Of course, there’s always the chance for Andra to sneak in and take it, she did beat these same women for the Golden Globe so who knows. It’s a tight three-way race, in my opinion, and there’s something amazing knowing that we have a good chance of witnessing the second black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress (Yes, second… the only black woman to ever win this award is Halle Berry for Monsters Ball and that was in 2002! Let’s hope that changes)

Actor in Supporting Role Oscar

Best Supporting this year is kinda controversial with the two leading actors from Judas and the Black Messiah somehow both turning up as Supporting Actors (It’s a Fred Hampton biopic, one of them is playing Fred Hampton, how is that supporting?) but sadly I can’t judge either performance due to that movie not being available to me. Either I would’ve had to have a trip to Sydney during a pandemic (not happening) or have the time available to rent it when it popped up on some weird rental service a few days before this goes up which was impossible.

Out of the nominees left, this feels like Leslie Odom Jr’s year. His performance in One Night in Miami was electric and he’s just been on the rise in general lately, hell he might be the only actor to come out of Music with his reputation intact. He brought Sam Cooke to life and made him stand out in one of the best ensemble films of the last year, it feels like he’s going to go home with an Oscar at the end of the night. I also wouldn’t count Sacha Baron Cohen out since he also stood out spectacularly in an ensemble film playing a real person and Sacha’s had a pretty good year awards wise, since they can’t give him something for his performance in Borat, they might give him this instead.

Now, it is worth pointing out that Daniel Kaluuya has taken home the Globe, the SAG and the Critics’ Choice Award which does suggest strongly that he could take the Oscar as well (and frankly, he’s been owed one ever since his role in Get Out), but I’m throwing him in as the Wild Card cos I can’t see what he did but based on his record I wouldn’t count him out.

Actress in Supporting Role Oscar

So this might be the most disappointing category because the one who deserves to win probably won’t get it, and the one who might get it will be getting it for her worst role. No matter who wins, everyone is going to be annoyed on some level. 

If we just look at the performances, ignore all other context and are being honest then it should be Maria Bakalova who delivered a performance that was not only completely brilliant, committed and hilarious but she did it against people who didn’t know they were part of a movie and she never got caught. She managed to make Rudy Guiliani go away for a few months, that alone means she should win. It’s the kind of performance that makes careers and should also just get showered with awards.

However, if Maria wins this, then Glenn goes another year without an Oscar which would mean she ties with Peter O’Toole for 8 nominations without a win (And O’Toole at least got an honorary one eventually!). An actress as amazing as Glenn Close should not have that kind of a distinction. Hell, anyone who is honest will tell you she should probably have at least one Oscar, probably more than that considering what she’s been nominated for, and possibly even a nomination for her 101 Dalmatians work.

By the time we hit 8 nominations, you can almost feel this is the year where they’ll give her the Oscar purely to keep them from looking like fools, it’ll be a “We’re sorry we’ve forgotten you” award. I just wish they hadn’t nominated her for Hillbilly Elegy and waited for that Sunset Boulevard remake to give her the proper treatment she deserves (Cos you know she’ll get it that year, have you seen her performance of the big number from that show, As If We Never Said Goodbye? She’ll win for that alone!) but maybe this year will be the year she gets what is long overdue.

…of course, I won’t be at all mad if Youn Yuh-Jung comes in out of nowhere to take this one because her work in Minari basically carries the second half of that film and after the Oscar’s somehow gave Best Film to a Korean movie last year without even nominating any of the actors, it might be nice for a Korean actor to actually take home the damn Oscar at some point,

Best Director Oscar

In the 93 years of the Oscars, there’s been one woman who won in this category. That woman was Katheryn Bigelow for her work directing The Hurt Locker. The fact that it took until 2010 for a woman to get that award is bad enough, but up until last year there were a grand total of five women nominated in this category. The other four women who got a nomination were Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, Sofia Coppola for Lost In Translation and Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird. That’s it, that’s the entire list of women nominees. 5 women… out of 455 total nominees up to 2020 (Yes, I counted!).

It was only last year people were upset that Greta didn’t get a second nomination for Little Women (which had 6 other nominations, including Best Picture) but historically this is an issue that keeps coming up. Randa Haines, director of Children of a Lesser God, was snubbed despite her film getting 5 nominations including Best Picture. Barbara Streisand got snubbed for both her films at the Oscar, despite being the only woman to win the Golden Globe for best director (At least, until this year, we’ll get to it). Penny Marshall, director of classics like Big, A League of Their Own and Awakenings, has been perpetually snubbed. The list goes on, I actually had to look up this list of 18 female directors who got snubbed because I couldn’t think of any, due to how little attention female directors get.

All this to say, the Oscar’s going to Chloe Zhao. It just is, she has won every Best Director award that she’s been up for this year and that streak is not about to end any time soon. Her film is incredibly directed, wonderfully shot, and she’s the talk of the town due to being the second woman to win the Golden Globe in that category (SECOND! THE FUCK?). If she doesn’t win it’ll be a complete shock because she basically has the spot on the mantle.

Would I like Emerald Fennell to win it for her amazing film? Sure, Promising Young Woman is fantastic and Emerald would be a lovely winner, but the award’s going to Chloe and we all better be ready for how iconic that’s going to be… and also be prepared for the Oscars to disappoint us again, give it to David Finch, and then go burn the building down to the ground.

Best Original Screenplay Oscar

Of all the films this year, the one that stunned everyone with the twists its story took was Promising Young Woman. The script for that movie is airtight, every twist is perfect and the ending is one of the most visceral and brilliant endings of the year. It’s just such a brilliantly written film that I can’t imagine anyone coming close to beating it on the big night. Maybe Minari has a chance, due to the realistic dialogue and simple but effective story, but Promising Young Woman is the one that feels like it deserves the Oscar the most.

Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar

Calling Borat an adapted screenplay is a little bit weird, but I guess since the character was originally on The Ali G Show that’s where the nomination goes. Now, all these are genuinely great options and I could see any of them taking it, but it almost feels like this entire night might be designed to give Nomadland every Oscar possible. It’s a great film and the kind the Academy loves so it taking home a script award feels inevitable. I personally think it should be One Night in Miami, Kemp Powers did a fantastic job of adapting his own work to the screen, but Nomadland just seems to have all the momentum in the world.

Oh, and a review of The White Tiger will be up tomorrow… I timed things poorly, but I did see it and it’s good, but it won’t win.

Best Cinematography Oscar

Hollywood is nothing if not predictable (most of the time) and if you hand them a luscious black and white biopic about one of their own, it’s going to find a way to get an Oscar and while I don’t think Mank is good enough to deserve Best Picture, it might have enough to get Cinematography. Of course this isn’t a sure thing, sometimes just being damn pretty can do the job. Enter my personal pick, the one that’s going to sweep the night and be anti-climactic by the end of the ceremony, Nomadland. The luscious shots of landscapes are enough to capture the attention of anyone. I’d be genuinely shocked if it did win this against the old school Mank, but you never know.

Also, how was The Invisible Man not also nominated here? That film literally used the cinematography as a key element of the tension building, How is this ceremony so predictably against genre films?

Best Editing Oscar

Ah yes, the category that recently gave an Oscar to Bohemian Rhapsody, a badly edited film that was edited badly. This is totally predictable… alright, it’s not really but you could make an argument for several films. The one that feels like it has a really good shot here might be The Father, a film that took the editing and used it to help destabilise the audience as much as possible to help put them in the mind of a man with dementia. It feels like the odds on favourite. Then again, as you might’ve noticed whenever there’s a category that’s a little more open to interpretation, I lean towards Promising Young Woman because it is a great film that I love, but I also can’t really rule out Trial of the Chicago 7 sneaking in with its clever editing tricks that helped the frantic pace of the Sorkin script, but it feels like a long shot compared to the other two.

Best Production Design Oscar

Fresh off saving the cinema, nice to see Tenet here. I can’t say many things about Tenet that I liked but that film knew how to design a production and it could sneak in when no one suspects it. So now we know what the wild card might be, what’s left? Well, Mank felt like it was lost out of time and Ma Rainey felt like an elaborate stage play that spent so much on that set that it’s impressive for the detail they worked into it. I tend to not trust Hollywood to be that innovative, it’s an older voting block and chances are good that they’d appreciate the classic style of Mank a lot more, but god I hope that the simple yet detailed work for Ma Rainey takes it.

Best Costume Design Oscar

When it comes to costuming for the Oscars, live by one rule… which film has the biggest poofiest dress? Seriously, the number of times that the Oscars give this award to whatever period piece used the biggest crinoline or pannier is shocking. So yeah, Emma could actually be an Oscar winner despite the film itself being forgettable. Now, this being said, let’s also not count out the Academy’s love for cultural garments, hell it’s the only way they seem willing to honour Asian culture is by giving the best dressed award, which means that the otherwise forgettable Mulan movie might end up with this one too. Sure, it would be lovely to see the work of Ann Roth get some more love by handing this to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (seriously, go look up Ann Roth’s filmography and ask yourself “Wait, why wasn’t her work on The Birdcage given awards?) but I would be stunned if that happened.

Isn’t this fun, the two most forgettable movies on this list are the ones with the best chance, I love this award.

Best Sound Oscars

So they finally decided to put Sound Mixing and Sound Editing in the same category. This makes sense when you realise that no layperson really understands the difference between the categories so why not just lump them together and make it easier on everyone. This year the choice seems to be fairly obvious, in that it should be easy to hand this Oscar over to the people at Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal is really the film on this list that doesn’t just use sound the best, but it’s an active and important element of how the story is being told and essential in putting the audience in the head of the main character. No other film on this list can really say that, they all sound lovely but Sound of Metal has made the sound element into the most essential piece of the film.

Sure, Soul could maybe sneak through because a good sounding musical is often a safe choice for a sound award but really, Best Sound should probably go to the film that literally has the word Sound in its title!

Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar

A whole bunch of boring and uninteresting choices for this one. This is an award that was literally invented because the Academy knew that they HAD to give something to that Werewolf transformation in American Werewolf in London, this is an award that went to Suicide Squad, it almost went to Norbit, this is the award that gives the weirder films a chance at Oscar glory and this year it’s going to be just another boring award.

I want to just say Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and move on, I really do. Can I? Can we just move on from this award before I have to admit that Hillbilly Elegy is the film with the better chance, purely for the makeup that made Glenn Close unrecognisable? Practical effects makeup is loved by this award and Hillbilly Elegy has that, and it’s realistic enough to work out so… yeah, probably going to be a Hillbilly Elegy Oscar, but god I want it to be Ma Rainey’s. Now watch as the film I hate most on this entire list, Pinocchio, sneaks in and takes this one because everyone got overly impressed by the little wooden boy!

Best Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) Oscar

Anyone else think that it’s weird that Da 5 Bloods is nominated in this category… possibly the only category that no one ever brought up when reviewing it because we were busy talking about Delroy Lindo or the amazing visuals? 

Anyway, this is a Soul victory without a shadow of a doubt. Soul’s score is just enchanting and flows through every single scene, not to mention that it’s an essential part of the film which is undoubtedly going to help it win this one. The other scores are pretty, no doubt about that, but Soul taking this home is almost a certainty.

Best Original Song Oscar

Oh look, Music didn’t get any nominations in the music category… aww, that’s a shame

Often in this category, the answer is simply “What’s the song that you heard the most?”. The song that’s the most memorable is more likely to win this one than the song that’s actually better. With that in mind, I did say earlier that Leslie Odom Jr was going home with an Oscar tonight and if it isn’t for acting, it’s going to have to be for Speak Now which is also the only song from this list I honestly remember. I won’t lie, I’d kind of die laughing if Husavik somehow took this one, a song from the Eurovision movie winning would just be funny in itself, but my money’s going on Speak Now

Best Visual Effects Oscar

Visual effects might be the hardest one to pick because you never really know what the Academy will like. Last year they gave this Oscar to a film that mostly used effects to create landscapes in the background, a few years ago it went to a film that created a futuristic dystopia, a few years before that it went to a film that leaned heavily on dreamlike imagery. There’s precedent for every single nominee here, which makes this one hard to pick.

I have to admit, despite my problems with it, that the spectacle of Tenet and how it combined reverse footage with regular footage is so inventive that it has a great shot at taking this home, it’d be the third Nolan film to do this. I also can’t deny that I want it to go to The One And Only Ivan purely because that film did the thing I wanted Lion King to do and it’d be nice if that was rewarded. You never know, we could all be in shock in a week’s time when Love and Monsters comes out of nowhere and takes it, but I’m gonna say this is Tenet’s to lose.

Best Animated Feature Film Oscar

Sometimes the animated category is a hard one to pick, sometimes it’s easy… this year is easy, it’s going to Soul and I’ll be genuinely shocked if anything else wins. Not only is Soul stunningly animated with some of the best visuals of the last year, it was mostly animated during the pandemic and is a further step in what 3D technology can do. Pixar stepped up and created something spectacular with Soul and that’s what’s going to win. I mean, maybe the Oscars will be like me and fall in love with the movie where a bunny shoots lasers from its ears, but if the Oscars did what I wanted them to do then last year would’ve been all about Rocketman.

And that’s this year’s Oscar predictions, a relatively normal list despite it not being a normal year. Guess we’ll see how close I was when the Oscars happens and then we won’t have to think about it again until next year when they realise they have to work with a smaller number of films again (because expanding the available time for this ceremony means next year only gets to count 10 months of films) and watch as they pick the obvious nominees while ignoring entire genres… fun.

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