Oscar nominations 2021: I can already tell you who’ll be shortlisted. Probably

Nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards are announced on Monday. Here are my predictions

Since so many big, flashy pictures have been delayed due to Covid-19, we might see a surge for independent productions at this year’s Oscars. Photograph: iStock

Since so many big, flashy pictures have been delayed due to Covid-19, we might see a surge for independent productions at this year’s Oscars. Photograph: iStock

 

Six months ago, it looked as if the Covid Oscars were set to deliver a decidedly off-centre selection of nominations. After all, with best picture wins for Moonlight, Parasite and 12 Years a Slave over the preceding decade, the awards seemed, even without the pandemic, to be moving in a more interesting direction. Now that so many big, flashy pictures have been delayed and straight-to-streaming releases admitted (for one year only!), we might see a surge for independent productions such as Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always or Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow.

That is not quite how things look to be working out. The more reliable precursor awards – Directors Guild of America, or DGA, Producers Guild of America, or PGA, and so on – suggest we are set to see Netflix secure multiple nominations for Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7, two respectful studies of the United States’ past. Some pundits are even predicting a best-picture nomination for Amazon’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. But more than a few landmarks should be laid down when Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Nick Jonas announce the nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards on Monday afternoon.

Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz and Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies in Mank. Photograph: Netflix
Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz and Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies in Mank. Photograph: Netflix

Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, now distributed by Disney following its acquisition of Fox Searchlight, strides forward as the favourite for best picture and best director. Only five women have previously been nominated for the latter prize. With nods from the DGA, the PGA and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta), Zhao looks certain to score there and is likely, when this year’s Oscars are presented on April 25th, to follow Kathryn Bigelow as the second woman to win.

There is a decent chance of more than one woman director securing nominations for the first time. Emerald Fennell, director of the feminist revenge thriller Promising Young Woman, was nominated by the DGA and the Golden Globes (though not with her home team at Bafta) for equivalent races. Regina King, director of the historical drama One Night in Miami, is also in with a shot.

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman. Photograph: Focus Features via AP
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman. Photograph: Focus Features via AP

Were the raw, naturalistic Nomadland, featuring Frances McDormand adrift in a damaged US, to win the big prize it would confirm the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ drift away from flabbier, safer material. That movement reflects a dramatic shift in the membership, allowing in more young talent, more from outside the US and more people of colour. There is no serious possibility of an #OscarsSoWhite redux this year. Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, and the late Chadwick Boseman, playing a troubled jazz musician in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, both won at the Golden Globes and are likely to convert at the prize that really matters. Boseman would become only the third posthumous acting winner after Peter Finch and Heath Ledger.

Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer in August 2020 aged 43, starred in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Photograph: Victoria Will/Invision/AP
Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer in August 2020 aged 43, starred in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Photograph: Victoria Will/Invision/AP

There are bound to be surprises in this most unpredictable of years. Box-office receipts – never a huge indicator with the Oscars but not entirely irrelevant either – have been replaced by the voodoo economics of streaming charts. But the traditional runes still do the business. The five titles nominated at DGA should land safely in best picture: Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Aaron Sorkin’s Trial of the Chicago 7, David Fincher’s Mank and Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari (although Mank is looking vulnerable). Before wisely returning to 10 nominations next year, the Oscars again pick between five and 10 films.

Last week’s astonishing Bafta nominations will, however, offer fewer clues than usual. The British and American academies share several hundred members, but, in an effort to increase diversity, Bafta this year used a select committee to pick the nominees. One result is that Carey Mulligan, favourite in the Oscar best-actress race for Promising Young Woman, could become the first British winner in that category not to receive a nomination in her home territory.

Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 starring Sacha Baron Cohen. Photograph: Niko Tavernise/Netflix
Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 starring Sacha Baron Cohen. Photograph: Niko Tavernise/Netflix

The only serious Irish contender in the high-profile races looks to be Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s Wolfwalkers. The Cartoon Saloon feature is set to become the studio’s fourth nominee for best animated feature. It is a two-horse race with Pixar’s Soul. The voting body that gave Parasite the top prize a year ago is now open to “overseas” material. This is Cartoon Saloon’s best chance yet.

At the beginning of the season, Saoirse Ronan looked like a contender for her role in the lesbian romance Ammonite, but the film has interested no awards bodies so far. She will almost certainly have to wait another year for a fifth nomination.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Older Irish Oscar fans will feel a nostalgic surge as they survey an array of titles that have yet to play in these territories (either in cinemas or online): Sound of Metal, Minari, The Father, Promising Young Woman, Nomadland. We haven’t been this excluded from the conversation since Ronald Reagan was president. Blasted Covid.

2021 OSCAR NOMINATIONS: MY PREDICTIONS

In order of likelihood

Best picture

1 Nomadland
2 The Trial of the Chicago 7
3 Promising Young Woman
4 Minari
5 Mank
6 One Night in Miami
7 Sound of Metal
8 Judas and the Black Messiah
9 The Father
If there are 10, one from Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, News of the World and The Mauritanian

Best director

1 Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)
2 David Fincher (Mank)
3 Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)
4 Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)
5 Regina King (One Night in Miami)
Zhao is probably the only dead cert

Best actress

Frances McDormand in Nomadland. Photograph: Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios
Frances McDormand in Nomadland. Photograph: Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios

1 Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)
2 Frances McDormand (Nomadland)
3 Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
4 Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)
5 Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday)
The fifth spot was up for grabs until Day unexpectedly won at the Globes

Best actor

1 Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
2 Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
3 Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
4 Gary Oldman (Mank)
5 Steven Yeun (Minari)
Boseman is really supporting, but that’s how the game is played

Best supporting actor

Daniel Kaluuya stars in Judas and the Black Messiah as Fred Hampton. Photograph: Samir Hussein/WireImage
Daniel Kaluuya stars in Judas and the Black Messiah as Fred Hampton. Photograph: Samir Hussein/WireImage

1 Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
2 Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
3 Leslie Odom jnr (One Night in Miami)
4 Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)
5 Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods)
Boseman is in with a chance of becoming the first actor since James Dean to secure two posthumous acting nominations

Best supporting actress

1 Olivia Colman (The Father)
2 Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)
3 Amanda Seyfried (Mank)
4 Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)
5 Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)
Or Jodie Foster or Ellen Burstyn or Helena Zengel. The most unpredictable of the top races (Yes, Close could get in for that awful film)

Best animated feature

Pixar’s Soul
Pixar’s Soul

1 Soul
2 Wolfwalkers
3 Onward
4 The Croods: A New Age
5 Over the Moon
As we said earlier, a two-horse race. The rest are place fillers

Best original screenplay

1 The Trial of the Chicago 7
2 Minari
3 Promising Young Woman
4 Judas and the Black Messiah
5 Mank
Awards bodies do like Aaron Sorkin. A good shout for a second Oscar with Chicago 7

Best adapted screenplay

1 Nomadland
2 The Father
3 One Night in Miami
4 Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
5 News of the World
Or could Borat sneak in?

The 93rd Academy Awards take place on Sunday, April 25th

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