Every man’s worst nightmare: It’s Oscar time!

Well, that was a peculiar year, wasn’t it? No less so in Hollywoodland and environs than anywhere else, and although most of the films in contention for the 93rd Academy Awards were made in pre-Covid times, pretty much all of them have been released in the context of a global pandemic, which means the publicity circuits, audience buzz, box office takings and everything else that tells us in a normal year how well a film has been received are all shot to pieces. What I’m saying is that yes, I may only have seen half of the Best Picture candidates this year (Nomadland, The Father and Minari don’t have a UK release yet and even in lockdown I have better things to do than watch Mank), but if I get even more of my predictions wrong than usual it’s not completely my fault.

Let me get the categories about which I have zero idea over and done with quickly: the only one of the International Picture contenders I have seen is Another Round, but as it’s the one that’s certainly going to win, because Academy members have heard of Mads Mikkelson and will have made the effort to watch the film he’s in, even if they haven’t gotten around to all the others, that’s OK. I’ve gone one better with the documentary categories – Feature and Short – where I haven’t managed to see any of the nominees, and only partly because I spent most of April too ill to do anything but sleep, read and eat soup (I’m almost recovered now, thank you for asking). So I’ll go with a combination of bookies’ odds and experts’ views and plump for My Octopus Teacher for feature and Love Song For Latasha for short.

Soul will win for both Original Score and Animated Feature, but it doesn’t have a nomination in Original Song, which I expect to go to Leslie Odom Jr for Speak Now from One Night In Miami, because everybody loves Leslie Odom Jr and everybody loves Regina King, whose film it is, and I don’t think it’s going to win either of the other categories it’s nominated in (Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay).

I had a good time with this year’s Live Action shorts, but I can’t see the winner being anything other than Travon Free’s Two Distant Strangers which as well as telling a timely and eloquent story does so with a wit and a flair that doesn’t always make it into “issue-led” pieces.

I had what I’m going to call a reasonable time with the Animated Shorts, two of which are made by Pixar alumni and one of which, Erick Oh’s Opera, is such a dazzling technical achievement that I think it probably should win, but my pick instead is If Anything Happens I Love You which, although it has more than a hint of Raymond Briggs about it, is nonetheless sharp and fresh and heartbreaking. It’s currently available on Netflix, as are Two Distant Strangers, My Octopus Teacher and Love Song For Latasha.

I’m devastated to have to tell you that the Sound categories have been combined into one this year, so that I can no longer take pride in explaining the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing in a way that makes sense to nobody but me. There’s just one Sound prize now, and it will of course go to the film that’s all about sound; Darius Marder’s dazzling Sound Of Metal. In the other tech categories I am predicting Tenet for Visual Effects, Mank for Production Design, a double whammy for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in both Hair and Makeup and Costume Design, and a nod to The Trial of the Chicago Seven for Editing. I haven’t seen Nomadland because it’s not landing in the UK for another week but I’m tipping it for Cinematography based on not very much more than the trailer:

Original Screenplay is a clear choice between Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial Of The Chicago 7 but I think will go to the former on the basis that for the last couple of years Academy voters have seemed inclined to reward plucky experiments over accomplished rehashing of things we’ve already seen, and while TTOTC7 is a lot of fun, nothing about it is anything other than familiar. Adapted Screenplay is harder to call but everything I’ve seen makes me think this will be a winning year for Nomadland, here and elsewhere.

On to the big six! I am not expecting any surprises here, with supporting actress almost certain to go to Youn Yuh-jung for Minari on the basis that it’s a pretty lame list to begin with and even BAFTA ignored Olivia Colman in The Father, so there’s no chance Oscar won’t do likewise. Supporting actor is a stronger field, but Daniel Kaluuya‘s turn as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah is so compelling that I think he’ll win overwhelmingly in this category, whatever Samuel L. Jackson says.

Actress is where I get stuck. Everybody loves Viola Davis, and she is terrific in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but it’s not a great film: like Fences, another film adaptation of an August Wilson play in which Davis featured and did win the Oscar, it’s very obviously a play which doesn’t quite successfully translate to celluloid. And Andra Day is incredible as Billie Holiday but again, little else about the film has left an impression on the world at large. With apologies to Vanessa Kirby who is a very good actor but I think is right out of contention on this one, Frances McDormand and Carey Mulligan both have good cases for a win for Nomadland and Promising Young Woman respectively, but I’m leaning towards Carey Mulligan, and I can’t quite say why. This is the prediction I’m least sure about.

Another point against Viola Davis is that Chadwick Boseman will certainly win Best Actor for Ma Rainey, because even though it’s not a great film, it was his last and he is excellent in it and he is the superhero of Hollywood’s hearts and there’s just not a chance that this prize will go anywhere else, even though Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal is revelatory, or would be if he isn’t always that good whatever you see him in.

The big two will, I think, go to Chloe Zhao and Nomadland, because the people who love it really love it, and nobody seems to hate it, which means people will have it floating around their top three and it will slip through ahead of Promising Young Woman, which some people hate, and The Father, which nobody loves. The only chance of an upset here is if The Trial of the Chicago 7 emulates its SAG Awards victory and takes Best Picture, which I think is possible but not probable.

I’m not staying up to watch tonight, so I will check in tomorrow and award myself points depending on how close I get, with a celebratory Monday night gin martini if I get the big six right. It’s not like I’ve got anything else to do.

Here’s the complete list:

PictureNomadland
DirectorEmma Zhao
ActorChadwick Boseman
ActressCarey Mulligan
Supporting ActorDaniel Kaluuya
Supporting ActressJoun Yuh-jung
Original ScreenplayPromising Young Woman
Adapted ScreenplayNomadland
CinematographyNomadland
Production DesignMank
EditingThe Trial of the Chicago 7
Costume DesignMa Rainey’s Black Bottom
Hair and Make upMa Rainey’s Black Bottom
VFXTenet
SoundSound of Metal
ScoreSoul
SongSpeak Now from One Night In Miami
International FeatureAnother Round
Animated FeatureSoul
Animated ShortIf Anything Happens, I Love You
Documentary FeatureMy Octopus Teacher
Documentary ShortLove Song For Latasha
Live Action ShortTwo Distant Strangers

But enough about me. What do YOU think?

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