Oscar Picks: 15 Feb 2021

We finally got a load of precursors to help us see who were contenders and who were pretenders, but there’s still a lot we don’t know. I’ll have my final picks a day or two before the nominations are announced on Monday, March 15.

Da 5 Bloods
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
One Night in Miami…
Promising Young Woman
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Falling off: The Father
Rising star: News of the World
The skinny: Not much has changed, except Sony Pictures Classics has once again bungled their campaign of an acclaimed film. I don’t think anything can derail these eight, although a narrow path remains for News of the World to sneak in here and be the ninth film.

Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods
David Fincher, Mank
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Regina King, One Night in Miami…

Falling off: None
Rising star: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
The skinny: Unless the DGA surprises with a left-field nominee, this field is set. Woe to us all if that dark horse is Aaron Sorkin. (And I say this as a fan of The Trial of the Chicago 7.)

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Gary Oldman, Mank
Steven Yeun, Minari

Falling off: Delroy Lindo
Rising star: Ben Affleck, The Way Back
The skinny: Don’t know what else Delroy Lindo needs to do here. Been well-respected for decades and is giving arguably his best performance in a movie that is getting nominations across the board. It’s a real shame. No SAG nomination for Affleck means he’s done, I think, but it would be less shocking to hear his name on Oscar morning than for the Academy to actually nominate three non-white guys.

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Falling off: None
Rising star: Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy
The skinny: Adams survives because of SAG, and if she knocks off anyone it will be Andra Day in a movie that few people have seen and even fewer people like. This one will be a coin flip up until the day of.

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom Jr, One Night in Miami…
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

Falling off: Mark Rylance, David Strathairn
Rising star: Jared Leto, The Little Things
The skinny: Judas and the Black Messiah came late to the party, but it’s gotten near-universal acclaim. (Though some critics are more tempered in their recommendations than others.) Kaluuya now seems like a lock, especially in a race where almost any combination of actors seems possible. One thing that seems less possible now than it did a week ago is Jared Leto popping in for the grisly crime flick The Little Things. A Golden Globe nod? Sure. That’s very on-brand. A SAG nomination? Now we’re in trouble. But they’re literally his only two notices so far, so I think we’re safe from that.

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman, The Father
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Youn Yuh-jung, Minari

Falling off: Ellen Burstyn
Rising star: Helena Zengel, News of the World
The skinny: The Pieces of a Woman train is grinding to a halt. What seemed like yet another winner for Netflix last month is likely to end up with just a Best Actress nomination. Frankly, that’s all it deserves. Ellen Burstyn is a legend, but there’s nothing special about her performance here, and her big “Oscars clip” monologue rang hollow to me. And so it’s likely down to Bakalova or the recently resurgent Close. Not sure exactly who will be happy with the latter finally winning for a universally reviled movie, but lord knows she’s long overdue.

Promising Young Woman
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Falling off: None
Rising star: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
The skinny: Soul is in the most trouble here, but the more profound Pixar movies tend to end up nominated here. If it falls, it will be to give a consolation prize to Eliza Hittman.

The Father
First Cow
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
One Night in Miami…

Falling off: None
Rising star: News of the World
The skinny: News of the World has been an interesting case. It got good (but not great) reviews, opened to muted box office (which is not surprising given everything that’s going on) and dropped on VOD 17 days later. But it’s slowly been racking up awards, mostly on the technical side, and it is the kind of movie poised to have broad appeal within the Academy. I haven’t seen anything that would indicate it’s a lock in any category, but I wouldn’t count it out anywhere just yet.

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