What the Oscars got wrong
My take on the 2021 Oscar nominations
April 8, 2021
On March 15, the Oscar nominations were announced, and thanks to incredibly good timing, I was able to get up early and react to them as they happened. Despite the minimal amount of movies that were released in 2020 and in the early months of 2021, I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I agreed with this year’s nominees. Obviously, there was a fair share of snubs, some obvious and some mildly infuriating, but the rest of the nominees could easily have been worse. So, before Hollywood unquestionably makes everyone question reality on April 25, let’s take a look at this year’s nominations and see what they got right and wrong.
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Immediate Reaction: Despite some moves that I didn’t agree with, I was incredibly pleased with what was nominated. If anyone had told me that “The Father”, “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Sound of Metal” would all get nominated, I wouldn’t have believed them. But, here we are. All three films received an A or higher from me, and I’m very happy that the Oscars picked films that they normally would not have. Aside from that, I was very pleased to see “Mank” and “Promising Young Woman” pick up nominations as well. However, I can’t say the same about the other three nominees. “Minari” and “Nomadland” were fine, but unfortunately, I found “The Trial of the Chicago 7” to be rather awful. With that being said, I’m a little confused as to why there’s only eight nominees. The Oscars have the option to nominate ten, which means they could’ve included “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” or “Soul”, which were unfortunately snubbed. They could have included “Tenet”, which was treated in the same way that all of Christopher Nolan’s movies are by the Academy, but they didn’t. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why they continue to not meet the maximum amount of nominees in this category. Thankfully, the only nominees that can actually win are “Nomadland” and “Promising Young Woman”, but this race seems to already be decided.
Who Will Win: “Nomadland”
“Nomadland” has won every major Best Picture award so far, and we all know how the Oscars love to play “follow the leader”. Although I didn’t like “Nomadland”, I would be a fool to try and say that anything else has a chance of winning. “Promising Young Woman” is definitely waiting in the wings in case anything goes wrong, but there’s about as much of a chance of that happening as the Texans making the playoffs next season. As of March 25, “Nomadland” has won Best Picture at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and Producers Guild, which are all important precursors to the Oscars, particularly the latter. Also, despite my numerous problems with the film, it’s actually pretty cool to see it doing so well. This shows that the Oscars are definitely changing. A few years ago, when the Oscars were still giving Best Picture to movies like “Green Book” or “The King’s Speech”, they would’ve snubbed a film like this everywhere. Then, “Moonlight” and “Parasite” won, and now they’re much more willing to award smaller, independent films such as “Nomadland”.
Who Should Win: “The Father” or “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Despite what I just said, I don’t think “Nomadland” is the deserving winner. There are too many great movies that could potentially walk away empty-handed, and two of them received my perfect grade over the last two months. Despite knowing well that these films have no chance of winning, “The Father” and “Judas and the Black Messiah” are the best films that were nominated this year, and it would make my night if they were able to win. Both of them are far better-made, and both are much more emotionally impactful. With “Nomadland”, I didn’t really care about anything that was happening. With both of the other films, everything felt like it was actually happening. Although they won’t win, nothing will change the fact that both of them are far more deserving, and ultimately, the Oscars can’t change that.
Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
David Fincher, “Mank”
Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round”
Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”
Immediate Reaction: Let’s see here. The continued disrespect of Christopher Nolan by the Academy’s voters is getting harder to bear. “Tenet” was easily one of the best-directed films I’ve ever seen, and it kills me that the Oscars disregarded it because it’s a science-fiction film. In fact, it was barely nominated anywhere because Warner Bros. refused to send screeners for voters. However, the snubs didn’t end there. Aaron Sorkin, who was projected to be nominated for “Chicago 7”, was surprisingly (and deservingly) snubbed, as were other deserving directors like Spike Lee, Shaka King and Florian Zeller. Compared to the Best Picture nominees, I’m fairly disappointed with the Academy’s choices here. It’s great to see Emerald Fennell and David Fincher here, but I can’t say the same about Lee Isaac Chung or Chloe Zhao. Aside from their films being awards darlings, I can’t truthfully say that they deserve to be nominated for Best Director. It was quite a shock to see Thomas Vinterberg got nominated, but seeing as that fifth spot could’ve gone to any of the directors I brought up earlier, I can’t be excited about it. Just like Best Picture, this race is all but decided already.
Who Will Win: Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”
Hollywood cannot get enough of this movie. Zhao has swept almost every major awards ceremony in this category, and unless something incredibly strange happens, I can’t see anyone beating her. Although I don’t understand why everyone liked “Nomadland” so much, it is a well-made film. I don’t think Zhao’s direction is Oscar-worthy, but the film definitely looks nice, and if she manages to win, she would be the first woman to win Best Director in 12 years. With all of the hate the Oscars got for not nominating a single woman in the Directing category last year, something tells me that will be a driving force for Zhao to pick up her first Oscar.
Who Should Win: Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
It would be hard to find a director whose debut film was as stylish and well-directed as “Promising Young Woman”. Emerald Fennell isn’t a household name yet, but if this film is any indicator, she will be very soon. She exploded into awards conversations this year with an incredibly bold film that wasn’t afraid to get people talking, and it has done just that. Not only has “Promising Young Woman” become arguably the most important film of the year, it also has the potential to pick up several Oscars. Although it will never happen, this should be one of them. In just one film, Fennell proved herself to be one of the most promising directors working today, and in one pun, I’ve destroyed my credibility. I’m very sorry.
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Gary Oldman, “Mank”
Steven Yeun, “Minari”
Immediate Reaction: Although I knew it was coming, I’m very upset that Delroy Lindo wasn’t able to receive a nomination for “Da 5 Bloods”. Say what you will about the film, but Lindo gave a truly amazing performance that deserved recognition. As a result, I’m slightly upset that Gary Oldman, despite giving a great performance as well, took his spot. I’m fine with everyone else that’s been nominated in this category. All four of them gave great-to-phenomenal performances, but we already know who’s going to win.
Who Will (And Should) Win: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
My only regret is that Chadwick Boseman won’t get to see just how loved his performance is by so many. He has swept every major acting category, and there’s no reason as to why he wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, win. There’s just nothing else to say.
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Andra Day, “The United States v Billie Holiday”
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”
Immediate Reaction: This is quite possibly one of the two most confusing categories this year. Aside from Vanessa Kirby, I think it’s fair to say that every other actress has a shot. Andra Day won the Golden Globe. Carey Mulligan, the likely winner, has won every other award, but the BAFTAs snubbed her. Frances McDormand is in contention because of how strong “Nomadland” is. Viola Davis is in contention because the Oscars love to award people who have already won. This award could go any way, because that seems to be how this past year has gone. However, it’s fairly obvious who the favorite is, and a few months ago, I wouldn’t have said this.
Who Will (And Should) Win: Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”
Mulligan entered this awards season as the darkest horse possible. It’s safe to say that “Promising Young Woman” isn’t the type of movie that would normally be nominated at the Oscars, and when I watched it for the first time, I wasn’t predicting much. However, two months later, Mulligan has emerged as the clear favorite in this category, and I completely agree. This is the best performance of a career that’s filled with great ones, and having her win would make up for all of the mistakes that the Oscars will inevitably make.
Best Supporting Actor:
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night in Miami”
Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”
Lakeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Immediate Reaction: How in the world did Lakeith Stanfield get nominated? Now, don’t get me wrong. This is an amazing performance, and one that’s definitely deserving of being nominated. However, Stanfield plays the main character in “Judas and the Black Messiah”, not a supporting character. My only guess is that enough people thought that Daniel Kaluuya was more of a main character that they decided to put Stanfield in the Supporting Actor category instead. With that being said, it’s great to see both of them nominated. Paul Raci’s nomination was also incredibly relieving, as I was quite afraid that his incredible work would go unnoticed by the Academy. However, I am quite upset to see that Sacha Baron Cohen got nominated for “Chicago 7”. I know someone from that film had to get nominated somewhere, and his performance is definitely the flashiest, but it still doesn’t change the fact that he’s about as deserving of an Oscar nomination as “Batman & Robin”.
Who Will (And Should) Win: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Although Kaluuya has won everywhere else and is completely deserving of an Oscar, I’m sure that some will have their fair share of reservations after seeing two nominations for the same film in the same category. After all, the same fate befell both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci just last year, when they were both nominated in this category for “The Irishman”. Both were cancelled out as a result, leaving the door wide open for Brad Pitt to claim his first acting Oscar. However, this is Stanfield’s first nomination, and as I stated just a few sentences ago, Kaluuya has performed a clean sweep in the major Supporting Actor categories. What better way to honor Fred Hampton’s memory than to award an incredible portrayal of him?
Best Supporting Actress:
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”
Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
Youn Yuh-jung, “Minari”
Immediate Reaction: Let the hot takes begin. This is, by far, the most insane race I’ve seen in the last five years, and it’s entirely possible that anyone could win. However, I’m not entirely mad about that. I think everyone here is incredibly deserving. It’s great to see Olivia Colman here for her excellent performance in “The Father”, and I’m very relieved that Amanda Seyfried and Youn Yuh-jung were able to get in as well. However, nothing (aside from a snub that we’ll get to soon) has surprised me more during this awards season as the continued success of Maria Bakalova. The Oscars are notorious for not liking genre movies, as “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” definitely is. However, here she is, in the thick of it and a potential favorite in this category. However, it’s entirely possible that five different people could look at this category and have five different opinions as to who will win, which makes this the most difficult Oscars race this year.
Who Will Win: Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
I know what I just said, but as strange as this scenario is, it’s playing out right before our very eyes. Bakalova has, once again, swept all but one of the major Supporting Actress awards, despite starring in a comedy. But, let’s remember that this film came out in 2020. Literally anything goes. Despite that, Bakalova’s performance has actually been received incredibly well. Even the Critics’ Choice Awards gave her Best Supporting Actress. It might even be funnier than the film if she was able to win.
Who Should Win: Olivia Colman, “The Father”
As I said before, nothing in this category is set in stone. Anyone could win, and it’s very possible that Colman could still pull this off despite winning her first Oscar only two years ago. However unlikely that scenario is, it doesn’t change the fact that she’s given another award-worthy performance that deserves to be recognized. She’s able to successfully hold her own against Anthony Hopkins and keep him from overshadowing the rest of the movie. That’s really saying something.
Best Original Screenplay:
Will Berson and Shaka King, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
Abraham and Darius Marder, “Sound of Metal”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Immediate Reaction: For those who don’t know, “Mank” led all films this year with ten Oscar nominations. So, you can imagine my surprise when it was snubbed in the Original Screenplay category, despite being about Old Hollywood and filled with amazing dialogue. Instead, its spot, and one other, was taken by “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Sound of Metal”, two films that definitely overperformed this awards season. It was also somewhat surprising to see “Minari” here, as it’s only started doing so well in the past few weeks. “Promising Young Woman” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” have been locked in for a while, and it seems like this category will be a dogfight between the two of them.
Who Will (And Should) Win: Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
A few days ago, I would’ve laughed in the face of anyone who said this. However, we live in a different world than we did just a few days ago. At the Writers Guild awards, an important precursor for the Screenplay categories at the Oscars, Emerald Fennell stunned everyone by upsetting Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin’s script for “The Trial of the Chicago 7”. Not only is this the right pick, but it’s an unexpected pick. What makes this category different from others is that the Oscars only seem to follow the Writers Guild, and not the other major awards bodies. Just last year, the WGA and the Oscars were the only groups to give “Parasite” the Best Original Screenplay award, when Tarantino won everywhere else. I’d do the same thing this year, and it seems like Fennell will be able to pick up her first Oscar in this category.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Sacha Baron Cohen and a lot of other people, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, “The Father”
Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”
Kemp Powers, “One Night in Miami”
Ramin Bahrani, “The White Tiger”
Immediate Reaction: When “Borat” was nominated in this category, my laughter quickly overpowered the rest of the video. I have no way of explaining how this was nominated, unless it’s for the sole purpose of boosting Bakalova’s chances of winning Best Supporting Actress. I was very sad to see “Ma Rainey” get snubbed in another important category, but I’ve gotten used to disappointment. Unlike Original Screenplay, this race was settled months ago.
Who Will Win: Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”
“Nomadland” is simply too strong to not win this category. To win Best Picture, a film also has to win either Director, Screenplay or both. At this rate, “Nomadland” has swept both Director and Adapted Screenplay, and I can’t see it stopping anytime soon.
Who Should Win: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, “The Father”
In my opinion, “The Father” is the best film to have been nominated for Best Picture. That also makes it the best to be nominated in this category, and it’s not even close. No other film listed here has had such an emotional impact on me, and what scares me is that “The Father” could go home without an Oscar. I sincerely hope that’s not the case, and “Nomadland” doesn’t need to win both Director and Screenplay. It only needs one of them, so why not spread the love?
Sean Bobbitt, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Erik Messerschmidt, “Mank”
Dariusz Wolski, “News of the World”
Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”
Phedon Papamichael, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Immediate Reaction: Words cannot express my disappointment in seeing Hoyte van Hoytema’s amazing work in “Tenet” get snubbed, and seeing “The Trial of the Chicago 7”’s bland, boring cinematography take its place. I’m also a little saddened by Newton Thomas Sigel being unable to receive his first Oscar nomination for his work in “Cherry”. However, the Oscars will be the Oscars. With that being said, I’m very pleased with the other four nominees, and despite not receiving the publicity of the acting races, I found it very hard to pick a winner in this category.
Who Will Win: Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”
Only one Cinematography award has been handed out in the major awards bodies as of today, and of course, it was given to “Nomadland”. The cinematography is beautiful in that film, so it wouldn’t really surprise me if the Oscars did the same thing. Is it the most deserving film? Nope. Do the Oscars like to give the technical categories to the Best Picture frontrunners? Yep, so why not now?
Who Should Win: Sean Bobbitt, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
After being snubbed so many times by the Oscars, Bobbitt was finally able to get his first Oscar nomination for his work in “Judas and the Black Messiah”. It’s not his best work, but it’s definitely up there, and it just so happens to be better than everything else that’s been nominated this year. Although it’s not going to happen, it would be great if the Oscars finally honored one of the most overlooked cinematographers working today.
Best Original Score:
Terrence Blanchard, “Da 5 Bloods”
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Mank”
Emile Mosseri, “Minari”
James Newton Howard, “News of the World”
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, “Soul”
Immediate Reaction: Where is “Tenet”? Ludwig Goransson’s score was one of the best I’ve heard in the past five years, and after getting nominated everywhere else, it was snubbed, along with the rest of the film, at the Oscars. It’s strange that someone who won in this same category just two years ago (“Black Panther”) would get snubbed for improving on that score. But, let’s not focus on the negative. Other than the mindboggingly stupid decision to nominate “Da 5 Bloods”, the nominations here are pretty good. However, only one of them is great.
Who Will (And Should) Win: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, “Soul”
Ten years ago, Reznor and Ross won Best Original Score for “The Social Network”. But, this score is somehow even better. The song “Epiphany” is good enough to win on its own, and Batiste’s jazz compositions are almost just as good. The entire album expertly mixes New Age with old jazz, and the result is almost perfect. Although not the best score of the year, it’s undoubtedly the best to be nominated, and even the Oscars can’t screw this up.