Posted in 2020-2029, Awards Season, Oscars

94th Academy Awards: Final Predictions

Well, it’s that time of year again. After the elongated awards season window of the 93rd Academy Awards due to the pandemic, the current awards season we’ve had feels somewhat shortened. But in that time, we’ve had the welcome return of cinemas, and there’s nothing better than seeing films where they belong, on the big screen. With that, a plethora of brilliant and exciting films have been recognised by the Academy this year and Hollywood’s biggest night is once again upon us.

Last year’s scaled-down ceremony was a controversy-free event, until the ending when a change-up of the presenting order meant it all went very badly wrong. This year, the controversy has almost been ever-present as the absolutely nonsensical idea of presenting some of the categories off-air has been resurrected. Spoiling the moment of glory for those prospective winners and denying them their moment in the spotlight. A ceremony that honours the craft of movies and movie-making should be giving every recipient of an Oscar a chance to have their moment in the spotlight and this decision does a disservice to all those nominees.

Despite this ridiculous decision, there are still 23 golden statues up for grabs, the question remains as to who will claim Oscar glory? Time to have a gaze at my metaphorical crystal ball and give my predictions, as well as give my thoughts on each category, minus the documentaries and the short films.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Ciarán HindsBelfast
  • Troy Kotsur CODA
  • Jesse Plemons The Power of the Dog
  • J. K. Simmons Being the Ricardos
  • Kodi Smit-McPheeThe Power of the Dog

Kicking things off is a race that, for the third year in a row, has seen double nominees from the same film, after Judas and the Black Messiah and The Irishman. Apart from previous winner J.K. Simmons’s nomination, the rest of the pack are picking up their first nominations. Simmons’s nomination in Being the Ricardos is a sign that Aaron Sorkin’s latest film is well-loved by the Actors branch, but given that Ricardos is the only one without a Best Picture nomination, Simmons’s chances of a repeat win are extremely unlikely, especially as he’s very much bringing up the rear in this crop of performances. Plemons does great work, but he’s very much outshone by his co-stars. Ciarán Hinds’s beautiful turn as the cheeky Grandpa in Belfast would be a worthy winner, as would his co-star Jamie Dornan, who really should have been nominated ahead of Simmons for my money.

However, throughout this race, it’s very much been a battle between CODA‘s Troy Kotsur and Kodi Smit-McPhee’s layered work in The Power of the Dog. CODA‘s ensemble win at the SAG awards could tip the scales in Kotsur’s favour. He would make history as the first male deaf actor to win an Oscar, and his turn as the raunchy but heartfelt father in CODA was hilarious and emotional, he was able to break your heart with just one word.

Will Win: Troy Kotsur 

Should Win: Troy Kotsur

Could have been nominated: Jamie Dornan for Belfast

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jessie BuckleyThe Lost Daughter
  • Ariana DeBoseWest Side Story
  • Judi DenchBelfast
  • Kirsten DunstThe Power of the Dog
  • Aunjanue EllisKing Richard

As was the case with Supporting Actor, there’s one performance that can be discounted right out of the gate, as her film lacks a Best Picture nomination, which is a shame as Jessie Buckley’s work in The Lost Daughter outshines her co-stars. Kirsten Dunst has finally landed a nomination, and it’s quite fitting that she’s nominated the same year that her husband Jesse Plemons receives his first nomination. To go toe-to-toe with Will Smith is not an easy feat but Aunjanue Ellis’s performance manages exactly that. Judi Dench’s turn in Belfast was a welcome return to form for her after appearing in a couple of critical and commercial flops, but with eight nominations under her belt, she didn’t need another nomination, especially when her co-star Caitriona Balfe had the more emotionally impactful role which was much more deserving of a nomination.

However, there’s been one performance that has emerged as the clear favourite. Ever since West Side Story was finally opened to audiences, Ariana DeBose’s performance as Anita has swept all before her. It’s quite poetic that 60 years after Rita Moreno’s historic win in this very same category, playing the same character, that history will repeat itself. DeBose will also become the first openly queer actress to win this award. This is an exceedingly competitive category, but Ruth Negga’s brilliant and nuanced work in Passing being overlooked is a massive head-scratching snub.

Will Win:  Ariana DeBose

Should Win: Ariana DeBose

Could have been nominated: Catriona Balfe for Belfast or Ruth Negga for Passing

Best Original Screenplay

  • Belfast – Written by Kenneth Branagh
  • Don’t Look Up – Screenplay by Adam McKay; Story by Adam McKay and David Sirota
  • King Richard – Written by Zach Baylin
  • Licorice Pizza – Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
  • The Worst Person in the World – Written by Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier

Along with his nominations for Best Picture, and Best Director, Kenneth Branagh has written himself into Oscars history as the first person to be recognised in seven separate categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay and Live-Action Short). It’s an extraordinary achievement for Branagh and he deserves to crown that with an Oscar for his beautiful semi-autobiographical film, especially given that he’s unlikely to triumph in the Director or Picture category. Yet there’s a chance that Licorice Pizza could rain on Branagh’s parade and end Paul Thomas Anderson’s long wait for an Oscar. Plus, The Worst Person in the World is wildly popular and could be the dark horse of this year’s race.

Will Win: Belfast 

Should Win: Belfast

Should have been nominated: Fran Kanz for Mass

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • CODA – Screenplay by Sian Heder
  • Drive My Car – Screenplay by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe
  • Dune – Screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth
  • The Lost Daughter – Screenplay by Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • The Power of the Dog – Screenplay by Jane Campion

The first of several races this year that represents a fight between the two films that are the heavy favourites to be picking up the biggest prize of the night. The Power of the Dog was for a long time the heavy favourite for this award, but at the 11th hour, CODA charmed its way into hearts and minds and is poised to snatch several awards out of the dog’s jaws, and steal the thunder from Campion’s film, and it potentially won’t be for the first time if it does. However, the support Drive My Car is very strong and it could yet gazump everyone else in this category, and drive away with the Oscar.

Will Win: CODA

Should Win: CODA

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Animated Feature Film

  • EncantoJared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino, and Clark Spencer
  • FleeJonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen, and Charlotte De La Gournerie
  • LucaEnrico Casarosa and Andrea Warren
  • The Mitchells vs. the MachinesMike Rianda, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Kurt Albrecht
  • Raya and the Last DragonDon Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Osnat Shurer, and Peter Del Vecho

An impressively strong crop of nominees, and you could make a case for each of these films to triumph. Ever since this award was first introduced in 2001, a non-Disney film has only taken home the trophy six out of twenty times. With the House of Mouse representing three of the five nominees, another Disney success is on the cards as Encanto is the strong favourite to take home the statue. However, The Mitchells Vs The Machines is such an innovative and hilarious animated film about the perils of technology that is more than capable of extinguishing Encanto‘s miracle. It makes it all the more frustrating that it likely won’t, even though I do like Encanto.

But this crop could have been even stronger, as the exclusion of Mamoru Hosada’s magnificent Belle could and, maybe should have, taken the spot of one of the three Disney films.

Will Win: Encanto 

Should Win: The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Should have been nominated: Belle

Best International Feature Film

  • Drive My Car (Japan)  – directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi
  • Flee (Denmark) – directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
  • The Hand of God (Italy) –  directed by Paolo Sorrentino
  • Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Bhutan) – directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji
  • The Worst Person in the World (Norway) – directed by Joachim Trier

Drive My Car‘s Best Picture nominee status makes this one a pretty foregone conclusion.

Will Win: Drive My Car

Should Win: Drive My Car 

Best Original Score

  • Don’t Look UpNicholas Britell
  • DuneHans Zimmer
  • Encanto Germaine Franco
  • Parallel MothersAlberto Iglesias
  • The Power of the DogJonny Greenwood

The power of a great score is that within just a few notes, it can transport you to the setting of that particular film in a heartbeat, and no score this year typifies that than Hans Zimmer’s masterful work in Dune. 2021 was a stellar year for the legendary composer as well as reuniting with Denis Villeneuve to bring the world of Arrakis to life, his work for Daniel Craig’s final bow as James Bond in No Time To Die was also worthy of praise and could have seen Zimmer get two nominations. In either case, Zimmer’s wait for that second Oscar is coming to an end.

Someone else who also could have got two nominations is Jonny Greenwood. He has been producing some truly stellar scores over the last few years, and could and have got in this category twice for his stunning work in SpencerHis score for The Power of The Dog is tremendous, but the Power of the Dog is no match for desert power.

Will Win: Hans Zimmer 

Should Win: Hans Zimmer

Could have been nominated: Harry Gregson-Williams for The Last Duel 

Best Original Song

  • “Be Alive” from King Richard – Music and lyrics by DIXSON and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
  • “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto – Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • “Down to Joy” from Belfast – Music and lyrics by Van Morrison
  • “No Time to Die” from No Time to Die – Music and lyrics by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell
  • “Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days – Music and lyrics by Diane Warren

Poor Diane Warren. Despite a staggering 13 nominations in this category, her wait for that first win is likely to go on, as this year’s race is looking like it will be a two-way fight between Lin-Manuel Miranda and Billie Eilish. The last two Bond films have both taken home this award, so the odds look good for Billie Eilish. However, if Miranda wins, he will become the youngest person in history to claim the EGOT. Miranda had a truly stellar 2021, and the EGOT would be the best way to reward his extraordinary achievements, especially as “Dos Oruguitas” is a heartbreakingly beautiful and emotional ballad. If it were to triumph, it would be a worthy winner to go with Encanto‘s likely Best Animated Feature Oscar.

It’s just a shame that they couldn’t nominate the irresistibly catchy and chart sensation “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” as well.

Will Win:  No Time To Die

Should Win: Encanto

Best Sound

  • Belfast Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather, and Niv Adiri
  • DuneMac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill, and Ron Bartlett
  • No Time to DieSimon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey, and Mark Taylor
  • The Power of the DogRichard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie, and Tara Webb
  • West Side StoryTod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson, and Shawn Murphy

Like so many technical aspects of Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece, the sound is one of the aspects that made it such an enthralling experience on the biggest screen possible. The work of Dune’s sound team helped bring the world of Arrakis to life in such a spectacular way and so they will be richly deserved winners of this trophy.

That being said, the work of the sound teams in No Time to Die and West Side Story are very strong and could upset the spice cart.

Will Win: Dune 

Should Win: Dune

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Production Design

  • Dune – Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos
  • Nightmare Alley – Production Design: Tamara Deverell; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau
  • The Power of the Dog – Production Design: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Amber Richards
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth – Production Design: Stefan Dechant; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
  • West Side Story – Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo

As was the case with the Sound category, the Production Design played an integral role in bringing the visual majesty of Arrakis to life. Dune has got potential to completely sweep through these production/technical categories, and given it has picked up a couple of the precursors, I think it will do so. However, there could be some surprises and one such surprise could be here as Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. The fact it did get into the Best Picture race shows there is support for it out there among the voters and if the Academy wants to spread the love, then this could be the opportunity for them to do so.

Will Win: Dune

Should Win: Dune

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Cinematography

  • Dune Greig Fraser
  • Nightmare Alley Dan Laustsen
  • The Power of the Dog Ari Wegner
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth Bruno Delbonnel
  • West Side StoryJanusz Kaminski

Five absolutely immaculately shot films makes this an insanely hard category to predict, as any of these cinematographers would be worthy of winning this award. Ari Wegner makes history as the second woman to be nominated in this category following Rachel Morrison’s ground-breaking nomination for Mudbound at the 90th Academy Awards, but it could have been even better had Claire Mathon also been nominated for Spencer. A triumph for Wegner would be a welcome (and long overdue) victory. However, given that he’s recently captured plaudits for his magnificent work in The Batman, it could tip the scales in Greig Fraser’s favour.

Will Win: Dune 

Should Win:  Dune

Should have been nominated: Claire Mathon for Spencer or Linus Sandgren for No Time To Die

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Coming 2 AmericaMike Marino, Stacey Morris, and Carla Farmer
  • CruellaNadia Stacey, Naomi Donne, and Julia Vernon
  • Dune Donald Mowat, Love Larson, and Eva von Bahr
  • The Eyes of Tammy Faye Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram, and Justin Raleigh
  • House of GucciGöran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock, and Frederic Aspiras

As impressive as the make-up and hairstyling work in films like House of Gucci and The Eyes of Tammy Faye is, when you realise the amount of work that was required to transform Stellan Skarsgard into the villainous Baron Harkonnen in Dune, this should be a no-brainer, but if Best Actress goes in a certain direction (more on that later), this could go in a different direction.

Will Win:  The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Should Win: Dune

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Costume Design

  • Cruella – Jenny Beavan
  • CyranoMassimo Cantini Parrini
  • DuneJacqueline West and Bob Morgan
  • Nightmare AlleyLuis Sequeira
  • West Side StoryPaul Tazewell

There’s some really impressive work across this category, but Cruella has been sweeping this category and those flashy and colourful dresses will power Jenny Beaven to her third Oscar.

Will Win: Cruella

Should Win: Cruella

Should have been nominated: Janty Yates for The Last Duel

Best Film Editing

  • Don’t Look UpHank Corwin
  • Dune Joe Walker
  • King Richard Pamela Martin
  • The Power of the DogPeter Sciberras
  • tick, tick… BOOM!Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum

Editing and the now lone sound categories often go hand-in-hand with each other, so with that in mind, Dune should be locked. Yet, Pamela Martin took home the American Cinema Editor Award in the Drama category for her work in King Richard. Meanwhile, tick, tick… BOOM! triumphed in the Comedy or Musical category, which puts it in contention. However, the lack of a Best Picture nom will probably count against the latter. Dune’s desert power will see it triumph in a number of technical categories, but the wonderful work of Pamela Martin with the tennis scenes in King Richard was absolutely pulsating to watch.

Game. Set, and the Oscar goes to King Richard.

Will Win:  King Richard 

Should Win: King Richard

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Visual Effects

  • DunePaul Lambert, Tristen Myles, Brian Connor, and Gerd Nefzer
  • Free GuySwen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis, and Dan Sudick
  • No Time to DieCharlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner, and Chris Corbould
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker, and Dan Oliver
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein, and Dan Sudick

With its status as the lone Best Picture nominee here, and an enthralling combination of practical and visual effects, there’s nothing stopping Dune, not even an itsy bitsy Spider-Man.

Will Win: Dune 

Should Win: Dune

Should have been nominated: The Suicide Squad

Best Director

  • Kenneth Branagh Belfast
  • Ryusuke HamaguchiDrive My Car
  • Paul Thomas AndersonLicorice Pizza
  • Jane CampionThe Power of the Dog
  • Steven SpielbergWest Side Story

At the 66th Academy Awards, Campion and Spielberg went head to head in this category for Schindler’s List and The Piano respectively, with Spielberg emerging victorious. Though this time, with The Power of The Dog emerging as this year’s frontrunner, Campion is the heavy favourite to triumph here, even with some controversy following her completely unnecessary remarks against Venus and Serena Williams at the Critics Choice. ‘

This is one category where CODA cannot stop The Power of the Dog. If Campion does triumph, it would make her the third woman to win this award, and the first time two women have won this award in consecutive years. However, the absurdity of nominating Dune for just about everything else, except for the guy whose vision made it all possible is absolute madness. Hopefully, the Academy is keeping this award safe for Villeneuve for when the time comes to honour Dune: Part Two.

Will Win: Jane Campion

Should Win: Jane Campion

Could have been nominated: Denis Villeneuve for Dune

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Javier BardemBeing the Ricardos
  • Benedict CumberbatchThe Power of the Dog
  • Andrew Garfieldtick, tick… BOOM! 
  • Will SmithKing Richard
  • Denzel WashingtonThe Tragedy of Macbeth

Throughout this awards season, there have been four names consistently cropping up in this race: Cumberbatch, Garfield, Smith and Washington. All of whom are thoroughly deserving of their nominations. Washington’s performance in Macbeth is strong, but it’s not the finest performance of his career. Whereas for Cumberbatch and Garfield, this is most definitely the case. Similarly, Smith’s turn as Richard Williams, also represents some of his finest ever work.

The question as to who that fifth nominee could be was the source of much speculation. Given that the aforementioned four gentlemen have all been nominated before, there was an opportunity to hand someone their first-time nomination. Newcomer Jude Hill’s sweet and impactful debut performance in Belfast or to give Peter Dinklage’s beautiful performance in Cyrano would both have been very well deserved recipients of that nomination. Performances from giant blockbusters seldom cross into the Oscars, but a nomination for Daniel Craig for his final bow as James Bond in No Time To Die would also have been a worthy nominee. Instead, it feels like the Academy would have been a more worthy nomination than Bardem’s turn in Being the Ricardos, a nomination that’s just so safe and boring, that it’s extremely unsatisfying.

Yet irrespective of who that fifth nominee was in the end, it matters not because it will be the third time’s the charm for Will Smith, as nothing will stop him from collecting his first Oscar for his magnificent work portraying Richard Williams in King Richard

Will Win: Will Smith

Should Win: Will Smith

Should have been nominated: Jude Hill for Belfast or Peter Dinklage for Cyrano 

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Jessica ChastainThe Eyes of Tammy Faye
  • Olivia ColmanThe Lost Daughter
  • Penélope CruzParallel Mothers
  • Nicole KidmanBeing the Ricardos
  • Kristen StewartSpencer

Last year, this award was one of the most exciting and unpredictable races, and it looks like history is repeating itself. This year’s race is proving to be equally chaotic. With no one having the advantage of their film being a Best Picture nominee, it’s an extremely open race. However, unlike last year, this particular race feels quite weak by comparison.

Ever since Spencer first screened, Stewart was widely seen as the frontrunner, and fully deservingly so for her mesmerising and transformative turn as Princess Diana. Yet that early momentum evaporated, and there were question marks as to whether she would even secure that nomination, which would have been one of the biggest snubs in Oscars history. Cruz’s work in Parallel Mothers was a deeply powerful performance that even without their films getting Best Picture nominations, and also without picking up any of the precursor nominations, these performances are thoroughly deserving of their nominations. Jessica Chastain certainly goes all in with her Eyes of Tammy Faye performance, but ultimately it feels like a performance that’s a bit too flashy and is a case of style over substance.

Kidman’s nomination is probably the most deserving out of the three Ricardos nominations, but likewise, with her two co-stars, her nomination feels so uninspiring due to the sheer blandness of the film around her. The Academy clearly loves Olivia Colman, and while she was good in The Lost Daughter, she has definitely put in better performances in her career. Ultimately, the nominations of Colman and Kidman feel like nominations that are based purely on their name, and that’s really disappointing as the Academy really should have recognised the work from some of the Best Picture nominees, like Rachel Zegler from West Side Story or Emilia Jones from CODA, both of whom were far more deserving of nominations than Colman or Kidman.

But, like Will Smith, this is Chastain’s third nomination. She’s picked up a couple of the precursor awards, and if Tammy Faye takes home the Hair and Makeup Oscar, this could align for the first Oscar for Chastain. But honestly, it’s anyone’s guess.

However, what also really stings is the lack of nominations for actresses Jodie Comer and Tessa Thompson, whose fierce and powerful performances in films like The Last Duel and Passing respectively both utterly blow the majority of the competition out of the water.

Will Win: Jessica Chastain

Should Win: Kristen Stewart

Should have been nominated: Jodie Comer for The Last Duel, Tessa Thompson for Passing or Emilia Jones for CODA

And, last and certainly by no means least…

Best Picture

  • BelfastLaura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik, and Tamar Thomas
  • CODA – Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi, and Patrick Wachsberger
  • Don’t Look UpAdam McKay and Kevin Messick
  • Drive My CarTeruhisa Yamamoto
  • DuneMary Parent, Denis Villeneuve, and Cale Boyter
  • King RichardTim White, Trevor White, and Will Smith
  • Licorice PizzaSara Murphy, Adam Somner, and Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Nightmare AlleyGuillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale, and Bradley Cooper
  • The Power of the DogJane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Roger Frappier
  • West Side StorySteven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger

Click here to see my ranking of the Best Picture contenders.

It’s so pleasing to see the Academy complete the full set by giving ten films their moment in the spotlight, though some are far less deserving than others in this regard. It’s a joy to see such a mainstream juggernaut like Dune be a fierce competitor, and while it would be my choice this year, one hopes that the Academy will bestow all the awards when the time comes to honour Dune: Part Two. Parasite’s victory two years ago has opened doors for international features, and so it’s a joy to see films like Drive My Car get in the Best Picture race, though it will be great when there’s more than one international film in the race.

Netflix has been fiercely competing for its first Best Picture win over these last few years, and despite making a plethora of amazing films to try and bag that elusive Best Picture Oscar, it has not yet happened. With the most nominees this year, it was looking likely for a while that The Power of the Dog would become the first Netflix film to take home the Best Picture statute. However, Apple TV’s CODA has emerged at what has felt like at the last minute to potentially rain on Netflix’s parade.  The fact that these two films are the front runners, and that they’re both directed by women, is worthy of celebration. This really could go either way.

Will Win:  CODA 

Should Win: Dune 

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel and Passing 

————————————————–

Final counts

Will win:

  • Dune – 5
  • CODA – 3
  • Eyes of Tammy Faye – 2
  • King Richard – 2 
  • Belfast – 1
  • Cruella -1 
  • Drive My Car – 1
  • Encanto – 1
  • No Time To Die – 1
  • The Power of the Dog – 1
  • West Side Story -1

Should win:

  • Dune – 8
  • CODA – 2
  • King Richard – 2 
  • Belfast -1
  • Cruella – 1 
  • Drive My Car – 1
  • Encanto – 1
  • Mitchells vs The Machines -1
  • Spencer – 1
  • West Side Story – 1 
Posted in 2020-2029, Awards Season, Ranking

94th Academy Awards: Best Picture Nominees Ranked

Another awards season has come and gone. While this year’s awards season has unfortunately been full of controversy, it has been extremely satisfying to see films back on the big screen where they belong in 2021, after the previous year’s awards season was much changed due to the pandemic. With so many films coming out in 2021, it also is extremely satisfying to see ten films being selected for the top prize this year. This year’s crop includes a new adaptation of a classic musical, part one of an enthralling adaptation of a beloved sci-fi novel, a heartfelt coming-of-age story, the inspiring story of the father of two of the best athletes of all time, a gothic-noir thriller, and a beautiful semi-autobiographical film of the significance of the place we call home.

A (mostly) impressive crop of nominees, but as usual, only one film will emerge victorious. So, without any further ado, here’s my ranking of these films worst to best, starting with…

10. Don’t Look Up

Full review here

I always say, that every year there’s going to be one Best Picture nominee potentially that you are not going to get the fuss about. However, it has been a few years since a film has appeared in this lineup that I’ve completely and totally LOATHED. Adam McKay’s latest attempt at a satire takes that title this year, and the last time it happened, was another McKay film, Vice.

There’s not been a single one of McKay’s satirical films that I’ve enjoyed. The Big Short had its moments, but I was not a fan of it for the most part. It’s been a recurring theme throughout each of these films, there’s an overbearing smugness and pomposity to them that just winds me up something fierce. I thought Vice was bad, but here, that smugness was dialled up to the maximum, and it was just an extremely unbearable and rage-inducing film to sit through. There is an important, urgent message at its centre which I begrudgingly give the film credit for. However, by attempting to portray that message with the most unsubtle and unfunny satire, which is at times is practically insulting its audience, it renders the whole thing utterly pointless. The Academy clearly has a love for Adam McKay’s satires that I don’t think I will ever have. This film won’t want to look up and see its position in this list.

9. Licorice Pizza

It is incredible to think that for a director as beloved as Paul Thomas Anderson, he has so far, failed to win an Oscar, despite his films often getting recognition. There was much hype about his latest film, and on paper, it ticked all the boxes. A sweet 1970s set coming-of-age story, drenched in nostalgia. It could be the one film to end his long wait for an Oscar, but I for one, find the love for this film completely baffling. While it’s not as infuriatingly offensive as the preceding film on this list, it’s not a million miles off.

The film is immaculately shot and the performances of its leads Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim are excellent. However, there’s so much about this film that just fell completely flat. Firstly, the plot (if you can call really call it that) meanders and is at times extremely tedious, and it all felt extremely aimless and unconnected. But the film commits a couple of massive indiscretions that are just completely baffling, and avoidable. The first of which is the age gap between the leads. As a 25-year-old woman falling in love with a 15-year-old boy, the age gap felt extremely icky, especially as the film wanted these two to find a way to be together. If the genders were reversed, there would be a justifiable furious outcry. There’s a fantastic piece on why this age gap is so problematic, which you can read on In Session Film. It was a problem that could have been so easily avoided, Hoffman’s character is perceived to be grown up because of how mature he is, so why not just make him an adult? As if that wasn’t problematic enough, there are also two scenes that feature instances of a deeply uncomfortable depiction of a racist stereotype that serve no purpose to this story, and could have very easily been taken out of the film.

 

8. Nightmare Alley

Now, we’re into the stuff that actually deserves to be here. The newest film from Guillermo del Toro since he scooped Best Picture and Best Director for The Shape of Water at the 90th Academy Awards. Whenever you think of the Mexican auteur’s films, chances are you might associate them with the mythical monster genre. There’s nothing quite like that in his newest film, but there’s still a distinctly noir vibe to this enchanting mystery that pulls you in and keeps you engaged. A fascinating thriller focusing on Bradley Cooper’s Stanton Carlisle, a con man who charms his way into working at a carnival. As usual with any GDT picture, the production values are all excellent, from the stunning production design, Dan Lausten’s cinematography, it’s all visually immaculate. The first half is a bit sluggish in its pacing, but from the moment Dr. Lilith Ritter (a riveting Cate Blanchett) enters the picture, the film pulls you into the mystery and never lets up.

 

7. West Side Story

In 1961, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s West Side Story won a grand total of 10 Oscars, including Best Picture. 50 years later, acclaimed director Steven Spielberg took on the challenge of bringing this musical to a brand new generation. Quite the daunting task, especially for a director even one as acclaimed as Spielberg, especially when you consider that he’d never done a musical before!

In the hands of Spielberg, there was never any doubt that the film would be visually tremendous, even though Spielberg got a bit too trigger happy with the lens flares. Rachel Zegler, in her first film role, proves that she is an absolute star in the making with an incredible debut performance as Maria. Alongside her, Ariana DeBose excels as Anita with a performance that will surely land her a history-making Supporting Actress Oscar win. The story of finding love and hostility between rival communities remains as painfully relevant now as it did back in the 1960s. However, the presence of Ansel Elgort here really drags the film down. He lacks the charisma to be a leading man, but furthermore as everyone else around him by comparison, is a much more talented singer/performer, he really sticks out like a sore thumb.

 

6. Drive My Car

Grief is something that all we go through whenever someone near and dear to us departs this world. How does one process this when that happens to them? While there’s no right answer to that question, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s moving film provides a meditative and thorough examination of this process and how we as humans cope with it. Clocking in at three hours, the film does its best to keep the audience engaged right throughout as it takes a thought-provoking look at melancholy, and how we process the grief that we experience when someone extremely close to us has passed away.

The film focuses on a renowned theatre director (an outstanding Hidetoshi Nishijima), who’s struggling to come to terms with the loss of his beloved wife. To that end, he is driven to work by a chauffeur hired by the production company. A film that touches on such a difficult subject matter, with that runtime could have very easily been a recipe for disaster. While it is extremely heavy to watch, and you do begin to feel the three-hour run time by the end, Hamaguchi’s nuanced screenplay packs a lot of layers into the film and is a thought-provoking look at how we come to terms with grief and loss.

 

 

5. The Power of the Dog

Full review here

To the first film that is one of the two favourites to be the film that takes home the big prize of the evening. Jane Campion’s return to the director’s chair after a 12-year wait was a layered Western that has much more than shootouts on its mind than Cowboys and shootouts. Focusing on the tense relationship between two brothers in 1925 Montana, one very unhospitable and unkind to pretty much everyone and every one, one very much the opposite. So when one brother gets married,  it becomes a great source of tension between the more cruel and inhospitable brother and his more gentle brother’s new family.

Brilliantly acted by its entire cast, especially Cumberbatch and Smit-McPhee, Campion’s layered and nuanced screenplay slow-burner is a fascinating exploration of the concepts of toxic masculinity and homosexuality at a time when it would have been extremely taboo to talk about both. It bides its time with its script, thoroughly exploring the characters and the internal conflicts that are raging in them,

4. CODA

Full review here

And now to the second film that’s heavily tipped to take home the top prize. Coming-of-age stories have been plentiful over the years, so it can be hard to distinguish yourself from the crowd, but this is exactly what CODA does, and it does it in a beautiful and emotional manner. Focusing on Emilia Jones’s Ruby, a child of deaf adults, as she pursues her dream of going to a prestigious musical college. A dream that her deaf family can’t understand as they’re unable to appreciate Ruby’s talent.

There are familiar narrative beats that you will see in plenty of coming-of-age stories, and while CODA doesn’t deviate from these, it provides crucial representation for the deaf community. This is a very sweet and sincere love letter to the warm embrace and the emotional support that comes with being surrounded by a loving family, with Troy Kotsur stealing the show as Ruby’s father. With just one word, he was able to break the audience’s emotions into a million pieces. Plus, the fact that the two films that are the favourites to win Best Picture are both directed by women is something to be celebrated.

 

 

3. Belfast

Full review here

No matter where we go in this crazy world we live in, you never truly forget where you come from. Those formative years can play a massive part in shaping you as a person and they may well define the later years of your life, particularly if you’re growing up at a time when your country is in the midst of political turmoil and the threat of political violence erupting at any given moment. In what is his most personal film to date, Kenneth Branagh frames all this from the perspective of young Buddy, who watches all this unfold while trying to enjoy his childhood surrounded by his beloved family.

Jude Hill excels in what is a fantastic breakthrough performance as Buddy. He leads an outstanding cast of exceptional performances. From Jamie Dornan and Catriona Balfe as his loving parents, to Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench as Buddy’s Grandparents. The mark of a quality performance is one where you see the character and not the actor, and this applies to every member of this cast.  Given when the film is set, it seems unlikely that there’d be much room for comedy, but Branagh’s screenplay expertly balances the political tensions with brilliant moments of humour.

2. King Richard

Full review here

Venus and Serena Wiliams: two of the most instantly recognisable names in any sport. Over the course of their careers, these fantastically gifted athletes have cemented themselves as two of the best athletes not just in the sport of tennis, but of all time. While you will undoubtedly know their name, someone whose name you might not know is their father: Richard Williams. This emotionally uplifting biopic provides a detailed look at the integral impact that Richard had on two of the best athletes of all time.

The film pays tribute to the parents who sacrifice so much so that their budding sports superstars can achieve their dreams of success. Will Smith’s likely Best Actor win will be so well deserved. He’s a man who’s committed to his plan to ensure his daughters achieve their superstar dreams, and will not suffer fools gladly. In a film that is the biopic of two of the biggest stars in the history of tennis, it might seem odd to frame it from Richard’s perspective, yet the film makes you understand just how much of an impact Richard had on his daughters’ early careers. Yet, crucially,  the film doesn’t lose sight of the women in this story. Aunjaune Ellis’s towering performance as Venus and Serena’s mother Brandy goes toe to toe with Richard, and Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as the young versions Venus and Serena are all equally brilliant.

1. Dune

Full review here

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the closure of cinemas across the world meant that there was a distinct lack of the iconic cinematic blockbusters that audiences have enjoyed for decades. With the return of cinemas last year, it was extremely pleasing to see these blockbusters return to where they belong. No film typifies the wondrous experience of seeing films on the big screen in 2021 than the first half of this adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel from visionary director Denis Villeneuve.

Villeneuve’s passion for the source material shines through with every frame. The sheer scale of the world-building is awe-inspiring, in a manner that’s akin to Lord of the Rings, for example. It sweeps the audience up with its breath-taking visual majesty, perfectly accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s score that will transport you back to Arrakis in an instant. The stacked ensemble cast is all pitch-perfect in their roles, and Villeneuve’s direction is masterful in every respect. The novel was said to be unfilmable, but Villeneuve proved everyone wrong. I cannot wait to make the trip back to Arrakis in 2023 to witness Part Two.

—————————————————————————————

Could/should have been nominated…

 

This year, for the first time in what feels like a long time, we have a full set of ten films that are up for the biggest prize. But like I do every year, I like to have a look at what could have been, because there are some films that simply put should not be in this year’s race. So if I was an Oscar voter, here are three films that would make a perfect Best Picture lineup this year. So out go Don’t Look Up, Licorice Pizza, and Nightmare Alley and in their place, we have:

The Last Duel (review). I am at a complete loss as to how this has completely missed the mark for this year’s awards season. It really should be a contender in numerous categories and should be absolutely running away with Best Actress, as with the exceptions of Kristen Stewart and Tessa Thompson, no one came close to matching Jodie Comer’s brilliant leading actress performance in this enthralling historical epic. Directed by the legendary Sir Ridley Scott, the film’s poor box office probably didn’t help matters, but that shouldn’t have mattered. Its important and timely themes meant that it should have been a frontrunner, and the fact that it’s not is something I will forever be bitter about.

Spencer (review). Speaking of Stewart, the fact that hers is the only Oscar nomination for Pablo Lorrain’s biopic of Princess Diana is so baffling. While that nomination is thoroughly deserved, the film was an extremely unique biopic that took creative liberties with the troubled marriage between Diana and Prince Charles as it was clear that the marriage had broken down. It should have been a shoo-in for production design and costumes at the very least…

Passing. The subject of race has been a major talking point over these last few years, and in her directorial debut, Rebecca Hall takes a considered and thought-provoking approach to this topical issue, and gets awards-worthy performances out of Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. Two more actors who, along with Comer should have been nominated this year at the very least. Like The Last Duel, Passing being completely shut out of this year’s awards season is just beyond baffling.

Posted in 2020-2029, Awards Season

93rd Academy Awards: Final Predictions

After the strangest year in living memory, we’ve reached the end of another (somewhat elongated) awards season cycle. To think that last year’s awards season was just a few weeks shy of the entire world being brought to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic is quite remarkable. While we were all celebrating that historic night, we all had no idea what was about to come our way. The world might have been brought to a halt for quite some time, and our cinemas might have been shut for the most part over the last 13 months or so. Yet even with that, that hasn’t stopped plenty of high quality films from being released, and now the time has come for Hollywood’s biggest night, although it will certainly be a very different ceremony, in comparison to previous years.

As the curtain comes down on another awards season, a controversy never seems to be too far away from occurring in one form or another. Yet, this year seems to have been remarkably (and thankfully) controversy free. Of course, there have been the usual discussions about blatant snubs, which we will certainly touch upon. But with this collection of nominations, history has most certainly been made. After last year’s ground-breaking moment that saw a film not in the English Language win Best Picture for the first time ever, it is looking extremely likely that more history will be made.

So once again, with 23 golden statues up for grabs, question remains as to who will claim Oscar glory? Time to have a gaze at my metaphorical crystal ball and give my predictions, as well as give my thoughts on each category, minus the documentaries and the short films.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Sacha Baron CohenThe Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Daniel KaluuyaJudas and the Black Messiah
  • Leslie Odom Jr.One Night in Miami
  • Paul RaciSound of Metal
  • LaKeith StanfieldJudas and the Black Messiah

Kicking off my predications with a category that has five absolutely perfect performances across the board.  I like each and every one of these performances, and all are worthy of being nominated. Baron Cohen’s work might have had him as an early front runner, but once Judas and the Black Messiah was given a wide release, there was only going to be one winner. Daniel Kaluuya’s extremely memorable turn as Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton has been sweeping all before him, and very deservedly so. Kaluuya’s output as an actor in the years since he got his first nomination for 2017’s Get Out has been flawless (Widows, Black Panther, Queen & Slim) and so it’s fitting that with what is perhaps his best performance of his career, that the Brit will win his first Oscar. Though it must be said, LaKeith Stanfield’s inclusion here is a massive head scratcher, when he’s very much the lead in Judas and the Black Messiah shrugs… 

Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya 

Should Win: Daniela Kaluuya

Could have been nominated: Alan Kim for Minari

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Maria BakalovaBorat Subsequent Moviefilm
  • Glenn CloseHillbilly Elegy
  • Olivia ColmanThe Father
  • Amanda SeyfriedMank
  • Youn Yuh-jungMinari 

While it is mental to think that Glenn Close somehow hasn’t won an Oscar yet, the memories of the most unexpected shock a mere two years after Oliva Colman took the trophy ahead of Close in the Best Actress race will be fresh in many minds. It was the most unexpected, yet simultaneously delightful win. Now, these two are back competing against one another for the Supporting Actress gong. But this time there’s no chance of a repeat as both are unlikely to win. Close’s nomination is an indication of her being an Academy favourite even though, she was also nominated for a Razzie for this very same performance. Maria Bakalova’s performance was certainly the best part of Borat 2. But this time, it seems as though both Close and Colman will not emerge victorious, as Youn Yuh-Jung’s tender performance as the playful and charismatic grandmother in Minari should land her an Oscar, and if she wins, she will be the third oldest Best Supporting Actress winner in history.

Will Win:  Youn Yuh-Jung 

Should Win: Youn Yuh-Jung

Could have been nominated: Ellen Burstyn for Pieces of a Woman

Best Original Screenplay

  • Judas and the Black Messiah – Screenplay by Will Berson and Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Keith Lucas, and Kenny Lucas
  • MinariLee Isaac Chung
  • Promising Young WomanEmerald Fennell
  • Sound of Metal – Screenplay by Darius Marder and Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder and Derek Cianfrance
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7Aaron Sorkin

Five very strong screenplays all round, and as all five of these films are Best Picture nominees, there’s no obvious weak link. Yet, it would appear that this is a straight fight between Chicago 7 and Promising Young Woman. Emerald Fennell’s screenplay has been taking home plenty of awards in this awards season, whereas Sorkin has only taken the Golden Globe. Promising Young Woman is definitely the more daring and bold of the two films, and has generated plenty of online discussion since it became available to watch in the UK. The last time a woman won this award was way back in 2007 with Juno, so it would be a just reward for Fennell’s bold and daring directorial debut to be rewarded with a screenplay win.

Will Win:  Emerald Fennell

Should Win: Emerald Fennell

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm – Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, and Lee Kern; Story by Baron Cohen, Hines, Swimer, and Nina Pedrad
  • The FatherChristopher Hampton & Florian Zeller
  • NomadlandChloé Zhao
  • One Night in MiamiKemp Powers
  • The White TigerRamin Bahrani

With two of these five being Best Picture nominees, it’s pretty much a straight fight between these two for the statue. Given that Chloe Zhao is almost certain to triumph in terms of Directing and Best Picture, she might just make it a hat-trick with another win for her screenplay to go along with those wins. Yet, given her certain triumphs in those aforementioned categories, it could stand to reason that the voters may want to use this a chance to reward other films. Therefore, The Father could sneak a win, due to its extremely innovative approach to how it tackles the depiction of dementia.

Yet, I’m backing Zhao to make it a hat-trick. Furthermore, to see the recipients of both the screenplay categories be awarded to women would be a truly historic moment.

Will Win: Chloé Zhao

Should Win: Chloé Zhao

Best Animated Feature Film

  • OnwardDan Scanlon and Kori Rae
  • Over the MoonGlen Keane, Gennie Rin, and Peilin Chou
  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: FarmageddonRichard Phelan, Will Becher, and Paul Kewley
  • SoulPete Docter and Dana Murray
  • WolfwalkersTomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Paul Young, and Stéphan Roelants

When it comes to this award, so often the recipient is a film made by Walt Disney Animation Studios or its sister studio Pixar. In the 2010s, only on two occasions was the winner not a film from either of those two studios. Going into the new decade, it looks likely that trend will continue with Soul surely expected to triumph. While Soul is undeniably beautiful and bold with the philosophical themes, in the age of fully computer generated animation, the art of hand drawn animation is one that deserves to be celebrated more. While I did enjoy Soul, I found Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers to be much the stronger film. It captures the majesty of the hand drawn animations style beautifully and combines that with a gorgeous, magical and emotional story. Yet, its howls are almost certainly going to fall on deaf ears.

Will Win: Soul

Should Win: Wolfwalkers

Best International Feature Film

  • Another Round (Denmark) – directed by Thomas Vinterberg
  • Better Days (Hong Kong) – directed by Derek Tsang
  • Collective (Romania) – directed by Alexander Nanau
  • The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)  – directed by Kaouther Ben Hania
  • Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)  – directed by Jasmila Žbanić

The fact that Thomas Vinterberg is nominated for Best Director is surely enough to tip the scales in Another Round’s favour. Bottom’s up!

Will Win: Another Round

Should Win: Another Round

Best Original Score

  • Da 5 Bloods – Terence Blanchard
  • Mank – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
  • Minari – Emile Mosseri
  • News of the World – James Newton Howard
  • Soul – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste

I’ll touch on this more a bit later on, but the fact that this is the only category in which Da 5 Bloods has scored a nomination is really disappointing. Yet, Terence Blanchard thoroughly deserves his nomination, and the same goes for Emile Mosseri’s soothing score for Minari perfectly captured the vibe of of the film. Yet in a year when Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross have been nominated for their excellent scores for Mank and Soul, it is their work on Pixar’s latest film that should see the duo pick up their second Oscar following their wins for The Social Network back in 2011.

Will Win: Soul 

Should Win: Soul

Could have been nominated: Ludwig Goransson for Tenet

Best Original Song

  • “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah – Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas
  • “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite
  • “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus, and Rickard Göransson
  • “Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead – Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
  • “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami… – Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom Jr. and Sam Ashworth

It’s no wonder that in such a tumultuous year for humanity as a species, that a number of powerful songs have emerged. Fight for You and Hear My Voice would both be more than worthy winners. Yet, with Leslie Odom Jr’s nomination in Supporting Actor unlikely to transform into a win, this would be the best place to reward him for the powerful ballad that is “Speak Now”. The lyrics of this beautiful song are extremely emotive and timely, and Odom Jr’s vocals are extraordinary.

Will Win:  Speak Now from One Night in Miami 

Should Win: Speak Now from One Night in Miami 

Best Sound

  • Greyhound – Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders, and David Wyman
  • Mank – Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance, and Drew Kunin
  • News of the World – Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller, and John Pritchett
  • Soul – Ren Klyce, Coya Elliot, and David Parker
  • Sound of Metal – Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortes, and Philip Bladh

The conversion of the two sound categories into one seems to be a rather lazy move on the Academy’s part, and seems to have been done purely so members wouldn’t have to work out the difference between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. Regardless, the fact one of these films has “Sound” in its title is a massive help. On top of which, the most extraordinary sound work is a fundamental part of what made Sound of Metal such a powerful and moving experience.

Will Win:  Sound of Metal 

Should Win: Sound of Metal

Best Production Design

  • The Father – Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Sroughton
  • Mank – Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale
  • News of the World – Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan
  • Tenet – Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

The first of three battles that seems to be a head to head between Ma Rainey and Mank. Given Mank is the only one with the Best Picture nomination, and added to the fact that it’s been sweeping most of the awards in this category all season long, it stands to reason that Mank will be victorious.

Will Win: Mank 

Should Win: Mank

Best Cinematography

  • Judas and the Black Messiah – Sean Bobbitt
  • Mank – Erik Messerschmidt
  • News of the World – Dariusz Wolski
  • Nomadland – Joshua James Richards
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Phedon Papamichael

While Erik Messerschmidt’s work on Mank is extraordinary, Nomadland has been taking the majority of the awards in this year’s awards season, and when you look at the sheer beauty of the film’s cinematography (see the above image), it is easy to see why.

Will Win: Nomadland 

Should Win: Nomadland

Should have been nominated: Lachlan Milne for Minari

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Emma. – Marese Langan, Laura Allen, and Claudia Stolze
  • Hillbilly Elegy – Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, and Matthew Mungle
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, and Jamika Wilson
  • Mank – Gigi Williams, Kimberley Spiteri and Colleen LaBaff
  • Pinocchio – Dalia Colli, Mark Coulier, and Francesco Pegoretti

Ma Rainey Vs Mank, round 2. The victor will be Ma Rainey.

Will Win:  Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Should Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Costume Design

  • Emma. – Alexandra Byrne
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Ann Roth
  • Mank – Trish Summerville
  • Mulan – Bina Daigeler
  • Pinocchio – Massimo Cantini Parrini

The third and final battle between Ma Rainey and Mank, and I think in this decider, Mank will take it as it’s evident that a lot of work went into capturing the glamour of 1930s Hollywood.

Will Win: Mank 

Should Win: Mank

Best Film Editing

  • The Father – Yorgos Lamprinos
  • Nomadland – Chloé Zhao
  • Promising Young Woman – Frédéric Thoraval
  • Sound of Metal – Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Alan Baumgarten

It may well be the case that Chicago 7 could be this year’s The Irishman, in that it scoops lots of nominations but walks away empty handed. It looks that way, but perhaps this award could be its saving grace as the film was edited tremendously well. Yet so often film editing and the sound categories go hand-in-hand, as the last few years have seen this award go to a sound editing/mixing winner. Since that has now become one category, the odds could well be in favour of Sound of Metal.

Will Win:  Sound of Metal

Should Win: Sound of Metal

Best Visual Effects

  • Love and Monsters – Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camailleri, Matt Everitt, and Brian Cox
  • The Midnight Sky – Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawren, Max Solomon, and David Watkins
  • Mulan – Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury, and Steven Ingram
  • The One and Only Ivan – Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones, and Santiago Colomo Martinez
  • Tenet – Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher

So often this category is dominated with flagship blockbusters, but as most of those got pushed back, there seems to be little chance of anything stopping Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending, time-reversing/inversing shenanigans from collecting its only Oscar.

Will Win:  Tenet

Should Win: Tenet

Best Director

  • Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round
  • David Fincher – Mank
  • Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
  • Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
  • Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Prior to this year’s awards season, only five women had ever been nominated for Best Director, and never had two women been nominated in the same year. It is history in the making to see two women make up this year’s shortlist, and both these women are fully meriting of their spots in this year’s line up. The fact that Emerald Fennell directed Promising Young Woman whilst being heavily pregnant speaks volumes to her stamina and dedication. But to give credit where credit is due, Zhao wrote, directed, edited and co-produced Nomadland, which like with Fennell, speaks wonders to the level of commitment that Zhao put in to bring this project to life. Either of these women would be worthy winners. While my personal preference is for Fennell, in addition to her likely win for Best Picture, Chloe Zhao should be clutching two of those golden statues come the end of the evening, potentially three if she wins for her screenplay.

Although, as was the case at the Golden Globes, this category could have been three women had Regina King made the shortlist, and while there’s no real weak link in these category, I would have linked to have seen her be rewarded for her incredible directorial debut with a nomination here.

Will Win: Chloé Zhao

Should Win: Emerald Fennell

Could have been nominated: Regina King for One Night in Miami

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • 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

Easily one of the most difficult categories in this entire awards season to predict. Unlike last year, there has been no consistent winner with each of these nominees winning in different awards ceremonies. Honestly the five performances here are all worthy of being bestowed with the award, but it is exceedingly difficult to predict who is gonna triumph. But I will try anyway, so here goes nothing.

Andra Day’s performance as Billie Holliday is easily the best thing about the film, and as last year showed, a good performance in a so-so biopic can still get you the win. Vanessa Kirby’s powerful performance could get her the win but the lack of nominations for her film anywhere else means her chances of a triumph are extremely slim. Viola Davis is a beloved actor, and she was extraordinary in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but the argument could be made that her performance was more supporting than lead. Hence, this leaves the two women who appear in Best Picture nominees. Given that Nomadland is looking a certainty to win Best Picture, McDormand’s status as a producer of the film means that she would win an Oscar. Which leaves Carey Mulligan, who in my opinion gave the most layered performance that is the best of these five, and so I am predicting her for a win.

Although yet again, in another year that saw an absolutely stunning performance by an actress in a horror film go completely unnoticed, it really is baffling as to why the Academy seems to overlook these performances as Elisabeth Moss’s unforgettable performance in The Invisible Man could have got her a nomination.

Will Win: Carey Mulligan

Should Win: Carey Mulligan

Should have been nominated: Elisabeth Moss for the The Invisible Man

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Riz AhmedSound of Metal
  • Chadwick BosemanMa Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Anthony HopkinsThe Father
  • Gary OldmanMank
  • Steven YeunMinari

An extremely strong Best Actor line up this year, and it could have been even stronger.  At this moment it’s looking like a battle between Hopkins and Boseman. Hopkins’s devastating performance is his best work in years, and he could yet take the trophy following on from his BAFTA win. Riz Ahmed (the first Muslim to be nominated for Best Actor), could be a wildcard but I don’t think it is his year, although I am certain that Ahmed will win an Oscar one day. But this should be a posthumous win for Chadwick Boseman. Every time he’s on screen, you can feel the pain of a man who knows he’s giving one of his last ever performances, and he pours that passion into what is a moving final performance for Boseman, who tragically died last year. Even if Boseman was still with us, he would be a very strong contender and so this is the perfect opportunity to reward Boseman’s glittering, but tragically short career, with a well deserved posthumous win.

But the shameful fact that Delroy Lindo was snubbed for his brilliant performance in Da 5 Bloods is still a really disappointing snub, especially when you consider that he could have easily been nominated over Gary Oldman. The release of Spike Lee’s latest joint was extremely timely as it coincided with the horrific events that unfolded in the USA in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Yet at the same time, had it arrived much later in the year, it might have been more in contention for some of the top prizes.

Will Win: Chadwick Boseman 

Should Win: Chadwick Boseman

Should have been nominated: Delroy Lindo for Da 5 Bloods or Kingsley Ben-Adir for One Night in Miami…

And, last and certainly by no means least….

Best Picture

  • The Father David Parfitt, Jean-Louis Livi, and Philippe Carcassonne
  • Judas and the Black Messiah Shaka King, Charles D. King, and Ryan Coogler
  • MankCeán Chaffin, Eric Roth, and Douglas Urbanski
  • Minari Christina Oh
  • NomadlandFrances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, and Chloé Zhao
  • Promising Young WomanBen Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell, and Josey McNamara
  • Sound of MetalBert Hamelinick and Sacha Ben Harroche
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 Marc Platt and Stuart Besser

Click here to see my ranking of the Best Picture contenders.

In this most strangest of years, and awards seasons, the big prize is looking like a lock for Chloe Zhao’s poignant film about the life of the modern day nomads. The Trial of the Chicago 7 might have been an early favourite, perhaps due to the passion that was surrounding it as it was release very close to last year’s US Presidential election. Had that election gone the other way, it might have maintained that momentum and turned it into a victory. Judas and the Black Messiah and Promising Young Woman both carry powerful and urgent messages that demand audiences to keep up the fights against racial injustice and sexual assault and rape respectively, and for my money these are the most important films that have emerged over the past year or so. Hence a victory for either of these two films would be more than worthy of the top prize. Yet, all the pointers point towards a Nomadland victory.

Will Win:  Nomadland

Should Win: Judas and the Black Messiah

Should have been nominated: One Night in Miami and Another Round

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Final counts

Will win:

  • Nomadland- 4
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – 2
  • Mank – 2
  • Promising Young Woman – 2
  • Soul – 2
  • Sound of Metal – 2
  • Another Round – 1
  • Judas and the Black Messiah – 1
  • Minari – 1
  • One Night in Miami – 1
  • Tenet – 1

Should win:

  • Promising Young Woman – 3
  • Judas and the Black Messiah – 2
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – 2
  • Mank – 2
  • Nomadland – 2
  • Sound of Metal – 2
  • Another Round – 1
  • Minari – 1
  • One Night in Miami – 1
  • Soul – 1
  • Tenet – 1
  • Wolfwalkers -1
Posted in 2020-2029, Awards Season, Ranking

93rd Academy Awards: Best Picture Nominees Ranked

After what is one of the longest awards seasons in living memory, it is finally time for Hollywood to pay tribute to the best cinematic offerings of 2020/21. It was certainly a strange year that forced cinemas to stay shut for many months, hence the slight delay to the main event this weekend. But that didn’t prevent a number of outstanding films from being released. With a total of eight films up for the big prize this year: including the behind the scenes of how one of the most iconic films of all time came to be, a couple of heart-warming tales about life in America (from two very different perspectives), a gripping and timely courtroom drama, a heart-breaking character study of a man suffering from a terrible disease, an urgent film about an overlooked figure of history, and a dark and thrilling tale of revenge.

There’s lots of quality cinema in this year’s crop, but only one scoop that Best Picture crown. So, without further ado, let us rank these from worst to best (as always per the opinion of yours truly), starting with….

8. Mank

It seems like every year there’s always one film, no matter who you are, that you just don’t get the fuss about, and this year Mank is that film. I never thought a film by David Fincher would be the bottom of this list, yet here we are. When you have get a maestro like Fincher directing a film, that covers how the script of one of the most influential films of all time Citizen Kane came to be, expectations are going to be set high. Having watched (and loved) Citizen Kane for the first time just before watching Mank, it raised my expectations even higher. Furthermore, with a cast that is packed with talent like Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance, surely that’s a sure-fire hit for cinematic gold. Yet, sadly for me, this film just didn’t match those lofty expectations.

To give credit where credit is due, Fincher directs the film beautifully. The production design, costumes and cinematography are all absolutely stunning, and the performances across the board are all very good, with Amanda Seyfried being a particular highlight. What let the film down for me is the script, it had its moments, but I just wasn’t as intrigued by the film as I wanted/expected to be, and that is really disappointing.

7. Minari

Full review here

For generations and generations of people looking to migrate to the United States, the notion of the American Dream to achieve economic success has been the source of their desire to move to the country. Yet, that desire to achieve that dream is not always so straightforward, and in this semi-autobiographical film from Lee Isaac Chung, Minari captures one family’s trials and tribulations as they bid to achieve that dream by opening and running their own farm in 1980s Arkansas.

The cast is filled with impeccable performances, from Steven Yeun’s loving but stern portrayal as the family’s patriarch, to Youn Yuh-jung’s likely Oscar winning turn as the family’s Grandmother. The interaction between her and little David (Alan Kim) is extremely heart-warming, but also extremely amusing. While the film focuses on the lives of this one family, the themes about finding identity in what can be at times (especially right now), a very unforgiving world, is something that we can all relate to.

 

6. The Father

Full review coming soon

Sir Anthony Hopkins is an an actor whose career started all the way back in 1960. Over the years, he’s given us plenty of extraordinary performances. Yet, as his career reaches its seventh decade, it is quite the accomplishment to say that a film released in 2020/21, could arguably be the greatest performance that he has given across his glittering career. In this heart-breaking film from Florian Zeller, it might just have got the best ever performance out of this veteran actor, or at least his best performance since his memorable Oscar winning turn in Silence of the Lambs.

The way in which Zeller directs this film is extremely innovative, and it pays off as it is clearly to try and establish to the audience just how much of an effect a disease like dementia can have on the human brain. As well as Hopkins’s absolutely devastating performance, special mention must go to Olivia Colman’s tender performance as the daughter of Hopkin’s character. It cannot be easy to watch someone you love go through this terrible condition, and who is put in the most uncomfortable position of watching her father’s condition slowly deteriorate. The way the film is told from his perspective enables the audience to go into his mind as his grip on reality slowly begins to unravel, and it’s truly harrowing to watch, especially if someone you love has been affected by this terrible disease.

 

5. Nomadland

Full review coming soon

The Economic Crash of 2008 was undoubtedly an extremely tough time for lots of people. Countless jobs lost, lives and economic livelihoods shattered. For one woman, having lost everything that tied her to a town where she spent many happy years of her life, it leads her to selling most of her belongings and starting a new life as a modern day nomad, living in a caravan in the American West.

Written, directed, edited and produced by Chloe Zhao, Nomadland’s beauty lies in the depiction of the nomad lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that undoubtedly comes with its challenges, but due to the inspired casting of some real life nomads, it brings their lifestyle to life in a manner that is poignant and emotional. The beauty of the film shines through, in part thanks to the gorgeous cinematography, which makes it feel like a world away from the constant noise of the capitalist world that seemingly (at least pre the COVID-19 pandemic) never stops turning. At the centre of all of it, is a subdued, but wonderful performance from Frances McDormand. While it is not my favourite film of this year’s crop, it would be a very worthy winner if, as expected, it takes home the top prize on Oscar night.

 

4. Sound of Metal

Full review here

Imagine if you’re a musician, music is your passion and you live for the thrill of playing music to live crowds. But what if one day, you begin to realise that you are rapidly losing your hearing and your entire future career as a musician is in jeopardy? It’s a position that no one would want to be in, yet it is a position that Ruben (an extraordinary Riz Ahmed) finds himself in. Faced with an impossibly difficult decision, he must decide how to handle the devastating loss of one of his senses, and he seeks assistance from a centre for the deaf, led by a very compassionate recovering war veteran.

Directed beautifully by Darius Marder in a passionate directorial debut, the film shines a light on the deaf community in an extremely touching manner. Bolstered by some absolutely extraordinary sound work, the film’s heart comes from the time that Ruben spends with the deaf community. And most importantly of all, the film is a lesson about coming to term’s with one’s circumstances, whilst reminding the world that deafness is not a disability.

 

3. Trial of the Chicago 7

Full review here

There are certain names that automatically just capture attention whenever they’re brought up in discussions, and Aaron Sorkin is certainly one of those names. Having written a plethora of memorable screenplays over the years, he made a seamless transition to directing. for his second film, he writes and directs once again, to tremendous effect to tell the story of the Chicago 7, who were essentially put on trial in front of the whole world in the build up to the 1968 Democratic Convention.

The film draws a strong correlation between the protests that occurred in the 1960s over the Vietnam War to the protests that erupted across America in response to systemic racism, in a year that felt extremely politically charged due to the 2020 US Presidential Election, and the previous four years under an administration that sought to swiftly quash any dissent and protest. Filled to the brim with top performances, there’s so many that could have got nominations, but in the end it was Sacha Baron Cohen’s excellent turn as Abbie Hoffman that took the deserved plaudits. Once seen as perhaps the frontrunner, it might have lost a bit of steam since its release last October, but it still remains a powerful piece of filmmaking from Aaron Sorkin.

 

2. Promising Young Woman

Full review here

Rape and sexual assault are never comfortable subjects to talk about, but in the years since the Me Too Movement spoke out, it has forced the world to have an urgent conversation about these subjects, and how women are too often subjected to this kind of horrific abuse. In her bold and daring directorial debut, Emerald Fennell tackles these themes head on, and in so doing has created a film that holds a mirror to society in an extremely arresting manner.

At the centre of this thrilling tale of revenge is Carey Mulligan’s Cassie. A woman who once had a bright and promising future, but due to this traumatic incident, her once bright future has faded. Instead, she is focused purely on her revenge mission. Mulligan’s tour-de-force performances keeps you hooked from the get go as you watch her go about her mission to extract revenge against those who caused her that trauma all those years ago. The film keeps you guessing right until its ending, which has, and will undoubtedly continue to generate much discussion in the coming years.

1. Judas and the Black Messiah

Full review here

When you look back at how the Civil Rights movement is taught, there are certain powerful historical figures that are universally recognised all over the world. Names such as Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X to name but a few. Yet the name of Fred Hampton is not one that is nearly well known, probably because it is barely taught at all, and that is staggering. As when you watch this extraordinary film, it is incomprehensible to work out why this man’s name is not mentioned in the same breath as those other names.

What makes this film so relevant and so extremely powerful is the unmistakeable parallels between the time that Fred Hampton campaigned against injustice, and in the 21st century. To put it bluntly,  not a lot has happened in all those years as the systemic racism that Hampton rallied against is still very much present in our society, as demonstrated by the worldwide protests that took place in 2020, with people taking a stand. While LaKeith Stanfield does incredible work, it’s the absolutely scintillating performance from Daniel Kaluuya that drives the film forward as he imbues Fred Hampton with powerful leadership qualities. Every time Hampton is on screen talking, you’re listening to what he has to say.  “You can kill a revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution.” Over fifty years later, and Hampton’s words are truer now than perhaps they’ve ever been.

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Could/should have been nominated…

Every time I come to write this list, I always ask myself why the Academy doesn’t fill take the opportunity to nominate the maximum number of 10 films for the top honour? While these eight do all (just about in the case of one film) deserve their spot for the biggest prize of the night, I always like to have a look at what could have joined their ranks to compete for the top honour. So, what could have joined their company? Well if I had my way, Mank drops out, and then I choose the following three films to make it a perfect ten:

One Night in Miami (review): Four influential figures of the Civil Rights Movement, one fictionalised evening, directed by Academy Award winner Regina King, I mean what more needs to be said? Adapted from the Kemp Power’s stage play of the same name, the film isn’t held back by its stage play roots, as the four performances of the men playing these historical figures are all extraordinary. Furthermore, the screenplay that goes deep in exploring powerful historical themes that very much related to today’s society.

Another Round (review): There’s an undeniable joy that comes when no matter what the occasion, we sit down and have a tipple or two to celebrate. Yet you’d think that no one would have a drink whilst working on their day job Yet that is exactly what a group of four schoolteachers do to try and bring a bit of excitement back in their lives. Thomas Vinterberg’s film expertly walks the line between comedy and tragedy, whilst getting one of the best performances out of Mads Mikkelsen in a long time.

Wolfwalkers (review): Seldom do animated films make the leap from the animated category to competing for the top prize. Yet in the case of Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers, this is a film that absolutely deserves to make that list. In an era where most animation studios are going for fully CGI animation, there’s something to be admired about a studio that creates hand drawn animation, and Wolfwalkers is a magically enchanting tale that continues to enhance Cartoon Saloon’s growing reputation as a powerhouse animation studio.