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

——————————————

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.