No doubt, this will be an odd Academy Award ceremony.
And while we’re bummed we didn’t get a chance to see certain films and performances up on big screens at big theaters, at least we got to see them. Hollywood can argue about the artistic merits of streaming all it wants, but the process sure makes it more convenient to see a movie. So much so that during the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards on April 25, we might even find ourselves rooting for our fave in a category we wouldn’t normally care about. Say maybe best film editing. (Go Yorgos Lamprinos!)
To celebrate a film year of unprecedented weirdness, let’s break out the bubbly, put on our best lounge wear (since we’ve perfected that look during the pandemic) and prepare to shout back at the scream, applaud at our favorites and watch poor Glenn Close walk away from the Oscars empty-handed yet again. (Sorry, Glenn, that’s my prediction and I’m sticking with it.)
So who will win on April 25? Who should win? Stay tuned film fans.
The nominees: “The Father,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Mank,” “Minari,” “Nomadland,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Sound of Metal,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
The backstory : Relatively speaking, “The Father” doesn’t stand a chance. “Judas and the Black Messiah,” one of several historical, civil rights-themed films released in the past year, details how the FBI resorted to deadly tactics to muffle a Black Panther rising star. Its mad-as-hell approach worked tremendously well, perhaps too well for Oscar voters. “Mank” rewrites Hollywood history, a no-no given that the Academy Awards is where Hollywood fawns all over itself.
“Promising Young Woman” rebelled against toxic male behavior (and featured the best use of a Britney Spears song in a film yet), but the scathing commentary cuts way too close to the bone in Los Angeles; as for the mighty “Sound of Metal,” there’s been not one drumroll for it (at least in this category). “The Trial of Chicago 7,” following its Screen Actors Guild win, should be sitting pretty, except that it’s a Netflix film, which, even in a year full of streaming, may work against it.
That leaves two contenders: “Nomadland,” which paired real American nomads with Oscar-winner Frances McDormand, and the Korean American immigrant family drama “Minari.” “Normadland” earned stellar reviews but has encountered a late backlash. “Minari” is a heart-warmer that, in a year marked by attacks against Asian Americans, tells a story that many families have experienced but few have seen in a film. It’s eloquent, elegant and filled with humanity.
What will win: “Minari.”
What should win: “Nomadland.” Chloe Zhao’s exploration of people eking it out on the fringes of American capitalism captures the highs and lows of a nomadic generation. It’s observant, unrushed and never overstated as it shows the human toll of a buckled economy.
The nominees: Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”), David Fincher (“Mank”), Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”), Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)
The backstory: This category is a slam-dunk. But let’s whittle it down anyway. Vinterberg brightened our dull and dim 2020 with this hard-drinking dramedy starring Mads Mikkelsen. He also has zero chance of winning. Fincher revisited Old Hollywood in dazzling black-and-white, but it was the screenplay that really took us there. Chung brought a gentle grace to his nostalgic semi-autobiographical tale, but that doesn’t win directing Oscars. Fennell turned a revenge thriller into a damning indictment on bro culture, but it might have been too harsh for voters to take. Zhao, meanwhile, defined what it means to be a generous director, allowing actors and non-actors a wide range to explore both their physical and emotional landscapes.
Who will win: Zhao
Who should win: Zhao. She brought to screen the resiliency and reality of average folk weathering hard times and forging a temporary community out on this vast land. She’s a master at expressing the fading hues of the American Dream.
The nominees: Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”), Gary Oldman (“Mank”), Steven Yeun (“Minari”)
Who will win: Boseman, a young, talented and beloved actor who died of cancer last year, is a lock.
Who should win: Ahmed. He was in nearly every scene of “Sound of Metal” and his intense performance captured every essence of a heavy-metal drummer dealing with the shattering prognosis that he’s going deaf. It’s the best performance in this category, and arguably the best performance of the year. Period. It says something that Ahmed is not deaf, but the hearing-impaired community has embraced his performance nonetheless.
The nominees: 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”)
The backstory: Kirby is the long shot, and that’s too bad given the gut-punch of a performance she gives as a grieving woman coping in the aftermath of a childbirth that goes terribly wrong. In “Nomadland,” McDormand seemed almost documentary-like in her role, and that’s intended as the highest compliment. But she’s won too many times. Mulligan went all in as a feminist avenger who orchestrates a shocking comeuppance, and could power her way to a win. But I think it’s a toss-up between Davis, who never gives a bad performance, and Day, a singer with limited acting experience who is a pleasant surprise as Holiday in an all-over-the-map biopic. But it comes down to this: Davis has won before; Day hasn’t.
Who will win: Day
Who should win: Mulligan. Her go-for-broke performance gets better on repeat viewings, when you can set aside the shocking plot turns. In each scene, Mulligan makes shrewd choices with her Cassandra fluctuating from menacing to vulnerable within seconds. It’s both chilling and heartbreaking to behold. You’ll never forget her.
The nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”), Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”), Lakeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
The backstory: Stanfield should be in the lead actor category, and while he’s terrific as a two-timing informant, it’s Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, a Black Panther smeared by the law, who puts the engine into the film. Leslie Odom Jr. impeccably channeled crooner Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami,” but he had a lot of support from his castmates. Raci played Yoda wise in “Sound of Metal” and could sneak away with a win. Cohen might pull off the upset since flashed dramatic range as Abbie Hoffman in “Trial.” But this is Kaluuya’s year, and he gave a mercurial, galvanizing performance as Hampton.
Who will win: Kaluuya
Who should win: Kaluuya
The nominees: Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”), Olivia Colman (“The Father”), Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”), Youn Yuh-jung (“Minari”)
The backstory: This is one of the weaker categories. Bakalova subjected herself to the “charms” of Rudy Giuliani and that alone should win her something. Not this year. Close has been better in so many other films than Ron Howard’s “Hillbilly” hoedown and Colman didn’t really do much but look exasperated and sad in “The Father.” Seyfried gave her best performance yet, but some thought her portrayal of Marion Davies was way off base from the actual person. That leaves Youn, who’s grandmother both warmed and broke hearts. It’s a lovely and genuine performance.
Who will win: Youn
Who should win: Youn. Her scenes with grandson David Yi (Alan Kim) in “Minari” made 2020 more bearable.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]
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Author: Randy Myers, Correspondent
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