2021 Oscar Nominations: Predicting the 'Big 8'

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It's been a strange year. The country is still dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with vaccines rolling out and things (hopefully) starting to return to a sense of normality.

Like much of the global cultural and economic landscape, the movie industry suffered through a disastrous year that saw movie schedules shift dramatically, theaters closing en masse, and studios finding ways to adapt. Warner Brothers is attempting to weather the storm by releasing their entire 2021 slate on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time. Other studios have opted to simply sit on their films until it's safe to return to theaters, with movies like the next entry in the James Bond franchise, No Time to Die, being delayed by nearly a year and a half.

Despite this turbulence, the 2021 Academy Awards will take place in April in two different locations, the Dolby Theatre and Los Angeles' Union Station. This morning, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas announced the nominations, and it's shaping up to be quite the race.

Here's who is nominated, and who will win each of the 'Big 8' awards.

Best Adapted Screenplay


- Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

- The Father

- Nomadland

- One Night In Miami

- The White Tiger

Who will win: Nomadland

Nomadland seems to be the Academy’s clear-cut favorite this year (for a good reason), and in what could be a contentious race for Best Picture, the movie following Frances McDormand’s Fern, could pull in a win here. Adapted from the 2017 book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, the film was a fascinating depiction of life as a modern-day nomad.

Best Original Screenplay


- Judas and the Black Messiah

- Minari

- Promising Young Woman

- Sound of Metal

- The Trial of the Chicago 7

Who will win: Minari

Like most of the “Major” categories this year, Best Original Screenplay is a close race. Minari, the story of a family of Korean immigrants trying to make a life for themselves in 1960s rural America. At first look, many have thought this was an international film, but it is, in fact, an American film that just so happens to be entirely in Korean. While the other nominees in this category had powerful and original scripts, this award is Minari’s to lose.

Best Supporting Actress


- Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan)

- Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)

- Olivia Colman (The Father)

- Amanda Seyfried (Mank)

- Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari)

Who will win: Maria Bakalova

This year’s Best Supporting Actress competition might be the closest race in the entire award show. 

Yuh-Jung Youn and Maria Bakalova have received a ton of praise for their performances in their respective films, with Bakalova being touted as having a true breakout role. At first glance, Yuh-Jung Youn definitely appears in the more “traditional” Oscar film, and you’d think that she would have it sewn up. Still, Bakalova achieved something that not many actresses could have: she also, essentially, served as an investigative journalist of sorts. After all, she managed to get the former President of the United States’s personal attorney to nearly undress on camera.

Given that it was Rudy Giuliani might not sound all that impressive, but hey, that’s not something many actresses or actors could do. 

Best Supporting Actor


- Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

- Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)

- Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night In Miami)

- Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)

- Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah))

Who will win: Daniel Kaluuya

Another stacked category, but I said it as soon as I saw him play Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, this race is a guaranteed W for Daniel Kaluuya. His performance was inspiring, magnetic, and, at times, leaves you nearly speechless. 

You only need to watch the “I am a Revolutionary” scene to fully understand just how good he was in this movie and why this film and his performance were so important given the events that have occurred over the past year.

If you’re an Oscars gambler, go ahead and place your bets on Kaluyya and win all the money.

Best Actress


- 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)

Who will win: Frances McDormand

Much like Kaluuya, this race is an all but assured win for McDormand. While Andra Day’s win at the Golden Globes was very much an upset victory, McDormand has been the one constant during all Oscars’ prediction discussions. She seems poised for another big victory in this category.

Her performance as Fern in Nomadland was understated, subtle, and powerful all at once. While some people, myself included, would like to see Carey Mulligan take home the award for Promising Young Woman, this does not mean that McDormand is undeserving of it. Far from it, actually, as she deserves all the praise and more.

Best Actor


- 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: Chadwick Boseman

The tragic passing of Boseman will undoubtedly play a part in how some of the Academy votes this year, but make no mistake about it: He deserves this award. 

In a year of incredible performances (shoutout Riz Ahmed!), Boseman’s final onscreen role was also, by far, his best. Playing the character of Levee Green, Boseman kicks the door open in the movie and doesn’t let his foot off the gas at any point. While Viola Davis plays the eponymous Ma Rainey, this movie was all about Chadwick Boseman. When his name gets read as the winner, it will serve as a perfect bookend on an extraordinary career. 

He was tragically taken far too soon, but roles like this one will cement Boseman as one of the best to ever do it.

Best Director


- Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round)

- David Fincher (Mank

- Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)

- Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)

- Emerald Fennel (Promising Young Woman)

Who will win: Chloé Zhao

Chloé Zhao is on a hot streak like no other, winning the Golden Globe in this category and receiving all the buzz and more, with much of the Academy laying heaps of praise on Zhao’s talent for crafting a story, lining up a shot, and getting the best from all her actors.

What separates Zhao from the pack this year is that most of Nomadland’s cast aren’t actors; they’re real-life nomads. Having to act opposite of someone like Frances McDormand would be a daunting task for even the most seasoned actors and actresses, yet Zhao was able to get the most out of a cast that had little to no experience whatsoever.

Best Picture


- The Father

- Judas and the Black Messiah

- Mank

- Minari

- Nomadland

- Promising Young Woman

- Sound of Metal

- The Trial of the Chicago 7

Who will win: Minari

This is maybe the hardest category to predict, which is a little surprising because if you asked me this last week, I would have said Nomadland had it in the bag. As time has gone on, this race is shaping up to be a battle between “Old Hollywood” and “New Hollywood.” 

In years past, it's hard to imagine that a film like Promising Young Woman would receive a nomination for Best Picture, given that it's a scathing indictment of an issue that not just the film industry but society as a whole tends to try and just forget about. However, as American society and the cultural landscape continue to evolve and progress, movies like Promising Young Woman and Judas and the Black Messiah, are thankfully garnering more attention.

Minari has received near-universal acclaim and seems to be in a neck-and-neck race with Nomadland for the crown, but what I think takes it over the top is that the story and acting jobs in this film were just a bit (and I mean a bit) better. I certainly would not be shocked to see Nomadland or even Sound of Metal win Best Picture, but I’m placing my bets on Minari.

Lock it in.

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