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Oscar nominations are surprisingly good


Greg W. Locke

Whatzup Features Writer

Published March 24, 2021

The Oscar nominations for the 2020 film cycle are here and, unbelievably, they’re very good. Maybe even the highest quality set of nominations we’ve seen this century so far. Let’s dig in:

BEST PICTURE

Eight films received Best Picture nominations this year and all eight are very good. That never ever happens. Never.

David Fincher’s Mank led among the Best Picture nominees with 10 overall nominations. Also nominated were The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Nomadland was the early favorite, but both Mank and Judas and the Black Messiah are now getting a lot of buzz — Mank as the industry/craft pick and Judas as the “important film” pick. I’d be happy with either.

If I were to make a prediction right now, I’d still go with Nomadland.

ACTOR NOMINEES

Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Gary Oldman (Mank), and Steven Yeun (Minari) were all nominated for Best Actor. Boseman will win, because he died, and that’s OK. I get it.

If it were up to me, Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), who was mysteriously nominated for Best Supporting Actor as opposed to Best Actor, should be the winner. His performance was all-time great. Prediction: Chadwick Boseman.

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), and Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) rounded out this year’s nominations. The narrative so far is that Kaluuya and Stanfield will cancel each other out and Sacha Baron Cohen will win. That would be upsetting.

My pick and prediction would be Daniel Kaluuya, who gave the best performance of the 2020 film cycle (and has maybe taken the Best Living Actor mantle).

ACTRESS NOMINEES

This year’s Best Actress narrative belonged to Frances McDormand (Nomadland) for months. That hype has cooled down, as Nomadland, despite being an incredible flick, did not exactly set the world on fire.

Other nominees this year include Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman). Viola might get the legacy award, Kirby might get the newcomer award, or Carey Mulligan might get the celebrity award. It’s hard to say.

If I had to make a prediction, I’d go with McDormand, who gave my second-favorite performance of 2020.

Most folks are now predicting that Glenn Close will get the legacy award for her performance in the terribly Hillbilly Elegy. That would be very unfortunate. That performance felt like an SNL skit to me.

Also in the running: Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Film), Olivia Colman (The Father), Amanda Seyfried (Mank), and Youn Yuh-jung (Minari).

There’s a chance that Mank or Minari make a run and take home several awards, but mostly, this category is a toss up.

BEST DIRECTOR

My favorite award of the night. In a year that was considered at one point to be a throwaway year due to Covid limitations, we ended up with a pretty great batch of films.

Four of this year’s Best Director nominees have never been nominated before and none of them has won. That’s unique.

The biggest name this year is David Fincher, who probably should have won a couple statues by now, and therefore might be the frontrunner. The other two to keep an eye on are Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and Lee Isaac Chung (Minari). Either of those films could take off and dominate, and if that happens, Chung or Zhao are likely to win.

The two other nominees, Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), are longshots. I love that Vinterberg got the nomination since he’s someone I never thought would get widespread acceptance for his work.

The real story here, though, are Fennell, Zhao, and Chung, who represent the future. If I had to pick a winner, I’d go with either Fincher or Zhao. Probably Fincher.

That’s that for this week. As the Oscars get a little closer, we’ll take a closer look at the full range of awards. For now, feel free to send your predictions my way at gregwlocke@gmail.com.

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