It’s been a longer-than-usual road to the Oscars, with Hollywood navigating a year pretty much without movie theaters, a smaller volume of top-notch contenders, a slew of virtual film festivals and an awards season full of delayed shows and Zoom acceptance speeches.
But on Sunday at the 93rd Academy Awards (ABC, 8 EDT/5 PDT), a new crop of winners will be announced for the first time amid a pandemic and the movie industry will have something to celebrate for a change.
Outside of the eight best picture candidates – which has been led by Chloé Zhao’s acclaimed road-trip tale “Nomadland” – most of the drama this Oscar race has been centered on the unpredictable best actress category: While the other three acting categories seem pretty set (and a posthumous Oscar almost assured for Chadwick Boseman), recent SAG Awards winner Viola Davis could make history as the first Black woman to take home two Oscars.
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So who are the next additions to the Academy Awards’ storied history? Here are our predictions for all the major categories:
Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is a woman on a quest for vengeance in the darkly comic thriller "Promising Young Woman." (Photo: FOCUS FEATURES)
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Will win: “Chicago 7”
Should win: “Promising Young Woman”
Everyone’s seemingly on the “Nomadland” bandwagon, which makes it ripe for an upset, especially when you throw in the Oscars’ preferential ballot (where instead of picking one winner, voters rank their top choices). The most dangerous threat is Aaron Sorkin’s “Chicago 7,” a courtroom drama with real history, cinematic electricity and a SAG win for best cast (which “Parasite” tellingly won last year) all going for it. During an already strange season, though, the Academy might as well embrace uncharted waters and make it the year of the “Woman.” Emerald Fennell’s satisfying revenge thriller is unlike anything in this best picture race or other recent Oscars and would be the coolest pick in years.
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Levee (Chadwick Boseman, front) works on his own music and leaves his bandmates – Toledo (Glynn Turman), Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and Cutler (Colman Domingo) – incredulous in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." (Photo: Courtesy of David Lee/Netflix)
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Gary Oldman, “Mank”
Steven Yeun, “Minari”
Will win/should win: Boseman
With his absolutely stunning portrayal of a man dealing with dementia, Hopkins would win this category, hands down, with one of his all-time best performances. (Although not as infamous, his “Father” is as indelible a character as Hannibal in “The Silence of the Lambs.”) However, this is Boseman’s year: The beloved actor’s portrayal of a self-centered musician is a career highlight done while fighting cancer that led to his death last August. Boseman’s posthumous Oscar is an earned honor for “Ma Rainey” as well as a testament to his career and the roles we’ll never get to see.
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Vanessa Kirby stars as a woman dealing in her own way with a tragic loss in "Pieces of a Woman." (Photo: BENJAMIN LOEB/NETFLIX)
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”
Will win: Mulligan
Should win: Kirby
There’s no telling who’s taking this one: McDormand won a British Academy Film Awards honor, Day scored a Golden Globe, Davis took the SAG award and Mulligan snagged accolades from the Critics Choice Awards and National Board of Review. While Davis might have a bit of an edge going in, Mulligan has the more galvanizing all-around role as a woman avenging a past sexual assault. Unfortunately, overlooked this entire awards season, though, has been Kirby’s exceptional and raw performance as a character having to figure out how to move on after losing her child during a home birth gone tragically wrong.
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Daniel Kaluuya (center) stars as Black Panther Party Illinois chairman Fred Hampton in "Judas and the Black Messiah." (Photo: GLEN WILSON)
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”
Will win: Kaluuya
Should win: Odom
Playing charismatic Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in the 1960s-set “Black Messiah,” Kaluuya has run the table so far and there doesn’t seem to be anything standing in his way – not even his co-star in the same Oscar category. Kaluuya’s definitely deserving, though another actor playing a famous figure would really hit the right note. In “One Night in Miami,” Odom’s portrayal of soul singer Sam Cooke fits so well in Regina King’s ensemble of four Black icons. Yet what puts Odom over the top is his stellar musical talent: His tearful rendition of “A Change Is Gonna Come” puts a powerful coda on a fantastic story about the civil rights era.
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Yuh-jung Youn (right, with Alan S. Kim) has a memorable role as a Korean grandmother in "Minari." (Photo: JOSH ETHAN JOHNSON/A24)
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”
Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
Yuh-jung Youn, “Minari”
Will win/should win: Youn
As Soonja in “Minari,” Youn is the Korean grandma we all wish we had: one who loves Mountain Dew, adores pro wrestling and doles out life lessons via a gardening project. “The Meryl Streep of Korea” imbues so much life and mischievous energy into her character, who is brought to America to look after her two grandkids after their parents move to a farm in the Ozarks. The bond formed between Soonja and young David (Alan Kim) is the beating heart of the family drama, acting as a loving balance to the increasing strife between the kid’s mom and dad, and in every scene, Youn knocks out it of the park.
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Director Chloé Zhao (right) chats with star Frances McDormand on the set of "Nomadland." (Photo: JOSHUA JAMES RICHARDS)
Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
David Fincher, “Mank”
Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”
Will win: Zhao
Should win: Fennell
It’s fairly certain that history’s being made Sunday and Zhao will be honored as the first woman of color to win best director for the beautifully shot “Nomadland,” a new piece of modern Americana that feels completely authentic. Still, “Promising Young Woman” is one movie that feels very much of the moment, an essential piece of entertainment for the #MeToo era, and that’s because of its filmmaker. Fennell, a likely winner for best original screenplay, will hopefully be back in this category in the future and the tone she strikes here – playful, satirical, funny and relevant, all in one – is a joy to behold in a film that holds you enraptured till the very end.
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