Much of my movie viewing this year had been building up to tonight’s Academy Awards. I posted my personal predications and picks earlier this afternoon and then prepared myself for the film industry’s biggest night. The three-and-a-half-hour ceremony took the place of my movie watching for the evening.
The 93rd Academy Awards
Where to begin? I guess first and foremost, I will address the winners. They were fine to good. My Octopus Teacher winning for documentary is my biggest gripe, but all in all the Oscars went to good choices if not what I would consider the best choice. Seeing Chloé Zhao become only the second woman to win best director and be the second woman helmed film to win best picture (both were previously done by Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker) was heartwarming. My personal favorite actress Carey Mulligan once again failed to win, but I cannot begrudge the academy for choosing Frances McDormand. If all I did was read the winners the next morning, I would have little to say.
The ceremony itself was a mess. The Academy’s continued decision to go without a host after the Kevin Hart controversy reached its pinnacle this year as the ceremony was completely without guidance. While the bad jokes can get tiresome after some time, surely there must be a middle ground between too many bad jokes and a ceremony that is nothing but presentations. When there was finally a reprieve with a name the tune segment three quarters of the way through the film, it was a welcome reprieve, but one that came much too late.
And then there was the giant unforced error of the final three awards. The producers not knowing the results took a huge gamble and put the acting awards after best picture. They likely did so in the assumption that Chadwick Boseman would win posthumously, and they could end the ceremony on an uplifting moment for him. When that did not happen, the result was the most anticlimactic ending in Oscar history as Anthony Hopkins was neither present nor had a proxy to accept the award for him and the ceremony went unceremoniously to closing credits. Chloé Zhao’s accomplishments winning best picture were overshadowed by the mess that followed, and Hopkins who gave arguably the greatest performance of his life will forever be unjustifiably remembered as the man who stole Chadwick Boseman’s Oscar.
I love the Oscars. For the past few years, I have made it my goal to watch every single film nominated for an Oscar, and this year I finished with weeks to spare. In time for tonight’s ceremony, here are my predictions and my personal picks for this year’s event
My Prediction: Tenet My Pick: Tenet; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
Visual effects is likely the category most impacted by the COVID epidemic. With many summer blockbusters being delayed until they can open in theaters, it left Tenet as the presumptive winner.
My Prediction: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom My Pick: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
I love the costumes in Emma, but while those are all pristine, what elevates Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s costuming is the slight layer of grime that covers them. They help build the world of the session musicians through their purposeful imperfections.
Makeup and Hairstyling
My Prediction: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom My Pick: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
Makeup and Hairstyling should go to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for similar reasons as to why costuming should. The craft works in storytelling rather than simply looking great.
My Prediction: Mank My Pick: Mank; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
The recreation of classic Hollywood in David Fincher’s Mank is as beautiful as it is meticulous.
My Prediction: Sound of Metal My Pick: Sound of Metal; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
New this year is the combining of sound editing and sound mixing, and there is potentially no more obvious a choice in this year’s ceremony than the Sound of Metal for the new category. The way the film intercuts the noise from the camera’s perspective with that of the quickly deafening protagonist is the most interesting sound design of the year.
My Prediction: Speak Now (One Night in Miami…) My Pick: Speak Now (One Night in Miami…); Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – The 11-minute rendition of Silly Games from Small Axe: Lovers Rock
And now the one category that I always feel the most uncomfortable picking. My passion is in film, not music. Regardless, predicting Leslie Odom Jr. to become an Emmy away from an EGOT seems the obvious choice. My non-nominated choice was not eligible for multiple reasons, but I needed to call out how perfect this rendition of the reggae classic is in context of the film.
My Prediction: Soul My Pick: Soul; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Wendy (Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin)
Soul is going to win this without much competion, so in lieu of talking about that I want to shout out the amazing score to the not as amazing Wendy. Benh Zeitlin again teamed up with Dan Romer to create the score to his follow up to Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) and the music to Wendy has just as much magic and mystery as the prior score.
My Prediction: The Trial of the Chicago 7 My Pick: The Father; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
The Trial of the Chicago 7 will likely walk away with this as its lone Oscar, but all of the editing the film does to intercut different times is done even more masterfully by The Father where the editing is used to blur time and characters to express the impact of dementia.
My Prediction: Nomadland My Pick: Nomadland; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Gunda
Joshua James Richards sweeping photography of the various landscapes Fern calls her temporary home are breathtaking and should guarantee an Oscar for Nomadland. However, if the academy had looked beyond the traditional fare to Gunda, the experimental documentary about a mother pig, they would have found some of the best black and white cinematography in years.
Short Film, Live Action
My Prediction: The Letter Room My Pick: The Letter Room; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
It almost seems a little unfair of this category to be won by a short with big name actors (Oscar Isaac and Alia Shawkat), but The Letter Room is the obvious best of the bunch.
Short Film, Animated
My Prediction: If Anything Happens I Love You My Pick: If Anything Happens I Love You; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
If Anything Happens I Love you is the best short film which is animated, which is what this category is really a measure of. I would still like to call out Opera for being the best-animated short film, even if it lacks the emotional connection to win.
Short Film, Documentary
My Prediction: Do Not Split My Pick: Do Not Split; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Hysterical Girl
Do Not Split is an amazing piece of cinema verité about the Hong Kong protests which should win of the nominated films, but the shortlisted but not Nominated Hysterical Girl was easily my favorite of the year.
My Prediction: My Octopus Teacher My Pick: Time; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Dick Johnson is Dead or Gunda
It turns out that I have a lot to say about this category. My Octopus Teacher is emotionally exploitative in the way that should win over much of the Academy warranted or not. Of the other nominated films, Time was in my opinion the best and the most important for our time. The Academy failed to nominate the two best documentaries of the year though. Dick Johnson is Dead was as entertaining in the increasingly outrageous death sequences as it was moving as Kirsten Johnson prepped for the inevitable. Gunda was on the opposite end of the spectrum but equally impressive. The experimental documentary consisting of nothing but gorgeous close up photography of a litter of pigs created untold emotion through its simplicity.
My Prediction: Soul My Pick: Wolfwalkers; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
This category becomes increasingly aggravating. Disney and Pixar create many great films, but when they release middling work for them (still very good, just not what they can do) the Academy needs to watch the other nominated films and recognize the superior film even if it is not from one of the brand name studios.
My Prediction: Another Round My Pick: Another Round; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
I have watched the last scene from Another Round dozens of times at this point as it is one of the greatest scenes of the year. While I have shown this scene preferential treatment, the entire film is a must watch and should win this with ease.
My Prediction: The Father My Pick: The Father; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
The way that The Father blends time and realities to replicate the confusion of Anthony as dementia sets in is an achievement in writing more than worthy of this Oscar
My Prediction: Promising Young Woman My Pick: Promising Young Woman; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
Emerald Fennell’s sobering take on the rape revenge thriller imparts a sense of reality to the genre while also welcoming those who would be otherwise turned off from it.
My Prediction: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) My Pick: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
While he is for some reason competing against LaKeith Stanfield the lead in the same movie, Kaluuya as the charismatic Black Panther leader Fred Hampton should be an easy choice for the Supporting Actor award.
My Prediction: Yuh-jung Youn (Minari) My Pick: Yuh-jung Youn (Minari); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
The long time Korean actress’s first foray into American film put in an exquisite performance as the grandmother moving in to help watch the children in Minari.
My Prediction: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) My Pick: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom); Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – John Magaro (First Cow)
While this may have been a closer race in different circumstances, Chadwick Boseman should be a shoo in to win the award posthumously. From the completely snubbed First Cow, John Magaro as the sensitive Cookie living his baking dream in the untamed west would get my vote if nominated.
My Prediction: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) My Pick: Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman); Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Sidney Flanigan (Never Rarely Sometimes Always)
Most of the season, it has seemed like Carey Mulligan was going to win her first Oscar over Frances McDormand getting her third, but while I would not vote for her, Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom seems to have the momentum going into tonight’s ceremony. Of the non-nominated performances, Sidney Flanigan was so perfect in Never Rarely Sometimes Always that the film’s complete Oscar sub is frustrating.
My Prediction: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) My Pick: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No
Chloé Zhao has an incredible auteurist voice which is front and center in Nomadland. She works at a deliberate pace and allows Frances McDormand to express every feeling that Fern experience. Without Zhao’s incredible control, Nomadland would not be the masterpiece that it is.
My Prediction: Nomadland My Pick: Nomadland; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Everything that I said for Director holds for best picture. Nomadland is a masterpiece, and I will be happy to see best picture go to a woman director for only the second time (Kathryn Bigelow won in 2010 for The Hurt Locker). And while I had Nomadland as my favorite film of the year when I put together my list in January, Never Rarely Sometimes Always has supplanted it in my mind. It is the most emotionally moving film of the year and what I would have wanted to see win had it been nominated.