Oscar Predictions and Picks 2021

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

Visual Effects

My Prediction: Tenet
My Pick: Tenet; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

8 Incredible Filming Locations in Christopher Nolan's 'Tenet'

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

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom movie review (2020) | Roger Ebert

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

Photos: 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' - Los Angeles Times

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.

Production Design

My Prediction: Mank
My Pick: Mank; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

David Fincher's 'Mank' Trailer Debuts

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

Sound Of Metal': the film that will change the way you listen to music

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.

Original Song

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.

Original Score

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

Film Review: The Letter Room — Musée Magazine

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

Short Films in Focus: If Anything Happens I Love You | Features | Roger  Ebert

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.

Documentary Feature

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.

Animated Feature

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.

International Film

My Prediction: Another Round
My Pick: Another Round; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

How do you act drunk on screen? - BBC Culture

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.

Adapted Screenplay

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

Original Screenplay

My Prediction: Promising Young Woman
My Pick: Promising Young Woman; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Promising Young Woman: Carey Mulligan film 'deeply troubling' - BBC News

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.

Supporting Actor

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

Judas and the Black Messiah' New 2021 Release Date - Variety

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.

Supporting Actress

My Prediction: Yuh-jung Youn (Minari)
My Pick: Yuh-jung Youn (Minari); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Minari' Star Yuh-Jung Youn Calls Brits 'Snobbish' in BAFTA Speech - Variety

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.

Lead Actor

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.

Lead Actress

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.