Oscar Nominations 2021 Predictions

By: Emily Miller

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, Awards Season!!! This Monday morning, Oscar nominations will be revealed and it’s promising to be a wild time. 2020 was an unprecedented year as the world and film industry succumbed to the Corona outbreak. Hollywood and movie theatres came to a screeching halt exactly one year ago. But if we’ve learned anything from show business, the show must go on, and go on it did.

What started out as a scary uncertainty, eventually emerged into an incredible year of artistry and revolutionary filmmaking. When Hollywood could have crumbled, they rose to the challenge and created many diverse, intimate stories that rival any other year in recent memory. This is a year of celebration, this is a year of surprises, this is a year of extraordinary achievements. This year’s nominations will be a reflection of that.

Best Picture:

Since 2011, The Academy implemented a rule stating that anywhere between 5 and 10 films could be nominated for Best Picture. (For more info on how this weird process works, check out this article.) Keeping this is in mind, we have no idea what the final number will be. But this has been a year where everyone was forced to stay inside. This was a year where films were more consumed than ever. Expect the nominations to be on the higher end of nominees. And while since implementing this rule, there have never actually been ten films nominated, my gut tells me this year might be the first.

A Sure Thing:

  1. Nomadland

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. Minari

4. Mank

A Safe Bet:

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

6. Promising Young Woman

7. One Night in Miami

Should Get a Nomination, But Most Vulnerable:

8. Judas and the Black Messiah

9. Sound of Metal

10. The Father

In the Hunt:

11. Soul

12. Da 5 Bloods

There are four films this year that are absolute locks to get a Best Picture nomination, Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Minari & Mank. All of these films secured the necessary nominations from either The Golden Globes, SAGS, Critics Choice, BAFTAS or the various Guild awards. They’ve all been in the Best Picture conversation for months and have maintained their front runner statuses. They also all focus on subject matter dear to the Academy’s hearts. Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Minari all focus on issues of social justice and feature stories involving people of color. After starting their new inclusion rules (read more about them here) the Academy has finally taken a step towards diversity, addressing their representation issues. Promoting these films is exactly what the Academy needs to be doing in 2021. The other sure fire nomination falls to Mank. It follows one of the tried and true rules about films getting a Best Picture nomination. Simply put, Hollywood loves to reward films about itself. Mank follows one of the most prolific screenwriters, Herman Mankiewicz, the genius behind Citizen Kane. This film is catnip to traditionalists within The Academy.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Promising Young Woman and One Night in Miami should score nominations as well, they just aren’t as locked in as the above films. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and One Night in Miami were both front runners at one point this season to win the top prize, but ultimately began to fall to the middle of the pack. Once a film has lost that front runner status, it’s hard to earn it back. Both films have also earned rave reviews for their actors. If an Academy member is looking to vote for another film into this category, but still wants to show these two films love, they can vote for their respective actors (Viola Davis & Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey and Leslie Odom Jr for Miami) in other major categories and still honor the films. This makes both those films a little bit weaker. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is ahead of the other two films though from a surge of voters who will most likely want to honor the late great Chadwick Boseman Promising Young Woman‘s chances are also PROMISING. (Look I’m not proud of myself okay) The only thing holding it back from being a sure fire thing is the subject matter. The film is an incendiary revenge film with rape and sexual assault prominently featured which will alienate some of the more traditional voters.

Battling it our for the last slots are The Father, The Sound of Metal and Judas and the Black Messiah. Judas and the Black Messiah and The Sound of Metal were both well reviewed films with important subject matters that encompass what we should be celebrating in 2021. They both unfortunately never earned the front runner status or publicity that the other films on this list achieved. They also don’t have any well known actors in the films to draw attention to it. Arguably the most well known actor out of both films is Daniel Kaluuya who was the star of Get Out. But even he isn’t really a household name. Yet. Both should still secure nominations though, simply because of how good they are. On the bubble is The Father. It missed important showings at both the PGA and SAGS and has been in a free fall on Oscar lists for a long time. It’s subject matter, a father aging and facing memory issues, is nothing new or urgent, making it the most vulnerable on this list. However it did perform well at the BAFTAS which is a great precursor to Oscar and it stars one of the finest and most beloved actors in Hollywood, Anthony Hopkins. That just might be enough to squeak out a nomination.

Still in the hunt are beloved films Soul and Da 5 Bloods. Both were on the list for months but have recently fallen off that ten film threshold. Each film has a strong set of supporters and if there is an upset, look to one or both of these films to have snuck in for the win.

Best Actress:

A Sure Thing:

  1. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
  2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  3. Frances McDormand, Nomadland

A Safe Bet:

4. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman

On the Bubble:

5. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

In the Hunt:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy

This year, the safest, most locked in category is the Best Actress race. This is the easiest major category to predict. These five women have been here since the beginning, and they haven’t gone anywhere. Carey Mulligan, Viola Davis and Frances McDormand are all incredibly talented actresses who are all beloved by the Academy. Between the three of them, they have a collective 9 nominations and 2 wins. All of their films will also be nominated for Best Picture, ensuring that voters have seen their work. Although Vanessa Kirby has received a nomination from every major awards show (a feat only McDormand managed to pull off), she is still more vulnerable than the first three. She is not a household name and has never received a nomination before. Her film, Pieces of a Young Woman also will not be earning a Best Picture or too many other nominations. This means voters will have to go out of their way to see this film. She will ultimately get the nomination but she’s in a slightly weaker state than the others. The last nomination should safely go to Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Even though she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress, she is still the weakest member here because she failed to pick up the all important SAG nomination. The largest voting body within the Academy are actors which makes the SAGs the best precursor to figuring out Oscar nominations. And not only did Day lose the nomination, it’s important to note who she lost it too, Amy Adams. Adams hasn’t been too much of a player this Award’s season, but she is an Academy DARLING. She alone has amassed 6 acting nominations in the last 15 years. While ultimately, Day should be safe, if there is an upset, look to Adams for the steal for her work in Hillbilly Elegy, a widely seen film released & marketed by the powerhouse NETFLIX.

Best Actor

This is the most competitive race this year, and the most stacked this category has been in recent memory. There could be an alternative list of five different men that could still hold the weight and talent of the five men who will get nominations with ease. It’s that special of a year.

A Sure Thing:

  1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  2. Anthony Hopkins, The Father
  3. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

A Safe Bet:

4. Gary Oldman, Mank

On the Bubble:

5. Steven Yeun, Minari

In the Hunt:

6. Tahar Rahim, The Mauritanian

7. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Chadwick Boseman gave an earth shatteringly beautiful performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom while dying from cancer. This is the last performance he gave us. This will get a nomination and an eventual win. Everyone else here is competing for the honor of losing to him.

Along with Boseman, Anthony Hopkins and Riz Ahmed have been nominated for every major award this year for their performances. They are locked in and not going anywhere. Also looking good Is Gary Oldman. Even though he did start out the year as a lock, he has fallen considerably in the last few weeks. His film, Mank, has lost a lot of momentum and has directly affected Oldman’s trajectory. The final nail in the coffin was Oldman losing a nomination at the BAFTAS a direct sign at how much he has fallen in the last few weeks. While he should still get a nomination he isn’t as safe as the other three men, and with so many other worthy men in the wings, it’s not an ideal spot to be in. Really on the bubble is newcomer Steven Yeun. He gave a nuanced, lovely performance in the beloved film and dark horse for Best Picture, Minari. A large reason for the film’s success was his incredible turn as the patriarch of a Korean family moving to Arkansas. He has not accumulated the same number of nominations as the other nominees, nor is he a household name, making him the most vulnerable of this group. But he is the heart of that film, and voters will ultimately recognize that. BUT there are some incredibly talented men right behind this group. Both Tahar Rahim and Delroy Lindo have picked up nominations in this category along the way. Rahim has a slight advantage as he just picked up an important BAFTA nomination. But both are legitimate contenders to take out Oldman and or Yeun. Also not likely to get a nomination but still here with brilliant performances are Sacha Baron Cohen for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Mads Mikkelsen for Another Round, and Lakeith Stanfield for Judas and the Black Mesiah.

Best Supporting Actress

A Sure Thing:

  1. Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari
  2. Olivia Coleman, The Father

A Safe Bet:

3. Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

4. Amanda Seyfried, Mank

On the Bubble:

5. Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian

In the Hunt:

6. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

7. Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah

Every year there is always one category that is a hot mess. One category that doesn’t know what it’s doing. Best Supporting Actress is this year’s winner. Yuh-Jung Youn has been nominated for every major award this year for her work in the beloved film Minari. Though Olivia Coleman curiously did not receive a BAFTA nod, she did win the Best Actress in 2018 in a shocking win over favorite Glen Close. The Academy voters clearly love her and she won’t let a lost BAFTA nomination spoil her Oscar fun. While Youn and Coleman are pretty safe, even these two women have cause to be nervous. This category has never calmed down, and there has been an endless cycle of people popping in and out throughout the season, with no clear front runner. While Maria Bakalova is the only other other actress in this group to be nominated for every award, (snagging the Critic’s Choice Award) even her nomination isn’t a given. She would be nominated for a comedy, a notoriously difficult feat to achieve at the Oscars that seem to only exclusively nominate dramatic turns. There will be some members who won’t think her performance is on the same level as the others here. Right behind her is Amanda Seyfried for her work in Mank. At one point in the year, she was the front runner to win this whole category, but much like her counterpart Gary Oldman, she has fallen considerably in the last few weeks. She lost nominations at both the SAGs and BAFTAs, which is absolutely terrible to head into Oscar nominations with. Ultimately, she should still be safe because a front runner status is hard to shake, and again Hollywood loves to reward films about themselves. This is a period piece about Hollywood during it’s golden era. They are going to want to give this to her. The final slot though, is really difficult to predict with no clear consensus. Although the Vegas bookies have the last slot going to Glenn Close, I’m taking a chance and giving it to Jodie Foster. Foster wasn’t on anyone’s radar for this category until she won the damn thing at the Golden Globes. No one though, was more surprised than Foster herself, who gave a delightfully surprised and endearing speech sitting on her couch with her dog and wife in matching pjs. It was the stuff that acceptance dreams are made of. Suddenly she was launched into the season. Though she has had varying degrees of success, her star has only risen as we have gotten closer to the Oscars. Even though she did not get a nomination at the BAFTAs her film, The Mauritanian and her lead actor Tahar Rahim did, which shows there is a lot of love for this movie and a larger audience of people who have seen it. There have also only been 12 women in Oscars history that have won two Best Actress Oscars and Foster is one of them. She is clearly loved by the Academy. Look to her for the surprise nomination over Glenn Close whose film, HIllbilly Elegy was panned by critics. She also recently lost the Best Actress Oscar in a surprising defeat to Olivia Coleman a few years back and has never won the award despite her 7 nominations which shows the Academy might not be her biggest fan. Also on the hunt is Dominique Fishbank whose star has recently risen in the ranking. Her film will most likely be nominated for Best Picture, ensuring people have seen her, and she just picked up a BAFTA nod.

Best Supporting Actor:

A Sure Thing:

  1. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
  2. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
  3. Leslie Odom Jr, One Night in Miami

A Decent Bet:

4. Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods

Jesus Take the Wheel:

5. Alan Kim, Minari

In the Hunt:

6. Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

7. Jared Leto, The Little Things

8. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

This is another category bursting with talent, making it all the harder to predict. Daniel Kaluuya and Leslie Odom Jr are the two actors who have been nominated for every major Awards show this year. These two aren’t going anywhere. Also safe is Sacha Baron Cohen for his role in The Trial of the Chicago 7. While he curiously didn’t pick up a BAFTA nomination, his film is the other contender in the Best Picture race, while Odom’s One Night in Miami has fallen and is not quite a lock. This is why Cohen feels a little safer than Odom Jr. Now here’s where things get wonky, and where I differ most from my beloved Vegas bookies. The 4th and 5th spots differ for almost every predictor and betting site with no clear consensus. Going off my gut, I’m taking a gamble and going with two riskier choices, but hear me out. 2021 is the year to honor our Black Panther, the year to celebrate the achievements of Chadwick Boseman. Why wouldn’t voters want to celebrate his career by giving him a Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nomination. They and Boseman could make history by making him only the second actor to receive two posthumous acting nominations (The only actor as of right now to hold that distinction is James Dean) and he would become the first actor to do so in the same year. (Dean was nominated in 1955 for East of Eden and 1956 for Giant.) Pair that Oscar history magic with the fact that his nomination could be the only major nomination for Da 5 Bloods and suddenly anyone who wants to reward that film will put all of their support behind securing Boseman this nomination. The last slot is even trickier to predict. Statistically it should go to Paul Raci for his sweet turn in The Sound of Metal. But I’m going out on a limb and selecting the dark horse of this category, Alan Kim for his wonderful work in Minari. Now why is this such a risk? Alan Kim is only 8 years old, and if he pulls this off, he would become the youngest actor along with Justin Henry (Kramer vs Kramer) to do so. Child actors have a difficult path to Oscars. Many critics wonder how much of a performance is actual talent versus a really incredible director and child wrangler. But Alan Kim feels different. First off, his movie Minari is BELOVED. It’s the dark horse pick for Best Picture and should have both it’s lead actors getting nominations. He also gives a genuinely beautiful performance in a non annoying child actor way. While Yeun may be the heart of this film, Kim is the soul. This alone was not enough to earn him a spot though.

This was:

(Go ahead. Watch it. I’ll wait.)

Alan Kim won the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Child Actor and gave the most memorable moment of the night. (I just cried rewatching it for the fifth time.) Awards Season is a lot of things, but sometimes they are just simple moments that add up to a narrative. Watching Kim hysterically cry while asking himself if this was a dream, only for him to pinch his cheek to verify that he was awake, was one of those inexplicable magical things whose impact cannot be summarized. Shortly after this, Kim officially joined the Best Supporting Actor race by earning a nomination at the BAFTAS. His star is only rising, his publicity and momentum is like no other actor in this race and every year the Academy comes up with one left field nomination that no one could predict. This year, it should be Alan Kim.

If voters still have issues rewarding child actors, look to favorite Paul Raci for The Sound of Metal or previous winners in this category Jared Leto or Mark Rylance for The Little Things and The Trial of the Chicago 7 for the upset.

Best Director:

A Sure Thing:

  1. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
  2. Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

Jesus Take the Wheel:

3. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

4. David Fincher, Mank

5. Regina King, One Night in Miami

In the Hunt:

6. Emmerald Fennel, Promising Young Women

7. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

This is another stacked category with a lot of players, making it difficult to predict. The two sure things are Chloe Zhao who has swept every major award so far for her work on Nomadland. Lee Isaac Chung has also been along for the ride earning just as many nominations. Both of their films are in contention for Best Picture making their director nominations a lock. The rest of the category is anyone’s guess. Most likely Aaron Sorkin will pick up his first Directing nomination for his work on The Trial of the Chicago 7. (He has one win and two other nominations for writing) The film is in the hunt for Best Picture and the Academy loves to honor double threats like writer/directors. What once was a lock but has now fallen to an unstable place is David Fincher for Mank. This film has just lost so much momentum heading into tomorrow’s ceremony. While he should still just squeak out a nomination, it will most likely have to do with his career as one of the best directors in the business and not necessarily for Mank itself. And finally, the last scary spot. While predictors are going with Emerald Fennel for Promising Young Women, I’m actually going to swap her out for another dynamite woman, Regina King, for her work on One Night in Miami. Why the swap? Fennel has no experience with the Academy, and her film is dark with a difficult subject matter. She also failed to pick up a Directors Guild Award nomination for Best First Time Director. She did receive a Best Director nomination, but failing to pick up a nominee in a lesser category where Bradley Cooper and Jordan Peele both double dipped before, seems like an odd omission that shows weakness within her own community. Regina King however is a high profile actress turned director who won her first Oscar for acting two years ago. She is beloved in the awards community. Besides winning the Oscar, she has a Golden Globe, Critics Choice, Independent Spirit Award and oh yeah, FOUR EMMYS. They like her, they really like her. She’s been doing the pressers, she’s been on the talk shows, she’s gone to all the awards shows, she has walked the red carpet effortlessly. She has put in the publicity work, and that should make the difference. But if she doesn’t get the nomination, look to Fennel or revered director Spike Lee for his work on Da 5 Bloods for the upset.

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