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Dwight’s Oscar predictions

It’s Oscar time again!

Yes, that’s right. The Academy Awards are this Sunday.

What’s that you say? You had no idea? Nobody’s talking about it? You don’t even know what’s been nominated? And you didn’t even watch anything that was nominated?

That sounds about right.

The pandemic has exacerbated a situation that’s been steadily getting worse over the past few years: the general public’s lack of interest in awards shows, and, specifically, a lack of interest in anything to do with the Academy Awards.

Ratings have been falling for years, and more and more people know very little about the films honored each year by the Academy. And this year will be worse than ever before.

The fact that so few of us spent time in a movie theater last year doesn’t help. Of the eight Best Picture nominees, “Promising Young Woman” had the best box office performance, followed by “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Nomadland”.

But “best” in terms of box office performance by no means means “good”. Only “Promising Young Woman” (barely) and especially “Minari” made more than their budgets. All the others are deep in the red. (Your child probably has more money than “Sound of Metal” made!)

“Mank” leads the nominations with 10, followed by six each for “The Father”, “Judas and the Black Messiah”, “Minari”, “Nomadland”, “Sound of Metal” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7”.

In keeping with tradition, I will pick my personal favorites or what/who should win in each of the major categories, and also what/who I believe is most likely to win, taking into account the politics of the Academy and the psyche of the Academy voters. Many times, these actually all align.

While these are all decent pictures, and largely well-deserved nominations – even though there are some glaring omissions – this isn’t going to be a terribly exciting awards show. In fact, it promises to be quite a snoozer.

Next week, we’ll see just how well I did with my picks! And you can email me your predictions at dwight@nasguard.com.


BEST PICTURE

“The Father”

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

“Mank”

“Minari”

“Nomadland”

“Promising Young Woman”

“Sound of Metal”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

This list is more notable for what’s missing – the many fine films that could have and should have been on it. That list is actually longer than the number of movies here.

Nevertheless, the nominees are well-done and powerful movies, particularly, “Judas and the Black Messiah”, “Minari”, “Promising Young Woman”, and “The Trial of the Chicago 7”.

The two standouts, though, are “Sound of Metal” and especially “The Father”. And if it were up to me, one of these two would be the winner, with a slight edge going to “The Father.”

But with these nominations, my two least favorites are the two getting the most attention – “Mank” for receiving the most nominations, and the somber “Nomadland” for being the frontrunner.

I fully expect to hear “Nomadland” named Sunday night. It is indeed a fine film. However, for me personally, it’s just not as compelling as most of the others.

However, there is something uniquely American about this movie that will likely resonate with Academy voters. The quest to get out and explore the wide-open spaces of their vast nation, and to be free to roam about their country, leaving the stresses and memories of life behind is something many Americans seem to dream about and aspire to. It speaks to them in a way many outsiders may not quite understand.

Plus, it is beautiful to look at, has decent performances, and is making history with its nominations. Look for “Nomadland” to be the big winner in a number of categories Sunday night.

My Personal Favorite: “The Father”

Honorable Mention: “Sound of Metal” and “Judas and the Black Messiah”

What Will Win: “Nomadland”

DIRECTOR

Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”)

Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)

David Fincher (“Mank”)

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”)

Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)

This is another category noteworthy for who’s not included.

And Vinterberg’s inclusion here for his quirky Danish binge-drinking film makes it all but assured that “Another Round” will win the Oscar for Best International Feature Film.

But pay attention to the two women nominated in this category. This is the first time that more than one woman has been nominated for Best Director at the same time. And before now, only five women had ever been nominated in this category. So, that’s just seven in total in 93 years!

Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” is a refreshing genre-bending and breaking film. Fennell’s also nominated for her Original Screenplay. The title of the film might as well describe this actress’ future.

However, Chloé Zhao is all but assured the Oscar here. Having written, edited, produced and directed “Nomadland”, it is clear Zhao will make history as only the second woman to ever win Best Director, following Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” in 2009.

My Personal Favorite: Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)

Who Will Win: Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”)

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)

Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)

Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)

Gary Oldman (“Mank”)

Steven Yeun (“Minari”)

Back in January, I told you someone from “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” would be winning an Oscar.

That was well before the nominations were announced. So, not surprisingly, both Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman are nominated. And Boseman has posthumously been winning almost every award for which he’s been nominated.

Only one other actor has done this in this category: Peter Finch for his unforgettable “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” performance in “Network” in 1976. (Heath Ledger won for Best Supporting Actor for “The Dark Knight” in 2008)

Boseman is amazing. And you know from the moment he appears in “Ma Rainey” that this is an Oscar-worthy performance. But it’s not my favorite performance, and it’s probably not the best in this category.

Riz Ahmed is simply spectacular in “Sound of Metal”. This is a multi-layered performance, and deeply moving.

And Oscar-winner and six-time Oscar nominee Anthony Hopkins delivers arguably the very best performance of his long, storied career. Extremely powerful and heartbreaking!

Boseman is deserving of recognition. But there’s no doubt that his dying from cancer in what ended up being his final film role has been and will continue to be a major factor in determining who wins this award.

My Personal Favorite: Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)

Honorable Mention (My Second Favorite): Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)

Who Will Win: Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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”)

As usual, all of these actresses are deserving of this award. But this is a two-woman race: two-time Oscar winner McDormand vs. film novice Andra Day.

Working against Day: her film “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” is uneven and unfocused. She’s really the only reason to watch it. But that’s not usually a deciding factor. Just ask Meryl Streep about the almost unwatchable “The Iron Lady”.

It’s going to be a good night for “Nomadland”. So definitely don’t count McDormand out. But she has already won twice before.

And voters are eager to show how much they love diversity. And the more diversity in the win columns, the more people will be talking about the Oscars come Monday morning – or at least people who don’t normally talk about the Oscars.

Plus, Day gives the performance of a lifetime.

My Personal Favorite: Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”)

Who Will Win: Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”)

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)

Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”)

Olivia Colman (“The Father”)

Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”)

Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”)

I wish we could give all of these actresses Oscars. Three in particular – Bakalova, Close and Yuh-Jung – steal their respective pictures from their lead actors, in the most memorable ways.

Those same three largely become the best reasons to watch their respective movies.

Again, all five are amazing. But Yuh-Jung, along with her co-star young Alan Kim (who represents the year’s greatest acting nomination snub) become an unstoppable dynamic duo in “Minari”. Every single scene is magic.

My Personal Favorite: Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”)

Who Will Win: Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”)

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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”)

This may be the only category with real suspense.

Like the Supporting Actress category, all of these actors do a fine job.

Baron Cohen arguably gives the most memorable performance in “The Trial of the Chicago 7”. So too is Odom a standout among the excellent cast in “One Night in Miami”.

Stanfield is superb in what is truly a lead actor role. He shines as the complicated “Judas” in “Judas and the Black Messiah”.

His “Black Messiah” co-star Kaluuya is also great, and has been winning most of the awards in this category.

Raci is one to watch as a possible upset, with his beautifully effortless performance in “Sound of Metal”.

But going by the trends, the smart money would be on Kaluuya.

My Personal Favorite: Lakeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

Who Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

WRITING (Original Screenplay)

Will Berson & Shaka King and Kenny Lucas & Keith Lucas (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”)

Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)

Darius Marder & Abraham Marder and Derek Cianfrance (“Sound of Metal”)

Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)

This is another tough category.

With Zhao likely to win Best Director, this could be the way to give Emerald Fennell an Oscar for the entertaining “Promising Young Woman”.

But “Minari” was also a very well done and well written. And Sorkin’s dialog and pacing for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is fantastic. And “Judas and the Black Messiah” is a story that long-ago needed to be told.

That leaves poor “Sound of Metal”. Other than possibly winning Best Sound, it seems unlikely we’ll be hearing much about this wonderful film on Oscar night.

This could go in any direction, though, and each would be deserving.

My Personal Favorite: Marder/Marder & Cianfrance (“Sound of Metal”)

Who Will Win: Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)

WRITING (Adapted Screenplay)

Sacha Baron Cohen & Co. (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)

Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller (“The Father”)

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”)

Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”)

Ramin Bahrani (“The White Tiger”)

There are four powerful films here, and one ridiculous but more than occasionally side-splitting and cringe-worthy farce.

That “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is even included is probably the most interesting nomination of all for this year’s Academy Awards.

The only thing they all have in common is that you’re likely to be brought to tears; for the other four, because of their emotional content and storylines, and for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”, from laughing so hard.

Again, for me, “The Father” is one of the most striking films of the year.

But this feels like a massive sweep year, with “Nomadland” prepared to cleanup and make history.

My Personal Favorite: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller (“The Father”)

Who Will Win: Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Sean Bobbitt (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”)

Dariusz Wolski (“News of the World”)

Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”)

Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)

There’s no doubt that “Nomadland” is winning this award. It is simply stunning visually.

My Personal Favorite: Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”)

Who Will Win: Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”)

• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email dwight@nasguard.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.

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Dwight Strachan

Dwight is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff.

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