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Hopes & Dreams for the 2021 Oscars

By: Hopster & Isaac P. Ale
April 25, 2021

Before we jump into our hopes and dreams for the Oscars, we want to revisit some of our wind up to today!

Starting Oscars week, we examined the "Weird" categories such as International Feature Film, which has some incredible nominees and the ever fascinating Mads Mikkelson.

The Technical categories also had some great nominees with some incredible Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, and Songwriting!

There are also some powerful screenplays in the running for the Writing and Directing categories, and on top of that, Chloé Zhao's remarkable year continues with a Best Director bid!

And who could forget one of the best Acting category fields to date?? The Best Actress group is a complete wild card and could be surprising come tonight, and Chadwick Boseman's beautiful legacy continues to garner accolades and appreciation.

Lastly the Best Picture nominees are equally as amazing as the previous categories where Nomadland could continue to sweep. Or will there be an upset in the midst of it all?

First Cow First Cow [2019]

The Biggest Snub(s) of the Year

Hopster: When the Academy doubled the number of potential nominees in the Best Picture category back in 2009 from five to ten, it was seen as an opportunity to "cast a wider net[^1];" a reaffirmation that the opinion of the general moviegoing public matters at the Oscars; and most obviously, it provided a way to recognize more worthwhile films for its highest honor. However, since that change took place, there have been twelve ceremonies but only twice has the Academy nominated the maximum number of ten films for Best Picture (immediately in 2009 and 2010). But why is that? If the purpose was to promote inclusion, then why are voters willing to void available nominee slots? Well, the short answer is probably entails bullshit elitist reasons that are not easily explained or justified. There is quite a long list of decorated films from the last nine years that failed to receive a Best Picture nomination despite there being less than ten films nominated in that respective year[^2]. For 2020, here are the first few films that come to mind that can be added to that running list of snubs:

  • Da 5 Bloods | Spike Lee
  • First Cow | Kelly Reichardt
  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always | Eliza Hittman

Why Academy voters opted to ignore these three films, almost completely altogether, remains a disappointment and a mystery. I'd be remiss if I also didn't give a special shout-out to Steve McQueen's incredible Small Axe anthology. The first two films in particular, Mangrove and Lovers Rock, should've absolutely been in the conversation for Best Picture (the latter being maybe the best thing I saw all year), but they were not included because they did not fit the "eligibility parameters." What a crock of shit.

Isaac: My first thought when it comes to snubs for best picture is absolutely Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods. I love Lee's work and this film was no exception. But other noteworthy snubs are Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and One Night in Miami... mainly due to the celebration of the two films throughout the year and the many accolades they've acquired. It's relatively rare for two films to be so heralded and receive noms for such things like Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and a plethora of other awards for the Globes, SAG, BAFTA, etc... and not get a look for Best Picture. In the essence of snubbing, these few definitely stand out.

Wolfwalkers Wolfwalkers [2020]

We Haven't Talked Enough About...

Isaac: The David and Goliath matchup of Wolfwalkers vs. basically Pixar. Pixar is a dominant presence to be amongst in the Best Animated Film category for one film. But now Pixar has TWO nominated films that could win on Sunday in Onward and Soul. Soul, the front runner of the night, would bring Pixar its 11th Best Animated Film Oscar since its conception in 2002:

Title Year
Finding Nemo 2003
The Incredibles 2004
Ratatouille 2007
WALL-E 2008
Up 2009
Toy Story 3 2010
Brave 2012
Inside Out 2015
Coco 2017
Toy Story 4 2019

What's even more impressive about Pixar's Oscars success is the lack of failure (which I know sounds pretty on the nose but I'm not kidding). When a Pixar movie is up for the Best Animated Film award, it has won every time except for three instances, making it a solid 10 out of 13 or a 76.9% win percentage. The only films to best the Pixar domination are Happy Feet (beating Cars in 2006), Shrek (beating Monsters Inc. in 2001), and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (beating The Incredibles 2 in 2018). Which means if Wolfwalkers pulls off this upset today it will be in very rare company, and it certainly stands a chance.

Hopster: Will Mank get shut out on Sunday? Only a handful of films that received at least ten nominations have gone home completely empty-handed:

  • The Turning Point (1977) | 11 nominations
  • The Color Purple (1985) | 11 nominations
  • Gangs of New York (2002) | 10 nominations
  • True Grit (2010) | 10 nominations
  • American Hustle (2013) | 10 nominations
  • The Irishman (2019) | 10 nominations

In my predictions, I cautiously picked Mank to win Best Production Design, but even that seems a little up in the air as of now. Even if it doesn't win squat, my endorsement of and support for Mank will not waiver. If anything, it might strengthen.

Eurovision Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga [2020]

Something We Are All Overlooking

Hopster: Florian Zeller and Christopher Hamptom's adaptation of Zeller's own play, The Father, is one of the most slept-on achievements being recognized on this year's list of nominees. Not only does it carefully plot out a world of confusion and paranoia for the titular figure, but its subtle, blink-and-you-miss-it transitions perfectly set the table for the films's first-rate acting, editing, and production design. It currently holds the second best odds for winning (25%) behind Chloé Zhao's screenplay for Nomadland[^3]. This might be a chance to award The Father, which could end up being shut out otherwise.

Isaac: Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams may have performed an Oscar winning song as an Icelandic musical duo. After "Wuhan Flu" made the short list for Best Original Song but missed the nomination, it looks like "Húsavík" from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is the comedy song that we all low key want to win. In an award where most songs nominated are added in the credits after the film to have a powerful song not really carry any weight in the story, "Húsavík" is a breath of fresh air. Not to mention it's not every day that Will Ferrell, let alone Rachel McAdams, perform an Oscar nominated song in a comedy musical.

Judas and the Black Messiah Judas and the Black Messiah [2021]

An Obvious Frontrunner We're Cheering For

Isaac: Judas and the Black Messiah "supporting actor" Daniel Kaluuya is one that sticks out to me. His role as Fred Hampton was one of the best displays of the year! Another one that I'm especially excited for is Sound of Metal winning Best Sound. What that team was able to do to help the viewer empathize with Riz Ahmed's Ruben was amazing and certainly helped Ahmed pull that role off flawlessly.

Hopster: Daniel Kaluuya is transcendant in his portrayal of Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah; I'll be cheering him on when his name is (hopefully) announced on Sunday. And undoubtedly, a win for Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will likely be one of the highlights of the evening.

A Pleasant Surprise Would Be...

Hopster: I'm piggybacking off Film & Froth's own Isaac P. Ale (IPA) for this one. With Best Actress being a real crapshoot, I'd be pleasantly surprised but also very excited to see Carey Mulligan win for her work in Promising Young Woman! Her committed, dynamic performance delivers one of the most memorable characters of the year.

Isaac: I am once again asking for your support for Riz Ahmed to win Best Actor. Of course I'm vying for a Boseman win, but I would be lying if I said the hype train for Ahmed's performance in Sound of Metal has left the station. His work throughout the film is mesmerizing and his emotional spiral that compounds his hearing loss is a work of art. I would love love love if that was the surprise that came this Sunday.

Hillbilly Elegy Hillbilly Elegy [2020]

The Out-of-Nowhere Upset(s) We're Monitoring

Hopster: Glenn Close winning for her performance in Hillbilly Elegy isn't beyond the realm of possibility. While she has not won any major awards for this role to date, she has still garnered a surpising amount of nominations (she became only the third performer in history to be nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Raspberry Award for the same performance[^4])... Current odds have her behind both Yuh-Jung Youn and Maria Bakalova, so a win for Close is unlikely. HOWEVER, she is tied for the most Academy Award nominations (8) in the acting categories without winning (along with the late Peter O'Toole). That fact is almost as embarrassing as Hillbilly Elegy is as a movie. Whether or not someone believes that she deserves to win for this medicore performance in a laughably bad movie is beside the point; this a chance to make good on not awarding her sooner, and that potential opportunity cannot be dismissed. Don't be completely blindsided if this is the most wtf moment of the show.

Isaac: While not technically "out of nowhere" yet also probably quyalifying I'd go with Andra Day winning the Best Actress for her role as Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. The whole category is a relative toss up, but with Day's odds quite low (14.3%), I'd say that's close to being "out of nowhere". The United States vs. Billie Holiday was not a great movie by any measure, but if Glenn Close can have an out of nowhere chance for the abomination of Hillbilly Elegy, then I'd say Day's chances are on the rise. Winning the Golden Globe definitely helps as well.

The Technical Achievement of the Year Is...

Isaac: Even though I didn't pick this as a winner I'd compliment the makeup and hairstyling of Pinocchio once more. Certainly a technical achievement it was one of those movies that might've been under the radar but the touchups of the characters is nothing short of top notch. That being said, I too have to acknowledge the visual effects of Tenet, which of course are excellent, as Christopher Nolan doesn't half-ass anything.

Hopster: Three things immediately come to mind: the sound and editing in Sound of Metal; the visual effects in Tenet; and the makeup, hairstyling, and costume design in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. If I had to pick from that group, I'm gravitating towards the technical achivements in Sound of Metal.

Our Favorite Performance(s) of the Year

Isaac: In the realm of Oscar nominated performances:

  • Carey Mulligan's performance in Promising Young Woman was the best of her career and easily one of the best performances of the year!
  • Riz Ahmed. I'll continue to yell it from the mountain tops.

And now if I expanded my criteria to beyond Oscar nominated films, I would have to add some details that I need to rant about. The Academy hates horror films. That's just a fact. There's only been a handful of horror films that even get acknowledged let alone win anything. Some examples including Get Out, Alien, Silence of the Lambs and like maybe 2 others. But some horror films this year gave us some of the best and my favorite performances of the year. Non-Oscar acknowledged performances that I loved:

  • Morphydd Clark in Saint Maud was the perfect display of psychotic religion pushed to extremes and a blurred past all combine for an intoxicating performance. But of course I've mentioned how much I love my A24 horror films
  • Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man: one can only imagine how hard it is to act when the supporting role is, well an invisible man but Moss does it to perfection. Many people know her for her excellent role on The Handmaid's Tale but she should be receiving more than "snub favorites" for this role. And by that I mean she should have received many award nominations and accolades for such a film.
  • Wunmi Mosaku in His House: THIS MOVIE HOLY SHIT. This movie melted my mind and I loved every second of it. Part of which was the screenplay and the other part would be the gripping performance of Wunmi Mosaku. Her role was unreal good, and there are portions of the movie where the story and her acting interweave in such a beautiful and heart-wrenching way its impossible to look away.

Hopster: Because Nomadland was directed and adapted for the screen by the brilliant Chloé Zhao, it is almost a guarantee that the movie would've been good no matter who starred in the movie. But because of Frances McDormand's tranformation into Fern, the heart and soul of the movie, Nomadland will likely become not only a Best Picture winner, but it might also be remembered as Zhao's masterwork. McDormand holds nothing back, and her ability to blur into the grey, where fiction collides with non-fiction, keeps everything together. She's an expressive performer and a generous scene partner; at times she's so convincing that it sometimes becomes difficult to identify if the character is somewhat autobiographical for McDormand, a testament to her performance. In an already iconic career, this might mark a new peak. But hopefully not, because I'm wishing for more good things for her on the horizon.

Promising Young Woman Promising Young Woman [2020]

I'd Pick This Best Picture Nominee...

Isaac: I'm still going for the Promising Young Woman upset. A kind of movie the likes of which I've never seen before, only the highest honor would make sense to me. The story, the characters, even the sets with their oddly Wes Anderson-esque quirkyness all come together to make something worthwhile. Of course my praise of one is not a knock on the other nominees but if you're asking me to pick my Best Picture (you are) I'm giving it to Emerald Fennell's work.

Hopster: Of the eight films nominated for BP, I'm picking Minari.

Isaac: Ugh, wow I love Minari too.

Hopster: Yeah, Minari is pretty great.

One Last Shout-Out

Isaac: With all of the changes BAFTA made to ensure their nominations were diverse and celebrated a wider array of films, the Academy was in a position where they too needed to move forward. The Academy has been slowing increasing their pool of voters by including more diverse members that don't just include rich white people. And this year we see more of the results of that. We mentioned before that this is the first year multiple African-American men are nominated in the same category for the same film, and Leslie Odom Jr. became the first African-American man to be nominated in an Acting category and a songwriting category. The BAFTA's had the most diverse field they've ever had this year, and The Academy might be making history in terms of diverse winners for a second year in a row. With Parasite and Bong Joon-ho being the big winners last year, it's now possible and probable that Chloé Zhao follows it up with a groundbreaking year as well.

Hopster: I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating: Chloé Zhao is only the seventh woman ever to be nominated for Best Director (wherein only one has won); she is also the first woman of color to be recognized. But here are a few things you might not know or remember: eight men have won three Oscars in one night for directing, screenwriting, and Best Picture[^5]; only one person has ever won four Oscars at one ceremony, and that person was Walt Disney, when in 1953 he won four awards for four different films[^6]; and lastly, Chloé Zhao is nominated in four categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing for Nomadland. She could be the first person ever to win four major Academy Awards for one movie in the same year. And that alone is worth cheering for on Sunday!

[^1] Source

[^2] Just a few off the cuff snubs that immediately come to mind:

  • The Town and Shutter Island in 2010
  • Drive and Take Shelter in 2011
  • The Master and Moonrise Kingdom in 2012
  • Frances Ha and Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013
  • Gone Girl and Selma in 2014
  • Carol and Sicario in 2015
  • Jackie and Loving in 2016
  • The Florida Project and The Rider in 2017
  • First Reformed and If Beale Street Could Talk in 2018
  • The Farewell and Uncut Gems in 2019

[^3] All of our odds and implied probabilities are informed by the extremely helpful Action Network

[^4] Source

[^5] There were a few instances where someone won three in one night outside of these, but these eight include Best Director:

  • Bong Joon-Ho for Parasite (2019)
  • James L. Brooks for Terms of Endearment (1983)
  • James Cameron for Titanic (1997)
  • Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather Part II (1974)
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
  • Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
  • Billy Wilder for The Apartment (1960)

[^6] Those 4 Films:

  • The Living Desert | Best Documentary (Feature)
  • The Alaskan Eskimo | Best Documentary (Feature)
  • Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom | Best Short Subject (Cartoon)
  • Bear Country | Best Short Subject (Two-Reel)

More Articles to Satiate the Soul:

Our Oscars Preview - Best Picture

Our Oscars Preview - Best Picture

Our Oscars Preview - The Acting Categories

Our Oscars Preview - The Acting Categories

Our Oscars Preview - The Acting Categories

Our Oscars Preview - Writing and Directing

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