Predictions & Snubs: The 93rd Academy Awards

Updated: Apr 21, 2021



It’s hard to believe that the last time we released our Oscars predictions was right before the COVID-19 pandemic truly started to change our daily lives. Early last year, we were blissfully able to go to movie theaters, in big groups of fellow cinema-lovers, and share tubs of popcorn without a care for social distancing. That reality seems… almost alien now. Like it happened a lifetime ago.


Since then, the movie industry has been almost entirely upended. Movie theaters shuttered and many were hit hard by the lack of ticket sales, especially the locally owned arthouses that typically screen these Academy Award-nominated films. As such, this has been the hardest year yet to see as many of these nominees as possible -- the kind of viewing that’s necessary to make informed predictions and provide insight on each film. Films that would normally be shown several times a day are being screened locally in fewer cities, typically only once or twice per weekend. To try and make money off their projects, producers are charging incredibly high prices to rent many of these titles online.


That said, we did our best, and it’s with great eagerness that we settle in for our yearly tradition of delving into what will and won’t happen on Hollywood’s Biggest Night. The Oscars may look a lot different this year, with a smaller though still in-person ceremony and red carpet, but our list of picks, predictions and snubs is back just like always. We’re only delving into the “Big Six” categories -- each of the four acting awards, as well as Best Picture and Best Director. At the end, we’ve got a couple of films we feel deserve the highlight that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to recognize.


Without further ado, here’s how we think the 93rd Academy Awards will shake out next Sunday. Here with his personal commentary for each prediction and snub is our resident film nerd, Troy Shinn:

 

Best Picture

The Father

Judas and the Black Messiah

Mank

Minari

Nomadland

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7


Frances McDormand in "Nomadland," the front-runner for Best Picture at the 93rd Academy Awards.

Who Will Win: Nomadland


Chloe Zhao’s tender-yet-gritty feature about a woman who loses everything in the Great Recession seems to have all the momentum heading into Sunday. It became the first female-directed film to win a Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama back in February, and Zhao herself picked up a key Satellite Award for Best Director, which many see as a sign that critics are favoring her work over others. Aside from being a critical darling, Nomadland also manages to be full of non-actors, toeing the line between drama and documentary in a way that feels natural, not gimmicky. It’s also a stark commentary on capitalism, loss and personal freedom. Nomadland is certainly deserving and it received a nomination in every major category but Supporting Actor, further evidence that it’s a heavy favorite.


Who Should Win: Promising Young Woman


Sure, there’s a little bit of Scorsesian mimicry here with this female-fronted play on Taxi Driver. Both films center around a socially awkward loner who feels it’s their duty to show people the error of their ways. And both films’ heroes undergo dramatic wardrobe and hairstyle changes leading into their final acts. Plenty of people have also drawn comparisons between Promising Young Woman and 2005’s Hard Candy, directed by David Slade, about a teenager who lures predators online only to... well, do very bad stuff to them. But Emerald Fennell’s debut feature film deserves props for carving out its own style while approaching the sensitive subject of sexual assault and suicide with the shifting tones that it does. Yes, it’s dark and gritty, but it’s also bright, funny and endearing. It deftly blends genres like horror and romantic comedy in a way that has a lot more depth than the predecessors it borrows from. Of all the nominees, this one sticks with you the most and has the most unique style.


Honorable Mention: Sound of Metal


On its surface, people probably thought they knew everything they needed to know about this film just from watching the trailer: “Metal drummer loses his hearing and struggles to adapt to his new life.” While that’s certainly the driving plot, where this film truly shines is in the moments that unfold throughout its two-hour run-time. Riz Ahmed shows incredible range as Ruben, a young man who loses his hearing abruptly and has to give up his passion as a musician. But Sound of Metal is also a loving look into the companionship that disabled individuals find within their community, and we’re heartbroken right along with them when we watch Ruben throw thousands of dollars at a procedure we all know won’t truly make him happy or give him his old life back. It’s in these harsh, real moments that this film finds its true thematic legs, not in the surface struggles we think we’re in for when we plop down to watch this film.


 

Best Director

Chloe Zhao - Nomadland

Emerald Fennell - Promising Young Woman

David Fincher - Mank

Thomas Vinterburg - Another Round

Lee Isaac Chung - Minari


Who Will Win: Chloe Zhao


Again, she’s got all the momentum, especially with key wins at the Golden Globes and Satellite awards. This category is pretty much seen as locked up in Zhao’s favor, not that she isn’t deserving! Zhao’s film shows humans in the wee hours of the morning and the cold hours of night, and her eye for lighting and framing make these moments really stick with us. From its light-dark contrasts to open vistas and cramped quarters, this film is all about juxtaposition, and Zhao’s artistry behind the camera is a big reason why it works so well.


Who Should Win: Emerald Fennell


I’m a bit of a sucker for debut filmmakers who get a nomination. The achievement is huge enough in it’s own right, so it’s not like Fennell needs to come away with gold in order to have plenty to be proud of. Not only did her debut film make waves, it’s garnered a lot of late buzz that could be huge toward pushing in an upset on Sunday. It would take a lot of upheaval to unseat Zhao as the front-runner, but Fennell’s film is the one that seems to have the most individual style, with it’s popping colors and genre-blending narrative. I like Fennell for this prize, but don’t expect her to win it.


Honorable Mention: David Fincher


In the Oscars Seasons of old, Fincher’s film would probably be the frontrunner. The Academy really loves celebrating itself, so films about filmmaking -- let alone one about the greatest film of all time -- tend to generate a lot of buzz. The fact that Mank ISN’T the frontrunner just shows you how much more diverse the voter base of the Oscars has become in the last five years or so. No longer will the same cinematic stories directed by white men automatically win. That said, Fincher’s homage to Citizen Kane really is excellent and manages to be more about the politics of early 20th Century Hollywood than it is about the actual film it borrows from. The expertly mobile camera and meticulous set design really shows through in Mank, and Fincher’s efforts definitely deserve the recognition of a nod here.

 

Lead Actor

Riz Ahmed - Sound of Metal

Chadwick Boseman - Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Anthony Hopkins - The Father

Gary Oldman - Mank

Steven Yeun - Minari



Who Will Win: Chadwick Boseman


Many people will feel like Boseman gets the gold here because of his untimely passing last year. While that’s undoubtedly going to be a factor, posthumous winners are always deserving in more ways than their deaths. Boseman’s entire career revolved around portraying the Black experience in America (and Wakanda…) and his name has been in critics’ mouths for years now. While I definitely don’t think that his performance in Ma Rainey was the best male performance of the year, it sometimes takes an actor’s death for people to look back with full eyes at their careers. It’s that breadth of work that will win him the trophy, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that.


Who Should Win: Riz Ahmed


Now, it should also be noted that the statuette is SUPPOSED to go to the actor who had the best performance. For my money, that’s Ahmed. He can seem a little one-note in the film, as his pent-up drummer’s anger causes him to be a constant source of smashing, bashing and terror. But it’s once the film strips away that primal rage that we start to see the real nuance to his performance. He’s angry because he’s terrified. And with his wide-eyed, heavy-booted stomping around we see a lot of ourselves in his fear and confusion. How would we react to losing the one thing that made us who we are?


Honorable Mention: Anthony Hopkins


Without even having to see The Father, I know Hopkins deserves this nomination because he’s always brilliant. But it’s also the second year in a row that he’s received a nomination after receiving a nod in Supporting Actor for The Two Popes. Even near the end of his long, iconic career, Hopkins still seems to be nailing his job.