BLOG: 2021 Oscar Nomination Predictions

by Ken Bakely

Though arriving later than usual, and after a year that defies simple description, it’s still time for the Oscars, and thus, time for me to predict what will get nominated in the major categories. With a few notable exceptions, it seems as if we’re currently in a position where we have a set of sturdy frontrunners in key races that could all become complete runaways if a couple more precursors go in the anticipated direction (and some are closer to that than others). 

For each category, I will rank the contenders based on how likely I think each prospective nominee is to get in next week. I’ll also include one potential spoiler (or two for Best Picture). Next Monday, after the nominations are announced, I’ll come back and edit this post, scoring my predictions and offering some comments on how I did (those notes will be in blue).

UPDATE (March 15): I have added my reactions and tallied my scores.

BEST PICTURE

RankFilm
1Nomadland
2The Trial of the Chicago 7
3One Night in Miami
4Minari
5Promising Young Woman
6Mank
7Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
8Judas and the Black Messiah
9Sound of Metal
10The Father

SPOILERS: Da 5 Bloods and The Mauritanian

COMMENTS: Nomadland enters the nominations as a solid favorite for Best Picture, though it’s early enough in the season that we could still see a few twists and turns in the top contest as the precursors continue. Regardless, I’d say that I’m fairly confident about every movie in the top eight getting nominated.

REACTIONS: 8 for 8 (though, obviously if you had asked me to go with my top eight predictions, they wouldn’t have lined up). Nomadland remains the heavy frontrunner; nothing else in the other categories’ nominations gives me serious reason to reconsider that stance.


BEST DIRECTOR

RankNomineeFilm
1Chloé ZhaoNomadland
2David FincherMank
3Aaron SorkinThe Trial of the Chicago 7
4Lee Isaac ChungMinari
5Emerald FennellPromising Young Woman

SPOILER: Florian Zeller – The Father

COMMENTS: I’m well aware that my five predicted nominees represent a complete overlap with the five nominees at the Directors Guild of America Awards, and I’m well aware that the Oscars and the DGA matching five for five is a relatively rare event. The problem is that I’m not exactly sure who misses out. Zhao has won every major award thus far and is not likely to lose anything any time soon, if at all before Oscar Sunday. And despite Mank’s fortunes waning in other categories, Fincher seems like a relatively safe also-ran. Perhaps one of Sorkin, Chung, or Fennell could lose out to an unexpected choice like Florian Zeller. Occasionally, the directors’ branch will nominate a prestigious artist who has directed a well-respected movie with a reputation that can overcome a lack of precursor buzz for this particular category.

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Sorkin out, Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round in. I was correct in suspecting that there could be a surprise nominee here who had made few appearances at the precursors, but I was incorrect in guessing who that would be.


BEST ACTRESS

RankNomineeFilm
1Carey MulliganPromising Young Woman
2Viola DavisMa Rainey’s Black Bottom
3Frances McDormandNomadland
4Vanessa KirbyPieces of a Woman
5Andra DayThe United States vs. Billie Holiday

SPOILER: Amy Adams – Hillbilly Elegy

COMMENTS: Mulligan, Davis, and McDormand are all locks for a nomination. It’s the contest for the final two spots which represent the challenge in predicting here. Kirby’s performance has been nominated at every major precursor. Day’s performance is strong and represents an unambiguous positive in what is otherwise a dismayingly mediocre biopic. As for a spoiler, perhaps SAG Award nominee Amy Adams? However, Hillbilly Elegy’s icy reception could prevent its appearance beyond the one category it’s most likely to appear in (more on that later).

REACTIONS: Perfect score. Ultimately, the Academy didn’t go with any surprises here.


BEST ACTOR

RankNomineeFilm
1Chadwick BosemanMa Rainey’s Black Bottom
2Riz AhmedSound of Metal
3Anthony HopkinsThe Father
4Gary OldmanMank
5Steven YeunMinari

SPOILER: Tahar Rahim – The Mauritanian

COMMENTS: Another category where we have three virtually certain nominees (Boseman, Ahmed, Hopkins) and must figure out the other two. Oldman and Yeun have appeared at major precursors; Oldman has the added benefit of prestige among the Academy, and Yeun is in a widely beloved film that’s currently near the center of awards season conversation. When it comes to an upset, The Mauritanian seems to be making a late run at the precursors, and it could see at least one (and possibly two – again, more on that later) acting nomination.

REACTIONS: Perfect score. Again, a consensus five in predictions (that I thankfully didn’t deviate from in my own) turned out to be our final nominees.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

RankNomineeFilm
1Olivia ColmanThe Father
2Glenn CloseHillbilly Elegy
3Maria BakalovaBorat Subsequent Moviefilm
4Youn Yuh-jungMinari
5Amanda SeyfriedMank

SPOILER: Jodie Foster – The Mauritanian

COMMENTS: This is a fairly perplexing category with no clear frontrunner. I’d be willing to bet the most on Colman, Close, and Bakalova getting nominated: Colman is a recent winner, Close is a well-established veteran, and Bakalova is the breakout star from one of the year’s most-discussed films. Youn seems like another likely nominee, with the positive reception of Minari possibly leading to her well-deserved nomination. As for the fifth slot, I’m going with Amanda Seyfried in Mank: an early favorite from the start of awards season who could still hold on. If not, consider Golden Globe winner Jodie Foster, with increased buzz for her film plausibly helping her to the top five.

REACTIONS: Perfect score. The biggest question here was the nominee in the fifth slot. A few names were suggested over recent weeks, but in the end, the Academy went with one of the season’s most longstanding candidates. Now that we know these five are the nominees, I can say that I would rank this category differently based on who is most likely to win. While I usually tend to indicate who I think has the early lead in these predictions, there was so much uncertainty here that I only really ranked this based on predicting who was more likely to be nominated and no other factor.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

RankNomineeFilm
1Daniel KaluuyaJudas and the Black Messiah
2Leslie Odom Jr.One Night in Miami
3Sacha Baron CohenThe Trial of the Chicago 7
4Paul RaciSound of Metal
5Jared LetoThe Little Things

SPOILER: Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods

COMMENTS: Kaluuya seems to be moving from one of multiple possible favorites to runaway leader of this category, though Odom and Baron Cohen are still very likely to be nominated. Beyond the top three, I think Raci can still get in – despite a spotty record at the precursors – based on how well Sound of Metal does. Leto’s nomination is possible, though I’m uncertain how much so: his nomination for a SAG Award shows that the industry reception for this film may be far stronger than anyone realized. And while it once seemed very likely that the late Chadwick Boseman would receive two nominations this year, awards voters seem to have massively let down Da 5 Bloods, making his appearance in Supporting Actor far less certain than it once seemed.

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Leto out, Lakeith Stanfield for Judas and the Black Messiah in. Often, the acting categories will deliver us a shocker and nominate somebody with little to no precursor attention. Stanfield is such an honoree for this year, with a welcome, if unexpected, nomination.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

RankFilmScreenwriter(s)
1The Trial of the Chicago 7Aaron Sorkin
2Promising Young WomanEmerald Fennell
3MinariLee Isaac Chung
4MankJack Fincher
5Sound of MetalDarius Marder and Abraham Marder; story by Darius Marder and Derek Cianfrance

SPOILER:  Judas and the Black Messiah – Screenplay by Will Berson and Shaka King; story by Berson, King, Kenny Lucas, and Keith Lucas

COMMENTS: Sorkin’s popcorn dialogue may ultimately prove too much for the Academy to resist, but Promising Young Woman and Minari are likely to be nominated alongside The Trial of the Chicago 7, and perhaps win, depending on how the rest of the precursors go. Mank is something of a less certain prospect, but it certainly seems a feasible nominee. I have Sound of Metal penciled into the fifth spot, but wouldn’t be surprised if Judas and the Black Messiah (a WGA nominee) was honored here, too.

REACTIONS: 4 or 5. Mank out, Judas and the Black Messiah in. There was always some malleability with the final two slots, though I am somewhat surprised that Mank missed here when it seemed to play down the board in most other categories.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

RankFilmScreenwriter(s)
1NomadlandChloé Zhao
2One Night in MiamiKemp Powers
3Ma Rainey’s Black BottomRuben Santiago-Hudson
4The FatherFlorian Zeller and Christopher Hampton
5News of the WorldPaul Greengrass and Luke Davies

SPOILER: The White Tiger – Rahim Bahrani

COMMENTS: There was once a time when it seemed like News of the World would have a strong showing across the board, but it’s entirely possible that a nomination here – alongside four likely Best Picture nominees – could be its top prize. However, it does stand amid possibly sturdy competition from WGA nominees The White Tiger, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, and First Cow.

REACTIONS: 3 for 5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and News of the World out, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and The White Tiger in. I was right in thinking that we should consider some of the WGA nominees in this category, but I didn’t think that Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was particularly at risk here.


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

RankFilm
1Time
2Dick Johnson Is Dead
3Welcome to Chechnya
4Collective
5The Truffle Hunters

SPOILER: Crip Camp

COMMENTS: Trying to deduce the complicated voting system of the documentary and international film nominations means that movies we thought were safe can miss out at the last moment, but these seem to be the five that have received the most discussion and precursor attention.

REACTIONS: 2 for 5. Dick Johnson Is Dead, The Truffle Hunters, and Welcome to Chechnya out; Crip Camp, The Mole Agent, and My Octopus Teacher in. As I said, there’s always a considerable uncertainty factor to this – and the following – category, so while I try my best to guess it, I do so with the knowledge that the biggest surprises are when there are no surprises.


BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

RankFilmSubmitting Country
1Another RoundDenmark
2Two of UsFrance
3Quo Vadis, Aida?Bosnia and Herzegovina
4CollectiveRomania
5Dear Comrades!Russia

SPOILER: La Llorona (Guatemala)

COMMENTS: Again, this can be a challenging category to predict, but I would easily place Another Round as the frontrunner; I’ve even heard people suggest that director Thomas Vinterberg could show up as the surprise fifth nominee in Best Director, though I’m not exactly sold on that as a possibility.

REACTIONS: 3 for 5. Dear Comrades! and Two of Us out, Better Days (Hong Kong) and The Man who Sold His Skin (Tunisia) in. As you can see, I completely missed the stop on all the talk about Vinterberg possibly being nominated in directing. But now that he is nominated, it’s even safer to assume Another Round is the prohibitive favorite to win.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

RankFilm
1Soul
2Wolfwalkers
3Over the Moon
4Onward
5The Croods: A New Age

SPOILER: The Willoughbys

COMMENTS: Not much to say here. When predicting Animated Feature, any movie from Disney and/or Pixar is a good place to start. Other than that, a little bit of precursor reading can help you fill out the remainder of the category.

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. The Croods: A New Age out, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon in. But regardless of the other nominees, Soul (also nominated in Best Original Score) remains the clear favorite.


And there are my predictions for the Oscar nominations. Check back on Monday for my scores and reactions.

The nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards will be announced on March 15, 2021, in a live broadcast hosted by Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Nick Jonas beginning at 5:19AM Pacific Daylight Time.

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