For quite a few years now, those of us who follow the Oscars have concluded that the era of the big sweep is over; that, like so many other major cultural events in the last decade, things are too stratified and media coverage is too heavy and omnipresent to let one title run away as the undisputed champion. Everything Everywhere All at Once has firmly disabused us of that notion. On Sunday night, it walked away from the Dolby Theater with seven Oscars, more than any movie since 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire. It won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and three of the four acting honors. Unlike many awards season frontrunners, which fall victim to a backlash which can sometimes topple them entirely, Everything Everywhere’s stature only grew the longer it led the pack. By the time that we arrived at the ceremony, it was simply untouchable.
In the final stretch before the Academy Award nominations are announced, I’m continuing a longstanding tradition on this website and predicting what I think will get nominated in the major categories. I will provide my predictions, one alternate (or two in Best Picture), and brief commentary explaining my picks. Each category is ranked, based on how likely I think it is for each contender to be nominated. After the nominations are announced, I will tally my score and share a brief reaction. Those comments will be added in blue text.
Looking back after a year has passed, I’m always tentative when it comes to publishing a top 10 list. There are always more movies to catch up on, and when it comes down to it, even if I had gotten the chance to see everything I was possibly interested in seeing, we’re still dealing with the intrinsically odd and imperfect pursuit of ranking such disparate works.
But I think there is a reason for doing this: sharing the movies that have stood out and impressed can be a valuable guide in a time when a seemingly endless assembly line of titles cascades across the queues of streaming services, subject to the whims of The Algorithm on whether people will actually find out about them. At the core, this is a chance to discuss movies, person-to-person, with some regularity. We can mark the time that has passed and make recommendations. It’s why I always look forward to participating on the year-end podcast over at Film Pulse, in which we share and compare our top 10 lists in detail; I’ll only include my list below, without further comment. For more discussion, you can listen to this year’s episode here.
I know what you want me to talk about here, and sure, I’ll get to it, but first, let me say this:
It’s actually hard for me to write about this show in total. At first, I felt I just had nothing to say. I suppose this is in part because the decision to eliminate categories from the broadcast represented the strange economics that defined the entire evening. The Academy, producers Will Packer and Shayla Cowan, and ABC held firm to the decision to cut eight categories from the broadcast, despite a chorus of Oscar fans and industry professionals virtually unanimous in their condemnation. They swore it was part of an initiative to keep the show focused, streamlined, and under three hours (and include more comedy bits and musical performances). So they did it, worked clips of the speeches from the affected awards into the broadcast, and what happened? The broadcast was the longest since 2018, and in every one of them in between, all categories got their moment in the sun.
Bottom line: category-cutting was a failed experiment that should be swiftly written off as the bad idea it was. I say this not as a value judgment, but as a simple statement of fact. It did not meet its intended objective. It should not happen again.
With days remaining until this year’s Academy Award nominations, I’m continuing a tradition for the site and offering my predictions for what might get nominated in some major categories. After the nominations are announced on February 8, I’ll return to this post and tally up my scores with some additional comments, which will be marked in blue text.
The following predictions will be ranked by how likely I think each prospective nominee is to get in. I will also include one possible alternate for each category – except for the ten-candidate Best Picture race, where I will list two.
UPDATE (February 8): My reactions and scores follow in blue.
Another year has passed. Last December, I discussed how difficult it was to summarize the preceding twelve months in the world of film in a single post, and I find myself in a similar position this year, but perhaps for different reasons.
Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher, and Steven Soderbergh had an unenviable task in producing the 2021 Oscars. With the traditional templates for devising a ceremony out of commission, even down to the venue, they had to figure out a way to keep the show as glossy as possible while working within the circumstances. Soderbergh said that he wanted the ceremony to be like a movie, and as the evening began, it felt like we were getting just that, as presenter Regina King led us in a tracking shot through Los Angeles’s Union Station as an opening credits sequence rolled in the show’s cinematic aspect ratio (video above). In the ceremony’s main venue – the station’s former ticket lobby – attendees were seated at rows of tables, and presenters freely traversed the space, giving the show an intimate, improvisational, and yet elegant feel. In short, it was everything the Golden Globes wish they could be. The on-screen talent were poised and charismatic; the location was well-appointed. The show’s best moments arguably came when the close-up format allowed the nominees and winners more of a chance to shine. I don’t think a single speech was played off, which is good, because many of the speeches were insightful and worthwhile.
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.
Every year, I begin this post by spending a few paragraphs trying to summarize the last twelve months in film – the major changes and developments that seemed to define how we watched and discussed movies over the year that’s ended. It’s a bit of a silly game to play most years, but after 2020, it almost seems too ridiculous to try. Major titles, too numerous to count, were pushed to 2021 and beyond. Theaters have spent a majority of the year closed for business. For many months, film productions were shut down entirely. And because the only way that a title could safely reach a large number of people was through streaming, the mere nature of what it means to “release a movie” this year became a term up for discussion: there have been more streaming-exclusive titles this year than could have ever been imagined even ten months ago, filmed stage productions, and anthologies, like Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series. Certainly, many early awards voters and critics issuing their top 10 lists have been inundated with people who seem to have inexplicably fiery opinions on what can or cannot be considered a movie – and those individuals will find little respite in my list.
To reiterate a point I made earlier this week, when discussing the year’s films on the Film Pulse podcast, what’s the point of this kind of gatekeeping? Why should we be so regimented when it comes to discussing the art that meant the most to us as individuals? And in this of all years, why should we consider this to be such a salient point? The COVID pandemic has upended every aspect of human life, and the much-anticipated “return to normal,” which may come sometime next year as vaccinations continue to roll out, will still be very different – in ways large and small – than the world of 2019. And of course, there are ways in which this could be a good thing. But perhaps these are considerations that deserve more serious discussion by more qualified people than I can offer in this annual post. I can only express my hope that we are but months away from a time when we can safely gather together again – and in the context of this particular writing, that we can go to movie theaters, and that movie theaters will still be healthy and viable.