Chimes’ 2021 Oscar predictions

Nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards were announced Monday morning in an extensive livestream hosted by Nick and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. David Fincher’s “Mank” received the most nominations, with ten total. Spike Lee’s “Da Five Bloods” was largely snubbed, receiving only a nomination for Original Score. Although the pandemic has led to a seemingly slow year for cinema, the nominees this year are surprisingly strong, making it difficult to pick a winner in many categories. Regardless, here are Chimes’ picks for the 2021 Oscars*, which will air on ABC on April 25th.

Best Picture

This year’s Best Picture race is tight, with nominees such as “Minari,” “Sound of Metal,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and “Nomadland.” All these films have been met with great acclaim, with no clear standout. Though my personal pick would be “Minari,” which took home top prizes at Sundance Film Festival, “Nomadland” seems a critic-favorite, and coming off the heels of its Golden Globes win it seems likely to win over the Academy as well.

Best Director

A category typically notorious for its lack of diversity, this year’s Best Director nominees have marked multiple milestones. Chloé Zhao is the first woman of color to be nominated, and this is the first year (ever) that two women have been nominated for the award. Similarly to the Best Picture category, though I think Lee Isaac-Chung deserves the award for his direction of Minari, it seems likely to go to Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland.”

Best Actress

Though there were a number of standout performances this year, including Vanessa Kirby as a mourning mother in “Pieces of a Woman” and Frances McDormand’s acclaimed role in “Nomadland,” Viola Davis’s performance as Ma Rainey in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is simply electric. Davis is hardly recognizable, spitting out her lines through gold teeth. She manages to be simultaneously sympathetic and despicable, an impressive feat and one deserving of praise.

Best Actor

Perhaps the closest race is that for Best Actor. Gary Oldman and Anothony Hopkins are veteran actors, both having previously won in this category. Further, Riz Ahmed, Steven Yeun, and Chadwick Boseman all gave fresh, intense, and personal performances. Additionally, in a surprising snub, Delroy Lindo received no nomination for his gut-wrenching performance in Spike Lee’s “Da Five Bloods.” However, it seems likely that the prize will go posthumously to Chadwick Boseman, for his beautiful work in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Best Animated Feature

2020 was a slow year for animation, making this arguably the easiest category to predict. Though “Wolfwalkers” is delightful, with a refreshing art style, the Academy has always favored Pixar, and “Soul” is one of their best. For that reason, “Soul” seems an easy pick for the award.

Best Documentary

Garrett Bradley’s “Time” offers a cerebral take on documentary filmmaking, less focused on uncovering facts and more so on universal truths, within the context of the American prison industrial complex. Still, the number of international members in the Academy has increased a lot over the past year, and such an American story might not be as relatable or engaging to these new voters. An enthralling, on-the-ground investigation into Romanian health care fraud, “Collective” seems a more likely pick for international voters and the category at large.

Best International Feature

Though previously it seemed the International Feature category was a tough call, with the nomination of Thomas Vinterberg in the Best Director category, his film “Another Round” seems a shoe-in. Since at least 2000, a director being nominated for Best Director and Best International Feature has always indicated a win for the latter award, as with Ang Lee for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” Michael Haneke for “Amour,” Alfonso Cuarón for “Roma,” and Bong Joon-Ho for “Parasite.” The only exception is Paweł Pawlikowski, as he was nominated the same year as Cuarón.

Best Cinematography

In past years, Best Cinematography has gone to those who developed or utilized innovative shooting techniques. Cinematographers such as Emmanuel Lubezki and Roger Deakins pushed the envelope with engrossing long takes and gorgeous framing and colors. This year, there’s no film that has earned the award in such a distinctive way. It’s possible the Academy will go for Joshua James Richards’ work on “Nomadland,” with its interspersed shots of flora and fauna, but my pick is Erik Messerschmidt’s black-and-white photography on “Mank.”

Best Original Screenplay

While all the screenplays in the original category are superb, particularly “Sound of Metal” and “Minari,” the award is likely going to Academy favorite Aaron Sorkin for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Courtroom dramas might not be everyone’s thing, and Sorkin’s directing could use some work, but his screenplays are unquestionably tight and fast paced.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Missing from this year’s adapted screenplay nominees is Charlie Kaufman’s perplexing psychological thriller “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” which was inexplicably snubbed in every category. Given its absence, a likely victor can be found in Kemp Powers’ adaptation of his own play “One Night in Miami…” Adapting plays to the screen can be difficult, and such films often end up flat, but Powers did an excellent job.

Best Supporting Actress

Among the nominees for Best Supporting Actress are legendary South Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung, eight time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close, and newcomer Maria Bakalova. But most likely to win is Olivia Coleman, for her heartbreaking performance in “The Father.” Coleman previously won Best Actress for her role in “The Favorite” at the 91st Academy Awards.

Best Supporting Actor

In the supporting actor category, both Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya were nominated for their respective performances in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” despite Stanfield’s character being more of a leading role. There’s no rule in the voting process indicating which characters are leading vs supporting, rather members vote for actors in whichever category they choose. Regardless of this strange categorization, Stanfield is likely to bring home the award.

Best Costume Design

Period pieces always have an edge in the costuming category. This year, the top contenders are “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Emma.” Although costume designer Ann Roth’s work in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is stunning, the regency-era dresses in “Emma” from Alexandra Byrne seem more likely to win votes.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

While “Emma”’s costuming is superb, its makeup can’t compare to Viola Davis’s wild physical transformation in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” With gorgeous eye makeup and fake gold teeth, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, and Jamika Wilson went all out with their work on the film, making it an easy choice for the award.

Best Sound

The category for sound mixing and sound editing have been combined this year into a single award, ending years of confusion among laymen regarding the distinction between the two seemingly identical categories. The award will almost certainly go to “Sound of Metal,” due to the entire premise of the film revolving around sound, and said premise being executed flawlessly.

Best Visual Effects

Best Visual Effects is perhaps the only award Christopher Nolan’s epic “Tenet” will take home on April 25. Its explosive (literally) action sequences with largely practical effects are impressive to say the least. Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher’s work on the film is sure to clinch the category.

* Not including the following categories: Production design, film editing, score, original song, animated short film, live action short film, documentary short film.