The 93rd Academy Awards will air Sunday amid worries that the little-seen lineup of nominated films, coronavirus-created restrictions on attendance and presentations at the ceremony and a change in viewing habits could make it the least-watched Oscars ever.
The changes in the ceremony that will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on ABC mean that there won’t be a red carpet where fashion and celebrity bring almost as much attention as the awards.
Changes in viewing habits, already seen in ratings for the Grammy and Golden Globe awards, is, to some measure, pandemic-related. But the Oscars’ rating struggle dates back before the coronavirus. In 2019, a host-less show had its lowest viewership ever.
Some blame the dip on the political nature of some winners’ speeches in past years. Others say it’s a generational thing, which also makes sense.
A younger generation, you see, has a different way of consuming media. Unless there’s some good reason to watch the entire three-hour broadcast, an hour or two later — and for days to come — YouTube and other online outlets will provide the snippets of the broadcast that are deemed noteworthy and must-see.
As for the movies themselves, they’re a well-selected representation of a movie year that saw no blockbusters, few comic book/superhero films and sent viewers onto streaming services to watch “small” films that have, for the last couple decades, made up the best that Hollywood has to offer.
That said, here are predictions of the winners of the seven major Oscars, along with who I would have voted for if I was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:
Nominees: “The Father,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Monk,” Minari,” “Nomadland,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Sound of Metal,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
Will win: “Nomadland.” The odds-on favorite from the day the nominations were revealed, “Nomadland” is a shoo-in to take Best Picture and might win two or three more awards. It’s got some serious rooting interest in Nebraska, where its tale of people crisscrossing the West, living in vans, was partially filmed.
If I had a vote: “Nomadland.”
Nominees: Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari;” Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman;” David Fincher, “Mank;” Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland;” Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round.”
Will win: Zhao, “Nomadland.” The directing Oscar has gone to the Best Picture winner 52 of 66 times. Zhao keeps that trend going.
If I had a vote: Zhao.
Nominees: Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal;” Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom;” Anthony Hopkins, “The Father;” Gary Oldman, “Mank;” Stephen Yuen, “Minari.”
Will win: Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The best actor of his generation, Boseman died of colon cancer at 43 in August. His final movie, released a few months later, finds him delivering another great performance, when he was critically ill. This Oscar will honor not only that work but also his career.
If I had a vote: Anthony Hopkins, “The Father.”
Nominees: Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom;” Audra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holliday;” Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman;” Frances McDormand, “Nomadland;” Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman.”
Will win: Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman.” Davis, Day and Mulligan appear to be running nearly dead-even in 2021’s most difficult category to predict. Davis already has an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress for “Fences,” which might work against her) and “The United States vs. Billie Holliday” is the least-seen of any of the movies nominated in major categories, which hurts Day’s chances. So Mulligan emerges as the slight favorite, and a chance to honor “Promising Young Woman,” which otherwise will likely be shut out.
If I had a vote: McDormand, “Nomadland.” McDormand brought “Nomadland” to Zhao and carries the film with a realistic, natural presence. She deserves her third Best Actress award.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7;” Daniel Kaluuya,” Judas and the Black Messiah;” Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night in Miami;” Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal;” LaKeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Will win: Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Arguably, Kaluuya is the lead actor in this picture and should have been nominated in the Best Actor category. But his powerhouse performance as Black Panther Fred Hampton deserves the recognition it will get.
If I had a vote: Kaluuya.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm;” Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy;” Olivia Colman, “The Father;” Amanda Seyfried, “Mank;” Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari.”
Will win: Youn, “Minari.” The pick-’em category of 2021 comes down to Colman, playing the daughter forced to care for her father who is slipping into dementia, and Korean actress Youn, who plays a grandmother who comes to the U.S. to help her struggling family. They’re both superb — and the race appears to be tight.
If I had a vote: Youn.
Nominees: “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Minari,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Sound of Metal,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
Will win: “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
If I had a vote: “Sound of Metal.”
Nominees: “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “The Father,” “Nomadland,” “One Night in Miami,” “The White Tiger.”
Will win: “Nomadland.”
If I had a vote: “Nomadland.”
The Oscar best picture race is wide open. Here, the 8 nominees make their case
Just keep rolling with those ads and posters showing Olivia Colman gazing lovingly at a beaming Anthony Hopkins and lean into the movie’s touching story of a daughter trying to take care of her aging father. Everything’s going to be OK. Really! Look at that twinkle in Hopkins’ eyes. Repeat after me: He’s not losing his mind. He’s not losing his mind. He’s not losing his mind.
‘JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH’
Remind everyone that Oscar voters loved LaKeith Stanfield’s phenomenal turn in this movie so much that they nominated him for supporting actor, ignoring Warner Bros.’ recommendation to place him in the lead actor category.
If Stanfield and co-star Daniel Kaluuya, the two actors playing the title characters, are supporting, who is the movie’s lead? Perhaps the question should be rephrased: What is the movie’s lead? Answer: Its timeliness. Though the events in the movie take place 50 years ago, its chilling look at systemic racism — the FBI-engineered police killing of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton — makes it profoundly relevant and, perhaps, the most important movie among the nominees. Consider that.
We’d like to thank the academy for the 10 nominations. Have we mentioned that it’s the most-nominated movie of the year? We have? Well, that’s because just about every branch in the academy (except for the writers; we don’t know what they were thinking) recognized the considerable craft that went into this film. We realize that the academy’s membership has changed in recent years, so the movie’s evocation of Old Hollywood might not give younger voters — how do the kids put it — ummm, the feels?
Also, if you haven’t, check out this “Citizen Kane.” It’s pretty good. And it might help you appreciate our movie.
One wise critic called “Minari” a “balm,” and we know you’ve been feeling that. We never expected all this love. It reminds us of another intimate, personal movie from a few years ago, “Moonlight,” which — what do you know — just happened to be made by A24 and Plan B Entertainment, the same companies behind “Minari.” Huh.
Do you think history can repeat itself? If SAG Awards voters give our wonderful cast its ensemble prize, that’d be a nice start. Besides, who doesn’t want to see the adorable and accomplished Alan Kim celebrating (and maybe chugging down Mountain Dew?) in a tuxedo. Let’s make this happen.
If you’ve seen the movie, you realize how you feel when you spend more time being happier with what you have than unhappy with what you don’t have. What we have, right now, is pretty much every best picture award from the past year. What we don’t have is the Oscar. Yet. See you down the road.
‘PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN’
It’s furious. And ferocious. Did we say funny? Because it’s pretty freakin’ funny too. What other F words can we use? Fennell! Emerald Fennell. You gave her three Oscar nominations, for writing, directing and producing this furious, ferocious and funny movie. And you also nominated our star, Carey Mulligan, who, no matter what that Variety critic wrote (and thank you, Variety, for displaying such integrity and courage to apologize, nearly a year after the review ran, for minimizing her daring performance), is probably going to win the Oscar for lead actress.
Plus you gave us an editing nomination too. Picture, director, writing, editing, acting — add them all up and you have all the precursors needed to win. Fabulous!
‘SOUND OF METAL’
You don’t need to fix anything here. Six nominations? That’s beautiful. We’ve got a little assignment for you, though. You get up early, right? Get some hot coffee, maybe a doughnut (vegan’s OK), go to a quiet room and just sit. And write. It doesn’t matter what you write, how you write or what you write about, though it’d be nice if maybe you’d reflect on “Sound of Metal” and how it conveyed a few things we all went through and learned during this past year. And then remember those thoughts when you fill out your ballot.
‘THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7’
First things first: Let’s put that Aaron Sorkin “snub” behind us. “Argo” won best picture without a director nomination. “Green Book” too.
And this movie is at least as good as those two films. Maybe better. It could well win the SAG Awards ensemble honor because — look at the title: “Chicago 7.” And there were actually eight defendants at the start. Add in the lawyers and the judge and you’ve got a BIG ensemble of great actors. All men. But those were the times.
Anyway … where were we? Oh, SAG ensemble plus maybe the Producers Guild best picture prize and we’re back in business, Sorkin “snub” be damned.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @KentWolgamott