Things are going to look a little different this year, but the Academy Awards are finally here. This year, the event will not have a host and in many ways will mirror what is going on in today’s world. Movies like Judas and the Black Messiah and Promising Young Woman tackle topical issues. Will this edition of the Oscar’s be any less upsetting than usual? Here are our picks.
- “The Father” David Parfitt, Jean-Louis Livi and Philippe Carcassonne, Producers
- “Judas and the Black Messiah” Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler, Producers
- “Mank” Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski, Producers
- “Minari” Christina Oh, Producer
- “Nomadland” Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey and Chloé Zhao, Producers
- “Promising Young Woman” Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell and Josey McNamara, Producers
- “Sound of Metal” Bert Hamelinck and Sacha Ben Harroche, Producers
- “The Trial of the Chicago 7” Marc Platt and Stuart Besser, Producers
Nathaniel Muir: For a movie to the Best Picture of the Year, it needs to leave a lasting impression. It needs to stay with you long after the credits have finished. You will spend time thinking about what you just watched. Not the nuances in the storytelling, but the actual substance of the film. No movie stayed with me as much as Judas and the Black Messiah. From the great performances to the story, I was captivated the entire time.
Ryan Perry: It’s going to be Nomadland. It’s won basically all the major precursors leading up to the Academy Awards, including the Producers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America, which make up a large section of the Academy’s voting body. Not to mention that Chloé Zhao has basically cleaned up directors awards as well, a category which traditionally has a fairly large overlap with the best picture category. It’s also the only film that’s maintained a large amount of buzz throughout the large majority of awards season.
The film deserves every accolade though as it’s one of the most honestly, and beautifully crafted films in the past decade. There’s a uniqueness, and charm which Zhao, Francis McDormand and her whole cast bring to the film which is unparalleled next to its competitors.
Davis Pittman: While I loved Trial of the Chicago 7, that comes in second behind Promising Young Woman for me. Promising Young Woman really stayed with me because of the sharp unyielding script and the knockout lead performance by Mulligan. I’m pulling hard for PYM to take home Best Picture.
- Riz Ahmed in “Sound of Metal”
- Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
- Anthony Hopkins in “The Father”
- Gary Oldman in “Mank”
- Steven Yeun in “Minari”
- Sacha Baron Cohen in “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
- Daniel Kaluuya in “Judas and the Black Messiah”
- Leslie Odom, Jr. in “One Night in Miami…”
- Paul Raci in “Sound of Metal”
- Lakeith Stanfield in “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Nathaniel: Daniel Kaluuya is the driving force behind Judas and the Black Messiah. It is impossible to not watch him whenever he is on screen. He projects the charisma needed for the role and is a powerhouse. Chairman Fred Hampton is a role that became iconic thanks to Kaluuya. The movie is great as a whole, but Kaluuya’s performance is the driving force.
Ryan: There are two performances this year that left me in tears. The second one we’ll talk about later, but the first is Daniel Kaluuya. There’s so much that Kaluuya brings to the role of Chairman Fred Hampton in the way of imitation that ought just to be marveled at. The way in which he is able to match the charisma of a real man step for step, and inhabit the words of Hampton with such triumph is awards worthy in itself.
However, the true success of this performance is in the quieter moments, when it slips from imitation into provocation. Kaluuya is telling the story of a young martyr coming to terms with whether he’s really ok with dying for his cause, or if there’s something more than that. It’s a touching, and heartbreaking performance which leaves audiences reeling as they relive the pivotal moments of someone who was just 21-years old.
Regina Chavez: Steven Yeun’s performance in Minari is brilliant and touching. The story is gripping and Yeun’s portrayal of Jacob is masterful. Minari is a character driven movie and Yeun captivates audiences as we see Jacob’s hopes, fears, and ambitions. Yeun is a versatile actor and I would not be surprised if he took the award.
- Viola Davis in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
- Andra Day in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”
- Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman”
- Frances McDormand in “Nomadland”
- Carey Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman”
- Maria Bakalova in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”
- Glenn Close in “Hillbilly Elegy”
- Olivia Colman in “The Father”
- Amanda Seyfried in “Mank”
- Yuh-Jung Youn in “Minari”
Nathaniel: Hillbilly Elegy was raked over the coals when it came out. While it certainly is not the critical powerhouse Ron Howard was hoping for, it is nowhere near as bad as people made it out to be. Glenn Close is fantastic as the matriarch of a family caught up in a cycle of abuse. Her performance stands out in an otherwise mediocre film.
Ryan: The other performance is that of Yuh-Jung Youn in Minari. Starting with the endearing, and lovable effort to assimilate to the Southern American culture, which plays so charmingly off her relationship with Alan S. Kim’s David, who in his own way is seeking assimilation. Viewers will come to love her good-natured spirit, and ability to roll with the punches. It’s the twist here the character takes in the final act which defines her performance. She deftly and respectfully portrays someone suffering from an infirmity, and gives the film a harrowing sense of reality that makes it all the more heartbreaking.
Davis: I would love to see Carey Mulligan win Best Actress, her lead performance in Promising Young Woman blew me away. To me, Mulligan is the clear winner in the lead actress category. As far as supporting actress goes, I’d like to see Amanda Seyfried take this home. While I had some critiques of Mank, I thought her performance as Marion Davies was so great and so entertaining. Seyfried really revels in that old Hollywood glamour and charm and also brings a certain gravitas to the role.
- “Onward” Dan Scanl
- on and Kori Rae
- “Over the Moon” Glen Keane, Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou
- “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” Richard Phelan, Will Becher and Paul Kewley
- “Soul” Pete Docter and Dana Murray
- “Wolfwalkers” Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Paul Young and Stéphan Roelants
Nathaniel: Wolfwalkers is a beautiful film that is something of a throwback. The hand drawn animation style adds to the Irish folklore setting. The story also harkens back to a simpler time. The film is almost like a book in the way the plot unfolds. Great characters cement this as the best animated picture of the year.
Ryan: It’s gonna be Soul. This is basically Pixar vs Pixar, and Soul got the better acclaim. Academy voters already routinely admit to not watching animated films or voting for whatever their kid liked best, so this should be decided in that vein.
Regina: A Shaun the Sheep Movie; Farmageddon is hilarious and so much fun. And before you ask, no, you do not have to have seen the first Shaun the Sheep Movie. It is charming and clever and an enjoyable watch. The stop motion animated film is geared for children, but adults can appreciate the sharp humor and silliness of it.
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