You guys remember last year? Oh man, that was crazy. Remember how everyone was mad at everybody all the time, and we couldn’t touch anything for the first half of the year and see each other the last two thirds of the year? You, like me, might have spent a lot of that time consuming every piece of entertainment you could, both to escape the grim reality you were living in and, frankly, because you had the free time.
From feely, Oscar-ready films like Minari and Nomadland to more thought-provoking fare like Promising Young Woman and The Trial of the Chicago 7, the 2020 Oscars feature a fairly diversely solid set of players. So let’s take a look at the contenders and see if we can figure out how everything will go down on April 25.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
What will win: Nomadland. Look — the old snarky pre-pandemic me might have said that Nomadland checks all the boxes to win Best Picture. Hardly anyone ever talks, there are long stretches of beautiful Badlands cinematography and Oscar-magnet Frances McDormand as a woman trying to make ends meet by living in a van. Halfway through it I even said aloud “Oh yeah, this is gonna win awards.” It just FEELS like that kind of movie.
What should win: Minari. Fortunately for all of you this will be the last you hear of me imploring you to watch Minari, which I have maintained was the best movie of the year since last February when it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. It’s the kind of movie that makes you feel things in a year where we’ve all gone somewhat numb. It’s a really special movie, okay? Shut up.
Could surprise: The Trial of the Chicago 7. I don’t think it will, but if it’s going to you’ll know far in advance because if the tides go that way it’ll win a bunch of other awards as well.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day – The United States Vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Who Will Win: Frances McDormand. Her husband has died, she shaves her head and poops in a bucket in her van. I mean, c’mon.
Who Should Win: Carey Mulligan. The Promising Young Woman star delivered the most fearless performance of the year in a movie that’s alternately bitingly comic and extremely difficult to watch. Promising Young Woman deserves to be recognized for SOMETHING, and I wish this would be it (though it may also win for Best Screenplay).
Could surprise: Andra Day. The United States Vs. Billie Holiday was the most recent of this bunch, and voters tend to best remember the last thing they saw that they enjoyed. This could be an upset but again, Frances McDormand POOPS IN A BUCKET IN HER VAN.
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Gary Oldman – Mank
Steven Yuen – Minari
Who Will Win: Chadwick Boseman. With Boseman turning in a great performance released right after his shocking death in late 2020, and with so many amazing things learned about the actor and his work ethic, there’s virtually no universe where Boseman doesn’t receive the posthumous Best Actor award a la Heath Ledger. And I’m not bagging on that. I don’t think his performance in Ma Rainey was the best of the year, but truthfully Boseman has probably earned this award somewhere along the line before and didn’t receive it, so I’m okay with it.
Who Should Win: Riz Ahmed. The Brit actor/rapper nailed one of my favorite roles of the year as a speed metal musician who loses his hearing and has to, essentially, learn how to be deaf. Nearly every move he makes in the movie tracks and although he’s not entirely sympathetic, he really builds a complex and dynamic character from the first frame to the last.
Could Surprise: Anthony Hopkins. Because he’s Anthony Hopkins.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Maria Bakalova –Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman – The Father
Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari
Who Will Win: Amanda Seyfried. I really have no basis in this except that I don’t see the Academy giving this award to Maria Bakalova (who was amazing in Borat), and although they loooove Olivia Colman I don’t she’s enough to win it here. Glenn Close could win playing what I assume is the live-action role of “Maxine” from the Hallmark line of cards, but if she wins for that movie I’ll jump into the river. Seyfried is the type of actress at the type of station in her career where she veers above her peers with an Oscar, and I think this is the year for her to do that. Don’t Mira Sorvino it, Amanda.
Who Should Win: Yuh-Jung Youn. The elderly South Korean actress was so wonderful as the Mountain Dew-swilling, wrestling-watching, profanity-spewing grandmother in Minari that she should get this. Her performance in the film also, I think, defines what the award should be: you dropped into the movie, killed it in whatever your role was, and were out. Youn did this in spades.
Could Surprise: Glenn Close, playing the type of over-the-top caricature Academy voters love. Please avenge my river death.
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
Who Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya. In a perfect world, either Daniel Kaluuya or Lakeith Stanfield should have been nominated for Best Actor for Judas and the Black Messiah, a great movie in which they are both fantastic. But since they’re both in this category I gotta think one of these guys is going to win; it’ll probably be Kaluuya for his portrayal of Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton. And that’s good, but…
Who Should Win: Lakeith Stanfield. The former Atlanta star’s character trajectory in the film seems more dynamic to me (though Kaluuya makes an inspiring Hampton); I’ve also been long in the camp that Stanfield is destined for great things, and even once several years ago predicted he’d eventually win an Oscar — so if he does, I can crow about it. And I will, so deal with it.
Could Surprise: Leslie Odom Jr., whose One Night in Miami was woefully — WOEFULLY — snubbed. (You should still watch that movie.) If enough people feel like that, Odom Jr. could take home a well-earned prize for the film.
Another Round – Thomas Vinterberg
Mank – David Fincher
Minari – Lee Isaac Chung
Nomadland – Chloe Zhao
Promising Young Woman – Emerald Fennell
Who Will Win: Chloe Zhao. Nomadland is a beautifully shot movie, and quietly warm and endearing in a hands-off kind of way. As much as I love Minari, this gets the edge on it.
Who Should Win: Chloe Zhao. I think this may be the only lock in the proceedings, and I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t win.
Could Surprise: David Fincher because of the Mank Effect. Oh, you’re wondering what the Mank Effect is?
THE MANK EFFECT
Anything you’ve read above is subject to be overturned by The Mank Effect, which suggests that Academy voters — screenwriters, directors, producers — are more likely swoon over an outrageously over-romanticized film about their industry than the films which are superior. Mank, starring Gary Oldman and directed by The Social Network’s David Fincher, is a scenery chewing throwback to the Golden Days of Hollywood, an era within which no one in Hollywood is immune from fantasizing themselves. This has previously been known in other iterations as The Artist Effect, The La La Land Effect, The Robert-Altman’s-The-Player Effect and The Broadcast News Effect. If the evening of the Oscars is subject to the Mank Effect, all the awards will go to Mank and the evening will suck. You’ve been warned.