The 2021 awards season for film and television has been unconventional to say the least. The Golden Globes were held over a month later than usual, and the 2021 Academy Awards will be on April 25, much later than the 2020 date of February 9. In spite of staggered release dates and production snags, this year’s Oscars are filled with well-deserved nominations in every category. The Big 5 is traditionally considered to be the awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Screenplay (either original or adapted). Here are my predictions for the Big 5 categories for the 2021 Academy Awards.
Best Picture: Nomadland
The logline: “After losing everything in the Great Recession, a woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad” (IMDb). Nomadland brought home the award for Best Film at the 2020 BAFTAs, as well as the Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama. With Frances McDormand in an Oscar nominated performance leading the film, and the highly praised Chloe Zhao directing, I think it is safe to say that the producers of Nomadland will be going home with the night’s final award.
Best Actress: Carrie Mulligan
This pick might be my biggest reach, but this category is completely up for grabs. Mulligan is stacked against the likes of Viola Davis, Andra Day, Vanessa Kirby, and Frances McDormand. Day came out on top for Best Actress at the Golden Globes, McDormand won the BAFTA for Leading Actress, Davis won a SAG award for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Kirby received a nomination at all of these shows. Mulligan’s illustrious performance in Promising Young Women has a strong chance to come out on top at the Academy Awards.
Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was released a few months after Chadwick Boseman's tragic death after quietly battling colon cancer for years. He has become the seventh actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination, and he will almost definitely become the third actor to win after his death. Boseman’s co-stars have all praised his dedication to his craft. Director George C. Wolfe said of Boseman, “for every take, every day, it was just glorious work. Not for one second did he hold back, and not for one second did he falter.”
Best Director: Chloe Zhao
For the first time ever, two women are nominated for Best Director, and Chloe Zhao is the first woman of color ever nominated. She is primed to win the big award. Zhao recently won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film, the second woman to ever win the award. Zhao is an extremely versatile director, having led the indie Nomadland, and directing Marvel’s The Eternals, which will be released later this year.
Best Screenplay: (Original) Promising Young Woman; (Adapted) Nomadland
The screenplay for Promising Young Woman was written by Emerald Fennell, who also directed the feature. The writing balances humor and suspense, and tackles ideals that have become far too common in modern American culture, making Promising Young Woman a frontrunner for the Original Screenplay Award. Chloe Zhao adapted the screenplay for Nomadland from Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, a non-fiction book written by Jessica Bruder. Zhao’s adaptation of this piece of non-fiction into a narrative feature should earn her yet another Big 5 award.