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A Guide to the 2021 Oscars

Despite the pandemic and the devastating cinema shutdowns across the world, the glitz and glamour of the Academy Awards will return on Sunday, April 25th. 

The 93rd Oscars ceremony will be held in the Dolby Theatre in LA (its usual home), with a few adjustments! In usual Hollywood fashion, they will be treating the awards like an active movie set: this means PCR tests all-round, no hosts and an on-site safety team for people travelling in. 

Unlike everything else this year, they are not being streamed on Zoom! In Canada, subscribers can tune in to CTV at 8pm ET/5pm PT to watch the show, or stream via HULU and YouTube premium. Read my predictions for the night below.

Don’t worry assignment procrastinators and movie-buffs, I’ve also thrown in some recommendations to get you hyped up, including a few subscription-free picks.

 

Best Picture

Up for the award includes Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand as an old woman embarking on a journey through the Pacific West. Her similarities  to the ‘pioneers’ as she begins life as a modern-day nomad seems like an inspiring, All-American Oscar dream.

Screenwriting biopic Mank, transports viewers to vintage 1930’s Hollywood, an obvious crowd-pleaser for voting members of the panel.

Other nominees include The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Promising Young Woman and Minari.

My prediction: In a shocking twist, underdog Amazon Original Sound of Metal receives the award. This is a devastating tale of a heavy-metal drummer whose life is thrown into turmoil when he begins to lose his hearing.

Watch it!

In Canada, you can rent or buy Sound of Metal via YouTube. 

 

Best Director

This year marks the first that there have been two women up for the award, including first-time nominee Chloé Zhao! The Chinese-American director has been sweeping up on the awards circuit, including big wins at the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild Awards.

Emerald Fennell has also been recognized for her directorial turn in Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan as 35-year-old, intelligent and cunning Cassandra Thomas.

Other nominees include David Fincher for Mank, Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round and Lee Isaac Chung for Minari.

My prediction: After being snubbed for best picture, first-time nominee Zhao is handed the award for best director. Well deserved.

Watch it!

Nomadland is available through a Disney+ Star subscription or Hulu. 

David Fincher fans can watch some of his previous efforts for free via Criterion-on-demand,  including throwback favourite Fight Club.

 

Best International Feature Film

Nominated for best director and best international feature film, Another Round seems to be the favourite. A dark comedy, the film casts an eye on the struggles of alcoholism when four teachers test the theory that their lives would be improved if they maintained a constant state of intoxication.

Also up for consideration, Better Days (which is based on the Chinese YA novel In His Youth, In Her Beauty) is a coming-of-age tale about a bullied teenage girl who forms an unlikely friendship with a neighbourhood gang member.

Other nominees are Collective, The Man Who Sold His Skin and Quo Vadis, Aida?

My prediction: This one seems easy; 3-time winner Thomas Vinterberg scoops the prize with Danish picture, Another Round.

Watch it!

Watch Another Round for free via Criterion on Demand.

 

Best Actor

Veteran actor Anthony Hopkins is up for his gruelling portrayal of a man plagued with dementia but refusing assistance in The Father, while Riz Ahmed is the first Muslim to be nominated for the award for Sound of Metal.

Of course, the clear front-runner is Chadwick Boseman, who unfortunately lost his secret battle with cancer in 2020. He has already received a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Gary Oldman is also nominated following his 2018 win, and it’s a pleasure to see Steven Yeun up for the award for his portrayal of Jacob in Minari.

My prediction: Boseman walks this category. Sadly never honoured by the Academy during his life, a posthumous Oscar would be a fitting tribute to the Black Panther star.

Watch it!

Netflix subscribers can chow down on some popcorn and celebrate Boseman with a double bill of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, followed by a 30-minute documentary Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist.

 

Best actress

Andra Day is the bookmaker’s favourite for her starring role in the biopic The United States vs Billie Holiday.

The source of controversy after Variety magazine essentially accused her of not being pretty enough for the part (excuse me, have you seen her?), Carey Mulligan is nominated for Promising Young Woman. The Academy could swing in Mulligan’s favour after her last nomination over ten years ago.

Frances McDormand presents stiff competition, of course. An Oscar-darling with 5 nominations and 2 wins already under her belt, her performance in Nomadland could attract many academy votes.

Other nominees include Viola Davis for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman. 

My prediction: Incredible performances all-round, but the chameleon-like Frances McDormand takes it home for Nomadland. 

Watch it!

Relive McDormand’s Oscar-winning performance in 2018’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri via the Criterion Collection.

Netflix subscribers can also delve into the heart-wrenching Pieces of a Woman.

 

Best Animated Feature

Can anything beat Pixar’s latest pic, Soul?

Facing off competition from itself, Pixar’s Onward delivered an underwhelming performance at the box office compared to the studio’s biggest smashes. Still, in the middle of the pandemic, it may never have gone any other way. If you haven’t seen it, have tissues on hand for the brotherly road-trip adventure. The plot is convoluted, but the picture has its heart in the right place.

Despite the lack of big-screen releases last year, the animation category contains some real gems. Hamilton Star Philippa Soo lends her songbird vocals for Netflix production Over the Moon. Apple TVs Wolfwalkers, and the joyful Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon are also nominated.

My prediction: I’d love to see a win for Shaun the Sheep, but I think Soul will take the honour for its amorphous, musically-minded fun.

Watch it!

Disney + Subscribers can enjoy Soul (or Onward!)

(a wallet-bruising $24.99 for purchase through Google, Amazon or Youtube)

Over the Moon is available right now for Netflix subscribers.

Or enjoy this stunning short by Glen Keane (director of Over the Moon) for free on YouTube!

 

The Academy is finally making some much-needed progress, handing out nominations to many under-represented groups in Hollywood (there’s still a long way to go, though).

There are some genuinely excellent talents on this list and the promise of some incredible films to come over the next decade. Perhaps I missed your favourite? Or do you disagree with my predictions? Either way, happy viewing!

 

 

 

Sarah is a 25 year old MA Art History and Visual Studies student at Uvic. She loves writing about art, film and music. When she's not busy blogging or studying she loves to dance, practise yoga, visit galleries and cook yummy vegetarian food!
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