It’s officially Oscars season, baby! We’re back to write about the 93rd Academy Awards which will be held on April 25th, 2021, which makes it the latest date in the history of the show. Last year’s show was held on February 9, so it’s been almost 14 months since we’ve last had a taste of movie madness. And what a LONG 14 months it has been. The COVID pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, and this year’s Oscars telecast will certainly reflect that. There is a bright side to the late date: the eligibility deadline was extended to February 28, 2021, which allowed films like Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, and Nomadland to qualify. All three of those movies took advantage of the extended deadline and were nominated for Best Picture.
It wouldn’t be the Oscars without the speculation behind who is going to take home the major awards. The betting lines are fresh off the press so let’s take a look at some of the contenders and their odds to win.
Nomadland is a MONSTER favorite to win the top prize (more about that movie below in our writeups) with The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Minari sitting at a distant 2nd and 3rd. Nomadland director Chloe Zhao is also a big favorite to take home the Best Director award, but star and 2018 winner Frances McDormand currently trails Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) for Best Actress. In the Best Actor category, we have our biggest favorite of the night as it looks like the late, great Chadwick Boseman will receive a posthumous Oscar for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Since talking movies is what we do best, lets take an in depth look at all the Best Picture nominees and give out our picks for some of the other major categories.
Sound of Metal
Synopsis: A heavy-metal drummer’s life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.
I watched Sound of Metal the day it started streaming on Amazon Prime and was absolutely blown away. I’d only known Riz Ahmed from the HBO mini series The Night Of so I wasn’t sure what to expect of him as a heavy-metal drummer who grapples with hearing loss. I’m happy to report that he is incredible. The movie as a whole is a marvel, and it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last few years.
Writer/director Darius Marder delicately handles the freefall of Ruben’s (Riz Ahmed) life after his hearing loss diagnosis but he never asks you to feel sorry for him. Because of that, you empathize with the character and all of the decisions he makes, regardless of how crazy or self destructive they are. It was also refreshing to see a movie about a disability handled with this much care. Deafness isn’t something you see a lot of in Hollywood, but Marder deserves a ton of credit for his honest and heartbreaking depiction of it in this movie.
There are three excellent performances throughout: Riz Ahmed as Ruben, Olivia Cooke as Lou and Paul Raci as Joe. It came as no surprise that Ahmed and Raci were nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively. It’s also no surprise that the movie was nominated for Best Sound, as the sound team did an incredible job showing the audience glimpses of what life would be like as our hearing was deteriorating. I don’t think the movie will win Best Picture, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they came away with a few golden statues in either of the acting categories or Best Sound. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Synopsis: Bill O’Neal infiltrates the Black Panther Party per FBI Agent Mitchell and J. Edgar Hoover. As Party Chairman Fred Hampton ascends, falling for a fellow revolutionary en route, a battle wages for O’Neal’s soul.
Thanks to the partnership between WB and HBO, I was able to watch Judas and the Black Messiah from the comfort of my couch. It turns out it didn’t matter where I watched it, because it is fantastic. The movie is filled with powerhouse performances: Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield will get most of the love as Fred Hampton and Bill O’Neal, but Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen and Dominque Fishback were all great as well. Movies based on real life stories can sometimes fizzle out because you already know how it ends, but this film is so captivating and tragic that it doesn’t matter. I would watch Kaluuya and Stanfield ties their own shoes for two hours, so put them in a movie with a great script, director and supporting cast and you have movie magic. I don’t think this will win Best Picture, but with 6 total nominations (including Best Actor and Best Supporting for Kaluuya and Stanfield) I do believe they’ll walk away with at least one golden statue.
Synopsis: 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.
After watching Nomadland, I was texting with Adam (1/3 of the Average Nobodies podcast) and we both agreed that this movie was made to be nominated for Oscars. Similar to The Artist in 2011 and The Revenant in 2015, Oscar voters love a good arthouse flick (add in a bear mauling and you’re really in business). I did enjoy the movie and Frances McDormand was her usual ornery wonderful self as Fern, but it was my least favorite out of the films that were nominated.
The movie is GORGEOUS, and it’s a visual delight to watch Fern journey through the American West. I do believe the Directing and Cinematography nominations for Chloe Zhao and Joshua James Richards are well deserved, but there’s not a whole lot that happens in this movie. I understand there are those who can relate to the personal and professional loss brought on by The Great Recession, so perhaps I’m just too young to really connect with this film. It’s certainly not a bad movie, but I can’t wrap my head around it being a monster favorite for Best Picture. Available to stream on Hulu.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Synopsis: The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
Death, taxes, Aaron Sorkin writing great ensemble dramas. Those are the three things we can always rely on. Whether it’s A Few Good Men, The West Wing, The Newsroom, or The Trial of the Chicago 7, Sorkin knows how to write captivating dialogue. Throw in politics and a court case and you’re golden. I absolutely love Sorkin’s writing, and he picked the perfect cast of characters for his second directorial feature. Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baren Cohen, Jeremy Strong, John Caroll Lynch, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella; in less capable hands, some of these performances suffer because of the depth of the cast, but not with Sorkin.
It doesn’t hurt that the real story of the trial and the events leading up to it still resonate today. You’d think that 50+ years of experience would allow for the police to handle peaceful protestors differently, but the scenes unfolding on the nightly news are eerily similar to what we saw during the summer of ’68. As much as I enjoyed this movie, I don’t think it wins Best Picture. I do think Sorkin double dips and wins Best Original Screenplay, just as he did at the Golden Globes. Available to stream on Netflix.
Synopsis: A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.
I absolutely adored Minari, and the movie took on a special significance with the horrifying increases in Asian-American violence in the United States. The story is told from the perspective of a Korean family moving from California to Arkansas in search of their own version of the American dream. It’s an incredibly moving film with great performances throughout, especially from Alan S. Kim, Young Yuh-jung and Will Patton (I’m a huge homer for Steven Yeun and he was also great in this). Although the acting is impeccable, the true star of the movie is the story. The American dream can be whatever we want it to be: a house on wheels, a farm, or something as simple as your family sleeping together on the floor. Minari showed us that love can overcome even the toughest of obstacles, and underscored the sacrifices so many people and families make in search of their dreams. Also, Glenn is nominated for an Oscar!
Synopsis: 1930s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish “Citizen Kane.
When I first saw the trailer for Mank, I experienced the same feeling I described above when watching Nomadland: this movie was made for Awards season. You honestly couldn’t write a better script for the Oscars: a movie about the creation of one of the most popular movies of all time, ending with that movie winning an Oscar? As Tom Hardy’s Max Rockatansky says in Mad Max: Fury Road: “that’s bait”. While it’d be easy to write this movie off as simple Oscar bait, it’s clearly so much more. This was David Fincher’s love letter to 1930s Hollywood, and you’d need a psychopathic perfectionist like Fincher to be able to pull something like this off.
I really dug everything about this movie. The way each scene was introduced as if we were reading the script. The black and white. The pace of a Broadway musical. Fincher allowed the viewers inside the minds of those lucky and tortured enough to create Hollywood magic. Gary Oldman was fantastic as the tormented, quick witted Herman Mankiewicz. At first glance it might seem weird to cast the 63 year old Oldman as a young 40s Mank, but Mank was a world weary 40 year old due to his unstoppable alcoholism. Nomadland seems like the shoo-in for Best Picture, but I’m glad that Fincher and Oldman’s performances weren’t overlooked.
Promising Young Woman
Synopsis: Nothing in Cassie’s life is what it appears to be — she’s wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she’s living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs from the past.
There’s a line towards the end of Promising Young Woman that summed up the entire movie for me: “You might be surprised to hear that gentlemen are sometimes the worst”. Cassandra (played ridiculously well by Carey Mulligan) is handcuffing Al Monroe (Christopher Lowell) to the bed at his own bachelor party and slowly explaining her sinister plan to him. It might have something to do with my specific taste in movies and TV, but the casting of all the male actors was spot on and relates back to that quote. When I think of actors like Adam Brody, Sam Richardson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Christopher Lowell, I don’t think of assaulters or abusers. I think of The OC, The League, Veep, Superbad, and GLOW. Those actors who are typically cast in more lighthearted roles allow you to let your guard down when you see them on screen, and I have to assume that’s the point here.
Carey Mulligan is fantastic as Cassandra, a woman with a tragic past who refuses to move past it until she feels everyone involved pays an appropriate price. The supporting cast is also fantastic, with Alison Brie, Gabriel Oliva, Laverne Cox and Connie Britton joining the above mentioned actors. The soundtrack was spot on, and I have to imagine this is the first movie nominated for the Best Picture Oscar featuring a scene with ‘Stars Are Blind’ by Paris Hilton. In addition to Best Picture, Promising Young Woman was also nominated for Best Director (Emerald Fennell), Best Actress (Carey Mulligan), Best Film Editing and Best Original Screenplay.
Synopsis: A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.
The Father is an absolute masterclass in acting, and it’s truly incredible that Sir Anthony Hopkins is still at the top of his game at 83 years old. I read this New Yorker profile on Hopkins before I watched the movie, and I have to imagine his mindset on performing helped him nail this role in which he rightfully earned his 6th (!) Oscar nomination. The movie is told from the perspective of Hopkins character (who is also named Anthony) as he struggles with memory loss. It’s very disorienting in a Twilight Zone-y way, but also makes the story and performances that much more powerful. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Olivia Colman’s performance as Anthony’s daughter Anne. It’s no longer a coincidence that everything Colman is in is great, and her performance in this movie was heartbreaking. Hopkins is a distant second behind Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor but he would be my pick to take home the golden statue this year.
Best Picture Nominees (Ranked)
- Sound of Metal
- Judas and the Black Messiah
- The Father
- The Trial of the Chicago 7
- Promising Young Woman
Our picks for some of the other major categories:
Ryan – Anthony Hopkins
Matt – Riz Ahmed
Ryan – Frances McDormand
Matt – Carey Mulligan
Best Supporting Actor
Ryan – Daniel Kaluuya
Matt – Leslie Odom Jr.
Best Supporting Actress
Ryan – Youn Yuh-jung
Matt – Olivia Coleman
Ryan – Chloe Zhao
Matt – David Fincher
Best Documentary Feature
Ryan – Time
Matt – My Octopus Teacher
Best Original Score
Ryan – Minari
Matt – Soul
Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy the show on April 25th!
-The Average Nobodies