It’s Late-April 2021 and we’re just about done with 2020’s Oscars. Wait, that’s still going on? Isn’t that usually in February? There were movies released in 2020? I assure you, yes, awards season is in fact, still going, and like the slow vaccine rollout and the never-ending lockdowns, 2020 always seems to hang on longer than is welcome.
Still, the Oscars are this weekend, and that’s always a cause for celebration. We get to celebrate the films that were released in the past year and learn about some cool new movies to binge watch in a dark room on your laptop, while wearing nothing but your underpants.
Normally, FCFF gives you a guide of what to predict at your Oscar party, but this year, seeing as (hopefully) no one will be hosting Oscar parties, we hope that our guide can possibly help you to get a high score on Oscar night, even just for the purposes of personal pride.
Nevertheless, our writer at FCFF has seen all the films (that’s right, every single nominated movie), so you don’t have to. That way, you can hopefully know a little bit more about what you’re betting on, and maybe even get a little excited to check out some hidden gems like Another Round or A Love Song for Latasha.
We’ll be covering every category, and telling you what will and what could win in each category. Categories will be presented in the order that they were given in last year. So if all you want to know is who is going to win Best Picture (hint: it’s Nomadland), then you can just scroll on down to the bottom.
Here we go!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
A few of these categories should be REALLY easy. If we were playing Bingo, a category like Supporting Actor would be the “Free Space” in the middle. There is only one person that this award could go to, and it’s really not worth picking anyone else. Daniel Kaluuya has won every single award this year, from the Golden Globes to the SAG awards, and that streak won’t stop now. His powerhouse performance in Judas and the Black Messiah is magnetic, and will be a surefire win that you can bet on.
WILL WIN: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Fun Fact: there’s only one actual supporting role nominated (Raci), everyone else is arguably a lead or co-lead in their film (Kaluuya, Odom, Cohen and most hilariously, Stanfield, who is literally the main character of his film)
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
This is another “Free Space” category. The Animated Feature category represents some of the best that Animation has to offer, and one film that most people have undoubtedly seen by now is Pixar’s Soul. That film has won every animated award you can imagine, and will not be losing here either. In my mind, Soul would have been a worthy Best Picture nominee, but we have to settle with it winning here. I also highly recommend checking out Wolfwalkers here, which will not win, but is an incredible film that deserves to be seen.
WILL WIN: Soul
Fun Fact: Pixar has won this award 10 times, Soul will be their 11th win. They have a total of 13 nominations (15 including Soul and Onward). The number gets even higher when you add all the non-Pixar Disney movies that have been nominated and won! Additional fun fact, this will be the 20th year that this category has been featured, meaning that Pixar has won in over half of the years that this award has existed.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Animated short is our first tough category of the night. There are no dependable precursors (we can sort of tell who’s winning other categories based on Golden Globes and other awards shows), which means that it’s really anyone’s game. You also can’t depend on Pixar here, as they’ve only won 2 of these in the past 10 years (can’t count on Disney either, they’ve also only won 2). There’s a clear frontrunner, so let’s talk about that.
FRONTRUNNER: If Anything Happens I Love You
This is Netflix’s contender, and it’s a heartfelt and very tragic animation about a school shooting. It will certainly tug on heart strings in the right way, although many, like me, will find its use of pop music to be over the top. It’s a clear frontrunner and the wise pick to put on your ballot, but it’s possible it gets upset by:
POSSIBLE UPSET: Burrow
This is the Pixar film, and it’s adorable, beautifully animated, and hits you right in the feels with the universal experience of the intimidating first steps into adulthood. Pixar can not be depended on to win this, like I said, so it faces a challenge of beating Netflix’s more topical film. However, there’s also the possibility of a win from:
DARK HORSE: Opera
This is a passion pick, not only because it’s my favorite in the category, but because it’s clear that people who watch this end up remembering it. Opera is a massive art piece that shows the cycle of life and death in a capitalist society, and the impact of this film on voters could lead to a very surprising win. But be smart, and go with the obvious choice here.
Fun Fact: The National Film Board of Canada has been nominated in this category a total of 36 times, having won 6 awards. They are not nominated this year.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
This one is practically a “Free Space”, but not quite as solid as our first two. The frontrunner, Promising Young Woman has won all sorts of screenplay awards, including the Writers Guild Award, the Critics Choice and the BAFTA. However, if anything else takes this prize, it will be The Trial of the Chicago 7, which was the early frontrunner to win. Still, the momentum is too large now, and Promising Young Woman looks almost entirely certain.
WILL WIN: Promising Young Woman
Fun Fact: 2020 has broken a 5 year streak in this category. From 2014-2019, each year, one film was nominated in this category that was not nominated anywhere else. Knives Out, First Reformed, The Big Sick, The Lobster, Straight Outta Compton and Nightcrawler all got their single Oscar nomination here. This year, all 5 nominees are nominated for Best Picture.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
This one could go to one of two nominees, because of the five nominees, only two are nominated for Best Picture. Those films are Nomadland and The Father. Both have arguments for and against them, so lets break it down.
Nomadland is the frontrunner here, make no mistake. It has won heaps of Adapted Screenplay awards, missing only one key award, which we’ll discuss soon. It is also the Best Picture frontrunner, which means people LOVE this film, and will likely vote for it everywhere they possibly can. BUT, it’s not a very “written” film in contrast to some others. It’s a thin screenplay with little plot and dialogue, and would be a very unconventional winner. That leaves us open for an upset.
POSSIBLE UPSET: The Father
The Father is based on a play, and is extremely theatrical and much more of a traditional script than Nomadland. It’s one of my personal favorites of the year, and is nominated in Best Picture as well. It also just recently defeated Nomadland in this category at the BAFTAs, which can not be ignored. However, Nomadland has stronger momentum overall. Some people will argue that Borat could win here, but don’t look for anything other than the top 2 to take this prize.
Fun Fact: You have to go back 22 years to find the last time a movie won Best Adapted Screenplay without being nominated for Best Picture! The last time a non-Best Picture movie won this category was Gods and Monsters in 1998.
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
Just like the other short film category so far, I’m really not sure what will happen here, but I’ll give you my best guess. Since we have no precursors, we have nothing to really base this on other than the movies themselves. So lets get into it.
FRONTRUNNER: Two Distant Strangers
You may have seen this pop up on your Netflix recently. This is a very topical and surprisingly funny take on a very serious subject matter. It’s a Groundhog Day (or in more recent terms, Palm Springs) style take on police violence. A young Black man wakes up only to be killed by police over and over on the same morning. It’s very topical and literally ends with a call to action in the form of a list of names of Black people who have been murdered at the hands of police. If the climate is any indication, this is a winner. BUT, we don’t know for sure, so what else could win?
POSSIBLE UPSET: The Letter Room
This is a much less impactful and relevant film, but it’s light, it’s charming, AND it has star power. We’re actually in unfamiliar territory here, because this category is typically dominated by unknowns. This film stars Oscar Isaac as a death row guard who is assigned to read prisoners letters. Some people are thinking that starring someone as popular as Isaac will propel this to a win, and who knows, it could. But there hasn’t been any nominated film with a major actor in this category since at least 2013 (and even then, Martin Freeman isn’t that big of a name in comparison to a main character in Star Wars).
DARK HORSE: The Present
I’ve seen a lot of people predicting this one as well, but having seen it, it’s a really low key film without much impact. It follows a Palestinian father as he struggles to get back and forth across an Israeli military checkpoint to get his wife a present. Maybe the simplicity will bring it to a win. It’s possible.
Fun Fact: This is a heavily English Language dominated category recently. In the past 10 years, despite less than half of the nominees having been in English (22/49), eight winning films have been in English.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
This one is a “Free Space”. There hasn’t been a single Production Design award this year that has not gone to David Fincher’s vision of 1930s Hollywood, Mank. Some of us would love to see it go to the reality bending apartment shown in The Father, but that’s wishful thinking. This is going to…
WILL WIN: Mank
Fun Fact: 13 of the past 20 years, this award has gone to movies set in the past. 2 of those times they have been films set in Hollywood, soon to be 3. 6 other winners have been set in sci-fi/fantasy worlds, and only 1 winner has been set in the present day (La La Land).
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
You could also call this a “Free Space”. A few weeks ago this seemed a bit more unclear, but since then, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has won just about every award you can imagine. Still, don’t count out surprises here, they’ve happened before. Mank or Emma could pull a surprise, but for now, just go with…
WILL WIN: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Fun Fact: This category is EVEN MORE in love with period pieces than the last category. 16 of the last 20 winners have been set in the past (with a few extra blurring the lines between fantasy and period costumes). The other 4 have been set in sci-fi or fantasy worlds. The last time a movie won for contemporary costume design was All That Jazz in 1979! Every nominated film this year is a period piece, or a fantasy set in the past.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
What first seemed like a category that was Time’s to lose has now been lost. This is yet another category we can write off as a “Free Space”. My Octopus Teacher has dominated the entire season, winning just about every documentary award you could imagine. Don’t expect anything else to win, it’s going to be this one, though Collective, Time and Crip Camp could all be seen as dark horses.
WILL WIN: My Octopus Teacher
Fun Fact: This year marks the second year in a row that a film nominated in this category was also nominated for Best International Feature. Prior to 2019, this had never happened in Oscar history, and now it has happened twice in a row!
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Like the two other short categories, this is super up in the air. There seems to be a frontrunner (which is also my favorite of the films), but this could go any direction.
FRONTRUNNER: A Love Song for Latasha
This is on Netflix, and it’s magnificent. It’s an artful and beautiful 20 minute documentary about a young Black girl killed by a convenience store cashier in the 90s. It’s done in a poetic and impactful manner, and it moved me to tears. It has the narrative to win, it’s important, and it’s undeniably the best in show. I’d like to call this a lock, but since I don’t know for sure, I can’t, and it could be upset by:
POSSIBLE UPSET: Anything else except Colette
Look, I know this doesn’t help, but there are 3 other potential winners here.
Do Not Split – Is the reason why the Oscars are not being shown in China. It’s a powerful and exciting documentary about the Hong Kong protests, and that narrative could bring it a win.
A Concerto is a Conversation– Is the most uplifting film in the category, and voters may just want a break from sadness. This could win with that in mine. It also follows a familiar protagonist in the main subject/director being a composer for Green Book.
Hunger Ward – Is extremely disturbing and shocking but is totally unforgettable and important. A film set in a hospital in Yemen, dealing with childhood starvation and the humanitarian crisis. It’s hard to watch, but hard to turn away from. Could easily win.
Colette can be written off, it’s just not that impactful in comparison to the other films, and all arguments that could be made for it winning could be made stronger for other movies.
Fun Fact: In 1952, a film named Neighbours won this award despite not being a documentary at all, and rather being a surrealist animated anti-war comedy. Nothing documentary about it. A 2005 press release issued by the Oscars states that Neighbours is “among a group of films that not only competed, but won Academy Awards in what were clearly inappropriate categories”.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
If you asked me a few weeks ago, this category would have been completely up in the air, but after a few more awards (specifically the Screen Actors Guild and the BAFTA), this has cleared up enough for me to declare it a “Free Space”. While once upon a time this looked like it was going to Maria Bakalova in Borat, this is now very clearly going to Youn Yuh-Jung’s sweet performance as a grandmother in Minari.
WILL WIN: Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari
Fun Fact: Every year since 1976 the Golden Globe winner in this category has either been nominated for or won the Oscar. This year, the Golden Globes went off the rails, and awarded Jodie Foster in The Mauritanian. Jodie Foster is not nominated here, breaking a 44 year pattern!
This is a “Free Space”! Sound is literally in one of the movies titles, and the film emphasizes the use of sound over everything else. Don’t pick anything else but…
WILL WIN: Sound of Metal
Fun Fact: For the first time since the early 80s, this category is only one prize, not two. Ever since the 80s, there have been two sound awards, one for sound editing, one for sound mixing. They were squished into one prize again this year because of how voters truly didn’t know the difference between the two awards and would often just vote the same film for both prizes.
Despite a shocking win for Mank at this past weekend’s American Society of Cinematographers awards, there is no doubt in my mind that this prize is going to Nomadland. It has gorgeous sunset photography, and is a beloved film which will be winning Best Picture. Expect it to win here.
WILL WIN: Nomadland
Fun Fact: Between 2013-2015, the same cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, won this prize three years in a row for Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant. And on a less fun note, this is an extremely male dominated field, only one woman has ever been nominated for this award, and it was in 2017. Yikes. Lets see that change.
There are two ways that this award could go in. The best bet is…
FRONTRUNNER: Sound of Metal
Sound of Metal won the BAFTA and the Critics Choice in this category. The BAFTA is a great predictor here, last year it was the biggest indication that the Oscars would choose Ford v Ferrari for editing over Parasite. However, the Oscars LOVES really flashy editing, with a lot of fast cuts. Sound of Metal doesn’t have that, it’s very slow and deliberate, which is not a typical winning style here. So that leaves an opening for…
POSSIBLE UPSET: The Trial of the Chicago 7
This is edited fast, it’s choppy, it has the MOST editing of the category, which the Oscars sometimes confuse with the BEST editing. It tied with Sound of Metal at the Critics Choice, and it won the American Cinema Editors award. It’s a more conventional winner here, but things are pointing in the other direction, especially because…
Fun Fact: An editing win usually goes hand in hand with a sound win or nomination. Every year since 2006, the winner of Best Editing has also been nominated in one or both Sound categories. This year, Sound of Metal is the only Editing nominee to be nominated for Best Sound.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
I’m going to be surprised if this goes to anything except Tenet. It’s the biggest movie of 2020, by virtue of being the only big movie that was released in theaters. Some are saying this could go to The Midnight Sky, but let’s be real, Tenet is the bigger film and the name that will draw more voters in (while also being a more deserving winner). This is a “Free Space”. Bet on it…
WILL WIN: Tenet
Fun Fact: Tenet is a flashy pick here, but it actually barely used any digital effects. Nearly everything seen on screen was done practically, which will make it quite a unique winner in the age of CGI.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
This is another Free Space for you. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has won this prize everywhere that it has been given. If there’s one thing to know about this category, it’s that voters LOVE when famous actors are transformed into unrecognizable characters. Viola Davis fits the bill here, and her makeup will easily take this win.
WILL WIN: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Fun Fact: Up until last year, there were always 3 nominees in this category. So we’re only in the second year of this category having 5 slots. I wonder what would have been left off of this lineup in a normal year. I suppose we would be saying goodbye to Emma and Mank out of this lineup.
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE
Yet another Free Space. Wow, your bingo card must be looking pretty full by now! This one will go to Another Round, which is one of the best films of the year, and which not only scored a nomination in this category, but also managed to sneak into Best Director. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
WILL WIN: Another Round
Fun Fact: The nominees of this category are chosen through a process of countries submitting films to represent them. This year, two countries, Romania and Tunisia, are nominated for the very first time!
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
This one seems easy, and I want to believe it is, but one statistic I’ll touch on in the fun fact makes me think this category is open for a surprise. That said, you can go ahead and write down Soul as your winner here. This Pixar film has won just about every award for music that you can imagine. It hasn’t lost anywhere, so why would it here? My fun fact will illuminate why you should watch for Minari though. But I think this is pretty safe to call…
WILL WIN: Soul
Fun Fact: In the past 20 years, only 2 winners in this category have not been nominated for Best Picture. Goes to show that voters remember music from their favorite films best. In this category, Soul is the presumed winner, but is not Best Picture nominated, leaving it open to this statistic. Could Minari or Mank pull off an upset?
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
I actually think this is the hardest category of the night. I truly and genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen here. The Golden Globes and Critics Choice are the only predictors here, and they went different ways. There is no standout song that is undeniable for the win (ie. Let It Go, Skyfall, or Shallow). So what is there…
FRONTRUNNER: Speak Now, One Night in Miami
Written by Leslie Odom Jr, this track is the credits anthem of the Best Picture snubbed film, One Night in Miami. It won the Critics Choice, and has a narrative involving the fact that Odom is nominated for Supporting Actor as well. This would be a way to reward an actor that the Academy clearly respects. However, in my mind, the song is pretty bland and sounds exactly like 2 of the other songs in the category.
POSSIBLE UPSET: Husavik (My Home Town), Eurovision Song Contest
If there was an undeniable “Best” song in this category, it would be this. Husavik is a belty anthem, one that is catchy and powerful. It’s also the only song actually featured in the movie instead of just in the credits. It’s possible this wins as a passion pick. I sure hope it does.
DARK HORSE: Io See, The Life Ahead
This won the Golden Globe, and the writer of this song, Diane Warren has received 12 nominations in this category without a win. The question stands, what will be the song that finally nets her an Academy Award. But if you’ve heard this song, I’m sure you’re with me in hoping that she doesn’t win for this one.
Fun Fact: For the past 4 years, every year a song nominee has also been nominated in an acting category. In the past it has been Mary J Blige, Lady Gaga, Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom Jr. Before 2017, this had never occurred.
Never has this category been so open and shut. You can go ahead and write down Chloé Zhao right now! She has entirely swept the season, winning every single award that exists, from critics to major awards bodies. She’s a complete lock, so lets lock it up right now.
WILL WIN: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Fun Fact: This is the first year in history that two women have been nominated for this award at the same time! It won’t be the last either!
This looked a lot more certain a few weeks ago, as Chadwick Boseman had been sweeping the season in a way that looked like he was going right for the Oscar. However, two weekends ago, Boseman lost an important award, which leaves him open. I would still say you can bet on him but it’s no certainty.
FRONTRUNNER: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Boseman’s performance is massive in scale and extremely showy. However, the reason he has really been pulling in all of these awards is because of his tragic passing in August. The performance is excellent, so it’s not like that’s the sole reason for his wins, but it has established a narrative in which voters realize that this is the only chance they’ll ever have to reward Chadwick Boseman with an Academy Award. However, the consensus favorite removed from that narrative seems to be…
POSSIBLE UPSET: Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Hopkins seems to be the performance that more people prefer. It’s a towering performance, which I think is undoubtedly the best of the year. Last weekend, Hopkins actually defeated Chadwick Boseman at the BAFTA, which shares many voters with the Oscars. The question here is, how many voters will vote for what they think is the best performance in the category, and how many will vote for someone they would like to honor for their impact and tragic passing? I would still recommend going with Boseman, but Hopkins could be the shocker of the evening. Prepare for an Internet Meltdown if that happens.
Fun Fact: The last time someone won this award in a movie that was not nominated for Best Picture, was in 2009. This year, Chadwick Boseman is the only nominee not in a Best Picture film, which means that if Boseman wins, he will be breaking a 10 year streak.
This category hurts my brain, let me explain why:
You know how I keep mentioning the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, the BAFTAs, and the Critics Choice? These are all important precursor awards that we can normally use to tell what films and performances are most well liked among voters. Last year, all of these awards went to the same performers, so when it came time to the Oscars, it was a total cake walk in figuring out who would win! Usually, a few of these awards split between two of the nominees, and we have a race between two nominees.
In this category, every single award went to a different person. That means that there is no clear front runner, and nothing to indicate who will win this award. So lets break down the four nominees that could win in order of how likely I think they are (sorry Vanessa Kirby, you’re not happening).
CRITICS CHOICE – Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Carey Mulligan’s powerhouse performance in Promising Young Woman was the presumed frontrunner before the Globes, where she lost… Then she was the presumed frontrunner before the Screen Actors Guild, where she lost… And she wasn’t even nominated at the BAFTAs… She did win Critics Choice though! But that really doesn’t mean anything. So why is she my number one? Well for one thing, she’s the most recognized performance of the group. She’s in a big Best Picture contender and is pretty much the anchor to that film. It’s a powerful performance that is both intimidating and charming, and many voters will be drawn to that. She has lost time and time again, but to be honest, I just don’t see Academy voters going for anyone else here. We have to write off the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs this year.
SCREEN ACTORS GUILD – Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Viola Davis pulled off a surprise win at the Screen Actors Guild awards, and could repeat here, but there are a few things against her. For one thing, she has a role that many voters argue is a supporting role, not a lead. Some won’t vote for her because of that misplacement. We also have to remember that the Screen Actors Guild award voters are all actors, while the Oscars are voted on by people from all disciplines, meaning that tastes may be different across directors, writers, makeup artists than they are for actors. There’s also the statistic that no film has ever won both Lead Acting awards without being nominated for Best Picture. If Boseman and Davis both win while Ma Rainey isn’t even nominated for Bets Picture, that will be unprecedented.
BAFTA – Frances McDormand, Nomadland
If Frances McDormand cared about the Oscars, she would be number one. McDormand is the lead in the Best Picture winning film, and she’s an awards darling. However, this year, she expressed that she does not want to win this Oscar and wants to make room for younger talents to get “doorstops” as she calls them. She has not appeared at any awards ceremony, has not given speeches, and has not gone on a single talkshow to promote this film. She did, however, win the BAFTA, which shows voters really like her. So it’s possible, but campaigning is a bigger part of winning than you might imagine. Also, many voters will be reluctant to vote for her to give her a third Oscar win.
GOLDEN GLOBE – Andra Day, The United States vs Billie Holiday
I don’t think she’s winning, but she has to be mentioned because of the statistic that practically every single year, one of the actresses that wins at the Golden Globes wins the Oscar. Andra Day is the only actress nominated who won a Golden Globe. But this statistic can be ignored because the Golden Globes went haywire, and Andra Day is nominated for a movie that no one really liked.
SO ANYWAYS, I say go with Mulligan or Davis, but expect a surprise here! This is anyone’s game.
Not So Fun Fact: There has only ever been one non-white winner of this category (Halle Berry in 2001). If Viola Davis or Andra Day pull off a win in this category, they will become the long overdue second BIPOC Best Actress winner.
Gonna say it right now. This is all locked up. Nomadland has swept the entire season, and will continue here. It won the Golden Globe, it won the Producers Guild, the Critics Choice, the BAFTA, and hundreds of critic awards as well. It’s the one movie this year that it seems like everyone is rallying behind. Lets be careful though, because there’s never any certainty here. The last time a movie looked like as clear of a frontrunner was La La Land in 2016, which ended up losing the award in a major upset to Moonlight. So if Nomadland loses on Sunday, it will be as big of a surprise as that was. However, there’s no sense in trying to predict a Moonlight style surprise when Nomadland is such a clear frontrunner. Lets just say it.
WILL WIN: Nomadland
If it doesn’t win though, what will? Promising Young Woman has passion and will be winning Original Screenplay and possibly Actress. Minari is a crowdpleaser that could score a lot of votes, but it won’t win any other major categories except for Supporting Actress. The Trial of the Chicago 7 could pull it off, it’ll have the older academy vote, although Nomadland also caters to that audience.
No matter what, we’ll see on Sunday night.
Fun Fact: Despite being a tiny indie, Nomadland will actually NOT be the lowest budget winner of Best Picture ever. That distinction goes to Moonlight, which was made for only $1.5 million. Nomadland’s budget comes in at a surprising $5 million, which will make it the 4th least expensive winner in this category ever.