The correct choices for every Oscar Award

Originally published on Sumner Newscow on April 23, 2021

Happy Friday. This Sunday at 6:30 p.m. EST, people all over the country will tune into ABC’s broadcast of the 93rd Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars. If you’ve been paying attention to movies through the past year, you’ll already know a few things about this set of nominations:

You’ll know that the Academy extended the deadline to include more movies since the pandemic delayed the production and release of most major (and independent) releases.

You’ll know that this year’s presentation will be without a host for the third consecutive year. This is a welcome change considering hosts are at best, slight nuisances and at worst, James Franco.

And the one thing you’ll definitely already know is that this is one of the worst sets of nominations we’ve ever had.

This year’s selection is a spattering of Hollywood mainstays like Gary Oldman and Tom Hanks who are up for categories they don’t deserve as well as a litany of terrible movies like Love and Monsters and the Trial of the Chicago 7 securing nominations. Yes, 2020 was a terrible year and this lineup is reflective of that.

I managed to watch every single movie up for an award this year, so let me walk you through them so you don’t make the same mistake. Let’s start off with the Best Picture nominees in the order they deserve to finish.

1. Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal follows Riz Ahmed’s character, Ruben, a drummer who goes nearly deaf from tinnitus he suffered from in a heavy metal band. The movie’s tone mirrors Ruben’s terrifying journey through losing one of his senses as he starts in denial-laced fear all the way through tentative happiness as he learns to live with his deafness.

There aren’t enough movies that show the transition disabled people go through into their new lives without looking down on the disabled people themselves. Too often, we’re subjected to movies where a character’s life is devastated because they can no longer walk or see.

Not Sound of Metal. The movie treats its deaf characters (actually played by deaf actors for once) as completed people and forces the viewer to do the same.

Riz Ahmed delivers the best performance of his young career that deservedly net him a nomination for Best Actor.

2. Judas and the Black Messiah

Learning things from movies is usually best saved for the documentary category, but this is the exception. Judas and the Black Messiah taught most people more about civil rights leader Fred Hampton than they’d ever heard in their lives (including me).

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, Fred Hampton was the young, electric leader of the Black Panther Party in Chicago in the 1960s. The American school systems doesn’t teach a word about the Black Panther Party other than the state-sponsored propaganda declaring them as “criminals” so, when you see them on screen in a positive light, it’s extremely refreshing.

Fred Hampton’s legacy will hopefully be secured in-part because of this movie, as it should be. Daniel Kaluuya’s portrayal as Hampton and LaKeith Stanfield’s expert performances didn’t hurt either.

Previous CultureCow review here

3. Nomadland

If you’re a betting person, this is the movie to put your money on to win it all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible movie about the conditions people who live in their cars experience and the constant prejudice that comes with it.

Chloé Zhao will probably also scoop up the award for Directing and considering those who win Directing also win Best Picture over 80% of the time, it’s a pretty safe bet.

Nomadland is a slow, but moving movie about Francis McDormand’s journey on the road and the inner peace she hopes to find in it. The stars, however, are the real people cast in every scene. They’re unpolished, they actually live on the road, and they finally get to tell their stories.

Previous Mouthful of teeth review here

4. Minari

Minari is a good movie with one of the strongest casts in the category, but it’s so much better if you’re from a rural area. The story is about a Korean-American family that moves to rural Arkansas to start farming Korean vegetables.

As you can imagine, tensions flare when getting off the ground is harder than expected and the couple fights about the validity of their business. If you’re from Kansas, you already know farming is hard and you immediately sympathize with Yeri Han’s character as she tells her husband he’s in too deep.

Minari is one of the most charming and wholesome movies up for any category this year, but it wouldn’t have gotten that way without Yuh-Jung Youn. She plays the grandmother that moves from Korea to help out and she steals the show at a glance. She defied all the stereotypes old actors are supposed to inhabit and now the Oscar for Supporting Actress is hers to lose.

5. Promising Young Woman

On first viewing, Promising Young Woman seems like the Wolf of Wall Street for women, but that isn’t even close to fair. Carey Mulligan puts on an acting clinic for two hours with a fun plot about exposing would-be sexual predators wrapped around it.

I particularly enjoyed this movie because it’s the only one up for Best Picture that isn’t hopelessly depressing. Sure, it has a terrible ending, but at least Emerald Fennell, the director, lightened up the mood on the way there.

Previous CultureCow review here

6. Mank

Mank is all the things wrong with Hollywood rolled into one movie.

It has an overblown actor in Gary Oldman playing an overblown character who can’t help but whine and moan about his misfortune at every turn. The movie is about what happened behind the scenes of Citizen Kane, which is an overhyped movie that had an outsized effect on the industry. And to top it all off, it’s in black and white. Is it in black and white for any narrative reason? Of course, it isn’t, they just filmed it that way because it was “artsy.”

This is too much like the Artist from 2011 for my liking. It’s a self-serving pat on the back for the terrible people that made up Hollywood back in the day and it’s getting way too many nominations for no reason. Be careful, this has too much going for it not to worry about it winning.

If you can’t tell, this is the point I start disagreeing with nominations.

7. The Father

The Father isn’t a bad movie, but it sure isn’t a Best Picture. It follows a dementia-ridden Anthony Hopkins as he fights with his daughter about his mental health treatment and gets scared from confusion.

The best part of the movie is the perspective. The story comes from Hopkins’ perspective and since he can no longer keep track of who is in his life at different times and what his situation is, neither can the viewer. It’s a terrifying peek into what living with Alzheimer’s is like and will stay with you for a long while after.

8. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Not only does this movie not deserve this nomination, it does not deserve to be allowed to remain on Netflix. Aaron Sorkin is a washed-up hack who should have quit after the West Wing and this movie is the perfect example of why.

I called it the Lincoln Project of movies when it came out and that was never meant as a compliment. I’d write more about it, but I’m afraid I’ll lose the composure and restraint I displayed in the previous paragraph.

Previous CultureCow review here

There are far too many awards to go over each in this level of detail, so the remainder of the article will consist of who I believe deserves to win the award. This almost certainly won’t match up with who the Academy will choose, but I digress.

While they may not be the right choices, they are the correct ones.

Best Director

  • Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)
  • David Fincher (“Mank”)
  • Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”)
  • Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”)
    • Zhao deserves this award for putting together a wonderful film and managing to make regular people look like Oscar winners. She’s also the first Asian woman to be nominated for the category, which is laughably embarrassing for the Academy.
  • Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)
  • Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
    • This wasn’t Chadwick’s best role, but he should win this award either way. Mr. Boseman was on his way to being the next Tom Hanks and the fact that he had this many great roles during his sickness is nothing less than extraordinary.
  • Anthony Hopkins (“the Father”)
  • Gary Oldman (“Mank”)
  • Steven Yeun (“Minari”)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
  • Andra Day (“The United States v. Billie Holiday”)
  • Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”)
  • Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”)
  • Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)
    • To be clear, I’d be happy with any of these women winning because they all put on stellar performances. I’m cheering for Carey because she’s the only one who got to do anything other than heavy emotional labor the entire movie.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • 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”)
    • The only reason Kaluuya is even in this category is because they want him to win without taking Chadwick’s award away, but LaKeith is the right choice.

Best 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”)
    • As I said earlier, it’s her award to lose.

Best Animated Feature Film

  • “Onward” (Pixar)
  • “Over the Moon” (Netflix)
  • “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (Netflix)
  • “Soul” (Pixar)
    • This deserves to win, but only because America hates Asian movies. If they let Japan compete in this category, Pixar would never see another trophy.
  • “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad
  • “The Father,” Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
  • “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao
    • They’ll give it to another movie because this category and Best Original Screenplay are the consolation awards for Best Picture. This is the correct choice, though.
  • “One Night in Miami,” Kemp Powers
  • “The White Tiger,” Ramin Bahrani

Best Original Screenplay

  • “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas
    • Like I said, consolation prize.
  • “Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung
  • “Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell
  • “Sound of Metal.” Screenplay by Darius Marder, Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Aaron Sorkin

Best Original Song

  • “Fight for You,” (“Judas and the Black Messiah”). Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas
    • My money is actually on Speak Now, but they should absolutely make H.E.R. and Oscar winning artist.
  • “Hear My Voice,” (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite
  • “Húsavík,” (“Eurovision Song Contest”). Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson
  • “Io Si (Seen),” (“The Life Ahead”). Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
  • “Speak Now,” (“One Night in Miami”). Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

Best Original Score

  • “Da 5 Bloods,” Terence Blanchard
  • “Mank,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
  • “Minari,” Emile Mosseri
  • “News of the World,” James Newton Howard
  • “Soul,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste
    • Did you know the two main gentlemen in charge of the jazz in Pixar’s first movie about a Black man are white? Diversity doesn’t stop at casting, Disney.

Best Sound

  • “Greyhound,” Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman
  • “Mank,” Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin
  • “News of the World,” Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett
  • “Soul,” Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker
  • “Sound of Metal,” Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh
    • This is the first iteration of a combined Sound category, but Sound of Metal still would’ve won if they were split between Editing and Mixing (and it has “sound” in the name, c’mon).

Best Costume Design

  • “Emma,” Alexandra Byrne
    • The fits in this movie were unmatched. The colors were muted, but still interesting and they were actually styled correctly instead of accurately for the time period. May be the best costume design in the last few years.
  • “Mank,” Trish Summerville
  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Ann Roth
  • “Mulan,” Bina Daigeler
  • “Pinocchio,” Massimo Cantini Parrini

Best Animated Short Film

  • “Burrow” (Disney Plus/Pixar)
  • “Genius Loci” (Kazak Productions)
  • “If Anything Happens I Love You” (Netflix)
    • This one wins and it’s not even close. Go watch it right now on Netflix and be prepared to cry your eyes out and look up school shooting statistics.
  • “Opera” (Beasts and Natives Alike)
  • “Yes-People” (CAOZ hf. Hólamói)

Best Live-Action Short Film

  • “Feeling Through”
    • Full disclosure: I’ve only seen two of these, but this one was far and away the best. It’s about a newly-homeless teenager who helps a deaf and blind man get home from a date and it’s very heart-warming.
  • “The Letter Room”
  • “The Present”
  • “Two Distant Strangers”
  • “White Eye”

Best Cinematography

  • “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Sean Bobbitt
  • “Mank,” Erik Messerschmidt
  • “News of the World,” Dariusz Wolski
  • “Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards
    • This is the best looking movie of the year, in my opinion. It does have the advantage of being set in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, though.
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Phedon Papamichael

Best Documentary Feature

  • “Collective,” Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana
    • This incredible documentary out of Romania will have you enthralled with a medical system somehow worse than America’s. It also has some of the best journalism I’ve ever seen.
  • “Crip Camp,” Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht and Sara Bolder
  • “The Mole Agent,” Maite Alberdi and Marcela Santibáñez
  • “My Octopus Teacher,” Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster
  • “Time,” Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino and Kellen Quinn

Best Documentary Short Subject

  • “Colette,” Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard
  • “A Concerto Is a Conversation,” Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers
  • “Do Not Split,” Anders Hammer and Charlotte Cook
  • “Hunger Ward,” Skye Fitzgerald and Michael Scheuerman
  • “A Love Song for Latasha,” Sophia Nahli Allison and Janice Duncan
    • A brutal short film about one of the tragedies that started the 1992 LA riots. It’ll make you cry for Latasha.

Best Film Editing

  • “The Father,” Yorgos Lamprinos
  • “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao
  • “Promising Young Woman,” Frédéric Thoraval
    • Again, this is one of the few movies that actually had fun with the format and editing is supposed to help tell the story, not just end it faster.
  • “Sound of Metal,” Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Alan Baumgarten

Best International Feature Film

  • “Another Round” (Denmark)
    • This is the best category every year and 2020 was no exception. It’s crazy that when you corral the entire non-English speaking world into one category that you always end up with a better selection than Best Picture. Oh ya, this is a Danish movie about Mads Mikkelsen becoming a functioning alcoholic, go check it out.
  • “Better Days” (Hong Kong)
  • “Collective” (Romania)
  • “The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia)
  • “Quo Vadis, Aida?”(Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • “Emma,” Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze
  • “Hillbilly Elegy,” Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, Matthew Mungle
  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson
  • “Mank,” Kimberley Spiteri, Gigi Williams, Colleen LaBaff
  • “Pinocchio,” Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, Francesco Pegoretti
    • I will scream until I’m blue in the face that making someone look old is not the only way to judge if the makeup is good. This crazy version of Pinocchio out of Italy actually uses practical effects and makeup to recreate their characters’ faces and deserves the award so much more than any other film nominated.

Best Production Design

  • “The Father.” Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone
  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton
  • “Mank.” Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale
  • “News of the World.” Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan
  • “Tenet.” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
    • BIG EXPLOSTIONS AND BUILDINGS FALLING DOWN. Sorry for shouting, but they really went all out on this film’s production and it warranted the volume.

Best Visual Effects

  • “Love and Monsters,” Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox
  • “The Midnight Sky,” Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins
    • This was the worst category for enjoyable movies and if I had to judge which I liked best, they’d all lose (except for Tenet). But that’s not what the award is for and the Visual Effects in this George Clooney special were admittedly top notch.
  • “Mulan,” Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram
  • “The One and Only Ivan,” Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez
  • “Tenet,” Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher

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