As per usual, my spouse and I have tried to watch as many Oscar contenders as we could prior to the big event. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was a very strange year for viewing films. We've had plenty of opportunity to watch films as they were made available on home streaming services much earlier than usual -- and the deadline for release date was deep into 2021. Also, the awards show is much later this year (April 25). We did not see any of these films in the theater, obviously.
I've read a bit about the favorites (and checked with the oddsmakers), but the lists below reflect my personal rankings -- and I'm only going to rate the films and performances I've seen. These are NOT my predictions. And yes, this is a completely subjective and poor way to think about art.
Later, I'll move up films and performances as I see them, but I'll highlight those additions in yellow. For now, the films and performances that I have not seen are listed below those I have watched, separated by a blank line. Prior to the awards show, I saw 5 of the Best Picture nominees.
Best motion picture of the year
"Judas and the Black Messiah"
"Promising Young Woman"
"Sound of Metal"
"The Trial of the Chicago 7"
On any given day, I'd might change the order of 2-3-4, but I thought Nomadland was the best film I saw last year.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Anthony Hopkins in "The Father"
Chadwick Boseman in "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom"
Gary Oldman in "Mank"
Riz Ahmed in "Sound of Metal"
Steven Yeun in "Minari"
Boseman's performance was somewhat mannered in a film that seemed like a theatrical stage production. But it was powerful and a notch above the competition.
Update: Hopkins won the Oscar and his performance is powerful - and realistic, frightening, and courageous all at once.
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Daniel Kaluuya in "Judas and the Black Messiah"
Lakeith Stanfield in "Judas and the Black Messiah"
Sacha Baron Cohen in "The Trial of the Chicago 7"
Leslie Odom, Jr. in "One Night in Miami..."
Paul Raci in "Sound of Metal"
Apparently Kaluuya is the favorite in this category. I'm actually not sure Odom provided the best supporting part in his own film. Cohen was good.
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Carey Mulligan in "Promising Young Woman"
Frances McDormand in "Nomadland"
Viola Davis in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Andra Day in "The United States vs. Billie Holiday"
Vanessa Kirby in "Pieces of a Woman"
I could see the case for McDormand winning yet another Oscar, but Mulligan is the favorite and was very good.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Yuh-Jung Youn in "Minari"
Olivia Colman in "The Father"
Amanda Seyfried in "Mank"
Maria Bakalova in "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe..."
Glenn Close in "Hillbilly Elegy"
Youn is the favorite here. Colman is always very good.
Achievement in directing
"Nomadland" Chloé Zhao
"Minari" Lee Isaac Chung
"Promising Young Woman" Emerald Fennell
"Mank" David Fincher
"Another Round" Thomas Vinterberg
Nomadland really is good.
Best documentary feature
"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
"Collective" Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana
Hey, I saw all of the nominated films prior to the ceremony!
I'd be pleased if either Crip Camp or The Mole Agent won. The oddsmakers say this is unlikely. Both provide a measure of humor not always found in this category. Collective was somewhat difficult to watch and not merely because of the content as the onscreen dialogue moves fairly quickly. If you watch the screen too much, you'll miss the subtitles. And those are crucial in this foreign doc.
Best international feature film of the year
"Quo Vadis, Aida?" Bosnia and Herzegovina
"Another Round" Denmark
"Better Days" Hong Kong
"The Man Who Sold His Skin" Tunisia
The characters in Another Round make insane life choices, but the film is a joy to watch.
Update: The Bosnian film is an outstanding look at a terrible atrocity. The United Nations is made to seem complicit, but the looming violence in this film was committed by Serbs.
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