As we’ve done in years past, we’re celebrating the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards with a series of 2021 Oscar Predictions that may help you win your Oscar pool. Up first, an in-depth look at the acting categories…
When making your way through this year’s selection of Oscar-nominated male performances, one thing is abundantly clear: the late Chadwick Boseman will be the fan favorite, and rightly so. In his last ever role, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Boseman shines with charisma, command, and a sharp twinkle of defiance. He plays Levee Green, a zealous and bold trumpeter looking to break away from his role as a backing musician and secure his own record deal. Boseman’s perseverance as Levee only serves as a bitter reminder that he will not be continuing to grace our screens in his own bright career.
Still, it’s difficult to ignore other contenders in the category: specifically Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal and Anthony Hopkins in The Father. As our well-deserved honorable mention, in Sound of Metal, Ahmed stunned audiences with his performance as Ruben, a recovering drug addict and professional drummer who unexpectedly goes deaf. Ahmed’s performance is most powerful in its restraint. Ruben’s calmness is unsettling. He reminds us of a volcano bubbling beneath a placid surface. But in a year-best performance, Hopkins gracefully contends with similar troubles. He plays Anthony in The Father: an elderly man slipping into the insidious depths of dementia. Hopkins balances control and unpredictability as a character who is losing his grasp on reality. His performance is largely physical. With just the flick of a wrist or a confused glance, he knows exactly how to make his audience burst into a fit of laughter or an ocean of tears. If 2020 had a more moving performance, I have yet to see it. (Aurora Amidon)
Who Should Win: Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Who Will Win: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Frances McDormand has often been hailed as one of the most fearless actresses of her generation. From her breakout role as reticent police chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo to her Oscar-winning performance as the brusque Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, McDormand has never been afraid to take a risk. This year’s Nomadland, in which she plays a woman named Fern who decides to take on the life of a nomad after struggling to find work, is no exception. From her ability to blend in on the campgrounds while surrounded by people played by actual nomads, to her willingness to participate in that bathroom scene, McDormand really proved her boldness in Nomadland and has been getting all of the buzz as this year’s fan favorite.
But hidden away in the lead actress category are less discussed, yet just as – if not more – impressive performances. Namely Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, and underdog Vanessa Kirby, who plays Martha in Pieces of a Woman, which follows a young woman recovering from a devastating stillbirth. Kirby’s performance remains criminally underrated, as she took on one of the year’s most challenging roles. The film begins with a thirty-minute, one-take shot of Martha’s birth, (which should have earned director Kornél Mundruczó a spot on the best director nominee list), and during the span of this time, Kirby seamlessly traverses the widest range of intense emotions: fear, pain, exhaustion, excitement, joy, grief. Perhaps most impressive, though, is the fact that Kirby manages to display that same terrain of inner turbulence on a lesser scale throughout the remainder of the film. Perhaps it is McDormand that people are excited about this year – but relative newcomer Kirby has proven that she is a force to be reckoned with and that she isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. (Aurora Amidon)
Who Should Win: Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Who Will Win: Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Best Supporting Actor
Daniel Kaluuya has been picking up well-deserved awards left right and center for his assured and invigorating portrayal of Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. Kaluuya has emerged as one of the most versatile actors of his generation and though he’s still young, this win has already seemed to be a long time coming. Every year there’s usually one major award that goes to the right person, and this will likely be the one.
The only form of hesitance in guaranteeing this victory comes from Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Seeing a comedic actor in a dramatic role is the kind of turn that always endears an actor to voters and it could work in Cohen’s favor. With the Academy also nominating Lakeith Stanfield in the Supporting Actor category — as if the film didn’t have a lead? — it’s possible that voters who liked Judas and the Black Messiah could split their allegiances between the two actors, leaving Cohen with a path to victory. It’s unlikely, but stranger things have been known to happen. (Anna Swanson)
Who Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Who Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Supporting Actress
The question of who will win is fairly straightforward. Youn Yuh-jung has emerged as the frontrunner for her quietly devastating and impeccably lovable turn as the family matriarch in Minari. While the results of this category seemed rather up in the air for a while, her success at the SAG awards and the BAFTAs all but cements this well-deserved victory.
Now as far as her source of competition in terms of who should win, Glenn Close’s place in this conversation should not be what it is because she should have already won at least one Oscar. Her potential first Oscar should not be an award that many who have seen (and many more who haven’t seen) Hillbilly Elegy will call nothing but a legacy win. She’s certainly not the first actor to be in contention partially because of past defeats (notably, Leonardo Dicaprio’s win came a few years after his career-best performance in The Wolf of Wall Street), but Close’s repeated, decades-long history of snubs has become notorious. It’s unfortunate that should she win this year or any year in the future, the achievement will be too easily spun as a consolation prize rather than a recognition of her immense talent. Legacy wins, much like category fraud wins, are one of those things that are not ideal, but they’re going to happen regardless, and they might as well happen to the right people. Now, in all likelihood, Close will not take home the award this year, but there will be opportunities in the future. And anyway, a win in a leading actress category will be more reflective of the types of roles that have made Close one of our finest living performers. (Anna Swanson)
Who Should (Have Already Won for Dangerous Liaisons in 1988): Glenn Close
Who Will Win: Youn Yuh-jung, Minari
To read our breakdowns and analysis of every one of this year’s categories, follow the links below: