Oscars Predictions 2021: Who will win at the 93rd Academy Awards?

Will ‘Nomadland’ continue its imperious awards season run, or could the likes of ‘Mank’ and ‘Promising Young Woman’ derail its run? Here is our final list of predictions for all 23 categories

This year’s Oscars promises to be a historic one — after several delays and setbacks due to the pandemic — as women and people of colour earn major recognition, and streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime flex their growing influence more than ever.

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In a landmark move, the Academy decided to make films automatically eligible for consideration even if they first premiered on a digital platform, with theatres shut down globally for most of 2020.

To nobody’s surprise, Nomadland looks to be the big winner on the evening, with Chloe Zhao’s masterpiece dominating the predicitions, while others like Mank, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Minari and The Father vie for remaining honours.

Could there be any upsets, caused by wildcards like Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round or Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman? Could Chadwick Boseman win a posthomous award, emulating Peter Finch and Heath Ledger? Will Christopher Nolan’s Tenet — one of the most-hyped films of the year — walk away with anything at all?

Here are our final predictions for the 93rd Oscars in all the 23 categories.

Best Picture

A still from ‘Nomadland’ 

It’s hard to bet against Nomadland, which has won every other major award this season, including the Critics Choice and Golden Globe honours. Chloe Zhao’s sweeping docu-fiction hybrid has resonated with audiences so stirringly, that the likes of other heavyweights such as Mank or The Trial of the Chicago 7 have all but bowed out of the race. However last year, 1917 took a similar path, hoarding previous prizes, before Parasite stunned the world at the ceremony. Could we have a repeat? Probably not. Gautam

Best Director

Chloe Zhao on the sets of ‘Nomadland’ 

As with Best Picture, this seems to be a shoo-in for Nomadland’s Chloe Zhao, who has picked up every other directing award leading up to the Oscars. Zhao, who has Marvel’s Eternals coming up next, is poised to become just the second woman (after Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker) and the first woman of colour, to ever win the honour.

If anyone at all could cause an unlikely upset, it should be Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg for his glorious binge-drinking saga Another Round, that also features the year’s best scene (the climax), which is one for the ages. Gautam

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ 

While it is a tough call to choose between Riz Ahmed’s heavy metal drummer, Ruben Stone, losing his hearing in Sound of Metal, Anthony Hopkins fighting dementia in The Father and Gary Oldman as screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in Mank, the Best Actor Oscar is a no-contest. Chadwick Boseman will get the golden man for his inspired performance as musician, Levee Green, in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. — Mini

Best Actress

Carey Mulligan in ‘Promising Young Woman’ 

The most open race in all the four acting categories, with all five stars equally in with a chance to win it. At first glance, Frances McDormand might seem like a favourite due to Nomadland’s overall dominance, but our pick goes to Critics Choice winner Carey Mulligan for Promising Young Woman. Mulligan has never won an Oscar, whereas McDormand already has two; something that will influence the voters, no doubt. Still, Davis, Day and Kirby’s career-defining performances all represent tantalising competition and potential surprises. — Gautam

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ 

Another tough one: Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7 or Daniel Kaluuya as Black Panther leader, Fred Hampton, in Judas and the Black Messiah? It will be the latter even though Leslie Odom Jr. was iridescent as Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami, and Lakeith Stanfield beautifully captured Bill O’Neal’s dilemma in Judas and the Black Messiah. — Mini

Best Supporting Actress

Glenn Close will probably take the Oscar, though her Mamaw in Hillbilly Elegy was frankly not her best work. Maria Bakalova as Borat’s daughter Tutar was engaging, Olivia Colman as always is dependable in The Father and Amanda Seyfried (Mank) will definitely get another chance. Youn Yuh-jung as Soon-ja would be lovely, but it will be Ms. Close. — Mini

Best Original Screenplay

A still from ‘Promising Young Woman’ 

Will it be big name Aaron Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7 or Will Berson and Shaka King for Judas and the Black Messiah? My vote goes to Emerald Fennell for the darkly twisty Promising Young Woman. — Mini

Best Adapted Screenplay

A still from ‘The Father’ 

One wishes that the Academy would rebel and give the award to the deliciously satirical highs of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm or The White Tiger. But the reality is that the screenplay honour almost always goes to the Best Picture winner, which is why this could be yet another win for Chloe Zhao.

However, because of the improvisational nature of Nomadland’s filming with so many real-life nomads, Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own play The Father with co-screenwriter Christopher Hampton could spring a surprise, as the Anthony Hopkins-starrer is suddenly making a late awards surge. — Gautam

Best Animated Feature

A still from ‘Soul’ 

Let’s face it, this category is the surest thing of them all, as Soul looks to steamroller on to a much-deserved win. Despite Pixar having another entry — Onward — among the nominees, and Apple’s Wolfwalkers garnering a lot of support, Soul represents too much of what the Academy covets.

Pixar’s first feature to frontline several black characters marks a major milestone for the studio, and animation legend Pete Docter’s deft hands conjured up an exceptional offering that served as a real antidote to the nightmare of the pandemic, and still offers comfort upon repeat watches. — Gautam

Best Production Design

A still from ‘Mank’ 

We have Donald Graham Burt (production design) and Jan Pascale (set decoration) to thank for bringing 1940s Hollywood to brilliant life in Mank, and the Academy Award goes to them beating off stiff competition from Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, News of the World and Tenet. — Mini

Best Cinematography

Joshua James Richards for ‘Nomadland’ 

Erik Messerschmidt’s dazzling black-and-white frames for Mank deserve credit no doubt, but in the history of the Oscars, very few B/W offerings such as Schindler’s List have won out in this category. Instead it should be a first trophy for Nomadland’s Joshua James Richards, whose cathartic shots of the vast American landscape, intertwined with several golden hour shots, deliver a surreal viewing experience.

Richards, who also worked with Zhao on her earlier feature The Rider, said he wanted to ensure that Fern’s (McDormand) relationship with the American southwestern environment around her was captured poignantly, and boy, did he deliver. — Gautam

Best Costume Design

A still from ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ 

With Emma., Alexandra Byrne gets her sixth nomination (Hamlet, Elizabeth, Finding Neverland, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Mary Queen of Scots). Will she win her second Academy award? (She won for Elizabeth: The Golden Age). While Bina Daigeler’s costumes for Mulan were gorgeous and exquisite, as were Trish Summerville’s for Mank, the Oscar should go to Ann Roth for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – I want Viola Davis’ shimmery gowns already. — Mini

Best Editing

A still from ‘Sound of Metal’ 

While Alan Baumgarten has handled the back and forth in The Trial of the Chicago 7 efficiently and he got validation from The American Cinema Editors, we would rather go with the BAFTAs and Mikkel E.G. Nielsen for Sound of Metal. Sadly, Tenet’s temporal pincer movement didn’t make the noms… — Mini

Best Make Up & Hair Styling

A still from ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ 

Patricia Dehaney, Eryn Krueger Mekash and Matthew W. Mungle should get a special mention for Glenn Close’s distractingly mad hair in Hillbilly Elegy, but it is Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson who will win for bringing an era and vibe alive in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. — Mini

Best Sound

A still from ‘Sound of Metal’ 

The winner is Jaime Baksht, Nicolas Becker, Philip Bladh, Carlos Cortés and Michelle Couttolenc for Sound of Metal, for effectively using silence to capture and immerse us in the cocoon that Ruben’s world turns into. — Mini

Best Visual Effects

A still from ‘Tenet’ 

The post-apocalyptic world of the charming Love and Monsters (it is about a boy and his dog and NOT a rom-com) or the frozen wasteland where a bearded George Clooney hides his movie star good looks in The Midnight Sky cannot beat off Tenet’s claim for this Oscar for its bullets with inverted entropy and other time-benders. — Mini

Best Original Score

A still from ‘Soul’ 

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are nominated for both Mank and Soul, though it’s for the latter — in which they team up with Jon Batiste — that they should take home the trophy.

Pixar’s gorgeous tribute to jazz music is not just a visual feast; the original compositions by the trio elevate several scenes to a spectacular high, and the fact that Batiste could become only the second Black composer to win in this category, makes Soul an easy favourite. — Gautam

Best Original Song

Leslie Odom Jr. in ‘Speak Now’ from ‘One Night In Miami…’ 

Unlike previous years, that saw bonafide superstar singers like Lady Gaga and Elton John be nominated — and win — there are no stand-outs this time around. Speak Now from One Night in Miami, which has been performed by supporting-actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr., and Húsavík from Will Ferrell’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga seem to be the most popular songs in what is quite an underwhelming group of nominees. Odom Jr’s Critics Choice-winning song should just about make the cut. — Gautam

Best Documentary Feature

A still from ‘My Octopus Teacher’ 

An unlikely friendship, even mentor-like relationship, that a man shared with a wild octopus, is at the heart of this year’s favourite, tear-jerker of a documentary: My Octopus Teacher. The Netflix original follows filmmaker Craig Foster documenting his growing understanding with a common octopus in a South African kelp forest, and has already won a BAFTA.

Collective, an investigative look into Romania’s flailing health care system and Crip Camp, backed by Barack and Michelle Obama, are other notable mentions that will lose out to the inspiring cephalopod. — Gautam

Best International Feature

A still from ‘Another Round’ | Photo Credit: Henrik Ohsten

Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg’s dazzling alcohol-fuelled cultural commentary from Denmark, surely has this in the bag.

Hong Kong’s Better Days that arcs the light on high-school bullying trauma and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s devastating war drama Quo Vadis, Aida? are the ones most likely to challenge the Danes, but the fact that Vinterbeg has a directing nomination and a globally-recognised star like Mads Mikkelsen on board, makes this a high-profile foreign affair that the Academy can’t ignore.

P.S: Mads Mikkelsen dancing. How can you not root for Denmark after watching that? — Gautam

Best Animated Short

Despite Erick Oh’s Opera posing stiff competition, Netflix’s 12-minute animated film If Anything Happens I Love You, which is being lauded globally for its touching portrayal of two parents coping with the loss of their daughter, and has Oscar winner Laura Dern as an executive producer, is our pick in this category.

The reverse chronological sequence of events reveal at the end of the film, that the daughter was killed at a school shooting incident, highlighting the pressing issue of gun violence prevalent in America. — Gautam

Best Documentary Short

A still from ‘Colette’ 

Three nominations stand out: A Concerto Is a Conversation, a lovely feature about composer Kris Bowers and his grandfather; Colette, a holocaust-theme tale of a 90-year-old woman going back to a World War II concentration camp in Germany where her brother died; and finally, A Love Song for Latasha, that focuses on a Black teenager killed before the L.A riots. Of all these, Colette tugs too much at the heartstrings to pass up on. — Gautam

Best Live-Action Short

The Letter Room stars Hollywood A-lister Oscar Isaac delivering letters to prisoners on death row, and is directed by his wife, Elvira Lind, which gives it instant appeal. However, Two Distant Strangers, which takes inspiration from the murder of George Floyd, and shows a Black man being killed over and over by a white cop in a time loop, is dramatically timely and relevant, and should be the winner. — Gautam

The Oscars ceremony will take place in Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre as well as Union Station on April 25, and will air at 5.30 am IST in India (April 26).

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