2021 Oscar Predictions: Acting
Now 6 years removed from the start of the #OscarsSoWhite uproar that began after the nominees for the 2015 Oscars were released with all 20 acting spots owned by white actors it seems we have progressed to a sustained level of diversity that will hopefully continue in future years. After a repeat of white washed acting nominees in 2016 the Academy took a serious look at their voting body and vowed to expand to allow for more diversity of age, race and sex. Now, 5 years later we’re still not exactly where we’d like to be but vast improvements have been made with 7 of the 2017 nominees being persons of color and two of the winners. 2018 and 2019 took a slight step back with only 4 of the nominees being a person of color in each year before dropping to a single nomination in 2020. 2020 was historic for its Parasite win and there has been great diversity in categories other than just the four acting ones since the start of the outcry but the struggle for harmony continues. This year 9 people of color were nominated in the 20 person group and if everything goes according to plan we could be looking at 3, possibly 4 wins. Now obviously this shouldn’t be reduced to a simple statistic and the end goal is to get to a place where a diverse group of actors are nominated based off of the strength of their performances, but the issue after all was less that actors of color were excluded from nominations because of the color of their skin but more that there were less opportunities in Oscar worthy films for those actors of color to succeed. The starting point is creating films with more non white characters and I think that improvement has been seen across Hollywood over the last 5 years.
Let’s take a look at the actors nominated this year and see if we can figure out who the winners will be.
Actor in a Leading Role
Riz Ahmed - Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman - Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins - The Father
Gary Oldman - Mank
Steven Yeun - Minari
And the Oscar goes to… Chadwick Boseman. When Boseman’s name is called he will become just the third actor to win a posthumous Oscar after passing away from his battle with cancer back in August of last year. I say “when” because this is as close to a lock as you can get, with Boseman winning nearly every award show for his performance as Levee the spirited trumpeter in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He saved the best for last and left it all out on the screen in one of the most moving performances of the year. This is a melancholy but fitting end to a remarkable career from an actor that sadly left us much too soon. I believe his success this awards season does have to do somewhat with his death and the fact that he was such a talented actor who routinely delivered but never received any Oscar love, however I think if he were still alive today he would still be the favorite.
Upset: Anthony Hopkins. I think Hopkins is really incredible in The Father and if I had an Oscar vote I may lean this way but I think Boseman is too strong at this point. Hopkins has had his day in the sun and with all of the fresh faces and first time nominees nominated across all the categories this year I think the Academy is leaning away from what has worked in the past and is embracing a new era.
Actress in a Leading Role
Viola Davis - Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day - The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby - Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand - Nomadland
Carey Mulligan - Promising Young Woman
And the Oscar goes to… Carey Mulligan. What I thought was a much easier category to predict a couple of months ago has turned into a very close race. Frances McDormand was the frontrunner not too long ago, winning the Golden Globe and riding a Nomadland train that didn’t look like it could be stopped, but Viola Davis has picked up some serious steam recently after winning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award earlier this month. McDormand and Davis are both former Oscar winners, with McDormand having two and one as recently as 2018. Davis won back in 2017 for her work on Fences, although it was a supporting role. Carey Mulligan has only been nominated once before this year and that was back in 2010 for An Education. While a lot of experts are split on this category I have a feeling that Mulligan will take it, allowing the voters to spread the love, so to speak, by giving Promising Young Woman best actress, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom best actor and Nomadland best picture.
Upset: Frances McDormand or Viola Davis. Either of these ladies winning would hardly be an upset and if you did the math to see who was most likely to win it’s very possible it wouldn’t be Carey Mulligan but that is my pick as of right now. I may very well change my mind before the Oscars, that’s how close it is! Andra Day won the Golden Globe for her performance as Billie Holiday but we’ve seen a decrease lately in actors winning for films that sole nomination was for acting. Glenn Close was many people’s pick a couple of years ago for her work in The Wife, a film with no nominations save hers but she ended up losing to Olivia Colman in the 10 time nominee The Favourite. This one will be a close race until the winning name is called out.
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
And the Oscar goes to… Daniel Kaluuya. My biggest takeaway from Judas and the Black Messiah was just how electric Kaluuya was and I was very pleased and a little surprised to see him become such a dominant force at award shows. Judas and the Black Messiah was a latecomer to the Oscar party but that seems to have only helped its chances, especially where Kaluuya is concerned. All 5 nominees are either first time nominees or have never won an Oscar before so really no one has a familiarity bias over anyone else which means it all comes down to the performances delivered. Kaluuya is the strong favorite here and makes this the least competitive of any of the acting categories.
Upset: Sacha Baron Cohen. Until Judas and the Black Messiah crashed onto the scene it looked like Baron Cohen would lead this group of actors. Sacha Baron Cohen is the only one here with a remote chance to take this from Kaluuya but it’s a long shot at best. Alan S. Kim from Minari won the Critics Choice award and was a fan favorite but he failed to be nominated and undoubtedly lost his spot to Lakeith Stanfield. The inclusion of Stanfield in this category was a surprise and left many scratching their heads since he was considered the lead for that film, yet he was campaigned as a supporting actor and now we’re left to wonder to ourselves just who was the lead in Judas and the Black Messiah? There is always the possibility of Kaluuya and Stanfield splitting the vote between themselves but seeing as I would put Stanfield as the 5th most likely actor to win this award I don’t think that’s something Kaluuya should be worried about.
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
And the Oscar goes to… Yuh-Jung Youn. What started as a much closer race with no clear front runner has very abruptly turned into a one horse race. Yuh-Jung Youn won both the SAG and the BAFTA which don’t guarantee an Oscar win but with no other actress making a significant award show splash she has become the one to beat. Even the Golden Globe winner Jodie Foster is nowhere to be seen only further separating her from the field. Given the star power of her competition it’s surprising she’s had the success she’s had but her performance in Minari was one of the highlights of last year and with her delightfully endearing acceptance speeches for the awards she won she has also won our hearts.
Upset: Glenn Close. It really hurts my soul to list Glenn Close as a possible upset given her cartoonish performance in the critically panned Hillbilly Elegy but the lady has been nominated for 8 freaking Oscars over the past 38 years and still has yet to win so you’ve gotta think there are some older Academy members out there just penciling her name in because she’s long overdue for a win. It pains me that Amanda Seyfried has basically a zero percent chance to win here. Her performance was one of my favorites of last year and she was the standout of Mank for me.
The Oscars air live on ABC on Sunday, April 25th at 8:00 PM Eastern Time. Follow along during the ceremony on the LoveCinema Twitter and stay tuned to LoveCinema for more Oscar predictions in the coming days.