Ready or not, pandemic-pounded movie year or not, here come the 93rd annual Academy Awards, Hollywood’s grasp at trying to return to something like “normal,” and hopefully with enough of a TV audience tuning in to make it worth their trouble.
Unlike the Zoomed and largely-ignored Golden Globes, in other words.
I’ve been looking at 2020 as the ultimate “asterisk year,” to use the sports analogy. There was no March Madness last year, not even a dinged-up and abortive version like the one we just witnessed. The Dodgers finally won a World Series in a shortened season.
And Hollywood spent all year postponing films, pulling releases and trying to figure out a way to get income from their pricey product out of streaming services, in most cases streamers they started up themselves. All the old rules about a movie “must play in a theater” went out the window, and that lingered on into awards season.
Like NCAA football and hoops teams, movies didn’t have a chance to go out, make an impression and make their case in this climate.
So we’ve got “Nomadland” and “Sound of Metal” and “Minari” as contenders, an actor who died (Chadwick Boseman of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) as a sentimental favorite and Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) and Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) as legitimate contenders in movies that almost no one has seen.
Even in a year with theaters mostly closed and heavyweight studios not putting expensive product out in time to compete, this year’s Oscars promise to promote the least popular — in terms of ticket sales and streaming views — contenders and winners in Academy history.
Still, we got something resembling a “normal” awards season build-up to the Oscars, so based on the SAG Awards and Critics Choice Awards, even with the outlier BAFTAs (ALL “Nomadland”) maybe picking the winners will still be a breeze.
Do the betting odds reflect this, this time around?
“Nomadland” is the prohibitive favorite to take Best Picture. Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago Seven” is the only film within laughing distance, according to the site. I don’t know. Lots of actors are in “Chicago.” And lots of actors make up the Academy.
Still, as the old Oscars’ saying goes, “Best directors direct best pictures.” Chloe Zhao is just as favored to win Best Director for “Nomadland.”
Cary Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”), despite not winning the BAFTA last weekend, is favored to run off with Best Actress. With Frances McDormand taking the BAFTA and Viola Davis winning Screen Actors’ Guild honors this is a real horse race.
Boseman is our Best Actor winner. Bet your pink slip on that. A wonderful actor who took a lot of iconic roles — Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Black Panther — in his too-short life, this is the way Hollywood will commemorate him, and bless them for doing it. Another great performance by Anthony Hopkins and a brilliant “Sound of Metal” turn by Riz Ahmed won’t produce Oscars for them, alas.
Putting Daniel Kaluuya in the supporting actor category for “Judas and the Black Messiah” will almost certainly pay off with the Oscar. I’d say he ended that discussion with his SAG win and glorious, fun and self-effacing turn as “Saturday Night Live” host a couple of weeks back. The Oscar is just his victory lap.
So that means that an actor who played a real Black Panther and the actor who played the comic book “Black Panther” will both collect Oscars on the same night. Pretty cool, huh?
Best Supporting Actress down to the Youn Yuh-Jung, the grandma from “Minari” and the unladylike young “daughter” (Maria Bakalova) from “Borat Subsequent MovieFilm?” Youn seems likely, based on the SAG win. I think “Minari” and the “Borat” sequel are the two most over-rated contenders in this year’s Oscars. I’d to think Glenn Close, nominated for a disastrously tone-deaf “Hillbilly Elegy,” has a sentimental shot. She’s never won. Amanda Seyfried was the best thing in “Mank.” But they’re the longer shots in that field, along with Olivia Colman (“The Father”), and we’ll never know how close it was if they lose.
“Promising Young Woman” is the best original screenplay favorite, with “Trial of the Chicago Seven” given a shot.
I’m hoping the film I think was the best movie of 2020, “Another Round,” wins Best International Feature.
I figure Best Adapted screenplay is anybody’s guess, with an odd amount of love going to the “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Team” up to now, but I’d like to hope “The Father” has a shot. “Nomadland” is also a contender, and as its the Big Picture favorite, this could be a big night for Chloe Zhao all the way around.
“Sound of Metal” should win Best Sound, “Emma.” is my pick for Best Costume, Best Production Design might be the best shot for “Mank” to win something (“News of the World” was better designed and more challenging, in my opinion), and “Tenet” LINK should have a shot at Best Visual Effects.
In any event, Oscar night is Sunday, April 25, and socially-distanced or not, could be a fruitful evening hoping fans show up for the TV event, and then go out theaters again to see any of these worthies still showing — or re-released — afterward.