Oscars Week: Thoughts on the 2021 Best Picture Nominees

The Oscars have been getting worse for years now. The last few years have had weird lineups and weird winners. I’m not sure many people have actually been happy with recent years for the most part.

Green Book beating Blackkklansman, Roma and Black Panther for best picture in 2018 was bizarre but amusing. Parasite’s win in 2019 against The Irishman, Joker, 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was strange, considering it was a violent, nihilistic, Marxist Korean film.

Previous year’s Best Picture winners like Shape of Water, Moonlight, Birdman and Spotlight were bizarre to say the least in light of some of the other films those years: Mad Max Fury Road, Blade Runner 2049, etc.

It doesn’t matter what year it is, it always feels like the wrong or weird pick has won out either because it appealed to the Academy’s eclectic white boomer liberal sensitivities or because the progressive media bullied the academy into voting for the “right” film to win.

I’ve long contented that the ceremony is functionally useless. It once served the purpose of being the “public face” of the film industry that put the best foot forward for the medium, artistically and aesthetically.

Nowadays, it represents nobody. Progressives hate it. Conservatives hate it. Average movie audiences consider it elitist. Film critics and cinephiles consider it out of touch with the genuine developments of the art form.

In any case, I have seen the eight Best Picture nominates for this Sunday’s Oscars. The list feels weirder than ever given how few major releases 2020 had to offer. The films that feel even marginally “Oscar-Bait” are all streaming releases while the rest of the contenders are indie progressive flicks that wouldn’t have ranked in a busier year.

I’ll also throw a couple of my predictions at the bottom of the article for good measure!

The Father by Florian Zeller

If there was any film this year I thought deserved the best picture win, I’d probably say it’s this one. Florian Zeller’s surrealist stage play about the horrors of memorial loss hit me pretty hard.

I’ve written before about Alzheimer’s and how much it’s deeply affected my family in the past and here we have the arthouse version of exactly the experience Capone gave me last year.

Anthony Hopkins does career best work playing his character Anthony as he struggles to keep track of his time and spacial awareness as he suffers from late onset memorial loss. It’s a deeply painful experience and if I had to pick my vote I’d give it to this film!

My review for the film will be dropping at GeeksUnderGrace.com this weekend!

Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King

Considering how much the #OscarsSoWhite campaign has haunted the academy for the past half decade, it’s not surprise that this film managed to earn a best picture nominations.

Shaka King’s drama about the rise and fall of a revolutionary Black Panther stinks of modern discourse and sensibilities. It’s a surprisingly radical film to come out of a mainstream studio like Warner Brothers but maybe that’s not surprising in this climate. Radicalism and “anti-racism” has become the air we breath.

In any case, the film is quite well made. It’s a beautifully filmed 1970s period piece and being one of the only auteur films in 2020 from a Black director likely earned it it’s awards nomination.

You can check out my full review here at Cultural Revue!

Mank by David Fincher

No film on this list surprised me less than Mank. If there was ever an easy awards season movie to drop this year, it was this one. Fincher’s black and white Hollywood drama about a misunderstood screenwriter dealing with alcoholism, corporate corruption in politics and finding one’s place within the history of cinema is as “Oscar Bait” as these things come.

This film has earned a sizable coalition of critics from supporters of Orson Welles’ legacy who rightly claim that the film is a work of historical revisionism. I’m fully inclined to agree.

Mank wouldn’t surprise me as an Oscar win given how pandering it is to the academy’s sensibilities but it’s also not surprising that this film hasn’t earned much of a reputation for itself outside of niche circles fascinated by the history of Hollywood.

You can see my review for the film at Geeks Under Grace.

Minari by Lee Isaac Chung

This is easily my second favorite film on the list! A24’s drama about a Korean family moving to Arkansas to start a life as farmers is easily the best drama of its kind I’ve seen in years! What I love about it is that it doesn’t take easy shots.

Minari ISNT a cliche drama about the horrors of racism and the dark side of the American Dream. Instead, it’s a stressful parable about the challenge of setting down roots. It’s a family drama that asks the question of “can our family survive” when faced with the challenges of integration and prosperity. It’s stressors are common problems like martial trouble, loneliness, health issues and paying the bills.

Yet it’s a riveting experience! I don’t know what Minari’s prospects are. It’s probably not the obvious best picture vote for most of the academy. It’s not nearly as political nor showy in ways that they tend to love. That said, if this won I’d be very happy!

Check out my review at Geeks Under Grace!

Nomadland by Chlao Zhao

Considering this film overtook the golden globes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the academy gave this film a TON of gold.

Zhao’s improvisational drama about a middle aged woman driving around America in the aftermath of the 2008 financial recession feels like a film that would hit hard for boomer voters. All the characters are baby boomers and France McDormand is a darling of the academy (see also: Fargo, Three Billboards).

It’s also got an easy political hook considering that “Anti-Asian hate crimes” have totally littered the news of late. I can already imagine Zhao’s Oscar speech about how hard it is to be an Asian woman living in America (despite the fact that she’s already been picked up to direct a Marvel movie and her career is skyrocketing)…

If I had to bet money on a best picture win, I’d put it here.

You can check out my review at Geeks Under Grace!

Sound of Metal by Darius Marder

I’ve previously called Amazon Prime’s new drama Sound of Metal a film that’s intermittedly cruel and yet obvious Oscar Bait. It’s a very dark drama about a man’s life falling apart in the aftermath of a personal tragedy and it barely does enough to find meaning in that tragedy.

At the same time, it’s also a curious contradiction. It has many of the same SERIOUS themes that the academy tends to love like physical disability and addiction. Aesthetically though, I’m not sure it will appeal much to their sensibility given that it’s a story about metal-heads and misanthropes.

I highly doubt this will catch very much support.

You can check out my review here at Cultural Revue!

The Trial of the Chicago 7 by Aaron Sorkin

Boomer libs rejoice! Your savior Aaron Sorkin has returned with another sanctimonious story about how important the 1960s leftists and hippies were to changing the world!

It’s amusing how much this film functions as a rorschach test for your political beliefs. I found the film to be a self-serving liberal smug-fest while MovieBob and FilmCritHulk also though the same thing for different reasons. They just didn’t like how white and centrist it was…

I’d bet the film will probably win something because of how closely it aligns with nostalgic 1960s liberalism, especially given how popular Sorkin’s other work it (West Wing, The Newsroom, The Social Network).

You can check out my review for it here at Cultural Revue!

Promising Young Woman by Emerald Fennell

This is the only film on the list I haven’t personally reviewed. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about it. It’s not terrible but it’s certainly sanctimonious. It’s not great but it communicates its idea well. It’s easily the schlockiest film on the list and it barely even fits what the academy generally looks like.

In short, it’s a feminist version of Joker. It’s a rape revenge story about a predatory woman who takes home men who try to take advantage of drunk women and then tricks them and torture them.

Basically everything about the film’s execution and emotional resonance only works if you totally buy into the premise.

It’s not surprising this got a cursory nomination but I’d be VERY surprised if this won…

Misc Oscar Predictions

Chadwick Bozeman probably wins the Best Actor Oscar posthumously since his death in 2020 was one of the most tragic and unexpected deaths in recent cinema.

Frances McDormand is probably an easy win for Best Actress.

Daniel Kluuya probably wins best supporting actor for his role in Judas.

Glenn Close will probably edge out a narrow win for best supporting actress for her performance in Hillbilly Elegy (which hilariously was also nominated for a Razzie).

Pixar will likely win the best animated film category even though Wolf Walkers deserves it…

Trial of the Chicago 7 probably wins the best original screenplay since it is, in fact, the MOST written film last year…

Lastly, I’d bet Chlao Zhao wins best director since she’s the exciting young up and coming director.

Beyond that, I haven’t seen enough of the international films to comment on them and I don’t care about the technical degrees.

Considering none of the films I really enjoyed from last year such as The Gentlemen, On the Rocks, Mr. Jones or Bill and Ted aren’t on the last, I couldn’t really care less about who really does win (unless the win ends up going to something really stupid).

Published by Tyler Hummel

Editor-in-Chief at Cultural Review, Regular Film Critic for Geeks Under Grace, Published at ArcDigital, Rebeller, The DailyWire, Hollywood in Toto, Legal Insurrection and The ED Blog, Host of The AntiSocial Network Podcast

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