Oscars 2021: Our Predictions for What May Be The Academy’s Most Historic Ceremony

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This year’s awards signal big changes to the industry

Related: See How Filipino Designers Envision Oscar Nominees

In 1929, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (or commonly known as the Oscars) held their first ceremony at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Wings, the melodramatic war picture starring 1920s icon Clara Bow was awarded the first Best Picture award. Since then, the Oscars have grown to become the world’s most prestigious movie award. Fanfare surrounds the ceremony each year, with Tinseltown’s brightest and most talented artists step out of their Beverly Hills mansions for a night of honoring their peers. The Academy Awards has mutated over its 90-year history. What was once a small banquet dinner (priced at $5/a ticket) is now a full-blown media machine, with thousands of international reporters covering the festivities, fashion designers creating gowns for their ingénues, and movie fans around the world drop everything to watch history unfold cover a three-hour telecast.

Magnus Voll Mathiassen’s take on the iconic statuette

With hardcore campaigning now playing a large role in securing the coveted “Naked Golden Man,” it is no surprise that guessing future Oscar winners have become a game for obsessed cinephiles (think of it like the Fantasy League for sport’s fans, this time for movie nerds). The season starts during the mid-year festival circuit (Cannes, Venice etc.), followed by the critic’s awards—which builds up a future nominee’s goodwill and prestige. Those who garner enough steam, eventually start getting nominated (and winning) on the televised award’s shows (like the Golden Globes and BAFTAS), which are considered the best place to make an impression to audiences for your future Oscar speech. Say the wrong thing, or cause even a little bit of scandal, and you’re out of the race for gold. The last stop on in the race are the Hollywood guild awards (like the Screen Actor’s Guilds, Producer’s Guild etc.), which can usually solidify your case as a strong Oscar contender. These pre-award shows/ceremonies are known in movie circles as “the precursors”. They are all prestigious in their own right, but everybody knows that ALL ROADS TO LEAD THE KODAK THEATER. Because to the history books, the Oscar is the only thing that matters.

Victoria Villasana’s take on the iconic statuette

Although Awards Season 2020 was considered the longest in history (The Academy extended their qualification dates past the fiscal year, and into the first months of 2021), movie fans were still given a complete set of precursors to aid them with their predictions. We decided to take a crack into predicting tomorrow’s awards, by closely studying the race thus far. Take note: anything can happen at Oscar night! Who would have thought Eddie Murphy would lose an Oscar for Dreamgirls in 2006, just because his notorious film Norbit opened during voting period? But still, it’s fun to guess—and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that this may be the most historic Oscar night in recent history.

Check out our predictions for the high profile categories…

BEST PICTURE

WILL WIN: Nomadland
COULD WIN: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Nomadland, Chloé Zhao’s deeply human film about nomadic life in America, has steamrolled the Best Picture prizes all season, winning the award at the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the PGA (Producer’s Guild), and dozens of critic’s circles. It is undoubtedly the Best Picture frontrunner.

However, its lack of a SAG Ensemble nomination (the Screen Actors Guild tends to award big, famous casts instead of small indie ensembles) has us worried. We think if the Academy wants to play is safe this year (which they have been criticized in doing many times before), then the major spoiler will be The Trial of the Chicago 7.

BEST ACTOR

WILL WIN: Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
COULD WIN: Anthony Hopkins in The Father

In The Father, Anthony Hopkins wowed audiences. Many critics and fans are hailing the performance as one of the greatest ever put on film. He may be the biggest threat to Chadwick Boseman, whose posthumous work in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has been garnering him accolades left and right. It’s a tight race between the two, but we still think Boseman is winning (as a way of honoring the late great actor). However, this does remind us a bit of the 2018 season, when Olivia Colman (who won the BAFTA—the last award in the circuit) beat out frontrunner Glenn Close (who won everything else). We shall see tomorrow.

FUN FACT: If Chadwick Boseman wins, he will be the third black performer to win Best Actor (after legendary stars Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington). If Anthony Hopkins wins, he will become the oldest Best Actor winner ever, at 83-years-old. Finally, a Steven Yeun victory (for Minari) will make him the first Asian-American actor ever to win in this category.

BEST ACTRESS

WILL WIN: It’s absolutely anybody’s game. But if we had to put our money on it, it would be Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
COULD WIN: Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

This might be the most unpredictable Best Actress race EVER. Usually, we have two top contenders vying for gold. This year, everybody has an equal shot. All major precursors awarded different women! Vanessa Kirby’s work for Pieces of a Woman was the first recognized, winning the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival (the first award Emma Stone won for La La Land, where she eventually took home the Oscar). The race shifted when newcomer Andra Day won at the Golden Globes. Suddenly, another curve ball was thrown when days later, Carey Mulligan took the prize at the Critic’s Choice awards. Things got murkier when Viola Davis won at the Screen Actors Guild for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Frances McDormand (who had recently won her second Best Actress statue in 2018), was just along for the ride—winning several awards at the smaller critic’s groups. However, she managed to score big when she emerged as the victor at the recent BAFTAs. We’re a little confused, but also very excited to see the outcome. If we had to make a bet, we’d we put our money on Viola Davis, whose support from SAG and general goodwill in Hollywood might carry her to a second Oscar win. Her win would be historic, making her not only the second Best Actress winner in history (the first being Halle Berry for 2001’s Monster’s Ball), but she will also be the most awarded black actress ever. We’re predicting Carey Mulligan as a possible spoiler, just because of Promising Young Woman’s popularity and timely themes.

FUN FACT: Two other actresses can make history tomorrow. Andra Day could be the second black Best Actress winner ever. If Frances McDormand manages to score a win, she will become the second most awarded Best Actress winner (after Katharine Hepburn’s four) with three statues. Yes, that’s more than Meryl Streep (whose 1 of 3 Oscars is in the supporting category).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

WILL WIN: Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah
COULD WIN: Paul Raci in Sound of Metal

It’s all locked up—Daniel Kaluuya will be tomorrow’s winner for Best Supporting Actor for Judas and the Black Messiah. It’s an inevitable thing. It would be considered the ceremony’s greatest spoiler if anyone else were to win. We predict Paul Raci as a very unlikely spoiler, just because a lot of people are passionate about his performance.

FUN FACT: This is the most criticized category this year, because three of the five nominees are considered LEADS of their film. This is called “category fraud”, which has been done multiple times in the Academy’s long and complicated history. This year, the conversation on category fraud has been more prevalent when both Judas lead actors (Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield) were announced as supporting actor nominees. If Kaluuya loses tomorrow, we feel it’s because The Academy’s new and diverse voting body wants to make a radical statement.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

WILL WIN: Youn Yuh-jung in Minari
COULD WIN: Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy

The Academy was heavily criticized last year when cultural phenomenon and eventual Best Picture winner Parasite failed to garner any acting nominations. Oscar has a pretty bad track record when it comes to honoring Asian actors, but they might right that wrong tomorrow when they award Korean superstar Youn Yuh-jung with a well-deserved Oscar. She won BAFTA and SAG, so we think she’s got it in the bag. Glenn Close may spoil if they still feel guilty about stiffing her for The Wife in 2018. But Hillbilly Elegy’s bad reputation and corresponding Razzie nomination makes us think it won’t happen. The acting legend will have to wait to win her Oscar.

FUN FACT: If Youn Yuh-jung prevails, she will be the second actress of Asian heritage to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The first and only other winner was Japanese star Miyoshi Umeki, who won all the way back in 1957 for Sayonara. No Asian actor has ever won the award for Best Actress. In the male categories, it has only happened twice: Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields (1984) and Ben Kingsley for Gandhi (1982).

BEST DIRECTOR

WILL WIN: Chloé Zhao for Nomadland
COULD WIN: Chloé Zhao for Nomadland

This category feels as locked up as Best Picture—maybe even more so. Out of every single nominee in the race, Zhao has won the most precursors, winning an impressive 50 from different award giving bodies. It’s hers for the taking, and we think absolutely no one can stop her.

FUN FACT: Zhao will make waves in the history books tomorrow. She will become only the second female director to win this Oscar (after Kathryn Bigelow for 2009’s The Hurt Locker), as well as the first Asian woman to do so. If she wins Oscars in over three of the categories she’s nominated in (Best Picture, Director, Screenplay & Film Editing), she will overtake Ang Lee as the most awarded Asian filmmaker in Oscar history.


Quick take on the rest (except for Documentary and the Short categories—which aren’t widely available for screening in the Philippines):

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

WILL WIN: Promising Young Woman

COULD WIN: The Trial of the Chicago 7

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

WILL WIN: The Father

COULD WIN: Nomadland

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

WILL WIN: Soul

COULD WIN: Wolfwalkers

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

WILL WIN: Another Round

COULD WIN: Quo Vadis, Aida?

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

WILL WIN: Soul

COULD WIN: Mank

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

WILL WIN: “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami

COULD WIN: “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

BEST SOUND

WILL WIN: Sound of Metal

COULD WIN: Mank

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:

WILL WIN: Mank

COULD WIN: The Father

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

WILL WIN: Nomadland

COULD WIN: Mank

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

WILL WIN: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

COULD WIN: Pinocchio

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

WILL WIN: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

COULD WIN: Emma

BEST FILM EDITING

WILL WIN: The Trial of the Chicago 7

COULD WIN: Nomadland

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

WILL WIN: Tenet

COULD WIN: The Midnight Sky


Artwork featured: Temi Coker’s take on the iconic statuette