With all the studios halting production and theaters closing around the world for the majority of the year, one had to wonder if Hollywood would even have anything to award this year. Luckily, streaming had already made a big impact in the film industry (garnering over 24 nominations last year and a whopping 47 nominations this year, 34 by Netflix alone), so there was never going to be a complete absence of options to choose from when it came to new and exciting material.
I do have to say up front, I didn’t see a lot of the movies that were eventually nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so attempting to pick winners will be somewhat difficult for me this year. When did that stop anyone from trying, though. Below are my picks for who will and should win at this year’s Academy Awards, and as usual, a few of my own awards for other films I thought should be highlighted.
Best Picture (Nominees – The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7)
Who Will and Should Win: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Of the eight films nominated this year for Best picture, I saw three of them. And though Promising Young Woman and Judas and the Black Messiah had very strong performances and engaging plots, I felt that The Trial of the Chicago 7 pulled off the strongest overall narrative; and I do believe the Academy will agree. With a strong cast that genuinely embodied the anger and distrust during the attack on the Democrat Convention in 1968, Trial provided its viewers with deeply moving insight into the mindset of those who were ready to sacrifice their livelihoods during the Civil Rights movement, even when the truth was twisted in order to quash the rebellion.
Best Actor (Nominees – Riz Ahmed, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Steven Yeun)
Who Will and Should Win: Chadwick Boseman
I’m not sure about any of the performances in this category, as I have yet to see any of these films, but I believe the Academy will do the right thing and give the award posthumously to Chadwick Boseman. Because he’s been nominated once before, and because his final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, from what I’ve heard, is a masterpiece in acting, Boseman will be honored for his entire body of work and all of the outstanding and deserving performances we won’t get to see.
Best Actress (Nominees – Viola Davis, Andra Day, Vanessa Kirby, Frances McDormand, Carey Mulligan)
Who Will Win: Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand is an Oscar darling, so I’m predicting she’ll win for that alone.
Who Should Win: Carey Mulligan
With that said, the one movie I did see in this category was Promising Young Woman, and Carey Mulligan was devilishly excellent as someone looking not to harm boorish men who take advantage of women, but to teach them a well-deserved lesson by scaring them into being more respectful. Mulligan provides a quiet balancing act between sweet and tempered and psychotic insanity that I’m not sure the Academy will fully appreciate.
Best Supporting Actor (Nominees – Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Kaluuya, Leslie Odom, Jr., Paul Raci, Lakeith Stanfield)
Who Will Win: Sacha Baron Cohen
I’m not a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen, and I didn’t feel his performance in The Trial of the Chicago 7 was all that impressive. He did well and fit in among the overall cast, but nothing he did truly stood out over any of the other actors. With that said, I do believe he is a favorite among the Academy, so Cohen will take home this trophy after the two men who actually deserve this award split the rest of the votes.
Who Should Win: Lakeith Stanfield
The two men who deserve this award are Judas and the Black Messiah’s Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya. Both of them can’t win, so I would give the award to Stanfield for his slightly more understated performance as a car-thief turned FBI informant who infiltrates Fred Hampton’s Chicago branch of the Black Panther Party.
Best Supporting Actress (Nominees – Maria Bakalova, Glenn Close, Olivia Colman, Amanda Seyfried, Yuh-Jung Youn)
Who Will and Should Win: Olivia Colman
Once again, this category is full of movies I have yet to see. Glenn Close may pull out of this with the win for her portrayal of a southern hick in Hillbilly Elegy, only because I’ve heard The Father is a bit of a downer and Olivia Colman did just win an Oscar in 2019. But based on the footage I’ve seen from Elegy, I’m not sure Close did what she needed to pull off a victory, so I’m giving the award to Colman for going toe-to-toe with the masterful Anthony Hopkins (and to make up for not treating him to his own award).
Best Director (Nominees – Thomas Vinterberg, David Fincher, Lee Isaac Chung, Chloé Zhao, Emerald Fennell)
Who Will Win: Lee Isaac Chung
The Academy occasionally likes to spread the love, and since Minari will lose in most, if not all, of its other categories, I do believe they’ll award Lee Isaac Chung for his film about a family who moves to Arkansas to begin their journey to finding the American dream.
Who Should Win: Emerald Fennell
Promising Young Woman was the only film I’ve seen in this category, and Emerald Fennell did a great job of keeping the film light and airy despite the psychologically disturbing nature of the story.
Best Animated Feature (Nominees – Onward, Over the Moon, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, Soul, Wolfwalkers
Who Will Win: Soul
It’s a shame that the movie theaters were closed for the majority of the year (and in some places, may still be) as Soul was robbed of its time in the limelight. From the character evolution to the incredible soundtrack, Soul took you on a journey of enlightenment as it filled your heart with soul.
Who Should Win: Onward
Even though Soul definitely deserves the win, Pixar’s Onward also deserves a win for its terrific depiction of brothers fighting for one last chance to say goodbye to their father. Onward‘s limited run in theaters was cut drastically short, and though it was hard to decide which one of the two films was better, I gave Onward the slight edge for the emotional gut-punch at the end, which wraps up the character’s emotional journey with just the right amount of sweetness, charm, and of course, the Pixar-requisite tears.
Best Ensemble: Emma
Emma is up for a couple of technical awards (hair/makeup and costume), but I would also like to point out that the only reason the film works at all is because of its extraordinary cast. Each actor plays off of one another like magic. Anya Taylor Joy gives a great, understated performance as the title character, and in so doing becomes the pivotal anchor for all of the other characters. She helps reign in what could have been a completely silly mess and provides the entire cast a foundation to build off, which they all do in near perfect fashion.
Best Child Performance: Helena Zengel, News of the World
Helena Zengel may not be a name anyone knows, but she proved worthy of a shout-out with her strong, quiet performance in News of the World. She doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, so Zengel must rely mostly on her body language and facial expressions to deliver all of her emotion, and she pulls it off with great aplomb alongside stalwart, Tom Hanks
Best Horror Direction: Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man
It was a bit of a shame not to see Leigh Whannell up for best director at the Oscars this year. The Academy is notoriously anti-horror, so it makes sense he’d be left out, but it’s only in Whannell’s writing and killer direction that makes this umpteenth iteration of the Invisible Man story work. Instead of focusing on the title character, as most other films do, Whannell wisely chose to follow the victim. This move allowed him to produce some of the most extremely subtle moments inside some very heart-pounding sequences, making certain that when he did utilize the requisite jump scare, it meant more than just a simple, cheap trick.
Most Surprising Film: Black Beauty
Compared to a few other streaming services, Disney+ is still a fledgling in the market. Aside from their hit shows in the Marvel and Star Wars universes, they don’t have a whole lot of new material to showcase, and their movies, for the most part, have been traditional Disney fare that would normally go straight-to-video in a non-streaming world. Which is what makes Black Beauty that much more powerful. I didn’t expect much from this newest adaptation of the Anna Sewell novel, but I was pleasantly surprised by how warm and inviting the film was. The relationship between Mackenzie Foy and Black Beauty is terrifically captured and draws you in to this world without much need for wrangling.
Best Religious Feature: I Still Believe
There weren’t a lot of faith-based films released in 2020, but that doesn’t keep I Still Believe, the true story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp’s first wife and her bout with cancer, from proving its worth among this year’s slate of films. K.J. Apa and Britt Robertson keep the film from becoming anywhere near campy or maudlin with a wonderful chemistry that showcases the deep love these two young people had for one another.
What do you think? Who will win and should win the Oscars this year? Do you have any movies or actors you’d like to give a shout out to for their excellence in 2020? Tell me in the comments below!