It has been several weeks since the nominations for this year's Academy Awards were announced, and it is only now that I am getting around to writing some thoughts and comments on them. Usually, I am all over that within 24 hours, but this year, well, call it a result of a weird year that changed everything about how we consume movies. What movies are eligible for 2020 Oscars? Were they ever shown in a theater, and if so, who went to see them? We all watched movies differently this year, mostly through streaming services like Prime or Netflix, so who knew it they were actually a "movie" as defined by the Motion Picture Academy?
Regardless, movies, actors, writers, directors, and others have been nominated, and I ended up seeing a surprising number of the nominees. So for what it is worth, here are my thoughts.
Let's start with the Best Picture. Eight movies have been nominated. I have NOT seem three of them - The Father, Minari, and the Sound of Metal. I have heard nothing but good things about the Sound of Metal, so I am hoping to watch that before the Oscar ceremony on April 25. I doubt that I will see the other two. That leaves the five that I have seen:
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Trial of the Chicago 7
(My original write-ups on these various movies are linked in the body of this post.)
I really enjoyed Judas and The Black Messiah, Promising Young Woman, and Trial of The Chicago 7. In fact, I rated Trial of the Chicago 7 my favorite movie that I actually saw in calendar year 2020. Mank was an interesting period piece with a great performance by Gary Oldman, but I was frankly surprised to see it garner the acclaim that it has. Of course, it is a story that Hollywood is telling about itself, so maybe that explains it. Nomadland was a piece of filmmaking art, to be sure, and another slam bang performance from Frances McDormand, but as entertainment? Not to my taste. It is the favorite among critics and will probably win the big prize come Oscar Night.
Interestingly enough, Trial of the Chicago 7 won the Best Ensemble SAG Award, and that is often a harbinger for the Oscars, and if it wins I will have no problem with that. Not will I have problem with Judas and The Black Messiah winning, as that was one terrifically told movie. The movie that has stayed with me the most since I saw it, however, is Promising Young Woman. That is the one movie of all of these that I can see myself watching again and again and again as the years go on.
A word about a movie that didn't get nominated. Until Promising Young Woman came along, my favorite movie that I have seen in calendar year 2021 had been Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods, and the only sniff that that one received from the Academy was for Best Original Score. I mean, C'MON MAN!! If Spike Lee isn't still PO'd at the Academy, he should be. As a side comment, I hope it does win this one, if only for including the terrific a cappella version of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" on the soundtrack.
As for the other categories (and I will only make comments on the films that I have actually seen)....
Chadwick Boseman has collected both a posthumous Golden Globe and SAG Award for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and I suspect that that will also happen at the Oscars. He was terrific in that movie (as he was in Da 5 Bloods), and him receiving this award will be another poignant reminder of what was lost with his way-too-soon death. The only other nominee that I saw was Oldman in Mank, and he was very good in that one, too.
I've seen three of the Supporting Actor nominees: Leslie Odom Jr (One Night in Miami) and Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, both for Judas and The Black Messiah. Kaluuya has won this award both at the Globes and SAG, but my questions are: Why in a Supporting Role? And why are both he and Stanfield cast as Supporting Actors in the same movie? Both had equally prominent parts in the same film. I don't get it.
I've seen three of the Lead Actress nominees. Frances McDormand was great in Nomadland. She's always great. Viola Davis was great in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. She's always great. To me, though, Carey Mulligan blew them both away in Promising Young Woman. Some buzz that I have heard on various movie podcasts is that they expect Mulligan to win, and I hope she does. They don't expect that the Academy will bestow a third Oscar on McDormand this time, which makes this Mulligan's year. The wild card, though, was Davis' win in this category for the SAG Award. This will be an interesting one to watch.
The only Supporting Actress nominee that I've seen has been Amanda Seyfried from Mank, so I'm not sure how qualified I am to make any comments on this one, but here is an interesting theory I heard kicked around in podcast-land. Will the Academy give Glenn Close, a six time nominee-but-never-a-winner a "lifetime achievement" make-up Oscar for her role in Hillbilly Elegy, a movie that was for the most part, completely panned by critics. That would be a shame and almost an insult to Ms. Close should it happen.
The other categories that interest me are Director, Adapted, and Original Screenplay Awards. I strongly suspect that Chloe Zhao will be the Best Director for Nomadland, and as I said, as a piece of filmmaking art, it would be deserving.
In the Adapted Screenplay category, the only movie I've seen besides Nomadland is One Night In Miami, which was another really good movie, and I'd be happy if it won.
In the Original Screenplay category, I have seen Judas and The Black Messiah, Promising Young Woman, and The Trial of The Chicago 7. Many are conceding this one to Aaron Sorkin for Chicago 7, and it would not be undeserving, but he has won Oscars before so I am hoping that the Oscar this year goes to Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. Ms Fennell is also a nominee for Best Director. She won't win both, and this would be a way to reward her for her work on the terrific movie that she made.
So we will finally find out in eleven days, April 25, who this year's Oscar winners are. That is way, way too long after the close fo the year to be awarding these things. Let us hope for a return to a February Oscar ceremony come 2022.