On Set: Predictions for the Pandemic-Delayed 2021 Oscars

KHOL film critic Jeff Counts offers his picks for six prestigious Academy Awards categories.
The Oscars will look a little different this year, with a later air date, outdoor ceremony and limited guest list. (LanKS/Shutterstock)

by | Apr 12, 2021 | Film & TV

The 93rd Academy Awards Ceremony is almost here. Scheduled for Sunday, April 25, the event is two months later than usual, so I’ve been given more time than ever to consider the films and performances I’ve seen over the last year. As in 2020, I decided to focus on the Best Acting, Best Supporting Acting, Best Directing and Best Picture awards. I could rage for hours about the snubs. How in the world, for instance, did Regina King get left off the Best Director list? Come on, Oscars! Anyhow, here are my picks in those six prestigious categories.

My award for Best Male Supporting Actor is Sasha Baron Cohen for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Abbie Hoffman could not have been an easy spirit to channel. And Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire writing is a mouthful for any actor. Baron Cohen makes all the brainy chatter sound perfectly natural, and he anchors the film’s loudest, and quietest, moments with ease.

My Best Female Supporting Actor goes to Olivia Coleman in “The Father.” This movie might serve primarily as a vehicle for the prodigious talents of Anthony Hopkins, but the anger and desperation of his descent into dementia have to land somewhere. Coleman’s strong and sympathetic shoulders bear it all with the most exquisite, fragile grace. This film would have been half as great without her.

The Best Male Actor has to be Chadwick Boseman. It’s an emotional pick, for sure, but it’s also the right one. His performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” has exactly the kind of indignant fury we all felt while watching it. He shouldn’t have to be on the In Memorium list the same year he wins. It isn’t right. Rest in peace, Chadwick.

The Best Female Actor category was hard for me this year. A true embarrassment of riches. But I’m going with Carey Mulligan from “A Promising Young Woman.” On paper, this revenge fantasy had no right to be a contender in multiple categories. But it is and it should be, thanks to Mulligan. She speaks with the voice of millions, and she fills every scene with poised, patient righteousness.

I’ve already mentioned how mad I am about Best Director. Regina King should be here. Regina King should win. Full stop. Strongly worded letter to follow. For now, though, I’ll throw in my support for David Fincher and “Mank.” Sure, “Mank” is the obligatory annual Hollywood love note to itself. It’s also gorgeous and full of technical skill. Any self-respecting “movie about movies” had better be note-perfect. “Mank” definitely is.

Now we come to the end, the big one: Best Picture. I have to be honest and admit that my top three picks did not make the nomination list. But that doesn’t mean the 10 films that did aren’t all fantastic. It’s a very strong field, with multiple great choices, but my vote goes to “The Sound of Metal.” The experimental risk of its sound design, coupled with the focused brilliance of its performances forced me to walk a mile in some very uncomfortable shoes. It’s a breathtaking experience.

A terrible year in the world can still be a wonderful year in cinema. If past experience is any guide, though, I might well have just given you six wrong predictions. Find a way to see all of the nominees if you can and decide for yourself. It’s worth it.

 

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About Jeff Counts

Before moving to Jackson in 2019, Jeff spent five years reviewing movies as co-host of the public access television program "Big Movie Mouth-Off." When not focused on film, Jeff writes about opera and co-hosts the classical music interview podcast "Ghost Light."

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