(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, April 23, 2021

If We Picked the Oscars 2020

Borrowing a page from Siskel and Ebert from back in the day, we here at Movie Dearest are once again presenting our own version of "If We Picked the Oscars"! These aren't predictions, but what movies, actors, directors, et al that we would vote for if we were members of the Academy. We also chime in with our picks for the "egregiously overlooked" non-nominees in each category as well as what we deem are the "Worst Nominations of the Year".

So without further ado, the envelope please...

The nominees for Best Picture are: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal and The Trial of the Chicago 7
CC: Out of a very strong list of contenders, I will go with the moving Nomadland, which topped my personal top 10 list.
KH: Nomadland is not only the best film of 2020, it will be one of the best films of the 2020s.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Da 5 Bloods, arguably Spike Lee's most entertaining and least preachy movie to date.
KH: Next year the Academy will finally get rid of the annoying variable number of Best Picture nominees and just have a solid ten from then on. Too bad they couldn't have done it this year so there would have been room for the excellent News of the World and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

For their final voting, Academy members are asked to rank the Best Picture nominees from #1 to #8, so here are our rankings:
CC: 1. Nomadland 2. Mank 3. Promising Young Woman 4. The Trial of the Chicago 7 5. Judas and the Black Messiah 6. Sound of Metal and 7. Minari (Regrettably, I haven't yet seen surprise nominee The Father)
KH: 1. Nomadland 2. Promising Young Woman 3. Minari 4. Mank 5. The Father 6. The Trial of the Chicago 7 
7. Judas and the Black Messiah and 8. Sound of Metal

The nominees for Best Actor are:
Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal, Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Anthony Hopkins in The Father, Gary Oldman in Mank and Steven Yeun in Minari
CC: As I expect most Academy voters will do, I would honor Chadwick Boseman not only for his excellent performance here but his whole body of work during his tragically shortened life/career.
KH: Chadwick Boseman was simply electric as a show-boating musician in his all-too-soon swan song.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.  It seems odd to me that it has been honored in several other categories but the mastermind behind it was not nominated for his singular, satirically perceptive title character.
KH: Two non-American actors caught my attention and should have caught Oscar's as well: Tahar Rahim in The Mauritanian and Mads Mikkelsen in Another Round.

The nominees for Best Actress are: Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman, Frances McDormand in Nomadland and Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman
CC: Andra Day came out of left field in her big screen debut with a stunning incarnation of Lady Day and deservedly steals the crown from her exceptional co-nominees.
KH: In one of the most competitive categories this (or really any) year, I'd be happy with a victory for four of the five nominees (apologies to my namesake), but I will be most pleased if it ends up being my personal favorite performance (male or female) of 2020, Carey Mulligan.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Chloe Grace Moretz's badass turn in Shadow in the Cloud, a gloriously entertaining but underseen action-horror hybrid.
KH: The fierce but loving moms played by Yeri Han in Minari and Nicole Beharie in Miss Juneteenth should be here.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are: Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7, Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah, Leslie Odom, Jr. in One Night in Miami, Paul Raci in Sound of Metal and LaKeith Stanfield in Judas and the Black Messiah
CC: Daniel Kaluuya's powerful, star-making performance as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.
KH: As Abbie Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen was the stand out of Chicago 7. With this and the Borat sequel, he's coming off a great year.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: As many have previously noted, the omission of Delroy Lindo for his unforgettable work in Da 5 Bloods is borderline criminal.
KH: This year's Supporting Actor race is the most egregious example of category fraud in some time (see below), especially since great performances from Bo Burnham in Promising Young Woman and the late Brian Dennehy in Driveways got passed over for title characters.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are: Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy, Olivia Colman in The Father, Amanda Seyfried in Mank and Youn Yuh-Jung in Minari
CC: I have not been a fan of Amanda Seyfried, so her fun yet touching turn as actress Marion Davies was an award-deserving revelation to me.
KH: It's a close race between two comedic scene-stealers, Maria Bakalova and Youn Yuh-Jung, with my final vote going to the latter for her rascally omma.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Veteran actress Ellen Burstyn gave yet another memorable performance as the fierce mother of a grieving daughter in Pieces of a Woman.
KH: MIA: "old" pro Jodie Foster in The Mauritanian and newcomer Helena Zengel in News of the World.

The nominees for Best Directing are: Lee Isaac Chung for Minari, Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, David Fincher for Mank, Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round and Chloé Zhao for Nomadland
CC: Don't get me wrong: I love Nomadland, Chloe Zhao's previous films, and the likelihood of Zhao becoming only the second woman to win the Best Director Oscar.  However, my vote would go to David Fincher, whose Mank serves as a masterful tribute not only to the rightful author of Citizen Kane but to Fincher's own late, beloved father.  Fincher also has not yet won an Oscar and I think one is well deserved here.
KH: Chloé Zhao for Nomadland, no question.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Spike Lee for Da 5 Bloods, one of his best films to date.
KH: Paul Greengrass, previously nominated for directing the 9/11 drama United 93, should have got nomination #2 here for News of the World.

The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, The Father, Nomadland, One Night in Miami and The White Tiger
CC: I'm still not sure how the Borat sequel qualifies as adapted.  At any rate, Nomadland gets my vote.
KH: Again: Chloé Zhao for Nomadland, no question.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: First Cow by Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond, a lovable, gay-ish critical and festival darling that was completely neglected by the Academy.
KH: Speaking of Paul Greengrass, he should have got nomination #3 here as well, for co-writing (with Luke Davis) News of the World.

The nominees for Best Original Screenplay are: Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal and The Trial of the Chicago 7
CC: Despite a finale that is arguably too pat, Emerald Fennell's script for Promising Young Woman is constantly surprising and undeniably feminist.
KH: There was no more original or thought-provoking film in 2020 than Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Andy Siara's Groundhog Day-esque Palm Springs was one of the smartest, funniest movies of the year and this category is usually where the Academy recognizes such efforts.
KH: Hannah Bos and Paul Thornton for the unsung gem Driveways.

The nominees for Best Cinematography are: Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, News of the World, Nomadland and The Trial of the Chicago 7
CC: While the naturalistic Nomadland has been worthily acclaimed, I was struck even more by the gaslamp-lit images by Dariusz Wolski in the Tom Hanks western News of the World and would vote for it.
KH: I was mesmerized by Erik Messerschmidt's deep dive into the Old Hollywood black and white esthetic in Mank.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The slavery-suspenser Antebellum has much to recommend it despite an M. Night Shyamalan-like twist, most notably Pedro Luque's deceptively gorgeous cinematography.
KH: Another film with a meticulously recreated period look was the 1950s-set The Vast of Night, courtesy of director of photography Miguel I. Litten-Menz.

The nominees for Best Production Design are: The Father, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Mank, News of the World and Tenet
CC: Mank, a physically flawless valentine to classic Hollywood, hands down.
KH: From motion picture sound stages to Hearst Castle, the Mank team (production designer Donald Graham Bart and set decorator Jan Pascale) immersed us in Tinseltown's classic era.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Say what one will about Disney's adaptation of Artemis Fowl but its more fantastical design elements looked terrific.
KH: The breath-taking visuals of both Soul and Wolfwalkers prove that animation deserves to be invited to this party.

The nominees for Best Costume Design are: Emma, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Mank, Mulan and Pinocchio
CC: The shoes worn by Chadwick Boseman's Levee aren't the only memorable Ann Roth fashion choices seen in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
KH: Alexandra Byrne's gorgeously eclectic fashions for the newest version of Jane Austen's Emma were an Anya Taylor-Joy to behold.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Jenny Beavan's costumes are one of the few commendable aspects of the woeful Dolittle remake.
KH: How did another recent adaptation of a literary classic, Dickens' The Personal History of David Copperfield (with the quirky, creative designs of Suzie Harman and Robert Worley), not make this cut?

The nominees for Best Original Score are: Da 5 Bloods, Mank, Minari, News of the World and Soul
CC: Former rockers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross hit new artistic heights with their jazzy scores for both Mank and Soul, with Soul taking a narrow lead.
KH: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross created two musical scores for Soul, one for the "real world" of New York and one for the otherworldly afterlife. Add in Jon Batiste's transcendent jazz and how could you vote for anything else?
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Hans Zimmer created an alternately potent and lyrical score for Wonder Woman 1984, appropriately imbued with retro 80's musical touches.
KH: Oscar winning composer Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther) has been batting a thousand lately; in addition to his instantly iconic theme for The Mandalorian he turned out the moody melodies of Tenet as well.

The nominees for Best Original Song are: "Fight for You" from Judas and the Black Messiah, "Hear My Voice" from The Trial of the Chicago 7, "Húsavík" from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, "Io Si (Seen)" from The Life Ahead and "Speak Now" from One Night in Miami
CC: "Fight for You" (by H.E.R., Dernst Emile II and Tiara Thomas) is a rare, enjoyably funkadelic nominee!
KH: In this frigid sea of end credit blandness, it is the mighty "Húsavík" that stands as tall as the Icelandic mountains that "sing through the screams of seagulls". Kudos to the song's composers Savan Kotecha, Max Grahn and Rickard Göransson for putting the "pow" in this power ballad.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Written for Ryan Murphy's dazzling (yet unrecognized) adaptation of the Broadway musical The Prom, "Wear Your Crown" deserved to be nominated if for no other reason than Meryl Streep's mid-song rap that pays homage to Michelle Obama!
KH: Where are the show tunes? Actual musicals got the short shrift this year, whether live action ("Square Root of Possible" from Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey) or animated ("Rocket to the Moon" from Over the Moon).

The nominees for Best Film Editing are: The Father, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal and The Trial of the Chicago 7
CC: I found Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7 to be a fairly standard courtroom drama, so its tight editing provides most of the film's tension and excitement.
KH: Frédéric Thoraval helped ratchet up the tension to "11" in Promising Young Woman.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Tenet is a no-brainer for me in this category since Jennifer Lame's editing necessarily supports the film's nominated visual effects.
KH: The editing team of Mark Czyzowski and Sidney Wolinsky contributed greatly to the taut WWII thriller Greyhound.

The nominees for Best Sound are: Greyhound, Mank, News of the World, Soul and Sound of Metal
CC: I haven't seen likely winner Greyhound so I would go with Soul all the way.
KH: A lot has been said about Sound of Metal's use of sound to represent the main character's deafness like it has never been done before. My vote goes to the crew of Greyhound for creating a soundscape that put you on that ship right alongside Tom Hanks' heroic captain.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The striking sci-fi indie The Vast of Night is utterly dependent on its memorable sound effects and editing.
KH: You may notice that the two sound categories (mixing and editing) have been combined into one this year, which may account for why a musical like The Prom (which relies more on mixing) was left out in the cold.

The nominees for Best Visual Effects are: Love and Monsters, The Midnight Sky, Mulan, The One and Only Ivan and Tenet
CC: I would vote for the startlingly realistic mutated critters in the enjoyable Love and Monsters.
KH: In the spirit of such quirky past nominees in this category such as Little Shop of Horrors and The Nightmare Before Christmas, the bizarre mutant creature creations of Love and Monsters get my vote.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The CGI animal cast of Dolittle is one of the few other attributes of the remake.
KH: Shame on the voters of this category for not recognizing the truly ground-breaking – not to mention life saving – techniques used to disguise the endangered subjects of the documentary Welcome to Chechnya. The moment where one's true face is revealed was the most emotional use of visual effects I have ever seen on film.

The nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling are: Emma, Hillbilly Elegy, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Mank and Pinocchio
CC: The looks sported in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom are period perfect.
KH: While I marveled at the transformation of Viola Davis into Ma Rainey and the copious use of ringlets in Emma, the Pinocchio team not only turned a boy into a wooden puppet but also various cast members into apes, snails and even a fish.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I enjoyed Judi Dench's owl-like appearance and other actors' avian guises in Artemis Fowl.
KH: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm successfully camouflaged Sacha Baron Cohen in public and gave Maria Bakalova a glam makeover.

The nominees for Best Animated Feature are: Onward, Over the Moon, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, Soul and Wolfwalkers
CC: Soul, despite my more personal fondness for its fellow Disney/Pixar honoree Onward.
KH: I loved Pixar's as-usual top quality CGI in Soul and Aardman's always crazy claymation in the Shaun the Sheep sequel, but it is high time that Cartoon Saloon's traditional hand-drawn artistry gets the gold with the breathtakingly beautiful Wolfwalkers.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I watched Scoob! upon the recommendation of my 6-year old nephew and thoroughly enjoyed it!
KH: None. In fact, this year I would have been just fine with only the three nominees I mentioned above in this category.

The nominees for Best International Feature Film are: Another Round (Denmark), Better Days (Hong Kong), Collective (Romania), The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia) and Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
CC: Another Round could have turned out offensive but instead is a fairly profound treatise/character study.  The deft handling by Thomas Vinterberg explains why he ended up a surprise nominee for Best Director.
KH: Quo Vadis, Aida? is a devastating, infuriating look at the Srebrenica massacre featuring a haunting performance by Jasna Djuricic. You won't want to sit through it twice, and that is a compliment.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I Carry You With Me, Mexico's powerful, fact-based docudrama detailing an over-the-border gay love story.
KH: The lovely romance of two older women in France's Two of Us deserved to be recognized.

The nominees for Best Documentary Feature are: Collective, Crip Camp, The Mole Agent, My Octopus Teacher and Time
CC: I loved the beautifully shot and unexpectedly moving My Octopus Teacher.
KH: It's nice to see some "feel good" docs in this category for a change, and the bittersweet wonders of My Octopus Teacher have proven it to be the little nature film that could... win the Oscar, that is.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Welcome to Chechnya, which details the ongoing persecution of LGBTQ citizens of Russia and other conservative Eastern European countries.
KH: Speaking of "feel good", where's the delightful The Truffle Hunters? Or the more traditional-for-this-category Welcome to Chechnya for that matter.

The nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject are: Colette, A Concerto is a Conversation, Do Not Split, Hunger Ward and A Love Song for Latasha
CC: I would vote for the eye-opening, inspiring Hunger Ward.
KH: The short and sweet A Concerto is a Conversation is a lovely, loving look at family and the inspirations they find within themselves.
Egregiously Overlooked:
KH: The Speed Cubers was another inspirational tale of underdogs finding their place in the world.

The nominees for Best Animated Short Film are: Burrow, Genius Loci, If Anything Happens I Love You, Opera and Yes-People
CC: The devastatingly beautiful (or beautifully devastating) If Anything Happens I Love You.  I'm still crying.
KH: I was mesmerized by the audacity and brilliance of Erick Oh's Opera.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Disney's kinda dated but still adorable and hilarious Out, which featured a lead gay character.
KH: It was sad to see that the two LGBTQ-themed shortlist semi-finalists Kapaemahu and Out didn't make it to the finals. #OscarsSoStraight?

The nominees for Best Live Action Short Film are: Feeling Through, The Letter Room, The Present, Two Distant Strangers and White Eye
CC: I liked the effective Groundhog Day meets George Floyd meets Twilight Zone approach taken in Two Distant Strangers.
KH: The two non-American contenders – The Present and White Eye – resonated the most with me, with the edge going to the BAFTA winning The Present for its emotional resonance.
Egregiously Overlooked:
KH: Although I have yet to see it, it was a bit of shock not to see Pedro Almodóvar's The Human Voice (starring Tilda Swinton) left out of the nominations.

And now for our own special category of dishonorable mention, the Worst Nomination of the Year:
CC: The laughable hairstyles in Ron Howard's embarrassingly corn-pone Hillbilly Elegy.

KH: Category fraud has been a consistent issue in the acting races for some time now, but there has never been an example as ridiculously perplexing as this year's Supporting Actor fiasco. Here's the deal: Warner Bros., the studio behind Judas and the Black Messiah, campaigned Daniel Kaluuya (who played the "Black Messiah" of the title) for supporting actor and LaKeith Stanfield (the "Judas") for lead, even though they are both technically the leads of the movie. The theory of how they both ended up in supporting is that some voters switched them (Kaluuya/lead, Stanfield/supporting) when they voted, but that Kaluuya still got more votes for supporting than lead; the rules state that a performance can't be nominated in both categories, so whichever one gets more votes is the one they are nominated in. And then Stanfield also managed enough votes to snag the fifth spot in supporting (which was up for grabs all season). Bottom line: this happened because those involved (the studio, the voters) all played fast and loose with the rules, which are very vague when it comes to the acting categories and who is lead vs. who is supporting. One would hope this embarrassing situation would lead to some changes in the future but, yeah, I'm not holding my breath.

And so the final march to Oscar glory begins. Tune in to the Big Show this Sunday to see who wins, as well as which nominees are rocking the best (and worst) gowns, hottest escorts and most heartfelt acceptance speeches.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator, editor and head writer of Movie Dearest.

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