This year’s Academy Award nominations were announced last month, and it seems like they were met with a collective shrug. Sure, film nerds like me still keep up with the Oscars, but they’ve been losing their pop culture relevance for at least a decade (some would argue longer). The ratings decline is getting steeper every year and there’s a clear difference between the winning films and the stuff mainstream audiences actually see.

However, in the midst of a global pandemic that has dramatically altered our lives — from the way we shop, to how we do our jobs, to how our kids learn, to how we consume entertainment — awards season feels more inconsequential than ever.

I genuinely have no idea how the results will play


To be honest, that’s the main reason I plan on watching this year’s telecast. Don’t get me wrong, the Academy chose to honor some outstanding films. However, in a year when everyone was on their own, we’re not really seeing collective conversations about these movies, let alone the usual horse race narrative.

In one respect, that’s a positive development since it’s silly to rank art in the first place. But on the other hand, it’s going to make for a low-stakes, anticlimactic ceremony. As always, here are some brief thoughts on a few of the most popular categories, including whom I think should win and my almost-certain-to-be-wrong predictions of who might.

Best Animated Feature


“Over the Moon”

“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon”



Pixar is traditionally the juggernaut in this category, so don’t look for that to change in a year when they have two films in contention. In a night of unpredictability, this is one of the only sure things: “Soul” will win. If an upset does happen (it won’t), look for the excellent “Wolfwalkers” to be the surprise victor.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines et al., “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, “The Father”

Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”

Kemp Powers, “One Night in Miami …”

Ramin Bahrani, “The White Tiger”

The screenplay categories are tricky. In recent years, voters have either picked the film that goes on to win Best Picture (“Parasite,” “Green Book,” “Moonlight”) or treated them as consolation prizes for great movies that don’t have a realistic shot at Best Picture (“Get Out,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “Call Me by Your Name”). If we assume the former, Zhao will pick up the first of several awards she’ll take home for “Nomadland.” If the latter proves to be the case, look for Powers to win since “One Night in Miami …” didn’t get the love it deserved. (We should’ve seen it represented in Best Picture and Best Director.)

Best Original Screenplay

Will Berson and Shaka King, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”

Darius Marder and Abraham Marder, “Sound of Metal”

Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Based on the argument I presented above, my gut tells me Fennell wins. “Promising Young Woman” is a dynamite film with a stellar screenplay, but I think it will prove too polarizing for older members of the Academy. If there’s a spoiler, it’ll be Sorkin — traditional voters love him and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” has generated some buzz thanks to its win at the SAG awards.

Best Supporting Actor

Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night in Miami …”

Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”

Lakeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Before nominations were announced, I would’ve said Kaluuya had this one in the bag thanks to his searing work as Fred Hampton. It’s the kind of showy performance Oscar voters love, with the added benefit that it’s actually in a good film. (That’s not always the case: see Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker” and Renee Zellweger in “Judy” last year, or Andra Day in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” this year.) But then Stanfield also got nominated for the same movie, despite clearly being the lead. Don’t get me wrong: he’s outstanding and should’ve been nominated — just not in this category. I think Kaluuya will still pull off the win (he took home the SAG award last weekend), but if the two actors end up splitting the vote, Raci could come out on top. I wouldn’t complain — he’s great as well.

Best Supporting Actress

Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”

Olivia Colman, “The Father”

Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”

Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”

I’m rooting for Bakalova in a category known for its unpredictability. However, I think Youn could pull off the win since she just came out on top at the SAG Awards and Oscar voters traditionally don’t like comedy. I’d be more than fine with that — she has been my silver medalist in all the critical awards I’ve participated in this season. However, if there is going to be a spoiler, it could be Close, who has somehow never won an Oscar. That’s ridiculous, but I’d hate for her to finally get one for such a bad movie.

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”

Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”

Gary Oldman, “Mank”

Steven Yuen, “Minari”

Talk about your stacked categories. I would’ve rather seen Delroy Lindo (criminally snubbed for “Da 5 Bloods”) or Lakeith Stanfield (inexplicably in Best Supporting Actor instead) here instead of Oldman, especially since he’s already an Oscar winner, but I can’t complain. Everyone here delivered incredible performances in excellent films. Regardless, I still think Boseman wins posthumously for his outstanding work. Yes, the Heath Ledger precedent is in play (this will be the Academy’s final chance to make him an Oscar winner), but even if cancer hadn’t cruelly ripped him from us, Boseman would’ve still deserved to win — he’s that good. Plus, he just emerged victorious in the SAG Awards, which helps.

Best Actress

Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”

Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”

Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”

Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

I’d love to see Mulligan win for one of my favorite performances of 2020. Her work is complex, nuanced, brave, funny and tragic, all at the same time. But I have a feeling it’s not going to happen. Davis just won the SAG, so she may have an edge. No worries, since she’s phenomenal. However, Day won the Golden Globe and she seems to be picking up steam as of late. I genuinely have no clue who’s going to win here, so flipping a coin and predicting Davis.

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round”

David Fincher, “Mank”

Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”

Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”

Vinterberg is the biggest surprise here, although I have no complaints since “Another Round” is stellar and almost certain to win International Feature Film. His inclusion also speaks to the Academy’s rapidly increasing global membership. I’m disappointed that Regina King didn’t make the cut for “One Night in Miami …,” but I can’t pick a film I’d cut to make room — they’re all really great. Regardless, unless something crazy happens, this is one of the night’s biggest locks. Zhao has it in the bag for “Nomadland.”

Best Picture

“The Father”

“Judas and the Black Messiah”




“Promising Young Woman”

“Sound of Metal”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

While it’s not my personal choice (that would be “Promising Young Woman”), I’m predicting the night’s biggest trophy goes to “Nomadland” since it has racked up almost all the precursor awards. If there ends up being a surprise winner, I’m thinking it will be “The Trial of the Chicago 7” since it just took home the SAG award for Best Ensemble. It’s not the coolest choice, but it’s still a great film that checks all the boxes for traditional Academy voters.

Watch ABC on Sunday, April 25 at 8 p.m. to see who wins. Once again, there’s no host for the ceremony, although I have no clue how smoothly things will run in a pandemic world. Will it be disastrous like the Golden Globes, or surprisingly fun like the Grammys? We’ll find out together.

Twitter: @IAmJoshSewell


Twitter: @IAmJoshSewell