Compared to this year’s dismal Golden Globes nominations (“Music,” “Emily in Paris” and Jared Leto), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted pretty well. No love for Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” and Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow” stings, but these things happen. It’ll be okay.
I haven’t yet seen 100 percent of the nominated films, but I feel confident enough to identify a few picks within the nominations, which were announced early Monday morning on March 15.
For Best Picture, “Mank” and “Nomadland” are neck in neck. Since before the film was released, “Mank” received attention for including numerous classic Best Picture staples – period piece, Classic Hollywood production design and top-notch performances from seasoned actors. I enjoyed “Nomadland” a lot, and its close-to-home message might just take it all.
The Best Director pool is celebrated, and rightfully so. Two women nominated for the category for the first time is delightful, and I think we could have easily invited a few more (Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” and Miranda July, “Kajillionaire”) to the party. My pick: Chloé Zhao, for “Nomadland.” She is the first woman of color to be nominated.
While I have a few films to catch up on before the ceremony, I’d be hard-pressed to find an actress’s performance to top Frances McDormand in “Nomadland.” McDormand nails this role as best as anyone can get, and has received deserved universal praise. That being said, Carey Mulligan is another close choice for me – her performance in “Promising Young Woman” grabbed ahold of me tightly and hasn’t let go.
The Academy Awards firsts do not stop there. Steven Yeun is the first Asian American actor to be nominated, with Riz Ahmed being the first Muslim Best Actor nom. Chameleon Gary Oldman as Herman J. Mankiewicz would be a safe pick to take a second Best Actor trophy (first as Winston Churchill in 2017’s “The Darkest Hour”), and Chadwick Boseman has a good chance to become the third posthumous winner for an acting award in Oscars history. As of now, my love burns most for Ahmed. His portrayal of a rock drummer who loses his hearing is unrivaled.
Speaking of “Sound of Metal,” that film also contains my pick for Best Supporting Actor: Paul Raci. His character contains so much emotion yet is so reserved; that’s the stuff that sticks with people. He’s not a huge name in the race, but he is my favorite by a long shot.
As for Best Supporting Actress, while I will admit I need to catch up a bit on my watching to make a more well-informed choice, I think Amanda Seyfried portraying Marion Davies in “Mank” is the best part of that film and the best choice of the five nominees. I found “Mank” to be stylish but disappointedly lukewarm; I found Seyfried to be a surprise hit for me.
As far as the screenplays, both original and adapted, I find great difficulty in choosing. The decision to have a civil rights FBI mole tale told from the perspective of the mole? Brilliant. A fictitious account of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown meeting in a 1964 hotel room? Fascinating. A woman out to seek carefully-orchestrated revenge on rapey men? Thrilling. Pandemic Borat? This is not easy. I’ll go with “Promising Young Woman” for Original and, what the heck, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” for Adapted.
These may change over the next month. A follow-up list, which will include all categories, will be published before the ceremony.