2021 Academy Award predictions

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  • Film Critic Hunter Friesen predicts who will win big at the upcoming Academy Awards.

  • Film Critic Hunter Friesen predicts who will win big at the upcoming Academy Awards.

  • Film Critic Hunter Friesen predicts who will win big at the upcoming Academy Awards.

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After being delayed months due to the pandemic, the 93rd Academy Awards are finally upon us, signaling the end of the longest awards season in recent history. With the votes tallied up and the winners being announced this Sunday, here are my predictions for all 23 categories, with analysis for the above-the-line categories. Hopefully, this information will help you win your Oscar pool and give you bragging rights over your friends and family.

*Note: There are multiple precursor award shows leading up to the Oscars that factor when making predictions, such as the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Producers Guild of America (PGA), Critics Choice and British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA). Predicted winners are highlighted in bold.

Best Live-Action Short: “The Letter Room”

-Best Animated Short: “If Anything Happens I Love You”

-Best Documentary Short: “A Concerto Is a Conversation”

-Best Documentary Feature: “My Octopus Teacher”

-Best International Feature: “Another Round”

-Best Animated Feature: “Soul”

-Best Visual Effects: “Tenet”

-Best Sound: “Sound of Metal”

-Best Original Score: “Soul”

-Best Original Song: “Speak Now”

-Best Production Design: “Mank”

-Best Makeup & Hairstyling: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

-Best Costume Design: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

-Best Film Editing: “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

-Best Cinematography: “Nomadland”

Best Supporting Actor

NOMINEES: Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Leslie Odom Jr., Paul Raci and Sacha Baron Cohen

Here for his second time after being nominated a few years ago for “Get Out,” Daniel Kaluuya is the clear frontrunner to win for his biographical role as the revolutionary Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

Even with the potential of vote-splitting due to his co-star LaKeith Stanfield being nominated here, Kaluuya has swept the competition and won every precursor award he has been nominated for.

Best Supporting Actress

NOMINEES: Amanda Seyfried, Glenn Close, Maria Bakalova, Olivia Colman and Yuh-Jung Youn

On nomination morning, it seemed any of these five women had a real shot to win. Now, it seems Yuh-Jung Youn is the favorite after her back-to-back SAG and BAFTA wins.

Maria Bakalova has ridden the “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” hype train all season, but that train seems to be coming to a stop just short of the final prize. Glenn Close’s losing streak is expected to reach eight, which ties her with Peter O’Toole for the most acting nominations without a win.

Best Leading Actor

NOMINEES: Anthony Hopkins, Chadwick Boseman, Gary Oldman, Riz Ahmed and Steven Yeun

Chadwick Boseman’s posthumous role as Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” has been steamrolling the season, winning the Golden Globe, SAG and Critics Choice. Anthony Hopkins has put up stiff competition as he has received career-best praise for his role in “The Father” and won the BAFTA in an upset. With this being the only time the Academy will have to reward Boseman’s career, I don’t see him losing.

Best Leading Actress

NOMINEES: Andra Day, Carey Mulligan, Frances McDormand, Vanesa Kirby and Viola Davis

This year’s Best Actress race has to be one of the most insane and complicated acting races in Oscars history. Four of the five nominees have won a precursor award: Day won the Golden Globe, Mulligan won the Critics Choice, Davis won SAG and McDormand won BAFTA. The only sure thing I can say is that Vanessa Kirby definitely won’t win. Mulligan is my choice to win for now, but I’ll constantly be flipping between her and Davis until the last minute.

Best Original Screenplay

NOMINEES: “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Minari,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Sound of Metal” and  “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

This initially seemed to be a battle between Emerald Fennell’s darkly satirical “Promising Young Woman” and Aaron Sorkin’s timely courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7”. Unfortunately for Sorkin, his early win at the Golden Globes was his peak as the momentum has completely shifted towards Fennell.

Fennell has consecutively won the Critics Choice, BAFTA and Writers Guild Awards, giving her the clear advantage heading into the night. Plus, Sorkin is a previous winner and multiple-time nominee in this category, giving voters another reason to reward a fresh face like Fennell.

Best Adapted Screenplay

NOMINEES: “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “Nomadland,” “One Night in Miami,” “The Father” and “The White Tiger”

“Nomadland” seemed to be running away with this category early in the season, but Florian Zeller’s “The Father” has picked up some steam recently and has just as good of a chance to win.

“Nomadland” isn’t the conventional screenplay winner, as the film favors minimal dialogue and improvisation. “The Father,” on the other hand, is exactly the type of screenplay that the Academy often awards, as it is a talky adaptation of a popular play that allows its actors to relish in the material. It’s a close call to make, but I’m sticking with “Nomadland” to brave it out.

Best Director

NOMINEES: Chloé Zhao, David Fincher, Emerald Fennell, Lee Isaac Chung and Thomas Vinterberg

While Chloé Zhao has competition for her screenplay for “Nomadland,” she is the overwhelming favorite to win for her directing. Like Kaluuya, she hasn’t lost a precursor award all year, with her naturalistic and sensitive style receiving universal acclaim. There also isn’t a clear second place. She will likely join Kathryn Bigelow as the only women to win Best Director since the Academy’s inception in 1927.

Best Motion Picture

NOMINEES: “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Mank,” “Minari,” “Nomadland,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Sound of Metal,” “The Father” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

The race for Best Picture hasn’t been much of a fight this year, with “Nomadland” sweeping the competition and picking up every award in sight. It’s not your usual Oscar-bait winner, but not even the most stingy voter can deny the incredible and authentic work that Zhao and McDormand have put into the film.

“Minari” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” are still very much in the fight, but neither of them has the precursor evidence to convince me they can get the come-from-behind win. Like the directing record, this will be the second time a film directed by a woman wins Best Picture.