Smart DNS Proxy l January 8, 2021

A few movies you need to see before the most unusual Oscar season ever.

Toughing it out

2021 – a year in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, will certainly be different than any other year in almost all spheres of life. The world of movies is no different. With national lockdowns and closed entertainment facilities, the cinema business bore the brunt of the pandemic along with many other elements of the world economy. Our everyday life has changed dramatically and a lot of people and businesses had to adapt to a new reality.

Streaming on a roll

Due to closures of movie theaters, streaming services seem to have picked up speed in producing and releasing shows taking the lead in supplying visual entertainment to house-ridden people. Simultaneous premieres in cinemas (at least those which are still operational) and on streaming services – something that was deemed almost unthinkable not so long ago – has become nothing out of the ordinary. HBO Max and Warner Brothers signed a deal that every new movie in 2021 will have its theatrical premiere with going to stream at the same time!

As for the Oscars, the Academy made some bold but good moves, delaying Hollywood's grandest night to spring, increasing the eligibility window through February 28 and allowing streaming-only movies to be considered for Oscars without the usual theatrical run. This should give boost to services like Netflix, Amazon and others that have been in the hunt for best picture in recent years.

Online Oscars?

It's been a pretty crazy year for the cinema industry, so we should not assume the often-unpredictable Academy Awards will be any different. A virtual Oscars ceremony via Zoom? Or an Academy Awards gala in person but with masks and social distancing? Whatever happens on April 25, we should all be ready for it. And one way to prepare is to take a look at several titles which may be considered as serious contestants in the 2021 Oscars run.

Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)

PRODUCERS: Jon Kilik, Spike Lee, Beatriz Levin, Lloyd Levin


SYNOPSIS: Four African American veterans battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam looking for the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.

STARRING: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Jonathan Majors, Chadwick Boseman, Isiah Witlock, Jr., Norm Lewis

Is it possible that Spike Lee's Vietnam War movie (which is currently streaming on Netflix) be the movie that finally gives the iconic filmmaker his best picture award? Da 5 Bloods should at least get a nomination for the night's biggest honor, as well as recognition in the director and original screenplay categories. Delroy Lindo deserves to get his best actor nomination as the President Trump-supporting member of a band of Black veterans who return to Southeast Asia to salvage their squad leader's remains and a trove of gold bars. The late Chadwick Boseman could also be considered as a supporting actor nominee as the men's beloved superior.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Netflix)

PRODUCERS: Todd Black, Denzel Washington, Dany Wolf

DIRECTOR: George C. Wolfe

SYNOPSIS: Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious trumpet player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues". Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's play.

STARRING: Chadwick Boseman, Dusan Brown, Jonny Coyne, Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Taylour Paige, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Glynn Turman

Twelve years after Heath Ledger was honored with a posthumous Oscar, it looks quite possible again: Boseman, who we lost on August 28 at the age of 43, will be a favorite for the best actor in his praised performance as an egocentric cornet player in the August Wilson adaptation (streaming on Netflix). Ma Rainey female star - Viola Davis is quite likely to score her second best actress nomination as the fiery title blues singer.

Mank (Netflix)

PRODUCERS: David Fincher, Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth, Douglas Urbanski

DIRECTOR: David Fincher

SYNOPSIS: 1930s Hollywood is re-evaluated through the eyes of scornful social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to complete his screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles.

STARRING: Tom Burke, Lily Collins, Joseph Cross, Charles Dance, Monika Gossman, Ferdinand Kingsley, Jamie McShane, Tuppence Middleton, Toby Leonard Moore, Gary Oldman, Tom Pelphrey, Amanda Seyfried, Sam Troughton

While Citizen Kane has a reputation for being the greatest film ever made, Orson Welles' masterpiece was awarded with only one Oscar, for best screenplay. David Fincher's drama about its creation, (streaming now on Netflix) might as well earn much more. It is a major contender for best picture and director; Gary Oldman (as the Kane writer Herman Mankiewicz) is likely to earn a best actor nomination three years after winning for Darkest Hour; Amanda Seyfried is definitely ready to get her first Oscar nomination in the supporting actress category; and Charles Dance seems to be a dark horse in supporting actor. And Mank will be a movie to be reckoned with in the technical categories such as cinematography or score.

News of the Wold (Universal Pictures)

PRODUCERS: Gary Goetzman, Gregory Goodman, Gail Mutrux

DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass

SYNOPSIS: A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face serious dangers looking for a place that they can call home.

STARRING: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon

Tom Hanks is back in another Oscar-ready role. News of the World - the post-Civil War Western drama (in theaters since December 25) casts Hanks as a traveling Texas news reader who comes upon an untamed girl (Helena Zengel) taken and raised by the Kiowa tribe and agrees to transport her back to her aunt and uncle. Hanks is always a sure-bet candidate to make it into the best actor competition but the run for this particular award is quite stacked this year. We may, however, expect at least nominations for best picture and director (Paul Greengrass).

Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures)

PRODUCERS: Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Chloé Zhao

DIRECTOR: Chloé Zhao

SYNOPSIS: After losing everything in the Great Recession economic collapse, an old woman packs her van and sets off for a journey through the American West, living as a modern-day nomad.

STARRING: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells

Frances McDormand is quickly heading towards her third Oscar in Chloé Zhao's road-trip drama (in theaters February) about a woman who works and travels across America as a nomad after her husband dies and her hometown collapses economically in the wake of the Great Recession. The first film to win the top prizes at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals in the same year. Nomadland is perhaps the one to be at the forefront of the best picture competition. McDormand is almost sure to grab a best actress nomination, David Strathairn - the supporting actor, and Zhao a best director nomination, which would make her the first Asian woman in the category.

One Night in Miami (Amazon Studios)

PRODUCERS: Jess Wu Calder, Keith Calder, Jody Klein

DIRECTOR: Regina King

SYNOPSIS: A fictional account of one incredible night in 1964, where four icons of activism, sports and music – Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke – met in the same room, discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural mayhem of the 1960s.

STARRING: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom, Jr.

If Chloé Zhao gets noticed, two female directors’ nominations might make history, with Regina King being a strong contender to get an Academy recognition for her feature debut. Kemp Powers' adaptation of his stage play about a One Night in Miami spent in the company of Black icons Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) should get a best picture nomination. Odom, a Tony Award winner for Hamilton, has some chances at winning supporting actor – a category where Hodge also might be included – while Goree and especially Ben-Adir will stand as possible best actor runner-ups.

Pieces of a Woman (Netflix)

PRODUCERS: Ashley Levinson, Aaron Ryder, Kevin Turen

DIRECTOR: Kornél Mundruczó

SYNOPSIS: When a young mother's home birth ends in unfathomable tragedy, she begins a year-long odyssey of mourning that fractures relationships with loved ones in this deeply personal story of a woman learning to live alongside her loss.

STARRING: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie, Sarah Snook, Molly Parker

The Academy loves wrenching family dramas (see: Ordinary People or Marriage Story) and Pieces of a Woman (streaming on Netflix now), about a woman struggling with the aftermath of a tragic home birth, falls in the same themes. Vanessa Kirby (known for her brilliant performance in an acclaimed Netflix series The Crown) might be getting her first best actress Oscar nomination in a career-defining role, and Ellen Burstyn also seems likely for supporting actress as the opinionated mother brutally interfering with Kirby's emotionally wrecked, increasingly isolated character.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)

PRODUCERS: Stuart M. Besser, Matt Jackson, Marc Platt, Tyler Thompson

DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin

SYNOPSIS: The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

STARRING: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong

Writer and director Aaron Sorkin's historical drama (streaming now on Netflix) re-imagining the violent riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago – and the notorious trial that followed – is stacked with well-known names and excellent performances. In addition to being a major player in best picture, director and original screenplay categories, The Trial of the Chicago 7 cast involves three actors who might be looking at the nomination as a supporting actor including recent Emmy winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Frank Langella, Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Soul (Pixar)

PRODUCER: Dana Murray

DIRECTOR: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers

SYNOPSIS: A musician and a school band teacher who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of a precocious soul learning about herself.

STARRING: Jamie Foxx, Angela Bassett, Daveed Diggs, Quest Love, Phylicia Rashad, Tina Fey, Graham Norton

Pixar movies have had a long and successful Oscar history (Pixar has won it 10 times in 19 years). Soul (streaming currently on Disney+), with amazing voices of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, is a thought-provoking, feel-good animated film about life and the afterlife answering the most important questions that will be in the pole position for the animated feature Oscar and might even be considered for a best picture nomination. If it happens, Soul would be the third Pixar movie to make that A-list appearance.

We will all be impatiently waiting for the official nominations and for the decisions on how this year’s Oscars ceremony will be handled. The most awarded films in Oscar history are Ben-Hur, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at 11 statuettes. The most nominated films in Academy history are All About Eve, Titanic and La La Land at 14. La La Land is the only film of the three to have lost best picture. The biggest Oscar ‘losers,’ meaning most nominated but awarded with zero Oscar statuattes are 1977’s The Turning Point and 1985’s The Color Purple at 11 each. We are about to see what makes history this year.