My 2021 Oscar Prediction (or Not) Post

John Scalzi

This year’s Oscar nominee list is out, and every year except for 2020 I did a piece predicting who I thought would win and who I thought wouldn’t, based on historical trends and gut feelings built up over years of having been a film critic. Last year I bowed out because I wasn’t feeling it, and this, year — I’m bowing out again!

But not because I’m not feeling it — no, this year, I’m bowing out because I genuinely believe that any historical trends are chucked out the window this year because a) COVID messed with the regular dynamic of the film cycle, b) the status quo of the film industry (and of the Academy) has changed so much in the last few years that I have no faith in the historical voting conventions I used to set store in. 2021 is a whole new world and honestly I don’t know what to think about who is going to win what.

In fact, I’m only going to make one prediction, which is that Chadwick Boseman is the likely frontrunner for Best Actor, not only for his performance but for the general outpouring of goodwill toward him after his passing last year. But even that I’m not super solid on. And otherwise: bwuh? I don’t know! I can’t even pretend to predict.

Except to say that I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s Oscar broadcast is the least watched in a long time: Whether or not these films, performances and people are worthy, I don’t know that any of the Best Picture nominees set the world of public opinion on fire this year. Streaming or otherwise, it was a very weird, very quiet year in movies, and I think may end up being a collective hole in the mainstream consciousness, which will be reflected by low audience numbers for the show. We’ll see.

But, yeah, I have no idea what’s likely to win and what’s not this year. That’s actually kind of exciting for me, I have to say.

— JS

13 Comments on “My 2021 Oscar Prediction (or Not) Post”

  1. I knew I was getting old when the artists nominated for Grammys were mostly names I didn’t recognize and most of the movies nominated for Emmys were ones I hadn’t seen.

  2. Just remember…there are more white actresses who won Oscars playing Asian characters than Asian actresses winning Oscars playing Asian characters.

    Asians MIGHT get parity this year if Youn Yuh-jung wins.

  3. I like the concept “collective hole in the mainstream consciousness.”

    I don’t suppose I’ll live to see the day when Asian actresses can play white characters the way they do in summer stock. That’s because I see movie goers as having less imagination than play goers.

    I mean, play goers don’t squint to see lighting and props the way movie goers squint to see stunt persons and special effects.

    Then again, I read that a South Asian male actor played the lead in a Charles Dickens movie. So maybe there’s reason to hope.

    As for Grammys, when I read aloud the name of winner John Prime, older than me, to three people my age over conversation, none of them knew who he was. And he’s almost the only winner I knew of!

  4. If Mank wins all the Oscars, I’m never watching the Academy Awards again. Hollywood can’t resist giving awards to movies about movies.

    I’m kind of hoping Chloe Zhao wins best director. Nomadland feels like it was McGyvered out of very little. Zhao made the most of a small cast of non-actors. It’s also one of the few movies I’ve seen in the nominations.

    @FL Transplant – I started feeling old when the artists winning the Grammys were basically the same age as my kids. Billie Eilish is eleven months older than my oldest child.

  5. I forgot the Oscar nominees were even being announced, that’s how little interest I have this year. Our interest in watching the Awards has dwindled to almost near zero the last few years anyway, but this is surely the last straw. And I was a MAJOR FAN for decades. I remember begging my mother to let me stay up to see the Awards back around the time that BEN HUR swept the awards, when (as Norma Desmond said), “It’s the pictures that got small.”

    My wife and I used to make lists of the nominees in ALL the categories. She had a pool going in her school (and won more than once by her uncanny ability to guess the winners in categories that no one knew, like Short Subject). But those days are long gone (sigh).

    As for the Grammys, the last year I can remember watching was when Santana swept the board with “Supernatural.” I could not possibly name half the people nominated now, let alone recognize their music (sic), so Get Off My Lawn!

  6. This year will definitely be an odd one, especially because everything in awards season got pushed back a couple months, and I think a lot of people feel like we basically skipped it and there’s little point getting excited now.

    Also I agree that this past year was lacking in “big” movies (not only blockbusters but buzzy awards-baiting fare), and I think that people’s movie-watching habits being completely disrupted might have something to do with our perception of that (I know it does for me). There’s less urgency in checking out a supposedly top-caliber film when it’s tossed onto streaming vs. the ritual of making a theater trip out of it.

    I’m still looking forward to checking out a lot of these eventually, though.

  7. Mank was okay, but I also think Citizen Kane is okay, so maybe it’s a masterpiece?

    The one category I’ve seen the most entries in is Animated Feature, and I’ll go with Wolfwalkers there. Nothing wrong with Soul at all, and there are moments in it that are absolutely breathtaking, but every frame of Wolfwalkers is a work of art.

  8. I’m happy that JD Vance’s book-turned-movie gets some Oscar noms in a year when the Oscars are probably going to be a weird socially distanced underwatched pandemic thing so he’ll miss out on most of the parties and glamour.

  9. Until you mentioned Chadwich Boseman, I couldn’t think of a movie that came out in 2020. Still can’t.

    OK, Bill & Ted. Give that flick an oscar and we’ll call it a year.

  10. It’s nice to see some more diversity in the Best Director category, and it will be interesting to see if that keeps up when the “big” movies start coming out, as this year’s slate is very indie/indie adjacent.

  11. Yeah, 2020 was a weird year for the movies. If the main message of the Oscar ceremony is that “the movies matter,” then that message is facing a lot of resistance. Usually I’m a fairly frequent theatergoer, but this is the first time in decades – like, at least the early 1990’s – that I haven’t seen a single feature film nominated in any of the categories at all.

    Mostly this was because I watched almost no new movies, even on streaming, due to a combination of chronic distractability, tenuous work/life boundaries, and more difficulty than usual watching bad things happen to good characters, especially when due to the characters’ own poor choices. (When I recently rewatched Zootopia, it took at least half an hour to get through the press conference scene because I would watch 5-20 seconds worth then pause for several minutes to calm back down.) It was a lot easier to watch streaming TV, especially in the quarter-to-half-hour lengths for many animated TV shows.

    I’m sure I’ll watch a fair number of Oscar contenders – usually at a minimum I try to see as many nominees as possible for best picture, director, screenplays and animated feature – but whether I’ll develop a rooting interest in any of them is an open question. I do hope to go back to theaters when it’s safe to do so – and intend to patronize the local drive-in as often as possible when they’re showing something good.

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