Predicting Who Wins The Oscars 2021 (If All Other Movies Are Delayed)
The Oscars 2021 is still going ahead as things stand, but if no more movies hit theaters in 2020, the awards season race could be very different.
Here’s who could win at the 2021 Oscars if no more movies are released this year. The past awards season was a historic year for the Academy Awards, thanks to the success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, the first film not in the English language to win Best Picture, but 2021 could also be seismic in an entirely different way. The international film industry has seen losses of billions of dollars in mere weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to the mass closure of cinemas worldwide and the shutting down of various productions.
Theater chains may be keen for things to return to normal by July (as indicated by Tenet‘s stronghold on its release date in that month), but that hope seems increasingly naïve as the days pass and the death toll increases. The public is facing the unprecedented and all-too-feasible possibility that cinemas may not open for the majority of 2019 — if they reopen at all. That places a lot of pressure on the Oscars to make drastic and inevitably controversial changes in order to adapt and survive. Already, the upcoming awards season is one of many aspects of the entertainment world that faces potentially irrevocable changes. YouTube recently announced plans to host an online film festival with partners including Cannes, Tribeca, and Venice, three of the major predictors of Oscar buzz, and a further nail in the coffin to those events ever taking place physically in 2020.
Typically, the fall season is when awards campaigning truly begins, but there are signs of trouble on the horizon as studios frantically rearrange their release slates and the fate of those much-hyped Oscar-bait movies remains up in the air. It would be shocking but unsurprising right now if the rest of 2020 unfolds with little to no new theatrical releases. If that happens then the Oscars are in big trouble. What do they do if there are only three or so months of titles to choose from as the year’s best? Here’s who could win.
Oscars Best Picture
- Birds of Prey
- First Cow
- The Invisible Man
- Never Rarely Sometimes Always
- Sorry We Missed You
- The Way Back
It’s unlikely that the 2021 Oscars under the current circumstances would fill out all ten spots in the Best Picture category, but the Academy hasn’t done that since it changed the nomination process, so that’s not too unusual. The ballot could still be a strong mix of indie darlings, traditional awards-bait dramas, and the mainstream hits.
Between Black Panther and Joker, the Academy has long moved past maligning superhero movies, which would certainly benefit the critically adored if financially underwhelming Birds of Prey. Emma is the kind of charming and stylish costume drama that awards voters always love. The Invisible Man’s mix of scares and thematic relevance would be bolstered by its commercial success. Never Rarely Sometimes Always, First Cow, and Sorry We Missed You are prestigious in their own way, but also truly adored by critics in a way that would be naïve to ignore in such a season, while Ben Affleck’s star power could still pack a punch to get The Way Back noticed.
While the Oscars have surprised movie fans over the past few years with more daring Best Picture winners, they’re still prone to playing it safe, and out of this esoteric array of potential nominees, the most secure consensus choices would either be the middlebrow adult drama (The Way Back) or the highly decorative historical adaptation (Emma). The latter feels like the sort of film that voters could all agree on as enjoyable, if not necessarily groundbreaking or radical in the way something like First Cow would be.
Oscars Best Director
- Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
- Gavin O’Conner – The Way Back
- Ken Loach – Sorry We Missed You
- Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
- Leigh Wannel – The Invisible Man
One upside to this scenario would be the attention available to celebrate women directors, from Hittman and Reichardt to Birds of Prey‘s Cathy Yan, Emma‘s Autumn de Wilde, and The Photograph‘s Stella Meghie. Despite being one of the most celebrated filmmakers of his time and an icon of British cinema, Ken Loach has never been nominated for an Oscar, so this would be a golden opportunity to make history. O’Conner and Wannel have the benefit of big studio power in their corner, on top of positive reviews and an industry presence. If a slimmer lineup of films is to be of some benefit to the Academy then this would be the perfect time to give Loach his due after over five decades of radical and trailblazing work that has made him an icon of cinema.
WINNER: Ken Loach.
Oscars Best Actor
- Ben Affleck – The Way Back
- Javier Bardem – The Roads Not Taken
- Jesse Eisenberg – Resistance
- Harrison Ford – The Call of the Wild
- John Magaro – First Cow
All things considered, a Best Actor slate under the current restrictions could still be pretty star-heavy. Affleck has a great comeback narrative in his corner on top of good reviews, while Javier Bardem’s The Roads Not Taken may not have been brilliantly reviewed by critics in general, but many liked his work in it. Jesse Eisenberg was easily the most celebrated part of Resistance, a biopic where he plays the mime Marcel Marceau during his years with the French Resistance. Harrison Ford has only been nominated for one Oscar in his entire career, and while The Call of the Wild was a major commercial flop, Ford is beloved enough to be singled out and celebrated for a performance where he primarily acts opposite a man who has been CGI-d into a dog. John Magaro, recognizable from Orange is the New Black and The Umbrella Academy, would certainly have the critics’ favor in his corner for First Cow.
The Academy loves a comeback and nobody has that narrative more poised for the prize than Ben Affleck. He may already have a slew of Oscars to his name as a screenwriter and producer but never as an actor, and the Oscars are always keen to celebrate a multi-talented individual with a storied history in the business and the right campaigning skills in his corner. His potential fellow nominees can’t compete in terms of sheer clout.
WINNER: Ben Affleck.
Oscars Best Actress
- Elisabeth Moss – The Invisible Man
- Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
- Imogen Poots – Vivarium
- Margot Robbie – Birds of Prey
- Amy Ryan – Lost Girls
The obvious front-runner from this selection would be Elisabeth Moss, a widely celebrated and Emmy-winning actress who has been listed many times over as someone who is overdue for an Oscar nomination. Her work in The Invisible Man is certainly deserving of such attention. On top of being a brilliant Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie is a two-time Oscar nominee who the Academy clearly likes and an increasingly Hollywood power-player with her own production company, and that level of industry clout is always handy for awards season. Both Mulligan and Ryan’s work premiered at Sundance so qualifies for this season, and they have the critical support to back up that recognition. Other possibilities include Anya Taylor-Joy for Emma and newcomer Sidney Flanigan for Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
Elisabeth Moss has the potential to be one of those actresses with endless nominations to her name, and even in a more conventional year, she should easily be considered one of the front-runners in this category. Her film has the box office grosses, the industry support, and the critical clout to carry her to the top of the pile. It would certainly be a deserving win from an actress who has put in stellar work over the years.
WINNER: Elisabeth Moss.
Oscars Best Supporting Actor
- Antonio Banderas – Dolittle
- Jim Carrey – Sonic the Hedgehog
- Oliver Jackson-Cohen – The Invisible Man
- Udo Kier – Bacurau
- Orion Lee – First Cow
The Academy has always been a little more open to esoteric and unexpected choices in the supporting acting categories as opposed to the leading ones. That would certainly be the case if the 2021 nominees are limited to the first three months of the previous year. Blockbuster scene-stealers like Antonio Banderas and Jim Carrey could shine (Carrey has notoriously never been nominated for an Oscar, so why not give him his first nominee in a movie comeback role that’s fully representative of his enduring style as a star?).
Alas, it does seem as though the Oscars would go for a somewhat less tawdry choice, even in a year of few choices. Udo Kier is a legend and has a standout part in Bacurau but the Academy remains notoriously hesitant to rewarding films not entirely in the English language. If First Cow is to take away any award, it would be right to do so here, and Orion Lee’s stellar turn as a Chinese immigrant who finds an unlikely friendship while traveling west to seek his fortune, is utterly deserving. The supporting categories tend to be more flexible with such nominations and wins, so it’s not unfeasible.
WINNER: Orion Lee.
Oscars Best Supporting Actress
- Sônia Braga – Bacurau
- Mia Goth – Emma
- Janina Gavankar – The Way Back
- Thomasin McKenzie – Lost Girls
- Miranda Otto – Downhill
Several Birds of Prey supporting actresses could fare well here, particularly standouts like Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rosie Perez. Braga is one of the true legends of Brazilian cinema with BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations to her name, but none from the Academy, so there is certainly a great opportunity here. McKenzie was widely tipped to be nominated for Jojo Rabbit this year but missed out. Downhill was weakly reviewed, but Otto’s performance in it was considered a standout, while Gavankar and Goth would benefit from being key players in films receiving lots of attention in other categories.
The smart money would be on Braga, an icon of South American cinema who has spent decades making her mark in Hollywood, often with sinfully underrated performances in work that doesn’t catch the eye of general audiences. She’s a big enough name with actors in the industry for the Academy to overcome its language bias too.
WINNER: Sônia Braga.
Oscars Best Original Screenplay
- Never Rarely Sometimes Always
- Promising Young Woman
- The Roads Not Taken
- The Way Back
Original Screenplay would be a category for indie and art-house titles to thrive, in contrast to Adapted Screenplay which seems more likely to be filled up with the mainstream and more traditional fare. Many of these films are more challenging than would typically be welcomed by the Academy, and none of them really fit that awards-friendly mold, which makes the possibilities all the more interesting.
Eliza Hittman’s work in Never Rarely Sometimes Always already saw her take home one of the top prizes at the Berlin Film Festival, and the Academy loves to celebrate timely and political works when the occasion calls for it. Typically, this film would be considered too abrasive for voters but in a category full of unexpected nominees, it feels right at home. Hittman would be unlikely to take home Best Director (even though it would be a deserving win) so celebrating her in the screenplay category would be a much-needed shout-out to women directors in a way the Academy has needed to do for far too long.
WINNER: Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
Oscars Best Adapted Screenplay
- Birds of Prey
- First Cow
- The Invisible Man
- Lost Girls
Like most of the other categories, there isn’t much room for real surprises here, partly because the imposed limitations don’t allow it. In fairness, there are still some strong and popular contenders here, especially First Cow and The Invisible Man, the former of which is co-written by one of indie cinema’s most sinfully underrated figures, and the latter being part of the first truly successful reboot of Universal’s monster series in well over two decades.
It would be wonderful to see Kelly Reichardt receive some long-overdue recognition for her immense contribution to cinema here, but even in a quieter year, it seems unlikely. The Invisible Man may be a genre movie but that didn’t stop Get Out winning for its screenplay, and this one’s radical reinvention of a familiar property would easily win over voters.
WINNER: The Invisible Man.
Predicting The Rest of the Oscars 2021
Best Cinematography: First Cow.
Best Film Editing: Birds of Prey.
Best Visual Effects: The Invisible Man.
Best Animated Feature: Onward.
Best Hair and Make-Up: Emma.
Best Costume Design: Emma.
Best Production Design: Emma.
Best Documentary Feature: Crip Camp.
Drop Your Predictions in the Comments Below