Intentionally Incendiary: My Personal Oscar Winners 2021

The Oscars just wrapped up a couple of hours ago and, naturally, tons of people have their personal opinions and takes on the winners. Here’s mine.

I will clarify how I’m doing my list here: I will not be doing every category as I wasn’t able to watch everything form every category for various reasons. Formatting should be fairly obvious fairly quickly after that.

Best Visual Effects
My Winner: Tenet
Actual Winner: Tenet

I don’t think any of the other nominees really could touch the type of visual effects that was one of the few saving graces of Tenet. While I don’t think it’s an amazing or even great movie, its visual effects was certainly its strong point and it’s the best of the nominees in that category alone, so this decision makes sense to me.

Best Film Editing
My Winner: Sound of Metal
Actual Winner: Sound of Metal

No, I don’t think most of what Sound of Metal does is exceptionally flashy in editing, but it certainly required extensive amounts of it and a unique, cohesive vision. The Father was also another pick that I think makes sense here, while the rest of the nominees are simply average. Once again, this selection makes sense to me.

Best Costume Design
My Winner: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Actual Winner: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Realistically, only two made legitimate sense to me as contenders for winning this: the winner, and Emma.. Both had much more intricate detail than another potential contender in Mank, which gives them an advantage over it. However, Mulan and Pinocchio don’t fit into the picture at all for me. So far, so good: my choices align with the winners for reasons that make sense to me.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
My Winner: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Actual Winner: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Everything I said about costume design also applies here, except instead of Mulan there is Hillbilly Elegy. Once again, three choices make sense although there are two that stand out above Mank and the other two films simply don’t compare.

Best Cinematography
My Winner: Judas and the Black Messiah
Actual Winner: Mank

This is where my personal choice begins to differ. See, I don’t think Mank is an inappropriate choice for a winner in this category- it’s just that I think the cinematography in Judas and the Black Messiah does a more effective job at conveying emotion and intensity that isn’t there in Mank. On a technical level, perhaps there is a discrepancy, but I personally feel the job is done better in the latter rather than the former. None of the other three selections make any sense to me as potential winners.

Best Production Design
My Winner: Mank
Actual Winner: Mank

And we’re right back to my selection being the same as the winner. Personally, I think the detail to the sets and decoration is the strongest point for a film whose style is like Mank‘s, though Tenet would have also been a good choice as well. The Father might have been a bit too subtle at times for me to agree for it to be in the conversation to the same extent, and Ma Rainey’s is a contender as well. I just think Mank has a little bit more of an edge in replicating the feel of the time period while conveying a lot of subtle and overt detail to the viewer that every other one struggles a bit more with.

Best Sound
My Winner: Sound of Metal
Actual Winner: Sound of Metal

Ironically, in a film about deafness, the sound may be one of the strongest elements of it. Perhaps the plot helps lend weight to the sound design, forcing the viewer to pay much more focused attention to it, but regardless, that tool is greatly effective and did its job perfectly. Personally I don’t think any of the other selections could really come into that conversation the same way, as none of them have such an integral part of their stories wrapped into it.

Best Original Score
My Winner: Da 5 Bloods
Actual Winner: Soul

Honestly, I’m not surprised that the Academy chose this film as its winner. Soul‘s soundtrack is one of its strongest selling points, moreso than (and perhaps at the expense of) anything else. However, I think Da 5 Bloods had a much more interesting and compelling soundtrack behind it. Mank and Minari also had great soundtracks, but not quite as central to its premise as these two films, whereas News of the World didn’t do anything special for me. Two perfect candidates, two good candidates, and one throwaway.

Best Animated Feature Film
My Winner: Wolfwalkers
Actual Winner: Soul

This is a category where I believe a significant snub took place: I’m not surprised that Disney/Pixar won this category, because they tend to every year, as infuriating as it may be. What makes me particularly frustrated is that Wolfwalkers does so much that is beautiful, unique, and damn near flawless. Literally no other nominee on the list even comes close to it, but it realistically never stood a chance against the lobbying of Disney. For me, Wolfwalkers is the only film from this list of nominees that is truly a must-see experience. Disappointing, but not surprising loss.

Best Adapted Screenplay
My Winner: The Father
Actual Winner: The Father

This category was a little more difficult for me than the others, partly for the reason that I was unable to see The White Tiger, but also because I had not seen the play that One Night in Miami… was based on nor read the book that Nomadland was based on. In terms of finished product, though, my winner would still be The Father as it was the only film besides Miami that I actually enjoyed.

Best Original Screenplay
My Winner: Minari
Actual Winner: Promising Young Woman

This category was the harder one for me, because my two candidates were Minari and Judas and the Black Messiah, and their scrreenplays were nearly identical in quality for me. Ultimately I went with what I felt was more personal for me, and that would be Minari. I have no idea how Promising Young Woman is this critical darling because outside of Carey Mulligan, nothing about it worked very well. (For those unaware, my personal rating for that film is a 4 out of 10.)

Best Supporting Actress
My Winner: Olivia Colman – The Father as Anne
Actual Winner: Youn Yuh-jung – Minari as Soon-ja

Once again, we come down to multiple performances that I personally felt attached to and were powerhouse acts in play. For me, there were two that clearly stood above the others: Olivia Colman and Youn Yuh-jung. While I chose Colman, the Academy picked Yuh-jung, a choice that I don’t really disagree with but clearly didn’t pick myself. Both of these are leagues ahead of their peers in this category, and I won’t complain that the Academy went with the other pick this time.

Best Supporting Actor
My Winner: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah as Fred Hampton
Actual WInner: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah as Fred Hampton

This was possibly the easiest pick in this category, but my problem is that it shouldn’t have even been in this category to begin with. The Academy looked at a story about Fred Hampton starring an actor portraying Fred Hampton and decided… he’s a supporting character in his own story where he is the protagonist? If you’re going to argue that it’s because the story is also centered around Bill O’Neal, then why not give them both a nomination for best actor and best supporting actor? This category was gutless this year and probably should be going to Lakeith Stanfield who did an amazing job as Bill O’Neal in the same film.

Best Actress
My Winner: Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman as Martha Weiss
Actual WInner: Frances McDormand – Nomadland as Fern

I already knew that Nomadland was the likely winner of this since the Academy loves Frances McDormand (honestly, her performance was one of the other good things about Nomadland to begin with), but I thought Vanessa Kirby had much more range and captivation as Martha in Pieces of a Woman– which is also a superior film. This was a very stacked category this year, as every nominee brought their A game here, and even Carey Mulligan should be credited even if the film she was in was poor quality.

Best Actor
My Winner: Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal as Ruben Stone
Actual Winner: Anthony Hopkins – The Father as Anthony

Once again, another stacked category here, but I think the performance delivered by Riz Ahmed gives him a hair above the rest here. I understand why Hopkins would win the category here since he is absolutely convincing as an elderly man experiencing dementia, but Ahmed as Stone going into deafness gives him more range that is absolutely enthralling to watch. Once again, I don’t disagree with the winner being chosen, but is just not my personal favorite.

Best Director
My Winner: Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Actual Winner: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

Honestly, I kind of hated this category this year since so little was shared with best picture (amongst other things, seeing as how three of these films wouldn’t crack my recommended list for 2020), but Lee Isaac Chung would have gotten an Oscar from me even though I would think most people aren’t surprised with Nomadland winning yet another category. Though Another Round is one that I’d recommend people watch and Mank is good enough to recommend, neither of them came close to being a classic work for me, while Minari was an easy 8 out of 10 and a work that I think will persevere through time. Of the nominees, it was easily my most favorite, which might be why I didn’t like this category much this year- it’s not supposed to be this easy to determine which was the favorite.

Best Picture
My Winner: Judas and the Black Messiah
Actual Winner: Nomadland

Okay, let’s cut to the chase here: though I rated The Father higher, I would much rather watch Judas and the Black Messiah and as a piece of work, I think it deserves the Oscar more for its social relevance, even if it only puts it a centimeter above other films on this list. And on that list where you have The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, and Sound of Metal, instead, the expected Western romanticist-porn film Nomadland is the winner. The same Academy that celebrated Chadwick Boseman and barely gave any legitimate recognition to Judas and the Black Messiah or Ma Rainey’s or even Minari despite their relevance and respect in the film community, says Nomadland is the real winner? Truly performative shit happening here, in case it wasn’t obvious enough and a fucking NFT for Chadwick Boseman is included in gift bags for attendees.

In summary: the 93rd Academy Awards this year was not the worst, but rather another example of the absolute bog-standard level of care the industry gives itself. No real surprises from the selection of winners and some truly hollow inclusion of better examples of diversity for PR purposes. Much love to Daniel Kaluuya and the multitude of other deserving candidates who either did or did not get the recognition they deserve this year.

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