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Academy Awards 2021: The Best Picture Race

In this weird year, we are only just getting to what would be the October point in a regular awards season. With just under two months left of the qualifying period and several films still sight unseen by a majority (namely The United States vs. Billie Holliday and Judas and the Black Messiah), there is still room for a film to crawl up and make a big statement this year.

However, we are finally starting to get a consensus of what films are heading to be contenders for this year’s ultimate race – Best Picture. This article will break this category as of right now into four sections: the locks, the safe bets, the dark horses, and the fallers, before listing what I believe are the ten safest bets right now to get the 2021 Best Picture nomination when they are announced.

The Locks

As of right now, I still believe that there are only three films that are completely locked to get the Best Picture nomination.
1. Nomadland – winning many of the critic awards and sweeping festival season, it is hard to deny the impact this film has already made and will continue to make during awards season.
2. Mank – even with reviews that are not as high as Fincher’s other material, this is a film that movie fans – and particularly, the Academy – will be heavily drawn towards. With it being the favourite to win many of the tech awards, it has to be nominated for Best Picture.
3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 – I am not on the train that many are on who are saying this is going to be the Best Picture winner, but I certainly think it is locked for a nomination. The cast is going to be everywhere promoting this film and getting it in front of voters, and that is what matters in a race like this. If I was Netflix, I would most likely push this film above any other in their catalogue this year.

The Safe Bets

These are the films that I feel confident will get into the Best Picture race, even if I do not think they are complete locks like the other three films.
1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – not only has this film had praise from many critics (as well as being an easy 93-minute watch on Netflix that nobody can turn down), it is going to be watched by many to honour the work that Chadwick Boseman did before his unfortunate passing.
2. Soul – Pixar was the last company to get an animated feature in the Best Picture category with Toy Story 3 and it is time for it to happen again. With high critic ratings, easy accessibility on Disney+ and a heavy push from Disney, this should easily make it into Best Picture.
3. One Night in Miami – The Academy loves Regina King, and it is clear that she did incredibly well with her directorial debut of One Night in Miami. As long as Amazon Studios continue to push this film hard and the reactions from the official release of the film goes well, this is a safe bet to get the nomination.

The Dark Horses

These are the films that are either sight unseen that can make a big splash at the Academy Awards, or the films that have recently been released or have been gaining some momentum through the critic awards.
1. Promising Young Woman – it is hard to deny how much love this film has had on social media over the past few weeks as critics get their hands on it. Carey Mulligan is in for Best Actress, many people are calling it their film of the year and even though it is quite a tough subject matter that the Academy doesn’t usually go for, I could see this potentially making it in.
2. Sound of Metal – having just released in the US in the past month, the buzz for this film has been insane to watch. With many technical elements, as well as the performances and direction, standing out with this film and it gaining critic awards in numerous categories, there is a path to get this to the Best Picture nomination.
3. Judas and the Black Messiah – this film is sight unseen, but it is hard to deny what has been revealed about the film so far. With one of the best trailers of 2020, a clear path for Kaluuya to sweep the Supporting Actor category and the themes of the story relating to today’s issues, particularly in the US, it will be easy to back this film up throughout awards season.
4. Minari – we all know that A24 are not the best when it comes to marketing films, however I hope that only having this one contender to majorly push for awards season will help them focus and recapture the magic they did for Moonlight. It is so easy to fall in love with Minari, and if enough members of the Academy do then I think it can get in.

The Fallers

These are the films that are starting to lose a little bit of buzz within the top category, but they are not completely out of the running. Whether it is just needing more support in the critic awards or doing an extra push in the marketing, these films still have a chance at getting nominated for Best Picture.
1. The Father – this is the one that I am still predicting because it still does need to officially release. However, I expected this film to get more buzz and praise around the critics group, and yet I am not even seeing it pop up much for Anthony Hopkins, let alone Colman, Picture, Editing, or Production. When the film officially releases, hopefully it will get a bit of a boost.
2. News of the World – when this film was first being shown to critics, it was gaining mixed-to-positive reviews across the board. It may still be a safe pick for what the Academy likes, but it is a film that seemed to come and go in terms of awards buzz pretty quickly.
3. Da 5 Bloods – this one may still surprise, and I know there are people still picking it to get numerous nominations including Best Picture. I think Netflix has to push this film harder to achieve that, and I simply think they are going to put that time and effort into some of their more recent releases such as Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7.
4. Pieces of a Woman – it has become clear that this film is mainly a play for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Not only is this another Netflix film for them to try and push, but the reception to this one outside of the performances have been mixed. It’s a tough subject matter to get through and many members of the Academy probably won’t get through it, and we also have the issue regarding Shia LaBeouf that may hinder this film’s award chances.

My Current Predictions

Note: This is listed alphabetically, not in a ranked order.
The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Nomadland
One Night in Miami
Promising Young Woman
Soul
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

What are your predictions for Best Picture? Do you agree with my analysis? Let me know in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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