Oscars celebrate film despite Covid-19’s crushing impact on movie industry

Steven Yeun and Yeri Han in Minari / Plan B Entertainment

Did it sneak up on a you? It certainly did on me.

The 2021 Academy Awards air at 7 p.m. Sunday night on ABC.

The network is providing a cavalcade of Oscar coverage all day long starting at noon with “Oscar Countdown, Live” and then “Oscars: Into the Spotlight” at 5:30 p.m. as the lead-in to the actual awards ceremony.

I’m not sure if it’s that I haven’t been paying much attention in recent years, but that seems to be a lot of time devoted to Oscar coverage following a year in which movie theaters barely weathered the storm?

To me it seems like an overkill of coverage almost on Super Bowl proportions. To be candid this wasn’t the greatest year for film or exhibitors on any front. Shutdowns of theaters over covid-19 concerns had many studios hold back so many films for what they hope will be better days that the field seems fairly sparse.

However, when you consider the nominations closely, some very fine films made it to theaters last year despite the pandemic, and it is right for Hollywood to celebrate these movies with all the pomp and circumstance of previous years. It’s just a sign that as vaccinations increase we are moving closer to our new normal.

Whatever that new normal may be, I certainly hope moving-watching in theaters remains at part of it.

So here are the Oscar nominations in the major categories and my picks on what should win, what will win, and a dark horse for Sunday evening.


Nominees: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of Chicago

Should win: Minari
Will win: Nomadland
Dark horse: Mank

My heart has a soft spot for “Minari,” a movie about a Korean-American family that moves to Arkansas, but “Nomadland” won the Golden Globe and likely will add the Oscar to its collection. However, Hollywood tends to like to celebrate its own, so “Mank,” a film about how Herman J Mankiewicz wrote “Citizen Kane” might squeak out a victory.


Nominees: Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round; David Fincher – Mank; Lee Isaac Chung – Minari; Chloé Zhao – Nomadland; Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Should Win: Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
Will Win: Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
Dark horse: Lee Isaac Chung – Minari

Chloé Zhao is the favorite and should win for her work on “Nomadland.” If her name isn’t familiar to you now, it likely will be after the awards. She also has a Marvel movie scheduled for release in November called “The Eternals” which should advance her name among mainstream movie fans. “Minari” is a great film and director Lee Isaac Chung would be a worthy recipient of the award.


Nominees: Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday; Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman; Frances McDormand – Nomadland; Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Should win: Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Will win: Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Dark horse: Frances McDormand – Nomadland

Viloa Davis is excellent in every project she does, bringing heart, charisma, and power to all of her performances; however, Carey Mulligan is the frontrunner in the category for her role as a women who takes matters in her own hands to avenge the passing of a friend. Like Davis, McDormand is so strong every time out. It wouldn’t be a surprise for her to take home another Oscar.


Nominees: Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal; Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Anthony Hopkins – The Father; Gary Oldman – Mank; Steven Yeun – Minari

Should win: Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Will win: Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Dark horse: Steven Yeun – Minari

If there is a lock in this year’s awards, it’s Chadwick Boseman for his high-voltage performance as Levee Green in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” He’s stunning in the role. Boseman had become one of the more beloved actors in Hollywood for his work as Black Panther for Marvel prior to his death. He’s going to be honored Sunday, and hedeserves it. If not Boseman, then Steven Yeun’s standout performance in “Minari” is also deserving.


Nominees: Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy; Olivia Colman – The Father; Amanda Seyfried – Mank; Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari

Should win: Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari
Will win: Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari
Dark horse: Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Yuh-Jung Youn is fantastic in “Minari” as Soon-ja, a grandmother who relocates to Arkansas to help raise her son’s family. If she doesn’t win, it is shame, but Maria Bakalova was hilarious in the “Borat” sequel. She’s my Dark horse.


Nominees:Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7; Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah; Leslie Odom, Jr. – One Night in Miami; Paul Raci – Sound of Metal; Lakeith Stanfield – Judas and the Black Messiah

Should win: Lakeith Stanfield – Judas and the Black Messiah
Will win: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
Dark horse: Leslie Odom, Jr. – One Night in Miami

Daniel Kaluuya gives a riveting performance as Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Black Panthers party in Illinois in the late 1960s, in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” His powerful performance is buoyed by Lakeith Stanfield who plays the FBI informant who brought Hampton down. Kaluuya’s performance is powerful, but Stanfield’s light still shines in a more subtle role. Leslie Odom Jr. shows his skill as an actor and singer effectively playing the great Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami,” one of my favorite films of last year.

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Mortal Kombat (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 50 min. / Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne, Skylight

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112 Drive In (Friday and Saturday)

Mortal Kombat (8 p.m.) (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 50 min.

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