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Oscars 2021 Best Picture Nominees Ranked

by Titan Universe
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As a film student and overall fan of the entertainment industry, Oscars season is my absolute favorite season. Summer who? 

Each year I love to overanalyze and rewatch films nominated in each Oscars category, but nothing quite compares to the Best Picture category. I always have lots of opinions that are usually under appreciated and not at all reciprocated especially when it comes to awarding the winner… 

The Shape of Water and The Green Book I’m looking at you. 

But with Parasite taking home the very well deserved win last year, I am more than excited for this year. 

The Oscars seem to be taking a very important step forward when it comes to it’s nominees in that they are more diverse than ever. The introduction of the Representation and Inclusion Standards have greatly improved the awards already and I am excited to see this inclusion represented on the big screen in coming years. 

Also before you began down the list let me give you a fair *spoiler warning* as I may be going a little in depth about these films.

8. Mank

Directed by: David Fincher

Synopsis: A retelling of 1940s Hollywood through the eyes of scriptwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he writes the famous film, Citizen Kane. 

Opinion: I think there is a lot of controversy surrounding this film, as it tells the story of writer Herman J. Mankiewicz, who in this film is credited with writing Citizen Kane though this is something that is still heavily disputed today. There are other people who have been believed to have had an uncredited part in writing this script as well and they are not mentioned in this film. The film also moves a little bit slowly for my liking. I do applaud the film’s use of script like title cards, I absolutely loved this aesthetic choice. I also think Amanda Seyfried had an amazing performance as Marion Davies which has since earned her a very well deserved supporting actress nomination. Compared to the other films on this list it is definitely my least favorite, though it is in no way bad.  

7. The Father 

Directed by: Florian Zeller

Synopsis: As help becomes a necessity for both 80-year-old Anthony and his daughter Anne, they are faced with a real life battle; Anthony is fighting the unraveling of his own mind and Anne is forced to work through her grief as her father’s sickness progresses.

Opinion: The depiction of dementia in this film is absolutely surreal and unlike anything I have ever seen before. The dissemination of information really throws you, the viewer, into the story and mind of Anthony. It takes something that is so everyday and heartbreaking and gives it much more significance. The order of events makes everything so confusing and unknown which is so similar to the mind of someone suffering from the illness. This film is so astonishing, Anthony Hopkins’ performance is stunning. This film is very much on the same level as the other films on the list, I think each film is so fantastic and very hard to compare to one another. I can definitely see this film winning Best Adapted Screenplay.

6. Minari

Directed by: Lee Isaac Chung

Synopsis: A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in hopes of achieving the American Dream. Though this journey brings on new challenges and hardships, the film proves that nothing is stronger than family and determination. 

Opinion: I adore this film, I think it tells the immigrant in search of the American Dream story so well. As the daughter of the daughter of an Asian immigrant, I drew so many similarities to this film and it’s family dynamic. I am beyond happy to see this representation on the big screen as well with the Oscars nominations. I think the ending is perfectly poetic and symbolizes the family’s fresh start. The end of the film implies that the family will have to build something better from the ashes and Minari itself is that symbol of hope and rejuvenation. I think this cast is beyond perfect and each actor brought something so strong and unique to the story. I have high hopes for Steven Yuen and Youn Yuh-jung who have been nominated in the Leading Actor and Supporting Actress categories as well. Overall a great film with such a positive and universal message that anyone can find themselves relating to or believing in.

5. Judas and the Black Messiah 

Directed by: Shaka King

Synopsis: This film is based on the true story of William O’Neal, an ex convict-spy sent by the FBI to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in order to gain information on Chairman Fred Hampton. 

Opinion: This film is stunning in that it tells so many important stories that I had unfortunately not really known about before. The film tugs on a lot of heart strings and makes you reflect more on the world we live in today, which is definitely intentional. There are a few weird parts of the film that seem to focus on the FBI’s intended role/Jesse Plemon’s character and I don’t really understand why. Although stand out performances by Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield are so good that they allow me to look past this, I just wish the movie was more about their relationship and O’Neal’s perspective on his own actions. I also would like to add that I don’t really understand the Academy’s decision to have both Stanfield and Kaluuya compete in the Supporting Actor category, though nonetheless I am excited to see the outcome. 

4. Nomadland

Directed by: Chloé Zhao

Synopsis: Fern, a 60-year-old widow, loses everything in the Great Recession and begins her life as a van-dwelling nomad. She encounters a lot of people living similarly and goes on her own journey of self discovery and coming of age.

Opinion: This was filmed beautifully and Chloé Zhao definitely deserves a lot of recognition for this feat. I do think the subject matter is not the most exciting and therefore slows the cinematic value of the film. The beginning plays out like a documentary which is sort of odd or unique and not in a bad way. I admire the fact that a lot of the actors in this film aren’t trained professionals and more so real people who lived under these circumstances. I think that is super cool and an unusual characteristic especially one that is represented in the Best Picture nominations. Frances McDermount gave an astonishing performance as always and I do think there are high chances that she will do well in the Leading Actress category. Compared to these other films though I think the story lacks an exciting climax and script so I wouldn’t rank it above these other films of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Though I do think it is a great coming of age tale that we don’t normally get to see. I also think the Academy will favor this film to the other nominees. I also am hopeful that Chloé Zhao will receive the award for Best Director. 

3. Promising Young Women

Directed by: Emerald Fennell

Synopsis: The film follows Cassie Thomas, a girl who lives a double life at night in order to avenge her best friend’s life following a life altering sexual assault. 

Opinion: I absolutely love this film, I think it is a very important conversation starter about rape culture that was directed, casted, and scripted perfectly. I think this film rewrites a lot of harmful stereotypes about women and people in these types of situations. Cassie is a strong willed and minded woman who is adamant on obtaining retribution against the people who hurt Nina and ultimately ended her life. I applaud this film for not giving any men the chance to be saviors in this situation and makes the audience think about real life and how you may never know what something actually looks like from the outside looking in. I also really enjoy the casting, not only did Carey Mulligan give an amazing performance they also casted a lot of comedic actors as the sexual assault perpertrators which in itself rewrites the stereotype that these types of men will always look scary or bad. I also don’t think we see a lot of these types of thriller, comedies represented in the Best Pictures nominations and I absolutely love that it was given a chance. This film may also have my favorite score. I think I could go on about this film even further, but I will leave it at being an overall favorite of mine; though I do not see this film winning the Best Picture category. 

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Directed by: Aaron Sorkin

Synopsis: The film follows the trial case from 1969 of seven defendants tried by the United States federal government with charges of conspiracy, incitement, and more. These charges followed the 1968 Chicago Riots that took place outside the Democratic National Convention in order to protest the Vietnam War and its draft.

Opinion: This film in one word is: cinematic, and what else would you want your film to be. I think this film does an excellent job of recounting the 1969 trial as well as get viewers to feel that same sense of empowerment and outrage that came with it. As someone who was born 30 years later, I didn’t know a whole lot about this event and this film told it to me perfectly and precisely. Stand out performances by Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Alex Sharp, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Mark Rylance truly bring the characters back to life and fill the story with intense moments and great dynamics. One flaw I can draw from this film is it’s directing in places. I think there are a few awkward moments caused by a random cut away or fade out that were unnecessary to the flow of the film. Overall I think this is an amazing cast and story, I loved the script and am excited for Sacha Baron Cohen’s well deserved Supporting Actor nomination. 

1. Sound of Metal

Directed by: Darius Marder 

Synopsis: Ruben Stone is a heavy-metal drummer whose life changes drastically as he begins to lose his hearing.

Opinion: Riz Ahmed’s performance is by far one of the best on display within this list. There is something about the way his character deals with emotions that is so intense and authentic without being overdone or overplayed. The synopsis for the film does not at all do it justice as my assumption was that it would be a cheap pull on the heart strings type of story, but it was not at all. As the film progresses the use of sound becomes more and more profound. It allows the audience to really join in on Ruben’s hearing loss. Ahmed’s body language and eyes tell a lot of the story, which is not at all easy to do. The relationship between characters, Lou and Ruben is also really important to the film. It is again very authentic and mundane whilst being completely cinematic. There are a lot of amazing things about this film and I know it will become a favorite to mine to rewatch again and again. I am definitely expecting a Best Actor award for Riz Ahmed as well. 

I have to say I think this last year was a great year for cinema (even if it was not a great year in general) and I would not be too mad with whichever of these films takes home the 2021 Best Picture Academy Award, though the top 3 are definitely my favorites.

As for the other categories it is such an amazing toss up and I am excited to see who wins.

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