21 contenders to watch during 2021 awards season




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Now the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild have unveiled their nominations and Bafta has revealed its longlists, this year’s delayed awards season is well under way.

Oscar voting begins a month from now. So here – in order of projected prominence – are what so far appear to be the top 21 awards contenders for 2021.



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© Searchlight Pictures


Nomadland

What’s it about? A woman loses her job in a small town and decides to become a van-dwelling nomad in the American west.

Who’s in it? Frances McDormand, David Strathairn.

What are its Oscar chances? Since it became the first film ever to win top prize at both the (scaled-back) Venice and Toronto film festivals, it’s been seen as one of the front-runners for best picture. Two-time Oscar-winner Frances McDormand is definitely in the race to equal Meryl Streep’s three-time best-actress haul.

Chloe Zhao’s beautiful and elegant handling of the wide expanses of America and the intimate lives of the film’s characters puts her in a strong position to become only the second woman ever to win best director at the Oscars.

Where can I see it? It’s currently scheduled for an April cinema release.



Jeremy Strong, Sacha Baron Cohen standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera


© Netflix


The Trial of the Chicago 7

What’s it about? A group of anti-Vietnam war protesters are put on trial after a demonstration turns violent.

Who’s in it? Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne.

What are its Oscar chances? Excellent reviews of this historical movie have pushed it towards the top of the best-picture leaderboard. Baron Cohen is perhaps the performer with the best chance of being recognised in the supporting-actor category as perhaps the most prominent character in the ensemble cast.

Oscar favourite Aaron Sorkin is almost certain to get a screenplay nod, and he’s also highly likely to feature on the best-director shortlist.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Netflix.



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© Netflix


Da 5 Bloods

What’s it about? A group of Vietnam veterans return to try to find the remains of their fallen squad leader and recover another item of value they left behind.

Who’s in it? Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Chadwick Boseman.

What are its Oscar chances? A strong contender for best picture and a best-director nomination for Spike Lee, although he’s surprisingly not been nominated by Bafta. Delroy Lindo missed out on Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, but his powerhouse performance should still help him to be in the running at the Oscars.

Chadwick Boseman could grab a posthumous best-supporting-actor nomination for his role as the group’s leader during the war.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Netflix.



Steven Yeun, Yoon Yeo-jeong, Han Ye-ri posing for the camera


© Altitude


Minari

What’s it about? A Korean family move to rural Arkansas to try to make a living farming the land.

Who’s in it? Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Youn Yuh-jung.

What are its Oscar chances? A double winner at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, it’s likely to be the second Korean-language film in a row to be nominated for best picture after last year’s Parasite. It’ll be a stretch, though, for it to also follow Parasite by winning the award.

Its best acting hopes probably lie with Youn Yuh-jung, who gives a touching turn as the family’s grandmother, while her on-screen son-in-law, Steven Yeun, might make the shortlist for best actor. Director Lee Isaac Chung could also earn his first best-director nomination.

Where can I see it? It’s currently scheduled for a March cinema release.



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© Netflix


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

What’s it about? The events of a tempestuous studio recording session in 1927 featuring a respected blues singer, her hired band and an ambitious trumpet player.

Who’s in it? Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman.

What are its Oscar chances? The late Chadwick Boseman lights up the screen with his energy and talent and is a clear front-runner for best actor. To date, the only performer ever to win a best-actor Oscar posthumously is Peter Finch for Network. (Heath Ledger won a posthumous best-supporting-actor Oscar for The Dark Night in 2009.)

Viola Davis should certainly land a best-supporting-actress nomination. The film itself isn’t certain to get a best-picture nomination but is still in with a chance in the Oscars’ biggest category.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Netflix.



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© Amazon Studios


Sound of Metal

What’s it about? A drummer and those around him deal with the impact when he loses his hearing.

Who’s in it? Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci.

What are its Oscar chances? Riz Ahmed looks a certainty to be nominated for best actor as he already has Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations under his belt. His co-performers, Cooke and Raci, are slightly less certain to feature in the supporting categories but do still stand a chance.

Darius Marder is a very strong possibility for a best-director nomination and it’ll be a big surprise if the film doesn’t end up on the list of best-picture nominees.

Where can I see it? It’s currently scheduled for a March cinema release.



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© Amazon Studios


One Night in Miami

What’s it about? A fictionalised account of a night in the 1960s imagining a gathering of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, singer-songwriter Sam Cooke and NFL player Jim Brown in Miami.

Who’s in it? Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.

What are its Oscar chances? Its director, Regina King, could join the handful of women who’ve been nominated for best director. The film should also end up on the best-picture nominations list.

Of its strong ensemble of performers, Leslie Odom Jr stands the best chance of a nomination in the best-supporting-actor category for his portrayal of Sam Cooke. Yet Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X shouldn’t be ruled out as a best-actor contender.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.






© Universal


Promising Young Woman

What’s it about? A young woman sets out to find justice for her best friend, a victim of rape.

Who’s in it? Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Jennifer Coolidge.

What are its Oscar chances? Carey Mulligan’s acclaimed and formidable performance means she’s widely expected to be nominated for best actress. Thanks to its non-exploitative and often darkly comic handling of the subject matter, Emerald Fennell could well make the best-director shortlist in what could potentially be a record-breaking year for female film-makers.

Where can I see it? It’s currently scheduled for a cinema release in the next few months.



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© Netflix


Mank

What’s it about? It follows screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz and the development of the screenplay for Citizen Kane.

Who’s in it? Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Charles Dance, Tom Burke.

What are its Oscar chances? The Oscars are voted for by people who work in the film industry, so a story exploring how a cinema classic came to be written is sure to strike a chord. Nominations for best picture and for previous best-actor winner Oldman are entirely possible.

Seyfried’s role as actress Marion Davies could also be up for best supporting actress, while director David Fincher – who’s never won an Oscar – could well make the nominations list. A best-director win does seem unlikely at this stage, however.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Netflix.



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© Netflix


Pieces of a Woman

What’s it about? A couple deal with their grief and look for someone to blame after their baby dies shortly after childbirth.

Who’s in it? Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker.

What are its Oscar chances? It had an excellent reception at the Venice Film Festival, where Kirby won best actress. That, along with subsequent awards recognition, has given her a strong claim for a place on the best-actress shortlist at the Academy Awards.

Recent accusations of abusive behaviour by LaBeouf have killed off his awards hopes. Yet Burstyn has a significant chance of being nominated for best supporting actress for her stern performance as Kirby’s mother – and if she manages it at 88, she’ll become the oldest nominee in any Academy Award acting category ever.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Netflix.






© Disney/Pixar


Soul

What’s it about? A school band teacher gets the chance to fulfil his dream of performing at a top jazz club. But an accident takes him to The Great Before, a place inhabited by millions of souls ready to begin new lives on earth

Who’s in it? Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Angela Bassett, Richard Ayoade, Graham Norton.

What are its Oscar chances? Animated movies rarely get nominated for best picture, but this Pixar film looks set to achieve that thanks to its sophisticated but accessible storytelling. It’s therefore probably the favourite to win best animated feature.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Disney+.



Keith Stanfield standing in front of a mirror


© Warner Bros


Judas and the Black Messiah

What’s it about? It’s the story of the Black Panthers, its charismatic leader Fred Hampton and the FBI’s attempts to infiltrate the organisation.

Who’s in it? LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback.

What are its Oscar chances? The film’s chances may have been harmed by it not landing either a best drama Golden Globe nomination or a best ensemble Screen Actors Guild nomination. Its best hopes lie with Daniel Kaluuya’s portrayal of Fred Hampton for best supporting actor, but it shouldn’t be totally ruled out for a best picture nomination.

Where can I see it? It’s currently scheduled for a February cinema release.



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© Netflix


News of the World

What’s it about? A Civil War veteran who travels from town to town relaying the news of the day agrees to take an orphaned young girl to her only remaining family.

Who’s in it? Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Mare Winningham, Elizabeth Marvel.

What are its Oscar chances? The Academy has great affection for six-time nominee and two-time winner Hanks. But the best actor race is particularly competitive this year and he looks like being squeezed out by other performances. Director Paul Greengrass is an outside possibility for a best director nomination, but the film will have a fight to make it onto the best picture shortlist.

With the acting branch being a significant presence at the Oscars, Helena Zengel’s Screen Actors Guild nomination improves her chances of a best supporting actress nomination. At 12 she wouldn’t be the youngest supporting actress nominee though. Six others, including Tatum O’Neal and Anna Paquin, were nominated at younger ages.

Where can I see it? It’s begins streaming on Netflix on 10 February.



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© Lionsgate


The Father

What’s it about? The impact on an 80-year-old man and his family when he begins to experience progressive memory loss.

Who’s in it? Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams, Mark Gatiss.

What are its Oscar chances? Both Hopkins and Colman are previous winners and Academy favourites, so both stand a good chance of being nominated again this year for best actor and best supporting actress respectively.

If Hopkins does land a nomination it will make the 83-year-old the oldest best actor nominee in history, overtaking Richard Farnsworth who was nominated in 2000 for The Straight Story at the age of 79.

Where can I see it? It’s currently scheduled for a March cinema release.



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© Netflix


The Life Ahead

What’s it about? A Holocaust survivor and former sex worker forms a strong bond with an orphaned child.

Who’s in it? Sophia Loren, Ibrahima Gueye.

What are its Oscar chances? It’s been more than half a century since Sophia Loren was last nominated for best actress for Marriage Italian Style in 1965. (She’d won the award three years before for Two Women.) She looks increasingly certain to return to the best actress nominations list this year for her emotional performance in The Life Ahead, which would also make her at 86 the oldest ever best actress nominee – a record currently held by Emmanuelle Riva, who was 85 when she was nominated for Amour in 2013.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Netflix.



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© Netflix


Malcolm & Marie

What’s it about? The stresses and strains that become apparent as a film-making couple examine their relationship.

Who’s in it? John David Washington, Zendaya.

What are its Oscar chances? Zendaya is seen as one of acting’s brightest young stars. She’s already known to younger audiences for her role in the Spider-Man movies and she won an Emmy for Euphoria last year. At 24, she could earn her first Oscar nomination for her role in this beautifully realised black-and-white examination of modern relationships.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Netflix.



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© Entertainment One


The United States vs Billie Holiday

What’s it about? The singer Billie Holiday and the American government’s undercover drugs investigation against her.

Who’s in it? Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund.

What are its Oscar chances? Billie Holiday is an American legend and Diana Ross was Oscar-nominated for playing her in Lady Sings The Blues – so Andra Day has a lot to live up to. The trailer hints at a multi-layered portrayal of a complex woman (reviews are still embargoed). But it’s clear that Day, who’s already got a Golden Globe nomination, is the film’s best shot in the best actress category.

Where can I see it? It’s currently scheduled for a March cinema release.



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© Netflix


Hillbilly Elegy

What’s it about? A Yale law student takes a fresh look at his relationship with his sister, mother and grandmother following a family crisis.

Who’s in it? Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso.

What are its Oscar chances? The critics have not been kind to this film, but the critics don’t decide the major awards. Adams has landed a Screen Actors Guild nomination, while Close has been nominated by both SAG and the Golden Globes. It means they’re now far from outside possibilities for best actress and best supporting actress – a situation few would have predicted when Ron Howard’s film was released last November.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Netflix.



Kate Winslet looking at the camera


© Lionsgate


Ammonite

What’s it about? A fictionalised romance between a leading palaeontologist and a geologist during the 19th Century.

Who’s in it? Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, James McArdle.

What are its Oscar chances? Both previous winner Winslet and four-time nominee Ronan are outside possibilities for nominations this time around in the best actress and best supporting actress categories. Yet while many see Ronan as becoming overdue for recognition, this almost certainly will not be her year.

Where can I see it? It’s currently scheduled for a March cinema release.



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© STX Films


The Mauritanian

What’s it about? The true story of a lawyer who agrees to defend a 9/11 suspect being held at Guantanamo.

Who’s in it? Tahir Rahim, Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley.

What are its Oscar chances? Both Rahim and Foster have been nominated at this year’s Golden Globes – but Oscar recognition looks less likely.

Where can I see it? It’s currently scheduled for a release in the next few months.



a woman is walking down the street


© Amazon Studios


Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

What’s it about? Fictional Kazhakstani journalist Borat returns to America in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential election, accompanied by his daughter Tutar.

Who’s in it? Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova.

What are its Oscar chances? For many, Maria Bakalova is the favourite to win best supporting actress for her often hilarious performance as Borat’s daughter.

Where can I see it? It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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