Seeding the Best Picture contenders

by | Mar 25, 2021 | Arts and Entertainment | 0 comments

Let’s say you’re one of those people — I myself have been among your ranks — who takes pride in seeing every movie nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

There’s no shame in that. It means that, every year, you’re going to see some excellent films and likely some that you would not have seen otherwise. (It does not mean, however, that you automatically get an edge in your Oscar pool, because you might fall in love with a movie that has no chance of winning the big prize and vote your heart instead of your head. It’s the same demon that haunts so many NCAA basketball pools.)

The Academy Award nominations were announced last week, and the ceremony is scheduled for April 25. That gives you about a month to track down all the Best Picture nominations — but with many theaters still closed due to the pandemic and many of these films on streaming services, the completist faces a real challenge this year.

Let me help by stealing a trick from the NCAA tournament and seeding the eight nominees for Best Picture in what appears (right now) to be their chances to win the top prize. This, at least, increases the chances that even if you don’t get to see all eight, you might see the big winner before the ceremony, which would give you cred around the office watercooler the day after the ceremony. That is, it would if the offices we worked in were open on April 26. And if the offices had watercoolers.

Here’s the order in which I would see this year’s nominees:

  1. Nomadland,” Chloe Zhao’s drama about a woman (Frances McDormand) who loses everything in the Great Recession and embarks on a journey in her van through the West, is the current front-runner. But it’s hard to be the Oscar favorite wire-to-wire; we’ll see if the film’s stock plummets over the next month. See it in theaters or on Hulu.
  2. “Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung’s warm-hearted drama about a Korean-American family that moves to Arkansas, could move into the top spot if “Nomadland” stumbles. As of this writing, the movie wasn’t playing locally, but it is available on streaming services.
  3. “Promising Young Woman” is Emerald Fennell’s icy thriller-black comedy about a woman (Carey Mulligan, a favorite to win Best Actress) who concocts an ingenious scheme to trap would-be rapists. See it in theaters or on streaming services.
  4. “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Aaron Sorkin’s drama about the infamous trial after the 1968 Democratic Convention, lost momentum when Sorkin didn’t nab a nomination for Best Director. It’s on Netflix.
  5. “Mank,” David Fincher’s drama about screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz as he struggles to write “Citizen Kane,” is gorgeous, but the sense is that Academy voters respect it more than they love it. It’s on Netflix.
  6. “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Shaka KIng’s riveting drama about Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and the FBI informant who betrayed him, might be moving up this list, but it’s got a ways to go. It’s in theaters; it was on HBO Max, but the streamer pulled it off the service the day before the Oscar nominations.
  7. “The Father,” featuring Anthony Hopkins in a bravura performance as a man stricken by dementia, likely will go home empty-handed on Oscar night; Hopkins would be a Best Actor favorite if he weren’t competing against Chadwick Boseman for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” As of this writing, it’s not in mid-valley theaters, but it’s available on streaming services.
  8. “Sound of Metal,” featuring Riz Ahmed in a blistering performance as a drummer who’s losing his hearing, also could make a move up the list. It’s not in mid-valley theaters, but is available on Amazon Prime.

As you see these flicks, drop me a note and let’s talk about them. And I’m looking to revive my annual Oscar challenge, in which I invite readers to best me at predicting the winners in all 24 categories, with someone potentially walking away with 25 bucks of my hard-earned money. (And this year, I’ll need to take that personally.) Look for that in the middle of April.

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