The McNeil Minute | My Reactions to the 2021 Oscar Nominations

The Often Diverse, but Sometimes Head-Scratching Oscar Nominations

We always applaud diversity and inclusion at the Oscars, right? Yes, of course we do. We know that they have failed in the past, where others may or may not have as well. Yes, I am happy that there's more diversity in the nominations, more women, and more history being made. But, there are still problems here. They nominated eight films for Best Picture. They could have nominated 10. For some arbitrary reason, they decide not to. Why? The world may never know. And my problem lies in the fact that the Oscars pride themselves for their diverse nominees. Bravo. However, they left out two Black-led, even films with all Black casts that were more than deserving of nominations. It is simply just baffling to me. The Oscars and everyone else can pat themselves on the back, but I think they still failed in certain respects. Aside from all that, I am happy (for the most part) with all of the nominees. I will get into the snubs, the surprises, and the mind boggling picks.

OK. Let's get into it.

Best Visual Effects

  • Love and Monsters - Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox 
  • The Midnight Sky - Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins
  • Mulan - Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram
  • The One and Only Ivan - Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez
  • Tenet - Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher

This is typically where the Oscars really goof up. And I feel that they did once again. Mank was one of the frontrunners for Best Visual Effects, and for good reason. It is not a film you would expect to be recognized for VFX, but just watch the film and you'll know what I'm talking about. I mentioned before that The One and Only Ivan has bad visual effects and you can even tell from the trailer. So that nominee is a joke. Next, Mulan only got in because of Disney money. Almost guaranteed. I don't even know what Love and Monsters is. And then we have The Midnight Sky, although I haven't seen it, probably deserves its nomination. So, that leaves us with Tenet, which is going to be the winner, no question about it. It has the best Visual Effects of the year, easily, and I've been singing its praises for several months now.

Best Production Design

  • The Father - Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom - Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton
  • Mank - Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale
  • News of the World - Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan
  • Tenet - Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

I really can't argue too much with these picks, and they aren't huge surprises for those who have been following the awards circuit closely. However, I would say that a big snub here would be Emma. Period pieces are typically rewarded for their production design, and it was criminally left out this year. I felt the film itself was decent, but if it were to be rewarded for anything, it would be Production Design. As far as our nominees here are concerned, I'm pretty happy with all of them being here. And since it has been winning all year, I will predict Mank to win in this category. I think Mank will be (and has been) overlooked in several categories, but this will not be one of them.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Emma - Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze
  • Hillbilly Elegy - Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, Matthew Mungle 
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom - Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson
  • Mank - Kimberley Spiteri, Gigi Williams, Colleen LaBaff
  • Pinocchio - Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, Francesco Pegoretti

On the other hand, we do have one category in which Emma will be recognized - makeup and hair. No surprise there, either. As far as the rest of the nominees, pretty much what I expected here except for Pinocchio, which I completely unaware even release this year or last. That being said, it certainly won't win but big ups to you for being nominated, I guess. In any case, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will win here as it will continue its dominance in categories of the like. Sadly, it's not being recognized where it really counts, and where it deserved to be seen.

Best International Feature Film

  • Another Round (Denmark) 
  • Better Days (Hong Kong)
  • Collective (Romania) 
  • The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
  • Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina) 

I got absolutely wrecked in this category where my predictions are concerned. I only predicted Another Round and Collective would be nominated, the rest I was way off. As I've only seen one of these, and as of right now, it's still one of my favorite films of the year - I have to go with Another Round winning. Especially considering the film receiving a nomination later on that I will reveal was a pleasant surprise.

Best Film Editing

  • The Father - Yorgos Lamprinos
  • Nomadland - Chloé Zhao 
  • Promising Young Woman - Frédéric Thoraval 
  • Sound of Metal - Mikkel E.G. Nielsen 
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 - Alan Baumgarten 

The film which I felt had the best editing of the year was unfortunately left out here: Tenet. I knew it would be unrealistic to think it would gain a nomination, since Best Editing is typically tied to Best Picture. Now, I can't really complain about any of the nominees here (except Trial) so I'm pretty happy with how this turned out, save for the Tenet snub (sorry, Jennifer Lame). Of the nominees listed here, I would be happy with any of them winning (except Trial). But, if I had to choose just one, I would have to say The Father had the best (and my favorite) editing of the pack. I will go out on a limb and predict it to win here, especially since it has so much to do with the plot. It's not overly flashy; it's effective, it's efficient, and it really heightens and elevates the storytelling. It puts us in the place of the protagonist and adds to his confusion, and ours. I remark more on the editing of the film in my review, if you're interested. Another snub I wanted to point out is Mank being omitted in this category. The editing in that film was made to look like an old timey film using transitions seen from that era. I thought it was well done and the transitions well-placed, but the Academy and I rarely see eye-to-eye when it comes to the Best Editing category. *eye roll*

Best Documentary Feature

  • Collective - Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana
  • Crip Camp - Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht and Sara Bolder
  • The Mole Agent - Maite Alberdi and Marcela Santibáñez
  • My Octopus Teacher - Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster
  • Time - Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino and Kellen Quinn

I won't spend too much time on this category as this was another where my predictions were destroyed. Not to mention, I don't typically watch too many documentary features to begin with. What I have seen, and what I feel will win, is Time. It's a very emotional and heartbreaking look at a family impacted by the incarceration of their husband and father. It's shot in black and white and features real footage, home videos, and an inside look at their lives. It will undoubtedly win and even though I haven't seen the others, it still feels like a documentary unlike any other and one that the Academy would choose.

Best Cinematography

  • Judas and the Black Messiah - Sean Bobbitt 
  • Mank - Erik Messerschmidt 
  • News of the World - Dariusz Wolski 
  • Nomadland - Joshua James Richards 
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 - Phedon Papamichael 

This is another category in which I'm very happy to see the nominees here (except Trial). I was also pleased to see Judas and the Black Messiah recognized for the cinematography, which was superb in that film. As I've stated before in previous articles, it's really only between Mank and Nomadland. The other nominees are just glad to be there, I'm sure. It seems to me that Mank has been on the receiving end of many choices. I feel it will be this year's Irishman, which received 10 nominations and no wins. Nomadland has been all but sweeping the cinematography awards across the board. I will predict Nomadland will continue that trend. It is beautifully shot and uses mostly natural light. I can definitely appreciate this approach and really cannot complain if it does win.

Best Costume Design

  • Emma - Alexandra Byrne 
  • Mank - Trish Summerville 
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom - Ann Roth 
  • Mulan - Bina Daigeler 
  • Pinocchio - Massimo Cantini Parrini

Once again, the film I didn't even know existed, Pinocchio sneaks in and steals a nomination from a film perhaps more deserving. Other than that, no real surprises here. I want Emma to win, as I feel it is the most deserving of the bunch. Alas, it will be Ma Rainey's Black Bottom which I described as having the most authentic and true to the time period costumes of any film. I want to make it known that I won't be upset if it wins, quite on the contrary, I'll be happy it at least wins something to make up for its snubs elsewhere. And we'll get to that later.

Best Sound

  • Greyhound - Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman
  • Mank - Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin
  • News of the World - Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett
  • Soul - Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker
  • Sound of Metal - Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh

I don't think I need to dive too deep into this category. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is one and only one winner here. And that is Sound of Metal. You can read my review to get my deep dive into why this should (and will) win Best Sound. One thing I will say is Greyhound seemed to come out of nowhere in this category. Also, two Tom Hanks movies up for Best Sound! Cool!

Best Original Score

  • Da 5 Bloods - Terence Blanchard 
  • Mank - Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross 
  • Minari - Emile Mosseri 
  • News of the World - James Newton Howard 
  • Soul - Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste 

For those who have been following along, and have read my previous articles, you'll know exactly who I think will win. And it's clear that it's Reznor and Ross. But not for Mank! Their work, along with Jon Batiste, for Soul. It has been winning everything and I have to think it will continue to do so. One big snub here is Luwig Goransson's amazing score for Tenet. That would have been my pick, but here we are. Again, I can't argue too much with Reznor, Ross, and Batiste's work on Soul. I think the piano part of the score is remarkable and unlike anything I've ever heard in a film and deserves to be rewarded.

Best Original Song

  • Fight for You (Judas and the Black Messiah). Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas
  • Hear My Voice (The Trial of the Chicago 7). Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite
  • Húsavík (Eurovision Song Contest). Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson
  • Io Si (Seen) (The Life Ahead). Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
  • Speak Now (One Night in Miami). Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

It appears that the "joke" song has made it in, after all. Husavik from Eurovision sneaks in and grabs that final spot, despite being from a film that isn't typically rewarded at the Oscars. Regardless, it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. I will hold strong with my previous prediction, and I believe that Speak Now from One Night in Miami will still win. The other song I could see upsetting it is Io Si (Seen) from The Life Ahead. It won the globe and I've heard a lot of hype around the song and the fact that Diane Warren is so respected. Still though, I stand by my prediction and feel confident in it.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Judas and the Black Messiah - Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas
  • Minari - Lee Isaac Chung 
  • Promising Young Woman - Emerald Fennell 
  • Sound of Metal - Screenplay by Darius Marder, Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 - Aaron Sorkin

No big surprises here exist, except that admittedly I am a bit surprised that the Academy actually followed through with nominating Judas and the Black Messiah for Best Original Screenplay. I'm very glad and pleasantly surprised that it did land here, and it was more than deserved. Really, I'm happy to see every script and writer nominated here (except Sorkin for Trial). By this point, you might be wondering, "Why the hate for The Trial of the Chicago 7?" This might be a fair question, but what I will say is this: I just find it an insult to the artform to reward mediocrity. Sorkin is a fine writer, but he is capable of much better work, given his previous scripts. Even with that being said, it seems I'm in the minority with that thought process. I believe it will be between Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. There are two trains of thought here: the Academy can go with the safe and predictable pick of choosing Sorkin to win for The Trial of the Chicago 7. Or, they can reward true originality and quality with Promising Young Woman. Plus, it's a win for the Academy going with a female writer, for once. The Academy loves Sorkin, and they love to award him. So, there's that as well. I am going to go with my heart instead of my mind and say that they will give the golden statue to Emerald Fennell for her subversive work in writing Promising Young Woman. But, they could just as easily (perhaps too easily) go with Sorkin for Trial, as well. Watch out for that happening instead. One can only hope for the better of the two possible (likely) outcomes.


Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm - Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad
  • The Father - Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
  • Nomadland - Chloé Zhao 
  • One Night in Miami - Kemp Powers 
  • The White Tiger - Ramin Bahrani

This is another head-scratcher as far as nominees and snubs go. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a fun, funny, risky, and risque movie, but to say it's Oscar-worthy is baffling and laughable. The White Tiger is another which seemed to come out of nowhere and take a spot from perhaps a more deserving nominee. What I am referring to, of course, is Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. I loved the screenplay and felt that it would have done well here, but as it turns out is a shocking snub in this category. This isn't the only category where it got screwed, but we'll get to that later. As for the adapted screenplays that were nominated, I am pretty happy with what made it. I can only lament what didn't. News of the World was another surprising snub here in this category. I dare say it may not have been Oscar worthy, but it was one of the five frontrunners for the cateogry, so it's a little surprising it was left out. We can talk about what is or isn't here all we want, but anyone who has paid any attention at all will know what is likely to take home the win in this category. Chloe Zhao for her adaptation of Nomadland has dominated thus far and I don't see her slowing down anytime soon. For that and so much more, I will predict her to win the Oscar.

Best Animated Feature Film

  • Onward (Pixar) 
  • Over the Moon (Netflix) 
  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix) 
  • Soul (Pixar) 
  • Wolfwalkers (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) 

It's hard to see anything else but Soul winning this category. As I've mentioned before, Wolfwalkers has a chance to upset it, but I don't think that's likely to happen. The other nominees simply just don't have a chance. Seems hard, but it doesn't even feel worthy of a discussion at this point. Sorry, not sorry about it.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) 
  • Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy) 
  • Olivia Colman (The Father) 
  • Amanda Seyfried (Mank) 
  • Yuh-jung Youn (Minari) 

I have said before that this is quite possibly the most up-in-the-air category we have this year. As far as the nominees, there are no real surprises, especially for those who have been following along. You could make the case for literally anyone winning here, but I feel that realistically it's between Maria Bakalova for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and Yuh-jung Youn for Minari. Again, there are cases to be made. For example, the narrative around Glenn Close is that she has never won an Oscar, and is one of the most nominated thespians we have today. Olivia Colman could win for her subtle and nuanced performance in The Father. Not to mention, the Academy loves her. And as for Amanda Seyfried for Mank, that is the type of performance the Academy has rewarded in the past: a great portrayal of an historic figure. As I mentioned before, the front-runners appear to be Youn and Bakalova. As for who they'd pick, really I have no idea. But I am going to go with Yuh-jung Youn for Minari. I believe this would make Oscar history if she does, but I cannot be certain. It would be really cool, I can't lie.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • 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)

This category is both great and confusing. Firstly, I am happy for ALL of the nominees. Even though I was iffy on Trial, I did feel that it was a well-acted film. Specifically Cohen's performance. Credit where credit's due, right? Now, I loved Lakeith Stanfield's performance in this film and I love him as an actor (check this out). But, this feels a little bit like category fraud. If he wasn't the lead, and Kaluuya wasn't, then who was? I won't complain too much because the two of them had some of the best performances of the year, and my favorites. So, I'll shut up about it now. I was very happy to see Paul Raci recognized for his role in Sound of Metal, as well. A very well deserved nomination here. No surprise to see Leslie Odom Jr for his portrayal of Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami. Again, another one of the best performances of the year. This is a rare case of the Academy actually getting it right (??)! Weird, I know. Anyway, with all that being said, I still feel that Daniel Kaluuya for his role as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah will continue his sweep this year. It's well deserved, it's what I want, and it's what will happen.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) 
  • Andra Day (The United States v. Billie Holiday) 
  • Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman) 
  • Frances McDormand (Nomadland) 
  • Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) 

No surprises here, either. I predicted these five would be nominated. It was clear to see if you watched awards season until now. I will reiterate what I've said before, any of these five could win and you could make a case for any of them. A win for any of them would be deserved. They were all fantastic in their respective films. As far as the frontrunner right now, I would say Carey Mulligan followed closely by Viola Davis and Frances McDormand. Andra Day had the surprise win at the Globes and Vanessa Kirby hasn't won anything yet, but watch out for her to possibly win the BAFTA. If she does, that would shoot her up there. But I wouldn't count on it. And even so, I still don't think she would surpass the top 3, let alone Carey Mulligan for that matter. That being said, I am going to predict Carey Mulligan for her lead performance in Promising Young Woman to win just because it was more of a dynamic performance, to me, than any of the five.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) 
  • Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) 
  • Anthony Hopkins (The Father) 
  • Gary Oldman (Mank) 
  • Steven Yeun (Minari) 

Not a surprise to be found in this category. I predicted these five to make it as well. We can talk about the other performances, how great they are, and it would all be true. But the truest of all is that Chadwick Boseman will win here for his final performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. One can't help but think that any other year, Anthony Hopkins might have won for his magnificent performance in The Father. More on that here. I could also see and would be very happy with Riz Ahmed winning for Sound of Metal. He was terrific in that, as well. More on Boseman, he showcased his wonderful talent in his heartfelt, heartwrenching, and heartbreaking performance in the film. The script gave him the multiple opportunities to showcase his performative range, and he did that with flying colors. Again, I am very happy that he will win, but I can't help but wonder what it might have been like for these other actors the year before last, or perhaps next year.

Best Director

  • Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round)
  • David Fincher (Mank) 
  • Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) 
  • Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) 
  • Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) 

Four nominees here are not surprises whatsoever, after following the race for a long while. However, Thomas Vinterberg for his direction in Another Round is a pleasant surprise here sneaking in and stealing a spot. While I'm happy for him, as I loved the film, I can't help but be a little bit confused as to why he made it, and not someone like Regina King for One Night in Miami. This further points to the fact that the Academy still has issues with diversity and inclusion. Yes, they've made strides with the nominees here, and yes, I'm happy that Aaron Sorkin didn't make it for his lackluster direction in Trial of the Chicago 7, but I am befuddled that Regina King, Shaka King for Judas and the Black Messiah, George C Wolfe for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, or perhaps even Spike Lee made it in if you want people of color recognized in the director category. Again, I am very happy for Thomas Vinterberg, but sometimes who the Academy leaves out is just confounding to me. Moving on. I don't think it really matters who they have nominated, because Chloe Zhao for Nomadland is going to clean sweep every director award throughout the course of Awards Season, with the Oscars being no exception to that rule. It is going to be well deserved, and it is going to make Oscar history if and when she does.

Best Picture

  • The Father - (David Parfitt, Jean-Louis Livi and Philippe Carcassonne, producers)
  • Judas and the Black Messiah - (Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler, producers)
  • Mank - (Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski, producers)
  • Minari - (Christina Oh, producer)
  • Nomadland - (Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey and Chloé Zhao, producers)
  • Promising Young Woman - (Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell and Josey McNamara, producers)
  • Sound of Metal - (Bert Hamelinck and Sacha Ben Harroche, producers)
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 - (Marc Platt and Stuart Besser, producers)

Now we finally come to the big kahuna. As I alluded to earlier, they only chose to nominate eight films here, which is simply baffling to me. I will never understand why they won't use the full 10 possible nominees. Here are the casualties of not including just two more best picture nominees: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and One Night in Miami. And again, these two films getting screwed over just makes no sense to me whatsoever. The Academy has been criticized for not recognizing black filmmakers, and they have done it here once again. If someone can explain it to me, that would be greatly appreciated. And it's not like throwing them in would be "woke" or anything - it would have been rewarding quality films for their hard work and dedication to stories that need and deserve to be told. In any case, they were inexplicably left out, but luckily they did recognize Judas and the Black Messiah; which, in my opinion, would have been more egregious to leave out, but I digress. The films that we do have were pretty much my best case scenario where Best Picture nominees were concerned. Of course, I would have left out The Trial of the Chicago 7 myself. And if we had to throw another Netflix film in there over it, it would have been Ma Rainey. This leaves me to wonder if they didn't want to give certain studios or distributors "too many films or nominations" because Netflix has two Best Picture nominees in there and Amazon has one (Sound of Metal). One Night in Miami would have given Amazon two, and Netflix three for Ma Rainey. Who knows?

In any case, the films up there deserve to be there (except Trial) and I have to say I'm glad something like Borat Subsequent Moviefilm wasn't thrown in there, either. Regardless of my thoughts on the matter, I do believe that the Best Picture race is down to two films, with one potential spoiler. The two primary, frontrunner films are The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Nomadland. The film with the potential to spoil their fun is Minari. This would then make two years in a row Korean dominated films will have won Best Picture (how exciting!). I have been saying for a long time that I do believe Nomadland will win, and this was all the way back when it won The Golden Lion at Venice and The Audience Award at TIFF (which no film has ever done before in history). Nomadland then went on a run winning a bunch of critics awards, winning the Golden Globe for Best Drama, it won the Critics Choice Award, and has been the frontrunner for pretty much everything else. I believe it's going to continue its historic run all the way through the Oscars. Even with all that said, and as much as I hate to admit it, I would watch out for a surprise upset by The Trial of The Chicago 7 (I may have just thrown up a little in my mouth) and with even more of an outside shot, Minari upsetting them both. I would prefer if something like Judas and the Black Messiah won, but I recognize that it has almost no shot. The words nearly make me choke to say. But really, I would be happy with anything but Trial winning. Get the hashtag going!


So, what do you guys think? Am I somewhat right? Completely wrong?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


The Academy Awards Ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 25th at 5PM Pacific, 7PM Central!

Rob McNeil

My name is Rob McNeil. I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois and I am a 28 year-old award winning screenwriter. I am very passionate about film, so much that I watch far too many films on a daily basis. I have written fifteen feature screenplays, a spec pilot thriller series, and several short scripts. I aim to make filmmaking a career, but for now, I will write about it.

Rob McNeil

My name is Rob McNeil. I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois and I am a 28 year-old award winning screenwriter. I am very passionate about film, so much that I watch far too many films on a daily basis. I have written fifteen feature screenplays, a spec pilot thriller series, and several short scripts. I aim to make filmmaking a career, but for now, I will write about it.

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