Amanda’s Picks: Oscars 2021 Predictions

Happy Oscar Sunday everyone! After a very long Oscar season, we are finally ready to award some great films. Truly never thought this season would be over. The work never stops though because we are always planning for the next season. I am very happy for all the nominees this year because there are some films that would normally fly under the radar and now they are getting recognition.

WHO WILL WIN WILL BE HIGHLIGHTED IN GOLD

WHO SHOULD WIN WILL BE HIGHLIGHTED IN PURPLE

So without further ado, here are my predictions:

Best Visual Effects

“Love and Monsters”

“The Midnight Sky”

“Mulan”

“The One and Only Ivan”

“Tenet”

PREDICTION: Tenet is the clear frontrunner here because of the practical effects. Love and Monsters is also something that could come in and swipe that away.

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)

David Fincher (“Mank”) 

Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) 

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) 

Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) 

PREDICTION: Chloé Zhao has been sweeping award season and there is no doubt about it that she will be making history tonight with this win.

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”)

PREDICTION: Daniel Kaluuya hands down. His performance in Judas and the Black Messiah is one for the history books.

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”) 

PREDICTION: Yuh-jung Youn has had an incredible award season and her performance stole my heart!

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”) 

PREDICTION: Chadwick Boseman is going to win and deserves to win because his performance was on another level this year. It was incredibly moving and very emotional. You could feel his passion for the words through the physicality in his performance.

Best Animated Feature Film

“Onward” (Pixar) 

“Over the Moon” (Netflix) 

“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (Netflix) 

“Soul” (Pixar) 

“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) 

PREDICTION: Soul is the obvious frontrunner because it is a beautiful Pixar film and the animation is stunning. However, Wolfwalkers is unique and there is an appreciation for the three-dimensional hand-drawn elements in its animaton. So it is a close one.

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”) 

Prediction: This is such a tough category and it is impossible to predict this year! I would be happy with either Davis or Mulligan winning but the edge on Mulligan.

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 

PREDICTION: The Father had a very strong script but I personally don’t think the execution elevated it at all. One Night in Miami is dialogue heavy and keeps you engaged from beginning to end.

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 

PREDICTION: The TOUGHEST category because they are all strong in their own way. Since Emerald Fennell has been getting traction off her WGA win, it’s only fair to assume that she has sealed the deal. Personally Judas and the Black Messiah had an incredible screenplay because of how intricate the story was and the dialogue.

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

PREDICTION: Solely because of its Golden Globe win it is entirely possible that they follow suit. However, Leslie Odom Jr. created a beautiful song for One Night in Miami and if this movie wins anything, it needs to be this category.

Best Picture

“The Father”

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

“Mank”

“Minari” (SHOULD WIN)

“Nomadland” (WILL WIN)

“Promising Young Woman”

“Sound of Metal”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7″

PREDICTION: Nomadland has become the Oscar darling but it is not a well-rounded film. The technical aspects are the most important part of the film but the story was lacking. Minari was a well-rounded all American film with a beautiful family dynamic and it should be the winner this year.

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 

PREDICTION: Soul has it in the bag because of the mixture of jazz and electronic dance music. Truly some of Reznor and Ross’ best work.

Best Sound

“Greyhound”

“Mank”

“News of the World”

“Soul”

“Sound of Metal”

PREDICTION: Sound of Metal is a lock because of how they switched the frequency when Reuben was losing his hearing. You could understand what he was going through because you could heard the shift. Incredible work.

Best Costume Design

“Emma”

“Mank”

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

“Mulan”

“Pinocchio”

PREDICTION: Realistically the competition is between Ma Rainey’s and Emma because they are period pieces and they looked beautiful on-screen. Do not keep Mank out of the conversation because it is old Hollywood glam.

Best Animated Short Film

“Burrow” (Disney Plus/Pixar)

“Genius Loci” (Kazak Productions) 

“If Anything Happens I Love You” (Netflix) 

“Opera” (Beasts and Natives Alike) 

“Yes-People” (CAOZ hf. Hólamói) 

Best Live-Action Short Film

“Feeling Through” 

“The Letter Room” 

“The Present” 

“Two Distant Strangers” 

“White Eye” 

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 

PREDICTION: As I said the technical aspects in Nomadland will take the gold for sure and the cinematography was beautiful. She really captured the scenic landscapes across the country. I did think Judas and the Black Messiah had such a unique style and camera work was very strong.

Best Documentary Feature

“Collective”

“Crip Camp”

“The Mole Agent”

“My Octopus Teacher”

“Time”

Best Documentary Short Subject

“Colette”

“A Concerto Is a Conversation”

“Do Not Split”

“Hunger Ward”

“A Love Song for Latasha”

Best Film Editing

“The Father”

“Nomadland”

“Promising Young Woman”

“Sound of Metal”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7″

PREDICTION: Again, it is Nomadland’s to lose because of the technical aspects. However, when it comes to editing pieces of music or instrumental scenes, I feel like Sound of Metal would be the better choice. Also, we can’t cancel out The Father either because of the cycle of consciousness fading in and out for the protagonist.

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) 

PREDICTION: Another Round has been taking the season by storm and the director is also nominated so that is saying a lot. However, after watching Better Days and interviewing the director, Derek Tsang, the execution and honest storytelling should give it the edge.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Emma”

“Hillbilly Elegy” 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

“Mank”

“Pinocchio”

PREDICTION: Viola Davis was completely transformed as Ma Rainey, so it’s only fitting that it would take this category. I can see Emma steal it here as it did have some good qualities about it.

Best Production Design

“The Father.” 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

“Mank.”

“News of the World.”

“Tenet.”

PREDICTION: The reason why The Father could win is because of how the production design changing paralleled the lead character’s descent into his illness. But, Ma Rainey’s design just felt rich in its colours and decoration with the only two rooms they had to work with. Again, do not count Mank out of the conversation.

If you haven’t voted yet, here is a prediction ballot link for the Oscars, thanks to The Academy. This is what it generated for me the other night. Yes, there are some changes but it’s still so difficult to choose.

Well there you have it! My full list of predictions. Let’s hope I get some right tonight. Let’s face it, even though we complain about the season, we always love to watch on Oscar Sunday.

‘The Father’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Father written and directed by Florian Zeller dives into the mind of an elderly man suffering with dementia. Anne (Olivia Colman) takes care of her father Anthony (Sir Anthony Hopkins) and begins to notice that he is slipping further away into this illness. She doesn’t know how to care for him properly, so she must find a way to make him as comfortable as possible and help him adapt to his surroundings. Zeller’s script would be interesting to read. After all, it is his play that he adapted to screen and I’m sure it is executed differently onstage. Even though the performances were absolutely brilliant, there was something that was lacking.

There were very strong moments between Coleman and Hopkins, very natural, emotional moments that candidly presented the illness. However, due to the execution of this script and the editing of the film, those moments got lost in the execution of the film. Of course, I can appreciate and understand what Zeller was attempting to do. He showed Anthony switch in-and-out of consciousness throughout the film but unfortunately, it hurt the narrative and the emotional connection to these characters. The film is more of a character piece than a clear narrative and that is completely fine but it doesn’t work as a film.

I truly would have loved to see this onstage because it would have had minimal production value and maybe even a smaller cast. It wouldn’t rely on the visual storytelling in regards to Anthony’s internalized mental struggle. The editing and the production design did work for the story Zeller was trying to tell and I commend him for trying something different. As we see Anthony fall into the depths of this illness, his surroundings begin to change; the flat that he lives in is slowly stripped away to reveal where he is actually living, in a care facility. It is a very interesting watch because of those elements, I just wish I could have connected to these characters a bit more.

The Father had incredible performances, especially from Sir Anthony Hopkins but the execution was flawed. The final scene of this film, where he attempted to explain what he was going through, was what should have been explored a bit more throughout. It felt like the conversations with his daughter Anne, took hold of his own emotional suffering and it would have been more effective to show that as well. That final scene brought me to tears and it is some of Hopkins’ best work as an actor. As someone who has seen what this illness can do firsthand, it did accurately show what happens to everyone involved in an interesting way and I respect what was done.

Derek Tsang’s Oscar-Nominated ‘Better Days’ Is A Brutally Honest Story About Bullying


By: Amanda Guarragi

The one thing that we can all agree on is that everyone has had their fair encounters with bullying. No matter how minor the bullying could have been, we can all acknowledge that it exists. People can be cruel, violent, and completely horrible. Bullying, can take many forms and sometimes it is impossible to get out of that position. In Better Days, something that really stood out to me was the line, “Either you bully others or you get bullied.” and no matter your position, there is some form of it every single day. Derek Tsang wanted to address this specific issue for many years and when his producer handed him the novel by Jiu Yuexi’s book ‘In His Youth, In Her Beauty‘, he could finally tell the story through a specific lens.

Tsang wanted to shed light on this issue because it was always a fascinating subject. He addressed social platforms like YouTube and Facebook having multiple videos of young children being bullied. Smartphones have made it very accessible for these traumatic situations to appear on any platform in the matter of minutes. “That is when it really shocked me, as to how these kids can do that sort of stuff to each other. The idea of making a film to personally address the issue has been there since. It has been around for a long time but I was always trying to find an angle to help tell the story.” Tsang said.

What can most definitely be appreciated about this film is Tsang being extremely honest with his audience. He did not shy away from showing the most violent, emotionally damaging and traumatic moments at all. I’m sure everyone will appreciate the fact that Tsang wanted to make it authentic as possible, “I really wanted all of the slaps, punches and hits to be real. So that the audience can really feel the pain.” When directing one of the harsher scenes, Tsang made sure that his lead actress, Dongyu Zhou, who plays Nian, was comfortable with this level of physical contact for the scene, “She was very professional, she said she wanted that as well because she didn’t want it to look fake.” There was a level of trust that was built on this set, among the entire cast and crew because of the story they were bringing to the screen.

What was really interesting to see was the budding relationship between Nian and Bei (Jackson Yee), they started out as a very unlikely pairing, meeting in an alleyway because some men were beating Bei. Nian, who had clearly seen enough bullying/harassment at that point in the film, goes to save him, even if she was manhandled, she wanted to save someone. Nian and Bei lived two very different lives, they are on opposite ends of the spectrum and they slowly become dependent on the other. There is a mutual respect and love for one another, given the cards that they were dealt in life,

“So we told them, not only do you guys have to treat each other like boyfriend and girlfriend, but I want you guys to be family, like a brother and sister, in which you would sacrifice yourself for the other, to survive. So that’s how we really approached that relationship. I mean it was really fascinating to watch the actors slowly getting into that trust and bond as well. We shot everything in linear sequence and it just worked it out perfectly.”

-Derek Tsang, Better Days

The performances from Yee and Zhou were incredible. You could truly see their connection become stronger as the film went on and filming it in linear sequence, presented a different feel to their relationship. Anyone can resonate with this kind of bond. Tsang said, “It was more like two people becoming one entity, in their belief, in their wish, or hope in escaping this situation, or the city itself.” Tsang also shows the class system very well and dives into the hierarchy in the education system as well. There are people who will always have an air of superiority and that is something that can only be dismantled, from within the system, which created that mentality.

When asked about how children can sometimes feel ashamed that they are being bullied, Tsang mentioned that it is a very difficult position to be in. Whether you are the child being bullied, or the authority figure trying to help them. Children do not want to admit that they are being bullied because they do not even know what the consequences could be after reaching out to someone. They live in constant fear of speaking out because they overthink what could possibly happen to them. “Kids in that situation a lot of times, they find themselves very helpless. In a way we kind of wanted to convey that message in the film, that’s why we have the point-of-view of the teacher and the parents.” Tsang said. He explored all avenues and wanted to present a whole piece about those who are suffering from bullying and how to help.

Even though the story was very bleak and poignant, the journey for Tsang and his crew was very memorable. When you bond over a mutual respect for an issue and a love for your craft, that bond is like no other. And Tsang was able to find both throughout his journey. He shared a memory with me,

There is one photo that you could find online, everytime I see that photo it always brings warmth and a smile to my face. There’s a photo of us, it was taken immediately after we shot the scene, when the actor and actress shaved their head. In solidarity, I told my actors, especially my actress because it’s a big thing for an actress to shave her head. So I said, if you’re going to do it, I’ll do it with you guys. I’m going to shave my head and it was just amazing bc not only me but a lot of the crew, we all shaved our head in solidarity with the actors.”

– Derek Tsang, Better Days

In the time they spent together, they became very close and in telling this brutally honest story, it brought them even closer. Better Days is a labor of love and audiences who watch this film will understand the message. Everyone needs a bit more compassion, empathy and most importantly love in their life. For a film to have this much support off-screen, for a serious subject matter like bullying, it can be very rewarding. The importance of addressing these issues authentically will help so many others in the long-run.

cdrama tweets on Twitter: "Director #DerekTsang thanks Weibo Movie Night  for the honor and shares a new BTS pic of #ZhouDongyu, #YiYangQianXi, and  other cast and crew members on the set of #

‘The Van’ Short Film Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Van directed by Erenik Beqiri shows the resilience of a young man who needs to pay his wait out of Albania. He already works during the day with his father but it isn’t enough to survive. What we see is two different perceptions of how to survive. Ben (Phénix Brossard) finds side hustles in order to survive, whereas his father (Arben Bajraktaraj) believes in hard work. The generational divide is ultimately put to the test, when Ben joins a fighting ring, in order to earn some extra cash. The family drama highlights the lengths people will go to for their family.

The film is beautifully shot and the aspect ratio benefits the story, as we fully see the Ben’s physique in the frame. Each time Ben exits the van, his wounds get worse. The close ups are completely necessary in showing his pain and his emotions while processing his next move. The lighting choices were also effective because of the contrast of warmth and steely tones in certain scenes. The yellowish tones were used when Ben was safe at home with his father, whereas the steely blues were used near the van. The technical aspects of this film worked extremely well and made and elevated the story.

The Van de Erenik Beqiri (2019) - UniFrance
Courtesy of Anima Pictures

The Van is a short film that shows the journey of a father and son, trying to make their way out of a life that seems impossible to advance in. Ben is pushed to his limits and doesn’t quite know when, or even how, to stop these actions. Once he sees the money payoff, it is hard to leave the toxic environment. It is a brutal story of making a living and Ben does teach his father about how to function in this new era of society. The only way to survive is to cut corners, even if there are difficult tasks being handed to you.

Soul Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Soul is the perfect film to end the year with. It is an animated film that reinstates the meaning of life and the purpose we serve in the world. It is beautifully animated because Pixar has perfected their rendering technology to make everything lifelike. The story is well-written and is incredibly heartfelt. Everyone has dreams or goals they want to accomplish at a certain time in their life. While trying to achieve those goals, they forget to live their lives.

This movie is one of the most important pieces to come out this year. I think everyone has lost themselves a bit during this pandemic. For the majority of this year people have reevaluated their lives and how they live. While watching Soul you will gain a new appreciation for life because director, Pete Docter shows us how wonderful the small things in life are through a character named, 22 (Tina Fey). We often question what our purpose in life is and as we try to navigate our way through this journey, we lose sight of the small things that can make us happy.

Courtesy of Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a music teacher at his local school and he has one student in his class that has soul when she plays the trombone. She loves playing and Joe can tell that it comes from such a special place. He knows that she was meant to play that instrument, much like his connection to playing piano. Joe is a wonderful music teacher because he believes in the connectivity and the artistic nature of music. There’s a feeling one has when connecting to art, it’s a special feeling and Docter presents it so well. The score from Reznor and Ross elevated the animation and will bring you into the atmosphere Docter created. It is a film that you will lose yourself in because of how stunning it is.

Courtesy of Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures

Soul is emotional and incredibly moving because it has conversations about the choices people make in their lives. What makes us fully formed people? Why do we have the need to find a purpose in life and if we don’t we consider ourselves failures? These are internal struggles that we have all faced, time and time again. There is one scene in a barbershop that I absolutely loved because of the conversation about career paths and life struggles. Life doesn’t always deal the best cards and everyone has to find a path that suits their situation, even if you stray away from your dreams.

The meaning of life isn’t something that can be explained, or even found, there is no answer to the age old question. Humans are placed on Earth to live, to simply exist, while experiencing the wonders life has to offer. Soul will make you appreciate all the memories you have, whether you remember your first bite of pizza ever, the first time waves crashed over your feet at the beach, or the first time you experienced a sunset, those small moments made an impact. That is why life is worth living. It’s not slaving away at your job, it’s not struggling to find your purpose, it’s simply living and that’s a beautiful sentiment.