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Oscars 2021 predictions: Best Picture contenders

Naomi Gordon
·7-min read
Photo credit: Minari
Photo credit: Minari

From Good Housekeeping

The film and TV industry has been severely impacted by Coronavirus - cinemas remain closed again in the UK as the nation endures its third lockdown, and many productions have been delayed or shut down as a result of restrictions implicated by the global pandemic.

This year's Academy Awards has been put back as a result, and will be held on Sunday 25 April, having extended its eligibility period for feature films from 31 December 2020 to 28 February 2021.

But it's not all doom and gloom... 2020 and 2021 has been an exciting year for cinema, full of original and diverse films from fresh new filmmakers starring exciting new talent, all emerging as Oscar contenders this year.

We take a look at the Oscar contenders for best picture, based on reactions from critics, our own opinions, and the help of Telegraph movie critic Robbie Collin.

Best Picture predictions

Nomadland

Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures
Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures


Oscar-winner Frances McDormand plays a 60-something woman embarking on a journey through the American West, looking for employment and living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad after losing everything in the Great Recession. Chloé Zhao's film, based on the 2017 book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, has won numerous prestigious awards to date, including the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival last year, and the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Malcolm & Marie

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Emmy winner Zendaya has reunited with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson for this intimate and achingly romantic black and white drama co-starring Tenet actor John David Washington. The film follows aspiring filmmaker Malcolm and his actress girlfriend Marie returning home following a celebratory movie premiere. As he awaits what’s sure to be imminent critical and financial success, the evening suddenly takes a turn as revelations about their relationships begin to surface, testing the strength of their love.

The movie is also described as an ode to the great Hollywood romances as well as a heartfelt expression of faith in the medium's future, and we know the academy loves a film that celebrates movies.

Da 5 Bloods

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix


Oscar-winning screenwriter Spike Lee tells the story of four African-American Vets - Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) -who return to Vietnam. Searching for the remains of their fallen Squad Leader (Chadwick Boseman) and the promise of buried treasure. Our heroes, joined by Paul's concerned son (Jonathan Majors), battle forces of Man and Nature, while confronted by the lasting ravages of The Immorality of The Vietnam War.

Mank

Photo credit: Jeff Kravitz - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jeff Kravitz - Getty Images

David Fincher's latest film is a biopic based on film critic and lauded screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his battles with director Orson Welles over screenplay credit for his masterpiece Citizen Kane. Gary Oldman and Tom Burke lead the drama as Herman and Orson respectively. The cast also features Lily Collins, Downton's Tuppence Middleton, Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance.

Judas and the Black Messiah

Photo credit: Warner Bros
Photo credit: Warner Bros


Daniel Kaluuya stars as Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton in this biopic chronicling his life and the betrayal against him by William O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) set in the late 1960s. O'Neal was pressured by the FBI into becoming an informant to infiltrate the Black Panther Party and bring down Hampton.

Soul

Photo credit: PIXAR/Disney
Photo credit: PIXAR/Disney


Pete Docter's poignant animated family adventure follows a passionate musician who loses his love for music and is transported out of his body. He must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself. Jamie Foxx, Tiny Fey and Questlove provide the voices in Disney and PIXAR's production.

On the Rocks

Photo credit: Mondadori Portfolio - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mondadori Portfolio - Getty Images


Sofia Coppola returns with original comedy drama which follows a young woman who reconnects with her omnipotent playboy father in an adventure around New York. Coppola's favourite offbeat leading man Bill Murray stars with Rashida Jones and Jenny Slate.

Minari

Photo credit: Minari
Photo credit: Minari


Lee Isaac Chung writes and directs coming-of-age tale Minari, inspired by his Korean American childhood. The critically-acclaimed drama follows an immigrant family as they adjust to life in small-town Arkansas in the 1980s.

Following its debut at Sundance last month, Minari has received glowing reviews, with The Guardian revealing it's been "unofficially crowned the year's first truly great movie, one we'll be talking about for quite some time".

The Golden Globes caused controversy when Variety reported that as the film is not at least 50 percent in the English language (it is mostly in Korean), it would not be eligible for one of the two best picture Globes, but would instead contend for the best foreign language film Globe, and remain in the running for nominations in all other categories.

However, Minari is eligible for best picture at the Oscars, and it remains one of the top contenders.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Starring the late Chadwick Boseman and Oscar-winner Viola Davis, Netflix's Ma Rainey's Bottom is adapted from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's play. Viola stars as the legendary 'Mother of the Blues' in the drama which celebrates the transformative power of the blues and the artists who refuse to let society's prejudices dictate their worth.

Directed by George C. Wolfe and adapted for the screen by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the film is produced by Fences Oscar nominees Denzel Washington and Todd Black. Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Taylour Paige, Dusan Brown, Jeremy Shamos and Jonny Coyne co-star alongside Grammy winner Branford Marsalis' score.

One Night in Miami

Photo credit: Amazon Prime
Photo credit: Amazon Prime

Oscar-winner Regina King makes her directorial debut with One Night in Miami, based on the stage play by Kemp Powers (who also co-wrote and co-directed Soul). The film is a fictional account of a meeting between icons Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke at the Hampton House in February 1964, celebrating Ali's surprise title win over Sonny Liston.

The cast includes Peaky Blinders actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Photo credit: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Photo credit: Never Rarely Sometimes Always


Eliza Hittman's teenage abortion drama has been described as a "quietly devastating gem" after its debut at Sundance (via Variety) last year. It follows 17-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) who gets pregnant but can't have an abortion in her small Pennsylvania town due to parental consent laws. She embarks on a trip to New York with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) but the procedure becomes more complicated than they had naively assumed.

Journalist and BAFTA member Simon Thompson has given his insight into the movies that he predicts will have a strong presence at next year's Oscars.

In The Heights

Photo credit: In the Heights
Photo credit: In the Heights

"Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical In the Heights gets the big-screen treatment with the filmmaker who made Crazy Rich Asians, Jon M. Chu. Lin-Manuel Miranda will appear in a small role in the movie but it is really a showcase for talent such as Anthony Ramos, who'll fans will recognise from his performance in A Star Is Born opposite Lady Gaga, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace and Melissa Barrera. Expect this to have a strong presence at next years Oscars."

Sadly In The Heights has been delayed due to Coronavirus, and will miss this year's cut off when it is released in cinemas in June. So maybe one to look out for in 2022.

Promising Young Woman

Photo credit: Focus Features
Photo credit: Focus Features

"After going down a storm at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Promising Young Woman is one to watch. It stars Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Connie Britton and Laverne Cox. It's about a woman, Cassie (played by Carey) whose future is derailed when a chance encounter brings her secret life and her real life together along with the opportunity to right a wrong."

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Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned


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