James and Lucy’s Ultimate Guide to The Oscars


Photo courtesy of Entertainment Tonight

From left: LaKeith Stanfield(Judas and the Black Messiah), Amanda Seyfried(Mank), Alan Kim(Minari), and Chadwick Boseman(Da 5 Bloods)

Lucy Roberts and James Hardy

Despite not being able to see its  been a great year for film. With so many people looking to streaming instead of the box office, Oscar-nominated movies have never been so accessible to viewers. This awards season has also been filled with more representation of women and people of color than previous years, which makes for an exciting and competitive list of nominees.

However, most of us don’t have the time to watch every nominated film or find all of them to be worth the watch.

That’s why we watched (almost) all of the nominations for you! Here are our picks for the major categories, predictions for winners, and a few snubs that we think should have made the cut.

Best Picture


  • Mank
  • Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Nomadland
  • Minari
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Promising Young Woman
  • The Father
  • Sound of Metal

Our prediction: Nomadland

Lucy: While I do understand the praise for Nomadland, especially in a time defined by the economic and personal turmoil of so many, I don’t believe it to be the very best film that came out this year. Filled with gorgeous shots of the American West and powerful depictions of people who have lost everything, it’s easy to see the appeal of this film. However, the neutral tone towards the economic and social systems that contributed to the necessity of van living is frankly off-putting. What could have been an inspiring take on people’s intrinsic need for connection and purpose often felt more like a sickeningly positive take on the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy that’s left so many Americans without a home, a job, or direction.

Our picks: Judas and the Black Messiah (James), Trial of the Chicago 7 (Lucy)

Best Director


  • David Fincher – Mank
  • Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
  • Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
  • Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round
  • Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Our prediction: Chloe Zhao

James: Although Lucy’s criticisms above are justified, Zhao’s ability to fuse the fictional life of Fern with the very real community of nomads is undeniably masterful. Putting the nonfiction account by Jessica Bruder on screen while still making it accessible to viewers was a difficult task, but she made it seem easy.

Our picks: Emerald Fennell (Lucy), David Fincher (James)

Lucy: It makes me sad to see two women nominated for the first time in Oscar history, and even harder that they’re both so deserving of a win. I’d love to see Emerald Fennell win, especially because it’s often hard to come across such a coherent, fully realized vision translated to film. Fennell expertly created Promising Young Woman, and I’d like to see her recognized for creating one of the most powerful additions to the conversation surrounding sexual assault I’ve seen to date.

James: I’ll concede that I’m biased. As a fan of David Fincher’s work, it upsets me that he has yet to win the Academy Award for Best Director, even when he stood head and shoulders above the competition in past years. But this pick isn’t just a consolation prize for being snubbed in 2011; Mank, a biopic about Herman Mankiewicz, the writer behind Citizen Kane, is a movie that seems to be closer to Fincher’s heart than anything else he has made in three decades of directorial work. 10 years after producing his own version of Kane(The Social Network), he chose a script written by his late father, Jack Fincher, to pay homage to the original film and its creator. Although its veracity has been disputed, Mank tells Herman’s story masterfully with stylistic choices, like the imitation of camera angles in the original Kane and degradation of the audio quality, that stand out. I don’t doubt that Fincher has cared deeply about every film he has ever made–his borderline frightening attention to detail proves that–but knowing the story behind it, from his childhood love of the original Orson Welles movie to his arguments with his father over the auteur filmmaking that both he and Welles practiced, makes Mank one of my favorites of the year.

The snubs:

  • Shaka King – Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Lawrence Michael-Levine – Black Bear

Lucy: Black Bear, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, is a film about filmmaking, so it only makes sense that the production and artistry of this movie should be recognized just as much as the performances. I was devastated to see this movie fly so far under critics’ radar and think, had the budget been larger and it been released in different circumstances, that it would have gotten some award season attention. The direction, especially, which intentionally changes in style to fit different plot developments, got an infuriating lack of praise.

Best Actor in a Leading Role


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

Our prediction: Chadwick Boseman

Our pick: Chadwick Boseman

Lucy: I was initially excited to see Chadwick Boseman’s nominations as a way to pay tribute to his life and career, but had no idea how great his performance was. Boseman’s energy and delivery throughout the entire film was hands down my favorite part of Ma Rainey’s and its sluggish pacing. The film feels maddeningly grounded to stage directions and being a faithful adaptation, but Boseman’s performance truly makes it worth the watch.

The snubs:

LaKeith Stanfield – Judas and the Black Messiah

Adarsh Gourav – The White Tiger

James: Two notable performances left off this list are LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) and Adarsh Gourav (The White Tiger). Stanfield’s perplexing absence will be addressed under the “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” category, but Gourav’s can be attributed to lack of space in a stacked category. Can his performance compete with any of those listed? Probably not. Does it deserve recognition? Absolutely.

Best Actress in a Leading Role


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

Our prediction: Frances McDormand

Our pick: Carey Mulligan

Lucy: As mentioned above, Promising Young Woman’s strength lies in its thorough and careful depiction of gender-based violence. What really brings Fennell’s concept to life, however, is Carey Mulligan’s performance as Cassie. Mulligan has long been cast as quietly intelligent women bound by the constraints of traditionally effeminate meekness. Although many of these were exceptional performances, it’s refreshing to see Mulligan bring such a sharp, perceptive edge to this character.

The snubs:

Sidney Flanigan – Never Rarely Sometimes Always

James: One notable performance left off this list is Sidney Flanigan’s in Never Rarely Sometimes Always. I can understand her absence; Flanigan faced difficult competition, especially as the star of a film that granted her fewer opportunities to truly distinguish herself. However, those instances shined enough to earn her an honorable mention here.

Additionally, Viola Davis’ (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) nomination is puzzling to us. As much as we love her work, Davis was not deserving of a nomination for a leading role for the simple fact that she was not the lead. It was clear to us that Boseman was the star, and although Ma Rainey has her name in lights, she was firmly a supporting character.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role


  • LaKeith Stanfield – Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Leslie Odom, Jr. – One Night in Miami
  • Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago Seven
  • Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Paul Raci – Sound of Metal

Our prediction: LaKeith Stanfield

Our pick: LaKeith Stanfield

The snubs:

Colman Domingo – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

James: This category contains what I see as the biggest snub of the year. Despite what the Academy will tell you, LaKeith Stanfield was definitely the lead in Judas and the Black Messiah. Without a doubt. Don’t believe me? Stanfield has said himself that this is as confusing to him as it is to us, especially considering the fact that they campaigned for him to be nominated for a leading role. However, this may work a bit to his benefit. In the leading category, he’d be near the bottom of our rankings, facing tough competition from Chadwick Boseman, Riz Ahmed, and Gary Oldman. In the supporting category, he’s our hands-down favorite to win.

The other notable absence is Colman Domingo, for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Although the movie was not my favorite, I felt that Domingo, along with co-stars Boseman and Davis, delivered a stellar performance that helped push the final product well beyond the bounds of its direction.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role


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

Our prediction: Amanda Seyfried

James: Personally, I only ever knew Amanda Seyfried from the Mamma Mia! franchise. That is, until Mank.

I have no doubt that Seyfried had a difficult time mastering this performance. Portraying a public figure (actress Marion Davies) is hard enough without an auteur director like David Fincher asking for hundreds of takes. Despite these challenges, Seyfried delivered the performance of her career as a formidable wordsmith in the face of Mankiewicz’s barbs, a dear friend in spite of his flaws, and a wonderfully tragic character. Her range is far greater than what we previously imagined.

Our picks: Amanda Seyfried

Best Original Screenplay


  • The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Minari
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Sound of Metal

Our prediction: Trial of the Chicago 7

Our picks: Trial of the Chicago 7

Lucy: As always, Aaron Sorkin does not disappoint. Just like The Social Network, Sorkin’s script is the perfect blend of history and drama executed with a rhythm almost impossible to get from other screenwriters. Chicago 7 may not be Sorkin’s magnum opus, but it clearly shows that Sorkin remains one of the best writers of the last 50 years.

The snubs:

I Care a Lot

James: Never have I been so frustrated, yet so satisfied with a movie as I was after seeing I Care a Lot. Although the criticisms of the movie’s plot holes and unrealistic scenarios are reasonable, the messaging behind it is superb. Lucy addressed how Nomadland brought up a singular issue of American life, but not the more abstract forces that cause it. I Care a Lot was the exact opposite. J Blakeson never fails to remind us why his characters are the way they are and why the system is allowed to work the way it is, leaving me both angry at and grateful for this movie, no matter how much suspension of disbelief it requires.

Best Adapted Screenplay


  • Nomadland
  • One Night in Miami
  • The White Tiger
  • The Father
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Our prediction: Nomadland

Our picks: Nomadland

Lucy: Despite my criticism of this film, I want to give credit where credit is due. The use of real nomads alongside the actors and Zhao’s dedication to explaining the real fallout of the US Gypsum plant closure in Empire, Nevada was dynamic and refreshing. There are so many true stories that suffer a poorly-devised dramatic adaptation, and Zhao’s screenplay could not be further from that.

The Academy Awards ceremony will air Sunday, April 25, at 8:00 PM.