Friday, June 21, 2024

2021 For Your Consideration Oscar Contenders

By Matt Neglia 

Oscar voting has officially started as of today and will run until March 10th, with the nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards being announced on March 15th. There have been a number of films, performances, screenplays and technical aspects that we’ve appreciated from this crazy year and we here at Next Best Picture put together a few final FYC pleas down below just in case if any Academy members happen to visit the site. We humbly ask that you consider these when casting your ballots. It was a hell of a year with a ton of diversity, variety and quality work, even if it felt like the world around us was falling apart. Please do not let these contenders go unnoticed.

Best Actor: Delroy Lindo – “Da 5 Bloods”

I can’t believe I even have to write this…But after failing to receive a Golden Globe or SAG nomination for his career-best work as a Vietnam War veteran suffering from PTSD, I feel I owe it to Delroy Lindo to tell you about why you should consider his work in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” for Best Actor. With every drop of sweat, every painful line delivery and every intense moment he’s on-screen, Lindo’s performance commands with an enormous power that very few actors possess. Wrestling with the ghosts of his past, the fact that he’s able to elicit sympathy from us despite his MAGA hat-wearing, destructive worldview is a testament to Lindo’s ability to give you a window into his character’s soul. When Paul as his hallucinatory reunion with Stormin’ Norman, played by the dearly departed Chadwick Boseman, the emotional weight of Lindo’s performance unleashes with a lifetime of regret, sadness, pain and anger. He makes us not only feel Paul’s trauma but the trauma of a race of people whose blood has been needlessly spilled for far too long. A veteran of the business for over forty-five years with film, television and theater credits to his name, Delroy Lindo has never received his due recognition. It would be a true travesty to leave him off any Best Actor ballot for what is not only one of the best performances of the year but also the best performance of his career.

Matt Neglia

Best Actress: Rosamund Pike – “I Care A Lot”

​”I Care A Lot” features one of the most decked-out ensembles of the 2020-2021 season. Rosamund Pike is the fearless lioness who leads the pack through this cunning black comedy. Pike won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical for her work as Marla Grayson; she pulled the biggest upset of the season by beating Maria Bakalova for “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm.” And with good reason – she is flawless in the role. After her star-making turn in “Gone Girl,” Pike has found a follow-up in the vein of the character she played in “Gone Girl.” The role fits her like a ferocious glove, and it is impossible to imagine anyone else embodying Marla’s confidence, intelligence, and style as sharply as Pike does. She fashions the type of character who will on to be iconic in the future. She is both sinfully funny and emotionally committed as Marla Grayson. In a perfect world, where Comedy bias does not impede worthy contenders, Pike would be nominated for Best Actress for this performance.

​- Ryan C. Showers

Best Actor: Kingsley Ben-Adir – “One Night In Miami”

Each year there are those breakout performances. The performances that make you wonder “where has this actor has been” Why haven’t I seen them before?” This year, Kingsley Ben-Adir’s fiery turn as Malcolm X in “One Night in Miami” was that role for me. In a play adaptation with wall-to-wall dialogue, he delivered a truly memorable performance that was subtle and full of nuance. Going toe-to-toe with other actors like Leslie Odom Jr., Ben-Adir was engrossing, not only capturing Malcolm X’s burning passion but also his gentle heart and lightness that made him such an endearing figure for many. Regina King’s directorial debut, “One Night in Miami,” and Ben-Adir’s performance are made greater within the context of 2020, a year that needs more leaders with the passion and courage of Malcolm X. Without a doubt, Ben-Adir has made a grand entrance onto the Hollywood stage (though this wasn’t his first role), and his future is looking very, very bright.

​- Daniel Howat

​Best Actress: Nicole Beharie – “Miss Juneteenth”

​There have been many great contenders for Best Actress this year. It’s quite impressive the embarrassment of riches we have received. However, few leave as much of an impact as Nicole Beharie in “Miss Juneteenth” does. As a struggling mother yearning to instill a sense of pride and independence in her daughter, it could be very easy to imagine the version of this character that has been seen countless times before. Yet, in Beharie’s capable hands, she conveys layers of detailed and subtle emotion in her facial expressions alone that are wondrous to behold. It’s an emotional turn that still manages to exude an inviting warmth that instantly makes one sympathetic to her plight. Her relationships with her daughter, lover, and co-workers are all made more authentic by her natural charisma. When the moments for complete emotional devastation are seen, she powerfully delivers them through a piercing intensity that is immediately arresting. This is a small-scale character study that showcases a truly magnificent turn from Nicole Beharie. She delivers a fierce performance in a nuanced and completely captivating way and could easily be seen as one of the year’s finest achievements.

​- Josh Parham

Best Supporting Actor: Paul Raci – “Sound of Metal”

In a category far too often dominated by leading performances masquerading as supporting turns, it is refreshing to see an actual supporting turn from a little-known actor make waves in awards season. Like the ideal supporting performance, Raci appears only sporadically throughout the film but makes each second of screentime count. Playing a role light on spoken dialogue, much of Raci’s character’s communication is non-verbal. Raci makes ample use of his soulful eyes and face to communicate a world of emotions: compassion, sorrow, anger, joy, without the crutch of dialogue. His final scene, in which his eyes, slowly brimming with tears, are the camera’s primary focus, is arguably the film’s emotional highpoint. And it could not have been achieved without a performer as skilled in non-verbal storytelling as Raci. His own background of the child of deaf parents brings an authenticity to the film that is far too often missing from other films that have explored this subject. One of the year’s most tender and compassionate performances, failing to nominate Raci’s masterful work would be a missed opportunity. He is the heart of the film. And you can’t nominate “Sound of Metal” for Best Picture without its heart.

​- Will Mavity

Best Supporting Actor: Frank Langella – “The Trial Of The Chicago 7”

When an Aaron Sorkin screenplay comes to life, its quality is only ameliorated by the work of fine actors delivering his words. The dialogue in “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is great on its own. But when a stacked ensemble is delivering it, the sky’s the limit. The standout in the film’s tremendous ensemble is veteran performer Frank Langella, who has graced the stage and screen with memorable and challenging work for nearly 60 years. A former Oscar-nominee for his Richard Nixon in “Frost/Nixon,” Langella returns with his best role since as the controversial Judge Julius Hoffman. Judge Hoffman, of course, presided over the trial of the Chicago 7 and was notorious for his unfair treatment of the anti-war activists. His racist treatment of Bobby Seale, in particular, remains in the history books today. While it would have been easy for Langella to portray Judge Hoffman as a hammy villain twirling his invisible mustache, that is simply not in the actor’s style. Instead, he finds the nuance and humanity in an otherwise deplorable human being. It makes the character all the richer, his actions all the more infuriating, and allows that sweet Sorkin dialogue to sing out. Langella remains one of our finest performers and is worthy of awards consideration.

​- Michael Schwartz

​Best Supporting Actor: Bo Burnham – “Promising Young Woman”

​On Oscar nomination morning, one name that I would be overjoyed to hear called out as an Oscar nominee is that of Bo Burnham in Best Supporting Actor for his work in “Promising Young Woman.” What Burnham does as Ryan, a former classmate of the driven Cassie (Carey Mulligan), is enormously complex, as he is introduced as a baby-faced savior for Cassie and the one person who might be able to turn her away from her obsessive quest for vengeance. Indeed, when Ryan duets with Cassie, lip-syncing in the pharmacy to Paris Hilton’s “Stars Are Blind,” you almost believe that he can do it. But when a dark moment from Ryan’s past is revealed, the seeds that Burnham has planted along the way pay off, leaving the viewer torn about Ryan — his moral failings are unforgivable but you still want the best for him anyway. It’s tricky supporting work, but one that Burnham pulls off with skill and precision and is most worthy of Academy recognition. Please don’t forget him.

​- Tom O’Brien

Best Original Screenplay – “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

​A nomination that I would like Academy voters to consider is Eliza Hittman’s intimate and nuanced “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” for Best Original Screenplay. This might not seem like an obvious aspect of this film to highlight as it is not a dialogue-heavy film and showcases a realistic, cinema-verité style. However, upon reading and watching numerous interviews with Hittman, it appears there was hardly any improvisation in the film, with everything shown on the screen being found in that screenplay. Every realistic line of dialogue, subtle movement and tear can be found on the page. Obviously, it is enhanced by Hittman’s direction and the incredible performances, but the core of what makes this film so honest, relatable, and important lies in this screenplay. I hope voters can show some empathy and perhaps put aside their personal beliefs to see this film as the moving piece of cinema it truly is.

Casey Lee Clark

Best International Feature Film – “Quo, Vadis, Aida?”

Look, I know what you’re thinking…I wouldn’t want to spend time at home watching a drama about the Bosnian genocide in Srebrenica these days either. But trust me when I say that “Quo, Vadis, Aida?” is much more watchable than you might think. Writer-director Jasmila Zbanic has crafted a near-perfect braiding of the personal and political in her story of a UN translator placed in the increasingly impossible situation of trying to save her husband and sons as it becomes painfully clear that the UN has no actual power to protect the people of Srebrenica. Jasna Djuricic is fantastic as Aida, and the film is almost hypnotic in how it pulls you into its world and proceeds to complicate things even further with each passing scene. The powerful ending will haunt you afterward, but the film earns it through its tight, no-frills direction and sensitive handling of difficult topics. “Quo, Vadis, Aida?” is a stunner of a film, one that is impossible to deny once you’ve seen it. And I’m telling you: See it. You won’t regret it.

​- Dan Bayer

​Best Production Design – “Emma.”

​Autumn de Wilde’s “Emma.” certainly is one of the best examples of fantastic production design in a film from 2020. Production designer Kave Quinn and set decorator Stella Fox created a colorful, charming, and historically accurate world for Emma Woodhouse and her friends to move in. From elegant drawing rooms to sumptuous feasts of beautiful food, each scene seems to present something new and splendid. The team went to Sir John Soane’s Museum in London to research interior decoration in the Regency era. The bright colors that they use are historically accurate and set the film aside from other, drabber period dramas. How the set design reflects the class differences between Emma and Mr. Knightley’s grand estates and the Bates family’s home or Mrs. Goddard’s boarding school is particularly impressive. Also commendable is the way in which they worked with costume designer Alexandra Byrne to ensure that the costumes and sets created one coherent aesthetic. While much of the filming was done in historic homes, the team painted and added wallpaper and antique furniture to represent better the period (and according to interviews, the family of one home decided to keep some of the changes). While period dramas are often lauded for their production design, what we see on display in “Emma.” is truly remarkable for the genre.

​- Nicole Ackman

Best Original Song: Husavik (My Hometown) – “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”

​A common complaint about Best Original Song nominees is that they so often consist of tunes that play over the end credits and do little to elevate their film’s quality. This year, Oscar voters have the chance to reward a song that is key to its film’s story. I’m speaking, of course, about “Husavik (My Hometown),” the soaring power ballad from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.” It comes at the hilarious musical comedy film’s emotional climax, and it’s truly a banger. Beautifully orchestrated with charmingly absurd lyrics (“Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls”), it’s equal parts funny and uplifting. Voters, make the smart choice and pick a song that actually matters to the plot of its film. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s truly the best movie song of the year.

​- Cody Dericks

Best Original Song: Io sì (Seen) – “The Life Ahead”

​For only the second time in her career, Dianne Warren won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for “lo si” (Seen) from the Italian film “The Life Ahead.” For many, this win would make her the Oscar frontrunner. However, the last time she won the Golden Globe was for “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque” (2011), which was snubbed at the Oscars. Here’s hoping history doesn’t repeat itself. The song, sung entirely in Italian, is a big, emotionally sweeping ballad that has a tremendous amount of power behind it. Should Warren receive her 12th Oscar nomination, let’s hope Netflix’s campaign efforts pay off to get her the prize that has alluded her for over 30 years. Check out my article here for a more in-depth look.

​- Amanda Spears

Thank you for considering these contenders in your Oscar voting. For those who are not voting, what would you like Academy voters to consider? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account. Check out our latest Oscar predictions here.

You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @NextBestPicture

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Matt Neglia
Matt Neglia
Obsessed about the Oscars, Criterion Collection and all things film 24/7. Critics Choice Member.

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