Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast on ABC is the industry’s most abnormal Oscarcast ever, one that’s frustrating to plug into due to the pandemic. Though I’ve seen a clutch of nominees, none were viewed in a traditional movie theater. Streaming has been the only option for most, and viewing a film via streaming is, well, akin to watching TV. You miss the bells and whistles of large screen watching, and popcorn with arare, too. I mean, do you make homemade popcorn to sit in front of the tube?
Didn’t think so. Still, it’s fun to predict who’ll win. It helps to have seen a flick and a performance, so the fewer movies you’ve streamed, the more you feel distanced. How was he, or she, in a touted role?
Nonetheless, I’m posting my choices, but only in films I’ve seen, Happily, what I’ve viewed seem to be among the wider-reaching films in a year of unfortunate circumstances limiting access, and consequently, viewing.
Best Picture: “Nomadland.” Hulu exhibited this one – a dark, often gloomy, fascinating and organic glimpse of a subculture of folks who aren’t homeless, but live like those without a roof, traveling hither and yon in vans. It’s mobile home folks, inhabiting camps and thus co-exist as a tight, itinerant community with shared woes and hopes.
Best Director: Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland.” She yielded an artistic stroke, converting the somber and lonely landscape into a character with a commanding sense of reality. Besides directing, she wrote, edited and produced the film.
Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Netflix screened this one, and Boseman (he died last August) is a sentimental posthumous winner playing a brilliant but stubborn musician in the band of a luminous blues singer in difficult times.
Best Actress: Frances McDormand, “Nomadland.” She was gritty, grand and commanding as the turf she frequented as a roving gypsy in her van, a difficult journey and a demanding challenge.
Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah.” He inhabited the role of Fred Hampton, the Black Panther Party chairman and activist, dominating the film in what clearly is a leading actor performance, which sort of gives him a better chance of winning this category. Premiered on HBO Max.
Best Supporting Actress: I have to pass here, since I’ve not seen Yuh-Jung Youn, the favored winner from “Minari.” Streamed on YouTube and Apple TV. I’ve seen the other nominees (Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy;” Amanda Seyfried, “Mank;” and Maria Bakaloa, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) but if Youn doesn’t win, I’ll go with Close.
Two categories I can vote for, on titles I’ve seen:
Best Documentary Feature: “My Octopus Teacher,” a stunning diary of undersea mystery (streamed on Netflix), following a favored octopus, who appears, disappears, and reappears in the watery forests off the coast of South Africa. Kudos to co-directors James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich for this visual journal that doubles as a love story of dedication and perseverance between a sea creature and a filmmaker. In pandemic times, this was a splash with flash.
Best Animated Film: “Soul Story,” a joyous triumph by Pete Docter, whose Pixar experience yielded a stunning, entertaining, and about a jazz musician who goes to heaven. Should win for Best Score. Easily could have been a contender for Best Picture. Streamed on Disney+.