Don’t miss the train, Oscar!

First, a message from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: 

Dear film-starved pandemic masses,

Despite reports to the contrary, we at AMPAS, the guardians of quality in filmed entertainment, have been just fine during this pandemic. While you’ve been digging through scraps on Netflix, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on our new, bazillion-dollar Museum of Oscar History. The housing crisis faced by the costumes from How Green Was My Valley and Seymore Felix’s Best Dance Direction Oscar has finally been solved. You’re welcome.

We have also done a bit of soul-searching during these times. Once we were told that ‘streaming’ is not a sexual act best done on rubber sheets, we felt for the poor cinephiles who have had to risk carpal tunnel syndrome to find anything decent to watch. So giving Netflix and Amazon Studios a total of 47 Oscar nominations helps fans feel that at least some of their couch time wasn’t wasted, and we will of course go back to shunning streaming services when our movie palaces reopen. (Please don’t mention the Cinerama Dome. It’s still painful.)

Secondly, and more importantly according to our au peres, we gave nine nominations to people of color in the acting categories, when eight would have been sufficient to reflect the US population. Good luck with the bitchy hashtags now, Antifa. 

Some say that because streamers are crucial to the very survival of movies, the Academy has been forced to recognize the artistic merit of the more diverse films they make and show. But it is not our fault that traditional studios have avoided films about Black activists or White people who live in vans. The Academy does not make the films. We simply deem them important.

We hope you’ll admire our diverse and admirably depressing slate of nominated films and performances as much as we’d like you to. After the ceremony, don’t forget to visit our new Oscar Museum. It’s conveniently located next to the La Brea Tar Pits, where eons ago – even before silents –  big, unwieldy dinosaurs got trapped in tar and were slowly eaten alive by nimbler creatures. So just turn left onto Wilshire from Fairfax, and ignore the irony.


Io Si from The Life Ahead: ‘Io Si’ is Italian for “I will”. It was Diane Warren’s response when an Italian reporter asked if she’ll always be nominated for an Oscar no matter how banal and repetitive her music is.

Hear My Voice,Speak Now, Fight for You: Talking about repetitive, this year’s onslaught of indistinguishable message songs join recent nominees I’ll FightStand Up, and Stand Up for Something. If these filmmakers cared about getting a great piece of political music rather than trying to win over Oscar voters like Diane Warren, they’d get Lil Nas X or Run the Jewels instead of the guy from Hamilton.


Husavik (Hometown) from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga: Is the movie too silly for Oscar, yes, but the final act culminates in this deftly made pop ballad, a Bjork/Celine Dion lovechild with lyrics like “where the whales can live cause they’re gentle people”.


Minari: You’re the innocent little nominee this year, aren’t you, Minari? So allll those baby chicks you were molesting and tossing into buckets were perfectly articulated animatronic puppets? On your budget?

Mank: A male mink. Who’d best steer clear of Minari.

News of the World: Tom Hanks plays a 19th-century Confederate man who reads news to illiterate people. It’s nice to know that 150 years later, Tucker Carlson is carrying on the tradition.

Da 5 Bloods: Spike Lee added another great film to his wholly original illuminations of race issues, one which will join the list of shoulda-been Best Picture winners that weren’t even nominated. Here he has a Black Trump-loving veteran return to Vietnam to reunite over a lost comrade and search for buried gold. Lee gets that a spoonful of adventure helps the medicine go down, but Oscar wanted a needle in its arm this year.


Soul: The only one here that’s actually about music, so duh.


Pinocchio: It’s best to put this nominee as far away from Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom as possible. 

Hillbilly Elegy: A nomination for Amy Adams’ widely-ridiculed wig proves that memes are now Oscar bait.

MANK: Make America Not Kommunist. New caps and tees, now at the Mar A Lago boutique!

Emma: Anya Taylor-Joy plays the most slappable Emma yet in this 115th remake.


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: An actress like Viola Davis can disappear into a role without help, but the make-up here wiped out any traces of her left.


Pinocchio: In this twist on the classic tale, Italy’s Mayor Rudolph Guipetto crafts a blow-up doll whose mouth hole tightens when she says “you’re a brilliant lawyer!”. 

Moolan: A cow disguises herself as a bull so she finally can stop having a fistful of semen jammed up her rear. But, alas, she accidently wanders into Minari.

mank: short for ‘movie wank’, which is when a shitty guy gets the girl because he’s ‘grown’.

Emma: Big deal. If you want to see a girl in a corset throw shade, watch Drag Race.     


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: I don’t know what was going on under Ma Rainey’s dress, but it was impossible to tell where Viola Davis ended and Ma Rainey began.


Soul: Ok, no. If you don’t have an entire production team sitting under a tent while a grip holds a boom mike in 110-degree heat for an actor doing 40 takes, you do not belong in this category.

mankverb: to express gratitude by fondling someone’s neck and telling them they’d look better in heels. Usage: Governor Cuomo manked his aide for her hard work on the campaign.

Greyhound: Unfortunately, this is not about Tom Hanks getting on a bus that goes over a cliff. 

News of the World: This isn’t the production during which Tom Hanks caught the virus. That was Philadelphia.


Sound of Metal: Besides a great lead performance, this film’s best achievement was giving aural life to the sounds experienced by someone losing their hearing.


The One and Only Ivan: Talking animals dolittle for me.

The Midnight Sky doesn’t sparkle much when the biggest star stays on the ground.

Love and Monsters: A giant alien bug movie that doesn’t have Casper Van Dien taking a shower is not a giant alien bug movie I need to see. 

Mulan: Star Wars and Marvel were off the table, and Wonder Woman’s biggest visual effect was her running up a down escalator, so this race is wide open for Samurai Yentl.


Tenet: I don’t like movies that make me do math, but I do know that (x)plosions times (y)do people worship Christopher Nolan = visual effects Oscar.  


Promising Young Woman: The trailer promised a young woman would be cutting some penises off, which didn’t happen, so no editing Oscar for you.

The Trial of the Chicago 7: I don’t know how this director is considered so smart when he didn’t even recognize Borat snuck into his film. 

Nomadland: The story of Jesus’ birth told by the Wise Man who brought disposable diapers. 

Sound of Metal: This was also the name of a TimeLife compilation CD from 1988. My favorite was Dokken’s cover of I Wanna Dance with Somebody


The Father: Editing played a crucial role in telling this story of a mind caught in dementia, so this is where the film – favored by the Academy’s older voters – is strongest against its competition. 


Ten it!: When a high-five isn’t enough, Ten it, dude! 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottoms: The follow-up to Ma Rainey’s Black Tops.

News of the World: Murder Hornets Sue Entomological Society For Slander. “It’s called ‘colonizing’,” said spokeshornet, “and you Americans are in no position to be labeling us”.

The Father: Like the editing, the set design was integral in putting us inside the character’s deteriorating mind. But Oscar is in the mood to spread the love in this year everyone got slammed, and this and cinematography are the categories for the old guard to reward Mank, which is not favored anywhere else.


Mank: The Hearst Castle sets must have emptied every prop house in Hollywood, not to mention massive builds like the pyre scene where we meet Marion Davies. The film is as much an homage to behind-the-scenes craftspeople as it is to the golden age of Hollywood.


The Trial of the Chicago 7: See? Today’s Bernie bros have it easy.

Judas and the Black Messiah: The team behind The Wiz brings us this remake of Jesus Christ Superstar with an all-Black cast. 

News of the World: This is the Queen album that has ‘We Are the Champions’, a song this movie’s cinematographer will not be singing.

Nomadland: This category comes down to filmmaking that captured natural beauty… 


Mank: …or filmmaking that manufactured pristine, air-brushed images. Should we ask the Kardashians which of these Hollywood prefers?  


The Mole Agent: This is the elderly-abuse movie that doesn’t have Rosamond Pike in it. 

Time: Shot by a filmmaker who’s held onto her sense of art-school experimentation, especially in the brilliant editing,Time makes it appear as if this filmmaker has been following her subject – a woman fighting her husband’s excessive incarceration – for 20 years.

Crip Camp: The Blood Camp is on the other coast.

My Octopus Teacher: Not about the handsy priest who taught algebra at my high school, but instead a love story between a free-diver and an octopus. It’s the tear-jerker of the category, with stunning cinematography, but it’s not political in a very political movie year.


Collective: A movie about the Romanian press pounding the country’s ruling party, whose capitalism-embracing, culturally-conservative ideology relates to our Republicans. Despite the exposing of their deep corruption and blatant moral bankruptcy, the party is overwhelmingly reelected. This will strike anyone with Trump PTSD and nagging fears about 2024, so, all of Hollywood except John Voit.    


Over the Moon: The movie equivalent of those badly-translated Chinese product slogans.

Onward: I wish. American animation just repackages the same ‘Believe In Yourself!’® message over and over. This one has fairies, and not the kind who lip sync.

A Shawn the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon: I get my quota of clay sculpting watching The Great Pottery Throw-Down.

Wolfwalkers: Thank god the animation branch keeps these more flowing, illustrative animation styles alive in this category, but it would be nice if any of them would ever actually win over another fucking Pixar movie. 


Soul: Another fucking Pixar movie, and no, it is not breakthrough just because they finally put a Black character in the lead. Pixar is the Amazon of animation, and unlike that behemoth, we do have other choices, Oscar. 


The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia): And promptly fell apart.

The Man Who Kept His Skin But Sold Everything Inside Of It (Columbia, District of): The title of Mitch McConnell’s new autobiography.

Better Days (Hong Kong): Don’t count on it, Hong Kong. 

Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina): While her double-named sister nations, Trinidad and Tobago and Sao Tome and Principe, relax on their tropical beaches, ugly sister Bosnia and Herzegovina is still obsessing about the war that Bill Clinton fucked up.

Collective (Romania): This and Another Round are both nominated in two categories. But a Best Director nom (Another Round’s Thomas Vinterberg) trumps a Best Documentary one.


Another Round (Denmark): If you don’t believe that Europeans are more evolved than we are, this movie shows four guys who determine to stay drunk all day, every day, yet never steal a goat, drunk text, or storm their seat of government.


Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Dangerously ignorant voices are hard to silence, but with one scene Sacha Baron Cohen put the final nail in Rudy Guiliani’s coffin. 

One Night in Miami: was all it took for me never to go back to Miami. 

The White Tiger: It takes longer to find this film on a Netflix scroll than it does to get through Mumbai on a cow.

The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost: Where the hell were y’all last year? Was there a lockdown in heaven?


Nomadland: The careful process involved in keeping this film as authentic as its source material is just one of the outstanding achievements of Nomadland.


Minari: This film teaches us that with enough Mountain Dew, anyone can achieve the American Dream.

Sound of Metal: There were a tad too many missteps in this script, starting with the movie couple’s goth metal band being called Blackgammon. 

Judas and the Black Messiah: Do they play Blackgammon?

The Trial of the Chicago 7: This is Aaron Sorkin’s category, and there are a lot of people who love any courtroom drama, but an ‘original’ premise it is not. 


Promising Young Woman: Any movie that has Jennifer Coolidge asking a pediatrician “Do children have different parts than adults?” gets my vote.


Thomas VinterbergAnother Round: This pattern of having a unexpected foreign-language director sneak into this category is proof of how large the Academy’s foreign membership has grown. Now, we just need their quirkier taste to start making winners, not just outlier nominees.

Lee Isaac ChungMinari: The beautifully observed intimate moments show how universal it is for a wife to want to punch a stupid husband.

Emerald FennellPromising Young Woman: Emerald fennel is a condiment used to flavor revenge served cold.

David FincherMank: Fincher is a craftsman first, so storytelling is not his strongest suit, and it shows in the lulls this gorgeous-looking movie goes through. 


Chloe ZhaoNomadland: One of the few sure bets this year, as (besides deserving it) she’s up against a little known European; two young, new directors with plenty career ahead of them; and an older, white man whose work, though highly accomplished, is slick and cold compared to Nomadland.


Lakeith StanfieldJudas and the Black Messiah: Chances: Definitely no. The main star of this film is in the same category.

Paul RaciSound of Metal: No. His role lacked a juicy scene where he gets to act all over the place.

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7: Not likely. He’s viewed as a writer and comedian more than a dramatic actor.

Leslie Odom JrOne Night in Miami: Slight possibility. He was singled out from a strong cast, for what qualities I honestly don’t know, as I thought the Cassius Clay character was more memorable. But as Sam Cooke he gets to sing, and Oscar has a soft spot for singer biopics.


Daniel KaluuyaJudas and the Black Messiah: Almost certain. The movie’s gotten a reputation as a story you should appreciate more than you might actually enjoy watching, but Kaluuya’s striking screen presence is the ‘worth it’ element.


Maria BakalovaBorat Subsequent Moviefilm: Definitely no, but I wish a performance like this could ever win an Oscar. For an unknown, foreign actress to steal the attention from such a boisterous, iconic film character with her own wholly original comic persona is an achievement as big as any on this list.

Amanda SeyfriedMank: No. Though she does it very well, adding smarts and spunk to the classic Hollywood ingénue has been done a LOT.

Glenn CloseHillbilly Elegy: Slight possibility, but at this point, it’s hard to feel the ‘she’s overdue’ sympathy anymore. Close appears to be choosing roles based on their Oscar potential, with little concern for the parts of the script that aren’t hers. Albert Nobbs and The Wife were mediocre films at best, and Hillbilly Elegy is plain bad. To give her an overdue Oscar for this would be a cruel joke both to Close and the rest of the nominees.

Olivia ColmanThe Father: Strong possibility. 2019 was the year of Olivia Colman on the big screen, and in 2020 she owned the small one. She’s as hot as a royal funeral right now, but she did just get an Oscar in a bigger category.


Yuh-Jung YounMinari: Strong possibility. Minari ntroduced us to a lot of things: chicken sexing, Korean produce, and this wonderful actress, who juiced a sleepy plot to its dramatic climax.


Gary OldmanMank: Definitely no. You don’t get another Oscar this year, Gary, but you do get my undying gratitude for keeping Tom Hanks out of this category.

Steven YeunMinari: Definitely no. A lovely, quiet performance rarely wins Oscars, and it doesn’t help to have the movie stolen by your mother-in-law.

Riz AhmedSound of Metal: Slight possibility. Ahmed combines aggro musician with desperate puppy dog and does it all in a sleeveless tee. 

Anthony HopkinsThe Father: Possible upset, but will the Academy chance another clumsy PR misstep by letting an old white guy who was supposed to be retired take this Oscar from a young Black man whose career was tragically cut short?


Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Highly likely. This is not a giveaway due to his premature death. His performance was like watching a bottle rocket bounce off the walls before it explodes, and was the only thing that broke the movie out of its stagey confines.


Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman: Definitely no. She explodes into the movie’s opening, then has her presence wet-toweled by a dour script and a director who thinks anyone wants to see Shia LeBoeuf’s penis.

Andra DayThe United States vs Billie Holiday: Unlikely. Just because Rene won last year for her solid mimicry of a music icon doesn’t mean it applies here. This movie was worse than Judy, and agreeing to a butt-fucking scene for shock value doesn’t tend to get an actor rewarded.

Frances McDormand, Nomadland: Slight possibility. She’s always brilliant to watch, but is this gruff, plain-talking character so different from her 3 Billboards gruff, plain-talking character?

Carey MulliganPromising Young Woman: Strong possibility. This was a difficult character to make likeable. She wears a perpetual pout, is dismissive to friends and family, and her revenge mission is misguided. But Mulligan makes you root for her by slowly revealing the depth of the wound that keeps her so agitated.


Viola DavisMa Rainey’s Black Bottom: Strong possibility. It’s highly unusual to have both lead acting winners come from a movie that wasn’t nominated for any other major award. But McDormand has two Oscars already, and the other nominees come from films that got a lot of critical knocks, despite their terrific performances. 


Every movie on this list, except Nomadland, is angry about something. We all have pent up pandemic frustration, so the question is: do Academy voters want to dwell on it, or move on?

Promising Young Woman: Depressed over her friend’s date rape and subsequent suicide, a woman lures men into potential date rape scenarios so she can scold them. Angry at: frat boys; parents who want grown children out of their house 

Sound of Metal: A recovering junkie musician becomes depressed when he starts to go deaf and is abandoned by his recovering suicidal girlfriend. Angry at: cochlear nerve; drum kits

Judas and the Black Messiah: An FBI agent infiltrates the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers to bring down its powerful leader Fred Hampton. Angry at: systemic racism; another nominee wearing the same character

The Trial of the Chicago 7: A senile, biased judge presides over the trial of the men accused of fomenting the riots during the Democratic National Convention in 1968 Chicago. Angry at: judicial system; Bernie Sanders not being president

The Father: A old man descends into dementia. Angry at: mortality; walls; people who keep changing into other people

Minari: A Korean immigrant drags his wife and young son to rural Arkansas so he can fulfill his dream of farming, only to lose everything in a fire. Angry at: irresponsible husbands; paneling

MankCitizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz fights with director Orson Welles and pisses off political power-broker/Trump surrogate William Randolph Hearst. Angry at: right-wing media: people who expect something they paid you for 


Nomadland: Nomadland has been the Best Picture frontrunner since it came out. Why? Because it has a tone unlike anything else this year. Yes, it showcases a small segment of the population whose lives can be romanticized by those who will never have to worry about living that way, which is 99.99% of the Academy. But the sentiment of finding a way through, and making peace with, trauma is universal. The other nominees spent their run time crushing its characters with that trauma, and while catharsis happens in the last act of most, as movie storytelling demands, Nomadland is catharsis from beginning to end. Those who find it inspiring rather than depressing are those more focused on being positive (however unrealistic) as they come out of pandemic trauma. Few would choose living in a van and traveling the American West to find peace, but it’s the sentiment that counts.

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