Oscar predictions: 'Nomadland,' Chadwick Boseman among favorites

Sunday's Academy Awards could feature historic wins across several categories, but viewer apathy is a big issue

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

The show must go on. 

That's the unofficial motto of this year's Oscar ceremony, which is set to take place with an in-person presentation on Sunday. The show will be split between the Dolby Theatre and Los Angeles' Union Station, and will honor a whole bunch of movies that not a lot of people have seen. 

Chadwick Boseman as Levee in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."

The pandemic didn't do Hollywood any favors, as movie theaters around the country were closed for large portions of 2020. Blockbusters held off while smaller films and traditional awards fare trickled out on streaming services. 

Which has resulted in the least popular slate of Best Picture nominees in Oscar history. The highest grosser of the group is "Promising Young Woman," which has hauled in all of $6.3 million at the domestic box office. Together, the eight Best Picture nominees have grossed a combined $17.5 million, $1.2 million less than the abysmal Robert De Niro comedy "The War With Grandpa." Even adding in streaming figures — which services don't release to the public — you'd be hard-pressed finding anything approaching a hit in the bunch. 

It's a year Hollywood would rather forget, but again, the show must go on. The field of Oscar nominees is the most diverse bunch in years, and history is likely to be made in several categories. Those triumphs are worth celebrating, some much needed light in a gloomy year for the movie industry. 

So who will the big winners be? Here are predictions across all 23 categories. As for the prediction that Sunday will be the lowest-rated Oscar ceremony in history, well, that's another story for another day...


Nominees: "The Father," "Judas and the Black Messiah," "Mank," "Minari," "Nomadland," "Promising Young Woman," "Sound of Metal," "The Trial of the Chicago 7" 

The storyline: "Nomadland" has been the favorite all season long, which in some cases sets the table for an upset come Oscar night. But in this most unusual of Oscar years, that seems unlikely: its controversies — including the perceived pass it gave to Amazon in its depiction of seasonal workers — didn't take root, and no other movies stepped up to derail it. Give "Minari" an outside-outside shot at an upset, but otherwise this one's a cakewalk. 

Prediction: "Nomadland"

Frances McDormand in "Nomadland."


Nominees: Riz Ahmed, "Sound of Metal"; Chadwick Boseman, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"; Anthony Hopkins, "The Father"; Gary Oldman, "Mank"; Steven Yeun, "Minari" 

The storyline: This one's all Boseman. Following the actor's untimely death last August at the age of 43, he's been the favorite here for his remarkable turn in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." As for the rest of the field, Hopkins and Oldman already have trophies, and Yeun and Ahmed will have other chances. If there's one sure thing all night, this is it.

Prediction: Chadwick Boseman

This image released by Netflix shows Michael Potts, from left, Chadwick Boseman and Colman Domingo in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."


Nominees: Viola Davis, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"; Andra Day, "The United States vs. Billie Holiday"; Vanessa Kirby, "Pieces of a Woman"; Frances McDormand, "Nomadland"; Carey Mulligan, "Promising Young Woman"

The storyline: This is the most wide open major race in years. Mulligan was the early favorite, but "Promising Young Woman" never gained the kind of steam it would have in a normal year where, you know, theaters were open and people went to the movies. Its lack of streaming presence didn't help matters. Frances McDormand would be a shoo-in here but she already has two Oscars, and Andra Day could sneak in but "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" wasn't warmly received outside of her stellar performance. That has opened the door for Davis, who won Best Supporting Actress honors for 2016's "Fences," and is looking to add a second Oscar to her trophy case. Give her a slight edge over Mulligan and the rest of the field, but anything could happen. 

Prediction: Viola Davis

Viola Davis as Ma Rainey in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."


Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen, "The Trial of the Chicago 7"; Daniel Kaluuya, "Judas and the Black Messiah"; Leslie Odom Jr., "One Night in Miami..."; Paul Raci, "Sound of Metal"; Lakeith Stanfield, "Judas and the Black Messiah"

The storyline: Since "Sicario" in 2015, the British Kaluuya has been on a serious hot streak, with roles in "Get Out," "Black Panther," "Widows," "Queen & Slim" and now this. It helps that his role in "Judas" is clearly a lead part, so he makes more of an impression in his role than his fellow nominees are able to do in theirs. Not much chance of an upset here. 

Prediction: Daniel Kaluuya

Daniel Kaluuya in "Judas and the Black Messiah."


Nominees: Maria Bakalova, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm"; Glenn Close, "Hillbilly Elegy"; Olivia Colman, "The Father"; Amanda Seyfried, "Mank"; Youn Yuh-jung, "Minari"

The storyline: Hollywood wants to give Glenn Close an Oscar — this is her eighth nomination — but it doesn't want to give her an award for the ham-handed "Hillbilly Elegy." Of her fellow nominees, Colman just won an Oscar for 2018's "The Favourite," Seyfried's work in "Mank" is too slight and Bakalova's nomination is her prize. That leaves Youn Yuh-jung, who has won a slew of predictive awards, and would give the beloved "Minari" a win in one of the night's top categories. Sorry Ms. Close, maybe next time. 

Prediction: Youn Yuh-jung

Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han, Noel Cho in "Minari."


Nominees: Lee Isaac Chung, "Minari"; Emerald Fennell, "Promising Young Woman"; David Fincher, "Mank"; Chloé Zhao, "Nomadland"; Thomas Vinterberg, "Another Round"

The storyline: For the first time in Oscar history, two women are nominated in the Best Director field. "Nomadland's" Zhao is the first woman of color nominated for Best Director, and if she doesn't win it would rank as one of the night's big surprises. Three-time nominee Fincher, meanwhile, will have to sit on the sidelines once again.  

Prediction: Chloé Zhao

Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand on the set of "Nomadland."


Nominees: "Judas and the Black Messiah," "Minari," "Promising Young Woman," "Sound of Metal," "The Trial of the Chicago 7"

The storyline: Since it will be passed over in the Best Picture field, Emerald Fennell's timely take on modern sexual politics should flourish in this category, which is often seen as a consolation prize. "Minari" or "Chicago 7" could make a run here, but don't bet on it. 

Prediction: "Promising Young Woman"

Carey Mulligan in "Promising Young Woman."


Nominees: "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," "The Father," "Nomadland," "One Night in Miami...," "The White Tiger"

The storyline: The "Nomadland" surge continues, although if the widely respected "The Father" — which is likely to be blanked in other categories — is going to make a run anywhere, it's here.  

Prediction: "Nomadland"

Other categories: 

Best Animated Feature Film

Prediction: "Soul"

Jamie Foxx voices the lead character in "Soul."

Best International Feature Film

Prediction: "Another Round"

Best Documentary Feature

Prediction: "My Octopus Teacher"

Best Documentary Short Subject

Prediction: "A Love Song for Latasha"

Best Live Action Short Film

Prediction: "Two Distant Strangers" 

Joey Bada$$ and Andrew Howard in "Two Distant Strangers."

Best Animated Short Film

Prediction: "If Anything Happens I Love You"

Best Original Score

Prediction: "Soul" 

Best Original Song

Prediction: "Speak Now" (from "One Night in Miami...") 

Best Sound

Prediction: "Sound of Metal" 

Best Production Design

Prediction: "Mank" 

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman in "Mank."

Best Cinematography

Prediction: "Nomadland" 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Prediction: "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" 

Best Costume Design

Prediction: "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" 

Best Film Editing

Prediction: "Sound of Metal" 

Riz Ahmed in "Sound of Metal."

Best Visual Effects

Prediction: "Tenet" 

The 93rd Academy Awards

8 p.m. Sunday