Final Predictions for the Oscars Shortlist Include Documentaries, Blockbusters and Rock and Roll Composers

Clayton Davis
·7-min read

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be announcing its shortlist on Tuesday in nine Oscar categories. The categories and number of films to be revealed include documentary feature (15), documentary short subject (10), international feature (15), makeup and hairstyling (10), original score (15), original song (15), animated short film (10), live action short film (10) and visual effects (10).

The shortlist voting concluded on Feb. 5, and the remaining will move on to the official phase one voting, which will take place on March 5-9. The Oscar nominations will be announced on March 15, with the show scheduled to take place on April 25.

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Down below, find the predictions for the shortlist (except for the shorts) with commentary on what to expect. Go to the Awards Circuit prediction pages of each category for the contenders’ full rankings and the credited artisans.

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • “Bill & Ted Face the Music” (United Artists Releasing)

  • “Emma.” (Focus Features)

  • “Hillbilly Elegy” (Netflix)

  • “The Little Things” (Warner Bros)

  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

  • “Mank” (Netflix)

  • “The Prom” (Netflix)

  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

  • “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Hulu)

  • “Wonder Woman 1984” (Warner Bros)

ALTERNATE: “Ammonite” (Neon)

The makeup and hairstyling branch loves what’s familiar, and former nominees and winners tend to find their way into the mix. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” has the magic of Bill Corso, who won for 2004’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” before gathering two additional nominations for “Click” and “Foxcatcher.” A bakeoff spot could be very likely. His special effects artist partner Kevin Yagher hasn’t found Academy love yet, but 1999’s “Sleepy Hollow” is an egregious snub that should be course-corrected more than two decades later. Other possibilities include “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” representing the musical films. At the same time, “Promising Young Woman” could step into this space with an overall love for the film.

Best Visual Effects

  • “Greyhound” (Apple TV Plus)

  • “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)

  • “Mank” (Netflix)

  • “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix)

  • “Mulan” (Walt Disney Pictures)

  • “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

  • “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Paramount Pictures)

  • “Tenet” (Warner Bros)

  • “Welcome to Chechnya” (HBO)

  • “Wonder Woman 1984” (Warner Bros)

ALTERNATE: “Soul” (Pixar)

The early critics’ awards have favored “Tenet” in the visual effects race, but not many handed out the prize. We should also remind the great population that critics are not Oscar voters. The team behind “Mank” remains in the thick of the race, especially one year after one of them was nominated for “The Irishman.” The work on “The Invisible Man” remains a real possibility to spoil and could go the way of “Ex Machina.” How will the HBO Max and Warner Bros. release strategy of “Wonder Woman 1984” favor (or not favor) it in the race? We’ll see.

Original Score

  • “Ammonite” (Neon) – Dustin O’Halloran, Volker Bertelmann

  • “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – Terence Blanchard

  • “The Glorias” (Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment) – Elliot Goldenthal

  • “Hillbilly Elegy” (Netflix) – David Fleming, Hans Zimmer

  • “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures) – Benjamin Wallfisch

  • “The Life Ahead” (Netflix) – Gabriel Yared

  • “The Little Things” (Warner Bros) – Thomas Newman

  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

  • “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix) – Alexandre Desplat

  • “Minari” (A24) – Emile Mosseri

  • “News of the World” (Universal Pictures) – James Newton Howard

  • “Soul” (Pixar) – Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

  • “Tenet” (Warner Bros) – Ludwig Göransson

  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Daniel Pemberton

  • “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – Bruno Coulais

ALTERNATE: “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Anthony Willis

Hollywood Music in Media recognized many of the composers listed, which has a strong correlation to the Oscars and the music branch. The winners included “News of the World” (James Newton Howard), “Minari” (Emile Mosseri), “Soul” (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), “Tenet” (Ludwig Göransson) and “The Invisible Man” (Benjamin Wallfisch). Those seem like safe bets for the shortlist. “The Glorias” has an established love for Elliot Goldenthal, so I’ll expect him to be among the entries. The BAFTA longlist had many of the top contenders, but there are always surprise entries. Reminder: the names of the composers are not on the ballots. Just the films. Does that help or hurt?

Original Song

  • “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios) – “Turntables”

  • “Belly of the Beast” (Independent Lens) – “See What You’ve Done”

  • “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios) – “Wuhan Flu”

  • “Giving Voice” (Netflix) – “Never Break’

  • “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros) – “Fight for You”

  • “The Life Ahead” (Netflix) – “Io Si (Seen)”

  • “Minari” (A24) – “Rain Song”

  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – “Speak Now”

  • “Onward” (Pixar) – “Carried Me With You”

  • “The Outpost” (Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment) – “Everybody Cries”

  • “Over the Moon” (Netflix) – “Rocket to the Moon”

  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – “Uh Oh”

  • “Tenet” (Warner Bros) – “The Plan”

  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – “Hear My Voice”

  • “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Hulu) – “Tigress & Tweed”

ALTERNATE: “Trolls: World Tour” (Universal Pictures) – “Just Sing”

The Hollywood Music in Media came through for this category as well with love for “Giving Voice,” “The Life Ahead,” “Minari,” “The Outpost” and “Trolls: World Tour.” This category always has a glaring omission or a shocking snub, so I’m just rolling the dice on the number from the “Trolls” sequel. There are 105 songs in the running, many from films that voters (and the public) may have never heard of, but could factor into a spot or two. Expect the unexpected with the music branch, and remember, these get vetted one more time after the shortlist is announced, so other disqualifications could still occur.

Documentary Feature

  • “76 Days” (MTV Documentary Films)

  • “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios)

  • “Boys State” (Apple TV Plus)

  • “Collective” (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)

  • “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution” (Netflix)

  • “Dick Johnson Is Dead” (Netflix)

  • “The Dissident” (Briarcliff Entertainment)

  • “My Octopus Teacher” (Netflix)

  • “The Painter and the Thief” (Neon)

  • “Rebuilding Paradise” (National Geographic Films)

  • “A Thousand Cuts” (PBS Distribution and FRONTLINE PBS)

  • “Time” (Amazon Studios)

  • “The Truffle Hunters” (Sony Pictures Classics)

  • “The Way I See It” (Focus Features)

  • “Welcome to Chechnya” (HBO)

ALTERNATE: “The Mole Agent” (Gravitas Ventures)

“Crip Camp” and “Welcome to Chechnya” have made some headway in the last few weeks. The former has the same team behind the Oscar-winning “American Factory” and Barack Obama so it feels like a safe bet. In terms of the films on the shortlist, the field has 238 docs in contention, and we have to prepare for unexpected choices and selections. Worth noting once again, with this many films vying for a spot, it’s time to expand this nomination field from five to 10 for the Oscars.

International Feature

  • “Another Round” (Denmark)

  • “Apples” (Greece)

  • “Charlatan” (Czech Republic)

  • “Collective” (Romania)

  • “Dear Comrades!” (Russia)

  • “The Endless Trench’ (Spain)

  • “I’m No Longer Here” (Mexico)

  • “La Llorona” (Guatemala)

  • “The Mole Agent” (Chile)

  • “My Little Sister” (Switzerland)

  • “Night of the Kings” (Ivory Coast)

  • “Quo Vadis, Aida?” (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

  • “A Sun” (Taiwan)

  • “Sun Children” (Iran)

  • “Two Of Us” (France)

ALTERNATE: “Never Gonna Snow Again” (Poland)

No “saves” from the executive committee, no cushion. It could be an interesting lineup this year, which is just about every year. “Another Round” from Denmark is the leading film in the precursors with “Minari” (which is not eligible) having the second most wins this season. “La Llorona” won the National Board of Review, with “Bacurau” and “Beanpole” winning New York and Los Angeles, both of which are not eligible. 93 countries submitted, the most in Oscar history. There are quite a lot that was fighting to be seen by the members who opted in. Hopefully, they all got a fair shake.

2021 Academy Awards Predictions

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