Oscars Predictions: Best Picture – Is ‘Sound of Metal’ Peaking at the Perfect Time?

Clayton Davis
·10-min read

Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars from Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis. Following Academy Awards history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Oscar predictions are updated regularly with the current year's contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. Eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and will be displayed next to revision date.

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2021 OSCARS PREDICTIONS:
BEST PICTURE

UPDATED: Jan. 21, 2021

AWARDS COMMENTARY:
From the critics’ awards standpoint, which as a reminder are not Oscar voters, “Nomadland” from Searchlight Pictures still leads the charge handily with “The Trial of the Chicago 7” from Netflix comfortably behind. That seems to track well as we sit in the middle of BAFTA, Golden Globes and SAG voting which is firmly underway. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” continues to pick up steam and support while “One Night in Miami” is enjoying its moment after being released on Amazon Prime Video. Speaking of Amazon, “Sound of Metal” has been lighting up the critics’ awards, with stars Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci taking charge with the accolades. As that love continues to grow, the film can start factoring into other major categories including picture, director and original screenplay.

(Awards Circuit Winners Chart (2020-2021)

AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE:

  1. "Nomadland" (Searchlight Pictures)

    PRODUCERS: Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Chloé Zhao
    DIRECTOR: Chloé Zhao
    SYNOPSIS: After losing everything in the Great Recession, an old woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
    STARRING: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells

  2. "The Trial of the Chicago 7" (Netflix)

    PRODUCERS: Stuart M. Besser, Matt Jackson, Marc Platt, Tyler Thompson
    DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
    SYNOPSIS: The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
    STARRING: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong

  3. "Minari" (A24)

    PRODUCERS: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh
    DIRECTOR: Lee Isaac Chung
    SYNOPSIS: A Korean family moves to Arkansas to start a farm in the 1980s.
    STARRING: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-jung Youn, Will Patton

  4. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (Netflix)

    PRODUCERS: Todd Black, Denzel Washington, Dany Wolf
    DIRECTOR: George C. Wolfe
    SYNOPSIS: Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues". Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's play..
    STARRING: Chadwick Boseman, Dusan Brown, Jonny Coyne, Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Taylour Paige, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Glynn Turman

  5. "One Night in Miami" (Amazon Studios)

    PRODUCERS: Jess Wu Calder, Keith Calder, Jody Klein
    DIRECTOR: Regina King
    SYNOPSIS: A fictional account of one incredible night in 1964, where four icons of activism, sports and music – Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke – gathered, discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the ’60s.
    STARRING: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom, Jr.

  6. "Sound of Metal" (Amazon Studios)

    PRODUCERS: Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche, Bill Benz, Kathy Benz
    DIRECTOR: Darius Marder
    SYNOPSIS: A heavy-metal drummer's life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.
    STARRING: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Almaric, Lauren Ridloff

  7. "News of the World" (Universal Pictures)

    PRODUCERS: Gary Goetzman, Gregory Goodman, Gail Mutrux
    DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass
    SYNOPSIS: A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.
    STARRING: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon

  8. "Da 5 Bloods" (Netflix)

    PRODUCERS: Jon Kilik, Spike Lee, Beatriz Levin, Lloyd Levin
    DIRECTOR: Spike Lee
    SYNOPSIS: Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.
    STARRING: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Jonathan Majors, Chadwick Boseman, Isiah Witlock, Jr,, Norm Lewis

  9. "Promising Young Woman" (Focus Features)

    PRODUCERS: Ben Browning, Emerald Fennell, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Josey McNamara, Ashley Fox
    DIRECTOR: Emerald Fennell
    SYNOPSIS: A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who cross her path.
    STARRING: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Molly Shannon, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Max Greenfield, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Connie Britton, Chris Lowell, Adam Brody, Sam Richardson

  10. "Judas and the Black Messiah" (HBO Max/Warner Bros.)

    PRODUCERS: Charles D. King, Ryan Coogler, Shaka King
    DIRECTOR: Shaka King
    SYNOPSIS: The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O'Neal.
    STARRING: Lakeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen, Dominique Thorne, Algee Smith, Lil Rel Howery, Jermaine Fowler

NEXT IN LINE CONTENDERS:

  1. "Mank" (Netflix)

    PRODUCERS: Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth, Douglas Urbanski
    DIRECTOR: David Fincher
    SYNOPSIS: 1930s Hollywood is re-evaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles.
    STARRING: Tom Burke, Lily Collins, Joseph Cross, Charles Dance, Monika Gossman, Ferdinand Kingsley, Jamie McShane, Tuppence Middleton, Toby Leonard Moore, Gary Oldman, Tom Pelphrey, Amanda Seyfried, Sam Troughton

  2. "The Father" (Sony Pictures Classics)

    PRODUCERS: Philippe Carcassonne, Simon Friend, Jean-Louis Livi, David Parfitt, Christophe Spadone
    DIRECTOR: Florian Zeller
    SYNOPSIS: A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.
    STARRING: Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Anthony Hopkins, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams

  3. "On the Rocks" (A24/Apple Plus)

    PRODUCERS: Sofia Coppola, Youree Henley
    DIRECTOR: Sofia Coppola
    SYNOPSIS: A young mother reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father on an adventure through New York.
    STARRING: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, Jenny Slate

  4. "First Cow" (A24)

    PRODUCERS: Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani
    DIRECTOR: Kelly Reichardt
    SYNOPSIS: A skilled cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon, though he only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business.
    STARRING: John Magaro, Orion Lee

  5. "Soul" (Pixar)

    PRODUCER: Dana Murray
    DIRECTOR: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
    SYNOPSIS: A musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.
    STARRING: Jamie Foxx, Angela Bassett, Daveed Diggs, Quest Love, Phylicia Rashad, Tina Fey, Graham Norton

  6. "Malcolm & Marie" (Netflix)

    PRODUCERS: Zendaya, Kevin Turen, Ashley Levinson, Sam Levinson, John David Washington
    DIRECTOR: Sam Levinson
    SYNOPSIS: Sam Levinson teams up with Zendaya and John David Washington for an achingly romantic drama in which a filmmaker (Washington) and his girlfriend (Zendaya) return home following a celebratory movie premiere as he awaits what’s sure to be imminent critical and financial success.
    STARRING: Zendaya, John David Washington

  7. "The Prom" (Netflix)

    PRODUCERS: Dori Berinstein, Bill Damaschke, Ryan Murphy, Alexis Martin Woodall
    DIRECTOR: Ryan Murphy
    SYNOPSIS: A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom..
    STARRING: Meryl Streep, Jo Ellen Pellman, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Ariana DeBose, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells. Tracey Ullman

  8. "The Mauritanian" (STX Films)

    PRODUCERS: Adam Ackland, Leah Clarke, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lloyd Levin, Beatriz Levin, Mark Holder, Christine Holder, Branwen Prestwood Smith, Michael Bronner
    DIRECTOR: Kevin Macdonald
    SYNOPSIS: A detainee at the U.S military's Guantanamo Bay detention center is held without charges for over a decade and seeks help from a defense attorney for his release.
    STARRING: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley

  9. "Ammonite" (Neon)

    PRODUCERS: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly
    DIRECTOR: Francis Lee
    SYNOPSIS: 1840s England, acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter Mary Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever.
    STARRING: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, James McArdle

  10. "Palm Springs" (Hulu/Neon)

    PRODUCERS: Chris Parker, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Dylan Sellers, Becky Sloviter, Jorma Taccone
    DIRECTOR: Max Barbakow
    SYNOPSIS: When carefree Nyles and reluctant maid of honor Sarah have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding, things get complicated as they are unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other.
    STARRING: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Meredith Hagner, Camila Mendes, Tyler Hoechlin

TOP-TIER AWARDS CONTENDERS:

  1. "The Midnight Sky" (Netflix)

    PRODUCERS: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Bard Dorros, Keith Redmon, Cliff Roberts
    DIRECTOR: George Clooney
    SYNOPSIS: This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine, a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
    STARRING: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone, Caoilinn Springall

  2. "Tenet" (Warner Bros.)

    PRODUCERS: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas
    DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
    SYNOPSIS: Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
    STARRING: John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh

  3. "Pieces of a Woman" (Netflix)

    PRODUCERS: Ashley Levinson, Aaron Ryder, Kevin Turen
    DIRECTOR: Kornél Mundruczó
    SYNOPSIS: When a young mother's home birth ends in unfathomable tragedy, she begins a year-long odyssey of mourning that fractures relationships with loved ones in this deeply personal story of a woman learning to live alongside her loss.
    STARRING: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie, Sarah Snook, Molly Parker

  4. "Cherry" (Apple TV Plus)

    PRODUCERS: Jake Aust, Chris Castaldi, Jonathan Gray, Mike Larocca, Matthew Rhodes, Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
    DIRECTOR: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
    SYNOPSIS: An Army medic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder becomes a serial bank robber after an addiction to drugs puts him in debt.
    STARRING: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Kelli Berglund, Thomas Lennon

  5. "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" (Focus Features)

    PRODUCERS: Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy
    DIRECTOR: Eliza Hittman
    SYNOPSIS: Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) embark across state lines from rural Pennsylvania to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.
    STARRING: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Sharon Von Etten, Theodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold

† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. The most awarded films in Oscar history are “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” at 11 statuettes. The most nominated films in Academy history are “All About Eve,” “Titanic” and “La La Land” at 14. “La La Land” is the only film of the three to have lost best picture. The biggest Oscar “losers,” meaning most nominated and walk away with zero awards are 1977’s “The Turning Point” and 1985’s “The Color Purple” at 11 each.

Academy Awards Predictions (All Categories)

2021 Golden Globes Predictions (Film)

2021 SAG Awards Predictions (Film)

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