Variety Awards Editor Clayton Davis’ 2021 Oscar Nominations Ballot

Oscar ballots will be in the hands of AMPAS voters on March 5, and they’ll have until March 10 to turn them in. All the predicting, theorizing and prognosticating have led to this crucial six-day period when the nearly 10,000 Academy members make their choices among the year’s achievements. As we head into this critical period, in a year defined by a global pandemic that has changed the way we look at cinema, we’re still reminded that movies are well worth celebrating.

Streamers provided access to some of the best films of 2020. This year, no matter what AMPAS ends up selecting as its nominees for the 93rd Academy Awards, most films will be widely available for consumers to watch before the ceremony. Cinema continues to evolve, and we can’t stop what’s coming. As with any true cinephile, my choices for what touched me from this extended eligibility are personally mine.

I don’t play by the rules of category submissions and believe, as many in the industry do, that the Academy should move to recognize casting and stunts. Any film’s exclusion from any of the categories doesn’t equate to “hate” or “non-appreciation.” Often, we forget that making the top five or 10 of a field of more than 300 candidates is an impressive feat, and even if a movie is not named among the elite, it can still be felt for decades to come. Just ask anyone about “Vertigo,” which received nominations for only production design and sound mixing in 1959 (and lost both).

As a recommendation — and an appeal — to Oscar voters, here’s what it would look like if I had a ballot.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

  1. Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
    Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Chloé Zhao (producers)
  2. Onward” (Pixar)
    Kori Rae (producer)
  3. A Sun” (Netflix)
    Yeh Ju-feng, Tseng Shao-chien (producers)
  4. Minari” (A24)
    Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh (producers)
  5. The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
    Lena Waithe, Jordan Fudge, Radha Blank, Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jennifer Semler, Rishi Rajani (producers)
  6. Palm Springs” (Hulu/Neon)
    Chris Parker, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Dylan Sellers, Becky Sloviter, Jorma Taccone (producers)
  7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Netflix)
    Stephanie Azpiazu, Anthony Bregman, Charlie Kaufman, Robert Salerno
  8. The Way I See It” (Focus Features)
    Dawn Porter, Laura Dern, Evan Hayes, Jayme Lemons
  9. Farewell Amor” (IFC Films)
    Bobby Allen, Sam Bisbee, Ekwa Msangi, Huriyyah Muhammad, Josh Penn, Joe Plummer (producers)
  10. Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)
    Ryan Coogler, Charles D. King, Shaka King

Best Achievement in Directing

  • Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari” (A24)
  • Kirsten Johnson, “Dick Johnson Is Dead” (Netflix)
  • Shaka King, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros)
  • Ekwa Msangi, “Farewell Amor” (IFC Films)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER

Chloé Zhao’s poetic vision of middle America is emotional and visually stunning, which is why it’s my pick for both best picture and director. Zhao captures the essence of the void in humanity that can fill with loss and despair — conveyed with the richness of an incredible cast, both known and unknown. Taking a natural following to the “Year of the Female Filmmaker” (which has been refreshing and should continue to be celebrated), there have been many worthy including the usual suspects that have popped up on the circuit, including Regina King and Emerald Fennell. Still, it was the personal touches of Kirsten Johnson and Ekwa Msangi that so lovingly brought their films to life. It would also be difficult to talk about this extended cinematic year without the harrowing work of Shaka King or the sensitive maneuvering of Lee Isaac Chung.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  • Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros)
  • Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Jesse Plemons, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Netflix)
  • Tahar Rahim, “The Mauritanian” (STXfilms)

Chadwick Boseman unloads every ounce of his legacy as Levee in his larger-than-life performance, while Jesse Plemons’ Jake in Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation has the actor laying down his most energetic take yet. Daniel Kaluuya’s Fred Hampton is exquisitely refined in Shaka King’s drama. Tahar Rahim again proves he’s worth every admission ticket purchased (a number that would be far higher if more theaters were open) in Kevin Macdonald’s true story. In the end, Delroy Lindo’s visceral power as Paul in Spike Lee’s joint puts Lindo above every other performer in this strange but uniquely distinguished year.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Julia Garner, “The Assistant” (Bleecker Street)
  • Yeri Han, “Minari” (A24)
  • Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Cristin Milioti, “Palm Springs” (Hulu/Neon)
  • Tilda Swinton, “The Human Voice” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Women controlled every aspect of the silver screen this year, and Yeri Han’s discovery for American audiences via Lee Isaac Chung’s personal drama will be felt for years. Julia Garner took command in Kitty Green’s all-too-familiar look into workplace abuse, while Cristin Milioti layers her Sarah in Max Barbakow’s debut, igniting every frame she inhabits. In a short film and not eligible outside of the live action category, Tilda Swinton manages to be unforgettable in Pedro Almodóvar’s first English-language offering. Yet the sheer bravery and intense dedication of Vanessa Kirby in Kornél Mundruczó’s vision of grief are pitch-perfect from the opening frame, one that deepens with each revisit.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Bo Burnham, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Billy Crystal, “Standing Up, Falling Down” (Shout! Factory)
  • Jamie Dornan, “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (Lionsgate)
  • Eli Goree, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER
  • Glynn Turman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Charin Alvarez, “Saint Frances” (Oscilloscope Labortories)
  • Dominique Fishback, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros)
  • Jayme Lawson, “Farewell Amor” (IFC Films) – WINNER
  • Swankie, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24)

“Supporting” does not mean “less than.” Supporting players can be, and in most cases are, the crux of a picture, the narrative glue between the director’s vision and the audience’s soul. In a robust cast of players, Eli Goree’s turn as Muhammad Ali in Regina King’s directorial debut has remained cemented since the film’s debut at the Venice Film Festival. As a film lover, I’m unafraid and proud to say Jamie Dornan’s hilarious and invigorating turn in Josh Greenbaum’s wicked comedy is sublime. For supporting actress, Swankie’s one-scene gut punch in which she spills her guts out to Fern is one of the secret ingredients to “Nomadland’s” success. Still, Jayme Lawson made silence a universal language, magnetizing the viewer with the promise of a vibrant future in the movies.

Best Original Screenplay

  • “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix) – Radha Blank – WINNER
  • “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus) – Sofia Coppola
  • “Palm Springs” (Hulu/Neon) – Andy Siara
  • “Saint Frances” (Oscilloscope Laboratories) – Kelly O. Sullivan
  • “A Sun” (Netflix) – Chang Yaosheng, Chung Mong-Hong

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller
  • “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Netflix) – Charlie Kaufman – WINNER
  • “The Mauritanian” (STXfilms) – M.B. Traven, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kemp Powers

Netflix gave the cinematic world the two scribes of the film year. Radha Blank’s discovery is so uniquely profound that it shapes the outlook of a challenging year, offering inspiration and reflection on what we hold important and what we can accomplish. For the dark and majestic tones of Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation, it marks a moment of notoriety that the man is far from done and is still one of the greatest screenwriters alive.

Best Animated Feature

  • “The Croods: A New Age” (DreamWorks Animation) – Joel Crawford, Mark Swift
  • “No. 7 Cherry Lane” (Far Sun Film Co. Ltd.) – Monica Chao, Yonfan
  • “Onward” (Pixar) – Dan Scanlon, Kori Rae – WINNER
  • “Over the Moon” (Netflix) – John Kahrs, Glen Keane, Peilin Chou, Gennie Rim
  • “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – Tomm Moore, Stéphan Roelants, Ross Stewart, Nora Twomey, Paul Young

Best Achievement in Production Design

  • “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Peter Francis, Cathy Featherstone
  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Page Buckner, Janessa Hitsman
  • “The Prom” (Netflix) – Jamie Walker McCall, Gene Serdena
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Michael Perry, Rae Deslich – WINNER

Best Achievement in Cinematography

  • “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix) – Eric Branco
  • “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros) – Sean Bobbit
  • “Malcolm & Marie” (Netflix) – Marcell Rév
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joshua James Richards – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tami Reiker

Best Achievement in Costume Design

  • “Ammonite” (Neon) – Michael O’Connor
  • “French Exit” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Jane Petrie
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Francine Jamison-Tanchuck
  • “The Prom” (Netflix) – Lou Eyrich
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Nancy Steiner – WINNER

Best Achievement in Film Editing

  • “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Yorgos Lamprinos
  • “Hamilton” (Disney Plus) – Jonah Moran
  • “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures) – Andy Canny
  • “Palm Springs” (Hulu/Neon) – Andrew Dickler, Matt Friedman
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Alan Baumgarten – WINNER

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

  • “Bad Hair” (Hulu) – Tony Gardner, Kellie Robinson, Nikki Wright
  • “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (Bleecker Street) – Elizabeth Lash, Jodi Mancuso
  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix) – Matiki Anoff, Larry M. Cherry, Mia Neal –  WINNER
  • “The Outpost” (Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment) – Sofi Hvarleva, Maria Stankovich
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Daniel Curet, Angela Wells

Best Achievement in Sound

  • “His House” (Netflix) – Adrian Bell, Glenn Freemantle, Frank Kruse, Brendan Nicholson, Richard Pryke
  • “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures) – Paul “Salty” Brincat, Will Files, P.K. Hooker
  • “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix) – Randy Thom, Dan Hiland, Todd Beckett, Danny Hambrook, Bjorn Schroeder
  • “The Outpost” (Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment) – Emil Evtimov, Kris Casavant, Gord Hillier, Robert Fernandez, Ryan Nowak
  • “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios) – Phillip Bladh, Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés, Carolina Santana – WINNER

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

  • “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures) – Marcus Bolton, Aevar Bjarnason, Jonathan Dearing, Matt Ebb
  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Simon Carr, Pablo Helman, James Pastorius, Wei Zheng
  • “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix) – Matt Kasmir, Chris Lawrence, Max Solomon, Dave Watkins – WINNER
  • “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Paramount Pictures) – Bryan Godwin, Chris Uyede, Ged Wright
  • “Welcome to Chechnya” (HBO) – Ryan Laney

Best Original Score

  • “The Life Ahead” (Netflix) – Gabriel Yared
  • “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures) – Benjamin Wallfisch
  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
  • “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix) – Alexandre Desplat – WINNER
  • “Over the Moon” (Netflix) – Steven Price

Best Original Song

  • “Edgar’s Prayer” from “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (Lionsgate) – Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig – WINNER
  • “Wuhan Flu” from “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios) – Sacha Baron Cohen, Erran Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Swimer, Jena Friedman, Jim Russell, Jerry Holleman
  • “Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead” (Netflix) – Niccolò Agliardi, Laura Pausini, Diane Warren
  • “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Sam Ashworth, Leslie Odom, Jr.
  • “Green” from “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios) – Abraham Marder

Best Documentary Feature

  • “76 Days” (MTV Documentary Films) – Anonymous, Hao Wu, Jean Tsien
  • “Boys State” (Apple TV Plus) – Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
  • “Class Action Park” (HBO Max) – Seth Porges, Chris Charles Scott III
  • “Totally Under Control” (Neon) – Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger
  • “The Way I See It” (Focus Features) – Dawn Porter – WINNER

Best International Feature

  • “Another Round” (Denmark) – Thomas Vinterberg
  • “I Carry You With Me” (Mexico) – Heidi Ewing
  • “A Sun” (Taiwan) – Chung Mong-Hong – WINNER
  • “The Mole Agent” (Chile) – Maite Alberdi
  • “Quo Vadis, Aida” (Bosnia and Herzegovina) – Jasmila Žbanić

Best Cast Ensemble

  • “Farewell Amor” (IFC Films) – Rebecca Dealy (casting by)
  • “The King of Staten Island” (Universal Pictures) – Gayle Keller, David Rubin (casting by)
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Hannah Peterson, Georgia Simon (local casting)
  • “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios) – Susan Shopmaker
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – WINNER

Best Achievement in Stunts

  • “Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” (Warner Bros)
  • “Dick Johnson Is Dead” (Netflix)
  • “Mulan” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • “The Old Guard” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • “Tenet” (Warner Bros)

Best Animated Short

  • “If Anything Happens to You” (Netflix) – Michael Govier, Will McCormack
  • “Out” (Disney Plus) – Steven Clay Hunter – WINNER
  • “The Snail and the Whale” (Magic Light) – Max Lang, Daniel Snaddon

Best Documentary Short

  • “A Concerto Is a Conversation” (Breakwater Studios) – Kris Bowers, Ben Proudfoot
  • “A Love Song for Latasha” (Netflix) – Sophia Nahli Allison
  • “The Speed Cubers” (Netflix) – Sue Kim – WINNER

Best Live Action Short

  • “Feeling Through” (Doug Roland Films) – Doug Roland
  • “The Human Voice” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Pedro Almodóvar
  • “Two Distant Strangers” (Dirty Robber, NowThis) – Travon Free, Martin Desmond Roe – WINNER

Academy Awards Predictions (All Categories)

  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Director
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Screenplay
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Production Design
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Costume Design
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Film Editing
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Sound
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Visual Effects
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Score
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Song
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Feature
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best International Feature
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Short
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Short
  • 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Live-Action Short

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