Oscars 2021: Could ‘Promising Young Woman’ Overtake ‘Nomadland?’

It’s been one full week since the 93rd Academy Award nominees were announced and there were a few surprises, but not too many. Now that we know who is in and who is out, we’ll have the remaining precursors to help us figure out the direction voters are headed this year.

This weekend saw the Writers Guild winners and later this week, the Producers Guild will reveal their top picks. The Costume Designers and Art Directors are still voting and before final Oscar voting opens, we will hear from the Directors Guild, VFX, SAG, and BAFTA. In some cases, this will serve to solidify what we’ve thought for months. In others, new frontrunners will emerge. This is the part where it gets really fun.

Here are my predictions with five weeks to go until Oscar night.

Best Picture

Week after week, Nomadland continues to rack up prizes. Perhaps it’s the year of isolation we’ve all just faced and our search for connection. Nomadland is the perfect combination of Frances McDormand’s world-weary Fern and Chloé Zhao’s profound understanding of how to turn internal emotion and struggle into something beautifully cinematic. But watch out for Promising Young Woman, which has been quickly and not-so-quietly surging. And yet, do not count out The Trial of the Chicago 7. Netflix’s attention was split in a lot of directions leading up to nominations, but now that they are down to two in Best Picture, we’re going to be seeing a big push for both, with Trial the more universally appealing choice. Missing Best Director hurt, but in this very strange year, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end.

  1. “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
  2. “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  3. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  4. “Minari” (A24)
  5. “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  6. “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)
  7. “Sound of Metal” (Amazon)
  8. “Mank” (Netflix)

Best Director

If Nomadland is the likeliest Best Picture, the case is even more true for Chloé Zhao as Best Director. Sure, the narratives are all there. Second woman ever to win, first woman of color to win. But this is a film people love, and it is a vision that was accomplished by a director who has quietly been building a respectful and respectable career in the industry. If Zhao wins the Oscar, it will not be because she is a woman. It will not be because she is Asian. It will be because her direction gave us a beautiful, enduring cinematic treasure.

  1. Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
  2. Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  3. Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari” (A24)
  4. Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round” (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
  5. David Fincher, “Mank” (Netflix)

Best Actor

While it’s still possible for things to shift, Chadwick Boseman will almost certainly win. His Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the best performance of his career, the best performance of this lineup, and the best performance of the year. But if it isn’t him, the current second place is probably Anthony Hopkins, who was essentially pronounced the winner last fall before Ma Rainey was released. But Riz Ahmed is also garnering a lot of attention and is well positioned for an upset.

  1. Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  2. Anthony Hopkins, “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  3. Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon)
  4. Steven Yeun, “Minari” (A24)
  5. Gary Oldman, “Mank” (Netflix)

Best Actress

Andra Day as “Billie Holiday” in THE UNITED STATES VS BILLIE HOLIDAY — Photo by: Takashi Seida/Hulu

There are so many directions the Best Actress race could go. Most are saying Carey Mulligan will win out, and that’s entirely possible. But while Mulligan has been battling it out with Frances McDormand, and Netflix has both Vanessa Kirby and Viola Davis to work with, Andra Day has been biding her time, slowly climbing the ranks. The Golden Globe win was huge. And even though she missed SAG, BAFTA, and Critics Choice, those prizes are likely to divide their spoils among different actresses. Which means there is room for newcomer Day to win it all.

  1. Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Paramount)
  2. Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  3. Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
  4. Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  5. Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya is “Fred Hampton” in JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH — Courtesy of Warner Bros.

There was a bit of a surprise tossed into the Supporting Actor race when LaKeith Stanfield found himself in the category against his castmate, Daniel Kaluuya. That may have thrown a wrench into Kaluuya’s march to an Oscar, but the two-time Oscar nominee has a bigger presence onscreen with Fred Hampton than Stanfield’s quieter Bill O’Neal. There is the possibility, though, that they split enough votes to make way for Paul Raci, a critical favorite who has endeared himself to voters throughout the season.

  1. Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)
  2. Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon)
  3. Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  4. Leslie Odom, Jr. “One Night in Miami” (Amazon)
  5. LaKeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)

Best Supporting Actress

Image from BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM — Courtesy of Amazon Studios

One of the most surprising nominees to emerge this year has been Maria Bakalova, the rising star who won over fans with her work as Borat’s young daughter Tutar in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. With a Golden Globe, a Critics Choice Award, and a BAFTA nomination, Bakalova – much like her character – is the surprise no one saw coming, even though they should have.

  1. Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon)
  2. Yuh-jung Youn, “Minari” (A24)
  3. Olivia Colman, “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  4. Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy” (Netflix)
  5. Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)

Best Original Screenplay

(l to r) Carey Mulligan, writer/director Emerald Fennell, Laverne Cox and Bo Burnham on the set of the new movie “Promising Young Woman.”

The race for Original Screenplay once felt like it belonged to Aaron Sorkin. The writer/director of The Trial of the Chicago 7 carries with him this odd mythology that he is a perpetual winner for his scripts. But with only one Oscar that he didn’t win until 2010, and two other nominations, Sorkin’s name doesn’t have an automatic check next to it. Emerald Fennell’s win with the Writers Guild was huge and hugely important, moving her into a very strong first place. Keep in mind, though, this is an Original Screenplay category that contains all Best Picture and acting nominees, so there are a lot of possible scenarios that could play out.

  1. Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  2. Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  3. Darius Marder & Abraham Marder, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon)
  4. Will Berson & Shaka King, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)
  5. Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari” (A24)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Frances McDormand stars in NOMADLAND — Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Yes, the Writers Guild apparently loved Borat 2 and Sacha Baron Cohen’s sequel got a boost it definitely needed. That boost probably helped more for supporting actress Maria Bakalova than for the writing team behind the comedy. The reason being, Chloé Zhao and Nomadland were not eligible for WGA because that guild restricts awards to current members. The film that could put up a fight against Nomadland, though, is The Father, which obviously won over voters who will be looking for somewhere to reward Zeller’s adaptation of his award-winning play.

  1. Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
  2. Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  3. Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Dan Swimer & Peter Baynham & Erica Rivinoja & Dan Mazer & Jena Friedman & Lee Kern, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon)
  4. Kemp Powers, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon)
  5. Ramin Bahrani, “The White Tiger” (Netflix)

Best International Feature Film

Mads Mikkelson stars in ANOTHER ROUND

The frontrunner for International Film has long been Denmark’s Another Round. With director Thomas Vinterberg landing in the directing lineup, that only makes the case stronger. However, Quo Vadis, Aida? is coming in strong as a better film with a lot of new fans. And then, of course, there is Collective, which is also a double nominee. The edge still goes to Another Round, but pay close attention to the conversations over the next week or two as more and more viewers find the rest of the lineup, particularly Aida, which was just released in the US.

  1. “Another Round” – Denmark (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
  2. “Quo Vadis, Aida?” – Bosnia and Herzogovina (Super LTD)
  3. Collective” – Romania (Magnolia/Participant)
  4. “Better Days” – Hong Kong (Well Go USA)
  5. “The Man Who Sold His Skin” – Tunisia (Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Best Animated Feature Film

Image from SOUL — Disney/Pixar

With three nominations, Soul is the clear favorite for Animated Feature. But that doesn’t mean it’s over for Wolfwalkers, the beautifully hand-drawn Irish tale from Apple and GKIDS. Soul has all the precursors, but Wolfwalkers has a passionate fanbase that could help plead its case with Oscar voters.

  1. “Soul” (Disney/Pixar) – dir. Pete Docter and Kemp Powers
  2. “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV+/GKIDS) – dir. Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
  3. “Onward” (Disney/Pixar) – dir. Dan Scanlon
  4. “Over the Moon” (Netflix) – dir. Glen Keane and John Kahrs
  5. “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (Netflix) – dir. Will Becher and Richard Phelan

Best Documentary Feature Film

Collective feature

Image from COLLECTIVE (Romania) — Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Romania’s International Feature is also one of the year’s most compelling documentaries. At a time when health, healthcare, and journalism are central topics in the US and around the world, Collective is a tribute to all three. Time is a timely and heartfelt portrait of a family, constructed with love and compassion. Crip Camp, The Mole Agent, and My Octopus Teacher are also the types of uplifting and hopeful documentaries voters may be drawn to after such a difficult year. The documentary feature race may just have the most universally appealing nominees of any category this year.

  1. “Collective” (Magnolia Pictures) – dir. Alexander Nanau
  2. “Time” (Amazon Studios) – dir. Garrett Bradley
  3. “Crip Camp” (Netflix) – dir. James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham
  4. “The Mole Agent” (Gravitas Ventures) – dir. Maite Alberdi
  5. “My Octopus Teacher” (Netflix) – dir. Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed


NOMADLAND — Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures


  1. Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”
  2. Erik Messerschmidt, “Mank”
  3. Dariusz Wolski, “News of the World”
  4. Phedon Papamichael, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
  5. Sean Bobbitt, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Costume Design

Viola Davis stars in MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM — Courtesy of Netflix


  1. Ann Roth, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  2. Massimo Cantini Parrini, “Pinocchio” (Roadside Attractions)
  3. Trish Summerville, “Mank” (Netflix)
  4. Alexandra Byrne, “Emma.” (Focus Features)
  5. Bina Daigeler, “Mulan” (Netflix)

Film Editing

(l-r) Imogen Poots, Olivia Colman, and Anthony Hopkins star in THE FATHER — Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics


  1. Yorgos Lamprinos, “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  2. Mikkel E. G. Nielsen, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon)
  3. Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
  4. Alan Baumgarten, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  5. Frédéric Thoraval, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Makeup and Hairstyling

Roberto Begnini and Federico Ielapi star in PINOCCHIO — Courtesy of Roadside Attractions


  1. Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli and Francesco Pegoretti, “Pinocchio” (Roadside Attractions)
  2. Eryn Krueger Mekash, Matthew Mungle and Patricia Dehaney, “Hillbilly Elegy” (Netflix)
  3. Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  4. Marese Langan, Laura Allen and Claudia Stolze, “Emma.” (Focus Features)
  5. Gigi Williams, Kimberley Spiteri and Colleen LaBaff, “Mank” (Netflix)

Music – Original Score


Gary Oldman stars in MANK — Courtesy of Netflix


  1. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Mank” (Netflix)
  2. Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, “Soul” (Disney/Pixar)
  3. James Newton Howard, “News of the World” (Universal)
  4. Emile Mosseri, “Minari” (A24)
  5. Terence Blanchard, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Music – Original Song

Photo: Patti Perret; Courtesy of Amazon Studios


  1. “Speak Now”  from “One Night in Miami” – Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth
  2. “Io Sì” from “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)” – Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
  3. “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah” – Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas
  4. “Hùsavìk” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” – Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson
  5. “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7” – Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite

Production Design

Scene from MANK — Courtesy of Netflix


  1. “Mank” (Netflix) – Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale
  2. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix) – Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton
  3. “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone
  4. “Tenet” (Warner Bros.) – Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
  5. “News of the World” (Universal) – Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan


Riz Ahmed stars in SOUND OF METAL — Courtesy of Amazon Studios


  1. “Sound of Metal” (Amazon) – Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh
  2. “Soul” (Disney/Pixar) – Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker
  3. “Greyhound” (Apple TV+) – Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman
  4. “News of the World” (Universal) – Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett
  5. “Mank” (Netflix) – Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin

Visual Effects

John David Washington stars in TENET — Courtesy of Warner Bros.


  1. “Tenet” (Warner Bros) – Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher
  2. “The One and Only Ivan” (Disney) – Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez
  3. “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix) – Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins
  4. “Love and Monsters” (Paramount) – Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox
  5. “Mulan” (Disney) – Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram

  1. “If Anything Happens I Love You” – dir. Michael Govier, Will McCormack
  2. “Burrow” – dir. Madeline Sharafian
  3. “Genius Loci” – dir. Adrien Merigeau
  4. “Yes-People” – dir. Gísli Darri Halldórsson
  5. “Opera” – dir. Erick Oh

Documentary Short Subject

  1. “A Concerto Is a Conversation” – dir. Ben Proudfoot, Kris Bowers
  2. “Hunger Ward” – dir. Skye Fitzgerald
  3. “Do Not Split” – dir. Anders Hammer
  4. “A Love Song for Latasha” – dir. Sophia Nahli Allison
  5. “Colette” – dir. Anthony Giacchino

Short Film – Live Action

  1. “Two Distant Strangers” dir. Travon Free, Martin Desmond Roe
  2. “Feeling Through” – dir. Doug Roland
  3. “The Present” – dir. Farah Nabulsi
  4. “The Letter Room” – dir. Elvira Lind
  5. “The White Eye” – dir. Tomer Shushan

The 93rd Academy Awards will be held Sunday, April 25.

Written by
Karen Peterson is the Awards Editor for We Live Entertainment. She previously worked as the Assistant Editor at Awards Circuit, now owned by Variety. Her work can also be found at Citizen Dame and at the Watch and Talk podcast. Her non-awards season hobbies include Angels baseball, taking pictures of other peoples' pets, and tweeting about The Bachelor franchise.

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