To be honest, it’s hard to know where to begin. 

More intelligent minds (and faster typers) than myself have already celebrated the highs of the 2021 Academy Awards, from Youn Yuh-jung’s on-stage thirst-trapping of Brad Pitt, to Glenn Close’s (definitely scripted, no less spectacular) history lesson about and performance of “Da Butt,” to Thomas Vinterberg’s heart-wrenching memorial for his daughter’s passing. The critiques have already been lodged of the show’s fumbled pacing, Tyler Perry’s false equivalence of identity and employment as a police officer, and producer Steven Soderbergh’s misguided, Nick-Young-esque decision to rearrange the awards so as to highlight a Chadwick Boseman win that never came. 

It does feel essential to name the implications of that five-yard-line fumble: for all the self-congratulatory back-patting in the run up to this year’s Oscars for the increased diversity of its nominees, and for all the admirable attempts to center Academy members of color throughout the program, the show’s big three awards were once again reserved for white actors and the stories about them. 

Out of the 186 Best Actress and Actor awards in the history of the Oscars, we remain at a grand total of seven winners of color. 

The disgraceful inequity of that ratio should not detract from the joy of watching actor-of-his-generation Daniel Kaluuya win for his breathtaking performance as Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, or of Chloé  Zhao’s much deserved directing win (making her the first woman of color and second women ever to win the category). Nor must it necessarily shade our opinion of Anthony Hopkins’s genuinely brilliant on-screen descent into senility in a negative light. 

But the missed opportunity to celebrate the astonishing work of Chadwick Boseman, especially given his passing, highlights the long history of the Academy’s unwillingness to laud some of its most gifted members, even after time has run out. 


Even when the ceremony steers clear of its problematic tendencies, it’s a statistical impossibility that the selected winners will perfectly reflect the personal tastes of the show’s viewers (though shouts to you Green Book heads, you sure had your moment). So this seemed like the perfect opportunity to dole out some awards to a few alternative favorites from the 2020-2021 movie season (as well as some picks from the greater MMH community). 

[For the sake of consistency, only Oscar-qualifying films are included in the 2021 Coulda Woulda Should-Awards; apologies to the otherwise multi-category-sweeping Steve McQueen, for Mangrove and Lovers Rock especially.] 


2021 Oscars Nominees: 

Da 5 Bloods (Terence Blanchard)
Mank (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
Minari (Emile Mosseri)
News of the World  (James Newton Howard)
Soul (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste) – WINNER

Nate’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award Nominees:

Mank (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
Tenet (Ludwig Göransson)
The Vast of Night (Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer)
First Cow (William Tyler)

And The Winner Is: Minari (Emile Mosseri)

Between his breathtaking 2019 score for The Last Black Man In San Francisco and this year’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award winner, Emile Mosseri is making a strong case as the number-one-overall pick in the young indie film composer draft. 

A Second Opinion (MHH In-House Picks): 

Cody: Da 5 Bloods (Terrance Blanchard)


2021 Oscars Nominees: 

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan  (Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern, and Nina Pedrad)
The Father  (Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller) – WINNER
Nomadland  (Chloé  Zhao)
One Night In Miami… (Kemp Powers)
The White Tiger (Ramin Bahrani)

Nate’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award Nominees: 

Nomadland (Chloé  Zhao)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Ruben Santiago-Hudson)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kauffman)
The Father (Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller)

And The Winner Is: First Cow (Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond)

The First Cow Oscar freeze-out wasn’t a shock, but the film remains one of the most intimately beautiful stories of recent memory, and so much of its success hinges on Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond’s ingenious narrative pacing. Please watch First Cow

Some Second Opinions:

Cody: One Night In Miami… (Kemp Powers)
Dave (serving as our resident Film Twitter prognosticator): The Father (Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller)
Sasha: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


2021 Oscars Nominees: 

Judas and the Black Messiah (Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, and Keith Lucas)
Minari (Lee Isaac Chung)
Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell) – WINNER
Sound of Metal (Darius Marder, Abraham Marder, Derek Cianfrance)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Aaron Sorkin)

Nate’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award Nominees:

Palm Springs (Andy Siara)
The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson, Craig W. Sanger)
Mank (Jack Fincher)
Los Lobos (Samuel Kishi Leopo, Sofía Gómez Córdova, José Luis Briones)

And The Winner Is: Minari (Lee Isaac Chung)

Los Lobos is an under-recognized masterpiece in its telling of an immigration story through the lens of childhood surrealism, but Minari just slightly edges it out here. Two genuinely brilliant films, telling two uniquely American stories. 

Some Second Opinions: 

Cody: Palm Springs (Andy Siara)
Dave: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
Sasha: Sound of Metal (Darius Marder, Abraham Marder, Derek Cianfrance)


2021 Oscars Nominees: 

Amanda Seyfried (Mank)
Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)
Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm…)
Olivia Coleman (The Father)
Youn Yuh-jung  (Minari) – WINNER

Nate’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award Nominees:

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Movie Film)
Martha Reyes Arias (Los Lobos)
Dominique Fishback (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Amanda Seyfried (Mank)

And The Winner Is: Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)

On the same page with the Academy on the winner here, but extra shouts to Amanda Seyfriend and Dominique Fishback, who gave two of the performances of the year. Fingers crossed that we see many more appearances from both in the future. 

Some Second Opinions:

Cody: Glenn Close, (Hillbilly Elegy)
Dave: Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)


2021 Oscars Nominees: 

Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) – WINNER
LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) (egregious category fraud)
Leslie Odom Jr (One Night in Miami…)
Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)
Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

Nate’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award Nominees:

Lars Ranthe (Another Round)
Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)
Orion Lee (First Cow)
Yahya Abdul Matin II (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

And The Winner Is: Daniel Kaluuya, (Judas and the Black Messiah)

There is an increasingly easy case to be made that Kaluuya is the most talented working actor under 35, and his aforementioned portrayal of Fred Hampton may be his best yet (to take nothing away from his masterful work in Get Out and Widows). That said, Yahya Abdul Matin II’s turn as Bobby Seale was one of the lone bright spots in The Trial of the Chicago 7, and could very well have taken top honors here if Aaron Sorkin hadn’t undervalued the emotional heart of his own movie. His absence from the nominees was one of the biggest snubs of the season. 

Some Second Opinions:

Cody: Eli Goree (One Night in Miami…)
Dave: Daniel Kaluuya, (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Sasha: LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah)


2021 Oscars Nominees 

Chloé  Zhao (Nomadland)WINNER
David Fincher (Mank)
Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)
Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)
Thomas Vinterberg, (Another Round)

Nate’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award Nominees:

Garrett Bradley (Time)
David Fincher (Mank)
Chloé  Zhao (Nomadland)
Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)

And The Winner Is: Kelly Reichardt (First Cow)

A very crowded best director field, with a hair-length difference between the five nominees. 

I am absolutely thrilled with Chloé Zhao’s Oscar win (though Lee Isaac Chung’s work in Minari climbs just slightly higher in my estimation) and particularly disappointed by the absence of Garrett Bradley, whose direction on the year’s best documentary (Time) expertly balances an incisive critique of the prison industrial complex with intimacy and humanity rarely captured on film. 

But for me, the care with which Kelly Reichardt guides her audience through First Cow cements her as the director of the year, and one of the season’s biggest snubs. 

Also, someone please give David Fincher an Oscar already.  

Some Second Opinions:

Cody: Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods
Dave: Chloé  Zhao, Nomadland
Sasha: Tenet
(Christopher Nolan)


2021 Oscars Nominees 

Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland – WINNER
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Nate’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award Nominees:

Zendaya, Malcolm & Marie
Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Cristin Milioti, Palm Springs
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

And The Winner Is: Han Ye-ri, Minari

Viola Davis was my pick within the collection of Oscar nominees, delivering an absolute powerhouse performance as the titular Ma Rainey; but Han Ye-ri’s frustratingly underrecognized turn as the matriarch of the Minari family was the emotional center of the film. Additional love to Cristin Milioti for the comedic role of the year (and Best On Camera Scream of the decade). 

Some Second Opinions:

Cody: Elizabeth Moss, Shirley
Dave: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


2021 Oscars Nominees: 

Anthony Hopkins, The Father – WINNER
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Gary Oldman, Mank
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Steven Yeun, Minari

Nate’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award Nominees:

Steven Yeun, Minari
Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
Mads Mikkelson, Another Round

And The Winner Is: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

A pick so airtight, they structured the show around it. Chadwick was rarely anything less than fantastic in his films, but the rage, the anguish, the bravado, and the heart that he poured into the tragedy of Levon Green was stop-you-in-your-tracks spectacular. A posthumous Oscar would not have filled the void left in his wake; even so, it’s a shame that the acting performance of the year went unrecognized. Rest in Power, Chadwick. 

Some Second Opinions:

Cody: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Dave: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


2021 Oscars Nominees:

Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Father
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Nate’s Coulda Woulda Should-Award Nominees:

Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Palm Springs
Los Lobos
The Vast of Night
Judas and the Black Messiah
First Cow

And The Winner Is: Minari

If you couldn’t tell from its four previous Coulda Woulda Should-Award wins, I’m a pretty big fan of Minari. That said, First Cow is a top-100 film for me, Nomadland is a well-deserved Best Picture winner, and Time is one of the most compelling and innovative documentaries in recent memory. Though not as deep with all-timers as 2019, the covid-era movie catalog is jam-packed with unique, powerful, visually stunning works of cinema–one that I’d predict will only improve the more time we have to spend with them.  

Some Second Opinions:

Cody: Palm Springs
Dave: Nomadland
Sasha: The Invisible Man; Big Time Adolescence; Palm Springs; Tenet – WINNER; Shithouse; Hamilton

You can find Nate’s complete 2020 and 2021 (in progress) film rankings here (2020) and here (2021)