Shalayne Smith Needham: Our conversations recently have focused on award season for the film industry. There has been a lot of talk about the Oscars, which are coming up in about a month from now. It's been a difficult year for the industry, of course, with COVID-19. First, tell us how will the 93rd Annual Academy Awards be different this year?
Casey Allen: We all know that 2020 wasn't a blockbuster year for movies. There were only two mainstream blockbusters released to the public. Those were Wonder Woman 1984 and Tennant. And most of the films that are nominated were films that were released through streaming platforms so that people could watch at home.
So there's not a lot of the large-scale, sweeping, giant-cast, epic kind of films. They're comparatively smaller and I think a lot more films than usual got a piece of the spotlight that are more independent and intimate.
SSN: Well, the Golden Globes received a lot of criticism for its lack of diversity in the nominating categories. Do you feel that the Oscars this year is more diverse compared to past years?
CA: Oh my gosh, very much so. Of the four acting categories, nine non-white actors are nominated in a total of 20 nominees. That's almost half the nominees, so the most diversity ever is being shown in the acting nominees this year. This is breaking the Oscars past record of seven non-white nominees in 2017 and 2007.
For example, this is the first year since 1973 that more than one woman of color is nominated in the Best Actress category. I'm referring to Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Andra Day in the United States vs. Billie Holiday.
Also, Steven Yeun is the first Asian American to be nominated in the best actor category for Minari and Riz Ahmed is the first Muslim to be nominated in the best actor category for Sound of Metal. So this is very much a milestone year. The Oscars are making great strides forward for diversity.
This is also the first year ever to have two women nominated in the Best Director category. Only five women have ever even been nominated for Best Director in Academy Awards history, starting with Lena Wirtz Mueller an Italian director, who was nominated in 1977 for the foreign-language film Seven Beauties. And only one woman has ever won the Best Director category that was Kathryn Bigelow for the 2009 war drama The Hurt Locker. That was over 10 years ago, so a large consensus of a lot of critics and experts say that this year, will go to another female director Chloe Zhao for Nomadland.
SSN: Casey, let's hear your predictions. Who will win Best Actor and Actress and what film will take home the big prize of the night?
CA: After watching the Golden Globe Awards last month, the Best Actor prize will definitely still go to Chadwick Boseman. This will be only the third actor to ever receive an award posthumously at the Oscars. This first happened in the 1970s when Peter Finch won Best Actor for the film Network. And then more recently, it happened in the Best Supporting Actor category for Heath Ledger when he won for the Dark Knight. If there's going to be a surprise in that category, it would be Anthony Hopkins in The Father. But I think that's very unlikely.
Best Actress is murkier, it's going to be less predictable. I was thinking it could be Andra Day since she won the Golden Globe Award for her role. But I think it could also possibly be Francis McDormand or Viola Davis. Both of those women have already won Oscars in the past, for good reason, so it'll be interesting to find out how the cards fall.
For Best Picture, I feel like the momentum is all in favor of Nomadland. It's incredibly unique and tells a very timely story about economic uncertainty, which a lot of people can relate to right now. So it really connects well with a lot of viewers. And I think also a lot of Oscar voters too.
SSN: Well, we will find out how your predictions pan out. The 93rd Annual Academy Awards are coming up Sunday, April 25.