Hollywood’s biggest night will look a little different this year, but nevertheless, the 93rd Academy Awards will go on. And this year’s ceremony—scheduled for Sunday, April 25—could be one for the history books.
Sure, this year’s Oscars won’t exactly be the in-person awards fest that producers were hoping for. (Steven Soderbergh and the other producers agreed to “hubs” in London and Paris after nominees pushed back against an earlier mandate to convene in Los Angeles.) But they’re still working on a show that will “make your knees buckle,” per The Hollywood Reporter.
Well, our knees are already buckling, with the below nominees hoping for Oscar glory. Many of these picks would make Academy Award history, but that’s not (just) why we’re rooting for them. We’re also cheering them on because their big-screen mastery is more than worthy of a 13-inch gold statuette.
We were going to call Viola Davis’ performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom the performance of her career… but then we remembered Doubt… and Fences… and How to Get Away With Murder… and every other one of her screen credits. Davis never hits a bad note on screen, and she deserves to not only be the most-nominated Black actress in Oscar history, which she became this year, but the most-nominated actress in Oscar history, period.
Best Supporting Actress
In the Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Maria Bakalova turned in an impressive breakout performance as the titular Kazakh journalist’s daughter. But she also stayed in character long enough to turn her mock interview with Rudy Giuliani into a national news story, the kind of scandal that could end a politician’s career. That’s dedication to one’s craft!
Steven Yeun’s performance as a desperate farmer and father in Minari made us forget all about how The Walking Dead did Glenn wrong. But seriously, Minari showed the pure alchemy that happens when the perfect actor finds the perfect role and tells that character’s story with the guidance of the perfect director. Plus, Yeun’s win in this category would be historic: Until this year, there had never been an Asian American lead actor nominee, let alone winner.
Best Supporting Actor
Since Daniel Kaluuya already won a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, and a BAFTA Film Award this year, it seems like the supporting actor Oscar is his to lose—and that’s as it should be. As Black Panther activist Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, Kaluuya keeps his audience rapt, whether that audience is a church full of energetic supporters, a group of skeptical white Southerners, or all of us viewers on the other side of the screen.
Speaking of Judas and the Black Messiah, it gets our Best Picture vote, too. The film shines light on an underreported flashpoint in our country’s history: the killing of Hampton at the hands of Chicago police (who claimed, of course, that the Black Panthers fired first). That this film feels so painfully relevant 50 years later shows why stories like this need to exist, especially with a history-making all-Black producing team—Shaka King, Charles D. King, and Ryan Coogler—behind the camera.
Because of Hollywood’s shameful gender bias—both in access and in recognition—only one woman has ever won a directing Oscar: The Hurt Locker helmer Kathryn Bigelow. That could very well change this year now that both Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao and Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell are nominated. We’d love to see either one win—Zhao delicately showed how boomers can go bust in capitalist America, while Fennell offered a propulsive revenge tale for the #MeToo era—but we’re especially rooting for Zhao, since she’s the first woman of color nominated in this category.
93rd Academy Awards, Sunday, April 25, 8/7c, ABC