2021 Oscar Predictions — Best Actor

The thing about Academy Award acting categories is that, while they are often some of the most high profile awards of the night, they are also some of the least exciting from a prediction standpoint. Of all categories, the acting categories are usually locked up long before the ceremony begins. In recent history in particular, the same acting nominees usually steamroll through awards season, winning every award leading up to the Oscars. Of course, there is always room for upset. But even so, entering the Oscars it is generally fairly clear who the top one or two contenders are.

This year’s Best Actor category is a little strange for reasons that are bittersweet.

The Nominees:

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

Will Win: Chadwick Boseman

Could Win: Riz Ahmed

Should Win: Chadwick Boseman

Discussing this category is both difficult and easy. It is easy, because it is almost a certainty that Chadwick Boseman will win a posthumous Oscar for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The only thing that would have complicated the chances of this win was the scenario where Boseman was also nominated in the Supporting Actor category for his small role in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (then it would be a question of which award the Academy would honor Boseman with).

It is difficult for the obvious reason that this will be a posthumous Oscar awarded to someone who was one of the most promising young actors in Hollywood. Obviously, Boseman found mainstream recognition for playing Black Panther in the Marvel films, but the actor had a commanding presence on the screen in all of his roles (at least, all those I’ve seen) which was somehow equally powerful and understated. I think the man had multiple Academy Awards in his future. And while Ma Rainey wasn’t my favorite film of the year, Boseman is the best aspect of it. I greatly enjoy Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal and Steven Yeun in Minari, but Boseman deserves this one.

Ignoring the circumstances of this year’s Best Actor category, and it still is a fairly clear-cut race. Even without the tragedy, I believe Boseman would be the front-runner among these five. Perhaps a convincing argument for Ahmed could be made. But Ma Rainey is the more acting-heavy film, and, like I said, Boseman’s is by far the best performance in the film.


As always, thanks for reading!

—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)

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