The nominations for the 2021 Oscars have arrived, with A24’s “Minari” scoring a wonderful, wonderful six bids: picture (Christina Oh), director (Lee Isaac Chung), actor (Steven Yeun), supporting actress (Youn Yuh-Jung), original screenplay (Chung) and score (Emile Mosseri). However, its snub for film editing is raising eyebrows among awards prognosticators. That’s typically one of the key noms a movie needs in order to win Best Picture, with only “Birdman” (2014) overcoming that hurdle in the past 40 years. Despite that asterisk, “Minari” still has a strong path to win Best Picture, and it’s all thanks to the guilds.
As of this writing, I’m one of the few pundits predicting the “Minari” cast to win Best Film Ensemble at the SAG Awards. Its closest competition there is “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which actually just tied “Minari” with six total Oscar bids. Other films with six: “Nomadland,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “The Father” and “Sound of Metal.” Only “Mank” performed better on Oscar nominations morning, reaping 10 total.
If “Minari” prevails at the actors guild, watch for a huge momentum to build within the industry, as we just saw last year with “Parasite.” (Remember that standing ovation?) Of course, a SAG ensemble victory doesn’t always translate to an Oscar win for Best Picture — just ask “Black Panther,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Hidden Figures,” etc. But it does boost a film’s profile, and it never hurts to be hugged by the biggest branch of the film academy: the actors.
“Minari” has also been recognized by various other guild groups this derby season, including American Cinema Editors, Casting Society, Directors Guild and Producers Guild. If it ends up taking down either “Nomadland” or “Trial” at the PGA Awards, which employs the same preferential voting system the Oscars do for Best Picture, then everyone will be jumping on the “Minari” bandwagon. Indeed, a brand new winning narrative would form around Chung’s semi-autobiographical film about growing up with his Korean family in America.
On Oscar night, “Minari” will need to take home other trophies if it hopes to win Best Picture — only “Grand Hotel” (1931/32) claimed that top award and nothing else. So, looking backward, what are “Minari’s” realistic chances?
Indie darling Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) is a safe bet for Best Director, the late Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) is the overwhelming front-runner for Best Actor, and “Soul” seems to have a stranglehold on Best Score. That leaves potential wins for Best Supporting Actress (where Yuh-Jung is a crowd-pleaser and has the best odds) and Best Original Screenplay (where voters can choose to reward Chung if they pass him over for director). Under this scenario, Best Picture would be “Minari’s” third trophy of the night — that’s the same number won by “Green Book,” “Moonlight,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Argo,” and one more than “Spotlight.”
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