The 2021 Oscars were presented on Sunday night, April 25, and after such an unpredictable year, thousands of Gold Derby users actually did a pretty good job of predicting the winners. Our collective odds were correct in 18 out of 23 categories. That means our hive mind was only wrong five times. So let’s take a look at the races we got wrong, and check out the complete list of winners here.
BEST ACTRESS: Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) — ranked fourth with 4/1 odds
Normally it wouldn’t be surprising when the star of the Best Picture winner also wins for acting, but the way the awards season was going this was a somewhat confounding result. “Nomadland” won Best Picture at the Golden Globes, but McDormand Best Actress lost to Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”). Then “Nomadland” won at the Critics Choice Awards, but McDormand lost to Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”). “Nomadland” won at the Spirit Awards, but McDormand lost to Mulligan again. McDormand was the only “Nomadland” nominee at the SAG Awards, and she lost to Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”). Then McDormand finally won Best Actress at the BAFTAs, but a new jury system kept most of her Oscar rivals out of the nominations, so we couldn’t be sure if that result would carry over.
So why was this the one awards group that loved “Nomadland” and McDormand’s performance against this field of competitors? This will likely be remembered as one of the strangest Oscar races in memory, so much so that it’s almost an afterthought that McDormand just became the only actress besides Katharine Hepburn to win three Best Actress Oscars.
BEST ACTOR: Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) — ranked second with 19/5 odds
When Chadwick Boseman died last summer at age 43 after a cancer battle hardly anyone knew about, and then critics and audiences saw his tremendously impactful final performance in “Ma Rainey,” he skyrocketed to the top of Oscar forecasts. But the industry didn’t seem to be enthusiastic about the film as a whole. It wasn’t nominated for Best Picture or Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars. And it received a scant three noms at the BAFTAs. But it seemed like passion for his performance and the circumstances surrounding it (he delivered this performance near the end of a years-long illness) would carry him through.
But it turned out the academy’s passion for “The Father” was greater. It received more nominations, including the Picture and Adapted Screenplay bids that “Ma Rainey” missed, and Hopkins too was giving a towering, career-crowning performance. There’s bound to be heartbreak whenever two all-time-great performances are nominated in the same year.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”) — ranked second with 37/10 odds
Black-and-white movies don’t usually win Best Cinematography. Only two had won in the previous 30 years: “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Roma” (2018). On top of that, “Nomadland” had won Critics Choice and BAFTA Awards for capturing beautiful American vistas. And sure, “Mank” had won at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards, but that group often disagrees with the motion picture academy.
Not this time, though, and it’s understandable why. Though “Nomadland” was the Best Picture winner and had impactful visuals, “Mank” arguably had the most noticeable cinematography, recreating the look and feel of films from the 1930s. In craft categories, the flashiest achievements are often the ones that win.
BEST SONG: “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah” — ranked fourth with 9/2 odds
It was hard to pin down any real front-runner in this category since there aren’t very many precursor awards for movie songwriting and this year lacked an overwhelming, undeniable front-runner like, say, “Let it Go” or “Shallow.” But we thought “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami” had a good shot since it would be a chance to honor Best Supporting Actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr. Also, “Io Si” from “The Life Ahead” could’ve won to finally give an award to the long-overdue Diane Warren. And “Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest” was the only song that was actually part of the film’s narrative and didn’t just run over the end credits.
So we didn’t pay enough attention to H.E.R. She won with her co-writers D’Mile and Tiara Thomas for “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah.” What probably helped them win was the fact that, in such a divided field, “Judas” was the film voters liked the most overall judging from its six total nominations including Best Picture and never-in-doubt Best Supporting Actor win for Daniel Kaluuya.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: “Colette” — ranked third with 9/2 odds
We thought “A Concerto is a Conversation” would win for its heartwarming story of Hollywood composer Kris Bowers and his relationship with his grandfather. But perhaps it didn’t have the gravitas to challenge the winning film about a French woman who resisted the Nazis during World War II. And Oscar voters often can’t resist a Hollywood ending: the subject of the film, Colette Marin-Catherine, had her birthday on April 25, so she turned 93 the same day that the Oscars did.