Nomadland, The Trial of Chicago 7, Sound of Metal, Soul: A look at this year's top contenders for awards season

Here is a round-up of films that will likely be nominated in the exciting upcoming awards season.

Devki Nehra January 11, 2021 08:04:39 IST
Nomadland, The Trial of Chicago 7, Sound of Metal, Soul: A look at this year's top contenders for awards season

Frances McDormand in a scene from the film Nomadland. Image from Searchlight Pictures via AP

Though the pandemic brought all activities to a halt, stalled big budget releases, and even changed the face of film festivals, the film industry still managed to bring to its viewers some stellar projects.

We at Firstpost have rounded up a list of films that will likely be nominated in the exciting upcoming awards season. There are festival favourites like Nomadland and even films that have had their premieres on OTT platforms like Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Mank, and the animated Soul.

The Oscars nominations will be announced on 15 March, allowing films that released in the United States between 1 January to 28 February, 2021 to qualify in the race. The Golden Globes, which usually precede the Oscars, will reveal the nominees on 3 February.

Here are the top contenders.

Drama

Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Frances McDormand in Nomadland

Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, a recession-era road trip drama starring Oscar winner Frances McDormand, is a follow-up to the filmmaker's acclaimed 2018 film The Rider. Adapted from Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, the film is about a woman, Fern, who after her Nevada business collapses, joins with other older American workers laid off in the Great Recession to travel the country in campers.

The film won the coveted Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival 2020 and at several other festivals across the world.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from The Trial of the Chicago 7

Aaron Sorkin's drama chronicles the 1968 anti-Vietnam War protest of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that turned into a violent clash with law enforcement agencies. The organisers of the protest were then charged with a conspiracy to incite a riot.

Emmy winners Jeremy Strong and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II alongside Sacha Baron Cohen, Frank Langella, Michael Keaton, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Eddie Redmayne among others feature in the film.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Chadwick Boseman's final screen appearance, starring Viola Davis in the lead (streaming now on Netflix), is an adaptation of August Wilson's award-winning play of the same name.

The film follows Ma Rainey (Davis) a famous blues singer as she makes a record in a studio in 1927 Chicago, where tension boils over among her, her white agent, and bandmates. Boseman played Ma's boyfriend Levee, an ambitious trumpeter who aspired to make his own mark in the music industry.

Mank (Netflix)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Still from Mank. Image via Twitter

In Mank, David Fincher heads back to the 1930s and 'reevaluates Hollywood' through the eyes of screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz — a drama critic for The New York Times and The New Yorker who is co-credited for writing Citizen Kane with Orson Welles. Shot in inky, evocative black and white, the film follows its titular figure (played by Gary Oldman) as he's trying to finish penning the iconic script, and recalls not only his clashes with Welles over the material but the general ups and downs of 1930s Hollywood.

The Father (Sony Pictures Classics)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Written by Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton, Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman play a father-daughter duo who battle the universal prophecy of memory loss that comes with age.

The Father is based on French playwright Zeller’s play of the same title, which debuted at the Théâtre Hébertot, Paris, in 2012. In addition to Colman and Hopkins, the cast includes Mark Gatiss, Rufus Sewell, Imogen Poots, and Olivia Williams.

Judas and the Black Messiah (HBO Max/Warner Bros)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah is directed by Shaka King and written by King and Will Berson. The film is about the life and assassination of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. It will see Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback and Martin Sheen in pivotal roles.

One Night in Miami (Amazon Studios)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from One Night in Miami | Twitter

One Night in Miami, which marks Regina King's directorial debut, is a take on Kemp Powers' debut play, which finds young boxer Cassius Clay, activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football star Jim Brown hanging out together at a Miami motel.

The film features Kingsley Ben-Adir stars as Malcolm X, Eli Goree as Cassius Clay, Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown, and Leslie Odom Jr as Sam Cooke.

Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Still of Sound of Metal

Riz Ahmed plays Ruben, a punk-metal drummer who begins to experience intermittent hearing loss during a series of adrenaline-fuelled one-night gigs.

"When a specialist tells him his condition will rapidly worsen, he thinks his music career — and with it, his life — is over. His bandmate and girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) checks the recovering heroin addict into a secluded sober house for the deaf in hopes it will prevent relapse and help him learn to adapt to his new situation. But after being welcomed into a community that accepts him just as he is, Ruben has to choose between his equilibrium and the drive to reclaim the life he once knew," reads the official synopsis.

News of the World (Universal Pictures)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Helena Zengel and Tom Hanks in News of the World

Based on the 2016 novel of the same name, the film follows a Civil War veteran Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) who must return a young girl Johanna Leonberger/Cicada (Helena Zengel) who was stolen by Native Americans as an infant to her last remaining family.

Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon also star in News of the World.

Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee's directorial is about four African American war veterans who return to Vietnam in search of their dead squadron leader's body and a promise of buried treasure. The movie features an ensemble cast of Chadwick Boseman, Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Paul Walter Hauser, Jean Reno, and Jonathan Majors.

The Forty-Year-Old-Version (Netflix)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Still from The Forty-Year-Old-Version

Loosely based on writer-director Radha Blank's life, the film sees the protagonist, a struggling playwright in New York City who reinvents herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime as she approaches her 40th birthday. The Forty-Year-Old-Version had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, where Blank won the US Dramatic Competition Directing Award. It's now streaming on Netflix.

Animated

Soul 

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Still from Soul

Pixar's Soul sees Jamie Foxx voice a middle school jazz teacher with performance ambitions who still dreams of his big break. When a manhole accident nearly takes his life, he enters a netherworld of unborn souls on their way to earth. It is a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks, and interests before they go to Earth.

Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious baby soul, 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what is great about living, he may "just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.”

Wolfwalkers (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Still from Wolfwalkers

In a time of superstition and magic, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn Goodfellowe, journeys to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last wolf pack.  While exploring the forbidden lands outside the city walls, Robyn befriends a free-spirited girl, Mebh, a member of a mysterious tribe rumoured to have the ability to transform into wolves by night. As they search for Mebh’s missing mother, Robyn uncovers a secret that draws her further into the enchanted world of the Wolfwalkers and risks turning into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.

Over the Moon (Netflix)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Still from Over the Moon

Over the Moon marks the directorial debut of Disney's veteran animator, Glen Keane. The film follows a young girl with a passion for science Fei Fei, who builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess, Chang'e. There she ends up on an unexpected quest and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures.

The voice cast also includes Phillipa Soo (Chang'e), Robert G Chiu (Chin), Ken Jeong (Gobi), John Cho (Dad), Ruthie Ann Miles (Mom), Margaret Cho (Auntie Ling), Kimiko Glenn (Auntie Mei), Artt Butler (Uncle), and Sandra Oh (Mrs Zhong

Onward (Pixar)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from Onward

Chris Pratt and Tom Holland voice elf brothers who embark on an adventure to discover if magic still exists and to bring back their deceased father back for a day. Onward is directed by Dan Scanlon, and the voice cast also features Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, Lena Waithe, and Ali Wong.

Earwig and the Witch (Studio Ghibli)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from Earwig and the Witch

Gorô Miyazaki, the Japanese animated film is based on the book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones. The story, set in 1900s England, follows a ten-year-old orphan Earwig, who is adopted by a witch. Her step mother, however, is selfish and only agrees to teach her magic in exchange for Earwig's help around her enchanted house.

Shinobu Terajima, Etsushi Toyokawa, Gaku Hamada, and Kokoro Hirasawa have voiced the Japanese version. The English-language voice cast includesTaylor Paige Henderson, Kacey Musgraves, Vanessa Marshall, Dan Stevens and Richard E Grant.

Earwig and the Witch had its premiere on Japanese network NHK in December 2019, but will soon hit North American cinemas sometime this year.

The Croods: A New Age (DreamWorks Animation)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from The Croods: A New Age

The sequel to the 2013 animated adventure comedy features voices of the original cast Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman, as well as new cast members Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran.

This time the prehistoric family meets with an obstacle after moving to a better-off place. It's another family, the Bettermans, who seemed to have all the evolutionary skills that the Croods lack. The two families spar, but a new threat forces them to put up a united front and accept their differences.

Bombay Rose (Netflix)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from Bombay Rose

Bombay Rose is the story of a flower seller who has to make the choice between protecting her family or allowing herself to fall in love. This touching story is set on the streets of Mumbai and moves from real life to fantasy, accompanied by much-loved Bollywood songs. Painted frame by frame, for which Gitanjali Rao is famed, Bombay Rose is a chronicle of the people who migrate from small towns, seeking minimal life in the maximum city.

Comedy/Musical

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Studios)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Sacha Baron Cohen taking off Donald Trump's mask in Borat 2

The Borat sequel sees Sacha Baron Cohen reprise his cult favourite role as a bumbling and politically incorrect reporter from Kazakhstan, nearly 15 years after the original film.

Hamilton (Walt Disney Pictures)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

According to LA Times, the Oscars criteria does not qualify the Lin Manuel Miranda for nominations on account of it being a record performance, but Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has different rules. Hamilton has African-American and Latino actors play the founding fathers of the United States.

On the Rocks (A24/ Apple Plus)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Still from On the Rocks

On The Rocks, written and directed by Sofia Coppola, is about Laura (Rashida Jones), who teams up with her rich, playboy father Felix (Bill Murray) to investigate her husband (Marlon Wayans) whom she suspects of having an affair.

The Personal History of David Copperfield (Searchlight Pictures)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Dev Patel in The Personal History of David Copperfield

The comedy-drama revolves around Charles Dickens' iconic hero (played by Dev Patel), setting sail on a path that sees him transitioning from a penniless orphan to a flourishing Victorian writer, his colourful experiences eventually translating onto his works. Apart from the Slumdog Millionaire star, Armando Iannucci's feature also features Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw and Benedict Wong.

The Prom (Netflix)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Keegan-Michael Kay in The Prom | Image from Twitter

Meryl Streep plays Dee Dee, a Tony Award-winning actress, who stars in a flop musical about Eleanor Roosevelt with her partner. After disastrous reviews, they decide, along with Broadway newbies Angie Dickinson (Kidman) and Trent Oliver (Rannells), to attach themselves to a cause to resurrect their careers. Emma (Pellman), a student in Indiana whose high school doesn't allow her to attend to their prom with her girlfriend (Ariana DeBose), becomes their cause to champion.

Palm Springs (Hulu)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A poster of Palm Springs

Starring Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, Peter Gallagher, and JK Simmons, the sci-fi romantic comedy follows two strangers Nyle and Sarah who meet at a Palm Springs wedding and get stuck in a time loop with each other for company.

Emma. (Focus Features)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from Emma

The period comedy drama, a new adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel, sees Anya Taylor-Joy play the wealthy, selfish Emma Woodhouse, the "queen bee" who meddles in the love lives of those around her. The official description states: "Emma must navigate her way through the challenges of growing up, misguided matches and romantic missteps to realise the love that has been there all along."

The cast also includes Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O'Connor, Callum Turner, among others.

International features

Minari - USA

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Steven Yeun in a still from Minari | Twitter

The Korean-American family drama Minari, is filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung’s tender autobiographical tale about his upbringing in rural Arkansas. The film won US dramatic grand jury prize and the dramatic audience award, voted on by festival audiences, at Sundance last year. It stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton.

Recently, the film was in the news after the Golden Globes deemed it ineligible for the best picture race. Minari was relegated to the best foreign-language film category as it is predominantly in the Korean language.

The Life Ahead (Netflix) - Italy

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Ibrahima Gueye and Sophia Loren in The Life Ahead

Sophia Loren plays a Holocaust survivor who takes in a Senegalese street kid under her care after he robs her. The film is based on the book The Life Before Us by Romain Gary, which director Eduardo Ponti adapted for screen alongside Ugo Chiti.

Another Round - Denmark

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A poster of Another Round

The Danish film revolves around four weary high school teachers experimenting with the liberating effects of alcohol.

Another Round had its in-cinema world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2020. At the San Sebastian International Film Festival the movie won the Silver Shell for best actor for Mads Mikkelsen and co-stars Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe as well as Silver Shell for best director for Thomas Vinterberg. It was also part of Cannes Film Festival's official selection.

The film will have its India premiere at the upcoming 51st edition of International Film Festival of India (IFFI).

Jallikattu - India

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from Jallikattu

India's official entry to the Oscars, Jallikattu follows a bull that escapes from a slaughterhouse in a hilly remote village and the entire village men gathering to hunt down the animal. The film, directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, is based on the short story Maoist by Hareesh and stars Antony Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose, Sabumon Abdusamad, and Santhy Balachandran.

Documentaries

Dick Johnson is Dead (Netflix)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from Dick Johnson is Dead

Director Kirsten Johnson helps her father Richard, who suffers from dementia, prepare for death in this darkly funny documentary, where she blends fact with fiction. Dick Johnson is Dead had its premiere at Sundance, followed by a Netflix release.

Collective (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from Collective

In the documentary directed, written, produced and edited by Alexander Nanau, Romanian investigative journalists uncover flaws, frauds and scandals of the country's public healthcare system.

Collective had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in September 2019. According to The Wrap, it is one of the top honoured docus so far, and has also been nominated for non-fiction awards IDA Documentary Awards and the Cinema Eye Honors.

76 Days (MTV Documentary Films)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

Still from 76 Days

76 Days — named for the duration of the central Chinese city's draconian lockdown – is the first major documentary from the disease's original epicentre. New York-based director Hao Wu shot the film in cinema verite style, without voice-over or direct-to-camera interviews, relying on footage of doctors and patients grappling with the dangerous virus.

The Truffle Hunters (Sony Pictures Classics)

Nomadland The Trial of Chicago 7 Sound of Metal Soul A look at this years top contenders for awards season

A still from The Truffle Hunters

Critics have called The Truffle Hunters, this year's Honeyland (about one of the last bee hunters in Europe). The official synopsis says that the docu follows “a handful of men, seventy to eighty years young, in Piedmont, Italy, on the search for the elusive Alba truffle. They’re guided by a secret culture passed down through generations, as well as by the noses of their cherished and expertly trained dogs. The documentary subtly explores the devastating effects of climate change and deforestation on an age-old tradition through a visually stunning narrative that celebrates life and exalts the human spirit.

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