Movies in 2020 were strange things: We saw them (mostly) on our TV sets, and big tentpole releases either got ignored ("Tenet," anyone?) or shoved into 2021.
Which means this year's Academy Awards race promises to be like no other in history. Not only will it be virtual, but many of the films are of the smaller, less bombastic variety, and — if our expert is right, we're likely to see some history-making success stories on April 25, when the Oscars ceremony airs live on ABC.
And speaking of that expert, we spoke with IMDb special correspondent Dave Karger (whom you may also know for his Turner Classic Movies hosting) to get his take on some of the biggest categories of the night: Who will win, who should win, and who else just might be in the running.
Nominees: "Nomadland," "The Father," "Judas and the Black Messiah," "Mank," "Minari," "Promising Young Woman," "Sound of Metal" and "The Trial of the Chicago 7"
Karger's Pick: "Nomadland"
"'Nomadland' is far out in front at this point for best picture," said the critic. "It's a movie that really seems to speak to the times that we're living in, it's about a simpler way of life, a less materialistic way of life and adjusting your priorities when necessary. There are three movies with a shot to upset it: 'Minari,' 'Judas and the Black Messiah' and 'The Trial of the Chicago 7.' But 'Nomadland seems fairly unbeatable at this point. My personal favorite is 'Sound of Metal,' but I don't think it has a chance to win."
Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: Riz Ahmed, "Sound of Metal"; Chadwick Boseman, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"; Anthony Hopkins, "The Father"; Gary Oldman, "Mank"; Steven Yeun, "Minari"
Karger's Pick: Chadwick Boseman
"Best actor is stacked with phenomenal performances, and in a different year Riz Ahmed could have won for 'Sound of Metal,' or Anthony Hopkins for what he calls his best performance ever in 'The Father.' But Chadwick Boseman not only carries the bittersweet effects of his potential win being posthumous, but his performance is electrifying," said Karger. "I definitely get the sense that he will win."
Actress in a Leading Role
Nominees: Viola Davis, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"; Andra Day, "The United States vs. Billie Holiday"; Vanessa Kirby, "Pieces of a Woman"; Frances McDormand, "Nomadland"; Carey Mulligan, "Promising Young Woman"
Karger's Pick: Carey Mulligan or Viola Davis
"This category is harder to predict," he said. "Andra Day surprised (everyone) by winning the Golden Globe, and the nominees are the same actresses who were nominated for the drama Golden Globe. But you can't automatically say she's going to win. I think it's between Carey Mulligan and Viola Davis, and given that Viola just won the Screen Actor's Guild Award... If she won she'd also be the first Black actress to win two Oscars. That could be a historic moment at the ceremony this year. But I would also love to see Carey win. 'Promising Young Woman' is a very modern film and she's been delivering strong work for years."
Nominees: Thomas Vinterberg, "Another Round"; David Fincher, "Mank"; Lee Isaac Chung, "Minari"; Chloé Zhao, "Nomadland"; Emerald Fennell, "Promising Young Woman"
Karger's Pick: Chloé Zhao
"Chloé Zhao seems to have this wrapped up," said Karger. "She's part of this unprecedented list of best director nominees because for the first time ever two women were nominated. That's not why she'll win, but it will be a really nice moment when she does. She'll be only the second woman ever to win, and I don't see how anyone could beat her. She coproduced the film, co-wrote it and edited it. That's almost unheard of."
Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen, "The Trial of the Chicago 7"; Daniel Kaluuya, "Judas and the Black Messiah"; Leslie Odom, Jr., "One Night in Miami..."; Paul Raci, "Sound of Metal"; Lakeith Stanfield, "Judas and the Black Messiah"
Karger's Pick: Daniel Kaluuya
"Supporting actor is one of the biggest locks of the year," he said. "Daniel Kaluuya has swept the awards season for 'Judas' because his performance as Fred Hampton is energetic and riveting and fascinating. He's a bright young star who was nominated before for 'Get Out' and he could very well contribute to what could be the first year in the history of the Oscars where all four acting awards go to performers of color."
Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Maria Bakalova, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm"; Glenn Close, "Hillbilly Elegy"; Olivia Colman, "The Father"; Amanda Seyfried, "Mank"; Youn Yuh-jung, "Minari"
Karger's Pick: Youn Yuh-jung
"This is the most up-for-grabs of all the major categories this year," said Karger. "I can see almost any of these women winning but the three out in front are Olivia Colman — she's the best shot for that movie to win an award — or Maria Bakalova, who is phenomenal, but they rarely give Oscars for a comedic performance. So I think it's going to go to Youn Yuh-jung, who is so terrific as the grandmother in 'Minari.' She will then complete this circle of four nonwhite acting winners, which would be a first."
Animated Feature Film
Nominees: "Onward"; "Over the Moon"; "A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon"; "Soul"; "Wolfwalkers"
Karger's Pick: "Soul"
"The animated film category has exactly zero suspense because 'Soul' is going to win," he said. "It's a film that is up there with the best and the studio (Pixar/Walt Disney) often does well in this category. It's a film that came close to getting a best picture nomination."
The historic nature of having so many performers and filmmakers of color potentially win in key categories is likely to generate discussion, but Karger says it's absolutely a step in the right direction. If it happens, he said, "I think people will look at it in two ways. First and foremost they will say that performers of color are being given better opportunities than they have before to show their talent and this is what the results of that can be."
"I also think there will be people who tie it to last year's Black Lives Matter movement and credit that movement for opening people's eyes to different films, different performers, different films," he added. "But I predict, it will not be (considered) a consolation prize in any category. These are all extremely deserving people."
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: