I’m hardly the only person to make this remark, but there are a number of black and white films in contention for Oscar attention this year. 2021 may well be a banner year for black and white cinema. Not only is Belfast a known quantity and immediate Best Picture frontrunner, this post is going up in the shadow of the World Premiere of The Tragedy of Macbeth at the New York Film Festival. In fact, depending on when you read this today, I may well be actively in the midst of watching the movie. Furthermore, we have C’mon C’mon and Passing as well regarded festival alums still to drop this year. So, as NYFF debuts a huge contender, it felt like a perfect time to update my Academy Award predictions. As an aside, these picks are prior to seeing it, so should anything of note need updating, I’ll announce it and change as appropriate.
To me, it’s just fascinating that black and white contenders are thriving these days. Best Cinematography has been a friendly space over the years, as seen with nominees like Cold War and (a winner in) Roma, just to name two. The Artist a number of years back proved successful in Best Picture. It’s certainly possible that another follows in that movie’s footsteps this year. Regardless of that, it’s just kind of wonderful to see this form of visual storytelling still in play. It’s a stylistic choice, to be sure, but the four flicks in play this year are all incredibly different. Two even come from streaming services. Truly, all bases for a cinephile are being covered.
What exactly do the best case scenarios for these films look like? Belfast has across the board potential and could really threaten to win in Picture, Best Director/Best Original Screenplay for Kenneth Branagh, and potentially in an acting category. The Tragedy of Macbeth certainly can aspire to a similar level, though until later today, it remains an X factor. That being said, bet against nominations for stars Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington at your own risk. Then, there’s C’mon C’mon and Passing. Both have been widely praised, though both are seen as harder sells for the Academy. The former could contend for Joaquin Phoenix in Best Actor and potentially Mike Mills in Original Screenplay, though some are already speculating that it’s going to be unfairly ignored. I’ve even put forth he suspicion that it could wind up being this year’s Waves and utterly snubbed. As for the latter, it depends largely on how hard Netflix pushes it, but the Rebecca Hall film could have actresses Ruth Negga and especially Tessa Thompson in the conversation for a while. What goes without saying is that black and white cinema will have a major presence at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Today marks, as mentioned, Joel Coen debuting The Tragedy of Macbeth at NYFF. After this, the list of unseen Oscar contenders will be on the lower side, but this feels like the biggest remaining festival debut, at least right now. Above, you saw what the film could do with the Academy, but no matter what, it’s certainly something that cinephiles are hotly anticipating.
So, where do we stand? Could Belfast face off with The Tragedy of Macbeth for Best Picture? Sure, though The Power of the Dog looms large (as does CODA, to a different degree) as the prime competition right now. You’ll see what my current picks look like shortly, but sight unseen, The Tragedy of Macbeth at least seems like a safe bet to be in contention for some Oscar love. After all, it’s at least one of the Coen Brothers…
Prior updates here, here, here, here, and here have continually suggested a wide open race across the board. That’s just the way things tend to be early on in any given year. You know what? That does remain the case today, but it’s starting to change a little bit. I’m now post TIFF, with obviously Telluride and Venice in the rearview mirror as well.NYFF officially kicks off today, as mentioned above, and next month I will have a trip down to North Carolina for Film Fest 919. For now, we’re still waiting for the rest of the puzzle to be put together. This morning with The Tragedy of Macbeth, one more major piece comes into focus…
You can once again see my Oscar predictions (no longer quite year in advance picks, obviously) here at Awards Radar. Take a gander and be sure to watch out for the next update. They’re going to start coming in hot and heavy before long, especially as festival season is beginning to already somehow wrap up. Enjoy!