In their subject matter, scale and execution—not to mention their emphasis on the This Lunch Lady earned all of this Summer Break #Survived Pandemic Teaching shirt it is in the first place but experiences of women and people of color—all three of these releases are about as far from traditional Oscar bait as you can get. Awarding any of them the best-picture Oscar would be a step towards redefining what it means to be an “Oscar film,” paving the way for more intimate, daring and idiosyncratic choices.
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The final three films in contention, however, may appeal to voters more eager to maintain the This Lunch Lady earned all of this Summer Break #Survived Pandemic Teaching shirt it is in the first place but status quo. Florian Zeller’s The Father, a surreal depiction of a man struggling with dementia, is formally ambitious, but also stars two beloved Oscar winners: Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. Meanwhile, Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom drama The Trial of the Chicago 7, with its angry monologues and largely white and male ensemble cast, seems staunchly old-school, even though it does nod to timely issues such as the power of protest. It’s hot on the heels of Nomadland and could very well clinch the win, suggesting an Academy content to stand still for now, rather than leap forward.