Shortlists Released for the 2021 Oscars

Last week, films from nine categories were announced to have made shortlists for the 93rd Academy Awards. The Oscars this year will be a strange one, as cinemas have been closed almost everywhere for nearly a year! During 2020, the big online streaming servers, like Netflix and Amazon Prime, had to take the reins of the movie release wagon, exposing us to whatever films they saw fit. Let’s have a look at what movies made the shortlists so far in each category…

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1. Documentary Feature

These fifteen movies were shortlisted from the two hundred thirty-eight films in the Documentary Feature category this year. Listed alphabetically the films are:

All In: The Fight for Democracy

Boys State

Having never heard about this film before it appeared on the shortlist, this is now on my priority watch-list. This bizarre film trailer alone would grab anyone’s attention: a 2020 documentary made by Apple, following hundreds of teenagers to Texas to take part in a programme called Boys State, a summer leadership programme exploring the American political system and aiming to build a government from these youths. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, this movie won the U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize, and I think would be a very interesting watch. 


In this 2019 film, writer, director, producer and editor Alexander Nanau explores the story behind the brave Romanian reporters who exposed the politicians lining their pockets via the healthcare fraud behind a fatal nightclub fire. Rated 99% on Rotten Tomatoes this insightful Romanian film sounds like a must-see.

Crip Camp

Dick Johnson Is Dead



The Mole Agent

My Octopus Teacher


The Painter and the Thief

76 Days


The Truffle Hunters

Welcome to Chechnya

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2. Documentary Short Subject

These ten films were shortlisted from the one hundred and fourteen movies that qualified in the category this year. From abortion, to deportees to Italian-American grandmothers this year’s diverse shortlist is definitely steeped in variety. In alphabetical order by title, these films are:

Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa

Call Center Blues


Set in France and starring Kiera Knightley as a gender-norm challenging, suit-wearing ghostwriter for her husband Willy, who fights for her rights to authorship and freedom, this film blew me away last year when I saw it on Netflix. Between the Parisian soirées steeped in charm and affluence and the unusual fashion dawned by Colette – which becomes more intriguing as the film progresses – I was hooked from beginning to end of this culturally revolutionising biopic.

A Concerto Is a Conversation

Do Not Split

Hunger Ward

Hysterical Girl

A Love Song for Latasha

The Speed Cubers

What Would Sophia Loren Do?

3. International Feature Film

This is the best category, I think, because no matter where you live these movies help people to learn about the world; they give an insight into a country’s culture, language, and history through an artistic perspective. This year, fifteen films were shortlisted from 93 countries in this category. These films, alphabetically by country, are:

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Quo Vadis, Aida?

Chile, The Mole Agent

Czech Republic, Charlatan

Denmark, Another Round

France, Two of Us

Guatemala, La Llorona

Hong Kong, Better Days

This film dominated the Hong Kong film awards in 2020, winning eight prizes including Best Picture, Best Screenplay and starring lead Zhou Dongyu winning Best Actress. Exploring the difficult subject of school bullying intertwined with a teenage love story, this Chinese film won hearts around the world last year and offers strong competition within this category.

Iran, Sun Children

Ivory Coast, Night of the Kings

Mexico, I’m No Longer Here

Norway, Hope

Romania, Collective

Russia, Dear Comrades!

Taiwan, A Sun

Tunisia, The Man Who Sold His Skin

4. Makeup and Hairstyling 

Ten movies were shortlisted for having groovy makeup and hairstyling in this year’s Academy Awards

These shortlisted films are:

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn


The Glorias

Hillbilly Elegy

This is the heart-wrenching film I saw last year on Netflix that stars Amy Adams as a struggling mother, following the rollercoaster story of three family generations figuring out life together. Adams has often been cast as the squeaky clean star in children’s films like Enchanted, so the style transformation to a difficult character troubled by relationships and drugs was a huge feat, and I can definitely see why this movie has been shortlisted.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

The Little Things

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


One Night in Miami…


5. Music (Original Score)

Fifteen scores have been shortlisted so far out of one hundred and thirty-six scores that were eligible in the category. The sounds following a story can reveal feelings and tensions underlying the plot, that dialogue just can’t articulate in the same way. Here are the film scores, that have been shortlisted this year:


Blizzard of Souls

Da 5 Bloods

The Invisible Man

Seeing this film in a very dark, very tension packed cinema just before lockdown hit the UK, I was cowering behind my hands the entire time! The intermittent dark bassy sounds of this score alongside the purposeful pin-drop quiet will keep you biting your nails and jumping off your seat the whole way through this excellently atmospheric psychological thriller. 

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)

The Little Things


The Midnight Sky



News of the World



The Trial of the Chicago 7

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6. Music (Original Song)

Fifteen songs have been shortlisted from one hundred and five eligible songs this year. These original songs are all absolute bops and will definitely get stuck in your head. The songs shortlisted are:

“Turntables” from All In: The Fight for Democracy

“See What You’ve Done” from Belly of the Beast

“Wuhan Flu” from Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

“Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

“Never Break” from Giving Voice

“Make It Work” from Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

“Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah

“Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)

“Rain Song” from Minari

“Show Me Your Soul” from Mr. Soul!

This soulful catchy song by musician Robert Glasper surfaced in the film directed by Melissa Haizlip and Sam Pollard; Mr. Soul!. This film won Best Music Documentary at the International Documentary Association Awards in 2018 and accounts the story of Ellis Haizlip’s revolutionary show, SOUL!, which became a platform voicing black peoples’ experience in America through music, poetry and art, in the 60s and 70s.

“Loyal Brave True” from Mulan

“Free” from The One and Only Ivan

“Speak Now” from One Night in Miami…

“Green” from Sound of Metal

“Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7

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7. Animated Short Film

Ten films have been shortlisted down from ninety-six in this colourful, imaginative category.  

The shortlisted films are:


Genius Loci

If Anything Happens I Love You




The Snail and the Whale

To Gerard



8. Live Action Short Film

Ten films were shortlisted from one hundred and seventy-four films in this short film category:


Da Yie

Feeling Through

The Human Voice

This strange, restless and emotional 30-minute short film stars Tilda Swinton, known to play eerie roles such as the terrifying White Queen in The Chronicles of Narnia, who sleeps beside the suit of her ex-lover, watching the suitcases he never comes back for. This short drama, adapted from a stage play by Jean Cocteau was written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar and premiered at the Venice Film Festival last September to much critical acclaim. This short film seems super odd, featuring a fluffy dog, bright stark coloured costumes, weapons and eerie string music in the trailer, and is definitely on my to-see radar, even just to see what all the fuss is about. 

The Kicksled Choir

The Letter Room

The Present

Two Distant Strangers

The Van

White Eye

9. Visual Effects

Ten films have been shortlisted as contenders for the visual effects award, which always exposes the impressiveness of what really can be achieved artistically with our current technological advances. These films are:

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn


Love and Monsters


The Midnight Sky


The One and Only Ivan



This film, although so overly complicated you feel like you paid the cinema to stab your brains and remind you you’re stupid, does have some cool visual effects. Layering scenes of the CIA agent protagonist in reverse, on top of him acting in forwards normal time, Christopher Nolan successfully produced the most complex movie I have ever seen (and hopefully will never have to watch again). 

Welcome to Chechnya

Voters for each category’s winner will have from the 5th of March until the 10th of March 2021 to decide which movies, styles and music they think deserves an Academy Award. The Oscars this year will be screened on Sunday the 25th of April 2021 and hopefully it won’t be too strange to see socially distanced movie stars or an empty audience seated before the stage, as the winners are announced.

Emma Monaghan
Emma Monaghan

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