It’s normally easy to choose what the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences considers the best films of each year. The eight-to-ten films that get nominated for the coveted Best Picture Award dominate the campaigns. Their campaigns are strong and their marketing is stronger. It’s difficult to predict who/what will win certain awards, but it is almost a science to predict who/what will get nominated each year.
Unlike most years, the 2021 Oscars are a giant question mark. Amidst the pandemic, very few films saw a theatrical release. Some were lucky to get digital/streaming service releases, but most were either delayed or risked theatrical releases. Preliminary voting is supposed to take place February 1st-5th while nominations are supposed to be announced on March 15th, culminating in the 93rd annual Academy Awards on April 25th, 2021. In my eyes, there’s one film that has the chance to dominate the Academy Awards and all of the other award shows before: Darius Marder’s intense drama The Sound of Metal.
An unlikely favorite makes headway
Originally aired at Toronto International Film Festival in 2019, the film about a drummer who loses his hearing recently received a wide release on November 20th, 2020 and a digital release via Amazon Prime on December 4th. It was met with wild praise upon distribution, currently sitting at a 96% critic score and a 91% audience score (with 213 and 890 reviews respectively). On other notable sites, it currently has a 4.1/5 on Letterboxd with 97,000 views, an 8.1/10 on Metacritic with 30 reviews, and a 4.6/5 on Google with 364 reviews. It seems to be an audience favorite, likely because it reminds many audience members of the brutal relentlessness featured a few years ago in Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash (another film about a drummer facing harsh realities).
“Riz Ahmed is touchingly credible as a musician who loses his hearing in this unusual drama.” – Jeannette Catsoulis (The New York Times)
“With its focus on characters, emotions, and ideology, this powerful drama with great performances easily overcomes its few flaws to drum up enormous empathy and heartbreak.” – Jeffrey M. Anderson (Common Sense Media)
Critic and audience reaction are not the most important factors in a film’s success during award season. Its success is based on how likely it is to appeal to big Hollywood producers, executives and stars who vote for the best films of the year. Luckily for The Sound of Metal, it is a favorite amongst these large personnel in the entertainment industry, who absolutely adore its brutal reality. It currently has a whopping 36 wins and 74 nominations from various film associations. Most of the wins/nominations are for lead actor Riz Ahmed and supporting actor Paul Raci whose performances are likely the big highlight of the film. Writer/director Darius Marder is also seeing a considerable amount of award recognition for his work on the film, which is extremely impressive given that this is his feature directorial debut.
A COVID success story
The Sound of Metal is a film that I’m frankly surprised is getting awards season attention. It’s not a typical film to receive so many accolades and be in such high discussion for the best film of the year. However, looking back on the previous year, it is easy to see why so many people have flocked to this film. It was one of the few films to receive a release (of any form) this past year and it’s a gripping, emotional tale that many should be able to find relatable. Even if The Sound of Metal is just a COVID success story, I believe that it is worthy of all the success it has received. It is a perfect example of what one of the best films of the year should be in the eyes of the Academy every year.