Academy Award prediction: ‘Nomadland’ will win

March 26, 2021 — by Cici Xu
Photo by Courtesy of Slashfilm

The film, nominated as one of eight films for the Best Picture Award, embraces serenity and discusses coping with life hardened by the pandemic. 


As I scrolled through the full list of Academy Award nominations, some of my best memories during the pandemic rushed into my mind — dancing along with the “Nomadland” characters and glancing over the serene view of deserts on my living room TV. 

Looking through the list of Best Picture nominations, I was not surprised at the results.

This year, the eight films are competing in the category are: “The Father,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Mank,” “Minari,” “Nomadland,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Sound of Metal” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” 

While all of these are incredible films, I believe that “Nomadland,” inspired by a book with the same name and directed by Chinese filmmaker Chloe Zhao, will be the ultimate winner for Best Picture, not only because it already won the 2021 Golden Globes, but also because it communicates a crucial sentiment that the world desperately needs while recovering from the pandemic.  

The movie depicts the bitter journey of a woman named Fern, played by former Academy Award winner Frances McDormand, who lives a nomad lifestyle as she tries to move on from the death of her husband. The underlying conflicts of the film lie within the mind of Fern, who is representative of the collective struggles shared by underprivileged workers whose lives were destroyed by the 2007 to 2009 Great Recession. 

Though Fern does not exist in the original novel, she connects the stories of different nomads into one grandiose rite-of-passage story in the film. Through Fern, Zhao demonstrates to the audience the process of re-motivation from a detrimental loss, something many can relate to during a difficult pandemic. 

The use of symbolism in the film is also a beautiful and intricate aspect of this film. Although movies are often straightforward, many of the messages conveyed in “Nomadland” are carried out through symbols such as the round shape of a wedding ring and broken glasses. 

The continuous emergence of similar symbols throughout the movie demonstrate a clear progression of Fern’s mentality. Initially, she views her nomad life as an endless circle which she fully controls, but gradually, her life is interrupted by incidents and people that forcefully break her away from the circle and her past. The film’s  symbolism brings depth to the story and compliments the minimal use of dialogue in the movie. 

Undeniably, “Trial of the Chicago 7,” which is another hit in this year’s Golden Globe, is also a strong contender. As the title suggests, the movie is about the 1968 political trial where seven student activists clashed with the state government when opposing the Vietnam War. However, the fact that the nation is craving calm and peace after an intense election decreases the movie’s chance of being named Best Picture. 

The winner of the 2021 Academy Awards Best Picture will be revealed on April 25. Although my best bet is on “Nomadland” for Best Picture, the significance of the nominated movies cannot be merely defined by the awards. The films have added joyful sparks in people’s isolated lives and given them companionship and space to heal in some bleak times.