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Oscars 2021: Who's up, who's down, and where you can watch this year's contenders

Patrick Ryan   | USA TODAY
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Strap in for the weirdest Oscar race ever. 

Like everything else since last March, awards season has been turned upside down by the pandemic: Festivals have gone digital, Q&As are now Zooms, and red carpets have mostly gone the way of the dinosaurs. Awards shows, too, have been perpetually pushed back or reimagined in light of COVID safety concerns. 

But (knock on wood) the Academy Awards are sticking to their rescheduled April 25 ceremony, extending the eligibility deadline to Feb. 28 and welcoming streaming movies. At this point, we've seen most all of the contenders, and this weekend's Golden Globe Awards will give us a clearer picture of who's ahead. 

Golden Globes 2021: How to watch, everything you need to know about the hybrid awards show

Predictions: Who will win Golden Globes – and who should?

Here's what you need to know about the current state of the race: 

It's a 'very nice' time to be Sacha Baron Cohen 

The question going into Sunday's Golden Globes is not whether Cohen will win, but how much? The funnyman has been the indubitable star of this awards season, appearing on virtually every roundtable and magazine cover to tout the political resonance of his disparate projects: Netflix's wig-tastic "The Trial of the Chicago 7" and Amazon's Giuliani-baiting "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm." 

'It got too dangerous': Sacha Baron Cohen says he's officially retiring Borat Sagdiyev (again)

Cohen is vying for three Globes, and is heavily predicted to clinch both best comedy actor (for "Borat") and best comedy/musical (also for "Borat," as a producer). A supporting actor win for "Chicago 7" is viable, too: Cohen is the only actor in the category whose film is also nominated for best drama, meaning voters clearly love Aaron Sorkin's protest potboiler. If he takes this, then Cohen may very well shoot to Oscar frontrunner status over contenders Daniel Kaluuya ("Judas and the Black Messiah") and Leslie Odom Jr. ("One Night in Miami"). 

Where to watch: "The Trial of the Chicago 7" is streaming on Netflix; "Judas and the Black Messiah" is streaming on HBO Max; "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" and "One Night in Miami" are streaming on Amazon Prime. 

Tom Holland's 'Cherry' didn't pop with critics

Better luck next year, Spider-Man. The charismatic Holland teamed up with Marvel directors Anthony and Joe Russo for gritty new Apple TV+ drama "Cherry," adapted from Nico Walker's 2018 novel and following a drug-addicted war veteran who starts robbing banks. In a crowded best actor field, Holland was always considered a long-shot contender. But Thursday's putrid reviews all but squashed "Cherry's" Oscar hopes: The film sits at just 38% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, with Variety calling it an "overblown dud." 

Tom Holland: 'Spider-Man' star on his adult role in 'Cherry'

Where to watch: "Cherry" premieres Friday on Apple TV+. 

Could other nomads hitch a ride to Oscar? 

After a seemingly endless festival run, Chloé Zhao's gorgeous "Nomadland" finally hit theaters and Hulu last weekend. With the exception of some valid criticism of the movie's rosy depiction of Amazon and its treatment of gig workers, the drama continues to spark enthusiasm from film fans and critics, with celebs including David Crosby, Rainn Wilson and Patton Oswalt also singing its praises. 

'Nomadland': Frances McDormand talks 'catharsis' of Oscar frontrunner

Zhao and star Frances McDormand are already locks for best director and actress Oscar nominations, respectively. If the love continues, could that translate to other nods for the film's supporting cast of real-life nomads? Charlene Swankie is the movie's soulful center as a cancer-stricken vagabond, while Linda May and Bob Wells are equally heartbreaking as fellow drifters. David Strathairn, one of the only professional actors aside from McDormand, also gets some terrific scenes as a migrant looking to settle down. 

It doesn't help that "Nomadland" was snubbed by the Screen Actors Guild Awards for best ensemble. But so was 2018's "Roma," and yet its stars still managed to land surprise best actress (Yalitza Aparicio) and supporting actress (Marina de Tavira) Oscar nods. So what we're saying is: There's hope for Swankie still. 

Where to watch: "Nomadland" is streaming on Hulu.