By Christian DiMartino
As someone who, for whatever reason, cares about the Oscars, I gotta say that I’m not really having much interest in the outcome of the 94th Academy Awards, which airs this evening. This was a fine year in movies- the ones I loved were pretty great, and honestly I didn’t seek out too many duds this year so that helped. As we enter the official final stretch (I mean, it’s tonight), the precursor awards seem to be giving us a good idea of where the awards are going. And… it’s not great.
Mind you, there are some legitimate races this awards season, so that’s kind of cool. In other years there has been a certain lack of surprise. Since about 2019 though, there has been a decent Oscar surprise in a major category every year. Remember Olivia Colman winning for The Favourite over Glenn Close for The Wife? Bong Joon-Ho making a last minute Parasite sweep? Or how about (my favorite) Anthony Hopkins winning for The Father, putting a damper on the evening for everyone other than me? I think I screamed with joy, can’t confirm though I was drunk.
I know that the Academy Awards are meaningless. I know that it almost seems like these awards are a done deal for many months and we just have to sit there and watch the same people give the same speeches for months. Yet… I always find myself drawn into it and caring for some reason. I think it’s just seeing movies and people that I know and love get recognition just affects me in a strange way. Like the Hopkins win. When the Academy gets it right, they really get it right. Naturally though, they can also get it really wrong, but it of course makes for a fun debate.
If what I’m hearing is true, there’s a good chance they’re going to get it wrong. There is no doubt that Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, the frontrunner the entire time, is going to do decent business. You’ll notice though that, even though there’s a strong admiration for it, there might not be a strong passion for it. So, alas, right behind it though (and maybe even right in front of it), is CODA, which, if you haven’t heard, is a movie I couldn’t care less about. Not an awful movie, but for whatever reason people seem to really have boarded the CODA train. Nominated for a mere 3 Oscars, the film has a good chance of winning all three of them, and that will place the film next to The Last Emperor and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as one of the few Best Picture winners to win all of its awards. It will also be the first streamer to win the big prize. Guys, I’m at a loss. I wish I could understand. I just don’t at all and frankly this will be their most boneheaded move in a long while. It should maybe be said that I personally haven’t fully agreed with a Best Picture winner since Birdman, and a lot of people don’t agree with that one. So maybe I’m just not easy to please. I just… can’t stop sighing. Anyways, I’m going to dive into the major categories and discuss what will win and what should win. Yippee, how fun.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Drive My Car
The Power of the Dog
Will Win: CODA– Hopefully I’m wrong (this is one of those unpredictable ones), but if this is true, we know what’s winning Best Picture. All I’m going to say in terms of this screenplay though is: have these people seen Zola? Watch that and come back to me. Now THAT is an adaptation.
Should Win: The Lost Daughter– the best written of these films is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter, a movie that I find bizarrely compelling but undeniably rich. This one also has a good chance of winning, if we’re being perfectly honest. Oh, but, you know, deaf people.
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Belfast– this one is a coin toss. On one hand, Licorice Pizza obviously has its admirers, and Paul Thomas Anderson is an Academy favorite, despite never winning. This would be the place to recognize him. BUT… they seem to have more of an affection for Belfast, which was once previously considered a frontrunner for Best Picture. They also must like Kenneth Branagh, who has been on their radar since the late 80’s. Belfast is also less controversial than Licorice Pizza, so although it’s uncertain, this will probably win.
Should Win: Licorice Pizza– a coin toss for the Academy, and for me. I’m a Belfast man myself, but Licorice Pizza is slightly more my bag. My guy PTA has been thriving for about 20 years and he continues the great work with this film, which finds him at his most laid back, funny, and charming. Is it his best work? Not quite, but it’s worthy of the discussion and it’s just a great screenplay in general. Plus, how does he not have an Oscar yet?
Paul Thomas Anderson- Licorice Pizza
Kenneth Branagh- Belfast
Jane Campion- The Power of the Dog
Ryusuke Hamaguchi- Drive My Car
Steven Spielberg- West Side Story
Will Win: Campion- this is one of most undeniable done-deals of the night, seeing as Campion has pretty much won every award under the sun for this gorgeous, compelling and thought provoking little movie. She also won the Directors Guild of America award, which all but solidifies the win. Sure, upsets are possible (Sam Mendes ultimately lost for 1917) but there seems to be a huge amount of support for this film, and I don’t expect that to stop here.
Should Win: Spielberg- as you may have detected in my list of the best movies of the year, I have a huge amount of support for West Side Story. Personally, this was the best piece of filmmaking I saw all year, and it’s a reminder that even 50 years into Spielberg’s career, the guy still has it. This is a wonderful film that brims with the love and passion that Spielberg not only has for this source material, but for musicals in general. This was perhaps his greatest achievement in about 15 years, and yeah, I thought it was a special movie.
Best Supporting Actor
Ciaran Hinds- Belfast
Troy Kotsur- CODA
Jesse Plemons- The Power of the Dog
J.K. Simmons- Being the Ricardos
Kodi Smit-McPhee- The Power of the Dog
Will Win: Kotsur- another sigh, but this one is a little more understandable. The acting in CODA is the main highlight. At one point it seemed like McPhee had this in the bag for his subtle, strong work in The Power of the Dog. Yet as weeks have gone on, it seems as if the two Power Dogs have canceled each other out and Kotsur is on his way to victory.
Should Win: Hinds- when I saw Belfast back in November, it all but made sense for Hinds to win this, and even though he doesn’t really have a chance, this is still the best performance of this lot. Hinds has been around a long, long time and is capable of a lot of different shades and ranges. With Belfast, I thought his work was just lovely and tender. That’s essentially what I thought of the movie too.
Best Supporting Actress
Jessie Buckley- The Lost Daughter
Ariana DeBose- West Side Story
Judi Dench- Belfast
Kirsten Dunst- The Power of the Dog
Aunjanue Ellis- King Richard
Will Win: Debose- Like Campion and Kotsur, this one is all locked up. Reprising a role that previously nabbed Rita Moreno an Oscar, DeBose has been sweeping the award circuit from the very beginning. Who else could win? Honestly, probably nobody but… maybe Dench? Nah, DeBose has got this.
Should Win: Debose- Yes, just… yes. I knew watching this movie in the theatre that DeBose was not only going to be an awards contender but that she was also going to be a big deal. Every second she’s on-screen in this movie is electric and fabulous. When thinking about the Best Supporting Actress category, this is the kind of performance that’s synonymous with it. She’s great, I got full DeBose stock.
Javier Bardem- Being the Ricardos
Benedict Cumberbatch- The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield- Tick, Tick…Boom!
Will Smith- King Richard
Denzel Washington- The Tragedy of MacBeth
Will Win: Smith- I want to say this is one of the done deals of the night, and honestly there might be cries of terror in the audience if it isn’t. Smith, like DeBose, has won just about every award for this and it’s most likely not going to stop. There is a fanbase for both Garfield and Cumberbatch as well, but Smith is probably the safest bet.
Should Win: Smith- this is a tough call. A part of me wants to go Cumberbatch, whose work in that film is not only his best yet, but also the best of the movie. But… eh, I’ll go with Smith too, who delivers his best performance in a little while and not only reminds us that he’s a great movie star, but also a great actor. If Nicolas Cage had been nominated for Pig, we might be having a different conversation, but Smith has my endorsement.
Jessica Chastain- The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Olivia Colman- The Lost Daughter
Penelope Cruz- Parallel Mothers
Nicole Kidman- Being the Ricardos
Kristen Stewart- Spencer
Will Win: Chastain- This one isn’t a total done deal, but it’s just about there. At one point it seemed that Kidman was going to win, but the narrative has since shifted for Chastain, who delivers great work in an uneven (but for my money, enjoyable) movie. From what I hear, Chastain has been campaigning pretty hard, and the movie is a big passion project for her… and this is not only the kind of role the Academy responds to (a real life figure and a transformation), but she’s one of our best actresses and she has yet to win. So she’ll probably win this time.
Should Win: Colman- I really enjoyed just about all of these and would be on board with any of them winning… except maybe Kidman, who I adore but didn’t adore in this particular movie. I’m aboard with the Chastain win, but my vote goes for Colman, who delivers her best performance so far in what is among the year’s best performances.
Don’t Look Up
Drive My Car
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story
Will Win: The Power of the Dog– I… could be wrong. I cannot even say that I’m going with my heart, but I’m going with optimism. The Power of the Dog has the most nominations, it has the Best Director and Editing nomination, which is definitely in its favor. It would certainly be an interesting Best Picture choice, considering it’s not like uplifting or anything. It’s a good, elegantly made movie that lingers in the mind after you see it. You know what you can’t say that about? CODA, which… unfortunately also has a good chance. Gun to my head, I’m going to go with The Power of the Dog, but if it goes the other way, don’t say you weren’t warned.
Should Win: West Side Story– again, I love this movie. Yet maybe part of the reason why I had such a response to it was because I wasn’t expecting to be that blown away by it. The movie was such a question mark before its release. Why would Steven Spielberg want to direct a musical, and why would he choose to remake a beloved movie? Well, whatever reservations we had went out the window pretty much from the opening and he used his still-stellar technique to deliver a rollicking great time.
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