2022 Oscars: Who Should/Will Win?

I hate the Oscars!

It is happening again! It is Hollywood’s biggest night! Like an idiot, I have cared deeply about the Oscars since I was 14. 2011 was a formative film year for me, with some of my favorite movies ever made competing against each other for top prizes. Every year since then, I have made my Oscar ballots, done my best to watch every single major nominee and to be well-informed about the awards as a whole. It’s a very prestigious honor to win an Oscar, obviously. It’s like winning the Stanley Cup for a hockey player or being awarded a league MVP for a football player. Upon winning, you become enshrined in film history and officially belong to an unbelievably exclusive club. The Oscars also used to genuinely matter to the general film-viewing public, and for quite a long time, the telecast was regularly one of the highest rated nights of the year, right after events like the Super Bowl. Movies that got nominations and wins would find second-lives in theaters and could financially triple their box office returns and find entirely new audiences.

Last year, the Oscars had its lowest ratings in the history of the show, barely getting more than 10 million people to tune in, despite there being over 40 million viewers on average just a few years back. This could maybe be explained due to most of the movies that were nominated being mostly not great and forgettable and not having been watched in theaters because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it also could be due to the fact that the Academy moves in ways filled with contempt and hate for anybody who cares about movies as an art form deserving to be honored and celebrated. For instance, this year, eight of the major categories will not be aired during the telecast, including Best Score, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, etc, etc. It is insane that on a night meant to celebrate the achievements and honor the craft that goes into making movies, we will not be celebrating all of the aspects that go into making movies! Thankfully, we will get Amy Schumer hosting (??), a performance from Reba in 2022, and DJ Khaled will present an award at some point. Great.

Anyways, last year was an unbelievably strong year in film with many worthy nominees and memorable performances. I desperately wish that the Academy did a better job celebrating these movies and making them matter to the layman and thus, matter to pop culture, but unfortunately, we may be too far gone for that. Still, I’m here to break down each Best Picture nominee and give my predictions for who SHOULD win this year and who WILL win Oscars this year. Enjoy!

The nominees for Best Picture (and most of the movies that will be covered) are as follows:

BELFAST dir. Kenneth Branagh

CODA dir. Siân Heder

DON’T LOOK UP dir. Adam McKay

DRIVE MY CAR dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi

DUNE dir. Denis Villeneuve

KING RICHARD dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green

LICORICE PIZZA dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

NIGHTMARE ALLEY dir. Guillermo del Toro

THE POWER OF THE DOG dir. Jane Campion

WEST SIDE STORY dir. Steven Spielberg

BELFAST dir. Kenneth Branagh

FAKE movie! Bad!

Unfortunately, BELFAST is not one of the ten Best Picture nominees actually deserving of being on the list. I’m not saying Kenneth Branagh deserves to find himself sitting in an electric chair for his involvement with this film, but I’m also not NOT saying that. This movie, documenting Branagh’s childhood in Ireland, is horrid, littered with treacherously nasty lighting, a boring and tensionless screenplay, and mostly senseless direction. Caitriona Balfe is a professional and does her best navigating the weak material she has to work with and Cirián Hinds is okay in a supporting role, but Judi Dench delivers one of her weakest performances to date (she was nominated for an Oscar because of it, of course) and Jude Hill as our protagonist is fairly lifeless. The amount of scenes that took place through a window made me want to pull my hair out and the use of only having any color when people were watching plays or movies (not TV though??) was such a baffling creative decision that I wanted to scream. The Van Morrison score got very old quickly, too. This was just SO boring. I saw 59 movies last year and this would slot at number 54 on my list.

CODA dir. Siân Heder

Kind of fake movie!

CODA is totally adequate. It is the film about a working-class deaf family of fishers with one hearing daughter who dreams of going to school to pursue music. It’s buoyed by decent enough performances, particularly from Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin, and Daniel Durant and Emilia Jones is empathetic enough as our protagonist, but it is also plagued by an unbelievably overly saccharine screenplay that at times resembles a Disney channel original movie or an ABC made-for-TV film. It also has zero visual style and isn’t filled with enough tension to make it deserving of the praise that it has been getting, especially these last few weeks. The final act has a moment or two that is emotionally potent (I cried, but I’m a VERY easy crier during movies), but as a whole, there just isn’t enough here to truly justify a nomination!

DON’T LOOK UP dir. Adam McKay

Fake fake fake movie! Bad!

Unfortunately, BELFAST wasn’t the worst Best Picture nominee I watched. DON’T LOOK UP, a Netflix original, was certainly worse. To DON’T LOOK UP’s credit, it inspired more feeling out of me than BELFAST (which made me want to fall asleep), but unfortunately, the only feeling it brought out of me was utter rage. Adam McKay is a hack creative. He is smug and condescending and not at all talented enough to justify any of it. His writing is didactic and lacking all tact, but it also isn’t funny or charming at all. This is not the same man who made the Will Ferrell comedies of the aughts; this isn’t even the same man who made THE BIG SHORT. DON’T LOOK UP stars some of the biggest movie stars in the world (Leo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, etc) in what is billed as a “satire” about climate change, but it unfortunately doesn’t really manage to satirize anything and is a miserable excursion to experience. It doesn’t help that it’s 138 minutes long. Nightmare movie. Cate Blanchett is fine enough, I guess, but this is one of the three worst movies I viewed of 2021!

DRIVE MY CAR dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Masterpiece!

Now to the good nominees, starting with DRIVE MY CAR, which is a masterclass in tension-building and pacing. It tells the story of Yūsuke Kafuku as he attempts to direct a production of UNCLE VANYA after dealing with an extreme personal tragedy that he is still trying to process and the unlikely friendship he forms with the driver of his car. It’s one of the most emotionally devastating films of the year and has one of the most finely crafted third acts that I’ve seen in quite some time, providing complete catharsis and well-deserved payoff. It’s brimming with four or five of the strongest performances of the year, particularly from Hidetoshi Nishijima, as the protagonist, as well as from Toko Miura and Park Yu-rim. The direction is sublime and the adapted screenplay is the stuff writers dream of one day concocting. A legitimately perfect masterpiece.

DUNE dir. Denis Villeneuve

Technical marvel!

DUNE is a technical marvel in every sense of the word and one of the strongest movies 2021 had to offer, especially when viewed in an IMAX setting. Led by an all-star cast of Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgård, and Zendaya, DUNE features some of the most gorgeous cinematography of the year. Denis Villeneuve is one of our best working directors today and he has been since 2013 and what he gives us here is another crowning achievement. DUNE is one of the strongest sci-fi releases of the last decade and given how impossible the Frank Herbert novel has always seemed at adapting, special praise must be made over how clear and focused the story here was (only half of the first book was adapted, to be fair, but it still is a monumental achievement). Excellent film.

KING RICHARD dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green

Pretty decent!

Perhaps nobody hates a biopic more than me, so I went into KING RICHARD expecting to hate it, but I was pretty surprised with how effective it was. It’s a movie about Richard Williams, father of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams, and it documents the insane lengths, and at many times, unhealthy ways, he went through to propel them to tennis superstardom. He was right and it ended up working out, but he could’ve been wrong and been proven to be just another deadbeat. As a biopic hater, I was pleasantly surprised by the Will Smith performance (a career best) as Richard. He’s selfish and egotistical yet always full of love and enthusiasm and unbridled confidence in his children. It’s a strong performance and Smith carries the film on his shoulders. It also features a delightfully hammy performance from the wonderful character actor Jon Bernthal and terrific supporting performances from Aunjanue Ellis as Brandy Price (Williams’ wife) and Saniyya Sidney as Venus. The tennis scenes are shot quite well, too. It’s a sports movie, so it’s a bit cliché and obvious, but overall, it is genuinely decent!

LICORICE PIZZA dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

Picture perfect!

This is perhaps the movie that I will remember the most from 2021 when I reflect back in 30 years. LICORICE PIZZA had me crying tears of joy two times in the first ten minutes. When I walked out of the theater upon first viewing, I felt like I was walking on a cloud, just bundled in joy. It features two genuinely charming performances, full of sincerity and empathetic warmness, from newcomers Alana Haim (absolutely snubbed in the Lead Actress category) and Cooper Hoffman, as well as superb supporting performances from Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, and Benny Safdie. It chronicles the story of two young people growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s and watching them struggle and grapple with either trying to grow up too fast (in the case of Hoffman’s character) or clinging to their youth as long as possible (in the case of Haim’s character). It’s romantic and endearing and is everything that a movie experience should be. Master director Paul Thomas Anderson knows there is nothing in film more romantic than two characters running towards each other and I am so grateful for that. Perfect movie. Truly restored #TheFeeling .

NIGHTMARE ALLEY dir. Guillermo del Toro

It’s not bad!

NIGHTMARE ALLEY is solid, if not unremarkable. Guillermo del Toro returns with his first film since his 2018 Best Picture winner THE SHAPE OF WATER. This isn’t as strong as that was, but it is still a n acceptable entry into del Toro’s filmography. Bradley Cooper plays an absolutely elite con-man scammer, working his way up through the ranks of a carnival before going on the road with his wife (played well by Rooney Mara) bringing his scams any and everywhere that can bring him the most wealth. It’s enjoyable genre-fare, working wonderfully as a noir-period piece and Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, and Richard Jenkins do some terrific work. It features a great first act, but sort of begins to lose steam in the second when we introduce Cate Blanchett’s character to the story. The third act finishes everything off nicely and is shot especially well, with some lush colors, but as a whole, this is just outside the upper-echelon of Best Picture nominees.

THE POWER OF THE DOG dir. Jane Campion

Quite strong!

In any other year, Jane Campion’s THE POWER OF THE DOG would be easily one or two of the three best films nominated for Best Picture. This year? Firmly the fifth best, but still a commendable work indeed. It tells the story of charismatic rancher Phil Burbank (played perfectly by Benedict Cumberbatch in a career best) as he terrorizes his brother’s wife and son before he begins to find love and a possibility at peace and comfort. THE POWER OF THE DOG earned four nominations for acting, but probably will walk away with none at the end of the night. Regardless, it is one of the finest-acted films of 2021, featuring wonderful performances from Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons (who continues to never miss), Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. It’s a quiet film, always taking the appropriate amount of time necessary to build tension and suspense, and it features a spectacular Johnny Greenwood score. It’s a Netflix original worthy of watching for sure.

WEST SIDE STORY dir. Steven Spielberg

Damn great!

When I saw WEST SIDE STORY was being remade a few years back, I’ll be honest: I rolled my eyes. It was hard to not think of it as a cynical cash-grab when the announcement came out. I was wrong for ever doubting Steven Spielberg, though, because the 2021 WEST SIDE STORY absolutely soars. It is a triumph in just about every way imaginable. The singing and choreography are riveting, the costuming is glorious, and the performances from Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, and Mike Faist are all stupendous! There may be nobody alive better at pointing a camera than Spielberg and the shots he was able to acquire for this one are breathtaking, particularly THAT shot of the puddle, which might be the most technically impressive shot of 2021. Not exactly a perfect movie, due to a lead performance from Ansel Elgort that is a bit too wooden for me, but overall, a truly deserving Best Picture nominee!

Anyway, those are the major films that will be up for almost all of the awards at this year’s Oscars. Let’s take a deeper dive into a few of the major categories!

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Ariana DeBose, WEST SIDE STORY

Kirsten Dunst, THE POWER OF THE DOG

Aunjanue Ellis, KING RICHARD

Jessie Buckley, THE LOST DAUGHTER

Judi Dench, BELFAST

Should win: Jessie Buckley, THE LOST DAUGHTER

Will win: Ariana DeBose, WEST SIDE STORY

This is one you can bet the house on. This race has been locked up since November. DeBose is astounding in WEST SIDE STORY, absolutely lighting up the screen every moment she appears in the film as Anita, the same role for which Rita Moreno won her Academy Award many decades ago. I think Jessie Buckley does admirable work in THE LOST DAUGHTER and in a just competition, would even give DeBose a run for her money, but it is DeBose’s award and that’s already decided. I would’ve loved to have seen Rebecca Ferguson nominated for DUNE or Toko Miura nominated for DRIVE MY CAR, but as long as Judi Dench doesn’t win for her terrible performance in BELFAST, I’m fine here.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Cirian Hinds, BELFAST

Troy Kotsur, CODA

Kodi Smit-McPhee, THE POWER OF THE DOG

Jesse Plemons, THE POWER OF THE DOG

J.K. Simmons, BEING THE RICARDOS

Should win: Kodi Smit-McPhee, THE POWER OF THE DOG

Will win: Troy Kotsur, CODA

J.K. Simmons getting a nomination for showing up in BEING THE RICARDOS (a fake movie) is insane to me, and even though Cirian Hinds is one of the better parts of BELFAST (also a fake movie), his nomination here makes no sense. A Bradley Cooper nomination for LICORICE PIZZA or a Ben Affleck nomination for THE LAST DUEL would’ve been more appropriate. Even Mike Faist for WEST SIDE STORY or Colman Domingo in ZOLA (a movie I didn’t like) would’ve been more appropriate. Oh, well. Kodi Smit-McPhee should win here for his quietly restrained and pensive performance in THE POWER OF THE DOG (he was the front-runner for quite a while) but it will probably go to Troy Kotsur for CODA, who seems to have all the momentum right now. Kotsur is easily the best part of CODA. He’s got a wonderfully expressive face, fully able to convey a great deal of pathos without ever speaking and only signing. It’s a committed and strong performance, and he alone is able to provide the emotional climax of the film so he deserves credit for that. He wouldn’t be my pick, but I also won’t be mad when he wins.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

CODA

DRIVE MY CAR

DUNE

THE LOST DAUGHTER

THE POWER OF THE DOG

Should win: DRIVE MY CAR or DUNE

Will win: CODA

My brain is going to break when CODA wins Best Adapted Screenplay (similar to last year, when the abhorrent PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN screenplay won the award) because the screenplay of CODA is far and away the worst part of the movie. It’s amateurish and overly saccharine, like an ABC original movie or a Disney Channel Original, but it is going to win and probably indicate CODA’s likelihood of winning bigger awards as the night goes on. The mere fact that Eric Roth, Denis Villeneuve, and Jon Spaihts were able to adapt half of Frank Herbert’s 604 page dense, sprawling sci-fi epic, DUNE, is remarkable and worthy of a win and DRIVE MY CAR was quietly the most devastating text of the year, but it will not matter because the academy is full of stupid people who hate movies and CODA, the worst of the nominated screenplays, is going to win!

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

BELFAST

DON’T LOOK UP

KING RICHARD

LICORICE PIZZA

THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD

Should win: LICORICE PIZZA, with THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD as a close second

Will win: BELFAST

BELFAST features a putrid and flat-out boring screenplay that failed to inspire an ounce of emotion out of me (and I am an easy crier at movies). DON’T LOOK UP features a neoliberal wet dream screenplay that is both insanely condescending and also hardly ever funny. One of these two will win, despite LICORICE PIZZA sporting a wonderfully breezy and memorable screenplay from the most gifted filmmaker of the 21st century (who has never won an Oscar, might I add). LICORICE PIZZA should easily win this and if not, THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD would be an appropriate and deserving choice, but expect the academy to go with the dumbest options and award it to BELFAST or DON’T LOOK UP. I’m expecting Branagh to take this one.

Yuck!

BEST SOUND

BELFAST

DUNE

NO TIME TO DIE

THE POWER OF THE DOG

WEST SIDE STORY

Should win: DUNE

Will win: DUNE

DUNE is probably going to sweep (or, come close to sweeping) the technical categories and that is more than fair, seeing as it is an absolute technical marvel. In other years, WEST SIDE STORY or even NO TIME TO DIE would be more than fair and deserving wins, but it should be DUNE here and it should win this one pretty comfortably. Another “Bet the house on it” type of award. DUNE is going to run away with this one.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

CRUELLA

CYRANO

DUNE

NIGHTMARE ALLEY

WEST SIDE STORY

Should win: DUNE, with WEST SIDE STORY as a very close second

Will win: CRUELLA

CRUELLA is going to win this award easily, which is fine, I suppose. It’s literally a movie about the fashion industry and costuming and all of that, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that it features decent costumes. For me, stylistically, the costumes of DUNE would be far more deserving to award because they helped to really make the world feel lived in and I also would be totally happy if the lush and vivaciously colored costumes of WEST SIDE STORY were awarded, but expect CRUELLA to take this one home.

Alright, fine!

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

COMING 2 AMERICA

CRUELLA

DUNE

THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE

HOUSE OF GUCCI

Should win: DUNE

Will win: THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE

THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE was a movie of nightmares. Not only did Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain deliver fairly overwrought performances, they also looked miserably horrific, about as unsexy as two attractive people could ever look. I suppose that means the makeup and hairstyling was effective, but I feel like this award is going to go to TAMMY FAYE more because they just simply used the most makeup and hairstyling in their movie, not because it featured the BEST makeup and hairstyling. The award should rightfully go to DUNE, again, because the makeup and hair was always effective and done well but never in a way that was distracting or took away from the story, but this one will go to the gaudy work from THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE.

Good lord!

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

DUNE

NIGHTMARE ALLEY

THE POWER OF THE DOG

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH

WEST SIDE STORY

Should win: THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH, narrowly above DUNE

Will win: DUNE

This is a very worthy crop of nominees, with spectacular and diverse production designs littered across the category (outside of the office that Cate Blanchett works in in NIGHTMARE ALLEY, which looks quite abysmal, frankly). THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH is my favorite production design of the year. It’s the type of production design that feels like a character unto itself and the movie certainly wouldn’t be nearly as strong without the glorious design, mostly shot on sound stages in LA with digital backings and matte paintings. DUNE features a bombastic and impressive production design however, and like I’ve already said, I expect DUNE to take home most of the technical awards. It’s close enough that I’ll be happy to see DUNE take home the award, but THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH has been grossly underrated this year and it would be fun to see it take home the award. The WEST SIDE STORY production design is also quite good, though I’d still slot in at third fairly easily.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

DUNE

FREE GUY

NO TIME TO DIE

SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME

Should win: DUNE

Will win: DUNE

If FREE GUY, one of the most creatively bankrupt and morally abhorrent, vile films I’ve ever watched, wins the Oscar for this, I will genuinely become the Joker! It looks ugly and is a terrible film. This is an insane nomination. The two Marvel movies also look quite ugly, too, but I’m not surprised they got nominations. NO TIME TO DIE has very solid visual effects and I wouldn’t be furious if it won, but DUNE’s visual effects are sublime and it should easily take home the Oscar here.

Very nice!

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

ENCANTO

FLEE

LUCA

THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON

Should win: THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES

Will win: ENCANTO

It’s unfortunate FLEE is going to leave the night without winning any awards, despite racking up a historical three nominations (it is the only movie to be nominated for Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature), but this is a two-man race between Disney’s ENCANTO and Netflix’s THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES. Disney has three nominations in this category, so it is possible they all cannibalize each other and allow THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES to swoop in and steal the win, but I assume the favorite will win here and ENCANTO will take home the award. I’ll never root for Disney to ever win anything ever so I am certainly not hoping to see ENCANTO win, but I expect that it may narrowly take it.

Go Disney!!!!

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

DON’T LOOK UP

DUNE

ENCANTO

PARALLEL MOTHERS

THE POWER OF THE DOG

Should win: DUNE

Will win: DUNE

This is the year that Hans Zimmer finally wins a solo Oscar for Best Original Score and, of course, because the Academy hates people who are fans of movies, this award is not going to be telecast live and will occur when the audience isn’t packed like it should be. Very disappointing. The DUNE score is a stunning achievement and one of the finest of Zimmer’s careers, perfectly capturing the sci-fi atmosphere and feelings that the imagery onscreen evokes. Jonny Greenwood had a tremendous year (he also scored the middling-to-bad SPENCER, providing one of the only good parts of the movie) and THE POWER OF THE DOG score is quite effective, but it’s not his year to win. This will go to Hans and it should.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

“Be Alive”- Beyoncé and DIXSON (KING RICHARD)

“Dos Oruguitas”- Lin-Manuel Miranda and Sebastián Yatra (ENCANTO)

“Down to Joy”- Van Morrison (BELFAST)

“No Time to Die”- Billie Ellish and Finneas O’Connell (NO TIME TO DIE)

“Somehow You Do”- Diane Warren and Reba McEntire (FOUR GOOD DAYS)

Should win: “No Time to Die”- Billie Ellish and Finneas O’Connell (NO TIME TO DIE)

Will win: “No Time to Die”- Billie Ellish and Finneas O’Connell (NO TIME TO DIE)

Disney may have made a costly mistake with not submitting the big hit from ENCANTO, “We Need to Talk About Bruno”, instead opting for the ballad of “Dos Oruguitas”. This will prove fatal in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pursuit of completing his EGOT (he’ll get his Oscar for song eventually) and allow Billie Ellish and Finneas O’Connell to win Best Original Song for the title song to the final Daniel Craig James Bond film, “No Time to Die”. It’s the best Bond song of any Craig iteration and Ellish is one of the biggest superstars in the world, as well as somebody the Academy is acutely aware of (she sang the “In Memoriam” at the 2020 Oscars). Beyoncé is Beyoncé so she shouldn’t be ruled out here, but it’s a two-song race between Lin’s and Billie’s and Billie should come out victorious here.

Great Bond song!

BEST FILM EDITING

DON’T LOOK UP

DUNE

KING RICHARD

THE POWER OF THE DOG

TICK, TICK… BOOM

Should win: DUNE

Will win: THE POWER OF THE DOG

DON’T LOOK UP is miserably edited. It has no business being in this category. TICK, TICK… BOOM’s editing also leaves lots to be desired, personally. The mark of a great edit for me usually is when an editor is able to make a long film feel like it flies by. That’s what Joe Walker made happen with his editing work on DUNE, which certainly never feels like a 155-minute long film and also manages to juggle a copious amount of complex characters and stories. There isn’t an edit out of place and it deserves to win, however, I expect either KING RICHARD (the editing between the tennis matches is quite strong) or THE POWER OF THE DOG to win this one. This category historically has been a precursor to what has the legs to win Best Picture and look for THE POWER OF THE DOG to win here, despite superior editing in DUNE.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

DUNE

NIGHTMARE ALLEY

THE POWER OF THE DOG

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH

WEST SIDE STORY

Should win: DUNE, with WEST SIDE STORY and THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH close behind

Will win: DUNE

This category is one of the most stacked and appropriately nominated categories of the night. While I presume that DUNE will walk away with the award here, I must make special mention of both WEST SIDE STORY, which shot in a completely dazzling way and features a couple of the finest-shot sequences of the entire year, as well as THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH, which features some spellbinding cinematography that took my breath away. However, nothing is going to beat DUNE here, save for a possible THE POWER OF THE DOG surprise upset. The technical prowess on display at every moment of DUNE is a marvel and the immaculate way in which the movie is shot is one of the defining characteristics of the film. Look for it to take home Best Cinematography.

BEST DIRECTOR

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

Should win: Steven Spielberg, WEST SIDE STORY (Anybody but Kenneth Branagh)

Will win: Jane Campion, THE POWER OF THE DOG

One of the names in this crop is not like the other! Absurd that Denis Villeneuve didn’t get nominated for his terrific work directing DUNE but Kenneth Branagh did for directing one of the ugliest, most obvious, and lazy films I’ve seen in quite some time! This category is fun because any of the four names outside of Kenneth Branagh winning would be cool. Spielberg delivered one of the finest movies of his storied career with WEST SIDE STORY and the steady direction on display there is the strongest part of the film. Paul Thomas Anderson has never won an Oscar and directed one of his most loving and joyous pictures to date with LICORICE PIZZA! Hamaguchi provided audiences with one of the most devastating slow burns of the last ten years, carefully guiding all his players towards the most emotionally cathartic imaginable scenarios in DRIVE MY CAR. And Campion would become just the third woman to ever take home the award for her terrifically directed THE POWER OF THE DOG. I expect that Campion wins here, seeing as she has picked up essentially every other precursor award leading up to the Oscars, but if Spielberg swooped in in the 11th hour and snagged it from her, you would hear no complaints from me!

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Jessica Chastain, THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE

Olivia Colman, THE LOST DAUGHTER

Penelope Cruz, PARALLEL MOTHERS

Nicole Kidman, BEING THE RICARDOS

Kristen Stewart, SPENCER

Should win: Olivia Colman, THE LOST DAUGHTER

Will win: Jessica Chastain, THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE

This is the only category of the night where any result wouldn’t shock me. It’s also one of the only categories where I am not particularly interested in who wins, outside of Olivia Colman. There were a ton of incredible performances this year that were snubbed (Alana Haim in LICORICE PIZZA, Renate Reinsve in THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD, Virgine Efira in BENEDETTA, Lady Gaga in HOUSE OF GUCCI, Rachel Zegler in WEST SIDE STORY, etc, etc) and instead the Academy nominated a bunch of boring and predictable performances in movies that nobody liked or thought were impressive! Chastain, who was just dreadful in THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE, flailing around and embarrassing herself, has been the favorite for the final leg of award’s season, but I wouldn’t be particularly stunned if either Penelope Cruz (she does good work in a pretty solid Pedro Almodóvar film) or Kristen Stewart (she does a pretty annoying and wretched Princess Diana in a pretty bad Princess Diana biopic) upset her. Still, the safe bet is Chastain here.

Like, I guess…..

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Javier Bardem, BEING THE RICARDOS

Benedict Cumberbatch, THE POWER OF THE DOG

Will Smith, KING RICHARD

Andrew Garfield, TICK, TICK… BOOM

Denzel Washington, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH

Should win: Denzel Washington, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH

Will win: Will Smith, KING RICHARD

Javier Bardem being nominated for this over people like Nic Cage in PIG, Joaquin Phoenix in C’MON, C’MON, Simon Rex in RED ROCKET, and Oscar Isaac in THE CARD COUNTER is legitimately mind-boggling to me. Bardem is TERRIBLE. Looks awful and old playing Desi Arnaz. Garfield is fine but I also don’t need him in this category. Denzel should win (he’s one of the most gifted actors of his generation and should have more than two Oscars to his name, truthfully), but he will not. This is a two-man race between Cumberbatch for THE POWER OF THE DOG and Will Smith for KING RICHARD, with it being Smith’s to lose. In fairness to Smith, it is the strongest performance of his career (look at the rest of his filmography, outside of MEN IN BLACK, he’s basically never been in another great movie!), and he does manage to elevate tepid biopic material as the black capitalist huckster father of Serena and Venus Williams. Benedict is also strong, and I am not usually particularly fond of him, either, but Smith winning is one you can probably bet the house on.

Strong Will Smith here!

BEST PICTURE

BELFAST dir. Kenneth Branagh

CODA dir. Siân Heder

DON’T LOOK UP dir. Adam McKay

DRIVE MY CAR dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi

DUNE dir. Denis Villeneuve

KING RICHARD dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green

LICORICE PIZZA dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

NIGHTMARE ALLEY dir. Guillermo del Toro

THE POWER OF THE DOG dir. Jane Campion

WEST SIDE STORY dir. Steven Spielberg

Should win: LICORICE PIZZA, DRIVE MY CAR, DUNE, or WEST SIDE STORY

Will win: CODA

It’s the Oscars, and the Academy is filled with some of the dumbest movie watchers of all time, so of course, despite this year having one of the strongest collection of movies ever nominated for Best Picture (I give seven of the ten movies nominated a 3.5/5 or higher), CODA will win! If it’s not CODA, only THE POWER OF THE DOG seems to have the legs to beat it, but for the last three weeks, everything has been CODA, so I expect it to narrowly beat DOG here, which is unfortunate! CODA is, at best, a very middling movie. It features a few decent performances (good) and some of the worst dialogue and cinematography I’ve seen in a possible Best Picture winner in quite some time. The two best films of the year, LICORICE PIZZA and DRIVE MY CAR, would absolutely thrill me if they won, but personally, I think DUNE should probably win Best Picture this year. I would like the Oscars to one day matter again and not be a complete joke; I think it would be helpful if the Best Picture winner was a legitimately great film that people have also actually seen (it has a worldwide box office of 400 million dollars!). It won’t happen, so I’m set to be disappointed by the end of the broadcast, but man, it would be nice! Look for CODA to win the big prize Sunday night and for everybody to be dejected!

Becoming the Joker over here!

ADDITIONAL CATEGORY PREDICTIONS

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Should win: FLEE

Will win: SUMMER OF SOUL

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

Should win: DRIVE MY CAR narrowly over THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD

Will win: DRIVE MY CAR

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Should win: THE QUEEN OF BASKETBALL

Will win: THE QUEEN OF BASKETBALL

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT

Should win: THE LONG GOODBYE

Will win: THE LONG GOODBYE

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Should win: ROUND ROBIN

Will win: ROUND ROBIN

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