Leave it to the Academy. In a year when fewer people than ever seem poised to watch the Oscars (although it couldn’t do much worse than last year’s dismal ratings), they managed to nominate a terrific crop of films in a series of wide-open races. The elimination of the Golden Globes as an important stop on the campaign trail threw a wrench into awards season narratives, and for once there are several major categories in which the winner is anyone’s guess. Let’s try anyway.
Best Supporting Actor
For weeks, Kodi Smit-McPhee had a lock on this category for his slow-burn performance in “The Power of the Dog,” but “CODA” is the little indie that could. Kotsur, who plays a deaf father to a hearing teenager, has been charming everyone on the campaign trail, and the Academy would love to pat themselves on the back for giving its second award ever to a deaf actor.
Will Win: Troy Kotsur (“CODA”)
Should Win: Troy Kotsur (“CODA”)
For years, this category routinely churned out surprise winners (Marisa Tomei, anyone?), but of late it has consistently gone to the favorite. So don’t expect anyone to beat Ariana DeBose for “West Side Story.” The symmetry of awarding DeBose an Oscar for the same role Rita Moreno won it for sixty years ago is too neat for the Academy to ignore.
Will Win: Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)
Should Win: Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”)
“Licorice Pizza” had the early lead, but it has been embroiled in minor controversies over an anti-racism joke and the age-inappropriateness of its central romance. The movie is probably too weird and esoteric to survive these hits, so I’m going with “Belfast” because the Academy likes to award actors in this category, and while I didn’t care for “Belfast’s” paper-thin visual aesthetic, it’s not badly written.
Will Win: “Belfast”
Should Win: “Licorice Pizza”
There’s always the chance of a sweep for “The Power of the Dog,” which would mean an automatic win here, but the Oscars haven’t produced one of those in a while. “Drive My Car” has a chance here, especially with an Academy that has more international members than ever in it, but I like the chances of “The Lost Daughter” here. It’s a fascinating adaptation of very tricky source material by first-time filmmaker Maggie Gyllenhaal, and it just cleaned up at the Independent Spirit Awards.
WIll Win: “The Lost Daughter”
Should Win: “The Lost Daughter”
For argument’s sake,I’ll say that Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”) and Andrew Garfield (“Tick Tick…Boom”) have a chance here, but in reality this is Will Smith’s night. One of the last true movie stars, Smith gave an impeccable performance in the crowd-pleasing “King Richard.” The Academy typically makes people wait a long time to win in this category. Smith has waited long enough.
Will Win: Will Smith, “King Richard”
Should Win: Will Smith, “King Richard”
Get ready for pure chaos. This category has been without a clear front-runner since the nominations were announced, but the win for Jessica Chastain at the SAG Awards puts her in the lead. It would shock no one to see Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, or Olivia Colman win their second Oscar (Kristen Stewart, sadly, is not realistic here), but Chastain has as clear a path as anyone.
Will Win: Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
Should Win: Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”
Jane Campion is back at the Oscars nearly 28 years after scoring multiple nominations for “The Piano.” She walked away with a Screenplay win that night, but this time, she’ll get one for Directing. The film is a sterling execution of her strange, personal vision, and she has been at the top of this category all season. She’ll end up there.
Will Win: Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Should Win: Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
The smart money is still on “The Power of the Dog.” It received 12 overall nominations, including some (like Jesse Plemons for Best Supporting Actor) that weren’t predicted. But I still think it’s too esoteric and alienating to win in a category that typically goes to a more reassuring work. So then what? I could see “Dune,” “Belfast,” or “West Side Story” pulling this one out, but I’m going to hold my breath and choose “CODA,” a tear-jerker about a family of disabled, working-class people that allows the Academy to make themselves shed a few tears and pat themselves on the back at the same time.
Will Win: “CODA”
Should Win: “Licorice Pizza”
International Feature: “Drive My Car”
This isn’t complicated. The one nominated for Best Picture wins.
Animated Feature: “Encanto”
This is also uncomplicated. The one your kids won’t shut up about wins
Documentary (Feature): “Summer of Soul”
I’d be delighted with a win for “Flee,” one of my favorite films of the year, here, but Questlove’s concert/history documentary has got this one wrapped up.
One of my favorite categories, Best Editing rewards action movies, genre flicks, comedies, and, all the films we’re still talking about 20 years later. This year, “Dune” fits the bill.
Cinematography: “The Power of the Dog”
Ari Wegner will be the first woman to ever win this award, and it’s well-deserved. The film looks great.
Original Score: Hans Zimmer, “Dune”
Nobody works harder than Zimmer–just check out his IMDb page–and he has written some iconic scores. He has never won an Oscar, though, and this seems like the perfect time for his streak to end.
Original Song: “Dos Oruguitas” (“Encanto”)
“We Need to Talk About Bruno” was strangely not submitted, so the Academy will gives this award to the other “Encanto” song, completing the EGOT (Emmy Grammy Oscar Tony) for its composer Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Costume Design: “Cruella”
Films about fashion generally win this award, even though “Cruella” isn’t typical Oscar fare.
Makeup and Hairstyling: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
This award typically–although not always–goes to the film with the biggest transformation. Think Christian Bale as Dick Cheny in “Vice” or Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell.”
Production Design: “Nightmare Alley”
A “Power of the Dog” sweep could mean a win here, and “Dune” could certainly just blast its way through the craft categories, but “Nightmare Alley” eked out a Best Picture nomination largely on the backs of its visual style, much of which is owed to its production design.
Sound: “West Side Story”
It’s a little unclear to me why “West Side Story” isn’t a player for Best Picture, but it’s not, so I imagine the Academy will want to award it other places it makes sense to. This is one of those places.
Documentary (Short): “Three Songs for Benazir”
There’s no clear frontrunner here, but I’ll put my money on “Three Songs for Benazir” because a film about a charismatic Afghan refugee sounds right up the Academy’s alley.
Live Action (Short): “The Long Goodbye”
Because it’s produced by Riz Ahmed, who the Academy nominated last year for his performance in “The Sound of Metal.”
Animated (Short): “Robin Robin”
The story of a bird adopted into a family of mice, “Robin Robin” is from a studio that has won this award four times already. Have I seen it? No. Will it win? Probably.
Visual Effects: “Dune”
Will the Academy finally acquiesce and give “Spider-Man: No Way Home” its Oscar? Nope.