Once more, it is time for us to look at the list of films that the Academy of Motion Pictures has decided are the best of the year and judge their choices based upon personal enjoyment while also complaining that they snubbed my faves because that’s a thing that we do around here (Ninja Badass was robbed of any and all Oscar nominations and I am forever mad about it). This might be the post I have the most fun doing each year, it’s kind of the reason I even started doing this whole reviewing so it’s time to go over their shortlist of nominees and pass judgement but before I do, a couple of points.
- I will be repeating myself from last year and picking who I think should win, who I expect to win and who is the wild card that could surprise everyone (these can overlap). Why? Because it means I can talk about trends, opinions and whatever amuses me… and because often the one that will win is determined less by quality and more by trends because these awards have never been about what’s actually the best from each category.
- I will only be talking about categories where I have seen over half the nominees because it wouldn’t be fair otherwise. Blame my location for lack of availability. (note: This rule will be broken for exactly one category but I have reasons for it… the reason is MY BLOG, MY RULES)
- If I’ve seen it, I’ve reviewed it. I will state if I haven’t seen something in the attached images but if you want my full opinion on each movie, either I link to the review or you can just go find it.
- This is a long post, there’s over 20 Oscar categories and there’s a paragraph or more explaining each choice I’ve made… so yeah, be prepared for that.
Of course, this year is the one that’s dealing with the aftermath of postponing the previous ceremony due to covid. Last year got two extra months to the eligibility period, this year took two months away from the eligibility period. You would think that would reduce the pool of available films which, therefore, might lead to a more interesting pool of nominees… but it’s the Oscars, they are upsettingly predictable 90% of the time which is probably why their ratings are down but enough of that, let’s judge their decisions as though we could make better ones because that’s the most fun part of this entire ceremony.
Best Picture is always hell to try and call because you want to say “Well, the best film will probably win” but then you remember that this is the only category that is voted on using preferential voting by the entire Oscars voting body… a voting body made up largely of old white men. This means that it’s to a film’s advantage to not rock the boat, not be too edgy and maybe be everyone’s second or third favourite film instead of some people’s actual favourite.
Now, if we go by who probably will win then based on how many nominations and the endless critical praise it’s gotten, The Power Of The Dog probably has this one locked up already. It’s certainly the only one people are talking about in this conversation and it fits the mould of what one thinks of when they think of a standard modern Best Picture Oscar Winner. Now, would I be particularly mad if CODA came in to surprise everyone with its charming sweet little story? No, indeed it’s what I think should win because it’s the more engaging and interesting film but just because I like it more doesn’t mean it will win, it just means it should.
That all being said, we have the wild card of Don’t Look Up, which is a film that’s certainly divisive BUT it has a pretty well-loved cast and it would let the Academy pretend they’re in some way interested in climate change. They get to praise a film that features several Oscar darlings, put a stamp of approval on a film that ostensibly has an important message and isn’t so bad that it makes them look stupid the second the name is called out and people realise just how bland you can be and still win the Oscar (Hi Green Book, who let you in here?). If the Academy behaves the way it often does, Don’t Look Up is the one that could sneak in and take the top prize which would be a pretty bad ending to the night (Though, somehow, still an improvement on how last year’s ceremony ended).
Sometimes awards like this one require you to look at who has been sweeping other ceremonies and who has been waiting long enough for the Oscar to deserve the prize and Will Smith absolutely matches that description, his lauded performance in King Richard has been taking awards left and right and combine that with a general feeling that he’s earned it after 30+ years as one of the most beloved stars in Hollywood. It also doesn’t hurt that his performance carries that movie and is the thing you walk away remembering.
Of course, while I would be totally fine with that, I’m a firm believer that this is Andrew Garfield’s year and his performance in Tick, Tick… Boom! can almost be boiled down to “Hey, did you all know I had these talents hidden up my sleeve? Like, you all knew I could act but here’s another 20 things I can do and I do them fantastically”. Throw in how he’s been a huge presence throughout the year, even landing extra praise for his roles in The Eyes of Tammy Faye (which probably should’ve netted him a Supporting Actor nod) and Spider-Man and he’s really shown that he deserves a shot this year at taking home this coveted gold statue… but then again, so has Cumberbatch so it’s really a race between those three actors at this point.
So we’re back for another “Why wasn’t this person nominated” round where I have to ask why Lady Gaga isn’t here for her captivating performance in House of Gucci. Seems like she’s the big snub this year which blows my mind because she could’ve easily won this. It’s not that any of these performances are bad, but it’s hard to deny that some of them feel more like they’re just nominated because the academy likes certain people.
Out of everyone here, Kristen Stewart feels like the one who could take the Oscar home thanks to her riveting and bold performance as Diana in Spencer. While everyone else is doing fantastic work, Kristen’s performance is the one I think about most often and with the most reverence. It’s honestly been shocking that there have been ceremonies where she wasn’t nominated for this performance because it’s that damn good.
Of course, when Kristen hasn’t been nominated, the award has tended to end up going to Jessica Chastain who has built a ton of momentum from other award ceremonies, including the SAG Award which is voted on by most of the same people who pick this one (though, to be fair, Kristen Stewart wasn’t one of the SAG nominees) so it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise for Chastain to take this one, but by rights, this should go to Kristen.
This might be one of the strongest categories of the year, every performance that’s listed is amazing and this is one of the categories that any one of the five could win and it would be completely justified (even though god I wish there had been room in here for Willem Dafoe because his Green Goblin performance is more memorable than all of these performances combined!).
There is not a single performance here that doesn’t deserve the Oscar. All good sense would say this might be Troy Kotsur’s year, his performance as the father in CODA is absolutely perfect and filled with heart and humour that makes you unable to look away from him. Plus, it’d be lovely if he was the second deaf actor to win an Oscar since Marlee Matlin was the first and she plays his wife in CODA, it would just be a great little touch.
That being said, we also have the powerhouse of Power of the Dog to contend with and I can’t deny that Jesse Plemons is long overdue for some awards love, he always delivers and he delivered again this time in a way I don’t think anyone genuinely expected. Not to mention that there’s a non-zero chance his wife could win so a couples Oscar photo could happen
This is another strong group, though I will admit it would be stronger if they’d found a spot for Marlee Matlin for her fantastic work in CODA.
Out of the ones who are here though, Ariana DeBose is the name that everyone has been talking about for quite some time and her performance in West Side Story has been praised endlessly. Plus the Oscars would get to give another Oscar to another performance of Anita, that would just be fun. Throw on top of that that Ariana’s performance is nothing short of revelatory and it wouldn’t stun me if she walks away with this one,
However, that being said, no one should sleep on Kirsten Dunst who would be the one I would personally pick for her absolutely amazing performance as a woman on the verge of a breakdown in Power of the Dog. Kirsten somehow made playing the banjo look like the most threatening thing, that one scene alone should be enough to win her the Oscar.
Gotta admit, it’s nice to see that nominating directors of foreign films and nominating female directors is slowly becoming a more regular thing. There’s a lot of work to do, but it’s nice to see that we’ve now finally gotten the first female director with two nominations in this category (I know, it’s weird how it’s taken so long for that to happen)… it’s also more than likely Jane Campion’s year to take this one.
Power of the Dog is the big nominee this year, it’s taking home a ton of awards just by statistical probability but this one feels like a shoo-in. This feels like who will win and who should win, it feels like it’s Campion’s year to shine and that’s awesome. Campion also won the Globe already and has been raking in other Best Director awards so the writing’s on the wall for her to become the third woman to win this Oscar, and deservedly so… is what I said shortly before the Critics Choice award ceremony.
At that ceremony, Jane Campion said something so monumentally stupid just days before the Oscar voting began that there’s a good chance that she could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and oh boy would it not shock me if Spielberg came from nowhere to take this one instead since he’s had the good sense not to say something very stupid before the voting happens (Like, this happened within 48 hours of voting opened so every headline around Campion was negative… believe it or not, that can have an impact).
Now yes, Campion has since apologised to Venus and Serena who are technically the only two people who can accept said apology but Campion already has a hard time getting to this Oscar just because of the systemic issues that plague this category and that one slip could sadly cost her and hand this to Spielberg who the Academy has probably been wanting to award again for years.
Look, the chances are still mostly in Jane Campion’s favour when it comes to the Best Director Oscar and the academy is known to make decisions where they have someone nominated in multiple categories and give that person the lesser award because they know that someone else deserves the other one (a prime example would be Jessica Lange who was nominated in Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in the same year and would’ve probably won Best Actress were she not up against Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice so they gave Lange Supporting instead).
This is to say that this will most likely be how they ensure they give Kenneth Branagh an Oscar on the night and honestly it’ll be well deserved considering how intimate and witty the script for Belfast is. Now, there’s also the reality that the Academy is going to want to give Don’t Look Up an Oscar to look progressive as they can and if they can’t give it Best Picture, this will be a handy backup but that’s a long shot. Could this also go to Licorice Pizza or The Worst Person In The World? Sure it could, but I didn’t see them so I can’t say that for sure and Belfast has been the biggest deal in this category so it gets my nod.
Seems fair to assume Power of the Dog is going to sweep the night, it far and away has the most nominations of anyone else and it’d be insane to think it wasn’t going home with at least something, and its screenplay is so good that this is probably one of the absolute certainties… it also lets them make sure Campion gets an Oscar tonight because everyone knows she has more than earned one by now with her output. However they also undoubtedly want to give something to CODA which really has been the only nominee other than Power of the Dog to win this category when it’s been nominated in other Oscars so if Power doesn’t get it, Coda will… unless we get another surprise night like we had with Parasite where Drive my Car comes in and just takes everything it’s up for but that’s probably not happening this time.
If I were a gambling man and wanted to place the smartest bet I possibly could, I’d put my money on Encanto taking home this Oscar and call it a day. It’s the prettiest film, the most popular one (Which actually matters somewhat in this category) and the one released the most recently so it’s fresh in all the voters’ minds. With a soundtrack that rivals the legendary Frozen and a story about family that resonated with pretty much everyone who saw it, I will be genuinely shocked if Encanto isn’t the winner… that being said, if it was up to me to pick who SHOULD win this Oscar, then The Mitchells vs The Machines would be running away with this and no one would be permitted to argue with me about it. It’s a pure delight, easily one of the funniest films of the last year with a captivating art style that truly tries to make every single frame worthy of becoming a poster. Both films are about a family trying to deal with a major problem that risks destroying their home… Mitchells just does it better and also has a dog that’s easily confused with a loaf of bread, therefore it should win.
Of course, we also have to account for Flee, a film that’s been nominated in a few categories and could sneak away with best Animated. since it’s good enough to be nominated in three alternate ‘best film’ categories this year so who the hell knows.
Even without seeing any of the nominees in this one (Seriously, at the time of upload I could get hold of exactly 1 of these films… we have the internet, how is media still so hard to spread worldwide?), you can almost tell that it’s going to be Drive My Car. It’s the same rule I had when the time came to talk about international feature films the year Parasite stunned everyone by dominating the Oscars, if it’s nominated for both international film and best picture then it’s getting the international film at bare minimum. Drive My Car has that rare pair of nominations and the smart money says they’ll give it this one since they’re probably not going to surprise us this year by giving an international film Best Picture again. I wouldn’t be mad if they did though. That being said, Flee might have a chance to beat it since Flee is up for Animated, International and Documentary Oscars and the chances of it not taking any of those is slim, so it’s getting one of them.
In the same way that we can deduce that Drive My Car is getting International Feature film, this is the one that’s most likely to go to Flee. Flee honestly kind of surprised me by being nominated for best feature in 3 Oscar categories (Animated, International and Documentary) which has never happened, so it feels like a certainty that it’s going to take home at least one of them. With International basically being handed to Drive my Car and Animated being set aside for Encanto, it feels only logical that voters would look at Documentary and give it to Flee so everything evens out.
Now, having not seen Flee I would personally be wanting to lean towards something like Attica which is such a powerful and emotional documentary that it’s hard not to be completely heartbroken by it, plus it would give the film-makers a chance to talk about prison reform on a pretty big stage and that would just be a great moment… also there’s Summer of Soul, AKA the film by Questlove who did the music at last year’s Oscars, that might have him at the front of people’s minds when the time comes to vote.
A hard one to call if I’m being honest because Score is an element that you tend not to think about unless there’s some portion of it that’s just instantly iconic (Like the march portion of Star Wars or the “that shark is about to eat you” portion of Jaws) and we don’t really have that, but since I have to make a call I’m going to say Hans Zimmer is probably going to take this, partially because his Dune score just fits the movie so well but also because the man has been nominated 11 times and only won for his work on Lion King (the good one, not whatever we got subjected to in 2019) and he’s changed so much since then. He’s where I would put money, though I won’t be shocked if Encanto does what musicals tend to do and just sweep these categories…. And again, I’ve said this several times, they’re going to want to give Don’t Look Up an Oscar and because they didn’t nominate it in the one category it should go in, they’ll find one they can use to make it happen.
Do you know what I miss? Fun original Song nominees. I’m old enough to remember when this was the most fun category because you knew that it meant we’d get a half dozen joyful songs to enjoy during the telecast and I’m not going to pretend that any of these songs fill me with excitement… just saying, we could’ve had Just Look Up or We Don’t Talk About Bruno and actually had some fun choices but nope, no we get mostly slow emotional numbers this time (OK the Oscars did announce that they are going to get the Encanto cast to perform We Don’t Talk About Bruno during the ceremony but that’s mostly because it’s obscenely popular and the Oscars are desperate for ratings).
That being said, Dos Oruguitas feels like it’s the one that could have the best chance of taking this. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work is just an awards darling and it’s still a good song to cry to. Now, if the Oscars ceremony wants to do something cool, they’d give this award to Beyonce for Be Alive, the song on this list that has the most energy and passion behind it that also lets them finally just give Queen Bee her moment. Of course, the wild card here is that Bond theme song by Billie Eilish, since Billie is currently the biggest name that they might want to give an Oscar to and the last few Bond films have taken this one home, I’m not counting it out.
I have to admit I’m kind of stunned CODA isn’t also nominated here since Sound is a pretty big element of the storytelling for that film and it would just have made the most sense that it gets a spot here but since that’s not happening, I’m gonna say Dune would probably snatch this one just because of how that film will unsurprisingly own the technical awards which is normally where they put this kind of movie. It also helps that the sound work on Dune is just generally well done and makes the giant landscapes feel real. Now, there is the wildcard of a musical nominee and oh boy are musicals just a gift to the sound Oscar gods, West Side Story could snatch this one up, but Dune is probably the one to keep an eye on here.
Creating a vision of a completely destroyed New York that’s somehow able to feel realistic while also being perfectly designed to allow a bunch of talented dancers to do some of the most elaborate dance scenes of the last year is not an easy task, but that’s what the production designers for West Side Story did and they are undoubtedly going to be given the Oscar for it. It’s that perfect kind of heightened realism that fits the story of the film and allows the film to do some truly special things with the visuals. It’s one of the best-looking films that made the list. Now, the one to look out for is Dune, a film almost designed to sweep the technical awards that also is just so immaculately designed that it feels like its own special little world. I wouldn’t expect it to beat West Side Story, but it wouldn’t be a shock if it did.
In the same way that West Side Story’s production team did a fantastic job, the cinematographer did an incredible job where they really just made the film sing with the glorious bright colours that light up the film in its happier moments before the film slowly gets more and more intense and the darker colours overtake the light. Honestly, just the shadow shot from the start of the confrontation scene should be enough to clinch this one because it’s just that damn good, but the entire film deserves this. However, again, we have Dune coming in with its “Gonna sweep the technicals” flair and it’s also just a genuine stunner to look at, let’s not be shocked if it sneaks on in.
Look, I am admittedly a simp for House of Gucci and that film did do the thing that a lot of films do lately to win awards, namely put actors in fat makeup and then do a closeup to show how well they made certain people look fat which is why House of Gucci should probably take this… but also it feels like The Eyes of Tammy Faye actually will, if nothing else for recreating the iconic exaggerated makeup of the titular Tammy Faye. This was a woman who was largely notable for her makeup and this film does that spectacularly, along with just completely transforming how Jessica Chastain looked which is an accomplishment in itself (plus they also do that shot where they put appliances on an actors face to make them look chubbier and then do a close up so you can see the pores, AKA a shot I swear makeup artists insist on just so they can put it forward for this exact award)… but again, this also counts as part of the technicals, therefore Dune is a big contender.
A weird moment for me to bring up my favourite tangent “Who got snubbed here” but does someone want to explain to me how House of Gucci isn’t on this list? Lady Gaga wore a different incredible outfit in every single scene and it deserved to be praised for that. I mean, come on, would you rather watch Lady Gaga’s glorious red outfit from the party scene get an award or do you wanna give that award to the sand-covered robes in Dune? I REST MY CASE!
That being said, the unwritten rules of Costume Design at the Oscars is normally “Biggest dress wins” so hey, let’s be shocked when the brightly coloured dresses of West Side Story take this one… but also this award should go to Cruella and if you don’t think that then I have nothing to say to you. How could it not take this one, the garbage truck dress alone should clinch it but the entire film is an over the top camp costume spectacle that put most of its energy into creating gorgeous costumes that would help create this world of high fashion insanity. Cruella is almost defined by the luxurious costume choices and it more than earns the chance to get some awards gold for what it’s doing.
Editing is always a crapshoot when it comes to the Oscars because the best editing is the editing that you don’t see (I STILL don’t get how 1917 wasn’t even nominated for this award back in 2020) and they have been known to give this award to films with editing that you notice but is also just genuinely bad (Hi Bohemian Rhapsody, you badly edited film). So I’m going to say that what should win this one is Tick, Tick… Boom, the musical that uses the editing to give the film a sense of energy and enhance several of the numbers with the style choices made (Seriously, the Therapy sequence owes a solid half of its brilliance to the edit). That’s what should win… but I’m not going to be shocked when Don’t Look Up gets the award because that editing is more noticeable and because Hollywood really wants to give that film an Oscar because they’re so very proud that they made Dr Strangelove but without as many good jokes.
Visual effects is always interesting because they either give it to something big and showy or something that hides what it did so well that it’s a shock to learn there were even visual effects being used. On pure spectacle alone, Dune feels like the one that’s going to claim this and rightfully so since it created this world that somehow feels completely real despite its fantastical elements. The glorious shots of the never-ending desert planet feel like they just found these locations, it’s seamlessly blended in such a way that it won’t shock me when this one takes it. Now, could the Academy play a little politics and throw this one to Spider-Man in hopes of maybe gaining some goodwill with the younger audience that they need in order to keep this ceremony going? Possibly, and considering the beauty of the Mirror Dimension fight scene or the sheer complexity of those portal shots there is actually a justification for this, but it’d purely be to try and prove that they can actually give awards to Superhero movies despite them not wanting to do it.
And that’s it, that’s all the Oscar categories I’m gonna talk about. I know it’s not every category but hey, it’s more than they intend to air during the telecast. Who do you think has the best chance of winning? Do you expect an upset? Should they just give up and find someone to dress as Snow White again and create a moment so bad that it revives interest in the ceremony because everyone wants to see a train wreck? Tell me about it because why the hell not?