Here are my predictions for how the Oscars will be awarded in the ceremony on March 27. My predictions are based, in part, on my Initial Analysis and Ranking of the movies (see those posts). But I also recognize two important facts – one is that my analysis of movie quality is obviously incomplete since I have only seen two of the 38 movies so these judgments are not based on actual experience. Second, is that the Oscar awards are not, necessarily, based on quality, but often involve political considerations. Since I am not a member of the Academy, nor really, a major player in the industry, I do not fully understand the politics involved.
Nevertheless, my track record over the last four years hasn’t been too bad – significantly better than chance. Here are my results so you can decide how far to trust my judgments:
2021: 14/23 (61%)
2020: 8/24 (33%) – a bad year for me
2019: 15/24 (63%)
2018: 16/24 (67%)
For an overall average of 56%. (Random chance would yield a little less than 20%). So, I invite the reader to read my predictions and then, of course, make your own based on how you think things will go down. So here we go, by category.
Note: I don’t pay much attention to these three categories only because I have limited time and resources and viewing these 15 nominees is often difficult. So I make my predictions based, more or less, on the titles, the subject matter, and what limited buzz I’ve been able to read.
Documentary Short Subject: Audible
Animated Short Film: Robin Robin
Live Action Short Film: The Long Goodbye
Animated Feature Film: Encanto
This is almost always Disney’s category to win or lose and it usually wins. So I’m going with Encanto even though I suspect Flee might be a better film. if there is an upset it might come from The Mitchells vs the Machines.
Documentary Feature: Summer of Soul
This film scored highest with both critics and audiences so I think it is a lock-in. A possible contender is Flee.
International Feature Film: Drive My Car (Japan)
Nominated in three other, major, categories, including Best Picture, this is a shoe-in similar to Parasite (Korea) from two years ago. I can’t believe there is a second waiting in the wings, but if there is it is probably Norway’s The Worst Person in the World.
Original Song: Encanto (“Dos Oruguitas”)
Typically, Disney’s Animated entry also gets a song nomination and, frequently wins. The exceptions happen when a song is composed or sung by a particularly hot artist, but aside from Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die”, I’m not seeing a stellar performer.
Original Score: Dune
I’ve been listening to all five scores for the last couple of weeks and I have some preferences, but, in the end, I think this will go to Dune both because the music seems to be really fitting for the movie and because I think the Academy wants to give some recognition to a popular film. From a music perspective, possible seconds might be Encanto (because it is Disney), or Parallel Mothers because the music just sounds pretty good.
I really liked the sound in The Power of the Dog, which is the only one of the five I’ve seen. But I’m guessing that the sound texture is much more complicated in this science fiction film. If it isn’t one of these two films, then I think it will go to Belfast, based on my notion that awards tend to go to those films scoring higher on my Oscar Quality Index (see my Initial Analysis Post).
Makeup and Hairstyling: Dune
The other four movies all score very low on my OQI, so I don’t think they have much of a chance. If there is an upset it might go to The House of Gucci, only because the Academy members might feel a bit guilty about stiffing Lady Gaga out of an acting nomination.
Costume Design: West Side Story
Dune has a good run at this one too, but I think it might go to the Spielberg movie because it rates higher with both critics and the public. It is also more of a ‘period’ film, which is what usually wins this category.
Production Design: The Power of the Dog
While this is the only one of the five I have seen, I also think it has the best chance of winning because it scored highest on my OQI. The actors, directors, and writers (who make up the bulk of the academy) are more likely to back this film. Runner-ups would be Dune and West Side Story, because of their unique settings.
Visual Effects: Dune
I mean, its a sci-fi film, so of course it should win here. Having said that, the other category of films that wins in this category are the comic-book action films, like Spider-Man: No Way Home. Spidey might win this category, if only because it is the only nomination it got, but I’m still betting on the film that did better with both the critics and the academy (but not the public).
Cinematography: West Side Story
This will be a really tough category because all five of these films present interesting challenges for the photographer. I’m guessing West Side Story only because it presents a more traditional film problem in a real world as opposed to Dune which is, most likely, mostly filmed against a green screen. I also liked the camera work in The Power of the Dog, but I suspect it won’t be seen as exceptional compared to these other films.
Film Editing: The Power of the Dog
‘They’ say that this is the category that really distinguishes movies from all other art forms. But it is typically the hardest one I have in making a judgment call. So I’m going with this choice strictly because The Power of the Dog sits at the top of my OQI. So I’m assuming that actors, who are the largest guild in the academy, will fall in behind this great ensemble piece. If there is an upset it will come from either Dune or King Richard.
Supporting Actor: Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog)
As much as I like J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos is just not doing well with audiences or critics and he already won this Oscar for Whiplash, so I think he is out of contention. The other four are newbies to the Oscar World. Belfast, CODA, and The Power of the Dog appear to all be good movies and have done well in major Oscar categories. But the Academy loves ensemble films and the closest we have to that this year is The Power of the Dog. But the problem is there are two nominees from that film in this category, really diluting the film’s pull. I’m going to go with Plemons only because he’s a little older and he had a big role in The Irishman from two years ago. But, realistically, this one is a very tough call – I don’t feel real confident of my choice.
Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
Judi Dench has an Oscar in this category and seven other acting nominations. That doesn’t mean she won’t win, but frequently the Academy likes to give the Supporting Oscars to younger actors as a way of stimulating their careers. This is the first nomination for all four of the remaining candidates. So consider the movies: The Lost Daughter isn’t doing well with audiences. West Side Story and King Richard are both well liked films. And the ensemble argument suggests going with Dunst. So, again, a very difficult decision. I’m going to go with West Side Story, under the notion that the Academy might want to spread the wealth a bit. But, frankly, I think it could easily go to Ellis or Dunst instead.
Leading Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog)
Cumberbatch has been nominated once before (The Imitation Game) so he’s paid his dues, this movie is an ensemble movie and the Academy loves them, and, having seen the film, he is just really good. Bardem has been nominated three other times and won the Supporting Oscar for No Country For Old Men. All of which suggests that he’s already been rewarded, plus Being the Ricardos is not doing real well with either critics or the viewing public. Garfield was only nominated once before, Hacksaw Ridge, but Tick, tick…Boom isn’t doing real great either. Washington is the seasoned candidate with ten nominations and two wins. And The Tragedy of Macbeth is really admired by the critics, so he certainly has a chance. Everyone is raving about Will Smith’s performance in King Richard, so he can’t be discounted either. He’s received two other Oscar nominations and no wins. In the end, I think the ensemble argument will pull Cumberbatch into the winning slot, but this too, is a tough call.
Leading Actress: Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers)
Jessica Chastain has received two previous nominations but never won. But The Eyes of Tammy Faye isn’t doing very well with either critics or general audiences. Kidman has four other nominations and a win in her resume, but Being the Ricardos isn’t faring so well either. Spencer is doing a little better, but this is Stewart’s first nomination, so she may not have yet ‘paid her dues’. Parallel Mothers and The Lost Daughter are both being received better than the other films and will likely carry their leading actresses. Colman has two other nominations and a win for The Favourite. Cruz has three other nominations and a win for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Between these two, I think it might go to Cruz only because it has been over a decade since she was recognized at the Oscars, and The Academy loves a comeback story.
Adapted Screenplay: Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
I admit I’m very biased on this category because I’ve seen this movie and I liked it very much. The screenplay is just so economically written – there are no wasted moments. Dune isn’t likely simply because it is sci-fi, and the Academy doesn’t believe in that genre quite so much. The other three are all contenders with both strengths and weaknesses. But if my choice doesn’t make it, I’m guessing it might go to CODA.
Original Screenplay: Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)
This is the first nomination for the writers of King Richard and The Worst Person in the World. Now that doesn’t disqualify them, but there is sort of a ‘pay dues first’ rule, so I’m going to say they won’t make it. The other three have at least 2 screenplay nominations, but Don’t Look Up is bombing with the critics, so I don’t think McKay is going to get it, even though I loved his The Big Short. So that leaves Kenneth Branagh (Belfast) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza). Licorice Pizza is a movie heavily saturated with Hollywood references (I’ve already reviewed it), and that may be enough to pull out a win, but I’m going to go with Branagh, in part because I’m not predicting Belfast will win anything else.
Director: Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
Hamaguchi (Drive My Car) is brand new to the Oscars and while that doesn’t eliminate him (take Chloe Zhao, from last year as an example), it does put him at a disadvantage. Branagh (Belfast) has a total of eight Oscar nominations, but only one other one for directing and that was three decades ago. Given that his movie is only in the middle of this year’s films, I’m not sure he can pull out a win. The argument for Anderson here is the same one I gave for his screenplay nomination, and that may be enough. But don’t discount Spielberg, who has fourteen Oscar nominations, five of them for directing, and two wins, although his wins were in the 90s. So is this Spielberg’s resurrection from the past? Or does it all go to what I think might be this year’s best film, The Power of the Dog and Jane Campion? I’m betting on Ms. Campion simply because I thought the film was so well done and is the closest we have to an ensemble film this year.
Best Picture: The Power of the Dog
Let’s see now: I’m predicting this film will take Director, Adapted Screenplay, Leading Actor, Supporting Actor, Film Editing, and Production Design. So what else do you need to take the top award? An alternative could come from anywhere, but most likely Belfast or West Side Story, with Belfast having a slight edge.
After the Oscar ceremony, I will write a recap and fess up to my poor judgments…