After winning Best Picture and Best Director at this year’s BAFTAs, Jane Campion’s beautifully crafted western epic ‘The Power of the Dog’ (pictured) is the favorite for this year’s Best Picture Oscar at the Oscars. It’s nominated in 11 categories – a sign of its overall excellence – and it would be a (small) shock if it didn’t win the main prize.
Among its suitors, “CODA” – a coming-of-age drama about a 17-year-old girl who is the only hearing member of her family; her parents and brother are all deaf – started to take heat in recent weeks. With three of the four main characters played by deaf actors, it’s a milestone in the portrayal of deaf culture in film and its momentum has only grown since winning Best Ensemble at the SAGs.
Speaking of representation, “King Richard” is a movie about exactly that. The “Richard” of the title being Richard Williams, father and coach of tennis legends Venus and Serena, whose well-documented domination – and reimagining – of a predominantly white, somewhat elitist sport was largely due to the strength of his personality, as well as theirs.
Many critics weren’t convinced by Adam McKay’s dark comedy ‘Don’t Look Up’ – a satirical take on the climate crisis, in which two astronomers try to get politicians and the media to take seriously their warnings of an impending apocalypse. But real climate activists and scientists have made it clear that the film is, in fact, closer to the truth of their dealings with governments and the press than perhaps even McKay thought.
Chances are, this will be the year the Academy finally recognizes the remarkable work of Paul Thomas Anderson. His coming-of-age comedy-drama “Licorice Pizza” is another example of his singular cinematic vision and would be a worthy winner.
Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical ‘Belfast’ was an early favorite when it was released last year – it has the mix of sentimentality and skill that is often favored by the Academy – but may have lost a bit of its buzz recently.
A few years ago, the idea that Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s meditation on grief and art — “Drive My Car” — could win the Academy for Best Picture would have been laughable. But since “Parasite” won in 2020, that has changed. Hamaguchi’s engaging and important film has a chance.
The other three nominees – “Nightmare Alley”, “Dune” and “West Side Story” – certainly cannot be written off either, led by three masterful filmmakers (Guillermo del Toro, Denis Villeneuve and Steven Spielberg respectively). But our feeling is that none of them will win.
Our prediction: “The power of the dog”
There’s some serious talent in this category, with five phenomenal filmmakers vying for the award. Steven Spielberg’s nomination means he has now been nominated in the category for six consecutive decades – an astonishing achievement. Kenneth Branagh has arguably made his best film of all time, Ryusuke Hamaguchi now has Hollywood backing for his already stellar international reputation, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s (pictured) ninth film simply cements his reputation as one of taller. But we think Jane Campion’s triumphant return after a dozen years away will see her win.
Our prediction: Jane Campion
The big story in this category is the non-appearance of Lady Gaga, whose portrayal of Patricia Reggiani in “House of Gucci” has been nominated at just about every other awards show but was snubbed by the Academy. Of the actual nominees, the most buzz surrounds Jessica Chastain (pictured) for her portrayal of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’. After two previous nominations (one in this category), Chastain hopes this is a third chance. But it’s a tough category to call: Kristen Stewart’s remarkable transformation into Princess Diana in “Spencer” and Nicole Kidman’s starring role as Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos” are sure to bring her close. If Olivia Colman hadn’t won this award in 2019, she would likely be a stronger candidate for her role as Leda in “The Lost Daughter.” Penélope Cruz looked great in “Parallel Mothers,” but would be a surprise winner here.
Our prediction: Kristen Stewart
Javier Bardem turned in a great performance as Lucille Ball’s on-screen and off-screen husband, Desi Arnaz, in ‘Being the Ricardos’, but may be let down by the role itself, which lacked the depth to truly dazzle . It is an outsider in this category. In fact, it’s hard to see anyone beating heavy favorite Will Smith (pictured), whose portrayal of Richard Williams in ‘King Richard’ was both passionate and powerful, commanding the screen. And has already earned him numerous awards. The third nominee to play a real person – Andrew Garfield as musical genius Jonathan Larson in “Tick, Tick…Boom!” – created an energetic and eye-catching turn, but will not win. Smith’s biggest challenge comes from the last two nominees – Denzel Washington was as compelling as ever in ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ and Benedict Cumberbatch’s ferocious take on a character blinded by self-deception in ‘The Power of the Dog’ was superb.
Our prediction: Will Smith
Best Supporting Actress
The five nominees all turned in great performances, but the smart money for this year’s award goes to Ariana DeBose (pictured, front left) for her scene-stealing work as Anita in ‘West Side Story’. Her main competition will come from Kirsten Dunst (as the widowed and alcoholic Rose in “The Power of the Dog”), whom the Academy has long rejected (this is her first nomination) and Aunjanue Ellis, who clashed with Will Smith at his best in “King Richard” and came out shining. Revered Dame Judi Dench (“Belfast”) and young Irish Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”) are rank underdogs.
Our prediction: Ariana DeBose
Best Supporting Actor
“The Power of the Dog” sees two of its co-stars nominated — Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee — who would both be deserving winners. JK Simmons is a magnificent actor, one of the best of the moment, but will not win this year for his work in “Being the Ricardos”. No more than Ciarán Hinds, nominated for a great performance in “Belfast”. It will be a huge surprise if Troy Kòtsur (photo) does not win this award; first, it’s perhaps the “safest” category for the Academy to recognize “CODA” (Kòtsur is the first deaf man to be nominated for an acting Oscar) and, second, he has gave a brilliant performance.
Our prediction: Troy Kotsur