Oscar Weekend: My Picks for the 94th Academy Awards

I love Oscar weekend. I enjoy the ridiculous pageantry, the overstuffed television broadcast, and of course the focus solely on movies. And while I don’t take them too seriously, I do tend to avoid the condescending (and seemingly obligatory) dismissal of the awards which makes its way through critics circles nearly every year at this time. That’s because I do think the Oscars matter. Not so much in definitively proclaiming the ‘best’ movie of the year. But in highlighting certain movies and advancing careers.

This year I’ve had a tough time keeping myself excited for the Academy Awards. Not because I’ve lost interest or due to the nominees. But because we are already three months into 2022. It’s hard to stay focused on 2021 movies when we’re already this far into the new year. Simply put, March 27th is too long to wait.

Still, here we are two days away from Oscar night, and I have to admit my juices are beginning to flow. Suddenly I find myself looking forward to Sunday night’s big show. So in keeping with that excitement, I decided to put together my picks for some of the Academy’s big categories. Critics often get together to consider, debate and discuss. So why not join the choir. Today I’m simply sharing who I think WILL win and who I WANT to win. So let’s go.

BEST PICTURE

The Nominees:

  1. Belfast
  2. Don’t Look Up
  3. Drive My Car
  4. The Power of the Dog
  5. Dune
  6. West Side Story
  7. CODA
  8. King Richard
  9. Licorice Pizza
  10. Nightmare Alley

Who Will Win: “The Power of the Dog”

Who I Want to Win: “Dune”

For a long time this has been a one horse race with “The Power of the Dog” being the clear frontrunner. But lately “CODA” (of all movies) has been surging and now there is some real belief that the little feel-good movie could win the big prize. I’m not ruling it out, but I’m still not seeing it. I like “The Power of the Dog” but don’t feel it’s storytelling is nearly as sharp as most do. But it has a lot of push behind it – probably enough to get it across the finish line. I’d prefer a number of other nominees (“Dune”, “Belfast”, “Nightmare Alley”, “West Side Story”) but they don’t stand a chance. BY THE WAY: I can think of 20 movies I would have nominated over “Don’t Look Up” or “Licorice Pizza”. Oh well.

BEST DIRECTOR

The Nominees:

1. Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)
2. Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car)
3. Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza)
4. Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
5. Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)

Who Will Win: Jane Campion

Who I Want to Win: Kenneth Branagh

Yes, I know it’s fashionably absurd to root for Kenneth Branagh or “Belfast” is any regard. Too bad. It’s a great movie and I would love to hear it’s name called. But none of that matters. This has been and remains Campion’s category, and I don’t see anything changing on Oscar night. This one’s pretty much a lock. BY THE WAY: Where on earth is Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”)? It’s easily one of this season’s more glaring omissions.

BEST ACTOR

The Nominees:

1. Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos)
2. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog)
3. Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick…Boom!)
4. Will Smith (King Richard)
5. Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth)

Who Will Win: Will Smith

Who I Want to Win: Denzel Washington

There was a time where I thought this was a really intriguing category. But over the last month or so Will Smith has emerged as the clear favorite. I have to say, as a luke-warm Will Smith fan, I was really impressed by his work in “King Richard” and would have no beef with him winning. But I really wish Denzel would get the statue. Unfortunately almost no one is talking about his incredible performance so it’s hard to imagine he stands a chance. Sunday will be Smith’s night. BY THE WAY: No Bradley Cooper for “Nightmare Alley”???

BEST ACTRESS

The Nominees:

1. Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
2. Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers)
3. Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter)
4. Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos)
5. Kristen Stewart (Spencer)

Who Will Win: Jessica Chastain

Who I Want to Win: Olivia Colman

This is a pretty stacked category. It’s one that features several really good performances in pretty good movies. Obviously K-Stew has been getting a big social media push while Cruz’s name suddenly started popping up as a potential dark horse. A part of me says never count out Kidman, but I really do think Chastain will pull it out. She was terrific in a movie that was too focused on rewriting certain bits of history. Still, Chastain didn’t miss a beat and should get the Oscar. BY THE WAY: I’m still surprised that Ruth Negga didn’t slip in for “Passing”.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

The Nominees:

1. The Hand of God
2. Drive My Car
3. Flee
4. The Worst Person in the World
5. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

Who Will Win: Drive My Car

Who I Want to Win: The Worst Person in the World

This is a wild category and one noted by some pretty stiff omissions. Regardless, it’s hard to see anything else winning other than “Drive My Car”. After all, it is the only nominee that’s also nominated for Best Picture. In fairness, I haven’t seen “Lucana”, but the other four make for an interesting group. Still, the winner here is pretty easy to predict. BY THE WAY: How did the Academy not even nominate Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero”? Talk about mind-boggling.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

The Nominees:

1. Encanto
2. Flee
3. Luca
4. The Mitchells vs. the Machines
5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Who Will Win: Encanto

Who I Want to Win: The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Another interesting category. I personally loved “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” and “Raya and the Last Dragon”. But boy does Oscar love Pixar so it’s hard to bet against them. I can’t see “Encanto” losing. BY THE WAY: I remain an animated movie weakling so don’t put much value on anything I have to offer to this category.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

The Nominees:

1. Ciarán Hinds (Belfast)
2. Troy Kotsur (CODA)
3. Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog)
4. J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos)
5. Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog)

Who Will Win: Troy Kotsur

Who I Want to Win: Troy Kotsur

A fun category but also one of the most sure-things come Oscar night. Troy Kotsur has been on an amazing streak this awards season, and it’s hard to see anything derailing him leading up to his last stop. A part of me would love to see Hinds win. He gives such a wonderful performance in “Belfast”. But no one is stopping Kotsur. He’ll win and it will be one of the most memorable moments of the night. BY THE WAY: I like Jesse Plemons. But his nomination here is such an odd one. It’s a solid performance but he’s given very little to do. I would have much rather seen someone like Ben Affleck for “The Tender Bar”.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The Nominees:

1. Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter)
2. Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
3. Judi Dench (Belfast)
4. Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog)
5. Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard)

Who Will Win: Ariana DeBose

Who I Want to Win: Caitriona Balfe (Oh wait…)

This category is a mix of of excitement and utter bewilderment. Buckley was such a nice surprise and Ellis was quite good. But no one is beating DeBose. She was magical in “West Side Story” and she has had this category locked up since well before the nominees were announced. BY THE WAY: The Caitriona Balfe snub is the most baffling and egregious of the year. She was incredible in “Belfast” and had been nominated in nearly every award stop leading up the Oscars. I have no idea how the Academy dropped the ball this badly.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Nominees:

1. Belfast
2. Don’t Look Up
3. King Richard
4. Licorice Pizza
5. The Worst Person in the World

Who Will Win: Belfast

Who I Want to Win: Belfast

This category is a complete toss-up. I can pick apart the scripts for nearly every one of these nominees. But I think Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” screenplay is a near perfect mix of heart, soul, and humor. I think it’ll win, but the near irrational pushback to that film in some circles may point to a more fashionable choice. Still, I’m sticking with “Belfast”. BY THE WAY: How “Licorice Pizza” and “Don’t Look Up” found their way into this category is beyond me. Perhaps certain names do carry more weight during awards season.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Nominees:

1. CODA
2. Drive My Car
3. Dune
4. The Lost Daughter
5. The Power of the Dog

Who Will Win: CODA

Who I want to Win: Dune

Here’s another one that could go a number of ways. While I think the script is the one thing that holds “The Power of the Dog” back, I still believe it has a good shot at winning this category. But the recent push “CODA” has received makes me lean towards it, and I wouldn’t be upset if it wins. I do think people are overlooking “Dune” and how it’s screenplay brought together its vast and sweeping story. But in a category this stacked, it’s understandable why it wouldn’t win. BY THE WAY: Even in a crammed group, it’s really a shame that Tony Kushner wasn’t nominated for “West Side Story”.

So there are a few of my picks for Sunday night‘s big show. I’d love to hear what you agree or disagree with. What would be your choices for the categories mentioned above? Let me hear from you.

10 thoughts on “Oscar Weekend: My Picks for the 94th Academy Awards

  1. Keith, I haven’t seen enough of them to make fully-informed comment, but I think what you say — and very well! — here is important to remember about the academy and other film awards:
    “…I do think the Oscars matter. Not so much in definitively proclaiming the ‘best’ movie of the year. But in highlighting certain movies and advancing careers.” It’s really the same with any art form.

  2. I’m happy for those who receive an award, I feel for those who deserve but go home empty-handed, but after nearly fifty years of enjoying the show, the last few years have left me disinterested. What happened with Caitriona Balfe is that she and Jamie Dornan were being positioned in the lead categories and then the group responsible for the Oscar push bailed and tried to move to the supporting groups, probably leaving voters with confusion and bitterness. Branagh will probably get his award in the Original Screenplay vote.

    • The thing is Balfe had been nominated in the supporting category during every other award show. I think most people felt a supporting nomination at the Oscars was a given. Such a terrible omission IMO.

  3. I’m not really looking forward to this year’s Oscars at all. I’m still upset that some categories won’t be presented live on TV as that is a diss to the people involved in the art film. Plus, I hate the fact that ABC is trying to cater to the lowest common denominator in Tik Tok celebs as well as DJ Khalid to get people watching. Man, fuck that shit. If I was someone that won an Oscar and saw this, I’d put that shit in the trash.

    • It’s almost as if they are trying to cater to an audience that simply doesn’t exist. The people they’re trying to reach have no interest in the Oscars. Not will they have an interest.

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