This has been a very long awards season, and the ups and downs of the race reflect it. Seemingly, even more than normal, categories once thought to be free-for-alls have sewn up over a matter of days, and those once thought safe have given way to chaos.
BEST PICTURE: CODA
What a journey Best Picture has been this year. Early predictions of a tight battle between Belfast and The Power of the Dog eventually gave way to The Power of the Dog gaining prohibitive frontrunner status as Belfast slowly faded from the spotlight. Yet in the last couple of weeks, CODA has experienced an undeniable surge in support. A win for its ensemble cast from the Screen Actors Guild Awards raised its profile, and an upset at the Producers Guild of America over The Power of the Dog has revealed a very clear path to the big prize.
Sure, it’s by no means a certainty. After all, The Power of the Dog leads all films at the Oscars this year with a whopping 12 nominations, showing strong support from all sectors of the Academy, while CODA clocks in at only three; if the latter movie wins Best Picture, it will do so with fewer nominations than any film since 1932’s Grand Hotel, which only had the one. It also lacks either a directing or editing nomination, which are usually key categories for any Best Picture champion. Those who argue that The Power of the Dog simply has more institutional support from the Academy, and that the film can thus retain its status as the favorite through a late swing in CODA’s direction, have strong arguments.
I was previously of that opinion, feeling that The Power of the Dog was just too preeminently out-front here, and too respected by the Academy (as evidenced by its nomination tally) to falter at the last minute. However, I’ve changed my mind. CODA’s odds have risen too dramatically and too rapidly to ignore, as more and more voters have caught up with the film and come away with praise for the uplifting family drama. The film has experienced a groundswell of enthusiastic passion – and it’s come at the exact right time, as Academy voters have filled out their ballots.
This is an exceedingly close call for a category that felt like a near-lock only weeks ago, but I have to acknowledge how much this contest has changed in the interim, and with that, I predict CODA to win Best Picture.
BEST DIRECTOR: Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Campion has won virtually every major award throughout this season. No matter what happens with The Power of the Dog in the big prize, she is such an overwhelming favorite to win Best Director that it doesn’t even seem like there’s any consensus on who she’d even lose to in the event of an upset.
BEST ACTRESS: Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye
For a long time, it seemed like Best Actress would be one of the most unpredictable contests of the night, but after wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Critics Choice Awards, the trajectory of this race has moved decisively in Chastain’s favor. I’ll concede that her lead is probably weaker than any of the other three acting frontrunners, having emerged from a category previously seen as completely up in the air, but I’m sticking with this prediction because Chastain has victories at major, televised precursors on her side.
BEST ACTOR: Will Smith – King Richard
While it briefly seemed like Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog or Andrew Garfield in Tick, Tick… Boom! might have been competitive here, it’s become clear that there is more than enough momentum to give Will Smith his first Academy Award.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Ariana DeBose –West Side Story
A category with an obvious frontrunner since day one. DeBose has won everywhere and there’s every reason to believe that continues.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Troy Kotsur – CODA
Though once shaping up to be a close contest between Kotsur and Kodi Smit-McPhee for The Power of the Dog, Kotsur has slowly pulled away and become a heavy favorite through wins at key, high-profile awards, such as the Screen Actors Guild, Critics Choice, and BAFTA.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: CODA
After winning both the BAFTA and Writers Guild Awards in this category, CODA surely goes into Sunday as the favorite for this award – and if it really is winning the Best Picture, it can’t miss this one.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Belfast
Conventional wisdom once suggested that this category would be a likely place to reward Licorice Pizza, and give Paul Thomas Anderson an Oscar. But screenplay prizes have had little consensus over the course of this season, and Anderson losing at the Writers Guild of America this past Sunday further shows the instability of this race. Instead, I think that Belfast – once a Best Picture heavyweight which I suspect still enjoys some considerable support within the Academy – could have the easiest time winning here. However, the Oscar is still quite within Licorice Pizza’s grasp, with WGA winner Don’t Look Up representing a more remote, but still possible, chance to upset them both.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Summer of Soul
Summer of Soul has long been the favorite here, and I’m pretty confident about it going on to win after a long string of precursor victories.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Encanto
Late rumblings have had some suggesting that The Mitchells vs. the Machines could surprise, but I would need evidence of more precursor strength to bet against Disney’s latest hit in the category it so often triumphs in.
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE: Drive My Car
Drive My Car’s nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay make it the obvious favorite here.
BEST FILM EDITING: Dune
This is tough. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised by any of these nominees winning, but I will give the advantage to Dune, as I believe it will win a handful of other technical prizes, as detailed below.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dune
Another likely accolade for Dune, though it probably isn’t running too far ahead of The Power of the Dog, especially if the latter film is still strong enough to win Best Picture at the end of the night.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Dune
Industry respect for Dune and for composer Hans Zimmer – for what would be his second Oscar – seems like enough to put the film over the top in this category as well.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “No Time to Die” – No Time to Die
There’s a case to be made for “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto taking the prize here, but when looking for the nominee with the most precursor support, the James Bond theme is a safer bet.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dune
I’m beginning to run out of things to say about Dune winning technical Oscars at this point, but this feels like another victory. However, I wouldn’t completely discount the possibility of Nightmare Alley pulling out a win here instead.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Cruella
It’s hard to bet against Cruella’s acclaimed and precursor-winning costume work, designed by the revered, two-time Oscar winner Jenny Bevan.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
With precursor wins alongside Chastain’s likely victory in Best Actress, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is in a good place to win another Oscar here.
BEST SOUND: Dune
It’s probably another win for Dune, though this would be the most logical place for the Academy to reward West Side Story if it so chooses.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Dune
It would only make sense for Dune’s visual creations to be celebrated here, especially considering how many Oscars it’s likely to win elsewhere. This is probably one of the safest awards of the night.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT: Robin Robin
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Queen of Basketball
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: The Long Goodbye
These can be difficult categories to predict, because there are no major precursors and the contenders tend to be discussed less in the awards conversation in general. I can’t offer you much in the way of specific insight. However, these films are the major frontrunners, and upon consideration, I feel fine about going with them.