After several years in which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences vacillated between eight or nine Best Picture nominees, Oscar has returned to a set number of 10 films for its top prize. The whole idea of doubling the amount from five to 10 came about in 2010 to encourage voters to select a broader range of films that might actually include some popular titles. That lasted a couple of years before the Academy tweaked it, allowing anywhere from five to 10 movies to make the cut. Now, with dwindling ratings, AMPAS once again decided to pin their hopes on a solid 10 in the hope that a Spider-Man or a Bond film could catch the fancy of the 9,487 eligible voters and help improve ratings with an audience favorite or two for viewers to root for. No such luck. This year’s lineup, which certainly has its share of warm-hearted crowd pleasers, only produced one film that even came close to making more than $100 million at the domestic box office, Dune, which debuted day-and-date on HBO Max. Nevertheless, ratings potential aside, the lineup of 10 nominees this year are a worthy bunch. Here are the 10 nominees for BEST PICTURE.
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Kenneth Branagh’s touching memoir of his own youth growing up in Belfast, Ireland circa 1969 at the time the Troubles is really a story of family and connection then, and actually now as it turns out. The story of nine-year-old Buddy, his mom, dad, grandparents and brother is a universal one, and also something of a valentine to movies themselves. Shot during the pandemic, its message of the importance of family is more pertinent that ever, and scenes of invading rioters taking over what were previously peaceful neighborhoods and striking fear into those families may also continue to strike a chord, especially as the Ukraine war rages and we see families being torn apart by senseless conflicts right before our eyes just as Oscar voting takes place. The new ad line from Focus Features asks voters to “go with their heart.” And with seven nominations overall they just might do that.
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DIRECTOR – Kenneth Branagh; PRODUCERS – Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik, Tamar Thomas; STUDIO – Focus Features; NOMINATIONS – Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Original Song.
A smash hit at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival where it staged an unprecedented sweep of all four major narrative awards, CODA was picked up by Apple for $25 Million-plus, and seems to be universally beloved as yet another film focusing on the family unit—so important in the shadow of a pandemic. In this case, it is a family with deaf parents and son, plus a hearing daughter who must balance her loyalty to them with her own desire to break out and follow her musical dreams. Based on a 2014 French film that cast hearing actors in the Deaf roles, this cast, led by Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, is authentic to its core and that may be why it has become such a crowd pleaser. It was the top movie winner at the recent SAG Awards where it won the Outstanding Cast prize—the first ever for a predominantly Deaf cast. Then BAFTA gave it Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay awards. It followed that up last weekend with both PGA and WGA wins giving it three of the four top Guild prizes this season. If Oscar feels the warmth the guild have, it could win, but lack of directing and editing nominations might stand in the way, statistically speaking anyway.
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DIRECTOR – Siân Heder; PRODUCERS – Fabrice Gianfermi, Phillippe Rousselet, Patrick Wachsberger; STUDIO – Apple Original Films; NOMINATIONS – Best Supporting Actor
Best Adapted Screenplay.
DON’T LOOK UP
Satire is one of the hardest things to successfully pull off, and there are very few filmmakers today who can stand on the shoulders of Billy Wilder and other past greats who made it look so easy. Adam McKay, coming off his Oscar-winning The Big Short, and Vice, even Anchorman, is undeniably one of them. Don’t Look Up uses the impending arrival of a comet bound to destroy the planet as a very funny premise to make a movie that really is about the dangers of climate change even if that isn’t in the plot at all. Genius. A hilarious movie with a strong message and an all-star cast, Don’t Look Up isn’t just one of the year’s funniest movies, it also turns out to be one of the most important, and that is why it is nominated here. It did pick up a WGA win last weekend, but a triumph here remains a long shot.
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DIRECTOR – Adam McKay; PRODUCERS – Adam McKay, Kevin Messick; STUDIO – Netflix; NOMINATIONS – Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score.
DRIVE MY CAR
Perhaps the most unexpected of all this year’s Best Picture nominees is this three-hour Japanese drama about a man ruminating on tragedy in his own life as he shares his feelings with the driver assigned to him while he travels to Hiroshima to direct a production of Uncle Vanya. Exquisitely directed and written by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car won a Best Screenplay award at Cannes where it had its world premiere, but it simply wowed the critics. New York, LA, Boston, and National Society of Critics all showered it with their Best Picture awards, making it a must see for Academy members who clearly responded. Whether this very deliberately paced movie can pull off an upset here is probably the longest of shots but it has gotten this far, so there’s that.
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DIRECTOR – Ryûsuke Hamaguchi; PRODUCER – Teruhisa Yamamoto; STUDIO – Sideshow, Janus Films; NOMINATIONS – Best Director, Best International Film, Best Adapted Screenplay.
The only one of this year’s Best Picture nominees to make more than $100 million domestically and much more globally despite debuting on HBO Max at the same time as screening in theaters, Denis Villeneuve’s grand epic is a sight to behold. This adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction book will likely clean up in the crafts categories where it is nominated for 10 Oscars overall. The shocking omission of Villeneuve for Best Director though makes this a tougher hill to climb, but the sheer filmmaking and ambition on display in every frame, along with strong support from members below the line, could make it a contender. At any rate it is likely to be the movie that leads in numbers of Oscar wins, even if in the end it doesn’t take the big prize. Voters may think they can still give it that reward when Part 2 comes out.
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DIRECTOR – Denis Villeneuve; PRODUCERS – Cale Boyter, Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve; STUDIOS – Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures; NOMINATIONS – Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound.
Another strong entry about family, this one is centered on the saga of Richard Williams, who had a dream of raising the two greatest female tennis players in history and actually pulled it off, warts and all. Telling the story through the prism of Richard, rather than Venus and Serena, and making it an origin story, was the smart way to go because in the end King Richard is truly about the family unit, led by a career best Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis, and featuring a fine ensemble cast to round it out. Tennis movies don’t usually win Oscars, but this is no tennis movie. Rather, it’s one every family can relate to in some ways. That it focuses on a Black family from Compton makes it all the more remarkable and heartwarming. The ACE Eddies recognized its Film Editing, but no Oscar or DGA nomination for its director though is problematic, so the love for this might be heading to the Best Actor race rather than here.
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DIRECTOR – Reinaldo Marcus Green; PRODUCERS – Tim White, Trevor White, Will Smith; STUDIO – Warner Bros. Pictures; NOMINATIONS – Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song.
Paul Thomas Anderson returns to his beloved San Fernando Valley for perhaps the lightest film he has done to date, and it is a certified winner. A coming-of-age story about the relationship between a 15-year-old entrepreneur and a 25-year-old photographer’s assistant he pursues may sound a little creepy on paper, but in the hands of Anderson and his two stars Cooper Hoffman (son of Philip) and Alana Haim, in a dazzling debut, it is anything but. For some this very funny and engaging movie will be pure nostalgia with its early ’70s motif, but for everyone there is something to love. Without nominations for anyone but Anderson in writing (Anderson took home the BAFTA for Original Screenplay) and directing, it is certainly a long shot to win here, but it is a movie where it is hard to find those who don’t love it.
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DIRECTOR – Paul Thomas Anderson; PRODUCERS – Sara Murphy, Adam Somner, Paul Thomas Anderson; STUDIO – MGM/UA; NOMINATIONS – Best Director, Best Original Screenplay.
One of four remakes in the category (with West Side Story, CODA and Dune), this one from the master Guillermo del Toro is perhaps the one that is the most pure. Adapted from the original black-and-white 1947 Tyrone Power film noir, del Toro has remained faithful to its themes, but given the pulp novel on which it is based a much more authentic version. Bradley Cooper is a drifter who happens on to a traveling carnival of freak acts and discovers hidden talents he never knew he had. As he gets deeper into the world of deception, he loses his grip on his own life and who he is. With a wonderful cast of female co-stars including Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett and Toni Collette, plus a terrific supporting ensemble, Nightmare Alley is the most atmospheric of all the nominees, but with only a trio of well-deserved crafts nominations in addition to Best Picture it has little chance of victory here.
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DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro; PRODUCERS – J. Miles Dale, Bradley Cooper, Guillermo del Toro; STUDIO – Searchlight Pictures; NOMINATIONS – Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design.
THE POWER OF THE DOG
Easily the film with the largest number of Best Picture wins from critics groups, Jane Campion’s adaptation of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel about an unlikeable cowboy in Montana circa 1925 who has definite issues with his family and himself is the film that impressed the Academy the most. It received a leading 12 nominations across the board. However, with a main character, brilliantly played by Benedict Cumberbatch, hard to warm up to, it lacks the crowd-pleasing aspects of several of its competitors. But could the sheer filmmaking prowess on display carry the day and make this the alternative for voters looking more for art than heart? It is hard to argue with Campion’s achievement and by giving it all those nominations it would seem the front runner, plus it won Best Picture prizes at Critics Choice, Golden Globes, and BAFTA, plus a key DGA honor for its director. However wins at all the other guilds did not materialize making this a harder mountain to climb, but it remains a formidable contender.
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DIRECTOR – Jane Campion; PRODUCERS – Roger Frappier, Jane Campion, Iain Canning, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman; STUDIO – Netflix; NOMINATIONS – Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor (2), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing,
WEST SIDE STORY
Upon hearing that none other than Steven Spielberg wanted to remake the most honored musical in Oscar history, my first reaction was he is out of his mind. After seeing what he managed to do with this classic musical, the first Spielberg has ever tackled, I have to say he knew exactly what he was doing. Keeping it set in the mid-1950s but bringing the Jets and Sharks to a rivalry that might just resonate more today than it ever did, screenwriter Tony Kushner has given this new telling more gravitas and importance than you might ever have imagined. With a splendid cast, exquisite production values, and a true reason to be retold in 2021, Spielberg has directed a masterpiece. But with seven nominations as opposed to the original’s 11 and 10 wins, does the Academy really want to make history by giving the remake the same Best Picture status as that much loved original 60 years earlier? Probably not, but if they did no one would complain.
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DIRECTOR – Steven Spielberg; PRODUCERS – Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg; STUDIO – The Walt Disney Company; NOMINATIONS – Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound.
THE PREDICTED WINNER FOR BEST PICTURE:
This will be a suspenseful race right until the opening of the final envelope Oscar night, and nominations leader The Power of the Dog could easily still prevail, but the sheer momentum created by the category’s earliest release, CODA, has been undeniable and may have brought it home in the final days of this campaign despite that in terms of Oscar statistics it would be a non-starter. I have a feeling this year statistics may be thrown out on to Hollywood Blvd. Focus said “Go With Your Heart” for its still strong contender Belfast but that may inadvertently have been a reminder for some voters that the film with perhaps the biggest heart was this one. CODA in a photo finish.
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On Oscar nomination day, Branagh made history by adding more to his career total and becoming the only person to ever receive Oscar nominations in seven different categories, a remarkable statistic that belies the fact that he has yet to win one. With his most personal film, Belfast, he has a chance to change that, and this is in fact his second ever nomination in this category after coming strong out of the gate and receiving his first-ever Oscar nomination for directing 1989’s Henry V. Can he finally do the trick and actually take one of those gold statuettes home with him? There is a decent chance if voters love this film the way they tell me they do, but he faces the power of the Campion juggernaut.
Drive My Car
This is the Japanese director’s first nomination (he is also up for Adapted Screenplay), and he is in rarefied territory since there have only been two other Japanese films ever nominated in this category. Hamaguchi is the fourth consecutive director of an International Film nominee to find themselves with a nomination from the director’s branch, so, there is definitely a trend. And one of them, Parasite’s Bong Joon Ho, actually won. Hamaguchi though should probably consider this recognition in this category the win because he has stiff competition with better odds.
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON
This is Anderson’s third nomination in this category. There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread are the other two among his overall 11 Oscar nominations. This all simply proves Anderson is kinda overdue to win something, considering the love he consistently gets here and from the writers branch. Licorice Pizza is clearly his lightest film to date so it would be ironic that he finally wins here with a comedy. It is entirely possible, however, I think it is more likely he could win in the Original Screenplay category where Pizza has a stronger chance.
The Power of the Dog
Campion becomes only the seventh female to win a directing nomination. In fact, she is actually the first woman to be nominated twice as she was first in the category for 1993’s The Piano, for which she won the Original Screenplay award and became the first woman to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes. You can tell she is a trailblazer, indeed, and also that things are looking up. If Campion wins here, she will be the third woman to win and the second in a row following last year’s victory by Chloe Zhao. Take it to the bank that she will be.
West Side Story
Ironically, it was Spielberg who won over Campion in 1993 when he took home his first Best Director Oscar for Schindler’s List. He is the tried-and-true veteran of this group with his eighth nomination here (and 19th overall). Should he win, he would become the first to triumph for a remake of a movie that previously was honored for Best Director, and should he win, it would be for the first musical he has made. Spielberg also previously won in 1998 for Saving Private Ryan. Can he make it three and really hit rarefied air for a director? My guess is it is probably Campion’s turn to one-up him nearly 30 years later in the rematch.
THE PREDICTED WINNER: JANE CAMPION, THE POWER OF THE DOG
Oscar Best Picture Nominees: The Deadline Reviews
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Three of the nominees, Javier Bardem playing Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos, Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson in tick, tick…BOOM!, and Will Smith as Richard Williams in King Richard are nominated for roles as real-life people, which in recent years has been a real plus for winning. Of course, they have to compete with Denzel Washington doing Shakespeare for his ninth acting nomination and seventh in this category, a figure that is edging him closer to the top of the heap in the Oscar history books. Benedict Cumberbatch is also nominated for his chilling work as Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog, and his chances here could improve if he takes the BAFTA just a few days before Oscar voting begins. But the fact is, with the wind at this back, and a SAG award already in his pocket, this is definitely Smith’s to lose.
PREDICTED WINNER: WILL SMITH, KING RICHARD
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Like in the Best Actor category, it is paying off to play a real-life person, even if that feat also has its land mines to navigate, especially if you are Nicole Kidman playing Lucille Ball, one of the most famous people in the history of television. Jessica Chastain got a boost here recently winning a SAG award as Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and Kristen Stewart managed to stand out among the growing number of actresses playing Princess Diana by going a bit rogue in Spencer. They outpoint others like Jennifer Hudson and Lady Gaga also going real but getting overlooked in favor of the other two nominees Penélope Cruz in Parallel Mothers, and Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter. Colman is the most recent winner so probably won’t get it again so soon. Stewart is the only first-timer here so probably will have to wait. Cruz received her fourth nomination and has won once before, but is battling the problem of getting a subtitled performance seen by all the Academy members who vote. So, is it Kidman vs. SAG and Critics Choice winner Chastain? Possibly, with the edge in momentum to Chastain. In reality, this race could easily go one of five ways, but I am guessing the growing international vote in the Academy may favor Cruz.
PREDICTED WINNER: PENELOPE CRUZ, PARALLEL MOTHERS
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Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee are both nominated here for the same film, The Power of the Dog, so might possibly cancel each other out. However, that is not always the case when performers from the same movie are pitted against each other. Between the pair, Smit-McPhee has the upper hand having already won a boatload of early precursor awards for his haunting performance. J.K. Simmons made the cut for his real-life role as William Frawley aka Fred Mertz in Being the Ricardos. Although, as the only past winner in the category with four first-timers, he is unlikely to make it to the winner’s circle for a second Oscar. Ciarán Hinds is a veteran character actor finally getting his due for his warm and wonderful performance in Belfast, but he has to face SAG, BAFTA, and CRITICS CHOICE winner Troy Kotsur, who could become only the second Deaf performer to win an Oscar and the first male actor to do it. He will.
PREDICTED WINNER: TROY KOTSUR, CODA
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This category has four first-time nominees vs. one 87-year-old veteran eight-time nominee. The latter would be Dame Judi Dench for Belfast, in a warm and wise turn as Granny—a performance that could gain traction due to the haunting and unforgettable final close-up on her face as the film ends. Almost just as much of a veteran in her own way, remarkably this is Kirsten Dunst’s first nomination, and it comes for The Power of the Dog in a complex and interesting role as Rose. A near 40-year veteran of the business, she is way overdue. Jessie Buckley will win an Oscar one day, but it likely won’t be for The Lost Daughter in which she so beautifully plays the younger version of the character for which Olivia Colman is nominated. That twofer is likely to go the way of Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart in Titanic, with both of them going down with the ship Oscar-wise, though both Colman and Buckley are more than deserving. However, it will be Ariana DeBose making history by becoming the first Afro Latino and LGBTQ+ person of color to win here. She is also in the unique situation of getting an Oscar as Anita in West Side Story 60 years after Rita Moreno won it for the same role.
PREDICTED WINNER: ARIANA DEBOSE, WEST SIDE STORY
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Siân Heder is nominated for her adaptation of a 2014 French comedy that she turned into CODA, not only besting the original by a country mile, but also making it thoroughly authentic by casting Deaf actors to play the family. She competes with Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth for cracking the epic task of making Frank Herbert’s Dune actually work on screen, something even David Lynch couldn’t figure out. Ryusuke Hamaguchi took a short story by Haruki Murakami and turned it into a long—three hours—but remarkable screenplay in Drive My Car. Maggie Gyllenhaal is up for The Lost Daughter, a complex adaptation of the novel by Elena Ferrante, and she made an arresting debut behind the camera as well. She won the screenplay award at Venice and again from the USC Scripter Awards, making her a real possibility here. Jane Campion, already a writing winner for 1993’s The Piano, finds herself in the adaptation category for the first time and she took the comparable award at Critics Choice for the complex and fascinating The Power of the Dog. This might be closer than we think, as Gyllenhaal could have a hometown advantage, or Heder, surging with both BAFTA and WGA wins could take it now that CODA has turned into a genuine Best Picture threat.
PREDICTED WINNER: SIAN HEDER, CODA
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Kenneth Branagh has his best chance in this category to turn one of his career eight nominations into an actual win. Belfast is the kind of personal story voters love, and it seems to be sticking with moviegoers who give it a chance. I think his stiffest competition comes from Paul Thomas Anderson who really is way overdue and with Licorice Pizza just might have the ingredients to finally win. Adam McKay is already a writing Oscar winner for The Big Short, and his contender here Don’t Look Up has elements of satire mixed with social messaging that resonates, certainly at the WGA last weekend (where Belfast was ineligible). The Worst Person in the World from Eskil Vogt and Joaquim Trier is the only one of the bunch not nominated for Best Picture, a definite drawback to a win, but the Norwegian film clearly has its admirers. Zach Baylin’s King Richard takes a true-life story and distills it to the essence of not only the birth of champions on the tennis circuit, but a domineering father who drives them there, and most importantly, a heartfelt story of family, which is also the case with Belfast, which pulls out the win.
PREDICTED WINNER: KENNETH BRANAGH, BELFAST
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With entries from Japan, Denmark, Italy, Norway and a first-timer for a film from Bhutan, this is a very strong field overall. Past winner Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) has, like Branagh, made a very personal film of his youth and the inspirations that led to his life in the movies with the Italian entry The Hand of God, which took a major prize at Venice. Joaquim Trier brought Norway its sixth nomination with the well-loved The Worst Person in the World, a contemporary comedy that can play just about anywhere and immediately find people relating to it. The long shot entry here is the very first from Bhutan called Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom from director Pawo Choyning Dorji. It is a total charmer about a teacher brought to an isolated school high in the Himalayas to educate a group of children. Once you see it you will not be surprised it made the cut. Denmark’s 14th nomination comes for Flee, an animation/documentary hybrid that has made history of its own by landing nominations for International Film, Documentary Feature and Animated Feature. Quite a feat and that statistic is as good as a win, but it will probably lose here to Japan’s 14th nomination, Drive My Car, which has the wind at its back with nominations in writing, directing and Best Picture. This is where it wins.
PREDICTED WINNER: JAPAN, DRIVE MY CAR
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When in doubt in this category, just go with Disney, whether through their own Disney Animation or their Pixar brands, the mouse house is usually unbeatable, and this year holding three of the five nominations in the category they would be a good bet to cash in on at least one of them. Pixar, a frequent winner, is in the race with the lovely and lilting summer release Luca, which is a real charmer set in Italy with beautiful animation and all the usual Pixar touches, but is it too light. There is also the early fall release from Disney Animation, Raya and the Last Dragon. It has much to recommend, not the least of which is a diverse lead female character and gorgeous visuals. And then there is the holiday release of Encanto, which also promotes diversity with a Colombian family and again the lead female character at its center. Plus, it has about eight Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned tunes, including a current monster hit in “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, and another all in Spanish that is Oscar nominated, as is the film’s score. It is the 800-pound gorilla in the category. Can it, and Disney be stopped? Phil Lord and Chris Miller managed to do just that with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, so can they do it again with Netflix’s manic and marvelous The Mitchells vs. the Machines? Possibly. And then there is Flee again, the Danish film nominated in documentary, international film and here, and likely to draw votes in all three but perhaps not enough to win any of them.
PREDICTED WINNER: ENCANTO
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Ari Wegner is only the second woman ever nominated in this category, her achievement coming for The Power of the Dog, so even without the gorgeous compositions of the American West circa 1925 successfully recreated on location in New Zealand, her chances would seem to be very good. She faces some stiff competition from the four men nominated. On the scale of most difficult, the award would probably go to Greig Fraser’s epic work on Dune, much of what might have been VFX on a lesser movie but was shot in camera at director Denis Villeneuve’s insistence. Black-and-white films may be rare, but they often find a spot in this category. Bruno Delbonnel’s use of darkness and light is the highlight of The Tragedy of Macbeth. And speaking of B&W, Dan Lausten is in the unusual situation of having his work on Nightmare Alley released in both its original color version as well as a special B&W edition, giving voters a rare chance to experience it both ways. Finally, multiple Oscar-winner Janusz Kamiński’s gritty take on Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story is as impressive as you think it might be, but it is the one nominee here that didn’t make the cut at ASC where the award finally went to Dune, just as it will here unless voters want to make some history.
PREDICTED WINNER: GREIG FRASER, DUNE
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Often a category where you see the branch honor movies not nominated elsewhere, and this year the singular recognition of both Cruella and Cyrano stand out from the sweep mentality voters sometimes employ. Cyrano’s period garb is just the kind of thing that usually wins here, but how many members have actually seen the film since it just opened at the end of February so doesn’t have as high a profile. Cruella is the wildest and most colorful of all the contenders and could win just for sheer imagination, plus designer Jenny Beaven is a past three-time winner. It has likely been consistently seen in many voter homes since it has been on Disney+ for months. Nightmare Alley could be recognized for two distinct looks between its freak show carnival and the more elegant second half in upper crust society of the late 1930s era. West Side Story faces the challenge of being compared to the 1961 original which won the Oscar here, but it found new ways to let the clothes make their own statement. Finally, if there is that sweep mentality, the futuristic stylings of Dune will likely cash in.
PREDICTED WINNER: JENNY BEAVEN, CRUELLA
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This is an important category in so many ways, not least in helping to project who may win Best Picture. No film since Ordinary People in 1980 has won Best Picture without at least a nomination for its editing. The sole exception was Birdman, but that one-shot movie was marketed as not being edited. Only tick, tick…BOOM! is nominated here this year without a corresponding Best Picture nod and it’s likely a long shot, although its surprise win at the ACE Eddies in their Musical or Comedy category gave it some hope. Of the other four, Don’t Look Up is almost several film genres in one, from comedy to sci-fi, and is a tricky job of keeping the tone consistent which it does thanks to its veteran editor Hank Corwin. Pamela Martin’s most impressive feat in King Richard was trading out the tennis doubles for the actors playing Serena and Venus and making it look seamless which is the key reason I believe she took the ACE Eddie Award in their Drama category. Peter Sciberras was tasked with ratcheting up the quiet almost Hitchcockian tension between a complex set of characters in The Power of the Dog, and Joe Walker had a Herculean job weaving all the huge elements of Dune while also keeping its actors from sinking in the sand.
PREDICTED WINNER: JOE WALKER, DUNE
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MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Coming 2 America, tasked with aging the remarkable character makeup from Rick Baker’s work in the 1988 original film where Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall were buried under prosthetics for much of the running time, certainly impressed the makeup and hairstyling guild where it swept all three categories in which it was nominated. But does that make it a front runner? Not necessarily, since the entire Academy votes, not just those who actually do this work. House of Gucci got nominated largely for the transformation of Jared Leto, who is unrecognizable here, and the same would be true for Jessica Chastain’s ever-evolving look in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Her increasing heat in the Best Actress race, where she won at SAG and Critics Choice, could also help put her makeup and hair team up front as it has done in the past for the likes of Matthew McConaughey and Martin Landau. The team for Cruella can’t be counted out, especially for the hair stylings on Emma Stone. Finally, Dune’s overall strength in crafts categories and its status as the only Best Picture nominee could do the trick, notably for Stellan Skarsgård’s wild character look, and Timothée Chalamet’s hair.
PREDICTED WINNER: LINDA DOWDS, STEPHANIE INGRAM AND JUSTIN RALEIGH, THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE
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ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
Hans Zimmer looks to be a frontrunner for his majestic score for Dune, setting him up for only his second career Oscar following the animated The Lion King. But as the latter did, and Disney always seems to do, any animated nominee with the Disney connection usually finds its way to the winner’s circle. With all members voting, they often go for those toons with lots of tunes, even though this category is supposed to be about the underscore, not the songs. Why do you think Alan Menken has so many Oscars at home? It often gets confused, which is why Germaine Franco could become the first Latina artist to win here for Encanto, helped by all those Lin Manuel Miranda songs she didn’t write. Nevertheless, her score is very deserving whatever the reasons it gets votes. Nicholas Britell’s soaring work on Don’t Look Up, Albert Iglesias’ subtle Parallel Mothers with its touch of Herrmann, and long deserving Jonny Greenwood’s intriguing The Power of the Dog may be just runners up here.
PREDICTED WINNER: GERMAINE FRANCO, ENCANTO
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Well, let’s start with 13-time nominee in this category, and always a bridesmaid, Diane Warren, who clearly is beloved by the music branch but just can’t seem to win the big one. Her nomination this year comes from the little-seen drama Four Good Days, and is a fine song called “Somehow You Do”, sung by country legend Reba McEntire. It will be another long climb though against killer competition, including yet another Bond song (Warren lost to them before) for “No Time To Die” sung by Billie Eilish, “Be Alive” from King Richard sung over end credits by Beyoncé, “Down To Joy” from Belfast, the one new Van Morrison tune to go with many of his classics also used in the film that give it such a feeling of the time and place, and finally Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first ever all Spanish song, “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto which was entered rather than the smash hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from the same film. Could the one not in the running help the one that is? Never bet against 007, even though a win could give Miranda EGOT status.
PREDICTED WINNER: BILLIE EILISH AND FINNEAS O’CONNELL, NO TIME TO DIE
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Five outstanding examples of the craft, each unique in their own way, are all nominated here led by the spectacular sets for the futuristic Dune, which almost harken back to the scale and grandeur of Hollywood’s silent era in forecasting a very distant future. Nightmare Alley’s freaky carnival, balanced against the late 1930s society setting in the second half, made this an early favorite. Recreating 1925 Montana in 2021 New Zealand gives western gravitas to The Power of the Dog. Shakespearean palace intrigue channeled through the art of Joel Coen got The Tragedy of Macbeth into this particular race, while a fading neighborhood signaling gentrification in 1950s-era New York City puts West Side Story firmly in the running for an Oscar in a category in which the 1961 version also triumphed. However, the production design, along with the screenplay, may be most responsible for the look and feel of the movie as it relates to now.
PREDICTED WINNER: PATRICE VERMETTE AND ZSUZSANNA SIPOS, DUNE
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Always Oscar’s least understood category outside of the sound branch itself, this now includes both mixing and sound editing since they were recently merged into one category. Usually it favors big-scale movies, which certainly helps Dune and No Time to Die, or musicals which certainly favors West Side Story (the 1961 film won this award). But there are two other nominees not so obvious with the use of silence and foreboding tension in The Power of the Dog, and the invading rioters closing in on the idyllic calm of a changing neighborhood in circa 1969 Belfast. Mixing and sound editing are two different disciplines and Academy members at large are not likely to recognize the subtleties involved in the overall sound achievements nominated here. For that reason…
PREDICTED WINNER: MAC RUTH, MARK MANGINI, THEO GREEN, DOUG HEMPHILL AND RON BARTLETT, DUNE
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If ever there was a popcorn category it is this one. In fact, the only category where Academy members saw fit to nominate the year’s biggest hit movie by far, Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has to compete against other biggies like Dune, No Time to Die, Free Guy, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. These are all strong classic nominees for visual effects. My own preference might be the alternative reality of a video game world in the wonderful Free Guy, which like the equally terrific Shang-Chi and Spider-Man movies, gets its single nomination here. Again, the fact Dune is a 10-time-nominated Best Picture contender, with much of that due to spectacular visual effects, makes it also the odds-on favorite to add this prize to its bounty.
PREDICTED WINNER: PAUL LAMBERT, TRISTAN MYLES, BRIAN CONNOR AND GERD NEFZER, DUNE
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Again, Denmark’s International Film and Animated Feature nominee Flee makes unique history with a third mention here, but no animated film has also ever been honored as a documentary feature winner and methinks they aren’t about to start now, especially since voters have two other places on the ballot to express their love for the film. Ascension, Attica and Writing with Fire are the kind of heavy subject matter movies that the doc branch loves, so their nominations are no surprise. In some ways what is a surprise is that the unquestioned most honored doc of the year in other awards shows, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) actually made the cut with Oscar since this branch has never shown an affinity for music-oriented docs or archival docs (witness the missing presumed front runner The Rescue), and it is both. Didn’t matter because the timing, a half-century after this landmark Black Woodstock took place, its moment has come and struck a chord. With Searchlight heavily behind it after a Sundance buy, and even a recent run on the ABC network for added visibility, this seems inevitable. Director Questlove could become the second late night TV bandleader in as many years to win an Oscar after Jon Batiste took Original Score last year.
PREDICTED WINNER: SUMMER OF SOUL, AHMIR “QUESTLOVE” THOMPSON, JOSEPH PATEL, ROBERT FYVOLENT AND DAVID DINERSTEIN
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And now for the three shorts categories that often prove to be the difference between winning and losing your office Oscar pool.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
One of the weirdest most eclectic groups of nominees ever in this category, a couple of them explicitly adult, and all largely international. But for my money I say go with Aardman Studios every time out, this time for the delightful Robin, Robin.
PREDICTED WINNER: ROBIN, ROBIN
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Among the nominees is The Long Goodbye which has Riz Ahmed as a star and producer making him an Oscar nominee two years in a row after last year’s Best Actor nomination for Sound Of Metal. He didn’t win, but could become a winner here so why not?
PREDICTED WINNER: THE LONG GOODBYE
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM
This appears to be a tight race here, with sentiment behind The Queen of Basketball whose beloved and engaging star and subject sadly died before seeing Oscar glory for the film about her, and Audible (which coincidentally seems to go well with CODA) with its inspiring story of a deaf football team is similarly sports-themed and equally excellent. Take your choice on this one but the latter is one of three Netflix nominees here out of five so there could be a split.
PREDICTED WINNER: THE QUEEN OF BASKETBALL
Good luck to all on Sunday.
Editors note: This story originally published on March 24.
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