Posted in 2020-2029, Awards Season, Oscars

94th Academy Awards: Final Predictions

Well, it’s that time of year again. After the elongated awards season window of the 93rd Academy Awards due to the pandemic, the current awards season we’ve had feels somewhat shortened. But in that time, we’ve had the welcome return of cinemas, and there’s nothing better than seeing films where they belong, on the big screen. With that, a plethora of brilliant and exciting films have been recognised by the Academy this year and Hollywood’s biggest night is once again upon us.

Last year’s scaled-down ceremony was a controversy-free event, until the ending when a change-up of the presenting order meant it all went very badly wrong. This year, the controversy has almost been ever-present as the absolutely nonsensical idea of presenting some of the categories off-air has been resurrected. Spoiling the moment of glory for those prospective winners and denying them their moment in the spotlight. A ceremony that honours the craft of movies and movie-making should be giving every recipient of an Oscar a chance to have their moment in the spotlight and this decision does a disservice to all those nominees.

Despite this ridiculous decision, there are still 23 golden statues up for grabs, the question remains as to who will claim Oscar glory? Time to have a gaze at my metaphorical crystal ball and give my predictions, as well as give my thoughts on each category, minus the documentaries and the short films.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Ciarán HindsBelfast
  • Troy Kotsur CODA
  • Jesse Plemons The Power of the Dog
  • J. K. Simmons Being the Ricardos
  • Kodi Smit-McPheeThe Power of the Dog

Kicking things off is a race that, for the third year in a row, has seen double nominees from the same film, after Judas and the Black Messiah and The Irishman. Apart from previous winner J.K. Simmons’s nomination, the rest of the pack are picking up their first nominations. Simmons’s nomination in Being the Ricardos is a sign that Aaron Sorkin’s latest film is well-loved by the Actors branch, but given that Ricardos is the only one without a Best Picture nomination, Simmons’s chances of a repeat win are extremely unlikely, especially as he’s very much bringing up the rear in this crop of performances. Plemons does great work, but he’s very much outshone by his co-stars. Ciarán Hinds’s beautiful turn as the cheeky Grandpa in Belfast would be a worthy winner, as would his co-star Jamie Dornan, who really should have been nominated ahead of Simmons for my money.

However, throughout this race, it’s very much been a battle between CODA‘s Troy Kotsur and Kodi Smit-McPhee’s layered work in The Power of the Dog. CODA‘s ensemble win at the SAG awards could tip the scales in Kotsur’s favour. He would make history as the first male deaf actor to win an Oscar, and his turn as the raunchy but heartfelt father in CODA was hilarious and emotional, he was able to break your heart with just one word.

Will Win: Troy Kotsur 

Should Win: Troy Kotsur

Could have been nominated: Jamie Dornan for Belfast

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jessie BuckleyThe Lost Daughter
  • Ariana DeBoseWest Side Story
  • Judi DenchBelfast
  • Kirsten DunstThe Power of the Dog
  • Aunjanue EllisKing Richard

As was the case with Supporting Actor, there’s one performance that can be discounted right out of the gate, as her film lacks a Best Picture nomination, which is a shame as Jessie Buckley’s work in The Lost Daughter outshines her co-stars. Kirsten Dunst has finally landed a nomination, and it’s quite fitting that she’s nominated the same year that her husband Jesse Plemons receives his first nomination. To go toe-to-toe with Will Smith is not an easy feat but Aunjanue Ellis’s performance manages exactly that. Judi Dench’s turn in Belfast was a welcome return to form for her after appearing in a couple of critical and commercial flops, but with eight nominations under her belt, she didn’t need another nomination, especially when her co-star Caitriona Balfe had the more emotionally impactful role which was much more deserving of a nomination.

However, there’s been one performance that has emerged as the clear favourite. Ever since West Side Story was finally opened to audiences, Ariana DeBose’s performance as Anita has swept all before her. It’s quite poetic that 60 years after Rita Moreno’s historic win in this very same category, playing the same character, that history will repeat itself. DeBose will also become the first openly queer actress to win this award. This is an exceedingly competitive category, but Ruth Negga’s brilliant and nuanced work in Passing being overlooked is a massive head-scratching snub.

Will Win:  Ariana DeBose

Should Win: Ariana DeBose

Could have been nominated: Catriona Balfe for Belfast or Ruth Negga for Passing

Best Original Screenplay

  • Belfast – Written by Kenneth Branagh
  • Don’t Look Up – Screenplay by Adam McKay; Story by Adam McKay and David Sirota
  • King Richard – Written by Zach Baylin
  • Licorice Pizza – Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
  • The Worst Person in the World – Written by Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier

Along with his nominations for Best Picture, and Best Director, Kenneth Branagh has written himself into Oscars history as the first person to be recognised in seven separate categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay and Live-Action Short). It’s an extraordinary achievement for Branagh and he deserves to crown that with an Oscar for his beautiful semi-autobiographical film, especially given that he’s unlikely to triumph in the Director or Picture category. Yet there’s a chance that Licorice Pizza could rain on Branagh’s parade and end Paul Thomas Anderson’s long wait for an Oscar. Plus, The Worst Person in the World is wildly popular and could be the dark horse of this year’s race.

Will Win: Belfast 

Should Win: Belfast

Should have been nominated: Fran Kanz for Mass

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • CODA – Screenplay by Sian Heder
  • Drive My Car – Screenplay by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe
  • Dune – Screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth
  • The Lost Daughter – Screenplay by Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • The Power of the Dog – Screenplay by Jane Campion

The first of several races this year that represents a fight between the two films that are the heavy favourites to be picking up the biggest prize of the night. The Power of the Dog was for a long time the heavy favourite for this award, but at the 11th hour, CODA charmed its way into hearts and minds and is poised to snatch several awards out of the dog’s jaws, and steal the thunder from Campion’s film, and it potentially won’t be for the first time if it does. However, the support Drive My Car is very strong and it could yet gazump everyone else in this category, and drive away with the Oscar.

Will Win: CODA

Should Win: CODA

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Animated Feature Film

  • EncantoJared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino, and Clark Spencer
  • FleeJonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen, and Charlotte De La Gournerie
  • LucaEnrico Casarosa and Andrea Warren
  • The Mitchells vs. the MachinesMike Rianda, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Kurt Albrecht
  • Raya and the Last DragonDon Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Osnat Shurer, and Peter Del Vecho

An impressively strong crop of nominees, and you could make a case for each of these films to triumph. Ever since this award was first introduced in 2001, a non-Disney film has only taken home the trophy six out of twenty times. With the House of Mouse representing three of the five nominees, another Disney success is on the cards as Encanto is the strong favourite to take home the statue. However, The Mitchells Vs The Machines is such an innovative and hilarious animated film about the perils of technology that is more than capable of extinguishing Encanto‘s miracle. It makes it all the more frustrating that it likely won’t, even though I do like Encanto.

But this crop could have been even stronger, as the exclusion of Mamoru Hosada’s magnificent Belle could and, maybe should have, taken the spot of one of the three Disney films.

Will Win: Encanto 

Should Win: The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Should have been nominated: Belle

Best International Feature Film

  • Drive My Car (Japan)  – directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi
  • Flee (Denmark) – directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
  • The Hand of God (Italy) –  directed by Paolo Sorrentino
  • Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Bhutan) – directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji
  • The Worst Person in the World (Norway) – directed by Joachim Trier

Drive My Car‘s Best Picture nominee status makes this one a pretty foregone conclusion.

Will Win: Drive My Car

Should Win: Drive My Car 

Best Original Score

  • Don’t Look UpNicholas Britell
  • DuneHans Zimmer
  • Encanto Germaine Franco
  • Parallel MothersAlberto Iglesias
  • The Power of the DogJonny Greenwood

The power of a great score is that within just a few notes, it can transport you to the setting of that particular film in a heartbeat, and no score this year typifies that than Hans Zimmer’s masterful work in Dune. 2021 was a stellar year for the legendary composer as well as reuniting with Denis Villeneuve to bring the world of Arrakis to life, his work for Daniel Craig’s final bow as James Bond in No Time To Die was also worthy of praise and could have seen Zimmer get two nominations. In either case, Zimmer’s wait for that second Oscar is coming to an end.

Someone else who also could have got two nominations is Jonny Greenwood. He has been producing some truly stellar scores over the last few years, and could and have got in this category twice for his stunning work in SpencerHis score for The Power of The Dog is tremendous, but the Power of the Dog is no match for desert power.

Will Win: Hans Zimmer 

Should Win: Hans Zimmer

Could have been nominated: Harry Gregson-Williams for The Last Duel 

Best Original Song

  • “Be Alive” from King Richard – Music and lyrics by DIXSON and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
  • “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto – Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • “Down to Joy” from Belfast – Music and lyrics by Van Morrison
  • “No Time to Die” from No Time to Die – Music and lyrics by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell
  • “Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days – Music and lyrics by Diane Warren

Poor Diane Warren. Despite a staggering 13 nominations in this category, her wait for that first win is likely to go on, as this year’s race is looking like it will be a two-way fight between Lin-Manuel Miranda and Billie Eilish. The last two Bond films have both taken home this award, so the odds look good for Billie Eilish. However, if Miranda wins, he will become the youngest person in history to claim the EGOT. Miranda had a truly stellar 2021, and the EGOT would be the best way to reward his extraordinary achievements, especially as “Dos Oruguitas” is a heartbreakingly beautiful and emotional ballad. If it were to triumph, it would be a worthy winner to go with Encanto‘s likely Best Animated Feature Oscar.

It’s just a shame that they couldn’t nominate the irresistibly catchy and chart sensation “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” as well.

Will Win:  No Time To Die

Should Win: Encanto

Best Sound

  • Belfast Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather, and Niv Adiri
  • DuneMac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill, and Ron Bartlett
  • No Time to DieSimon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey, and Mark Taylor
  • The Power of the DogRichard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie, and Tara Webb
  • West Side StoryTod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson, and Shawn Murphy

Like so many technical aspects of Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece, the sound is one of the aspects that made it such an enthralling experience on the biggest screen possible. The work of Dune’s sound team helped bring the world of Arrakis to life in such a spectacular way and so they will be richly deserved winners of this trophy.

That being said, the work of the sound teams in No Time to Die and West Side Story are very strong and could upset the spice cart.

Will Win: Dune 

Should Win: Dune

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Production Design

  • Dune – Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos
  • Nightmare Alley – Production Design: Tamara Deverell; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau
  • The Power of the Dog – Production Design: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Amber Richards
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth – Production Design: Stefan Dechant; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
  • West Side Story – Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo

As was the case with the Sound category, the Production Design played an integral role in bringing the visual majesty of Arrakis to life. Dune has got potential to completely sweep through these production/technical categories, and given it has picked up a couple of the precursors, I think it will do so. However, there could be some surprises and one such surprise could be here as Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. The fact it did get into the Best Picture race shows there is support for it out there among the voters and if the Academy wants to spread the love, then this could be the opportunity for them to do so.

Will Win: Dune

Should Win: Dune

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Cinematography

  • Dune Greig Fraser
  • Nightmare Alley Dan Laustsen
  • The Power of the Dog Ari Wegner
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth Bruno Delbonnel
  • West Side StoryJanusz Kaminski

Five absolutely immaculately shot films makes this an insanely hard category to predict, as any of these cinematographers would be worthy of winning this award. Ari Wegner makes history as the second woman to be nominated in this category following Rachel Morrison’s ground-breaking nomination for Mudbound at the 90th Academy Awards, but it could have been even better had Claire Mathon also been nominated for Spencer. A triumph for Wegner would be a welcome (and long overdue) victory. However, given that he’s recently captured plaudits for his magnificent work in The Batman, it could tip the scales in Greig Fraser’s favour.

Will Win: Dune 

Should Win:  Dune

Should have been nominated: Claire Mathon for Spencer or Linus Sandgren for No Time To Die

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Coming 2 AmericaMike Marino, Stacey Morris, and Carla Farmer
  • CruellaNadia Stacey, Naomi Donne, and Julia Vernon
  • Dune Donald Mowat, Love Larson, and Eva von Bahr
  • The Eyes of Tammy Faye Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram, and Justin Raleigh
  • House of GucciGöran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock, and Frederic Aspiras

As impressive as the make-up and hairstyling work in films like House of Gucci and The Eyes of Tammy Faye is, when you realise the amount of work that was required to transform Stellan Skarsgard into the villainous Baron Harkonnen in Dune, this should be a no-brainer, but if Best Actress goes in a certain direction (more on that later), this could go in a different direction.

Will Win:  The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Should Win: Dune

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Costume Design

  • Cruella – Jenny Beavan
  • CyranoMassimo Cantini Parrini
  • DuneJacqueline West and Bob Morgan
  • Nightmare AlleyLuis Sequeira
  • West Side StoryPaul Tazewell

There’s some really impressive work across this category, but Cruella has been sweeping this category and those flashy and colourful dresses will power Jenny Beaven to her third Oscar.

Will Win: Cruella

Should Win: Cruella

Should have been nominated: Janty Yates for The Last Duel

Best Film Editing

  • Don’t Look UpHank Corwin
  • Dune Joe Walker
  • King Richard Pamela Martin
  • The Power of the DogPeter Sciberras
  • tick, tick… BOOM!Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum

Editing and the now lone sound categories often go hand-in-hand with each other, so with that in mind, Dune should be locked. Yet, Pamela Martin took home the American Cinema Editor Award in the Drama category for her work in King Richard. Meanwhile, tick, tick… BOOM! triumphed in the Comedy or Musical category, which puts it in contention. However, the lack of a Best Picture nom will probably count against the latter. Dune’s desert power will see it triumph in a number of technical categories, but the wonderful work of Pamela Martin with the tennis scenes in King Richard was absolutely pulsating to watch.

Game. Set, and the Oscar goes to King Richard.

Will Win:  King Richard 

Should Win: King Richard

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel

Best Visual Effects

  • DunePaul Lambert, Tristen Myles, Brian Connor, and Gerd Nefzer
  • Free GuySwen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis, and Dan Sudick
  • No Time to DieCharlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner, and Chris Corbould
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker, and Dan Oliver
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein, and Dan Sudick

With its status as the lone Best Picture nominee here, and an enthralling combination of practical and visual effects, there’s nothing stopping Dune, not even an itsy bitsy Spider-Man.

Will Win: Dune 

Should Win: Dune

Should have been nominated: The Suicide Squad

Best Director

  • Kenneth Branagh Belfast
  • Ryusuke HamaguchiDrive My Car
  • Paul Thomas AndersonLicorice Pizza
  • Jane CampionThe Power of the Dog
  • Steven SpielbergWest Side Story

At the 66th Academy Awards, Campion and Spielberg went head to head in this category for Schindler’s List and The Piano respectively, with Spielberg emerging victorious. Though this time, with The Power of The Dog emerging as this year’s frontrunner, Campion is the heavy favourite to triumph here, even with some controversy following her completely unnecessary remarks against Venus and Serena Williams at the Critics Choice. ‘

This is one category where CODA cannot stop The Power of the Dog. If Campion does triumph, it would make her the third woman to win this award, and the first time two women have won this award in consecutive years. However, the absurdity of nominating Dune for just about everything else, except for the guy whose vision made it all possible is absolute madness. Hopefully, the Academy is keeping this award safe for Villeneuve for when the time comes to honour Dune: Part Two.

Will Win: Jane Campion

Should Win: Jane Campion

Could have been nominated: Denis Villeneuve for Dune

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Javier BardemBeing the Ricardos
  • Benedict CumberbatchThe Power of the Dog
  • Andrew Garfieldtick, tick… BOOM! 
  • Will SmithKing Richard
  • Denzel WashingtonThe Tragedy of Macbeth

Throughout this awards season, there have been four names consistently cropping up in this race: Cumberbatch, Garfield, Smith and Washington. All of whom are thoroughly deserving of their nominations. Washington’s performance in Macbeth is strong, but it’s not the finest performance of his career. Whereas for Cumberbatch and Garfield, this is most definitely the case. Similarly, Smith’s turn as Richard Williams, also represents some of his finest ever work.

The question as to who that fifth nominee could be was the source of much speculation. Given that the aforementioned four gentlemen have all been nominated before, there was an opportunity to hand someone their first-time nomination. Newcomer Jude Hill’s sweet and impactful debut performance in Belfast or to give Peter Dinklage’s beautiful performance in Cyrano would both have been very well deserved recipients of that nomination. Performances from giant blockbusters seldom cross into the Oscars, but a nomination for Daniel Craig for his final bow as James Bond in No Time To Die would also have been a worthy nominee. Instead, it feels like the Academy would have been a more worthy nomination than Bardem’s turn in Being the Ricardos, a nomination that’s just so safe and boring, that it’s extremely unsatisfying.

Yet irrespective of who that fifth nominee was in the end, it matters not because it will be the third time’s the charm for Will Smith, as nothing will stop him from collecting his first Oscar for his magnificent work portraying Richard Williams in King Richard

Will Win: Will Smith

Should Win: Will Smith

Should have been nominated: Jude Hill for Belfast or Peter Dinklage for Cyrano 

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Jessica ChastainThe Eyes of Tammy Faye
  • Olivia ColmanThe Lost Daughter
  • Penélope CruzParallel Mothers
  • Nicole KidmanBeing the Ricardos
  • Kristen StewartSpencer

Last year, this award was one of the most exciting and unpredictable races, and it looks like history is repeating itself. This year’s race is proving to be equally chaotic. With no one having the advantage of their film being a Best Picture nominee, it’s an extremely open race. However, unlike last year, this particular race feels quite weak by comparison.

Ever since Spencer first screened, Stewart was widely seen as the frontrunner, and fully deservingly so for her mesmerising and transformative turn as Princess Diana. Yet that early momentum evaporated, and there were question marks as to whether she would even secure that nomination, which would have been one of the biggest snubs in Oscars history. Cruz’s work in Parallel Mothers was a deeply powerful performance that even without their films getting Best Picture nominations, and also without picking up any of the precursor nominations, these performances are thoroughly deserving of their nominations. Jessica Chastain certainly goes all in with her Eyes of Tammy Faye performance, but ultimately it feels like a performance that’s a bit too flashy and is a case of style over substance.

Kidman’s nomination is probably the most deserving out of the three Ricardos nominations, but likewise, with her two co-stars, her nomination feels so uninspiring due to the sheer blandness of the film around her. The Academy clearly loves Olivia Colman, and while she was good in The Lost Daughter, she has definitely put in better performances in her career. Ultimately, the nominations of Colman and Kidman feel like nominations that are based purely on their name, and that’s really disappointing as the Academy really should have recognised the work from some of the Best Picture nominees, like Rachel Zegler from West Side Story or Emilia Jones from CODA, both of whom were far more deserving of nominations than Colman or Kidman.

But, like Will Smith, this is Chastain’s third nomination. She’s picked up a couple of the precursor awards, and if Tammy Faye takes home the Hair and Makeup Oscar, this could align for the first Oscar for Chastain. But honestly, it’s anyone’s guess.

However, what also really stings is the lack of nominations for actresses Jodie Comer and Tessa Thompson, whose fierce and powerful performances in films like The Last Duel and Passing respectively both utterly blow the majority of the competition out of the water.

Will Win: Jessica Chastain

Should Win: Kristen Stewart

Should have been nominated: Jodie Comer for The Last Duel, Tessa Thompson for Passing or Emilia Jones for CODA

And, last and certainly by no means least…

Best Picture

  • BelfastLaura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik, and Tamar Thomas
  • CODA – Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi, and Patrick Wachsberger
  • Don’t Look UpAdam McKay and Kevin Messick
  • Drive My CarTeruhisa Yamamoto
  • DuneMary Parent, Denis Villeneuve, and Cale Boyter
  • King RichardTim White, Trevor White, and Will Smith
  • Licorice PizzaSara Murphy, Adam Somner, and Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Nightmare AlleyGuillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale, and Bradley Cooper
  • The Power of the DogJane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Roger Frappier
  • West Side StorySteven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger

Click here to see my ranking of the Best Picture contenders.

It’s so pleasing to see the Academy complete the full set by giving ten films their moment in the spotlight, though some are far less deserving than others in this regard. It’s a joy to see such a mainstream juggernaut like Dune be a fierce competitor, and while it would be my choice this year, one hopes that the Academy will bestow all the awards when the time comes to honour Dune: Part Two. Parasite’s victory two years ago has opened doors for international features, and so it’s a joy to see films like Drive My Car get in the Best Picture race, though it will be great when there’s more than one international film in the race.

Netflix has been fiercely competing for its first Best Picture win over these last few years, and despite making a plethora of amazing films to try and bag that elusive Best Picture Oscar, it has not yet happened. With the most nominees this year, it was looking likely for a while that The Power of the Dog would become the first Netflix film to take home the Best Picture statute. However, Apple TV’s CODA has emerged at what has felt like at the last minute to potentially rain on Netflix’s parade.  The fact that these two films are the front runners, and that they’re both directed by women, is worthy of celebration. This really could go either way.

Will Win:  CODA 

Should Win: Dune 

Should have been nominated: The Last Duel and Passing 

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Final counts

Will win:

  • Dune – 5
  • CODA – 3
  • Eyes of Tammy Faye – 2
  • King Richard – 2 
  • Belfast – 1
  • Cruella -1 
  • Drive My Car – 1
  • Encanto – 1
  • No Time To Die – 1
  • The Power of the Dog – 1
  • West Side Story -1

Should win:

  • Dune – 8
  • CODA – 2
  • King Richard – 2 
  • Belfast -1
  • Cruella – 1 
  • Drive My Car – 1
  • Encanto – 1
  • Mitchells vs The Machines -1
  • Spencer – 1
  • West Side Story – 1