This awards season has been 1) INTERMINABLE, and 2) CHAOTIC. Dramatic momentum shifts, wild nominations at precursor award shows, races too close to call—these Oscars are so chaotic, they should be called the Chaoscars .
Predicting Oscar wins is tougher than usual for a number of reasons, ranging from the ongoing pandemic still resulting in hurly-burly film releases and questions about what and how much the Academy has actually seen, to the recently expanded membership still being a question mark when it comes to taste, to the general air of chaos all awards season resulting in dramatic momentum shifts and truly unpredictable categories (plus this year is the return the ten-film Best Picture category). Generally, when I do this, I attempt to think like an Oscar voter, considering not what I WANT to win, but how I think the Academy will vote given their history and taste. This year, the Oscars feel like a busted March Madness bracket, and I’m tempted to just make my picks as chaotic as possible, in the hopes that the Oscars deliver maximum drama. I shall try to control myself, and make earnest picks, but just know I am rooting for chaos to consume us all on Sunday night.
However this turns out, I suspect it’s a close vote. The Power of the Dog was the presumptive favorite for much of the season, but CODA peaked at the right time, and it has the benefit of being a feel-good film at a time when people are looking for uplifting escapism. That will leave a good impression that lingers in voters’ minds. Just don’t call it Green Book.
Upset: The Power of the Dog
Dark Horse: King Richard
Don't Look Up
Drive My Car
West Side Story
Despite recent controversy, this is still Jane Campion’s to lose, which would make her just the third woman to win, and the first time—if she does win—Best Director will be handed from one woman to another.
Favorite: Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Upset: Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Dark Horse: Steven Spielberg – West Side Story
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car
I just can’t shake the feeling Penelope Cruz is going to shock us all, and truly make these the Chaoscars.
Favorite: Penelope Cruz – Parallel Mothers
Upset: Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Dark Horse: Kristen Stewart – Spencer
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos
Will Smith is virtually unstoppable at this point.
Favorite: Will Smith – King Richard
Upset: Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
Dark Horse: Andrew Garfield – tick, tick…Boom!
Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth
Javier Bardem – Being the Ricardos
Best Supporting Actor
The two safest bets in your Oscar pool are Troy Kotsur…
Favorite: Troy Kotsur – CODA
Upset: Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog
Dark Horse: Ciaran Hinds – Belfast
Jesse Plemons – The Power of the Dog
J.K. Simmons – Being the Ricardos
Best Supporting Actress
…and Ariana DeBose.
Favorite: Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Upset: Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Dark Horse: Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog
Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter
Judi Dench – Belfast
Best Original Screenplay
This is another category I suspect is close, and despite Don’t Look Up winning the WGA award, I suspect it comes down to PTA and Sir Kenneth.
Favorite: Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Upset: Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Dark Horse: Joachim Trier and Eksil Vogt – The Worst Person in the World
Aaron Sorkin and David Sirota – Don’t Look Up
Zach Baylin – King Richard
Best Adapted Screenplay
This is one of the most chaotic, too close to call categories, but it is also a preview of Best Picture. The screenplay awards are usually handed out early in the show, and if CODA loses, it’s over for its Best Picture hopes, but if it wins, Best Picture will be a nail-biter.
Favorite: Sian Heder – CODA
Upset: Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Dark Horse: Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth – Dune
Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe – Drive My Car
This is one of the categories being handed out before the telecast starts, but it is also one of the tightest races going into Oscar night. In olden times, Best Editing and Best Picture usually went hand-in-hand, but with ten nominees for Best Picture and only five here, there will likely be more splits between those categories, as I am expecting this year.
Favorite: Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum – tick, tick…BOOM!
Upset: Joe Walker – Dune
Dark Horse: Hank Corwin – Don’t Look Up
Pamela Martin – King Richard
Peter Sciberras – The Power of the Dog
Should she win, Ari Wegner would be the first woman to win this category, but Greig Fraser, who also lensed The Batman, has been building momentum over the last month. Given that he did back-to-back super stylish blockbusters, a feat his peers recognize, I think he has the edge.
Favorite: Greig Fraser – Dune
Upset: Ari Wegner – The Power of the Dog
Dark Horse: Janusz Kaminski – West Side Story
Dan Laustsen – Nightmare Alley
Bruno Delbonnel – The Tragedy of Macbeth
Hans Zimmer is the favorite, despite being name-checked in an exposé of how top score composers use musical ghostwriters to pump out their movie scores. That might account for why so much of Zimmer’s music over the last twenty years sounds the same.
Favorite: Hans Zimmer – Dune
Upset: Jonny Greenwood – The Power of the Dog
Dark Horse: Germaine Franco – Encanto
Nicholas Britell – Don’t Look Up
Alberto Iglesias – Parallel Mothers
Best Original Song
It feels weird to go against Beyoncé, but Bond songs are pretty much automatic wins, even when they’re not good, and “No Time To Die” is pretty good, and the Encanto soundtrack has been topping the charts for months, giving it the pop edge (plus it has the Lin-Manuel Miranda boost).
Favorite: “No Time To Die” – No Time To Die
Upset: “Dos Oruguitas” – Encanto
Dark Horse: “Be Alive” – King Richard
“Down To Joy” – Belfast
“Somehow You Do” – Four Good Days
Best Costume Design
This will be Jenny Bevan’s third Oscar.
Dark Horse: Dune
West Side Story
Best International Film
The time for Drive My Car to shine.
Favorite: Drive My Car
Upset: The Worst Person in the World
Dark Horse: Flee
The Hand of God
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom
Best Animated Feature Film
The category I jokingly call “Pixar’s Annual Oscar” is one of the most chaotic of the year and is not a lock for Pixar.
Upset: The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Dark Horse: Flee
Raya and the Last Dragon
Best Documentary Feature Film
Questlove’s Summer of Soul is great and lauded, but triple-nominee Flee feels like the best fit to win in this category.
Upset: Summer of Soul (Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Dark Horse: Attica
Writing With Fire
These are all solid nominations, but once again it’s probably going to the big action movie, it’s just a question of Dune or Bond, and I lean Dune because of the combination of action and contemplative sequences that made for an interesting quiet-loud balance.
Upset: No Time To Die
Dark Horse: West Side Story
The Power of the Dog
Best Production Design
The craft categories are where Dune will shine.
Upset: Nightmare Alley
Dark Horse: West Side Story
The Power of the Dog
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
This is another category that I suspect is closer than we’d expect. Tammy Faye is obvious, given the sheer amount of prosthetics and wiggery, but while Coming 2 America is a garbage movie, it has a distinctive visual style and elaborate individual looks.
Favorite: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Upset: Coming 2 America
Dark Horse: Cruella
House of Gucci
Best Visual Effects
One thing to know about this category is that despite being nominated virtually every year since 2009, Marvel has never won a VFX Oscar, not even for Black Panther, which won in other craft categories. The Marvel bias is real and will favor Dune.
Upset: Spider-Man: No Way Home
Dark Horse: Free Guy
No Time to Die
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Best Animated Short Film
Ah, the shorts, the categories most likely to f-ck up your Oscar pool.
Favorite: Robin Robin
Dark Horse: The Windshield Wiper
Affairs of the Art
Best Live Action Short Film
Favorite: The Long Goodbye
Upset: The Dress
Dark Horse: Ala Kachuu - Take and Run
On My Mind
Best Documentary Short Film
Favorite: The Queen of Basketball
Dark Horse: Three Songs for Benazir
Lead Me Home
When We Were Bullies