Analyzing A Wide Open Oscar Race

Oscar nominations are being announced this Tuesday, and while I’ve paid attention to this race, I’ve also learned how incredibly wide open it is, and there is sort of a anything can happen attitude among even the most stringent prognosticators. So, here are my thoughts on each of the major contenders. Shaking it up a bit with the format.

The Power Of The Dog: One thing everyone seems to agree on is that Jane Campion is headed for Oscar glory. Not only is she a lock for a nomination, but everyone believes she will win. Two back-to-back female director wins would be huge. I also think Kodi Smit-McPhee is ahead for Supporting Actor, and I expect nominations for Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst. Jesse Plemons is still in the running, but he’s on the bubble. Of course, Best Picture, Cinematography, Editing, and Score, plus probably Screenplay and all the other already listed noms will make TPOTD one of the most, if not the most nominated, film this year.

Dune: I will give this a rewatch at some point so I can review it officially, but I wasn’t a huge fan. Nonetheless, this is going to snag a ton of nominations it probably won’t win. Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Visual Effects, Score, and perhaps Adapted Screenplay and Costume Design or Hair and Makeup. no acting nominations. No one is even remotely in the race.

West Side Story: People are bouncing around on just how popular this will be. It is Spielberg, a musical, but it’s a remake. So it’s hard to really lock down. Yet I still consider it a lock for Best Picture, and Ariana DeBose is the front runner for Supporting Actress. Aside from that, its next likely nominations come from Cinematography, then perhaps Editing, Production Design, Hair and Makeup, Sound, and Spielberg for director. I think Rita Moreno has a shot, because she’s a legend, and how many more times will the Academy get with her? Being honest, never again. Mike Feist and Rachel Ziegler are likely to miss out. It’s funny how no one is talking about Ansel Elgort here.It’s like everyone but him has a shot.

Coda: The feel good film that has stuck around and is one that everyone loves. They all love it, some keep saying they hope it wins, but no one thinks it will. Still, I think that’s enough for it to get a Picture nomination, and it’s looking good for Screenplay and Supporting Actor. minimum of 3 nominations. If people really love Coda, Marlee Marlin in Supporting Actress and Amelia Jones in Lead could break through. I’m predicting both, but not everyone is. Director isn’t looking likely, and this film seems to have no traction in those tech categories.

King Richard: The consensus here is Will Smith wins his overdue Oscar finally. Riding off his performance, this will also be a Best Picture contender (it won’t win), and possibly Screenplay and Original Song. Aunjuane Ellis missed out on SAG, which everyone and their mother has pointed out angrily, which could lead to her sneaking back in. Director is highly unlikely. Expect at least 3 nominations, maybe as much as 5. I don’t see Jon Bernthal gettin in.

Belfast: Kenneth Branaugh’s deeply personal black and white Oscar bait was once the front runner, but has since cooled a bit. It’s not out, but it seems most people agree it’s going in the wrong direction. That could hurt some of its chances. I think it’s still a lock for Picture, but that would be weird if that was all it got. So what else? Director is likely, though not a lock. The biggest problem facing this film is that it has too many supporting performances in an already tight race. Will Ciarin Hines and Jamie Dornan both get in or cancel each other out? What about Caitrona Balfe and Jude Dench? Who gets in? Anyone? All? None? If the film is trending down, both would seem unlikely. Right now, I only have Hines, who has long been a dependable character actor,and I think more people will say its his time and he will manage a nomination. Below the line, Belfast isn’t really a lock for anything. I’d predict, once again, 4-5 nominations.

Tick Tick Boom: Lin Manuel’s directorial debut is still checking off boxes, even if it has missed some key precursors. The strongest case seems to be for Andrew Garfield in Actor, but it likely will be one of the ten in Best Picture. Miranda is in a far too crowded Director race. I think it misses out on screenplay. We’re looking at possibly a Best Picture contender with only 2 nominations, unless it comes through in sound.

Being The Ricardos: A film many people were thinking would get left out has been doing pretty well, and the Oscars love movies about Hollywood (hello Mank), and Aaron Sorkin has done really well in the Screenplay race (he won’t get a director nomination). Expect Nicole Kidman for sure, and probably Picture and Screenplay. If this truly is a rising tide, Javier Bardem is in for Best Actor, and we could be looking at Screenplay, and even Costume Design. Possible long shot nomination for JK Simmons in the crowded supporting actor racer. I’m predicting this is going to overperform, with 6 nominations, including Bardem and Simmons.

Licorice Pizza: A film everyone likes but no one thinks will win anything. It’s not a contender in any race. It’s just a really well liked film, and that could be a problem. I think Best Picture is still a lock, and it will have to get at least one other, so I’ll give it Screenplay. But I have this underperforming, with Paul Thomas Anderson just missing the Directors race, and no acting nominations. I’m going with only two, maybe a third for something like Editing.

Nightmare Alley: Guillermo Del toro’s remake didn’t do well at the box office, but if Oscar voters cared about dollars, most of our most recent winners would have lost. Nomadland barely made any money. It is still a very stylish, noir effort from a well respected director (who will likely miss out this year), and I have it in the Best Picture race. Sadly, no acting nominations, but it could clean up in technical categories, with Cinematography, Production Design, Editing, and maybe something else. Despite being a box office flop, Nightmare Alley could still get 4-5 nominations.

The Tragedy Of MacBeth: Did you know the BAFTAs have never nominated Denzel? He’s a two time Oscar winner, and even when he’s reading Shakespeare, they still left him out of the race. That’s a huge sign to me that this film isn’t registering like it should. It’s really just well adapted Shakespeare, and I have it missing out entirely this year. That’s right. No nominations for Joel Coen either. Not in directing or screenplay. Really, what would he be nominated for in Screenplay anyway? Copy/Pasting Shakespeare? You only get five slots, and you give a nomination to that? I wish Katherine Hunter was getting more attention, but she’s just not, and no one is talking about 3 time winner Frances mcDormand, likely because she’s won enough Oscars, and just won last year.

Don’t Look Up: You’d think that I’d be more hardcore on this film. It’s timely, everyone saw it on Netflix… so why am I predicting no Best Picture nomination? Well, international voters for one. Comedy doesn’t always translate well, and everyone votes for Best Picture. Selling a comedy here I think is harder than people are expecting. Also, it’s not really expected to do much else. The most likely nominations seem to be Original Song and Screenplay. Jennifer Lawrence is nowhere in this race, neither are Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, or Mark Rylance. There’s a tiny bit of buzz for DiCaprio, but it’s mostly DOA. I think this is going to surprise some people when it walks away with 2 nominations, neither in major categories.

House Of Gucci: What a polarizing film. I wish I had watched this already because I constantly see people saying the same things. People are begrudgingly including it in the Besst Picture race, like most people agree it shouldn’t be there. Lady Gaga has hit every precursor, and everyone says she’s great, but then they turn right around and make fun of Jared Leto while talking about Supporting Actor. Most seem to agree his accent was silly, and he benefitted from prosthetics. But after sneaking in with The Little Things, I guess they just assume he can always sneak in? Most seem to agree that Pacino had the better performance, but no one thinks one of our greatest living actors stands a shot. Watching people discuss this film is insane. I’m going to say MAYBE Lady Gaga, but if this film is this divisive, these races are wide open. And I can’t imagine people are rushing to give Gaga a makeup Oscar for her loss for A Star Is Born. I say its strongest chance for a nomination is Costume Design, and with that I’ll say 2-3 nominations.

The Last Duel: Sadly for Jodi Comer, this film has been shelved entirely in this race. I suppose that’s what you get when you have two Ridley Scott films against each other, you run with the one that made more at the box office. I’d love to see a nomination for Comer, but this films only shot seems to be Costume Design. Could Ridley Scott’s two films both walk away with only 1 nomination each, in the same category?

Mass: I said it in my review. I fully expect Oscar voters to snub this film. I know Ann Dowd just managed a BAFTA, and if she finally gets an Oscar nomination, I will wet myself with excitement. If we could also get Screenplay, and maybe even Jason Issacs… that would be even more amazing.

C’Mon C’Mon: A film loved by those who have seen it, though those who did keep mentioning it as being a dream nominee. Well, if it is a dream nominee for that many people, why is it a long shot? I think, and my Gold Derby prediction, is a jaw dropping nomination for Joaquin Phoenix (instead of Denzel) for Lead Actor, and a screenplay nomination for Mike mills.

The French Dispatch: Wes Anderson’s latest seems destined for some nominations. None of them in major categories. I’m leaning toward 3 nominations, Screenplay, Production Design, and Score, with outside shots at Cinematography and Editing.

Spencer: A big question mark right now is will Kristen Stewart get nominated for a film no one loved? But they love her? I think Stewart is up against Jessica Chastain, and I think she wins here because Diana is more recognizable to the international voters than Tammy Faye is, and that’s what I’ve been hearing. The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is uniquely American, and barely in the race. Spencer should land Kristen Stewart her first nomination, and perhaps might surprise in Costume Design.

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye: See above, mostly. I think Chastain, while remarkable, is in a tight race. And her film is really only being pushed for her, and Makeup. I think it gets makeup, but if we all got to see the voting results, Jessica Chastain would be 6th or 7th.

Cyrano: I see a lot of people trying to thrust Peter Dinklage into the Actor race, while admitting that they aren’t sure how many voters have actually seen his film. I think the studio gets punished for pushing back what would have been a strong contender in multiple categories, and I think Cyrano get snubbed.

The Tender Bar: A rising tide lifts all boats. Ben Affleck isn’t strong enough to life this film to anything, possibly not even his own Supporting Actor nomination. He’s long overdue, and that works in his favor, and he also was great this year in The Last Duel. Can he slide into that fifth spot?

Passing: An interesting film that came out a while ago, was never a major contender, and has remained somehow in contention. I think Oscar voters will shut both Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga out.

Respect: Best Original Song, sure. Jennifer Hudson? Maybe.

Drive My Car: This Japanese entry has everyone scratching their heads. It’s considered a very possible dark horse for Picture, but I’m going with obviously International Feature, and Best Director, where they have been increasingly welcoming to directors of non-English language titles.

Encanto: Expect 3 nominations, despite not having their strongest song in Original Song, it will still get in. As Will Animated Feature and Score.

Flee: Three nominations. I’m banking this does manage the impossible, and hits International Feature, Animated, and Documentary.

A Hero: Another International feature, backed by Amazon, from the same director who has already given us a few hits. I think he’ll sneak in the director race. I know, call me crazy, but I can totally see the branch nominating this Iranian director responsible for o past winners like A Separation. It’s time for Oskar Farsgardhi to get a nomination.

Cruella: Costume and Makeup.

No Time To Die: Original Song, maybe Screenplay, Visual Effects, or Sound.

Spider-Man; No Way Home: Visual Effects, Sound, and that’s gonna be it. Sorry sports fans.

As far as the rest, if I didn’t mention it, it probably isn’t getting a nomination, or it’s only getting one in a technical category (or like Olivia Coleman, in Acting). Good luck to all. This has been a weird year.

If I was predicting the winners right now in the six majors:

Best Picture: The Power Of The Dog

Best Director: Jane Campion, the Power Of the Dog

Best Actor: Will Smith, King Richard

Best Actresss: Nicole Kidman, Being The Ricardos

Best Supporting Actor: Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power Of The Dog

Best Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

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