Ah, the Oscars.
Come Sunday, the smile perched on my face will be visible from space as I tune in for the three-hour ceremony on Monday at 1 a.m. GMT in my London flat.
This year’s festivities bring with them interesting changes. For the first time since Jimmy Kimmel in 2018, there will be a host for the evening’s proceedings. Actually, make that three hosts: Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes.
Despite having more hosts, there’ll be fewer awards to present, as the academy has made the (distasteful) decision to not televise eight of the night’s 23 award presentations.
But, alas, there will still be winners and losers — both deserved and undeserved. Here’s who I think will come out on top at the 94th Annual Academy Awards.
Best Picture: “The Power of the Dog”
Of the movies nominated for the award this year, I would give “Drive My Car" this award for its beauty and unbelievably intricate screenplay.
But, since this is the academy, “The Power of the Dog” will be the film to actually win the award. Not that it doesn’t deserve it. It’s a beautiful, nuanced story chock full of great performances and visuals. Though I’d love a “Parasite”sort of upset for Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s three-hour odyssey, it probably won’t happen this year.
Directing: Jane Campion
This is another one of those, “But ‘Drive My Car’ is better!” cries the academy will ignore. Hamaguchi’s insane camera work in “Drive My Car" immerses the viewer through physical and emotional landscapes that his characters occupy in a way that feels raw and inspired. He should win.
But Campion is the favorite here, and not without reason. She manages to do the same, but the impact of her work is far more fleeting than Hamaguchi’s.
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Will Smith
Despite being very obvious Oscar bait, Will Smith’s performance in “King Richard” was phenomenal. His portrayal as the father of the legendary Serena and Venus Williams lends tremendous emotional depth to a film that otherwise would’ve been lost without him. I think he has good chances of narrowly beating out Benedict Cumberbatch, who was nominated for his layered performance in “The Power of the Dog.”
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Jessica Chastain
I only saw “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” to see what all the buzz around Chastain’s performance was about. It was worth it.
Chastain not only captures the innocence and naivete of a young Tammy Faye Messner, she brings to life the maturation and emotional awakening Faye experienced throughout her toxic relationship with television preacher Jim Bakker.
Best Supporting Actor: Troy Kotsur
Kotsur's performance in “CODA” was unbelievably impressive. He was able to communicate more emotion and tenderness than any other actor on this list. Not to mention that he's deaf, and was able to do all that that without words.
This man made me cry. All by himself. Twice.
And while Kodi Smit-McPhee put up a good fight in "The Power of the Dog," I think Kotsur's done enough for the upset.
Best Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose
Playing a great Anita in “West Side Story” is one thing. Delivering a performance so full of passion and energy that it outshined Rita Moreno’s Anita from the original 1961 film? This one’s a lock.
Animated Feature Film: Encanto
This doesn’t deserve to win … or to finish second quite frankly. “The Mitchells vs the Machines” was a more creative and entertaining movie, while “Flee” told the beautiful yet tragic true story of immigrants fleeing war-torn Afghanistan in a truly innovative way.
But this is the academy we’re talking about. Naturally, they’ll give the half-decent, cookie-cutter Disney entry the Oscar.
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Power of the Dog”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “The Power of the Dog” deserves this, but “Drive My Car” deserves it more.
The former’s simultaneous playfulness and candor of its writing give the film a considerable edge and delivers a great twist leading into its final act. But it’s the latter’s meticulous construction of a seamless narrative, fraught with brilliantly subtle foreshadowing and insightful commentary on emotional vulnerability, that sets it apart. I fear the academy is going to get this one wrong, too.
Best Original Screenplay: “The Worst Person in the World”
This is one of the fiercest competitions of the night.
Paul Thomas Anderson is a master of crafting larger-than-life characters and immersing them in a world of their own with his writing. But the sheer sincerity of "Worst" and its existential yet comedic narrative might have him beat.
Other notable awards
For the non-major awards, you may see “Dune” come up quite a bit.
It’s likely to dominate the technical awards, with the audio-visual feast it offers being impressive even outside of the movie theater setting that suits it so well. It’s even likely to win the Oscar for best score, beating out my favorite in the category, Jonny Greenwood’s music for “The Power of the Dog.”
It’ll be nice to see Questlove win for his directorial debut “Summer of Soul,” which should take home the award for best documentary feature, and to see who emerges from the dogfight for Best Cinematography — where any of the films nominated could conceivably take home the Oscar.
Yet, it’ll be a shame to see “Flee” come away from the night empty-handed, especially as it faces unbelievably stiff competition in “Drive My Car” for best international feature.
Cinematography: “The Power of the Dog”
Costume Design: “Dune”
Documentary Feature: “Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
Film Editing: “Dune”
International Feature Film: “Drive My Car”
Original Score: “Dune”
Original Song: “Be Alive,” from “King Richard”
Production Design: “Dune”
Visual Effects: “Dune”
The 94th Annual Academy Awards will air live on ABC at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday, March 27.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.