Thursday, March 24, 2022

94th Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

This Sunday it's the 94th Annual Academy Awards, and unlike last year's COVID edition, this one should feel a lot closer to normal.  Thank god for that, last year's show was pretty flat and forgettable, particularly given the order in which the trophies were doled out.  Let's get back on the clock, shall we?

I've only seen half of the Best Picture nominees so far, but I'm hoping to add at least a couple more before the weekend.  We'll see.

Best Picture

Don't Look Up
Drive My Car
King Richard
Licorice Pizza
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story

Justin: Anywho, the field this year is quite varied, particularly in the all-important Best Pic category, where we have drama, mystery, sci-fi, satire and a musical.  I like it when numerous genres are represented, one of the benefits of up to ten nominees being considered.  Of the five films I've seen (Dune, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog and West Side Story), I think my sentimental favorite is Dune, being a huge fan of both Frank Herbert's complex sci-fi universe and Denis Villeneuve's superb first-half adaptation.  As for which film was actually the best of the five, I think I'd go with Guillermo Del Toro's atmospheric, intense noir remake Nightmare Alley.  As for which film is going to win, I'd say it's between the longtime odds-on favorite and Golden Globe winning The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion's oppressive western drama, and the recent PGA winner CODA, a dramedy about growing up with deaf parents.  I could see CODA pull an upset, but I guess I'll go with the safer bet.

Pick: The Power of the Dog

Mike: I've only seen two of the nominees this year (Dune and Don't Look Up) which has been my worst year yet when it comes to movies. I'm not sure how on God's green Earth Don't Look Up nabbed a nomination but whatever. Probably because of the cast. Anyways, this category is a very interesting and close one to watch. The buzz has been tilting in favor of The Power of the Dog but CODA walked away with the SAG and PGA and that's not a bad place to be since only two movies have nabbed both and lost the Best Picture Oscar. The dark horse is Belfast but I don't see that happening. So, let's make our picks just as interesting shall we?

Pick: Coda

Best Director

Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Steven Spielberg – West Side Story

Justin: Man would I love to see Paul Thomas Anderson pick up a Best Director award; he's made three masterpieces by my count and his latest offering is another strong entry in a unique filmography.  But Jane Campion has to be considered basically a lock to win this.  And it will be well-deserved; her work here was stunning.

Pick: Jane Campion

Mike: I don't think anyone's stopping Jane Campion from claiming this trophy so let's go on a rant. Has Steven Spielberg become the Meryl Streep of Oscar nominations. The guy re-does a classic film and that's grounds for nomination. Why, because there's dancing and singing involved? Give me a break. After seeing The Master and being completely bored out of my mind, Paul Thomas Anderson can go pound sand as far as I'm concerned. If anyone deserves this Oscar, other than Jane, it's Ryusuke Hamaguchi. 

Pick: Jane Campion

Justin: PTA can pound sand??

Best Actor

Javier Bardem – Being the Ricardos as Desi Arnaz
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog as Phil Burbank
Andrew Garfield – Tick, Tick... Boom! as Jonathan Larson
Will Smith – King Richard as Richard Williams
Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth as Lord Macbeth

Justin: Helluva field here, with loads of top-notch talent.  Sadly I've only seen one of these performances so far.  Will Smith has the momentum and the buzz for his portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams' father in King Richard, so he's the obvious pick.  It'll be nice to see such an accomplished actor finally get the elusive Oscar.

Pick: Will Smith

Mike: There's quite a few choices amongst these nominees that deserve this Oscar. How do you say no to Denzel or Javier or Benedict for that matter. Andrew Garfield is bound to get an acting Oscar someday, but it's not now. Will Smith has been Oscar hunting for a while now with Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness and I think it pays off now. 

Pick: Will Smith

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye as Tammy Faye Bakker
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter as Leda Caruso
Penélope Cruz – Parallel Mothers as Janis Martínez Moreno
Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos as Lucille Ball
Kristen Stewart – Spencer as Diana, Princess of Wales

Justin: And I haven't seen any of these.  Just disgraceful on my part.  I am looking forward to The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Being the Ricardos and Spencer in particular.  Like Will Smith, Jessica Chastain has been racking up the accolades so she has to be favored.  No complaints here, I heart Jessica.

Pick: Jessica Chastain

Mike: I'm actually a big fan of every one on this list so it's difficult to play favorites. Kristen Stewart, in my opinion, put on an acting masterclass with her performance in Spencer. It's her best work to date so it's kind of a shame that this Oscar won't be going her way. The buzz has been around Jessica Chastain which is certainly deserving based on her performance in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. It's difficult to see someone else taking on that role and knocking it out of the park like she did.

Pick: Jessica Chastain

Best Supporting Actor

Ciarán Hinds – Belfast as Pop
Troy Kotsur – CODA as Frank Rossi
Jesse Plemons – The Power of the Dog as George Burbank
J. K. Simmons – Being the Ricardos as William Frawley
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog as Peter Gordon

Justin: The two Power of the Dog actors are the only ones I've seen here.  J. K. Simmons is always great so it's nice to see him get another nod.  Ciaran Hinds is a longtime unsung hero.  Literally the only thing I've seen Troy Kotsur in is an episode of The Mandalorian, where he plays a Tusken Raider.  But he's got the momentum going into this ceremony and I think he's taking it home.

Pick: Troy Kotsure

Mike: I'm a big Jesse Plemons fan and think he's been severely underrated. It's nice to see him get some recognition here even though his stint on Breaking Bad has haunted my dreams since, I will always cheer for him. But, you're right, the buzz has been going Troy's way and it's difficult to see this going to anyone else.

Pick: Troy Kotsure

Best Supporting Actress

Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter as Young Leda Caruso
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story as Anita
Judi Dench – Belfast as Granny
Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog as Rose Gordon
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard as Oracene "Brandy" Price

Justin: Hey, I've seen two of these as well!  Kirsten Dunst delivers a career highlight in an understated Power of the Dog performance dripping with sadness, while Ariana DeBose gave us a new spin on the legendary Anita character in West Side Story, lighting up the screen every time she was present.  She's the heavy favorite here so I'm picking her.

Pick: Ariana DeBose

Mike: Yeah, everything is coming up Oscar for Ariana DeBose for her performance of Anita. This one is a lock.

Pick: Ariana DeBose

Best Original Screenplay

Belfast – Kenneth Branagh
Don't Look Up – Adam McKay
King Richard – Zach Baylin
Licorice Pizza – Paul Thomas Anderson
The Worst Person in the World – Eskil Vogt & Joachim Trier

Justin: Okay, here's where I think PTA gets rewarded.  His surprisingly sweet coming of age story Licorice Pizza is full of his usual witty dialogue and quirky scenes, and I think it will be enough to propel him to his first screenwriting Oscar.

Pick: Paul Thomas Anderson

Mike: It's a two horse race in this category and PTA could very well grab this one. The movie seems a little off kilter and the Academy loves that. They also love tried and true and Kenneth Branagh is certainly that. Belfast seems to me the winner here.

Pick: Kenneth Branagh

Best Adapted Screenplay

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

Justin: This is a tough one like Best Picture, because it's likely down to either The Power of the Dog or CODA, and I think the two films will split these two awards.  But in the interest of hedging my bets I think I'll pick POTD here as well.  That way I'm likely to win one of them.

Pick: Jane Campion

Mike: Yeah, your strategy works for me too. 

Pick: Sian Heder

Best Cinematography

Dune – Greig Fraser
Nightmare Alley – Dan Laustsen
The Power of the Dog – Ari Wegner
The Tragedy of Macbeth – Bruno Delbonnel
West Side Story – Janusz Kamiński

Justin: I've actually seen four of these, and all four featured spectacular cinematography.  But one stood above the others, and was photographed by the same man who shot the new Batman film (a major photographical achievement in its own right and one we'll hopefully be discussing in this spot next year).  The winner will be Greig Fraser for Dune, a veritable visual feast.

Pick: Greig Fraser

Mike: There are certain things in life you shouldn't do: 1) tug on Superman's cape, 2) spit into the wind, 3)  pull the mask off that old lone ranger, and 4) bet against a Denis Villeneuve film in the Best Cinematography category.

Pick: Greig Fraser

Best Original Score

Don't Look Up – Nicholas Britell
Dune – Hans Zimmer
Encanto – Germaine Franco
Parallel Mothers – Alberto Iglesias
The Power of the Dog – Jonny Greenwood

Justin: Lots of great talent here as well, from the authentic strains of Encanto to the foreboding work by Jonny Greenwood.  But again, one name stands above the rest, and that name is Hans Zimmer, who not only created a hugely memorable musical backdrop but did so by inventing new instruments to give the score an otherworldly feel.  This man is a true genius.

Pick: Hans Zimmer

Mike: See my explanation in the Best Cinematography category and apply it here but with Hans Zimmer.

Pick: Hans Zimmer

Tiebreaker: Best Animated Short Film

Affairs of the Art – Joanna Quinn & Les Mills
Bestia – Hugo Covarrubias & Tevo Díaz
BoxBallet – Anton Dyakov
Robin Robin – Dan Ojari & Mikey Please
The Windshield Wiper – Alberto Mielgo & Leo Sanchez

Justin: Never heard of any of these.  I'll go with.......Robin Robin.  The title so nice they named it twice.

Pick: Robin Robin

Mike: I'm unfamiliar with these as well so I'm going to go with the title that is the most straightforward and to the point.

Pick: The Windshield Wiper

And there you have it - enjoy the Oscars, and send me good karma so I can try and catch up in my years-long deficit against Mr. Drinan......

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