The 94th Annual Academy Awards will be handed out on Sunday night March 27 on ABC and I suspect more surprises will happen this year than any in recent memory.
“The Power Of The Dog” leads all nominations with 12, followed by “Dune” with 10, along with “Belfast” and “West Side Story,” with 7 each.
Most film critics assume Jane Campions’ artistic, slow-burning, bullying cowboy movie will sweep most of the major categories but the recent SAG Awards would beg to differ.
There is also a momentum shift that happens when front runners are announced early and this year audiences and some critics have been quite vocal about their love for “CODA” and “West Side Story.”
To be honest, I’m clueless in a few places but will try and offer some educated insight into the top six categories. The field is wide open.
Best Supporting Actress
My personal choice is Ariana DeBose for playing Anita in “West Side Story,” a film miserably overlooked in the acting category and deserving of at least two or three more nominations including Mike Faist (Riff), Rachel Zegler (Maria), David Alvarez (Bernardo), and possibly Rita Moreno (Valentina).
Ariana wins on Oscar night for her singing, acting, dancing, and all-around character development in a stunning Spielberg film.
This is a wide-open category and a month ago I would have said, Kristen Stewart, should win for playing a sullen, heartbroken Lady Diana in “Spencer.” Then I moved on to Olivia Coleman playing the brutally honest mother in, “The Lost Daughter.” It’s a great part handled with sadness and respect by a great Oscar-winning actress.
Today, I’m rooting for Jessica Chastain to win her first Oscar for playing the slightly unaware evangelical grifter, Tammy Faye Baker, in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” She gives a committed, all-in performance that carries a film of sheer lunacy and earnest dedication. The bizarre musical numbers alone make this a must-see.
On Oscar night The Best Actress award is a toss-up.
Best Supporting Actor
A month ago I would have bet the ranch on Kodi Smit-McPhee winning this award for playing the lanky, scheming son who will do anything to protect his mother in, “The Power Of The Dog.”
It’s a great performance in a complicated, artistic, well-directed film.
Today, I’m, convinced the Oscar in this category goes to, Troy Kotsur, for his engaging, compassionate performance as the deaf father to a hearing music-minded daughter in, “CODA.”
The momentum towards “CODA” has shifted to become a serious contender here as well as for Best Picture despite only 3 nominations.
The more I study this film the more I’m convinced Kotsur not only wins but deserves the award.
Benedict Cumberbatch is likely to win this year’s “Best Actor” Oscar for playing the bully cowboy holding on to endless secrets in “The Power Of The Dog,” and I’m fine if it happens. Cumberbatch has been first-rate on film for years and this performance is a stand-out.
But secretly, I think Will Smith has a good chance for an upset for his performance as the intense, difficult, well-meaning father to young tennis greats Venus and Serena in, “King Richard.” It’s a towering performance and a stark contrast in style and method to Cumberbatch. One is subtle and steaming, the other is aggressive and unapologetic.
Cumberbatch likely wins
Jane Campion will win the Oscar for directing “The Power of The Dog.” It’s a perfect film where every shot, every move, every edit has a reason and a purpose. There is not a loose-fitting moment in her film that is so tightly wound it gets better on the second viewing.
Personally, I think Spielberg’s direction in, “West Side Story,” is as good as movie-making rarely gets. A tour de force of camera work, directing style, choices made, musical prowess, it’s a stunning film. It’s his first musical and fits nicely in the legendary Spielberg canon.
Spielberg won’t win on Oscar night because Campion just received the DGA Award for “The Power of The Dog.”
With Jane Campion winning the Oscar for Best Director, and with 12 nominations, it seems clear that “The Power of The Dog,” is the clear front runner for Best Picture.
It’s also a film not wildly loved by audiences opening the door for the late momentum provided by both “West Side Story” and “CODA.”
Don’t get me wrong, I admire “The Power of The Dog,’ and consider it to be a monumental study of mood, environment, behavior, and shot selection.
But damn, “West Side Story” is so good, so well made, so filled with talent and energy I couldn’t take my eyes off it for a second.
It’s far superior to “CODA,” which I also admire in its mainstream skin.
“The Power of The Dog” wins with “Wes Side Story” and CODA,’” nipping at its heels.
- Gary Cogill