As the year continues to lurch on and we fail to be wiped out by a disaster, either man-made or natural, we approach one of lifes few certainties; the Oscars will arrive and the nominations will be delighting, underwhelming and frustrating all at once. While we wait for the big moment to arrive in just six short days time, it’s fun to predict how disappointing the results will be. I do this every year and I’ll be honest, it’ll be hard to top the 100% success rate of last years predictions, especially with the very unpredictable slate of this year. This year though, you can still expect the usual mix of me grumbling about bad films doing well, sheepishly predicting incredible things for films I haven’t seen (but promise to have seen by the time of the final predictions) and then trying to push for some stuff that has no chance in hell in an awards ceremony not run by deviant freaks like myself. Buckle in, guess along and hope for the worst for Belfast with me!
Best Supporting Actor
Kodi Smit-McPhee for The Power of the Dog
Jamie Dornan for Belfast
Jared Leto for House of Gucci
Unlikely But Worthy:
Mike Faist for West Side Story
When it comes to Oscar predictions, the general stance I take is expect the worst but hope for the best. We will get to that corduroy elephant in the room in a moment. As for the other potential nominess, Kodi Smit-McPhee stands a chance at being nominated for The Power of the Dog, a film I have not seen. However, Netflix are putting its weight behind the film in marketing and Smit-McPhee fits the trend of being a young performer who could score a first nomination for a film that is well liked by many. Another classic narrative is the redemption arc, which Jamie Dornan could be looking for, bouncing back from the Fifty Shades films with Belfast. As you have probably worked out by now, I do not like Belfast, but Dornan is one of the few things I do like, his nomination would not be bad news at all. What would be bad news is Jared Leto getting nominated for his “work” on House of Gucci. I like the film more than most, but Leto seems to be deliberately sabotaging the film with his performance. And yet, his work is captivating people, he’s already picked up awards nominations, including from the prestigious Screen Actors Guild. Leto’s performance is the kind of one that should only get nominated when it’s a weak selection, but if he gets a nomination and Mike Faist doesn’t, something terrible has happened. West Side Story is a big film full of big performances, but I was swept away most by Faist. Every scene where he wasn’t on screen, I started to slip away. He is the heart of the film and should be recognised for his stellar work, more so than gibbering whale buffoon Jared Leto.
Best Supporting Actress
Ariana DeBose for West Side Story
Caitríona Balfe for Belfast
Kirsten Dunst for The Power of the Dog
Unlikely But Worthy:
Cate Blanchet for Nightmare Alley
I was just waxing lyrical about Mike Faist in West Side Story, but if I were to have a second favourite actor in the film, it would be Ariana DeBose. Again, it’s the narrative of a newcomer breaking onto the scene, but DeBose is sensational and lights up the screen with her singing, dancing and comparatively less flashy acting. Her expected nomination would be well deserved. Like with the supporting actor category, we can expect another appearance from Belfast in the form of Caitríona Balfe. She’s good, I guess. I dunno, it’s hard for me to talk about Belfast, such little about it inspires joy in me. This will just be another nomination for the pile. My final sure bet is Kirsten Dunst for The Power of the Dog. She’s in the classic category of being an actress away from the awards spotlight for a while (because no one saw her in Fargo apparently) and so no, I haven’t seen her film yet, but she’s reliably great in most stuff I’ve seen her in, I’ll predict a nomination for her. If I could squeeze another actress in, I’d go for Cate Blanchett in Nightmare Alley. This isn’t a totally unreasonable outcome but I think this and her role in Don’t Look Up will split votes, which is a huge shame because her work in Nightmare is some of the best she’s ever done. She’s a femme fatale who rips up the screen and casts this totally intoxicating sexual energy over Bradley Cooper’s character. I absolutely adore this performance, I want the best for Blanchett here, but I’ll settle for a Don’t Look Up nomination because it at least means more recognition for one of our great living actors.
Will Smith for King Richard
Benedict Cumberbatch for The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield for tick, tick… BOOM!
Unlikely But Worthy:
Nicolas Cage for Pig
There’s something about the Best Actor category which always seems to reward exactly the wrong kind of performances (looking at you Rami Malek and Gary Oldman) when there’s some brilliant and patient work out there. Case in point, Will Smith for King Richard. I found the film totally forgettable and I also wasn’t crazy on Smith, but it’s the closest he’s done to respectable work in a likable film in years, he’ll get a nomination. Benedict Cumberbatch will probably also get a nomination for The Power of the Dog because apparently every actor in this film will. He does an accent, it’s been a while since his last nomination, why not? And speaking of why not, who fancies a musical? Andrew Garfield hadn’t professionally sung before making tick tick… BOOM! and that fact alone could get him the nomination, because Oscar voters love an underdog story. Plus, he is genuinely good, so he’d deserve the nomination, only his second in a really impressive career for a young actor. But let’s put our hands together and pray for Nic Cage to see some justice for Pig. Cage has done so many great performances that it would feel dishonest to say Pig is his best, but it is up there for me even so. If nothing else, it’s the only performance of his that has made me cry and while I don’t know if the voting body will have had the same experience, I can only hope they do, giving this quietly hulking performance from a master of his craft the respect it deserves.
Kristen Stewart for Spencer
Nicole Kidman for Being the Ricardos
Lady Gaga for House of Gucci
Unlikely But Worthy:
Agathe Rousselle for Titane
The slightly funny, slightly sad thing about the Best Actress category is that the nominees here very rarely line up with the nominees for Best Picture, always something to bear in mind when making predictions, and also something for someone much smarter than me to analyse in huge depth. A perfect example of that trend is Kristen Stewart for Spencer. Though there’s a chance she could still be snubbed, her performance as a recognisable public figure is total awards catnip and the reasons I’m not a huge fan of the performance are exactly the reasons voters will like it. An even better example of this nomination trend is Nicole Kidman for Being the Ricardos. Have you seen this film? No. I also haven’t. Someone probably did. But Nicole Kidman is in it, wears heavy makeup and pretends to be a recognisable public figure. Catnip time. Different catnip comes in the form of Lady Gaga in House of Gucci. Her accent is all over the place and the film itself is messy to say the least, but she’s a real firecracker. Gaga stole a lot of attention with her last push for awards glory and while I don’t know if this one will be successful in the end, a nomination is all but guaranteed. All but guaranteed not to happen is a nomination for Agathe Rousselle’s work on Titane. I’ll get to the film in a minute, but it has essentially been shut out of pretty much the entire ceremony. Not a surprise but a disappointment regardless, because Rousselle will not get the love she deserves for a performance that is genuinely transformative and transcendental in ways that the other three are only on a surface level. The things she does in Titane are incredible and if Oscar voters won’t bang that drum, I will. She’s amazing, so is Titane, but you know my thoughts on that grand sexy nightmare already.
West Side Story
The Power of the Dog
Don’t Look Up
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Unlikely But Worthy:
It’s the one you scrolled down to the bottom of the post to read! Best Picture! I think it’ll be one of those years where so many excellent films are passed on so that a handful of mediocre efforts can sneak in but there’s always a few diamonds, no matter how rough the rough is. One such diamond is not Belfast, a film that is bad. I don’t get it, but people are lapping it up. It is a film that is good in one way, by which I mean it’s good at convincing people that it’s good. It is obviously the frontrunner for Best Picture. I think Licorice Pizza will also be nominated, a film that is much more worthy. It has issues, ones that I understand some people struggle to see past, but it’s fabulously crafted and very easy to watch, but it will eventually win pretty much nothing. Speaking of fabulous craft, West Side Story! It’s Spielberg, it’s a great big musical and it’s based on a film that already has Oscar history. There’s a chance it might not get nominated but it’s not a big one.
Into the streaming section of the predictions, a section created by me accidentally while writing this (the subconscious works in mysterious ways). There are two Netflix movies I think will be in contention. First is The Power of the Dog, apparently the greatest film I’ve never seen. It is this year’s big prestige movie from the service and it has a big marketing push. Never underestimate the spending power of Netflix. But an outsider is Don’t Look Up, which everyone (including me, actually, for once) watched over Christmas. It has half of Hollywood in it and can be taken as a well meaning if unhelpful warning about climate change, so again, catnip. If Vice can get nominated, this film can too. Finally, I think The Tragedy of Macbeth stands a chance at nomination. I was either thinking this or CODA from Apple but Macbeth feels more like a safe bet. It’s a Shakespeare adaptation, made by a frequently nominated director, starring frequently nominated actors. I haven’t seen it yet, but why not, seems like it ticks a lot of boxes (this is me being very cynical, I do quite want to see it).
I’m not in the business of safe bets though, I want us to worship weird shit, the weirdest of all being Titane. It has not made the shortlist for Best International Feature and even before then, Drive My Car was the film most likely to break out of that category. But Titane owns my heart. It goes to places no other film does and does them in ways that makes me feel emotionally confused in the good ways. Nothing is like Titane, which is why it’s my everything. I’d also like to see (and feel safe knowing I won’t see) Red Rocket get some love. It is a film whose protagonist is about as despicable as they come, but that’s the entire point. Sit back and marvel at what an incredible piece of shit Mikey Saber is, delivered to us in ways that are consistently funny and upsetting and scary. It is also incredibly divisive, exactly because its lead is so detestable. I get peoples objections, I just love the hot trash of the world too much to refuse falling into it. But it isn’t in black and white, scored by charming songs or nauseatingly nostalgic, so Belfast will take it all the way to the end instead. So it goes.