Another year, another set of Oscar races where its difficult to nail a definitive presumptive winner. For much of this awards season the races in many categories have been closely thought with a number of surprises along the way, and Oscar night appears to be shaping up to be no exception.
However, once again, like anyone else who’s been gazing at awards season with fascination, I’m going to have another crack at trying to predict what will win in each category at the Academy Awards. However, before diving in I will say (partly to push some form of point, and unconsciously in case I get all of these wrong) that with so many close races I’m quite uncertain about a number of these predictions. Odds appear to be against a number of them, as I’ll likely keep saying, and yet there’s part of my mind (very likely the part that’s wrong) that says that things might pan out differently to expected. Regardless, here’s what I currently think will win at this year’s Academy Awards – until I change my mind five minutes after publishing this.
Best Cinematography – Dune
There’s a strong case to be made that The Power Of The Dog could pick up a win here, it certainly seems to be the close competition. However, there’s an air surrounding Dune that says that it’s likely to do rather well in the technical categories. The view and look of another world, the desert planet of Arrakis, and the various other futuristic, space-based locations seen throughout the film perhaps gives a push towards it winning in the cinematography category. Especially when it comes to the grand scale and scope of what’s seen on screen, a point that will likely push it in more than just this category.
Best Costume Design – Cruella
Undeniably the most flamboyant costumes in this category. Not to mention colourful, memorable and, in many ways, the star of the film. They’re the most Costume Design costumes imaginable. It’s hard to see anything other than Cruella winning in this category (perhaps Dune, but Cruella feels almost certain for this win).
Best Makeup and Hairstyling – The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Much for the same reason as Cruella winning in Costume Design, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye makes a point of its makeup and hairstyling. While sometimes this award goes to the ‘most’ of these points, or those which transform actors it seems that Jared Leto’s bald-cap in House Of Gucci won’t quite be reaching this prize. Cruella could perhaps have a push from the comparison and point of the costumes, but with the way it features in the film and is made a point of it feels, and how things appear to have panned out for it in the last week or two, this is likely a win for The Eyes Of Tammy Faye.
Best Production Design – Dune
Once again, the point of scale and scope comes into effect when discussing Dune and the expansive sci-fi scenery it lays out for the viewer. While Nightmare Alley has been praised for the details within its production design, and could pose something of a quiet threat to Dune here, it feels as if we’ll be hearing a lot about the visual style of the film widely regarded as one of the biggest visual and cinematic spectacles of the 2021 on Oscar night.
Best Sound – Dune
It’s the flashiest sound that creates another world and immerses you further in that detail. And often it’s the flashiest, loudest sound which you notice that picks up the win in this department. No Time To Die could possibly take over with its action sequences, or West Side Story for its musical nature. But, it seems pretty certain that Dune, with its own action sequences and ornithopters, etc has the win.
Best Visual Effects – Dune
Marvel is yet to win in this category, and I doubt that Spider-Man: No Way Home will be the film to break that streak of losses, despite it having a number of great sequences and uses of visuals, the same going for Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. The main reason for this likely being the case is the fact that Dune has sandworms. And sandworm attacks. And the scale and scope and impact that Dune had within its world/s.
Best Original Song – Dos Oruguitas from Encanto
Not the most popular choice for most predictions in this category, that appears to go to Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s theme for No Time To Die. However, there’s something about the emotional use of Dos Oruguitas within Encanto, and the slight push of Lin-Manuel Miranda that makes me think that this might just be the year where he gets his EGOT. It’s also just a rather good song, and perhaps this is the category where the most of my own bias is coming through, it’s often one of the most difficult ones to predict. Certainly, this is one of the ones where I’m less confident, it should be pointed out that Dos Oruguitas is not We Don’t Talk About Bruno or Surface Pressure or basically anything else from Encanto, but I do think there’s enough of a push behind it to perhaps just get it across the line to the win.
Best Original Score – Dune
Another category where The Power Of The Dog feels like a second place contender. Trading in banjos for bagpipes Hans Zimmer’s score for Dune has been almost endlessly praised, picking up a number of awards throughout the trail so far and likely not stopping at the Academy. It feels like enough people have got on board with the other-world style that it captures and emphasises, with many saying its Zimmer’s best score in years, to lead it to another win – and Zimmer’s first Oscar since The Lion King, almost 30 years ago.
Best Film Editing – Dune
A closer category than it may initially look, I think that Dune may just tip itself over the edge to win. King Richard could win for the tennis matches throughout, particularly the one towards the end – Ford Vs Ferrari won for its racing sequences and Bohemian Rhapsody (remember that win?) for the Live Aid recreation, and other performance scenes; alongside perhaps having to form a film from two directors, after Bryan Singer was removed from the project and an uncredited Dexter Fletcher was brought in to finish it. Meanwhile, Tick, Tick… Boom! could win with its more noticeable, flashier editing in musical sequences, it certainly seems to have a fair few fans. I wouldn’t be overly surprised if Tick, Tick… Boom! did make some form of surprise win (it and King Richard both won at the ACE (American Cinema Editors) Eddies), but the argument for Dune appears to be just how much it shows and where it goes, particularly in its action sequences, over the course of two and a half hours while still getting in its pieces of narrative information. It’ll possibly be close, but Dune may just get this technical win.
Best Documentary Short – The Queen Of Basketball
I am not going to confess to be an expert in the short categories (in addition to any of these categories), I am chronically far away from it. So, these predictions are largely based on what a lot of other people said. While Audible certainly has the dramatic push, having inspired a number of emotional responses, and slight links in terms of its focus on a deaf figure to Best Picture frontrunner CODA – there may be some who find a link between the two and are reminded of it leading to a vote – there seems to be that bit more of a push towards The Queen Of Basketball, which has apparently had a bit of a campaign put behind it by creators The New York Times.
Best Live-Action Short – The Long Goodbye
The Long Goodbye is perhaps the most high-profile short in this category. Mostly down to the involvement of last year’s Leading Actor nominee Riz Ahmed, leading the short alongside having co-written it. It also appears to be the nominee that’s had the most conversation around it, and push behind it from a number of places, mostly viewers who have watched it and been moved and impacted by it. With that in mind it seems that this may be the one to take the lead in this category, particularly if it is the talked-about nominee amongst voters.
Best Animated Short – Robin Robin
Again, this seems to be the most high-profile nominee in the category. Somewhat talked about when first released onto Netflix just before Christmas this is perhaps the most known short amongst the nominees. Plus, the stop-motion nature could give it something of a push? However, as is the case with all the short categories in pretty much every year, any of the nominees could win, these are often the most consistently unpredictable races. There may seem to be leaders in the races, but there is often strong competition between the give nominees, particularly when it comes to the variety in the Animated Short category. Regardless, I’m going to say that the charm of Aardman continues to inspire and, well, charm.
Best Documentary Feature – Summer Of Soul (Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
A close race between Summer Of Soul and Flee. While Flee has three nominations the favour towards it may be somewhat spread out. If not, then there’s a chance that the power of Summer Of Soul’s feelings of celebration amongst its concert-film elements may linger in the minds of voters and push it across the line, particularly when it comes to the moments of social relevance and links to today. There’s quite a bit being said within it, and while Flee perhaps has the creative edge and the emotional punch, Summer Of Soul is the one that has maybe had a bit more conversation around it – perhaps a side effect of it having been released earlier and available to view for longer. This being said, I still think that this will likely go to Summer Of Soul, standing out just a little bit from Flee as they both stand out as the bigger films amongst the rest of the category.
Best International Feature – Drive My Car
It’s a touch competition between Flee, Drive My Car and The Worst Person In The World in this category. All multi-nominated films this year and each have a strong push behind them for different reasons, they’re certainly quite different films. And while Drive My Car has the Best Picture nomination it doesn’t appear to be the outright frontrunner in this category. Yet, because of its representation there, and its mentions in the Adapted Screenplay and Director categories, there’s a chance that it could just take the lead from its mentions there, and again that there might be a spread across categories for Flee slightly dropping it away as competition in another category.
Best Animated Feature – The Mitchells Vs. The Machines
Many people are predicting Encanto to win this award, particularly with just how successful the soundtrack has been around the world – this year’s Oscars ceremony boasts the first live performance of We Don’t Talk About Bruno. In some cases I’ve seen The Mitchells Vs. The Machines listed as the third or fourth most likely to win the award (also behind Flee and, in some cases, Luca). But, the film has won many awards, stating in some campaign material that it’s the most awarded animated film of the year (perhaps a reason for voters not to go for it this time around?), admittedly mostly from animation experts and those who work within the animation side of the industry. However, it’s maybe the most creative and inventive film in this category, with plenty of love having been shown towards it since it was released onto Netflix early last year. There’s something about me that thinks the love towards this film has been slightly forgotten, and while I’m not entirely confident in predicting it anymore for a win in this category – ask me three or four weeks ago and I would have been almost certain – there’s still part of me (again, likely the part that’s wrong) that thinks that the power of Monchi will prevail.
Best Original Screenplay – Licorice Pizza
I’m looking at those words now and thinking “it’s going to be Belfast, isn’t it?”. Best Original Screenplay will undeniably be one of the closest, most unpredictable races of the night. There’s even a chance, from having viewed some Anonymous Oscar Voter articles (only showing about ten out of 9,000+ voters, so not really a big sample, that The Worst Person In The World could get there. With the way the category has gone in recent years (Green Book aside) going for films that are more original and inventive with a fresh feel, sometimes first features, and winding socially relevant themes into the narrative, such as Get Out and Promising Young Woman. The Worst Person In The World kind of ticks those boxes. There’s perhaps too much of a divisive response to Don’t Look Up to get it a win even here, despite a win at the WGA (Writers Guild of America) Awards. King Richard doesn’t quite feel like it has the push and while Belfast feels it could pick something up here, after having fallen away in almost every other race very quickly after losing out on a Best Film Editing nomination, it feels like Licorice Pizza (which made a surprise win in this category at BAFTA, against Belfast) may be the only other potential winner here, especially with the push of Paul Thomas Anderson hasn’t yet won an Oscar. I am very ready to be shown I’m wrong here though (and am pretty sure I will be).
Best Adapted Screenplay – CODA
I thought for ages that The Power Of The Dog would win here. Yet, CODA appears to have found favour in even this category, where I once viewed it as something of an outsider. Picking up the win at both BAFTA and the WGA there appears to be a fair deal of love towards CODAs screenplay. And while, as with Original Screenplay, almost anything could win in this close competition, it feels like the main race is between The Power Of The Dog and CODA. With the former having somewhat fallen away in the last week or two and CODA taking the lead and win at other ceremonies in this category, it may very well snatch the win at the Oscars too.
Best Supporting Actor – Troy Kotsur in CODA
Winning most of the awards along the way, it seems pretty much set in stone, as is the case with a number of the acting categories this year, that Troy Kotsur will also, deservingly, pick up the Oscar. Kodi Smit-McPhee may pose a slight threat, although also appears to have had the push believed to be behind him dampened by CODA/ Kotsur, and it seems that the love is really behind Kotsur, the only acting nominee to come from CODA – perhaps showing how much his performance has got through to voters (at least in the Acting Branch).
Best Supporting Actress – Ariana DeBose in West Side Story
Ariana DeBose is just utterly joyful in West Side Story and that appears to be widely agreed upon, alongside the fact that her performance is great, across the awards circuit as she has consistently picked up Supporting Actress awards throughout. She stands out from the rest of the crowd in this category, although there may be some quiet love to Kirsten Dunst in The Power Of The Dog, and seems a pretty much certain win. Becoming the third person to win for playing the same character as someone else (Anita, previously a win in the same category for Rita Moreno in the first adaptation of the musical) – the other two being Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro for playing Vito Corleone and Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix for playing The Joker.
Best Leading Actor – Will Smith in King Richard
Partly for the legacy nature of the award, but mostly because he’s great in the role it, to echo a point made in the previous two predictions, that Will Smith is nailed on to win this award. Benedict Cumberbatch appears to have slightly gone away as competition, although could find some favour, for his turn in The Power Of The Dog, while Andrew Garfield has grown to become second favourite for his Tick, Tick… Boom! performance – he could have risen enough to catch a surprise win? Although one that Twitter would likely go mad over with a newfound love for the Academy. However, this still feels like Smith’s to lost, especially with his awards season course so far.
Best Leading Actress – Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter
Yes, I think that Olivia Colman could end up winning her second Oscar. The Leading Actress race is one of the most hotly watched this year, with many believing there to be no overall frontrunner and it could be any of the nominees. Since they were announced I’ve thought that this has been a race between Colman and Kristen Stewart for her wonderful turn in Spencer. Jessica Chastain appears to be the favourite for many after her win at SAG (the Acting Branch is the biggest across the Academy, making up around 1 in 7 voters) and another push after winning at the Critics Choice Awards. However, there’s part of me that felt that the general reception towards The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, for which she’s nominated, could be a bit of a pushback – the same for Nicole Kidman in Being The Ricardos, plus her performance in that film has come under some criticism. There’s part of me that’s very ready for Penelope Cruz to take the award for her performance in Parallel Mothers, for which she has become the favourite for a number of sources to take the award. And while Stewart may have a big push behind her, after nomination snubs from the likes of SAG and BAFTA there’s a feeling that those will more likely hinder he chances of winning (although it would be very much deserving if she did). Cruz could very easily take the award,anyone in this category could. But, I get this feeling of something like a couple of years ago when many were talking about Glenn Close finally winning for her performance in The Wife, or Yalitza Aparcio in Roma, even Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born, and then Olivia Colman won for The Favourite, There seems to be an air of that in this Leading Actress category, plus she does give a fantastic dramatic performance which is evidently very, very different from herself, as shown from her win speech from a few years ago. Plus, she appears to have a number of fans within the Academy membership. I’m sure I’m wrong. I’m very likely just saying why someone else is actually going to win here, but there’s a fair deal of me that thinks Olivia Colman could end up walking away with her second Oscar (and imagine what he speech would be like a second time around!).
Best Director – Jane Campion for The Power Of The Dog
While The Power Of The Dog has slipped back in a number of categories since the nominations were announced and awards season has panned out the one thing that seems to have been consistently been agreed about it is that Jane Campion’s direction is excellent. She seems to be the definite frontrunner with a large lead separating her and whoever may be in second place – like Steven Spielberg for his work on West Side Story. Meanwhile, it feels like the rest of the group aren’t overly a part of the conversation, there could be argument for a quiet grouping of support for Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s work on Drive My Car, although perhaps not enough to catch up with the major force and push that appears to be taking Campion to an almost locked-in Best Director win.
Best Picture – CODA
CODA was, at least in my eyes, a bit of an outsider in the Best Picture race about two weeks ago. However, now it’s become one of the major frontrunners in the race for the biggest award of the night. Despite no Best Director or Film Editing nomination it seems as if it might win in all three of its nominated categories, simply because of the ‘feel-good’ nature that stays in viewers minds. After a number of key wins it seems there is a strong shared liking for the film. It may not get a large amount of first place rankings on preferential ballots – they may very well go to The Power Of The Dog, giving it an early lead. However, as is often the case in this race, it’s more about which film will get more consistent placements in the second and third (and slightly fourth) levels of the ballot. And I believe that CODA is more likely to get those than The Power Of The Dog and many of the other nominees, which may be quite varied in their placements on ballots, at least slightly more varied than usual. It’s still come as something of a surprise to me, but it does follow along the more traditional Academy lines, that they still occasionally lean into since moving to more different choices for Best Picture, and even beyond, of being ‘safe’ and ‘conventional’. But, it appears to have worked and CODA is a very serious contender, and frontrunner, in this year’s Best Picture race. And, I think that that might be enough to just about push it to a Best Picture win.
If you want to read a more in-depth, far more rambly, selection of thoughts on this, and the chances of the other Best Picture nominees, you can read my What Will Win Best Picture piece for this year here.