There are 38 full length films nominated for one of the awards at the Oscars across 99 nominations. I have seen 25 of the films (66%) but thanks to multiple nominations, I managed 77% of the nominations.
Looking at the list of films there are very few that I feel strongly positive about, and even those aren’t always nominated in the right places. There are a few films I liked but feel a bit light for big award plaudits, and there are films that I have some respect for but didn’t really enjoy or connect with. To me, that’s really fundamental – you can be full of worthy material and beautifully made, but if I’m bored watching, then I’m not going to get past that.
As usual, for each of the awards I’ll quickly cover my feelings on the nominees, anything that I think is missing, who I think should win, and who I think will win. I think there’s going to be a lot of people spreading their votes around, not necessarily minding where the awards go, but trying to make sure a subset of films (Power of the Dog, Belfast, Dune, Flee, Drive My Car) all get something somewhere. But if it’s not coordinated it could get a bit weird and messy.
Best film – detailed reviews here
- Belfast – alright, but needlessly black and white, trying too hard
- CODA – lovely, fun to watch, interesting story, lots to say and and it said it well.
- Don’t Look Up – not believable enough for good satire, not funny enough for straight comedy
- Drive My Car – not seen
- Dune – excellent adaptation, beautifully made, a bit too cold
- King Richard – not seen
- Licorice Pizza – over-long, under-plotted
- Nightmare Alley – 1/3 good, 1/3 cliché, 1/3 needless padding
- The Power of the Dog – boring
- West Side Story – solid enough production but the source story is not good.
I’m rather underwhelmed with this list. I think tick, tick… Boom! is a far superior film to Don’t Look Up, and a far better musical than West Side Story. I also like The Tender Bar a lot more than awards voters seem to. Of the actually nominated films I was going to give my vote to Dune. But then I finally saw CODA this week and it swept me away. Not only well made and letting me experience a world I have no experience of, but a film I enjoyed watching and can wholeheartedly recommend to just about anyone. However, I think The Power of the Dog will win instead and I have zero clue why.
- Kenneth Branagh – Belfast – Sorry, I can’t get over the black and white thing, just trying too hard.
- Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car – Not seen
- Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza – I can’t remember much about the direction except that it dragged
- Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog – Solid I guess
- Steven Spielberg – West Side Story – the big dance numbers were well shot, gave a sense of scale and place, but a nuts and bolts direction of a musical.
I again think tick, tick… Boom! is swindled here, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s direction of a musical is a lot more creative and interesting than Spielberg’s. Also Denis Villeneuve’s Dune was all about the direction, maybe the Academy are just waiting to see if he lands the 2nd part.
I don’t have strong feelings about who should win, but it would be nice for Jane Campion to be only the 3rd woman to win, and the 2nd consecutive after Chloe Zhao last year. If we can keep the trend going we’ll have gender parity in 2110. However I don’t think that Power of the Dog will win both best film and best director, so it may be Branagh.
- Javier Bardem – Being the Ricardos as Desi Arnaz – nothing special
- Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog as Phil Burbank – A big part of my dislike for the film was down to the quality of Cumberbatch’s performance as a deeply unpleasant person to be around which I guess is impressive.
- Andrew Garfield – Tick, Tick… Boom! as Jonathan Larson – brilliant. A triple threat singing, dancing and acting performance of an incredibly complex character.
- Will Smith – King Richard as Richard Williams – haven’t seen, but it’s a great role for him
- Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth as Lord Macbeth – I dislike Shakespeare intensely, but his performance almost made me understand and care
I really liked Ben Affleck in The Tender Bar, but apparently Oscars forgot that film existed. A slightly leftfield choice would be Kenneth Branagh as Poirot who was funny and heartbreaking and the only consistent thing about the whole mess of Death on the Nile. Riz Ahmed was also superb in Encounter and for real “that’ll never happen” consideration, how about Tom Holland for Spiderman? Any of them would have been better nominees than Javier Bardem to be honest. But of the other four nominees I think any of them are worthy winners, personally I’d vote for Andrew Garfield. However I think Will Smith is probably the front runner.
- Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye as Tammy Faye Bakker: This is a transformative performance, I could barely see Chastain through the makeup, and it’s an interesting role but I think it was let down a bit by the writing which seemed indecisive as to whether Tammy Faye was a canny woman stealing and using power where she could, or a slightly simple woman at the mercy of everyone around her and unwilling to look too closely or take responsibility.
- Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter as Leda Caruso – I didn’t like this film. I didn’t really understand what the main character was thinking and what was driving her actions, and I’m not sure the actress or writer did either.
- Penélope Cruz – Parallel Mothers as Janis Martínez Moreno – not seen
- Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos as Lucille Ball – this didn’t feel very natural, a bit too much like a performance, someone delivering a script. The performance, and the film itself were very watchable, but felt like it didn’t quite stick the landing.
- Kristen Stewart – Spencer as Diana, Princess of Wales – I was going to say that this seemed like a good option, until I actually watched the film last night. Stewart does an uncanny impression of someone very odd which makes it feel either creepy or ridiculous. The script is also truly abominable and the combo meant I found the film almost unbearable.
A really underwhelming set of nominations, some potentially good performances let down by mediocre material. Film makers need to do better. It feels like Catriona Balfe for Belfast is missing and Emilia Jones for CODA would actually win my vote so it’s a real shame that she’s not even nominated. Of those on offer I think I’d actually vote for Jessica Chastain for the volume of performance if nothing else. I’m not sure who will win though, Nicole Kidman maybe?
Best supporting actor
- Ciarán Hinds – Belfast as Pop – there wasn’t a massive amount of complexity or depth to this role. feels more like a lifetime achievement award than a genuine nomination
- Troy Kotsur – CODA as Frank Rossi – this role on the other hand had a HUGE amount going on and it was all beautifully, hilariously, passionately and heartbreakingly performed
- Jesse Plemons – The Power of the Dog as George Burbank – Jesse Plemons excels playing this kind of unremarkable character that other bigger characters dance around, and in some ways it’s lovely to see that recognised, but on the other hand it doesn’t really scream award worthy.
- J. K. Simmons – Being the Ricardos as William Frawley – blink and you’ll miss it. Simmons is always great, but this wasn’t an outstanding role
- Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog as Peter Gordon – it’s an impressive achievement to stand alongside the huge performance from Benedict Cumberbatch and not only hold your own, but bring another level of unsettling creepiness.
Supporting awards are interesting, is it the 2nd biggest role in a film (arguably Troy Kotsur and Kodi Smit-McPhee), is it stealing the scenes you’re in (J.K. Simmons and Ciaran Hines) or is it just doing a good job with a nuts and bolts role to fill in the narrative gaps that the story needs (Jesse Plemons)? It’s hard to compare. But in this case I’m not going to think too hard about it because it’s an easy choice anyway as Troy Kotsur completely blew me away me in CODA, and for that matter in his acceptance speech at the BAFTAS. I don’t think there’s much doubt he’ll win the Oscar.
Best Supporting Actress:
- Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter as Young Leda Caruso – arguably a better written and more coherent role than Coleman’s and very well performed.
- Ariana DeBose – West Side Story as Anita – she absolutely stole the show, lighting up the screen with her singing, dancing, shouting and crying. In fact this is the best role in the whole film even if it’s supposed to be ‘supporting’.
- Judi Dench – Belfast as Granny – like Ciaran Hines, a solid performance but more of a default nomination I think
- Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog as Rose Gordon – better material than her on, and off screen husband Jesse Plemons had, and very worthy of nomination
- Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard as Oracene “Brandy” Price – not seen
Another set of slightly slim pickings for actresses this year. Ironically the person I thought doing the best job of the leading 4 in Being the Ricardos was Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance and she’s the only one not to be nominated. Rita Moreno who plays Valentina in West Side Story and was Anita in the original version was also very worthy of nomination which would have made some lovely poetry. However I think it should and will be this West Side Story’s Anita – Ariana DeBose to win. (If you get a chance, look up her winning the Rising Star award at the BAFTAs, she gives a great speech but more hilariously she was clearly not expecting it as you clearly see her say “Oh SHIT!” before remembering the cameras are on her.
Best Original Screenplay
- Belfast – Kenneth Branagh – ok, I guess. I struggled to really understand the politics going on and I’m not sure if that’s my fault for being embarrassingly ignorant, or the screenplay.
- Don’t Look Up – Screenplay by Adam McKay; Story by Adam McKay and David Sirota – I think the problems I had with the film were down to the writer’s not creating believable characters and motivations
- King Richard – Zach Baylin – not seen
- Licorice Pizza – Paul Thomas Anderson – I don’t think there was enough plot, or clarity of message
- The Worst Person in the World – Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier – not seen
Why do animated films not get nominated for screenplays? I think Encanto would be an interesting and worthy nominee here, there was a LOT going on and it was juggled and structured well by the writers. It seems weird that an Aaron Sorkin script doesn’t get nominated, I liked the construction of the constrained time line of Being the Ricardos a lot although maybe some of it was a bit clunky. I also think Spider Man No Way Home did a lot of clever plotting and dialogue.
Of the five, I’ve not seen 2 of them, and 2 of them I thought were actively poor so I guess that means I’d vote for Belfast and I think the Academy will lean that way too.
Best Adapted Screenplay
- CODA – Sian Heder – well structured, completely believable, and entertaining as well. But it’s based on a French film so I’m not sure how much work there was to do.
- Drive My Car – Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe – not seen
- Dune – Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth – The previous film shows just how you can make a mess of adapting this and there’s a LOT in the book to play with. Plus splitting one book into two films and still making the first film a contained entity is worthy of note.
- The Lost Daughter – Maggie Gyllenhaal – the main character didn’t make much sense to me, I was bored by the pacing and didn’t like the way the timelines were blocked out.
- The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion – fine? I mean, I didn’t like it, but that doesn’t mean it was bad.
Adapted screenplay is tough, are you just awarding the quality of the resulting screenplay in which case I’d vote for CODA; or is it the difficulty of the adaptation which I think would go to Dune because adapting from a novel to a film must be harder than going from one film to another. I think the academy will go for The Power of the Dog.
Best Animated Feature
- Encanto – I enjoyed this, more on the second viewing, and actually some of the ideas and characters have really stuck with me.
- Flee – I wish I’d seen this, but I haven’t managed it
- Luca –I found this quite unremarkable
- The Mitchells vs. the Machines – I actually thought Ron’s Gone Wrong the superior animation on this theme, although MvsM did have more creative animation I suppose, even if personally I didn’t like it.
- Raya and the Last Dragon – I liked the end… but found the rest a bit clunky,
Of those I’ve seen Encanto is the best. Having a documentary in the category shakes things up, demonstrating the format is more than just kids films but I think people will probably vote for it in the documentary category instead.
Best International Feature Film
- Drive My Car, Flee, The Hand of God, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, The Worst Person in the World
The only one I’ve seen is The Hand of God and I found it a bit of a muddle, too long and the final section left me irritated. So I’m gonna abstain from my own choice, but surely Drive My Car will win something?
- Ascension, Attica, Flee, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Writing with Fire
Summer of Soul is the only one I’ve seen and while I thought the archive footage was an amazing find and the participants and attendees looking back at it make a powerful story, it didn’t quite sing for me. From what I’ve heard, Flee is the most original and interesting and will likely win, if the votes don’t get split too much between the three categories its nominated in.
- Don’t Look Up – Nicholas Britell – no memory of the music at all.
- Dune – Hans Zimmer – the music wasn’t exactly full of catchy tunes, but it was very important to the scale, impact and what there were of emotional impacts.
- Encanto – Germaine Franco – I *think* the score doesn’t really include the songs so this feels a bit of a long shot
- Parallel Mothers – Alberto Iglesias – not seen
- The Power of the Dog – Jonny Greenwood – no memory of the music at all
Dune is the only one of these I’ve seen where I really remember the existance of the music (as opposed to the Encanto songs) so I’d vote for Hans Zimmer (usually a safe bet). However it might go to Jonny Greenwood because he was snubbed for a nomination a few years ago on a technicality and people were cross.
- “Be Alive” from King Richard – Music and lyrics by DIXSON and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter – OK song, some nice (and relevant) lyrics.
- “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto – Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda – this is a bit unfortunate. The nominations had to be submitted before the film was even released and no one guessed “We Don’t Talk about Bruno” was going to be such a hit. This song however I’ve got no memory of and when I went to listen to it again I decided it was too boring after just 15 seconds.
- “Down to Joy” from Belfast – Music and lyrics by Van Morrison – catchy song and goes well with the film, but Van Morrison is rather problematic, so no chance.
- “No Time to Die” from No Time to Die – Music and lyrics by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell – Perfectly ok Bond theme, but I had no memory of it.
- “Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days – Music and lyrics by Diane Warren – weird nomination, never heard of the film and it just seems to me a generic country song.
What should win – We Don’t Talk about Bruno. So much so that it seems they’re putting an extra song in the show just to make sure it’s played. I have a suspicion they’ll give it to Lin-Manuel Miranda anyway.
- Belfast, Dune, No Time to Die, The Power of the Dog, West Side Story
I’ve seen all of these and Dune wins hands down, the soundscape of the film did as much (if not more) work than the actors. The others were all perfectly fine but the sounds didn’t shine in the same way.
Best Production Design
- Dune – Patrice Vermette & Zsuzsanna Sipos: there is a LOT to look at and there’s a lot of complexity in the design, evolving what’s described in the books, what’s gone before and referencing other science fiction.
- Nightmare Alley – Tamara Deverell & Shane Vieau: I felt the film was style over substance, but there was a LOT of style
- The Power of the Dog – Grant Major & Amber Richards: very charismatic, the limited colour pallet actually worked here.
- The Tragedy of Macbeth – Stefan Dechant & Nancy Haigh: I don’t like Shakespeare, but the design here was extreme and actually held my attention throughout.
- West Side Story – Adam Stockhausen & Rena DeAngelo: the most unremarkable of the lot, it felt a bit artificial and stagey, I hope that was deliberate, but it was another thing that distanced me.
These are all are doing something quite different and are completely core to the films, if not THE most interesting thing about the films. I think I’d give it to Dune, but Nightmare Alley will win on the day.
- Dune – Greig Fraser: almost every shot of this film could be framed on a wall showing something interesting and creative.
- Nightmare Alley – Dan Laustsen: there’s a lot of complexity (SO much shooting in the rain)
- The Power of the Dog – Ari Wegner: I don’t remember a huge amount of creativity here to be honest. Fun fact – Ari Wegner is only the 2nd woman to be nominated for this award and would be the first winner
- The Tragedy of Macbeth – Bruno Delbonnel: Like the production design, the creativity of framing and lighting makes this film.
- West Side Story – Janusz Kamiński: More a technical achievement with the large sets and choreography
Again, I can see any of these winning the award, I think I would go for Dune.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
- Coming 2 America – Mike Marino, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer – even for an Oscar nomination, I’m not watching this film.
- Cruella – Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon – lots of creativity, but it was the costumes doing most of the work.
- Dune – Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr – actually of all the design fields, the hair and makeup was probably the one that stood out least for me on Dune.
- The Eyes of Tammy Faye – Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh – There’s a HUGE amount of work here, Jessica Chastain is completely transformed AND aged throughout the film. Andrew Garfield’s aging was not quite as good though
- House of Gucci – Göran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock and Frederic Aspiras – I’ve not seen, but there was certainly a lot of work
I think this will be either Eyes of Tammy Faye or House of Gucci, my vote for the former (as I haven’t seen the latter).
Best Costume Design
- Cruella – Jenny Beavan – the costumes are integral to the story and are a stunning array of creativity, not just the ‘big’ outfits either, there’s loads going on everywhere
- Cyrano – Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran – I’ve not seen the film, but the costumes on display in the trailers and clips are clearly stunning and doing a lot of work
- Dune – Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan – the costuming is supporting a lot of the design and storytelling for different races/ranks
- Nightmare Alley – Luis Sequeira – the costumes are great, but like a lot of the rest of the film, they were a bit derivative and not really doing anything massively original
- West Side Story – Paul Tazewell – fine, but other than Anita’s stunning yellow dress, I can’t remember much.
Cruella hands down should win and I think probably will win. Also even I know that Jenny Beavan is an absolute legend.
Best Film Editing
- Don’t Look Up – Hank Corwin; Dune – Joe Walker; King Richard – Pamela Martin; The Power of the Dog – Peter Sciberras; Tick, Tick… Boom! – Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum
In terms of the level of challenge, I would think editing musicals and big FX driven sci fi is a bigger challenge, so for me it comes down to Dune or Tick, Tick… Boom! and the latter feels like it takes things a step forward to with not just choreography but interweaving views and threads, all connected to the music and rhythm.
Best Visual Effects
- Dune, Free Guy, No Time to Die, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home
It’s interesting to see 4 big sci fi films alongside an action film, it brings home just how much is artificially created in No Time to Die and merged together in a way that doesn’t throw the audience out of the moment. I think I would vote for No Time to Die, although I think the actual winner will be Dune.