Maybe it’s just because I’m a geezer.
I’m not sure what it is, for sure. All I know is I’m not very excited about the Oscars.
As a youth, I would practically hyperventilate with excitement when Oscar night rolled along. It mattered.
I remember going ballistic when “Godfather, Part II” topped “Chinatown” for best picture, and going nuts cheering with my college pals when, a few years later, “Annie Hall” won the top prize.
This year? I almost forgot that the Oscars are this Sunday.
Maybe it’s what’s going on in Ukraine. Maybe it’s pandemic fatigue. Maybe my priorities have changed. I’m sure part of it is the awards-show glut. There are just too many trophies passed around.
That said, I’m glad that the Oscars still exist to recognize excellence (sometimes) in an art form that still inspires a deep passion in me. I’ll still watch the show with interest; I’ll still care about who wins. I just might not care as much as I used to.
So, below are the nominees in the top six categories, listed in order of my preference. And, as usual, I’ll throw in my predictions, too.
1. “Drive My Car”
2. “Licorice Pizza”
4. “Nightmare Alley”
5. “West Side Story”
6. “The Power of the Dog”
8. “King Richard”
10. “Don’t Look Up”
My pick: “Drive My Car.” The lone non-English-language nominee, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s sublime drama about loss, guilt and so much more stands out for its depth, complexity and subtlety. Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza,” capturing the spark of youth and young love, and Sian Heder’s “CODA,” a heartfelt dramedy about a hearing teen and her deaf family, are next up; they touch the heart in a way that has a lasting impact. The other nominees are fine as also-rans, except “Dune,” with its hollow epic quality, and “Don’t Look Up,” with the self-satisfied way it states the obvious.
Prediction: “CODA.” Jane Campion’s unsettling psychological Western thriller “The Power of the Dog” has received so many accolades that it has to be considered the front-runner. But “CODA,” true to its underdog story, might pull an upset.
1. Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
2. Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”
3. Penelope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers”
4. Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”
5. Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”
My pick: Jessica Chastain. In a three-way battle of impersonations – Chastain as Tammy Faye Baker, Kidman as Lucille Ball and Stewart as Diana, Princess of Wales – Chastain gets the edge for disappearing into her giggly, tragic character.
Prediction: Jessica Chastain. This category appears up for grabs, so I’ll go with my favorite, Chastain, who won the Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance.
1. Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog”
2. Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”
3. Will Smith, “King Richard”
4. Andrew Garfield, “tick, tick … BOOM!”
5. Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos”
My pick: Benedict Cumberbatch. In his way, Cumberbatch’s rancher Phil Burbank might be the most intimidating movie character since Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. Cumberbatch gives his character a cruel edge that has you holding your breath throughout “Power of the Dog”; even when he’s not on the screen, you’re anticipating that he will do something horrific. It’s one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen.
Prediction: Benedict Cumberbatch. SAG Award winner Smith appears the favorite, and he’s a worthy candidate. But I can’t bring myself to entertain the thought that Cumberbatch won’t get the award.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”
2. Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”
3. Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”
4. Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”
5. Judi Dench, “Belfast”
My pick: Ariana DeBose. DeBose takes the Rita Moreno role from the original “West Side Story” and makes it her own with her fiery dancing, singing and acting.
Prediction: Ariana DeBose. A big upset is always possible, but if there’s a slam-dunk among the top six Oscar categories, this seems it. DeBose is winning everything in sight.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Troy Kotsur, “CODA”
2. Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”
3. Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog”
4. Ciaran Hinds, “Belfast”
5. J.K. Simmons, ‘Being the Ricardos”
My pick: Troy Kotsur. Kotsur delivers a funny, moving, genuine performance in “CODA” as the deaf father in a family-owned fishing business. He has strong competition, especially from Smit-McPhee, but Kotsur creates the most well-rounded character.
Prediction: Troy Kotsur. Like his “CODA” character, Kostur is deaf, but that’s not why he is cleaning up at other awards ceremonies; he deserves it. Smit-McPhee is Kotsur’s biggest competition in this contest.
1. Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”
2. Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
3. Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”
4. Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
5. Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”
My pick: Ryusuke Hamaguchi. I’d give Hamaguchi the Oscar for “Drive My Car” or, if nominated,” his other film from 2021, “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy.” Both leave you feeling enriched in a way that reminds you of film’s potential as an art form.
Prediction: Jane Campion. Even if “The Power of the Dog” is upset by “CODA” or another film, Campion will get the nod here. Or so I think.
** Click here for Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **
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Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and Tony Raine host “Tim ’n’ Tony’s Rock ’n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 2 a.m. Sunday nights/Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and womr.org (archived shows at https://womr.org/schedule/broadcast-archive/). He also teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.