With that said, the film is so good and so deserving of its rapturous critical response that it remains a heavy contender in what is admittedly a lighter year. This is top-shelf Spielberg, and the blockbuster auteur the Academy once dismissed is now one of its all-time luminaries. At the very least, he is the second most competitive under the Best Director category.
His film will also duke it out with Dune in many of the technical categories, including Best Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Production Design. Meanwhile expect nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay for Tony Kushner, and Best Supporting Actress nods for both Ariana DeBose and Rita Moreno. DeBose is playing the role that earned Moreno her Oscar in 1962, and DeBose could repeat history with her own poignant take on Anita. But then again, Moreno is excellent in an all-new role that could be the sentimental favorite among older Oscar voters. Or they could split the vote and aid Balfe or the contender from the year’s other biggest frontrunner…
The Power of the Dog
Here is the first of several of the “cool” choices among critics groups and cinephiles on social media. Jane Campion’s beautifully made character study about toxic masculinity in the Old West reinvents a beloved genre for modern discourse with masterful craft and infinite subtlety. Whereas the above two movies are high on sentiment and pulled heartstrings, The Power of the Dog is a more cerebral exercise that nevertheless gets under the skin the more you understand its triumvirate of outsiders, all played with poignancy by Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Expect all three to get nominated, Dunst and Smit-McPhee in Supporting categories, and Cumberbatch for Best Actor. Among them, I think Dunst is the most likely to win but it’s a tough category. As for the film’s Best Picture prospects, despite being more artful in its construction than Belfast and more intellectual than West Side Story, I find it frankly too chilly and purposefully oblique to appeal to Academy voters for Best Picture. Additionally, there is the unspoken hurdle of it being a Netflix release, and I still don’t think the industry is quite ready to award Best Picture to the streaming giant.
With that said, Campion has a much better shot at winning Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. In fact, I think she’s the frontrunner in both categories after losing Best Director to Spielberg once already in 1994 during The Piano versus Schindler’s List race, and also given the Academy becoming painfully aware that having only one woman director winning an Oscar in 93 years is not a good look. Also expect the film to clean up in technical nominations, and have a real shot at winning Best Cinematography.
Ah, here is the fan favorite—which we can confirm via our own polling! Denis Villeneuve’s Dune feels a bit like this year’s Mad Max: Fury Road: a technical marvel that serious-minded filmmakers and fanboy-happy audiences alike can get excited about. In that sense, I would expect the “below-the-line” members of the Academy and those in technical guilds to shower Dune with Oscars in categories like Production Design, Cinematography, Hair and Makeup, Sound, Visual Effects, and possibly Editing and Costumes (beware of Cruella there though). It’s also a frontrunner in Best Score.
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