Tom Santilli is a professional film critic, TV personality, host and the Executive Producer of Movie Show Plus.
The 94th annual Academy Awards are right around the corner, airing this Sunday, March 27 at 8 p.m. (EST) on ABC. Though ratings have been down across the board for ALL awards shows since the pandemic, this year's Oscars are trying hard to bring in more overall viewership with a few new twists (some a bit controversial) and some special treats for their movie-loving audience.
Musical performances from Billy Eilish & Finneas, Beyoncé, Reba McEntire and Sebastian Yatra have already been announced, as have a list of presenters including Dj Khaled, Jennifer Garner, Bill Murray, Tony Hawk, H.E.R., Shawn Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Tyler Perry, Woody Harrelson, Mila Kunis and John Travolta, to name a few. It was also recently announced that Rachel Zegler, the 20-year-old star of the Oscar-nominated "West Side Story," will also be a presenter, after an online campaign went viral when she revealed that she was not invited to attend the Oscars. The Oscars will be hosted by Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes, and it's the first time the Oscars have gone with a host since Jimmy Kimmel hosted in 2017 and 2018.
There are a lot of opinions when it comes to the Oscars, especially in our divided times (I urge you to read a fantastic article where two opposing film lovers - one very pro-Oscars and one very, very against them by clicking here). But with the theme of the show this year being "Movie Lovers Unite" (#MovieLoversUnite), the Oscars are hoping to get people more involved than ever, having added a "fan favorite" vote-in category as well as having average folks vote for their favorite movie scene of all-time.
Predicting what will happen at the Oscars this year, how many people will watch (or not watch) and who will win is all part of the fun. In that spirit, here are my best predictions in all 23 categories for this year's 94th Academy Awards (full disclaimer: Yes I have seen all entries and these opinions are made without any inside knowledge, and represent who I THINK will win, and not necessarily who I would WANT to see win):
(The Nominees in each category are listed below along with my pick of winner. For a much more in-depth look at this year's Oscars, Tom Santilli & Greg Russell recently hosted an "Academy Award Preview Discussion," click on the link to watch the full video for further insights):
Don’t Look Up
Drive My Car
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story
Who Should Win: This has been one LOOOOONG awards season, and it's a marathon, not a sprint. The early-season front-runner, "Belfast," has all but scratched from this race, but while "The Power of the Dog" is still ahead of the pack, it's "CODA" that is coming on strong down the final stretch. With wins at SAG and the recent Oscar-indicator PGAs, I now think it will be "CODA" that will nose in front, but it will be a photo-finish.
Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza)
Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)
Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car)
Who Should Win: Whether or not "The Power of the Dog" wins the top prize of Best Picture, Best Director is almost certainly going to go to Jane Campion.
Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter)
Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers)
Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos)
Kristen Stewart (Spencer)
Who Should Win: It's been a roller-coaster for Kristen Stewart, who was the early front-runner - no, SHOE-IN - for Best Actress, before she ended up not even nominated in several of the major awards down the stretch! She finally was validated with an Oscar-nomination, but it's Jessica Chastain who has recently pulled ahead with wins at SAG and the Critics Choice Awards. But can Chastain win the Oscar? It certainly seems so. However, there is just a gut-feeling here that somehow, someway, Kristen Stewart will be the big upset winner come Sunday.
Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog)
Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick … Boom!)
Will Smith (King Richard)
Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth)
Who Should Win: This is the first time since 1981 where this category is populated with ZERO first-time nominees. And while Cumberbatch has a shot, this award - and deservedly so - belongs to Will Smith.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter)
Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
Judi Dench (Belfast)
Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog)
Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard)
Who Should Win: If there is one "lock" this year, it's Ariana DeBose for Best Supporting Actress. She's swept every major award and will most certainly win her first-ever Oscar, with this her first-ever nomination.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Ciarán Hinds (Belfast)
Troy Kotsur (CODA)
Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog)
J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog)
Who Should Win: While Kodi Smit-McPhee was the early favorite here, the surprise nomination for Jesse Plemons actually hurts his chances here, since they are in the same movie. It's Troy Kotsur's award by all indications, who was simply phenomenal in the breakout hit, "CODA."
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Cruella (Jenny Beavan)
Cyrano (Massimo Cantini Parrini)
Dune (Jacqueline West)
Nightmare Alley (Luis Sequeira)
West Side Story (Paul Tazewell)
Who Should Win: As you'll see, when in doubt this year in the technical categories, just cast your vote for "Dune." However this is one area where I think "Dune" will come up short, when it loses to "Cruella."
No Time to Die
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story
Who Should Win: Get ready for "Dune" to come away with the most Oscar wins this year, as it sweeps many of the technical categories despite losing in all of the major award areas.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Don’t Look Up (Nicholas Britell)
Dune (Hans Zimmer)
Encanto (Germaine Franco)
Parallel Mothers (Alberto Iglesias)
The Power of the Dog (Jonny Greenwood)
Who Should Win: Despite this being his 11th overall nomination, Hans Zimmer surprisingly only has one Oscar win (1995's "The Lion King"). He is set to win his second for "Dune."
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
CODA (Sian Heder)
Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi & Takamasa Oe)
Dune (Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts & Denis Villeneuve)
The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal)
The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)
Who Should Win: I still think there's an outside chance that Maggie Gyllenhaal can pull an upset here, and it's very possible that Jane Campion can win as well. But all momentum in recent weeks (including a win at the WGAs) points to Sian Heder for "CODA." By the way, this is the first time since 1992 that three or more women made up the noms in this category.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Belfast (Kenneth Branagh)
Don’t Look Up (Adam McKay & David Sirota)
Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)
King Richard (Zach Baylin)
The Worst Person in the World (Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier)
Who Should Win: This is as unpredictable as it gets this year. While there is lots of love for "Licorice Pizza," "Don't Look Up" just had a surprise win at the WGAs making it a strong contender here. But I think "Belfast" will win, namely because it faces being shut-out if it doesn't.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Affairs of the Art
The Windshield Wiper
Who Should Win: The short categories are often overlooked despite always being amazing. It was a tough year (meaning hard to watch some of the strong content), which is ironic that the lightest of the entries, "Robin Robin" is most likely to win.
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Ala Kachuu — Take and Run
The Long Goodbye
On My Mind
Who Should Win: It was a strong year for live-action shorts as well, but the only one fronted by a well-known Oscar-nominated actor is also the favorite: "The Long Goodbye," which stars the former Oscar-nominee Riz Ahmed.
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 & Andrew Weisblum)
Who Should Win: If there was any justice in this category, "Tick, Tick...Boom!" would take the win here, as I don't think this movie even registers this year without the amazing work of its editors. But you guessed it: "Dune" is the one to beat.
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
House of Gucci
Coming 2 America
Who Should Win: "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" should win, only because I think "Cruella" will already be awarded elsewhere, there was too much of a split on "House of Gucci," and nobody wants to make "Coming 2 America" an Oscar-winning film. "Dune" could win here as well, although the work done in it was much more subtle, and the Academy often awards "more" in this category.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon
Who Should Win: Despite "Flee" becoming the first film ever to be nominated for Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary and Best International Film, it sadly will have to pull an amazing upset to win in any of the three. "Encanto" is the sentimental favorite here and most recently on voters' minds, but do not count out "The Mitchells vs The Machines," which was beloved and backed by a strong PR campaign from Netflix. Screw it, I'm going with "The Mitchells vs. The Machines" even though you wouldn't be taking a risk if you stuck with "Encanto."
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Summer of Soul
Writing With Fire
Who Should Win: If "Flee" were to pull off a win, it would be here. But I think Qwestlove's "Summer of Soul" should be the winner.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Lead Me Home
The Queen of Basketball
Three Songs for Benazir
When We Were Bullies
Who Should Win: By far, for me personally, the devastating and powerful "Lead Me Home," dealing with homelessness in America, would get the win. But the uplifting and charming "The Queen of Basketball," is the strong favorite here. It tells the incredible story of Lucy Harris, a female basketball player so great she was drafted by the NBA back in the 1960s! There is a sentimental slant as well, as Ms. Harris recently passed away, making this even more of a sure-thing.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Be Alive” — Beyoncé Knowles-Carter & Darius Scott (King Richard)
“Dos Oruguitas” — Lin-Manuel Miranda (Encanto)
“Down to Joy” — Van Morrison (Belfast)
“No Time to Die” — Billie Eilish & Finneas O’Connell (No Time to Die)
“Somehow You Do” — Diane Warren (Four Good Days)
Who Should Win: Wait..."We Don't Talk About Bruno" wasn't even nominated? That song - which reached #1 on the Billboard charts! - would have been a shoe-in to win, but Disney didn't even submit it, never anticipating its eventual popularity. If "Dos Oruguitas" wins, it would mean that Lin-Manuel Miranda would complete has famed "EGOT" (the rare club of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winners). "Bruno" would have given him a better shot, but he's definitely not out of this race. Poor Diane Warren - now nominated for a 13th time in the category with zero wins - is set-up for another loss. My money is on Billie Eilish & Finneas O'Connell's "No Time to Die," which would make it just the third Bond film to ever win for Best Song. But here's rooting for Lin-Manuel!
Dune (Greig Fraser)
Nightmare Alley (Dan Lausten)
The Power of the Dog (Ari Wegner)
The Tragedy of Macbeth (Bruno Delbonnel)
West Side Story (Janusz Kaminski)
Who Should Win: Ari Wegner is just the second female ever nominated for Best Cinematography. But it's Greig Fraser's ground-breaking work on "Dune" that I think will eek out the win.
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE
Drive My Car (Japan)
The Hand of God (Italy)
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Bhutan)
The Worst Person in the World (Norway)
Who Should Win: Mark it down, "Drive My Car" wins here, hands-down.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Dune (Zsuzsanna Sipos & Patrice Vermette)
Nightmare Alley (Tamara Deverell & Shane Vieau)
The Power of the Dog (Grant Major & Amber Richards)
The Tragedy of Macbeth (Stefan Dechant & Nancy Haigh)
West Side Story (Rena DeAngelo & Adam Stockhausen)
Who Should Win: "Dune"! (Sensing a pattern?)
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
No Time to Die
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Who Should Win: While this is the only chance "Spider-Man: No Way Home" will be awarded (unless you count the fan-favorite vote award), you can put all your chips on "Dune." "Dune" will win several technical awards, but of them all, this is the closest bet to a sure-thing.
The 94th annual Academy Awards air this Sunday, March 27th at 8pm (EST) on ABC.