I’ve been tracking the Oscar potential of these films for over a year now, so it’s hard to believe the night is almost here.
I made my initial predictions in August, and my final nominee predictions last month, so it’s time to set my winners in stone. To match my August predictions, I am only doing analyses for those same 16 categories, omitting the ones that are nearly impossible to predict that early in the season: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Animated Short, Animated Feature, Live Action Short, International Feature Film and Original Song. If you’re interested, I’ll be posting those predictions on Twitter prior to the ceremony.
Three of my predicted nominees from August made it all the way to Oscar night (“Dune,” “West Side Story” and “No Time to Die”), and I chose “Dune” to win back then — and years ago, truth be told. It’s been one of the easiest predictions to make all season, and I’m certainly not changing now.
Alternate: “West Side Story”
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
“Dune,” “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and “House of Gucci” all remain from my initial predictions, but “Coming 2 America” and “Cruella” have grown in stature with victories at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards. The determining factor in my prediction is that Jessica Chastain looks to be on her way to winning Best Actress, and the makeup played a major part in her performance.
Winner: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
“Cruella” and “Dune” are the only two of my predictions that survived to be nominated, and they’re still my top two choices for the win. “Cruella” – which I picked in August to win – should take this handily after its Costume Designers Guild, BAFTA and Critics Choice wins.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
“Dune,” “Nightmare Alley” and “The Power of the Dog” all carry over from my initial predictions. It’s the former two that I see it coming down to. “Dune” production designer Patrice Vermette is now a three-time nominee, and I think his time to win has come, with his precursors at BAFTA and Critics Choice shifting the momentum in the favor of him and set decorator Szuszanna Zipos.
Alternate: “Nightmare Alley”
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Hans Zimmer and Jonny Greenwood each scored multiple films last year, but it was always the work on “Dune” and “The Power of the Dog” that I saw going all the way. Since he joined the project, I saw Zimmer’s second collaboration with Villeneuve as his springboard to his second Oscar win, and he should have it in the bag after winning at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Critics Choice.
Alternate: “The Power of the Dog”
BEST FILM EDITING
Most pundits would say this is the biggest question mark of the night, and I don’t think I can really disagree… even if I’m still confident in my prediction I made before Venice. In the last eight years, all of the films that won this category also won a sound category. Since the Best Picture field was expanded in 2009, 75% of winners in this category also won a sound category. It’s a stronger correlation than any of the precursor awards, which is a good thing because “No Time to Die” won the BAFTA and “West Side Story” won Critics Choice – neither of which are nominated here! And who is unanimously agreed to be winning sound this year? “Dune,” which is good news for three-time nominee Joe Walker. “King Richard” will look to upset after winning the Eddie from the American Cinema Editors, though.
Alternate: “King Richard”
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
This is one of the Oscar wins that “Dune” has coming in the door, and one that I’ve had locked in since early 2019 when VFX Supervisor Paul Lambert won his second Oscar for “First Man” just as he was gearing up to start work on “Dune.” If that film wasn’t in the running this year, my gut says “No Time to Die,” which was the only other of the five nominees that I named in my initial predictions.
Alternate: “No Time to Die”
One of my most impressively-predicted categories, with four of my five original films making the cut. “Nightmare Alley” was able to overcome the film’s mixed reception, while “West Side Story” survived snubs at American Society of Cinematographers and BAFTA. However, it’s the epic work of Greig Fraser on “Dune” and Ari Wegner on “The Power of the Dog” that could take it here. Fraser took the BAFTA, which 8 of the last 10 winners have gone on to win the Oscar. Meanwhile, Wegner won at Critics Choice, which has the same correlation over the last decade. It’s Fraser’s American Society of Cinematographers win that will give him the edge, though. Since 2000, only 10 films have won at BAFTA and ASC, and eight of those 10 have won the Oscar, including the last six to overlap since 2006.
Alternate: “The Power of the Dog”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
I’m left with only two holdovers here from August: “The Power of the Dog” and “Dune.” Until the last week or so, everyone saw Jane Campion taking this with ease, but the winds have firmly changed in favor of “CODA.” To be fair, the writing may have been on the wall even before then, with “Dog” failing to win here at any of its major opportunities, including Golden Globes, USC Scripters and BAFTA. The most-recent win at WGA – where “Dog” was ineligible – felt like the last big nail slammed into the coffin, and winning screenplay would be a key in taking home an even bigger prize…
Alternate: “The Power of the Dog”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The scripts from David Sirota and Adam McKay (“Don’t Look Up”) and Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza“) both made it from my original predictions, but it is PTA who looks to go down to the wire with Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”). The former was able to pull off the upset at BAFTA, but the latter struck back with a Critics Choice win. Most troubling for PTA’s hopes is that he should have had an easy victory at WGA – where “Belfast” was ineligible – but he managed to lose to “Don’t Look Up.” This will likely come down to a matter of who has the broadest support and, while both films underperformed on nomination morning, “Belfast” still has twice as many noms as “Licorice Pizza” – including two acting noms versus zero. Branagh has an overdue narrative, like PTA does, but he also has the benefit of a more personal, affecting narrative that could give him the slight edge in the minds of voters.
Alternate: “Licorice Pizza”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
This was undoubtedly one of my most poorly-predicted categories of the season, with Jesse Plemons in “The Power of the Dog” being the lone survivor of my initial piece. It was his co-star Kodi Smit-McPhee who swept with critics groups, but Troy Kotsur of “CODA” came on strong in the new year and took SAG, Spirit, BAFTA and Critics Choice. Oscar gold is next.
Winner: Troy Kotsur (“CODA”)
Alternate: Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
What can I say other than “clean sweep?” Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) has proven herself a force to be reckoned with for years to come, winning every precursor en route to an Oscar victory. DeBose and Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”) are the only two nominees that remain from my August predictions, so let’s say Dunst is distant second-place here.
Winner: Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)
Alternate: Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”)
Will Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch and Denzel Washington were my three predictions that ended up making the cut, and it’s the former two who have grown in stature throughout the season. Like Smit-McPhee, Cumberbatch dominated with critics circle victories, but Will Smith put his foot to the floorboard with his Golden Globe win and hasn’t let up, winning SAG, BAFTA and Critics Choice. The time has come to adorn one of our great movie stars.
Winner: Will Smith (“King Richard”)
Alternate: Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”)
Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) is the only one of my August predictions to go all the way here, even when it looked bleak for her to get nominated as the film missed in every other category. She won’t really be contending for the award, though, as Jessica Chastain has wildly surged with wins at SAG and Critics Choice. Nicole Kidman looked prime to contend after her Golden Globe win, so I suppose she could be a distant second-place at this point.
Winner: Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)
Alternate: Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”)
Two of my original five predictions remain: Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”) and Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”). Campion has been the front-runner since day one, and I literally had her winning this award before the film ever premiered. There is not much else to say other than how unbelievable it remains that Denis Villeneuve was not nominated in a category where he easily should have been in the top two.
Winner: Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)
Alternate: Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”)
I have six of my August nominees surviving in Best Picture: “Don’t Look Up,” “Dune,” “Licorice Pizza,” “West Side Story” and “The Power of the Dog.” Like Director, I had “Dog” winning it all and still did.. Up until less than a week ago. At every turn, “CODA” has been earning key wins (SAG ensemble, Producers Guild Awards top prize), while “Dog” has taken losses in categories it was expected to win (BAFTA for Adapted Screenplay, ASC loss to “Dune”). After years of trying to be the first streamer to win Best Picture, Netflix looks poised to stumble at the finish line, allowing Apple to blast right by. It defies almost every statistic and most logic, but “CODA” might be the right crowd-pleaser at the right time for Academy voters.
Alternate: “The Power of the Dog”
Phew. What a hell of a year. It feels like just yesterday when I was up all night in anticipation for the premiere of “Dune” at Venice and eagerly awaiting the reactions to films premiering at Telluride, Toronto and New York. The Academy continues to frustrate me to no end, and I do not know if I will be watching this year’s telecast since they feel compelled to eliminate a third of the category presentations from the live show. That said, I still love the rush of the fall festival season and the roller coaster that is awards season. Thank you everyone who has read my predictions and kept up with my antics on Twitter, and keep your eyes peeled for my way too early 2023 Oscars predictions this spring.
In the last words of Duke Leto Atreides: “Here I am. Here I remain.”
Johnny Sobczak is an entertainment journalist and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in Media and Journalism and minored in Global Cinema. Johnny is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has been with Inside the Film Room since August 2019. He was named Senior Writer in January 2020 and co-hosts the Inside the Film Room podcast with Zach Goins. Johnny spends his days job-hunting, watching films and obsessing over every new detail of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune."