Karen Peterson’s Final Oscar Predictions

Here we are, at the end of the line. It’s been one of the most unpredictable races in recent memory, and I’ve been watching the Academy Awards since the 80s. The industry and the Academy have shifted a lot in the past five years, but will we see that reflected on Sunday when the envelopes are opened? Have some of these categories really gone in unexpected directions? Or are we overthinking the whole thing?

This year’s winners will tell us a lot about how much AMPAS really has (and hasn’t) changed in its 94 years. It will also remind folks of the trickiness of trying to predict the Oscars. Whether you get a perfect 23/23 ballot or score a 0, that’s okay. It’s all a big (and usually fun) game.

There will be a lot of people declaring, “I KNEW IT!” on Sunday. But they didn’t know anything. We say what we think is going to happen. There is educated guessing involved based on a whole lot of factors. Sometimes people just guess without the education and get lucky. It would be much more accurate to say, “I knew that could win.” Because right now, while the ballots are still being counted, no one knows what will happen. It’s literally anybody’s guess.

It’s been a crazy year. But it’s almost over. Let’s take one last and final shot at predicting the winners for the 94th Academy Awards.

Best Picture

Apple Original Films

The nominees:

  • “Belfast” (Focus Features)
    Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik and Tamar Thomas, Producers
  • “CODA” (Apple Original Films)
    Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi and Patrick Wachsberger, Producers
  • “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
    Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers
  • “Drive My Car” (Janus Films)
    Teruhisa Yamamoto, Producer
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros.)
    Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve and Cale Boyter, Producers
  • “King Richard” (Warner Bros.)
    Tim White, Trevor White and Will Smith, Producers
  • “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists)
    Sara Murphy, Adam Somner and Paul Thomas Anderson, Producers
  • “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
    Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale and Bradley Cooper, Producers
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
    Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Roger Frappier, Producers
  • “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
    Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers

Whether it “feels” like a Best Picture winner or not, CODA‘s wins at SAG and PGA signaled a huge show of strength in an industry that has been reeling from Covid shutdowns, difficult labor negotiations, and general anxiety about the future of movies. Other films in the lineup are arguably better crafted, but when it comes to the top award, we know voters don’t look at things like overall nominations when ranking their selections.

If CODA does win, it will be the first film in almost a hundred years to do so with no nominations for directing or editing, and with only 3 total nods. And if it doesn’t, well, what a joy this group has been to watch all season long.

And then there’s The Power of the Dog. A powerful film and a frontrunner since it garnered 12 nominations, including 4 individual acting awards, writing, directing and editing. It will have a lot of Number 1 votes. But will it be enough to carry through? I most sincerely hope so, but the CODA surge just came at the right time. If the Oscars had been a month ago, this would have been a much different conversation.

Predicted to win: “CODA”
Could win: “The Power of the Dog”
Should win: “The Power of the Dog”
Should have been nominated: “Flee”

Best Director

KIRSTY GRIFFIN/COURTESY OF NETFLIX

The nominees:

  • Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  • Ryusuke Hamagachi, “Drive My Car” (Janus Films)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)
  • Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

Nearly 30 years since becoming the second woman nominated for Best Director, Jane Campion is poised to become the second woman in a row to win and the third overall. If there is an upset, it will probably come via Steven Spielberg, who won the award the last time Campion was nominated. Spielberg is the only director nominated in six consecutive decades, winning two of his seven. But make no mistake, a great many voters are enthusiastically voting for Campion.

Will win: Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Could win: Steven Spielberg
Should win: Jane Campion
Should have been nominated: Guillermo del Toro, “Nightmare Alley”

Best Actor

Warner Bros.

The nominees:

  • Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • Andrew Garfield, “Tick…tick…Boom!” (Netflix)
  • Will Smith, “King Richard” (Warner Bros.)
  • Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/Apple Original Films)

There are so many reasons why this is the year for Will Smith. And yet, many of those reasons seem to have less to do with his actual performance than with the fact that it just feels like he deserves it. His work in King Richard has had a lot of varying reactions, but watching him light up the season has been mesmerizing.

A lot of people love Andrew Garfield’s work, though, and he could pull off the upset, but he’d be going in with little more than a Golden Globe he couldn’t accept on TV. In terms of sheer performance, Cumberbatch and Washington are both spell-binding in their own ways.

Will win: Will Smith, “King Richard”
Could win: Andrew Garfield
Should win: Will Smith (or Benedict Cumberbatch)
Should have been nominated: Nicolas Cage, “Pig”

Best Actress

Searchlight Pictures

The nominees:

  • Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix)
  • Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)
  • Kristen Stewart, “Spencer” (Neon)

It’s rare for the Oscars to align with the Screen Actors Guild 4/4 and if someone is going to miss the Oscar, it’s probably Jessica Chastain. Her film came out so long ago, it wasn’t particularly well received, and others have surged in recent weeks. But while some are ready to say Penélope Cruz is going to win, there are a couple of reasons why I’m not jumping on board.

For one thing, Olivia Colman. She’s great, people love her, and just two years ago she surprised (nearly) everyone by winning after not even actively campaigning. But she and Cruz are likely splitting the international vote. Meanwhile, not only has Chastain had the chance to give great acceptance speeches both at SAG and Critics Choice, she has also been very vocal in support of her Makeup and Hairstyling team (also nominated) and her insistence on being in the theater when that category is awarded prompts a lot of good will among artists who have been slighted by the Academy’s decision to present awards before the broadcast.

Will win: Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
Could win: Penélope Cruz
Should win: Jessica Chastain
Should have been nominated: Tessa Thompson, “Passing”; Renate Reinsve, “The Worst Person in the World”

Best Supporting Actor

Apple Original Films

The nominees:

  • Ciarán Hinds, “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  • Troy Kotsur, “CODA” (Apple Original Films)
  • Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • J.K. Simmons, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)

Troy Kotsur is winning an Academy Award. This is one of the surest bets of the night. What more is there to say?

Will win: Troy Kotsur, “CODA”
Could win: Kodi Smit-McPhee
Should win: Troy Kotsur
Should have been nominated: Colman Domingo, “Zola”; Jamie Dornan, “Belfast”

Best Supporting Actress

20th Century Studios

The nominees:

  • Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix)
  • Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
  • Judi Dench, “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  • Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard” (Warner Bros)

What an embarrassment of riches we have in the performances in this category. And yet, Ariana DeBose rose to the top quickly and stayed there. Will Smith’s ceaseless praise for co-star Aunjanue Ellis could help her, but in the end, DeBose is very likely about to become the second Latina to win this category. Hopefully the third time around won’t be sixty years away and will be for a different role. But DeBose is incredible in a role that demands a scene-stealer and it’ll be great to see her on that stage on Sunday night.

Will win: Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”
Could win: Aunjanue Ellis
Should win: Both
Should have been nominated: Caitríona Balfe, “Belfast”; Ruth Negga, “Passing”

Best Original Screenplay

Focus Features

The nominees:

  • “Belfast” (Focus Features) — Kenneth Branagh
  • “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix) — Adam McKay, David Sirota
  • “King Richard” (Warner Bros) — Zach Baylin
  • “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists) — Paul Thomas Anderson
  • “The Worst Person in the World” (Neon) — Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier

WGA definitely caught some folks by surprise when they chose Don’t Look Up last week. And BAFTA likewise showed international support for Licorice Pizza. But ultimately, this may be the year Kenneth Branagh finally takes home the Oscar, after a career that has seen 8 nominations in 7 different categories. There was a lot of love for Belfast, and a hopeful movie in the face of war is so relevant to our current events.

We can’t count out Licorice Pizza, but there is a lot of divide over some of that film’s major themes and moments, and that could work against it. Could we see King Richard or The Worst Person in the World make it? Sure. In fact, King Richard could just shock everyone by winning a lot more than we expect.

Will win: Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”
Could win: Paul Thomas Anderson
Should win: Kenneth Branagh
Should have been nominated: Fran Kranz, “Mass”

Best Adapted Screenplay

Netflix

The nominees:

  • “CODA” (Apple Original Films) — Siân Heder
  • “Drive My Car” (Janus Films/Sideshow) — Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros) — Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
  • “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix) — Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) — Jane Campion

If CODA is winning Best Picture, it almost certainly needs to win here. And yet… Does it? That was conventional wisdom, which goes right out the window where this film is involved. Yes, Siân Heder won with the Writers Guild last week, but both The Lost Daughter and The Power of the Dog were ineligible. Can one of them pull through and win? Yes. But which one?

Considering Maggie Gyllenhaal’s debut feature managed two acting awards as well, there could be enough voters wanting to spread the love. And if they’re already voting for Campion in director and CODA in Picture, maybe they choose The Lost Daughter here. Maybe.

Will win: Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Lost Daughter”
Could win: Siân Heder, “CODA”
Should win: Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Should have been nominated: Rebecca Hall, “Passing”

Best Animated Feature Film

Walt Disney Pictures

The nominees:

  • “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • “Flee” (Neon)
  • “Luca” (Disney/Pixar)
  • “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (Netflix)
  • “Raya and the Last Dragon” (Walt Disney Pictures)

It’s exciting to see the strides Netflix has made in the world of animation. After all, it’s high time someone give Disney and Pixar a run for their money. And The Mitchells vs. The Machines has a lot of love and support behind it. But Encanto has 3 nominations, Lin-Manuel Miranda is on the verge of completing the EGOT, and is there a bigger earworm than the song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno?”

Will win: “Encanto”
Could win: “The Mitchells vs. The Machines”
Should win: “The Mitchells vs. The Machines”
Should have been nominated:

Best Documentary Feature Film

Searchlight Pictures

The nominees:

  • “Ascension” (MTV Documentary Films)
    Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell
  • “Attica” (Showtime)
    Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry
  • “Flee” (Neon)
    Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie
  • “Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Hulu/Searchlight Pictures)
    Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein
  • “Writing With Fire” (Music Box Films)
    Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh

Such a fascinating collection of documentaries, each so different from the others. The most traditional of them, surprisingly, is also the one most likely to win, Summer of Soul. It is traditional in the sense that it is comprised entirely of archival footage and present day interviews. Attica does the same. But both are films that dive deep into stories and experiences most of us never knew about. And in the case of Summer of Soul, we learn about a huge cultural event that stayed buried and uncelebrated for decades.

Ascension makes fascinating use of visuals and not a lot of speaking to show a changing China, the strange juxtaposition between capitalism and communism, and what it means for the average citizen. Flee is a harrowing, emotional refugee story, an LGBTQ story, and a significant advance in the way true stories can be told. And Writing With Fire is an incredible underdog story and a powerful example of what women can and are accomplishing. This is a tough category and every film deserves to be here.

Will win: “Summer of Soul (…or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
Could win: “Attica”
Should win: “Writing With Fire”
Should have been nominated: “The Rescue”

Best International Feature Film

Janus Films

The nominees:

  • “Drive My Car” (Janus Films) — Japan
  • “Flee” — Denmark
  • “The Hand of God” — Italy
  • “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” — Bhutan
  • “The Worst Person in the World” (Neon) — Norway

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. No international feature has ever lost when simultaneously nominated for Best Picture. The closest was with “The Emigrants,” which was Sweden’s nominee in 1971 and then a Best Picture nominee (plus 3 other categories) in 1972, because of US release dates.

However. This year, we have Flee, also nominated for Animated and Documentary Feature, and this is perhaps the easiest place to vote for it, depending on which way folks are learning in other categories. We also have The Worst Person in the World, nominated in Original Screenplay and loved by a wide swath of voters.

But Drive My Car isn’t just nominated for International Feature and Best Picture. It also has screenplay and directing nods and a whole lot of precursor wins.

Will win: “Drive My Car”
Could win: “Flee”
Should win: “Flee”
Should have been nominated: “Hive” (Bosnia & Herzogovina)

Cinematography

Netflix

The nominees:

  • Greig Fraser, “Dune” (Warner Bros.)
  • Dan Laustsen, “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • Ari Wegner, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • Bruno Delbonnel, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/Apple Original Films)
  • Janiusz Kaminski, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

At this point, there is absolutely no good reason to bet against Greig Fraser and his stunning work in Dune. And yet. Of all the categories, this is the hardest one to separate from my heart. Whether it’s intuition or just me being stubborn, I think we are about to see the first woman ever win the Oscar for Best Cinematography.

Will win: Ari Wegner, “The Power of the Dog”
Could win: Greig Fraser, “Dune”
Should win: Ari Wegner, “The Power of the Dog”
Should have been nominated: Andrew Droz Palermo, “The Green Knight”

Costume Design

Walt Disney Pictures

The nominees:

  • Jenny Beavan, “Cruella” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran, “Cyrano” (MGM/United Artists)
  • Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan, “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  • Luis Seguera, “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • Paul Tazewell, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

How could a movie that is all about fashion and costuming not win here? Going into Oscar night, Jenny Beavan’s work in Cruella is the one to beat. What makes it feel even more secured is that there isn’t a solid consensus on what wins instead. Does the award go to tech leader Dune? Or to the crowd-pleasing West Side Story? Nightmare Alley and Cyrano have their fans too, and because of this not-quite-even four-way split, Cruella still most likely comes out on top.

Will win: Jenny Beavan, “Cruella”
Could win: Paul Tazewell, “West Side Story”
Should win: Jenny Beavan
Should have been nominated: Odile Dicks-Mireaux, “Last Night in Soho”

Film Editing

Warner Bros.

The nominees:

  • Hank Corwin, “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  • Joe Walker, “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  • Pamela Martin, “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
  • Peter Sciberras, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum, “Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix)

When in doubt, align Film Editing to Sound. And considering only The Power of the Dog and Dune are nominated in both categories, it should theoretically be one of those. But, of course, this is a year where stats are meaningless and history is only interesting this time around instead of reliably helpful.

There’s love for King Richard. A lot of folks love Tick, tick…Boom! and are disappointed it missed the Picture lineup. And Don’t Look Up lives and dies by its editing. Spin a wheel. Or take the safe route and align it with your Sound winner.

Will win: Joe Walker, “Dune”
Could win: Pamela Martin, “King Richard”
Should win: Hank Corwin, “Don’t Look Up”
Should have been nominated: Paul Machliss, “Last Night in Soho”

Makeup and Hairstyling

Searchlight Pictures

The nominees:

  • “Coming 2 America” (Amazon Studios)
    Mike Marino, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer
  • “Cruella” (Walt Disney Pictures)
    Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros)
    Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
  • “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures)
    Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh
  • “House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists)
    Göran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock and Frederic Aspiras

There are plenty of arguments to be made in favor of any and all of these nominees. If you think Coming 2 America or House of Gucci can’t win, being the sole representatives of their films? Let’s just think back to Suicide Squad. They’re in the game. Dune has 10 nominations and will win several. Why not add this one to the list? It doesn’t stand out as much as some of the others, but does that always matter?

But, the real competition is probably down to The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Cruella. Each has two nominations. One lines up with Best Actress and has a team that Jessica Chastain has loudly and proudly supported throughout the entire process.

Will win: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
Could win: “Cruella”
Should win: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
Should have been nominated: “Candyman”

Music – Original Score

Warner Bros.

The nominees:

  • Nicholas Britell, “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  • Hans Zimmer, “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  • Germaine Franco, “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Alberto Iglesias, “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Jonny Greenwood, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)

Hans Zimmer probably has this one. A lot of people feel he’s overdue for a second, with this being his 10th nomination since he won in 1994 for The Lion King. That doesn’t always matter, though, as we have plenty examples of composers who are still looking for wins. But is his main competition here Jonny Greenwood, whose score is probably the most perfectly suited and specific to its film? Or Germaine Franco, scoring a movie everyone loves, and who would be the second woman to win this century, plus the first Latina to win the category? If you’re looking to shake things up, pick Encanto. If you want to play it safe, go with Zimmer and Dune.

Will win: Hans Zimmer, “Dune”
Could win: Germaine Franco, “Encanto”
Should win: Jonny Greenwood, “The Power of the Dog”
Should have been nominated: Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, “Candyman”

Music – Original Song

Walt Disney Pictures

The nominees:

  • “Be Alive” from “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
    Music and Lyric by DIXSON and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
  • “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures)
    Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • “Down to Joy” from “Belfast” (Focus Features)
    Music and Lyric by Van Morrison
  • “No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists)
    Music and Lyric by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell
  • “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days” (Vertical Entertainment)
    Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

It’s crazy to think a category that includes Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, and THIRTEEN TIME NOMINEE Diane Warren is such a toss up right now. But with a lot of parents in the Academy who have probably had that Encanto soundtrack on repeat, look for Lin-Manuel Miranda to become the 17th EGOT in history (for competitive categories).

Will win: “Dos Oruguitas”
Could win: “No Time to Die”
Should win: “Dos Oruguitas”
Should have been nominated: “Just Look Up” from “Don’t Look Up”

Production Design

Searchlight Pictures

The nominees:

  • “Dune” (Warner Bros)
    Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos
  • “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
    Production Design: Tamara Deverell; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
    Production Design: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Amber Richards
  • “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/Apple Original Films)
    Production Design: Stefan Dechant; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
  • “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
    Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo

Dune has a lot of technical love, as we’ve mentioned. To convincingly transform present-day New Zealand into 1920s Montana for The Power of the Dog was no easy task. The beauty and artistry is in the spare for The Tragedy of Macbeth. And West Side Story dazzles, even with its muted color palette. But Nightmare Alley‘s design is scrumptious and looks amazing both in color and black-and-white.

Will win: “Nightmare Alley”
Could win: “West Side Story”
Should win: “Nightmare Alley”
Should have been nominated: “The Matrix Resurrections”

Sound

Warner Bros.

The nominees:

  • “Belfast” (Focus Features)
    Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather and Niv Adiri
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros)
    Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett
  • “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists)
    Simon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey and Mark Taylor
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
    Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie and Tara Webb
  • “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
    Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson and Shawn Murphy

If you’re following typical patterns, as mentioned before, you pick your editing winner here. However, if you didn’t predict Dune or The Power of the Dog in editing, your choice didn’t make it into Sound and all bets are off. If this award goes to any of the other three, it would be the first time since 2012 that the Sound and Editing categories had zero matching winners.

Will win: “Dune”
Could win: “West Side Story”
Should win: “The Power of the Dog”
Should have been nominated: “Last Night in Soho”

(Note: In 2012, the Sound Editing and Sound Mixing were still two separate categories. Les Misérables won Mixing while Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty tied in Sound Editing. Of those three, only Zero Dark Thirty was nominated in Editing, which went to Argo, who had been nominated in both Sound categories.)

Visual Effects

Warner Bros.

The nominees:

  • “Dune” (Warner Bros)
    Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer
  • “Free Guy” (20th Century Studios)
    Swen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis and Dan Sudick
  • “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists)
    Charlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner and Chris Corbould
  • “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Marvel)
    Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker and Dan Oliver
  • “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony)
    Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein and Dan Sudick

This is one of those cases where the statistics can really confuse and sway you and make you think of doing something crazy. Because it would be crazy not to predict Dune at this point. But is the Academy really going to send home the year’s biggest blockbuster without a statuette for the mantel?

Will win: “Dune”
Could win: “Spider-Man: No Way Home”
Should win: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
Should have been nominated: “The Matrix Resurrections,” “Eternals”

Best Animated Short Film

The nominees:

  • “Affairs of the Art” — Joanna Quinn and Les Mills
  • “Bestia” — Hugo Covarrubias and Tevo Díaz
  • “Boxballet” — Anton Dyakov
  • “Robin Robin” — Dan Ojari and Mikey Please
  • “The Windshield Wiper” — Alberto Mielgo and Leo Sanchez

Everyone thinks Netflix has this one with Robin Robin, but my gut reaction after watching all five nominees together was that The Windshield Wiper could be the surprise sleeper. A creative and artistic representation of our search for connectedness and the many ways we sell ourselves short seems like a perfect encapsulation of our current circumstances.

Will win: “The Windshield Wiper”
Could win: “Robin Robin”
Should win: “The Windshield Wiper”

Documentary Short Subject

The nominees:

  • “Audible” — Matt Ogens and Geoff McLean
  • “Lead Me Home” — Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk
  • “The Queen of Basketball” — Ben Proudfoot
  • “Three Songs for Benazir” — Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei
  • “When We Were Bullies” — Jay Rosenblatt

All five of these are interesting, different, and unique. They all get into stories we didn’t know, introducing us to people and situations we should be more aware of. Audible and Three Songs for Benazir give us good entry point into their subjects, but feel like they should have been longer. Lead Me Home is a vital look at the growing homeless crisis through the lens of specific people experiencing it. When We Were Bullies invites us to examine ourselves and the way we treat others.

But The Queen of Basketball uses the narrative arc structure to tell a complete story of the short career of Lucia Hayes, a college basketball star, Olympian, and the only woman drafted by the NBA. We are left wanting to know more about her, and yet we know enough to understand that this is one incredible woman.

Will win: “The Queen of Basketball”
Could win: “Audible”
Should win: “The Queen of Basketball”

Short Film – Live Action

The nominees:

  • “Ala Kachuu – Take and Run” — Maria Brendle and Nadine Lüchinger
  • “The Dress” — Tadeusz Łysiak and Maciej Ślesicki
  • “The Long Goodbye” — Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed
  • “On My Mind” — Martin Strange-Hansen and Kim Magnusson
  • “Please Hold” — K.D. Dávila and Levin Menekse

A great blend of stories from around the world, and perfect examples of what can be accomplished with short filmmaking. It seems like The Long Goodbye is the one to beat, especially with Riz Ahmed front and center, on screen and behind the scenes.

Will win: “The Long Goodbye”
Could win: “On My Mind”
Should win: “Please Hold”

The 94th Academy Awards wil air Sunday, March 27 at 5pm PDT on ABC.

Written by
Karen Peterson is the Awards Editor for We Live Entertainment. She previously worked as the Assistant Editor at Awards Circuit, now owned by Variety. Her work can also be found at Citizen Dame and at the Watch and Talk podcast. Her non-awards season hobbies include Angels baseball, taking pictures of other peoples' pets, and tweeting about The Bachelor franchise.

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