Film Critic Dann Gire Says Major Oscar Malfunction Could Be in the Works

To accurately predict the winners of the 94th Academy Awards (announced starting Sunday, March 27 at 7 p.m. on ABC), a tricky question must be answered.

How much did Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affect Oscar voters during the six-day voting period from March 17-22?

Has it prompted voters to embrace more positive, life-affirming films like “Belfast” and “CODA” over dark tales of murder, betrayal, and cynicism like “The Power of the Dog” and “Nightmare Alley”?



“CODA”, starring Emilia Jones, left, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin and Daniel Durant, has a real chance of winning the Oscar for Best Picture on Sunday.
– Courtesy of Apple TV+

Did it deliver a timely advantage to “Flee” and “The Long Goodbye,” two farsighted nominees dealing with similar topics now happening: military invasion, refugee refugees, and discrimination against immigrants?

These are going to be tough calls.

Ten years ago, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences membership numbered just 5,765 when a group of middle-aged white men heavily dominated the mood.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Now membership has grown to nearly 10,000 voters, the result of a dedicated effort to diversify the club’s demographic mix, a welcome feat that nonetheless adds more complexity to the art of Oscar prediction.

Let’s start with the surefire, bet-the-farm, can’t-lose categories.


Film critic Dann Gire predicts Ariana DeBose, left, as Anita in

Film critic Dann Gire predicts that Ariana DeBose, left, as Anita in “West Side Story,” will dance her way to a Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars Sunday.
– Courtesy of 20th Century Studios


Certainly

Best Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s daring remake of the musical ‘West Side Story’. She has had victories at BAFTA, Critics Choice, Golden Globe and SAG. Her chances of winning can be further enhanced by her self-identification as a queer Afro-Latina, appealing to Oscar voters who want to show their support for diversity.



Will Smith is a strong contender to win the Best Actor Oscar for playing Richard Williams, father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, in

Will Smith is a strong contender to win the Best Actor Oscar for playing Richard Williams, the father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, in “King Richard.”
– Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Actor: Will Smith as Super Dad, tennis coach Richard Williams in ‘King Richard’. Like DeBose, he has won BAFTA, Critics Choice, Golden Globe and SAG awards and will receive the Oscar after two previous nominations for “Ali” (2001) and “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006). His closest competitor: Benedict Cumberbatch for ‘The Power of the Dog’.


Jane Campion, here on the set of...

Jane Campion, here on the set of ‘The Power of the Dog’, could win the Academy Award for Best Director at Sunday’s Academy Awards.
– Courtesy of Netflix

Best Director: Jane Campion for ‘The Power of the Dog’. In addition to numerous awards from critics and professionals, she won the coveted award from the Directors Guild of America, a strong indicator of Oscar success. (Steven Spielberg would be very upset about this, because no director has won the Oscar without his film being in the running for screenplay and editing. His isn’t.)



‘Drive My Car’, starring Hidetoshi Nishijima, left, and Toko Miura, should win the Best International Feature Film Academy Award on Sunday.
– Courtesy of Janus Films and Sideshow

International Feature film (formerly foreign): “Drive My Car” from Japan. Hey, it’s not just for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture (BIG Hints), but it also features huge stretches of Anton Chekhov’s classic play ‘Uncle Vanya’. Just the kind of highbrow prestige stuff that Oscar voters love.

Costume Design: “Cruella.” Did you know that Cruella DeVil started out as a clothing designer? Her profession here lends itself to creating so much wild and elaborate costumes that the film almost has an unfair advantage in this category.

Makeup and Hair Styling: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” No anxiety here.

Best bets

Animated feature film: Disney’s lusciously luminous musical ‘Encanto’. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” has a long shot at a win, but if the situation in Ukraine weighs heavily on voters’ consciences, “Flee” could cause a BIG upset.

Custom scenario: “CODA”, but “The Power of the Dog” could make it.



Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker in

Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is almost certainly a Best Actress slot at Sunday’s Oscars.
– Courtesy of Searchlight Photos

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain for ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’. Not only did she imitate the overly dramatic, cartoony televangelist, she made us empathize and understand a surprisingly pure soul.

Documentary Feature: “Summer of Soul” has these in the bag…but wait! Could ‘Flee’ possibly disrupt his strong lead as a result of his prescient subject matter? (For those who count, “Flee” has a record three nominations for Best Picture: Animated Feature, International Feature, and Documentary.)

Documentary Short Subject: Audible, a beautifully photographed and edited account of a winning team of high school soccer players — all of whom are deaf.

Animated short film: “Robin Robin” from the creators of the masterfully crafted stop-motion film series “Wallace and Gromit”. A family of mice raises a robin from a hatched egg.

Live action short film: “The Long Goodbye,” a thorn in the side of an anti-immigrant drama starring co-writer Riz Ahmed, a best actor nominee for last year’s “Sound of Metal.”

not-so-sure


Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim star in

Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim star in ‘Licorice Pizza’, which has a chance to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
– Thanks to MGM

Original Scenario: “Licorice Pizza” or “Belfast”? Difficult decision. I go for ‘Pizza’. Norway’s clever nominee “The Worst Person in the World” could be a complete upset, but a good one.



“Dune” — starring Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson — could take home some Oscars from Sunday’s Academy Awards.
– Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Original Score: “Dune.” Hans Zimmer’s music is more complex and layered with vocals than Jonny Greenwood’s quasi-horror film score for ‘The Power of the Dog’. But Greenwood is so close to a win.

Sound (formerly both Sound Editing and Sound Mixing): “Dune.” The raw sonic power and sheer density of the sounds in this science-fiction feature will be hard to beat, although “The Power of the Dog” and “No Time to Die” are within reach.

Cinematography: “Dune.” “The Power of the Dog” snaps at its heels with a lyrical nod to the classic look of “Days of Heaven.”

To process: I loved the audacity of “tick, tick…BOOM!” — my personal choice. But it will be “Dune”, with “The Power of the Dog” winning if “Dune” fails.

Song: Poor Diane Warren loses her 13th Oscar nomination for “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days” when Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” wins. If not, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Dos Oruguitas” has it locked up.

hair pullers

Supporting role: If the nominees for “The Power of the Dog” Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee split the votes, a third nominee may be able to take the statuette. He would be Troy Kotsur, the deaf actor who plays the frisky father in ‘CODA’. He took the SAG prize from expected winner Smit-McPhee and will do it again at the Oscars. If not, Smith-McPhee wins.



Will Smith is a strong contender to win the Best Actor Oscar for playing Richard Williams, father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, in

Will Smith is a strong contender to win the Best Actor Oscar for playing Richard Williams, the father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, in “King Richard.”
– Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Visual Effects: “Dune.” “Spider-Man: No Way Home” waits to dive in when “Dune” fails.

Production design: The toughest category because every nominee is mesmerizingly excellent. I prefer ‘Nightmare Alley’ or ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’. But “Dune” will win.

Image: Until recently, “Dog” seemed like an unstoppable steamroller to win most of its 12 nominations. Academy voters usually prefer a Best Picture film that exudes prestige, importance and even nobility. The title “The Power of the Dog” comes from a Bible passage: Psalm 22:20 (“Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.”) A prestigious slam dunk, right?

Not so fast.

I feel a disturbance in the strength of the force for ‘Dog’. The male supporting actor at the SAG Awards, the one almost everyone assumed “Dog” actor Kodi had imprisoned Smit-McPhee, went instead to “CODA” star Troy Kotsur. Last weekend, the Producers Guild of America — a reliable harbinger of the Oscar winner for Best Picture — awarded the Best Picture award to “CODA.”

“CODA”, about a hearing high school student whose relatives are deaf, may be formal, but it offers noble elements lacking in its competitors at a time when bleak reality awaits outside our movie theaters: lessons in sacrifice, sincerity, faith, dedication, friendship and family. And it’s funny.

Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” comes close, but failed to win the Writers Guild of America award last weekend. “CODA” did it.

I predict an upset victory for ‘CODA’.

Leave a Comment