Oscar Awards Roundup: Biggest Critics Winners

AWARDS ROUNDUP: DECEMBER 15th

The Best Picture race is starting to shape with the release of critics choice and Golden Globe nominations. Many of the largest and most influential regional critics awards have already come and gone. At this point, we’re in the full swing of Award season and it’s time to determine the frontrunners before the real precursors begin. 

Best Picture

Let’s start with the Best Picture race which is starting to take shape. 

Award wins:
1. The Power Of The Dog (5) – BOFCA, NYFCO, PFCC, SEFCA

2. Belfast (4) – LVFCS, PFCS, TIFF, WAFCA

3. Drive My Car (2) – BSFC, NYFCC

3. Licorice Pizza (2) – AFCC, NBR

4. The Lost Daughter – GOTHAM

4. Cyrano – DFCS

4. Titane – Cannes

Belfast received the increasingly important win of the Toronto Film Festival Festival audience award and positioned itself as a frontrunner. However, The Power of the Dog as Netflix awards horse and its recent release and success on Netflix has spurred Jane Campion’s film towards the top of the list. The two films share a total of four wins, but it’s far from a done deal if these two will stay at the top.

The big question right now is when does Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story strike. The later release date did interfere with some awards body’s voting dates, so the awards count right now is partially swayed. And yet, West Side Story has the look and feel of a film liked by critics but adored by the industry precursors (Hello, Golden Globes). The three favorites in the race: Belfast, West Side Story and The Power of the Dog.

In spite of the big studios putting their money behind those films, there’s one darkhorse that I believe is a more serious contender than people realize: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. The industry is going to look around and realize PTA hasn’t received love for his lifetime of incredible work and Licorice Pizza, a more palatable, less-alienating PTA film (based on reviews) that feels accessible towards Oscar voters. In a year where the Best Picture lineup is far from set, there could be a surprising winner and Licorice Pizza winning National Board of Review, landing AFI, Golden Globes, and Critics Choice is nothing to look down at.

Outside Contenders: King Richard, Dune, Drive My Car

Director 

The director race is looking vaguely familiar to a certain 2020 director who went on to win this category and Best Picture

1. Jane Campion (9) – AFCC, BOFCA, NYFCC, NYFCO, PFCC, SEFCA, VENICE, WAFCA, CFCA

2. Paul Thomas Anderson – NBR

2. Kenneth Branagh – PFCS

2. Maggie Gyllenhaal – GOTHAM

2. Ryūsuke Hamaguchi – BSFC

2. Lin-Manuel Miranda – DFCS

2. Steven Spielberg – LVFCS

Jane Campion, a beloved figure with an amazing track record, releases one of her best films with Netflix awards backing. It’s a perfect match and people are seeing the film and responding to her work. Early on, it felt as if Branagh with a personal period piece was the favorite, but Campion has quickly usurped that role. 

Nevertheless, we haven’t seen precursors and it feels like a year where there will be a disconnect between critics and industry.  So, Steven Spielberg is undoubtedly still in the running. As Spielberg ages, it might be time to give him another Oscar win 22 years removed from his Saving Private Ryan director win. At this point, despite a lonely one win at the Las Vegas Critics, it feels that it will transfer to Globes and Critics Choice. The PTA win with NBR is significant but not enough to truly consider him missing at the Globes.

Outside Contenders: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Denis Villeneuve

Best Actor 

The critics are in a love affair with The Power of the Dog

1. Benedict Cumberbatch (8) – AFCC, BOFCA, NYFCC, NYFCO, PFCC, PFCS, SEFCA, CFCA

2. Nicolas Cage – LVFCS

2. Peter Dinklage – DFCS

2. Andrew Garfield – WAFCA

2. Hidetoshi Nishijima – BSFC

2. Will Smith – NBR

Seven wins for Benedict Cumberbatch, a real critics darling. It reminds me of Ethan Hawke in First Reformed but with legs due to it being a Best Picture contender. It’s unbelievable work from Cumberbacth and ultra deserving but time will tell if he can outlast Will Smith. I say Ethan Hawke because Cumberbatch feels more aligned with smaller critics groups than what the industry at large will say. 

Furthermore, it feels like it will come down to Cumberbatch against Smith with no other contender making an impression. Andrew Garfield can definitely make a play with how well liked that film seems to be by critics and industry, but Netflix will back Cumberbatch as their best opportunity. 

Outside Contenders:  Peter Dinklage, Nicolas Cage

Best Actress

Kristen Stewart has been the favorite since long before the race started, does she hold onto that title? 

1. Kristen Stewart (7) – AFCC, BOFCA, PFCC, PFCS, SEFCA, WAFCA, CFCA

2. Jessica Chastain (2) – DFCS, LVFCS

2. Alana Haim (2) – AFCC, BSFC

3. Olivia Colman – GOTHAM

3. Jasna Duricic – EFA

3. Lady Gaga – NYFCC

3. Penelope Cruz – VENICE

3. Renate Reinsve – CANNES

Six critics award wins for Kristen Stewart and her lead increases by the day. However, it hasn’t been an ideal run for Spencer as of late, as only Stewart’s name stays in the headlines. Surprisingly, the one name building up more steam than anyone is singer to actress Alana Haim in Licorice Pizza. She’s beloved across the board and will be interesting to see if that transfers over to the industry.

Jessica Chastain has the googly eyed Tammy Faye is still Stewart’s biggest competition, with Lady Gaga and her 80-page biography on Patrizia Gucci lay in waiting. She’s a high profile enough personality to at least get a nomination and we know what Lady Gaga can do in second phase campaigning. For now, it’s still Stewart or bust.

Outside Contenders: Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz

Best Supporting Actor

Troy Kotsur building momentum after his impassioned Gotham Awards speech

1. Kodi Smit-McPhee (7) – BOFCA, NYFCC, NYFCO, PFCC, SEFCA, WAFCA, CFCA

2. Troy Kotsur (3) – BSFC, GOTHAM, LVFCS

3. Ciarán Hinds (2) – NBR, PFCS

4. Jon Bernthal – DFCS

4. Bradley Cooper – AFCC

The Power of the Dog leading in three acting categories shows a passion for that film amongst critics. Seeing Troy Kotsur enter the race as a legitimate threat to win the award, however, is a future I want. And yet, I have a deep appreciation for the Ciaran Hinds performance in Belfast. 

Kodi Smit-McPhee has the lead now, but in a film with so many great performances around him, he could get lost in the bunch. But at the same time, many see him as the best performance of that ensemble. He’s a strong contender for SAG as well.

Outside Contenders: Jon Bernthal

Best Supporting Actress 

Arguably the race that’s most highly contested of any – supporting actress

1. Ariana DeBose (3) – DFCS, LVFCS, PFCS

1. Kirsten Dunst (3) – AFCC, BOFCA, SEFCA

1. 2. Ruth Negga (3) – NYFCO, PFCC, CFCA

2. Aunjanue Ellis (2) – NBR, WAFCA

3. Jessie Buckley – BSFC

3. Kathryn Hunter – NYFCC

Ariana DeBose crashed the supporting actress party with her scene stealing performance in West Side Story. Of all the good performances in that film, hers sings the loudest from a corner of the narrative. Kirsten Dunst feels like a real threat, but again, it could be solely a critics thing. The major one to keep an eye on is Aunjanue Ellis from King Richard. That film will get rewarded somewhere and her performance almost eclipses Will Smith’s. She also won the NBR. 

For me, the best performance of this bunch is Ruth Negga in Passing. A complicated role that she nails. Wins in New York and Philadelphia are a good start, but she runs into Netflix having too many contenders in the category. Catrione Balfe from Belfast hasn’t been popular with critics, but she’s not out of the race by any means. 

Outside Contenders:  Jessie Buckley, Jennifer Lawrence

Best International Film

Drive My Car separates itself from the pack after a successful stretch of two weeks

1. Drive My Car (6) – AFCC, GOTHAM, NYFCO, SEFCA, WAFCA, CFCA

2. Titane (2) – CANNES, PFCC

2. Flee (2) – BIFA, LVFCS

2. The Worst Person In The World (2) – BOFCA, NYFCC

3. The Hand Of God – PFCS

4. A Hero – NBR

Drive My Car won Best Picture at the New York Film Critics Choice, not just Best International. It’s a film that shows strength enough to possibly sneak into the Oscar Picture discussion. Flee, on the other hand, has a strong chance in a number of categories including documentary and animated. As for now, international has a true frontrunner in Ryu Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car.

Otherwise, Asghar Farhadi with A Hero still hasn’t made its move but could become a bigger threat as the precursors creep up. Academy voters love Farhadi and he could get votes off name recognition alone.

Outside Contenders: The Worst Person in the World 

Best Cinematography 

The atmospheric cinematography from Ari Wegner and The Power of the Dog taking control over the race 

1. The Power Of The Dog (5) – AFCC, BOFCA, BSFC, NYFCO, CFCA

2. Dune (3) – PFCS, SEFCA, WAFCA

3. West Side Story (2) – LVFCS, NYFCC

4. Boiling Point – BIFA

4. Nightmare Alley – PFCC

4. The Tragedy Of Macbeth – NBR

Ari Wegner is a cinematographer who has instantly risen to the top of my must watch list. Her work in both In Fabric (2019) and Zola (2021), two smaller films, are fantastic. Stylish and imposing work. With Campion being praised for the aesthetic, Wegner will get a heaping amount of praise as well. Bruno Delbonnel for The Tragedy of Macbeth could make a push, but for now, the open space western has the edge.

Outside Contenders: Janusz Kaminski 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Let’s be real, this category has already been decided

1. The Power Of The Dog (9) – BOFCA, DFCS, LVFCS, NYFCO, PFCC, PFCS, SEFCA, WAFCA, CFCA

2. Drive My Car (2) – BSFC, CANNES

2. The Lost Daughter (2) – GOTHAM, VENICE

3. The Tragedy Of Macbeth – NBR

Jane Campion ending Oscar night with her second win in adapted screenplay doesn’t feel like anything less than inevitable. It’s the most comprehensive script in the category and beautifully written. Character writing this well is rare and Campion extracts the best out of the source material.

However, Tony Kushner’s name holds a great deal of weight in Hollywood and West Side Story does have a decisive screenplay. Still, it’s hard to seperate Kushner’s work from the original and that feels like a detriment to his chances against a better narrative with Campion. If only Drive My Car could gain more traction it could stand a chance, but The Power of the Dog is quickly turning into an awards season juggernaut. 

Outside Contenders: Maggie Gyllenhaal 

Best Original Screenplay

Paul Thomas Anderson vs Kenneth Branagh: The Showdown

1. Licorice Pizza (4) – AFCC, NYFCC, SEFCA, CFCA

2. Belfast (3) – LVFCS, PFCS, WAFCA

3. Don’t Look Up – DFCS

3. A Hero – NBR

Neither Kenneth Branagh nor Paul Thomas Anderson have received an Oscar yet despite many nominations between the two. Both have two or more previous screenplay nominations and lost. One of these guys is due for an Oscar. It’s highly unlikely any other films have a chance here.

For prediction purposes, the best picture favorite Belfast likely has a leg-up over Licorice Pizza, but with only Globes and Critics Choice nominations out, it’s hard to say how the season will break. Licorice Pizza is a late releasing crowd pleaser that could surprise a lot of pundits. 

Outside Contenders: Asghar Farhadi 

Best Film Editing 

Critics awards often skip editing for reasons

1. Dune (2) – BOFCA, PFCS

2. The French Dispatch – CFCA

2. The Souvenir Part II – BIFA

2. Tick, Tick…Boom! – WAFCA

2. West Side Story – LVFCS

Editing, my favorite awards category, oft overlooked and always understated in the importance it is to the films overall success. Of course, only a handful of critics groups have put their pick in the ring with Dune taking an early lead. That said, no film has a real lead in this category. 

West Side Story has the showiest editing of all the contenders, meaning it will likely win. However, it would be a much deserving win as some of Michael Kahn’s best work in his career. Other than the ones listed, any picture contender will have a legitimate shot here. Editing can be a gateway win to a Best Picture.

Outside Contenders: The Power of the Dog, Belfast

Best Original Score

Hans Zimmer season

1. Dune (6) – AFCC, BOFCA, HMMA, PFCS, SEFCA, WAFCA

2. Spencer (2) – BSFC, LVFCS

3. C’mon C’mon – HMMA

3. Don’t Look Up – HMMA

3. Great Freedom – EFA

3. Parallel Mothers – HMMA

3. The Power Of The Dog – PFCC

Hans Zimmer has 11 nominations and one lone win for The Lion King back 27 years ago. He’s due for another win and the Dune score is embedded within the sound design of the film making for a ravishing musical accompaniment. However, I won’t sit quietly in the night as Jonny Greenwood’s scores go overlooked…again 

Outside Contenders: Don’t Look Up, C’mon C’mon


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