The 94th Academy Awards take place this Sunday, March 27, and we’re buckling up for a chaotic night. There’s already a lot of drama around the event—including the Academy cutting eight categories from the live show, West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler being invited only after fans spoke out, and an award selected via social media votes. Will people actually watch the Oscars this year? Who should win best picture? The Daily Dot’s culture team gathered to discuss our predictions and top picks.
What was your favorite film of 2021? Was it nominated?
Audra Schroeder, senior writer: Mine is the same! Titane was my favorite by far, no noms.
Tiffany Kelly, senior culture editor: Titane was my favorite film as well. Nothing else compared to it.
Michelle Jaworski, staff writer: I’m going to be the odd one out and not say Titane (although I did like that one a lot). My top three are pretty interchangeable, but right now it’s The Power of the Dog, Drive My Car, and The Worst Person in the World, all of which were nominated for a variety of Oscars. I do think that TWPITW should’ve been in the best picture conversation.
Of the best picture nominees, which film deserves to win?
TK: Drive My Car is my pick. It’s such a powerful film that I forgot it was three hours while watching it.
AS: I think Power of the Dog should win, Campion’s recent gaffe aside.
MJ: Drive My Car because I’m still kind of in amazement that it was so beloved by the Academy in the first place outside of best international film. It’s a three-hour meditative drama about grief and Anton Chekhov and large chunks take place in a car. Very little of that sounds like something that the Academy would be into.
AS: I do have this creeping dread that Don’t Look Up will win though!
MJ: I’d also say Dune because even though it’s a blockbuster based on a very famous book it’s a very weird movie. But the argument against that is that it’s only one half of a movie and they might be waiting for part 2 to award it beyond the technical categories.
Related to that…which film do you think will actually win? People think the frontrunners are The Power of the Dog and CODA.
GBW: Power. But yeah it seems to be a close one. I always enjoy a surprise winner but if it turns out to be Don’t Look Up or something… eurgh.
AS: I didn’t catch CODA yet, but I’m leaning toward Power.
TK: I think Jane Campion will win best director, but I’m feeling a surprise best picture win this year, so CODA or something else.
MJ: I’d prefer Power to win, but I’m leaning toward CODA right now because it feels like it’s a movie that more people like over Power, which has a passionate contingency but is also polarizing.
GBW: CODA is the normie choice and Power is the artsy choice.
AS: The Academy still gets to have a period piece with Power, they love those!
MJ: The fights that Film Twitter has been having over those two movies the past week, wooo…
Who do you think will win best international feature and why? It’s leaning toward Drive My Car.
MJ: Yeah, that one feels like it was decided a while ago
GBW: SURELY it’s Drive. Flee and Worst Person in the World have a lot of buzz too, but I think people will just vote for Flee in the animated category instead.
TK: Drive My Car seems like the obvious choice….then The Worst Person in the World will win best original screenplay, likely.
MJ: I hope Worst Person wins for best screenplay. I want it to get something.
AS: Loved Worst Person so much, and Flee.
MJ: My fear for Flee is that even though it’s up in three categories, it’s gonna get shut out.
TK: I hope Worst Person gets something! But it’s only nominated for two categories.
MJ: Drive My Car will get international, Encanto will get animated, Summer of Soul will get documentary feature.
AS: I wanna say Worst Person gets best screenplay, but I fear Don’t Look Up will…
GBW: I’d be kinda surprised to see a non-English language film get screenplay, the Academy being what it is. I haven’t seen Don’t Look Up but I’m HAPPY to root against it. No thank you!!
TK: It took me three days to finish Don’t Look Up because I kept falling asleep.
MJ: I’d love Drive My Car to get best adapted screenplay. I read the short story it’s largely based on and nothing about that story suggests the movie we got.
TK: Adapted screenplay is tricky….I think it depends on what other awards these films win. CODA might win all three it’s nominated for.
MJ: Power seemed like an early favorite, but The Lost Daughter has been getting a lot of love and then CODA had a couple of recent wins.
GBW: My instinct is that Power is gonna win a lot of stuff like screenplay and editing because people love Jane Campion. The industry knows her and she hasn’t been able to make a movie in like a decade. People are excited for her. Whereas the actual people involved in making CODA are much more low-profile.
What do you think is the most contentious category this year?
MJ: Best actress. For once it’s a category where there isn’t one clear winner.
GBW: Best actress is CHAOS!!
TK: Just give it to Penelope.
MJ: I would love for her to win. She’s the best part of Parallel Mothers, a movie that more people should seek out.
AS: I couldn’t get through Being the Ricardos. But the Academy loves when famous people play other famous people.
GBW: Agreed, despite not having seen Parallel Mothers yet lol. it’s meant to be incredible and some of these other nominees… no thank you. I like Jessica Chastain in general but that is 100% a makeup nomination.
MJ: And they really love prosthetics-heavy transformations
TK: I loved Spencer but I don’t think KStew will win.
MJ: I would laugh if Olivia Colman came out of nowhere and won again
GBW: I’m a KStew stan and I hope she just wins a different year. She has MANY more nominations ahead of her.
Of the 4 actor categories, who are you rooting for the most?
AS: I’d love a Jessie Buckley win.
TK: Yes, Jessie Buckley! She is SO good in everything.
GBW: I would LOVE to see Ciaran Hinds win an Oscar but I’m just happy he’s nominated. AN amazing character actor who rarely gets awards recognition. To be honest there are so many bad/nonsensical acting nominees this year that I don’t have a genuine one to root for lol. It seems like so many people were snubbed. Simon Rex should have Javier Bardem’s slot!!
AS: Yes, Simon Rex was robbed!
MJ: I don’t think either of them will win, but it tickles me that Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons got nominated together.
GBW: Yeah, that’s really cute
MJ: We have another couple in Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, but I don’t think Bardem should’ve been nominated, so that one’s a bit less exciting. As for who is, I’d say Troy Kotsur. And probably Ariana DeBose, who’s almost definitely winning supporting actress
GBW: An embarrassingly uneven nomination split there between a film everyone agrees is good (Parallel Mothers) and a film with DECIDEDLY mixed responses (Ricardos).
MJ: I do not know how J.K. Simmons got in for a role he could’ve done in his sleep. Justice for Jason Isaacs (and Mass as a whole imo).
Eight categories will be pre-taped ahead of the live show. How do you feel about that? Do you think it will affect the flow of the show?
GBW: VERY BAD. The only people who think this is a good idea are the freaks at ABC organizing this mess of an event!!
AS: Yeah, it seems like this year’s show is really disorganized
GBW: Put simply, the people who want to watch the Oscars, want to watch the Oscars. There’s no point editing out a handful of Oscars in order to placate an imaginary audience of Oscars-hating viewers!!
AS: I don’t even remember last year’s Oscars, but I do remember the 2021 awards were like the lowest-rated ever?
MJ: It feels like such a Sisyphean effort because ratings are down everywhere and ABC is chasing an audience who no longer exists, and it’s leading the Academy to alienate a chunk of its members who already feel like they’re treated like second-class citizens.
GBW: It’s disrespectful to the nominees AND the audience. The Oscars should celebrate and educate movie fans, including people who are just watching casually. They should be airing DVD special features-style introductions to the more obscure technical categories, and highlighting individual nominees with interesting stories, like obscure athletes at the Olympics.
AS: I think we’re already seeing a shift with the Oscars Twitter Fan Favorite award and the discourse around that, and now TikTok being used to critique and promote films or fandoms. It’d be nice to see the telecast change, too.
MJ: And the rollout is confusing. The Oscars are handing out awards an hour before and people will be in the audience, but the Red Carpet will still be going? And they’re editing in the speeches later, but we’re really gonna find them out on social media hours earlier so then the people don’t get their moment and audiences could easily use that category for a bathroom break? Like what?
Speaking of the Fan Favorite vote, what do you think the reaction will be to that?
MJ: It’s going to be a big joke. It’s the kind of thing the Academy made up to get Spider-Man/Marvel fans to shut up and then it’s going to go to something like the Cinderella movie or that Johnny Depp movie nobody has heard of.
GBW: it’s so stupid lol. like it’s not actually a real award. And the internet vote thing is ridiculous.
MJ: People are going to be really harsh toward any gimmick that the show does because the argument is going to be, “You could’ve just given out those eight awards live instead of this bit that doesn’t work”
GBW: I desperately want that Cinderella film to win. Anything other than Spider-Man: No Way Home—not that Spider-Man is bad, I just think the discourse is absurd and i’m spiteful.
AS: Yeah it’s real dumb, but I hope for an Academy Awards that really would nominate Malignant.
GBW: It’s likely to be Netflix’s Army of the Dead due to it having the Snyderverse fanbase. They LOVE polls. And that’s what the award deserves: just a movie that got chosen because the fanbase loves to spam social media!! (Army of the Dead is also fine as a movie, but it’s nowhere NEAR the most entertaining or memorable blockbuster of 2021, or even the most fandom-y, which once again proves how stupid this non-award is.)
GBW: They need to just put movie nerds in charge of programming at the Oscars. there are a lot of young movie nerds out there on Letterboxd and Tumblr!!
Lastly, a bunch of presenters were just announced, days before the show. Do we think the show will be boring or chaotic?
GBW: It will be boring AND chaotic.
AS: Well, a new variant just dropped…
GBW: Yeah, so many people are gonna be out, especially anyone who attended the BAFTAs.
MJ: I would be curious to see if anyone actually uses their time to call out the Academy for what it’s been doing.
GBW: I suspect someone in a technical category might mention the sidelined awards, but i’d be very surprised if any of the actors mentioned it in their speeches. If Jessica Chastain wins, she might.
MJ: I think it’s going to go over the three-hour runtime.
Any closing thoughts?
AS: lol none of us mentioned Nightmare Alley, which I fell asleep during.
MJ: I wish I liked it more.
TK: I actually liked Nightmare Alley, but I’m not sure if I’d watch it again. It’s a solid film!
MJ: We also did not mention Will Smith at all.
GBW: Extremely likely to win [best actor] I think, partly out of sheer fame and longevity.
MJ: I think he’s going to win—and he’ll probably give a great speech in the process.
Overall, I hope that the Oscars sparks some curiosity for people to check out some of the movies nominated, which are truly some of the best things I’ve seen in the past year; it’s not just arthouse movies or depressing biopics, there is a lot of variety across categories and mediums. And most of everything that’s nominated is streaming in some form, so it’s easier than ever to access so much of it.
GBW: My final thought is I hope some of the male nominees wear interesting outfits, black tuxes are such a snooze.