Picking Winners at the 94th Annual Academy Awards

The 94th Annual Academy Awards hits airwaves Sunday, March 27th, 2022 at 8:00pm on ABC.

For those handicapping at home, here are the guesses of Buffalo film fanatics Christopher Schobert, William Altreuter, and myself.

Jared Mobarak:

As the “Show all 23” chant continues on Twitter, we all know the 2022 Oscars are going to be a little different than previous years. The Academy says no one should worry because no awards are going to be “excluded,” but their definition of that word is not universal. Yes, every award will be presented on-stage (with some pre-recorded and spliced in), but nobody can genuinely say handing out Best Editing to a mostly seat-filler-filled auditorium while the big-name celebrities do their red carpet duties is the same as Best Cinematography being announced with only previous winners and bathroom breaks missing.

It’s not the first misguided move this year (Remember when The Academy tweeted a series of “memories” for Black History Month that they deleted upon realizing they were only proving how racist an institution they’ve historically been?) nor will it be the last (Do they let Amy Schumer go off-script? I can see Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall putting her in her place and the production never letting her hit the stage again if she does). This is what happens when Disney/ABC dictate terms and the Oscars forgets it will never reach an audience beyond the film lovers that actually care. So cater to them for once. Please.

As for the awards themselves, I’m not even sure I can muster much enthusiasm for what seems like an almost immovable lock in most categories. Best Picture and Best Actress possess some wiggle room, but both Best Supporting trophies, Best Actor, and Best Director seem to be etched already. It does make the prospect of an upset worth staying up, though (I think CODA might really surprise). Even if I’m mostly going to watch to see how bad the “comedic skits that the world wants” end up proving.

The picks:

  • Supporting Actor – Troy Kotsur
  • Supporting Actress – Ariana DeBose
  • Lead Actor – Will Smith
  • Lead Actress – Jessica Chastain
  • Original Screenplay – Belfast
  • Adapted Screenplay – CODA
  • Director – Jane Campion
  • Picture – CODA

Christopher Schobert:

I probably said this last year, and perhaps the year before, but each awards season the process seems more drawn-out, more tiresome, more wrong-headed, and more annoying than ever before. Jared, you’ve nicely highlighted many of those reasons above.

Also annoying is the fact that once again, most of my personal selections won’t be walking home with awards — however, that’s par for the course at this point. (I’m still struggling with the fact that Kristen Stewart is unlikely to win Best Actress.)

One last annoying element: Jared, I agree with most of your selections! However, I’m going to call for three surprises, to shake up our picks here and because I think they have a legit chance at walking home with awards. So, may we start? (And how is “So May We Start” not nominated for Original Song, anyway?!)

The picks:

  • Supporting Actor – Troy Kotsur
  • Supporting Actress – Kirsten Dunst
  • Lead Actor – Will Smith
  • Lead Actress – Jessica Chastain
  • Original Screenplay – Licorice Pizza
  • Adapted Screenplay – The Lost Daughter
  • Director – Jane Campion
  • Picture – CODA

William Altreuter:

Remember when the Academy Awards were an important cultural event? Remember when the show was a must-watch, second (maybe) to the Super Bowl? What changed? [Gestures] Everything. The rise of streaming services will probably save the industry, but the pandemic meant that the way we consumed movies for the last two years abruptly shifted from going to a theater to staying in, and staying in meant that sometimes we wanted a three-hour media experience, and sometimes we wanted a quick 90 minutes, and sometimes we wanted to binge for hours. That has meant that our experience of the medium has changed, even though the Academy hasn’t changed the work it recognizes.

Work from home changed things too — we no longer socialize at work the way we used to, and that means that common cultural references aren’t as meaningful as they once were. I imagine people will continue to watch the Oscars for some time to come, but I don’t think we are ever going to be as invested in the outcomes as we once were again. 

There was some really good work this year, but most of what I liked was more intimately scaled. My picks, guaranteed to be wrong:

  • Supporting Actor – Troy Kotsur (CODA doesn’t exist without his performance.)
  • Supporting Actress – Judi Dench (One of those performances where you say, “Wait, isn’t that?”)
  • Lead Actor – Benedict Cumberbatch (When in doubt, pick the Englishman to win.)
  • Lead Actress – Nichole Kidman (Probably the toughest category of the night.}
  • Original Screenplay – Licorice Pizza (A tricky story, well told.)
  • Adapted Screenplay – Belfast 
  • Director: Kenneth Branagh (Jane Campion has a puncher’s chance.)
  • Picture – Belfast (Every frame is beautiful.)

By the way, Summer of Soul deserved consideration as Best Picture, instead of just being, you should excuse the expression, ghettoized in the documentary category. I cannot recall a movie ever capturing the 60’s as well. 

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