Oscar Experts Typing: Debating (and making) some last-minute changes

Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race — via Slack, of course. This week, in our final entry of the season, we go over some of the closest races again, including, of course, Best Actress.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! We’ve made it to the Season 2 finale of Oscar Experts Typing. I’ve greatly enjoyed our weekly Slack chats and look forward to ramping up Emmy Experts Typing again soon. But before we get into the merits of the year’s great wave of scammer television (FYC “The Dropout” and “Super Pumped”), let’s take one last look at what has become one of the most competitive Oscar races in a long while. We made our final predictions this week and I feel pretty secure in what I’ve landed on, especially in Best Film Editing (where we both went for “Tick, Tick… Boom!” in an upset) and Best Picture (where we switched to “CODA” as its momentum continued unabated through Oscars voting). But — and I think you’ll agree — I have such doubts about Best Actress. Jessica Chastain remains the frontrunner by default, and she gave a great performance in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Yet I still wonder if she’ll have enough passion to win — and if someone like Kristen Stewart or Penelope Cruz can sneak out a victory in what we all assume is a very evenly split race between all five nominees. I went with Stewart and I’m sticking with her for two reasons: She’s been everywhere all the time since being nominated, and while “Spencer” is absolutely polarizing (we’ll always remember the Lady Behind Me at Telluride™ who couldn’t stand it), I don’t think Stewart is at all. People love her in the industry! Which isn’t to say Cruz isn’t also beloved, but I just think her profile this year has been lower than Stewart. But what do you think? We’ve targeted Best Actress as the unpredictable upset race — where do you think you’ll go?

joyceeng: Oh, man, well, I was close to switching to Cruz during our chat, but since I had already made changes in two other unpredictable categories, I had to stop while I was behind. But now it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day… and I’m feeling good about Cruz again. This will probably change again tomorrow and I might go back to her fellow 355er Chastain, but this really is the perfect setup for her to emerge victorious. It’s an acclaimed performance in an acclaimed film with her frequent collaborator, Pedro Almodovar (I don’t think a ton of people vote this way, but it feels right for Cruz to have an Oscar for an Almodovar film, doesn’t it?), and “Parallel Mothers” was a late release that was being consumed post-noms. Like I said earlier this month, it’s not as strong as “The Father,” another late surger and Sony Pictures Classics baby, was last year, but it’s following a similar path. And not to put too much stock into a handful of anonymous ballots out of 9,000, but Cruz has gotten high praise and several votes, including from some of the members we polled. And lest we forget, Ileana Douglas loved her. Even if Cruz does not win, she should not have been fifth in the odds throughout Phase 2, which is still LOL to me. We will never know the totals (we should though, #ReleaseTheVotes), but it’s obvious there’s passion for her performance. As I’ve said, I understand why she’s been in fifth — she made no major precursors — and usually the nomination is the reward in that scenario. But this race is split and Chastain has hardly been the dominant favorite. It’s not the same as when Charlotte Rampling made the Oscar cut with almost no precursors but clearly had no shot against Brie Larson, who was running the table that year. And personally speaking, I’ve been on Team Cruz for a while and stuck with her for the nomination, so I feel like I need to go down with the ship. Did I just talk myself into keeping her? Is Penelope Cruz-ing to a win?

SEE Oscar Experts slugfest: Our final winner predictions in all 23 categories

Christopher Rosen: Everything you wrote there about Cruz is why I was on her to win until this week. But then, I don’t know, I was just thinking about Oscar night and when Anthony Hopkins is reading through the Best Actress nominees and opens the envelope… how is it not going to be Stewart? She dominated the conversation for months and were it not for that SAG snub, even with the polarizing movie, I think she’d still be the frontrunner. As we said, the likely reason she lost at the Critics Choice Awards to Chastain is because Chastain won at SAG. If the Critics Choice Awards happened on its original date in early January, Stewart would have emerged triumphant. I love Cruz and she’s got a lot of sneaky precursor support beyond the obvious (LAFCA, the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival), but I do think “Parallel Mothers” is just underseen in the final calculus. Joyce, what other categories have you waffling? I keep coming back to Best Original Screenplay, where I picked “Don’t Look Up” over “Belfast” and “Licorice Pizza.” Should we just go with the obvious choice of “Belfast”?

joyceeng: I love that your prediction rests on a vision of Sir Anthony Hopkins reading a name. Never change. I still have “Don’t Look Up” in original and I’ll probably stick with it. Neither “Licorice Pizza” nor “Belfast” have felt super strong to me here, but they were ostensibly top five films and Best Picture threats for a while and have directing nominations as well. I would not be surprised if either of them won, but I also feel like neither has quite the passion to win here as a consolation prize a la “Get Out” or “Promising Young Woman.” Had “Licorice Pizza” won WGA as expected I would’ve kept it. “Don’t Look Up” has the most original concept of the five and the “important message.” As we discussed on Wednesday, people are down on it because most of Film Twitter does not like this movie so they’re anti-dicting it, but we know the industry and international folks have embraced it more. Bong Joon Ho loves it! (Yes, I know he and Adam McKay are working on the “Parasite” series.) I have also flirted with the possibility of a shocker by “The Worst Person in the World,” which is a result that I think would make most people happy. Like “Parallel Mothers,” it was building momentum in January as voting was about to start. Maybe Renate Reinsve just missed Best Actress. I am still uneasy about editing and Best Picture though. Part of me feels like I should go down with the “Power of the Dog” ship in the latter too. Tell me what to do. Should I throw the “Dog” a bone here?

SEE Oscar Experts Typing: Stressing over the categories keeping us up at night

Christopher Rosen: I actually think it’s more believable that “CODA” wins Best Adapted Screenplay over “The Power of the Dog” than Best Picture at his point. It feels like a lock. So if you’re going to go walk with “Dog,” I would suggest just swapping it into your top Best Picture spot. But while you ponder that, allow me to backtrack to Best Actress. In the time since we’ve been typing, I’ve read secret Oscar ballots from multiple academy members as published by Next Best Picture and Entertainment Weekly and, overwhelmingly, those ballots have selected Cruz. If you go by the anonymous ballots — many of which could have crossover between sites, I realize — Cruz is as sure a bet to win as Troy Kotsur or Will Smith. As you’ve rightly realized, I’m nothing if not impressionable, and this kind of pushed me over. I’m going with Cruz (ducks so the commenters’ tossed tomatoes don’t smash me in the face). If Stewart wins, I’ll take the L, but I’d feel sillier if I missed the Cruz boat because of misplaced fall 2021 love for the “Spencer” star and her campaign. So, Cruz. I guess I’ll end there before I change more picks at the last minute, but what about you, Joyce?

joyceeng: We really can’t end the season without one final reactionary prediction change from you! I obviously support this swap. It’ll be funny if everyone climbs aboard the Cruz train now because of these ballots and she doesn’t win. But more so than the actual votes themselves, I think it’s more insightful to hear these voters’ explanations for why they’re voting or not voting for someone. A voter could praise Cruz and still vote for someone else, but what’s important is the shared affection and reverence for her performance and any similar patterns. There were lots of ballots three years ago that were like, “I know Glenn Close is winning, so I’m voting for my favorite, Olivia Colman.” Here, we have several refrains of people knowing Chastain is ahead but are more taken by Cruz, being unimpressed by “Tammy Faye,” and remarking that they saw “Tammy Faye” a while back and have just caught up to “Parallel Mothers.” (Side note: Dying that Lady Gaga comes up in all five of EW’s voters’ answers. Her power.) I am still undecided about going back to “Dog,” but I’ll keep “CODA” for now. Maybe I’ll do a coin flip on Sunday. I did one last year to decide between Hopkins and Carey Mulligan because I wasn’t gonna do both. It betrayed me like Peter betrayed Phil. Welp. Anyway, I guess I’ll see you on the other side.

PREDICT the 2022 Oscar winners by March 27

Oscar odds for Best Actress
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