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

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, with Oscar voting underway, we discuss the categories we still haven’t figured out yet.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! It’s a Friday, the weather is finally heating up, spring is just around the corner — and Oscar voting has finally started. If it feels like we’ve been talking about this movies for literal years, that’s actually true. “CODA” first premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, meaning we’re three months in year two of its acclaimed awards run. But by this time next week, we’ll have made our final predictions and all it’ll be all over but the shouting. As such, I don’t want to devote too much time this week to our picks — but instead perhaps we can discuss some educated long shots that might pay off. What better place to start then with Best Actress. Jessica Chastain is now a strong frontrunner to win. This week, Chastain even said she wouldn’t walk the red carpet during the ill-fated pre-show ceremony so that she could be inside the auditorium if “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” wins Best Makeup and Hairstyling. It’s the kind of selfless move that can only engender even more goodwill for an actress who feels like she’s got this whole thing locked up. But I can’t help but wonder if we’ll have an upset in Best Actress on March 27. You sent me a tweet from Illeana Douglas this week where she seemingly agreed that Penelope Cruz should be Best Actress. It’s one tweet from one voter, but Cruz and “Parallel Mothers” does feel like the kind of performance that isn’t an Oscar winner until it very much is. By which I mean, Cruz missed a lot of key precursors and hasn’t really won anything… but she also hasn’t directly competed with this group of nominees. So while I think Chastain would win against Olivia Colman, Nicole Kidman and Kristen Stewart (and she has already), I don’t know if we can say the same thing about Chastain vs. Cruz. I’m thisclose to making the switch. What about you? Where are you in the final countdown?

joyceeng: As a round-trip passenger on the Cruz Cruise this season, I would obviously love a win. She’s one of those people for whom the nomination was the biggest hurdle. And now that they’ve put her in, coach, can she do it? I’ve had her in fourth post-noms, and I’m not gonna lie, I lightly chuckle when I see her in fifth in the odds — I get it, people think she’s out of it because of her lack of major precursor noms (not making the BAFTA longlist was the nadir) and she’ll have to pull a Marcia Gay Harden. But she has won stuff: She took the Volpi Cup (over Stewart) at Venice and two (Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics) of the Big Three critics prizes, and the winner of the third, New York Film Critics Circle’s and New York’s own Lady Gaga, was snubbed. The critical faves don’t always translate to Oscar wins, of course, or sometimes even nominations, but the fact that she did make it through here speaks to the passion for her performance. We’ve discussed how “Parallel Mothers” was a late-breaker, so voters can be catching up to it now. I also think what helps her is that her film and even her performance are the least polarizing of the five. People have very, uh, strong opinions about “Spencer,” “Being the Ricardos” and “The Lost Daughter,” and while “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” isn’t divisive, it’s just… there. “Parallel Mothers” is arguably the most liked in terms of consensus and is well reviewed, and I don’t think I’ve seen a negative word about Cruz’s turn whereas her rivals’ performances (or in one case, the actions of their character) are not everyone’s cup of tea. One of IndieWire’s anonymous voters said that Cruz is “undeniable in that performance,” though stops short of sharing their actual vote (to be fair, Douglas doesn’t explicitly say she voted for Cruz either). All this to say that Cruz is a dark horse. I don’t know if I’d put her all the way in first at this moment, but I’ll move her up, especially since it seems like absolutely no one is talking about Kidman anymore. Her buzz completely deflated after SAG. Believe it or not, I haven’t really thought about Best Actress that much because I’ve been LOLing over the hot mess that is Best Film Editing. I have no idea what to do here. Send help.

SEE Oscar Experts predictions slugfest: What will win at PGA and WGA?

Christopher Rosen: This is such a great category filled with drama, so of course it won’t be shown live on the broadcast and we’ll find out who via a tweet from Kyle Buchanan or Scott Feinberg. Movie lovers unite! But sour grapes aside — and the acknowledgment that the true winner of this category is “West Side Story,” nomination be damned — I’m still leaning on “King Richard.” And that’s not just because I spoke to Pamela Martin. She’s a respected veteran and two-time nominee who won at the ACE Awards for dramatic film. But perhaps most important is that her editing is maybe the flashiest here. You could argue that “Don’t Look Up” has the most editing — and it definitely does, Hank Corwin went hard — but I think because of its sports subject matter, it’s perhaps easier to see Martin’s work than in the other nominees. For what it’s worth (not much!), “King Richard” and “Don’t Look Up” would land in my top two were I an Oscars voter, but it does seem like “Dune” and “The Power of the Dog” are factors as well. (“Tick, Tick… Boom!” is another very edited movie, as it were, but I think because it doesn’t have a Best Picture nomination that makes it a harder sell.) I guess my reasons against picking those is that each film feels “long,” and often equals certain doom in this category. (I’ll hold here for you to tell me how “King Richard” is actually longer than “The Power of the Dog,” but I also know it doesn’t feel as long!) Editing, what a concept! What other categories have you running in circles, Joyce? I’m up against it in Best Animated Feature, because while I’ve felt “Encanto” is a strong bet to win, I’m starting to think “Mitchells vs. the Machines” could pull off an upset.

joyceeng: “King Richard” is indeed well paced and you don’t really feel its two hours and 24 minutes. But you are also talking to someone who’s watched two nearly six-hour matches in the wee hours of the night and too many three-plus hour matches in person to count, so I’m always here for more tennis. I still have “Dune” there, really because I don’t know what I’d switch to (if I do at all) after its three losses to three different films, two of which were Oscar-snubbed (#justice4westsidestory — speaking of pacing, “West Side Story” is only a minute longer than the 2:35 “Dune” and I did not feel the length with the former while I did with the latter). “Dune” and “The Power of the Dog,” which is the opposite of Most Editing, also have a sound nom, and the other three nominees do not. No film has won editing without a sound nom (RIP the two sound categories) since our dear “The Departed,” so this will be a test of the sound stat. As for animated, I am very much Don Draper here. I am not overthinking this and am going “Encanto” all the way. “Mitchells” is great, but it feels like another “Klaus,” which actually won BAFTA. They’re pretty populist in this category and tend to default to Disney or Pixar in weak years anyway. “Encanto” is also a rare non-franchise and non-IP animated film that has pierced the zeitgeist. I guess we should circle back to both fuzzy screenplay categories with the Writers Guild of America Awards on tap Sunday, where literally half of the 10 Oscar nominees are not eligible.

SEE Oscar Experts predictions slugfest: After BAFTA and Critics Choice, are all 4 acting races locked?

Christopher Rosen: Ah, yes, screenplays! We talked about that this week with our mouths. I still think “Belfast” and Kenneth Branagh have the edge over “Licorice Pizza” and Paul Thomas Anderson. “Belfast” was the more beloved movie with the academy and it’s still at least within the same state lines as “The Power of the Dog” and “CODA” in the Best Picture race. That gives it an advantage. As for Best Adapted Screenplay, the popular pick is “CODA” and it’s all but assured to win at the WGA Awards this weekend, but I still think “The Power of the Dog” emerges victoriously on Oscar night. I’m sticking with the notion that part of the reason “CODA” won at BAFTA over “The Power of the Dog” is because BAFTA voters had nowhere else to recognize the movie itself and not just a performance. But at the Oscars, you could argue that “CODA” lovers would be more bullish on it for Best Picture and might just check off “The Power of the Dog” on account of its acclaim and the fact that it’s a more difficult adaptation. Let’s end with PGA, Joyce. You can have the last word, but I’m holding tight on “The Power of the Dog” there too. But if it loses, you can bet I’ll sing a different tune — perhaps “Both Sides Now” — when we do our final predictions next week.

joyceeng: Is “Belfast” that beloved when it missed editing and cinematography and hasn’t won a guild yet? It couldn’t win screenplay on home turf at the BAFTAs when it’s more similar to “CODA” than “The Power of the Dog.” I’m also sticking with “Dog” for PGA. All season everyone’s been searching for a rival and “Belfast” was flaunted as the ostensible No. 2, but the way the winds so quickly shifted to “CODA” signals a scattered field below the top “Dog.” You can make a case for “Dune” at PGA, given its box office haul and grand scale. But for all the talk of how divisive “Dog” is, it has its passionate supporters and admirers even if it’s not your favorite film of the year, so it could be so far ahead after the first round that no one else can catch up. We know where Marty’s vote went.

PREDICT the 2022 Oscar winners by March 27

Oscar odds for Best Actress
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