Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon” has a strong possibility to win two Oscars on Sunday night despite it only receiving three bids, all in technical categories. What Kyle Smith in the Wall Street Journal called “one of the year’s richest and most ambitious films” is up for Academy Award nominations in Best Costume Design, Best Production Design and Best Score. Although it’s not a favorite to win for its costumes — “Elvis” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” have better shots there, per Gold Derby odds — it can absolutely win both production design and score. Here are the five reasons “Babylon” will win two Oscars on March 12.
1. Academy voters will want to reward the film somewhere.
Although some of the response to the Paramount Pictures film was mixed, there’s been a lot of passion for “Babylon” in the months since its release. If Oscar voters want to reward a film like “Elvis” or “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” there are plenty of opportunities for them to do so. But such is not the case for “Babylon,” as it only has three citations. Now, if there were clear standouts from other films in the three categories “Babylon” is nominated in, then it might be difficult to justify any wins for Chazelle’s film, but it has dazzling technical attributes, particularly in categories like Best Production Design and Best Score. Look for academy voters to notice.
2. Best Production Design doesn’t have a frontrunner.
One of the two categories I believe will go to “Babylon” is production design for Florencia Martin and Anthony Carlino. Victory in this category makes sense since the production design in the film is striking, especially in the first act mansion party sequence. In addition, there’s no clear frontrunner. The other nominees in the category are “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Elvis” and “The Fabelmans.” Most voters will likely reward “Avatar: The Way of Water” in Best Visual Effects, not here, and buzz for “The Fabelmans” has faded in the last month, so a win here seems difficult. “All Quiet on the Western Front” received nine Oscar nominations, and there are other categories to reward it like Best Cinematography and Best International Feature. “Elvis” I would argue is the biggest threat for production design, but some voters might decide to reward it in Best Actor for Austin Butler and Best Costume Design. Without a clear frontrunner, “Babylon” will be able to prevail.
3. Best Score doesn’t have a clear favorite, either.
Another category “Babylon” has an excellent chance in winning is score for Justin Hurwitz. Like production design, the score category is up for grabs, and nobody knows what direction the voters will go in. The other nominees are “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “The Fabelmans.” Some could argue the haunting score to “All Quiet on the Western Front” could win here, but again, voters might instead reward the film in other categories like cinematography. Voters might be inclined to vote for “The Banshees of Inisherin” in Best Supporting Actress for Kerry Condon or Best Original Screenplay, but Best Score seems unlikely. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” could take this category if a sweep occurs on Sunday night, but this feels like one of the categories it could miss. The biggest threat I would argue is John Williams for “The Fabelmans,” since this is the most likely category Steven Spielberg’s drama can win an Oscar. Williams hasn’t won since 1994, and some voters might want to give him a legacy award. However, with so many options available to voters, “Babylon” looks like it could be the winner.
4. The academy loves Justin Hurwitz.
Another reason “Babylon” will likely win in score is that the academy adores the work of Hurwitz, giving him three nominations in 2017 for “La La Land” and two wins: Best Score and Best Song for “City of Stars” (the latter he shared with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul). His third bid was for the song “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).” With two Oscar victories behind him, Hurwitz has the pedigree and the name value to stand out on ballots, and again, without a clear frontrunner in the category, enough academy voters may decide they like the score to “Babylon” the best and give it the win here, no matter the movie missing in top categories like Best Picture, Best Director for Chazelle, Best Actress for Margot Robbie and Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt.
5. Films only nominated in technical categories win all the time.
Some might argue that “Babylon” underperforming on Oscar nominations morning means voters will be more inclined to vote for movies that have Best Picture and Best Director bids, but such is not always the case. In 2014, “The Great Gatsby” was only nominated for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, and it won in both categories. In 2011, “Alice in Wonderland” only received three Oscar notices — costumes, production design and visual effects — and, like “The Great Gatsby,” it won the first two. In Best Score, “Soul” won in 2021 with only three listings, the other two being Best Animated Feature and Best Sound. And “The Hateful Eight” won in 2016 with only three citations, the other two being Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Jason Leigh and Best Cinematography. Because of these five reasons, look for the film that Randy Myers in San Jose Mercury News calls “one of the most outlandishly energetic, sinful, and ambitious cinematic experiences of this year” to win the two Oscars on Sunday night.
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