Who will win (and who should) at this year’s Academy Awards

We predict the major categories at this year’s Oscars – will The Power of the Dog continue its run?

What even are the Oscars? Are they the ultimate arbitration of what constitutes the best movies of the year? Of course not. Are they a celebration of the art of cinema? Ideally. Are they a celebrity-fest with little-to no impact on the longterm life of a film? For the most part.

Every time the Oscars roll around, I find myself preaching about their lack of relevance, and indeed the very concept of objective quality in cinema, while simultaneously getting swept up in the pageantry of it all.

Last year’s ceremony was something of a debacle, and the Academy seems to be going out of their way to make this year’s even more controversial with their plan to award certain categories while the celebs are still on the red carpet, then play edited down versions of these awards during the live broadcast.

It’s a terrible concession to the perceived needs of the Academy’s broadcast partners, and lots of people aren’t happy about it, including Oscar luminaries such as James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro. But the Academy seems to be standing firm.

As Jane Campion’s whirlwind 24 hours earlier this week can attest, Academy fortunes can rise and fall very quickly. And it’s a strange year from any perspective. With that in mind, here’s what we’re thinking about the major categories (check out Steve Newall’s predictions for the remaining categories and see the full list of nominations here).

Actress in a Supporting Role

Who should win: Ariana DeBose for West Side Story. She held it all together alongside the mismatched leads.

Who will win: DeBose

Potential upset: Jessie Buckley for The Lost Daughter. Buckley’s getting one of these sooner or later.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Who should win: Troy Kotsur for CODA.

Who will win: Kotsur. There’s been an extremely minor backlash against the film recently, but Kotsur is pretty much a lock.

Potential upset: The Power of the Dog‘s Kodi Smit-McPhee, if only for his transcendent awards season fashions.

Actress in a Leading Role

Who should win: Kristen Stewart for Spencer. Never has so little conveyed so much.

Who will win: Jessica Chastain for a classic showy Oscar performance in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

Potential upset: Stewart.

Actor in a Leading Role

Who should win: Benedict Cumberbatch was amazing in The Power of the Dog but it’s Will’s time.

Who will win: Will Smith for King Richard. As much for his career as anything.

Potential upset: Cumberbatch.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Who should win: Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth for Dune. The way they boiled down that behemoth (or, half of it, at least) is worthy of awards recognition.

Who will win: Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. Sam Elliot may have ensured this.

Potential upset: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe for Drive My Car.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Who should win: Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt for The Worst Person in the World. The Academy loves awarding the screenplay prizes to films that aren’t normal enough to win (or in this case, even be nominated for) Best Picture. That should be the case here.

Who will win: Trier and Vogt. They really captured something.

Potential upset: Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza. Again, a consolation prize for being too weird to win the big stuff.

International Feature Film

What should win: Drive My Car. Although it’s an especially strong category this year. The Worst Person in the World also very deserving. However, we still can’t fathom why Titane wasn’t nominated here.

What will win: Drive My Car. It’s great that Hamaguchi’s film received a Best Picture nomination, but that’s probably enough progress for the Academy, so they’ll be happy to award it this consolation prize.

Potential upset: The Worst Person in the World.

Best Director

Who should win: Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. The Oscars are as much, if not more, about awarding a career as much as they’re about individual projects. Campion earns this on both fronts.

Who will win: Campion. Despite the recent kerfuffle, her momentum seems unstoppable.

Potential upset: Steven Spielberg. There was a huge upswing in affection for West Side Story when it hit streaming recently.

Best Picture

What should win: The Power of the Dog. See above.

What will win: The Power of the Dog. Ditto.

Potential upset: West Side Story. The Academy loves Spielberg almost as much as it loves nostalgia.

The 94th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday March 27 (US time).

Watch in New Zealand on Monday March 28 on TVNZ2. Red carpet footage will screen in the morning, with the awards ceremony starting 1pm.