Hollywood’s glitziest, most glamorous night of year is almost upon us: The 94th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 27, celebrating the best of last year’s motion pictures. Despite a couple of inevitable controversies (cutting artistic awards from the live broadcast again, and the getting-better-but-still-overwhelming whiteness of the acting nominee pool), the show will go on, and there are sure to be a few surprises in store. This year, the Film Beat weighed in on what will win and what should win at this weekend’s ceremony.
— Katrina Stebbins and Jacob Lusk, Film Beat Editors
“The Power of the Dog” is going to win Best Picture. It’s a lock — my personal lock of the week. The film has been the Best Picture frontrunner since its release, and no other film has really been able to halt its momentum. Netflix has been pushing hard for their first award in this category for a few years now — ultimately coming up short with “Roma,” “The Irishman,” “Mank” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” As long as it can hold off a late season push from crowd pleasers “Belfast” or “CODA,” Jane Campion’s stellar film should be able to bring home the big prize for the streaming giant. A win would be well-deserved, even in a relatively stacked year with excellent films like “Drive My Car,” “West Side Story” and “Licorice Pizza.” The film is a wonderful, slow-burn take on masculinity and sexuality. Campion is at the top of her game in every respect, creating wonderfully composed images that capture both the open loneliness of the West and the claustrophobic inner conflicts of some of the characters. Her script is drenched in subtext that lends itself to multiple viewings, and the slow unfolding of the narrative does an excellent job of building tension to a wonderful payoff. Benedict Cumberbatch (“Spider-Man: No Way Home”) gives the best performance of his career in his terrifying portrayal of Phil Burbank. He’s able to create so much tension by combining his natural charm with an angered restraint, and in a different year he would likely be the runaway favorite for Best Actor. Surrounded by tremendous supporting performances from Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-Man”), Jesse Plemons (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (“X-Men: Apocalypse”), “The Power of the Dog” showcases one of the best ensemble casts of the year. Campion’s last opportunity at the Oscars brought her a Best Director nomination and Best Original Screenplay win for “The Piano.” Her comeback film after a 12-year hiatus from feature filmmaking should win her the biggest prize of all this year.
WILL WIN: “The Power of the Dog”
SHOULD WIN: “The Power of the Dog”
— Mitchel Green, Daily Arts Writer
I have to be honest here: I was bored to tears during “The Power of the Dog.” It wasn’t even close to being one of my favorite films of last year, but no one can deny that it’s a technically excellent film. Helmed by Jane Campion — the first female director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director twice, who recently went viral for dunking on Sam Elliott — “The Power of the Dog” is intimate, deliberate and visually stunning. Even so, I’m far more partial to Steven Spielberg’s work on “West Side Story” — the spectacle of the dance at the gym, the dynamism of the blocking and Janusz Kaminski’s (“Schindler’s List”) camerawork, the narrative tweaks to the story that eventually grew on me.
But this race isn’t exactly a tight one — early award results have set up Campion as the most likely to take home her first directing Oscar for “The Power of the Dog” — but if anyone else in the category could take it from her, it would be Spielberg. The inclusion and recognition of Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s patient, understated work on “Drive My Car” was a welcome surprise when the nominations were announced; Hamaguchi, along with “Licorice Pizza” director Paul Thomas Anderson, are the Davids to Campion and Spielberg’s Goliaths, but it’s unlikely the result at this year’s ceremony will be biblical.
This one’s going to Campion. Hopefully, she’ll keep Venus and Serena Williams out of her acceptance speech this time around.
WILL WIN: Jane Campion
SHOULD WIN: Steven Spielberg
— Katrina Stebbins, Senior Arts Editor
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
From my humble perspective, there are two kinds of roles that get nominated for Best Actress: roles based on real people and roles created by the writer that are brought to life when the actress steps into them. Unfortunately, this year, the majority of the characters fit into the former: Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”), Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) and Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) play Lucille Ball, Tammy Faye Bakker and Diana, Princess of Wales, respectively, while Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”) and Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”) play roles not based on real figures.
I have to admit that I have no idea who’s going to win this category. One of the reasons that Best Actress is always a tricky category is because every nominee is often equally deserving of the award, and the same is true of this year — with one notable exception being Kidman. The danger of creating roles out of famous figures is that everyone knows exactly what they look and sound like, or at the very least they have no reason to believe that they aren’t doing a perfect imitation of them. I trust Stewart’s Diana or Chastain’s Tammy Faye because I don’t have much reference; I don’t trust Kidman’s Lucy because she doesn’t fit my (albeit limited) understanding of the real-life figure, and no amount of making her eyes really wide will change that. Devastatingly, I think I also have to rule out Colman — not because of the quality of her performance but because “The Lost Daughter” didn’t quite feel like her movie. Colman’s performance anchored the film, but Jessie Buckley’s supporting role was the true breakout.
So that leaves me with three, but that’s as far as I can guess. Although I haven’t seen “Parallel Mothers,” I’ve heard wonderful things about Cruz’s performance, making her the more likely half of the power couple to win an Oscar. For “Spencer,” Stewart gives a performance that perfectly hits the mark on someone on the brink of losing control; frankly, she had me from the moment she awkwardly ran through a field in pumps and a pencil skirt. And Chastain’s Tammy Faye, with her light prosthetics and enthusiastic Minnesotan accent, is the current favorite to win — although if we learned anything from last year’s Oscars, expecting someone to win won’t get you anywhere. Maybe it is anyone’s game after all.
WILL WIN: Jessica Chastain, apparently
SHOULD WIN: Anyone except Nicole Kidman
— Kari Anderson, Daily Arts Writer
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
The Best Actor category this year was full of performers who all could go home with the award. They all tell compelling stories, expressing complex ranges of emotion through the most subtle of acting choices. A common theme among this year’s nominees is a sense of tragedy to many of their characters: Andrew Garfield (“tick, tick… BOOM!”), Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) and Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”) all play characters with explicitly tragic fates, while Will Smith (“King Richard”) plays a character who tragically refuses to show weakness while pushing his daughters towards greatness.
For me, Will Smith is no doubt going to end the night with this award in hand. He has received a lot of attention for this role, already winning the BAFTA and SAG Awards. He fully comes into the titular role of Richard, giving the patented Will Smith charm when necessary, but also showing the true vulnerability behind the character when needed. Smith is not often given credit for his dramatic acting chops, but they are real and truly shine in this movie. If he does win the award, I’ll be clapping along at home since he does deserve more attention for his serious roles.
With all of that being said, if I got to choose who should win Best Actor, I would give it to Andrew Garfield in a heartbeat. He does everything in this movie, from acting to singing at the absolute peak of his abilities. He puts his entire body into the performance, to the point where his neck muscles are visibly bulging with effort while singing. Garfield tells the story of Jonathan Larson so mind-bogglingly well in this movie that I watched “Rent” the very next day, just so I could get more of the energy that Garfield blew me away with. I think it is unlikely that Garfield wins, as Smith looks to be a surefire lock. However, regardless of the results, this role cements Garfield as one of the best actors of all time.
WILL WIN: Will Smith
SHOULD WIN: Andrew Garfield
— Zach Loveall, Daily Arts Writer
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
This year’s Supporting Actress nominees are a list of new and old names: There’s Judi Dench (“Belfast”), who won an Oscar in the same category in 1999, while Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”) and Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”) were both given their first Oscar nominations after having a series of awards and nominations under their belts. The final two nominees, Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) and Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”), are accomplished, talented actresses who have more recently broken out into a more mainstream public.
At this point, it’s pretty obvious: DeBose is going to win. She’s been racking up awards left and right, and her performance speaks for itself … and yet, I still want to talk about it. I do want to give Jessie Buckley an extra note of praise, in part because her nomination was largely unexpected but rightfully deserved. In “The Lost Daughter,” Buckley plays the younger version of a character played by Olivia Colman, who is nominated for Best Actress. Buckley’s performance is memorable, visceral and upsettingly realistic, creating a center of emotion that gave Colman’s performance far more meaning.
But if I’m being honest, it’s DeBose’s award to lose, and I will be outraged if she’s snubbed. DeBose is a special kind of actress, primarily a Broadway performer who brings the skill and intensity of the Broadway stage to Stephen Spielberg’s “West Side Story” adaptation. DeBose is incredible to watch, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off her when she’s on screen. With respect to the other actors in “West Side Story,” DeBose’s Anita is easily the most engrossing character in the film. The only person who comes close is Rita Moreno (“One Day at a Time”), who appeared in the “West Side Story” adaptation as a new character named Valentina but is best known as the original Anita — a role that led her to win the Best Supporting Actress category 60 years ago. It should be noted that DeBose did not get nominated because she recreated Moreno’s take on the character, but because she made Anita completely her own, and it’s an extraordinary, entirely Oscar-worthy performance as a result. Besides, the symmetry of having two actresses win for the same character exactly 60 years apart feels like a Hollywood ending. I don’t think the Academy will be able to resist — and they shouldn’t.
WILL WIN: Ariana DeBose
SHOULD WIN: Ariana DeBose (but with a special shout-out to Jessie Buckley)
— Kari Anderson, Daily Arts Writer
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
The Best Supporting Actor category this year started as an award that was fairly up in the air at the beginning of awards season. Troy Kotsur (“CODA”), Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”) and Ciarán Hinds (“Belfast”) were all thought to have fairly decent chances of winning, while Jesse Plemons (“The Power of the Dog”) and J.K. Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”) were not given much attention. However, as awards season has gone on, the buzz around Kotsur has grown exponentially, and rightfully so. Kotsur delivers a tear-jerking performance that has resulted in him being the first deaf male actor to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This is a milestone performance from an actor who has personal experience with the disability that is front and center in the film. At the emotional culmination of the movie, Kotsur’s character listens to his daughter sing by feeling her vocal cords, resulting in one of the most beautiful and intimate onscreen moments I have ever seen.
My choice for who should win Best Supporting Actor is Jesse Plemons — definitely an uncommon one. He has won zero major awards for the role and was a surprise nomination for the category; the majority of the buzz surrounding his nomination was that it could potentially lower his co-star Smit-McPhee’s chances of winning, with the worry of their dual nominations resulting in a split vote between the two “The Power of the Dog” performances. However, I think Plemons understood what his role in this movie was. He wasn’t trying to steal the show, he was the support to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Burbank. Plemons’s role as the soft-spoken George Burbank is key to making the foundation of the film work. To me, this is one of the best supporting roles I have seen in a while, and although I do not think there is any chance of Plemons actually winning the award, I am ecstatic that he was at least nominated.
WILL WIN: Troy Kotsur
SHOULD WIN: Jesse Plemons
— Zach Loveall, Daily Arts Writer
Some might say never winning an Oscar is a badge of honor for an artist. Alfred Hitchcock never won one, nor did Stanley Kubrick. Paul Thomas Anderson likely has plenty of career left before he joins that club, but it would be better if the Academy didn’t let it get to that point. It is a crime that he doesn’t have an Oscar at this point anyways, but he should definitely win one for “Licorice Pizza.” His latest script creates a very lived-in, familiar world in the Valley of the early 1970s. It’s joyfully nostalgic, but doesn’t shy away from the seedier side of its setting. Although some criticisms have been leveled at the script for its “plotlessness,” its meandering nature fits perfectly with the journey of its main characters. Alana (musical artist Alana Haim in her feature debut) is lost as she tries to figure out what to do with her life, and as a result the scenes focused on her often linger without much direction. On the other hand, Gary (Cooper Hoffman, debut) knows exactly what he wants, and his scenes are often very direct and to the point. It is a very clever structure that strengthens the emotional core of the film and gives its main characters more depth. While “The Worst Person in the World” would be a fun upset win, given that “Licorice Pizza” is unlikely to challenge in Best Director or Best Picture, it would be nice for Paul Thomas Anderson to finally be recognized here. And by the looks of it, it appears that that is most likely going to happen. Betting markets have “Licorice Pizza” as the strong favorite to win Best Original Screenplay. Barring a late awards season push from “Belfast” — whose momentum seems to have stalled as we approach the Academy Awards — “Licorice Pizza” should be a lock to take home this award.
WILL WIN: “Licorice Pizza”
SHOULD WIN: “Licorice Pizza”
— Mitchel Green, Daily Arts Writer
“The Power of the Dog” has captivated the movie industry so intensely that its reputation makes it an almost inevitable winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay category. With the movie taking place in 1925 Montana, the idea of toxic masculinity is put front and center for the audience. What’s even more compelling, however, is how this idea exposes that same toxicity in our current culture. While its message is both unexpected and rather revolutionary, the plot itself often grows dull, which prevents me from making this movie my top choice. “CODA” is a stronger candidate in its place, having not only a meaningful message but a stimulating storyline as well. In terms of its underlying themes, I found “CODA” to be the most universally relatable. It focuses on a young girl’s (Emilia Jones, “Nuclear”) coming-of-age struggle to navigate life while trying to live up to everyone’s expectations and discover her own identity. A topic that speaks to most, the struggles that she faces are paired with engaging dialogue and a noteworthy film score. Each song was a source of raw emotion pouring from the main character herself, who was pursuing a musical career, and I thought these a cappella additions were a uniquely interesting way to convey deeper feelings that are sometimes difficult to express in films.
Director Sian Heder’s (“Tallulah”) admirable work touches on the division between Ruby and her Deaf family, and the harsh cuts between moments of lively music to silence from her family’s perspective provide a deeper insight into their confusion with her musical aspirations. It also allows the viewers to experience the overwhelming silence of being hearing-impaired in such a sound-driven society. Another positive attribute that sets this film apart from most other nominations is that it’s a feel-good feature. Viewers are able to leave the movie feeling content while still pondering a resonating message. Other movies on this list such as “The Lost Daughter” left me feeling confused and slightly apprehensive, even though the movie itself was deeply striking. Among all of the options, “CODA” is a prime example of a pleasingly well-rounded film with a perfect balance of intricacy and attentiveness.
WILL WIN: “The Power of the Dog”
SHOULD WIN: “CODA”
— Zara Manna, Daily Arts Writer
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Seven films in Oscars history have been nominated for both the Best Picture and Best International Feature categories. All (except one, which only received its Best Picture nom a year after its Best International nom due to a delayed U.S. release) have gone on to win Best International Feature. Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car,” adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story and submitted as Japan’s entry, is the eighth film to accomplish this feat, and the definite frontrunner to take home the award. The film, which follows an eminent actor and theatre director as he navigates personal tragedy and professional drama, is methodical and pensive in the unwinding of its story; at almost three hours in runtime, there is plenty of room for thought. This is a carefully crafted film that is equal parts emotive and cerebral, ripe with allegorical anecdotes and veiled metaphors that are wholly open to interpretation. In some ways, it is almost the perfect Oscar candidate.
“Flee” and “The Worst Person in the World” are two veritable dark horses. The former, an animated documentary that centers on the journey of an Afghan refugee escaping to Denmark, is a deeply moving social document of the plight of refugees. Nevertheless, it is more likely to make waves in the other two categories it is nominated in (logically, Best Animated Feature and Best Documentary). The latter is more likely to mount a serious challenge; it, too, received another Oscar nom (Best Original Screenplay), and is the highest-grossing film out of all five Best International contenders in the U.S. and globally. As a sort of “delayed” coming-of-age story — its protagonist, Julie (Renate Reinsve, “Oslo, August 31st”), is a millennial — it is a distinctly contemporary film that will appeal to younger members of the Academy. Described by director Joachim Trier as “the rom-com for people who hate rom-coms” (I bear no hatred, though it is far from my go-to genre), this was one of my most memorable watches in the past year. What really stood out was its relatability and emotional sensibility. Though “Drive My Car” is a deserving winner, I would have no qualms with “The Worst Person in the World” pulling off an upset.
WILL WIN: “Drive My Car”
SHOULD WIN: “The Worst Person in the World”
— Adrian Hui, Daily Arts Writer
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
I’m a big “Flee”-head. I had the great fortune to have watched and written about it way back last spring when it premiered at Sundance Film Festival, and I’ve been harping about it for the entire year since. It’s an incredibly affective film, zeroing in on disparate emotions and rendering the most crystalline forms of tension, catharsis, hilarity and jubilation, smashing them together into a grand, emotive Voltron — all the while using the animated medium to brilliant aesthetic and practical ends.
I love “Flee.” But the year I wrote about “Flee” is also the year I wrote the most embarrassing thing in my entire tenure as a Daily Arts Writer. Behold:
“While fun and lyrically interesting … the songs are more or less unmemorable, failing to produce any showstoppers or anything that can compare to Disney’s stellar discography.”
That was in my review for “Encanto.” The “Encanto” that featured the song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” The “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” that hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 — currently the longest leading song to do so from any Disney movie of any kind ever.
People loved “Encanto.” I liked it too! As a mixed Latino long mired in a homogeneously white expanse of media, it was delightful and sweet to see folk that looked like my family getting to participate in the culture-maker that is Disney. But as a Latino, I also wanted a little more from the film that will invariably join “Coco” in representing all of Latin America for the next decade or so. “Encanto” doesn’t have the daring that’s requisite to make it great. The narrative resolves itself too easily, with a cheery and sanguine victory where everyone gets everything they want. It relies a little too much on that classic Disney trope of — if not literally monarchic — magical, better-than-you bloodlines. And the animation itself was stellar of course, but just as stellar as every Disney item is these days. But the potential energy is still there — the lack of a traditional antagonist, the hyper-localized confines of the story and the potent theme of generational trauma as it relates to immigration and displacement are all novel and invigorating.
“Encanto” has got the momentum, it’s got the love and it’ll make the predominantly white host of aged Academy voters feel like they’ve done something important.
And it’s got enough special sauce in there to make, if not a completely satisfying one, at least a worthwhile win.
WILL WIN: “Encanto”
SHOULD WIN: “Flee”
— Jacob Lusk, Film Beat Editor
Among the nominees for Best Documentary Feature, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s “Flee” stands out with its storytelling — while giving a lesser-known true story a platform is inherent to the documentary genre, the story this film depicts is not just one that viewers may be unaware of. It is one that, without the innovation of the filmmakers, could not have been told. “Flee” is the story of Amin Nawabi (a pseudonym), an Afghan refugee living in Denmark. The film is almost entirely animated, not as a stylistic choice, but in order to protect his identity. Also nominated for Best International Feature and Best Animated Feature, the film is not only interesting in its use of animation but powerful as a story in its own right. The voice of Nawabi and the skillful animation make it just as gripping and real as if it had been live footage as, in conversations with Rasmussen, he unearths previously unspoken secrets from his past and details the often harrowing story of how he came to be in Denmark.
As deserving as “Flee” is, my personal favorite of the nominees is “Summer of Soul.” Created by Questlove (the musical artist in his directorial debut), it combines archival footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival and interviews with musicians and attendees to express the festival’s importance to Black history and culture. The footage largely consists of artists performing at the festival in front of hundreds of thousands of people, almost entirely Black. In a voiceover, Questlove says that for decades, no one was interested in a documentary about a festival for Black people, which makes the film feel especially important to finally have. The interviews with the artists are powerful as well, as they watch the footage of themselves for the first time and recall how much being there meant to them. What makes this film the most impactful for me is the way it weaves other parts of Black history, and the personal history of some of the interviewees, into the story of the festival itself. One attendee describes how, as one of the first Black students at a mostly white school, she remained happy and confident in her identity in part because of the music she listened to from Black artists, which she remembered from the festival. “Summer of Soul” is a demonstration of the importance of Black history, the power of music and the impact and possibility of documentary filmmaking.
WILL WIN: “Flee”
SHOULD WIN: “Summer of Soul”
— Erin Evans, Daily Arts Writer
All five of the films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography are deserving of the win. “The Tragedy of Macbeth” creatively uses shadows and contrast to bring depth to its timeless black-and-white tale. “West Side Story” is on the opposite end of the spectrum, using its various eye-popping colors to maximize the remake’s flair. “Nightmare Alley” ends up somewhere in the middle. Ari Wegner’s (“Zola”) eye behind the camera (along with Jonny Greenwood’s (“There Will Be Blood”) score) carries the otherwise dull “The Power of the Dog.” But Greig Fraser’s (“The Batman”) work on “Dune” stands out among the other nominees, as Fraser succeeds at the monumental task of visualizing Frank Herbert’s world without a trace of irony. This task is more difficult than it might seem. The universe of Herbert’s book, with all its thinly veiled metaphors and giant space worms can certainly come across as very goofy, even though the actual story is often taken seriously. The camerawork in “Dune” creates an atmosphere almost akin to direct cinema, in the sense that nothing in the film looks or feels manufactured. Thanks to the mystical, yet still-rooted-in-physics style of shooting, the film feels like captured footage from an alien planet or alternate dimension. The content is fantastical, and has to be presented as such, but is also presented as familiar to how we process the real world. This leads to the film being as immersive as possible; the aesthetic is just strange enough to be intriguing, but not so weird that it’s immersion-breaking. The fact that Fraser was able to illustrate that world in a visual style that kept the delicate balance of fantastical farce and serious emotion makes him the nominee most deserving of winning.
WILL WIN: “The Power of the Dog”
SHOULD WIN: “Dune”
— Alvin Anand, Daily Arts Writer
The Academy Award for Best Editing belongs to Joe Walker (“Arrival”) and his work on “Dune.” “tick, tick…BOOM!” and “The Power of the Dog” had some creative quirks. “King Richard” was paced very well, and nothing felt jarring. “Don’t Look Up” should have been nominated for “most in-your-face editing.” But Walker’s work in “Dune,” with the help of the screenwriters, streamlines a complicated, exposition-ridden story into something digestible while still maintaining all the nuances present in the book. A story full of various characters and factions with different motivations all revolving around fictitious resources and planets is not accessible. Without the proper care, the film could have been mired with pace-killing exposition or just plain incomprehensibility. But with Walker’s careful precision, inner monologues and heady explanations are reduced to much more efficient montages and dialogue-free visual demonstrations. No longer are Paul Atriedes’s (Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”) inner thoughts necessary for the story to make a lick of sense. The “Dune” story also relies heavily on premonitions and flashforwards of possible futures, and they can be a nightmare for making your story coherent. But the editing in “Dune” not only makes it easy for the audience to understand by using familiar faces and clever metaphors, but also places them at the precise moments that have the most impact and affect the pacing the least. Accomplishing this clarity with such a dense and difficult-to-understand text, and often making it even more efficient than the source text, is why “Dune” is the far-and-away most impressive achievement in film editing this past year.
WILL WIN: “Dune”
SHOULD WIN: “Dune”
— Alvin Anand, Daily Arts Writer
“Dune” had the best special effects.
WILL WIN: “Dune”
SHOULD WIN: “Dune”
— Pauline Kim, Daily Arts Writer
Disney-animated musicals are responsible for some of my favorite scores of all time, and “Encanto” has definitely made the cut. While the other nominees for Original Score are well-deserving, Germaine Franco’s (“Dora and the Lost City of Gold”) work for “Encanto” is successful on many levels. As a musical, “Encanto” needs a score that ties the themes and plot together in a vibrant, entertaining way. Franco controls the pulse of the film at every moment with music that pushes each character along on their journeys. Franco is a master of storytelling through music, and she is the reason “Encanto” has had such an emotional pull on so many audiences. Disney animated musicals are arguably a genre of their own, and it takes an extraordinary composer to craft such a successful score, especially for a film that is meant to portray Colombian culture both visually and musically. Germaine Franco helped make sure that the music for “Encanto” was true to Colombia, an essential feature of the film.
Germaine Franco is also the first woman and first Latina to score a Disney animated film, and now her name is on the ballot next to award-winning composers like Hans Zimmer (“Dune”). Her score tells the story of “Encanto” arguably more than any other element of the film, tying together Mirabel’s (Stephanie Beatriz, “In the Heights”) connection to her house, to her relatives and to her past. Her compositions, weaved in and out of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s (“In the Heights”) songs, supply viewers with the emotional core of the film that is essential in its enjoyment. I enjoyed “Encanto” on many levels, but what has always stood out to me with each watch is its score. I’m rooting for Germaine Franco, and I think her pure talent for storytelling through music will earn her an Oscar.
WILL WIN: “Encanto”
SHOULD WIN: “Encanto”
— Laura Millar, Daily Arts Writer
I’m not the biggest fan of action and adventure movies. Consequently, I’ve never really had much interest in the James Bond movies that are commonly referenced as some of the best in the genre. Still, I went to the theater to see “No Time to Die” and was surprised to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it (mostly for the visual effects and theme music, but still). The theme “No Time to Die” perfectly matched the melancholy feel of the film, and when it played as the credits rolled, I sat until the very end. “No Time to Die” is dramatic and gloomy and powerful all at once, making it a strong contender for Original Song. Moreover, the last two Bond themes (“Skyfall” and “Writing on the Wall”) were Oscar winners, displaying the franchise’s musical dominance. That being said, I do believe that “No Time to Die” should and will win Original Song.
However, it would feel wrong not to mention “Encanto” when discussing this category. “Dos Oruguitas” is emotional, raw and heartbreaking, and the scene when it plays sticks out in my mind as one of my favorites of the film. I would even argue that it is the emotional core of the film, when we learn in a flashback how Alma (María Cecilia Botero, “El que se enamora pierde”) lost her husband Pedro. But no one will stop comparing it to “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” the hit from “Encanto” that went on to be the first Disney song to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart since “A Whole New World.” The song not being submitted makes for an interesting race in this category; “Dos Oruguitas” feels under-appreciated and overshadowed by what could have been and therefore will most likely lose even though its presence is ultimately more thematically and emotionally significant than “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”
WILL WIN: “No Time to Die”
SHOULD WIN: “No Time to Die”
— Laura Millar, Daily Arts Writer