Who will win, should win and can’t win at this year’s Academy Awards

By Mark Fields

The 94th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 27. Here are Out & About’s film critic’s takes on what cinematic efforts will win, what should win, and what can’t win (because it wasn’t nominated).

Best Picture 

Will Win/Should Win: The Power of the Dog

This bracing Western features a incredibly strong cast, exquisite scenery, and an ever-so-sly screenplay that surprises and gratifies in the final moments.

Can’t Win: Spider-Man: No Way Home

No love from Oscar for Marvel movies including this clever, satisfying tribute to heroes and villains present and past.

Best Actress

Will Win: Olivia Coleman, The Lost Daughter

Should Win: Kristen Stewart, Spencer

Coleman is an Oscar darling and past winner. She again creates a memorable film character but props to Stewart who has overcome her Twilight image to prove a substantial albeit unconventional actor.

Can’t Win: Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth; Lady Gaga, House of Gucci.

Best Actor

Will Win/Should Win: Will Smith, King Richard

Smith has peppered his marquee-idol career with thoughtful, even compelling dramatic roles. He is due. But shout out to Benedict Cumberbatch for his nuanced work in The Power of the Dog.

Can’t Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, Just Look Up

The wacky sci-fi premise of the film and flamboyant performances of his co-stars overshadowed the subtle, off-brand DiCaprio, not usually known for understatement.

Best Director

Will Win/Should Win: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Campion’s assured hand and precise pacing kept this sleeper story from descending into genre cliché. Just when you thought you have it all figured out, she executes a stunning but truly inevitable switcheroo.

Can’t Win: Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Dune left me cold and bored, but many Arakis fans and cinephiles alike praised the director for making an understandable film out of sci-fi’s densest source material.

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos

Should Win: Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Simmons gets kudos for playing a sympathetic version of a familiar Hollywood star of yesteryear, but Smit-McPhee’s quiet grit really deliver the ending of the film.

Can’t Win: Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win/Should Win: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

DeBose could be the second actress to win an award for this same role, but her vibrant, passionate performance (and exceptional dancing) pervades the entire film.

Can’t Win: Caitriona Balfe, Belfast; Ruth Negga, Passing

Always a category jammed with great performances but only five can get the call.

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win/Should Win: Belfast

Kenneth Branagh’s heartfelt tribute to his Northern Irish childhood will carry the day with Oscar voters.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Drive My Car

Should Win: The Power of the Dog

Screenplay awards are often consolation prizes for solid films that don’t have support to win the major prizes, but the excellent actors and director of The Power of the Dog had to have great material to work with.

Can’t Win: Tony Kushner, West Side Story

Kushner largely re-imagined a 60-year-old movie story into a newly relevant and substantial remake, while finding a deft way to bring the indomitable Rita Moreno back to the screen and to this landmark musical.

Mark Fields
Mark Fields has reviewed films for Out & About since October 2008. In addition, he has written O&A profiles of documentarian Harry Shearer and actress Aubrey Plaza. Mark also has written on the movies for several publications in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and his home state of Indiana, where he also served as on-air movie critic for Indianapolis’s public radio station. Mark has been an adjunct instructor of film history at Rowan University since 1998. A career arts administrator, he is the executive director of Wilmington’s Grand Opera House and now lives on Market Street. Mark spent the fastest 22 minutes of his life as an unsuccessful contestant on Jeopardy…sadly, there were no movie questions.