Oscar predictions: Acting categories most fascinating to handicap

Oscar predictions: Acting categories most fascinating to handicap

It’s nearly time for the Academy Awards, and as usual, some of the most fascinating categories to handicap are the Oscars for acting. 

Best supporting actress is the easiest one to predict. Ariana Debose, for her role as Anita in the best picture-nominated 2021 remake of “West Side Story,” will likely be taking the stage on Oscars night to accept the award for what is not just her first nominated performance, but first film performance ever. Should she win, she will be the second person to to do so for the role of Anita, sixty years after Rita Moreno, the original film’s Anita, won best supporting actress.

However, an upset is always possible. Dame Judi Dench could become the oldest person to win an acting Oscar for performance in “Belfast” and only the third woman to win two best supporting actress Oscars after her 1999 triumph for her eight-minute performance in that year’s best picture winner, “Shakespeare in Love.” Aunjanue Ellis, also nominated for the first time, could end up stealing the award from Debose for playing Oracene Price in another best picture nominee, “King Richard.” Ellis stunned audiences in the role as the mother of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams. While Ellis is Debose’s biggest competition, the chances of an upset aren’t too likely. While I think Debose’s performance is worthy of a nomination, I hope Ellis can surprise this year because not only is she a working character actress who is far overdue major awards recognition, but her performance as Price was one of my favorites of the year. 

The second easiest category to predict is definitely best actor. Will Smith, for his role as Richard Williams in “King Richard,” has already won the Golden Globe, SAG Award, BAFTA and Critic’s Choice Award for his revelatory performance. While Benedict Cumberbatch could possibly surprise for his role in the most nominated film of the year, “The Power of the Dog,” this award looks like it’s Smith’s to lose—a result I wholeheartedly agree with. In addition, he is far overdue for an Oscar with two prior acting nominations—plus a second nomination this year for being a co-producer of “King Richard.” Could he go from having no Oscars to two on March 27?

Early on in the awards season, it seemed Kodi Smit-McPhee would be sweeping for his supporting performance in “The Power of the Dog,” which was directed by one of this year’s best director and best adapted screenplay nominees, Jane Campion. Despite his Golden Globe win, I don’t think Smit-McPhee will take best supporting actor. Troy Kotsur could very well become the first deaf male actor to collect an Academy Award for his performance in “CODA.”  There has only been one Oscar given to a deaf performer in the past—Kotsur’s own costar Marlee Marlin, who won for her role in “Children of a Lesser God” in 1987. Kotsur has already won a SAG award, BAFTA and Critic’s Choice award.

This year’s most unpredictable category is best actress. Jessica Chastain is nominated for her transformative role in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye;” Olivia Colman, 2019’s best actress winner, is nominated for the third time in just four years for her performance as Leda in “The Lost Daughter.” Penélope Cruz, another previous winner, is nominated for her work in the foreign film “Parallel Mothers.” Nicole Kidman is on the list for her portrayal of comedy icon Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos,” and Kristin Stewart was a surprise nominee for her uncanny performance as Diana Spencer, the late Princess of Wales, in “Spencer.”

Three previous winners are present in this best actress lineup, and one of the other actresses—Chastain—has been nominated twice before. Perhaps this star-studded lineup is why this category is so difficult to predict. Each performance is amazing in its own way, and there is a narrative for each of these actresses. Chastain is the current front runner and has my personal vote, but any of them could hear their name announced. Maybe Olivia Colman will pull a Frances McDormand and win two best actress Oscars in a short three-year span.