Hey there, movie fans! (Please tell me someone gets this reference to the best Oscar pundits on the internet.)
It’s finally Oscar Sunday! After another longer-than-average awards season, it’s finally time to sit in our sweatpants, open our $10 Prosecco, and toast to the movies that made another weird year just a little more bearable.
And there were some truly magical movies in that regard this year.
Whether it was the stunning escapism of Dune, the catchy catharsis of Encanto, the sweeping old-school grandeur of West Side Story, or the sincerity and warmth that filled every frame of CODA, movies once again gave me exactly what I needed this year. From the rare breaks in the anxiety when I got myself to my beloved movie theater or Saturdays spent on my couch with the latest streaming story, movies transported me, comforted me, and allowed me to get out of my own brain in a year where that seemed more claustrophobic than ever before.
Every Oscar Sunday, I feel like I do more than just celebrate the best movies of the year. I celebrate the gifts that movies as a whole gave me. And this year, more than any other, movies reminded me that I can still feel. I love my fluffy romance books, but they’re more passing diversions than fangirl love affairs. My adoration of BTS is well-documented around these parts, but it’s not quite the same as sitting down to watch something and feel your whole world open up in one moment. And TV just has not been resonating with me in the way it used to—on that visceral, emotional level that unlocks something in your soul and makes you feel glad to be alive at the same time as this exact piece of media.
Movies gave me that.
One movie more than any other this year gave me that.
CODA gave me that.
So tonight, that’s where my heart lies. With this little film that came into my life and reminded me what great movies do. They make us feel. They make us happy to be alive. They make us appreciate our collective humanity and see the world as just a little bigger and more beautiful than it was before we walked into the theater or pressed play at home.
In a year that still felt isolated and isolating and a time when I was feeling disconnected from my own humanity more often than not, that’s a gift I want to celebrate with everything in me tonight.
Movies as a whole are a gift I want to celebrate with everything in me tonight. So here are my picks for tonight’s big winners, chosen with the help of my gut, my heart, and the good folks at FYC (my awards season happy place and the show that has gotten me through so many hard, long winters now). Let me know yours in the comments, and let’s hang out together tonight and celebrate the movies that captivated our minds and stole our hearts and made us feel alive.
My Pick: CODA
My Thoughts: I’ve already talked about my deep love for this film in this post and have been singing its praises on social media for months. But do I actually think it’ll win Best Picture? YES. The momentum is building in its favor, and that’s a huge factor in awards season. But even more than that, it’s a movie that simply stays with you in a way not a lot of the other Best Picture nominees this year did. It’s a movie with something new to say that uses well-loved tropes to tell an entirely unique story about coming of age and finding your voice. Every beat of this movie feels warm and lived-in, and it mixes humor and heart in a way no other nominee this year does. More than anything, CODA is a movie that makes people feel good, and I think this is a year when people just wanted to be reminded that they could feel good. It might not have been the most sweeping or artsy or “Oscar bait-y” movie of the bunch, but it told the best story. And that’s what a Best Picture winner should do.
My Pick: Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
My Thoughts: To contrast CODA, you have The Power of the Dog, which has “Oscar Movie” written all over every frame. It’s thought-provoking, beautifully shot, and powerfully acted. And so much of the way this movie was framed and carefully delivered to the audience comes from the deft hand of Jane Campion. This is a more traditionally “prestige” film, so I know it’s going to walk away with at least one major award, and it seems right for it to go to the person at the helm of a movie whose style and visual storytelling played a huge part in its ability to stay with viewers. (Also, directors of movies about LGTBQ+ cowboys with beautiful sweeping vistas seem to do very well in this category.)
My Pick: Will Smith (King Richard)
My Thoughts: Will Smith is a movie star, but he is also a great actor. And he turned in the best work of his career playing Richard Williams. This movie lived and died by his performance, and his commitment and care to tell it correctly made it shine. This is one of the surest bets of the night (despite my adoration for Andrew Garfield), and I cannot wait to cry when he wins.
My Pick: Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
My Thoughts: Confession: I kept this category blank on my ballot until this morning, unsure up to the end who is going to walk away with the win. While my gut is saying Penelope Cruz could certainly play the spoiler, I was completely captivated by Chastain’s performance as Tammy Faye. She threw her whole self into a role that asked for nothing less, and she made what could have been a paint-by-numbers biopic glow with the sheer power of her performance. The Oscars love a good transformative biopic performance, and Chastain’s wins in some important precursors (like the SAG Awards) have me giving her the slight edge in the most wide open and competitive category of the night.
My Pick: Troy Kotsur (CODA)
My Thoughts: Troy Kotsur is the heart and soul of the movie with the most heart and soul this year. His stock has been rising all awards season, and it’s going to pay off in a huge way tonight.
My Pick: Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
My Thoughts: Unpopular opinion(?): I liked the latest version of West Side Story better than the original. But one thing that did not change between both versions is the fact that Anita is the greatest role in the musical and the woman who plays her deserves an Oscar (and will win one). DeBose was electric and completely captivating—she was the star the whole movie orbited around. Her dancing blew me away and she played an already iconic role with an energy and fire that brought it to a whole new generation, but what impressed me the most was the powerful vulnerability she brought to the darker parts of Anita’s story. She made her fear, grief, trauma, and anger feel just as tangible as her joy and passion. It was my favorite performance in any movie this year, and it deserves every accolade it can be given.
My Pick: CODA
My Thoughts: CODA is going three for three tonight. This is a great category filled with strong stories, but the way CODA masterfully takes familiar beats in coming-of-age stories and plays them in an entirely new rhythm will not be overlooked. This screenplay did what great ones do: Opened a window to a different way of life and allowed viewers to see the similarities to their own along with the unique struggles that create empathy through understanding.
My Pick: Belfast
My Thoughts: I loved Belfast, and a big part of why is the love that Kenneth Branagh clearly had for this place, these people, and this story. In another strong screenplay category filled with original stories that come from the heart, this one stands out for its sincerity. And I would give it this Oscar just for the film’s parting dedication alone, which touched me more than almost anything else I saw onscreen this year.
My Pick: Dune
My Thoughts: Dune is a beautiful film with shots that are like works of art. I still can’t stop thinking about how gorgeous this movie looked, and that’s when you know a film’s cinematography deserves recognition.
My Pick: Enacnto
My Thoughts: Yes, this is the populist pick, but it’s also the correct one. The thematic depth of this film resonated so strongly with people, especially women, for a reason, and I am so excited to see it get recognized by the Academy. This is an animated film that was able to deftly weave a tale of generational trauma, perfectionism, familial expectations, and acceptance, all while appealing to adults as well as kids. And that is something worth celebrating. (And yes, I’m sure most voters are going to vote for it because their kids keep singing about Bruno, but that counts too!)
My Pick: Flee
My Thoughts: I did not see any of these nominees, but I love that this movie was nominated for Animated Feature, International Feature, and Documentary. I feel like that says something about its ability to stand out from the crowd and generate wide support, so it gets my vote too.
My Pick: Drive My Car
My Thoughts: I’m not going to pick against the film that also earned a Best Picture nomination. I wish I would have had time to watch this one, but for now, I’ll just rely on that.
My Pick: Dune
My Thoughts: You’ll soon notice a pattern here with the technical categories. Dune was just a feat of cinematic craftsmanship, and I think that’s going to be acknowledged wherever it can be. While I’d love for tick, tick…BOOM! to win this award because I thought its editing was superb, I think this is going to be one of those years where one film dominates the below-the-line categories—and the film is Dune.
My Pick: Dune
My Thoughts: This was another easy pick for a film with incredibly seamless visual effects used in big ways.
My Pick: Dune
My Thoughts: Just keep the technical awards coming!
My Pick: Cruella
My Thoughts: The costumes made this film, and they deserve to be recognized.
My Pick: Dune
My Thoughts: It’s Hans Zimmer and one of the biggest films of the year—hard to pick against that combo.
My Pick: “Dos Oruguitas” (Encanto)
My Thoughts: Is it the most popular song in this movie? No. Is it the most important? YES. And that’s what this category is all about. I also think we all just want to see Lin-Manuel Miranda get his EGOT.
Makeup and Hairstyling
My Pick: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
My Thoughts: This film needed its hair and especially its makeup teams to bring their A-games, and that’s exactly what they did. Transformative makeup wins in this category most of the time, so I don’t see any reason to pick against it.
My Pick: Dune
My Thoughts: Another win for the best-looking film of the year.
(The following picks are based entirely on the choices of the good folks at FYC!)
Documentary Short Subject
My Pick: The Queen of Basketball
Animated Short Film
My Pick: Robin Robin
Live Action Short Film
My Pick: The Dress