Written by Andreas Babiolakis
We have reached the final Academy Awards category ranking, and I always make sure to go too far with the Best Picture list. I use this as an opportunity to look back on all of the other categories I have just passed, and analyze if the Oscars really picked the best films of the year. As a result, I won’t just be ranking the ten Best Picture nominees and selecting one snub. No. Like the previous years, I will have two additional mini-lists highlighting films that flat out were snubbed by the Academy entirely (some I have already complained about in some of my rankings), and nominees that could have made for better Best Picture selections (note: these films have to have a substantial amount of nominees already to qualify, as if this were a realistic scenario). Of course, I will have the Best Picture nominees ranked afterward, from worst to best, with my final prediction of what film will win. Let’s get started.
FIVE FILMS THAT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN SHUT OUT BY THE ACADEMY AWARDS ENTIRELY
These five films aren’t just works that I liked, but they are motion pictures I honestly assumed would have picked up something at the Academy Awards. They’re not necessarily my favourite films of 2021 (although a few are), but I am still flabbergasted that they did not pick up a single nominee when they easily could have had a handful.
5. The Harder They Fall
Possible Nominations: Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Costume Design
I’m not sure where the awards season plummeted for The Harder They Fall, but it’s a shame. I expected some sort of design or tech nomination for this surprisingly good picture, especially because it caught many viewers off guard and silenced many naysayers.
4. C'mon C'mon
Possible Nominations: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay
I don’t get why Mike Mills keeps getting disrespected again and again by the Academy, but he and his films do. Whereas his other works — Beginners, 20th Century Women — got recognized in some capacity (with the former having won an Oscar for Christopher Plummer’s performance), C’mon C’mon was neglected completely. When will the snubbing end?
3. The Green Knight
Possible Nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design
So The Green Knight wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I loved it myself, but I can see why it would alienate other viewers. Having said that, its brilliant artistic and technical achievements are impossible to ignore. Honestly, look at something like this and tell me how any Academy member didn’t think it was one of the best looking films of 2021, or that its costumes and production weren’t worth a shoutout. It’s insane.
Possible Nominations: Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actress, Best Cinematography
The worst offence when it comes to the omission of worthy nominees is the lack of regard for Ruth Negga in Passing (whereas she has been nominated in nearly every other major award ceremony, and frankly should have been the frontrunner). Furthermore, Passing was highly eligible for a number of other potential awards (seriously? Nothing for Best Cinematography either? Seriously??).
Possible Nominations: Best Director, Best Actress, Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay
I understand that Titane is easily one of the most challenging films of the 2020s already, but if Dogtooth can be nominated for Best International Feature Film, then Titane can be. Then you have the boldness of the BAFTAs selecting Julia Ducournau as a Best Director nominee. I feel like this Palme d’Or winner could have had some sort of recognition at the Oscars, especially since it would be nice for the Academy to go the distance with risky films once a while; with the handful of safe selections we did get, I guess we aren’t there yet.
FIVE FILMS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN A BEST PICTURE NOMINEE
These next five films are actual Oscar nominees that have picked up recognition in multiple noteworthy categories. Typically, any Best Picture nominee has a few other nominations in major groups that “justify” their spot in the highest category. That’s what I was going for here. I’m also not ranking the films based on preference of the works themselves (I don’t have my top film of 2021 ranked first here, for instance), but rather what the likeliness of these films even having a Best Picture nominee in relation to their other nominations is.
5. Parallel Mothers
Nominated for: Best Actress, Best Original Score
Parallel Mothers has one major nomination and one minor, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have had some love in the Best Picture category. Considered by many critics to be one of the best films of 2021 (including yours truly), this latest effort by Pedro Almodóvar is a topsy-turvy melodrama that easily could have left its mark in the top category (besides, hasn’t someone like Almodóvar earned it by now?).
4. The Worst Person in the World
Nominated for: Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay
This is more of a dark horse selection, but the gradual dominance of The Worst Person in the World leads me to believe that it was honestly possible that it could have made it to a Best Picture spot had there been more time. Nonetheless, I am happy to see how much love it did get here.
3. The Tragedy of Macbeth
Nominated for: Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design
I predicted that The Tragedy of Macbeth could have been the final Best Picture nominee, but the odds were slim (and I was at least right with that last part). Still, even with the few nominations it did pick up, I feel like it’s enough to warrant a spot at the top. I’d argue The Tragedy of Macbeth deserved even more Oscar love in other categories, but I’m happy it was shown some love at all (it was starting to look possibly unlikely at the last second before the awards announcements).
2. The Lost Daughter
Nominated for: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay
Considering that a film like CODA got nominated for similar — and fewer — awards, The Lost Daughter feels like it could have been a possible Best Picture selection. I know that it is a much less warm and digestible film, but it has three major nominations. Maybe some better promotion and an earlier release could have landed the film in the Best Picture race.
Nominated for: Best Animated Feature Film, Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature
It is unusual for animated films to be nominated for Best Picture (it has only happened thrice before, with Beauty and the Beast, Up, and Toy Story 3), but consider this: Flee was nominated for the three categories that reward entire feature films that aren’t Best Picture. So the Academy declared Flee one of the best films of these starkly different realms (international releases, animated features, and documentary films), but that apparently isn’t enough for it to be considered one of the best films of the year. Okay. Also, wouldn’t it be nice for just one documentary to be selected for Best Picture? These are “pictures” as well, you know.
FINALLY, HERE ARE YOUR NOMINEES FOR BEST PICTURE, RANKED FROM WORST TO BEST
10. Don't Look Up
While I still like Don’t Look Up more than some other viewers do, it still is the weakest Best Picture nominee whose spot could have easily gone to a more deserving film. This latest effort from Adam McKay is just too lopsided and unbalanced for it to even make sense in this category. Its best moments are pretty great: this much is true. However, it just isn’t good enough. This was an easy film to place last.
My Review of Don’t Look Up
CODA is for sure one of the feel-good dramedies of 2021 and the independent film underdog that many are rooting for. I just find it a little too safe, especially when nearly every move can be detected from a mile away. Still, CODA possesses a lot of heart, and is held together by some pretty strong performances that render the whole feature worthwhile to at least some degree.
My Review of CODA
8. King Richard
While the film is made in its entirety by cookie cutters, King Richard is still well-assembled enough that I don’t mind its presence here too much. I still believe that it has as many nominations as it does because of the super-mega Will Smith promotional tour to finally secure him an Oscar, but I’ve seen worse offenders of similar campaigns (Darkest Hour should not have been nominated for much). King Richard is pretty good. Not Best Picture good, but pretty good.
My Review of King Richard
7. Nightmare Alley
While the film is overlong and its opening act is far too meticulous, Nightmare Alley blooms into a deliciously grim noir picture. By its climax, Guillermo del Toro’s latest feature is quite thrilling. It could have been one of the best films of 2021 had it been more tightly written and a little bit shorter, so it’s far from perfect. Still, it’s nice to see something a little less comfortable and orthodox make it to this category.
My Review of Nightmare Alley
While I don’t feel like Kenneth Branagh’s latest film is quite as deserving of the top prize as many feel is possible, I can’t lie and say that it feels entirely out of place here. Belfast has enough interesting ideas and aesthetics to make his semi-autobiographical film feel at least somewhat interesting and easy to connect to. I was honestly expecting to like it less. It’s not exactly my favourite film of the year, but Belfast did resonate with me at least a little bit.
My Review of Belfast
5. West Side Story
I have to hand it to Steven Spielberg. He actually pulled off the West Side Story adaptation that so many people were quick to write off (myself included). His version of the Broadway classic is incredibly technical and artistic: a solid musical exhibition that warranted being made. If anything, I would argue that this is one of Spielberg’s finer films in recent memory. The Academy often highlights Spielberg just because, but I feel like West Side Story fits in here.
Cameron Geiser’s Review of West Side Story
The more time that passes on, the more I like Denis Villeneuve’s take on Dune. Does it feel unfinished? It does as a story, considering that this is only half of the first novel. It also feels quite complete as a spectacle, and this is quite important as well. I feel like I’ve forgiven its expository nature because of how thrilling it is nonetheless. Dune has really grown on me. It’s exciting to watch for many reasons. I still await Part II.
My Review of Dune
3. Licorice Pizza
The opposite is somewhat true for Licorice Pizza. I won’t say that I like it less necessarily, but I feel like my high from the film has worn down a little bit. It’s still nice to see Paul Thomas Anderson working with such hilarious material, and I feel like there are many lessons derived from this string of vignettes. I find Licorice Pizza to be about numerous slices of life whilst being quite unpredictably strange as well. Life has a funny way about itself, sometimes, and Anderson’s latest film captures this.
My Review of Licorice Pizza
2. The Power of the Dog
I absolutely love Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. It is such a poetic escape: a booming story told gingerly via pure aesthetics and the breaths in between us all. I feel like I am planted right in the middle of these brewing tensions (be they mean spirited or sexual) within this feature shot to resemble a living photo album of yesteryear. The Power of the Dog only gets better and better with each viewing.
My Review of The Power of the Dog
1. Drive My Car
Finally, there is Drive My Car. There is something spectacular about the film’s staying power. I only adore it more and more with each waking moment since I last saw it. It is minimalist yet a representation of both life and death working together harmoniously. Drive My Car takes its steady time to gestate, but it is worth every second. It was the most unexpected nominee here for Best Picture, but I have grown to realize that it is the most accurately selected film here, as it remains one of the best films of the 2020s thus far.
My Review of Drive My Car
What I want to win: I would be happy with my top five selections here: Drive My Car, The Power of the Dog, Licorice Pizza, Dune, and West Side Story. Any of those winning would bring a smile to my face.
What I think will win: You’d be surprised, but this category can be tough to gauge sometimes. It’s also tough to see the road ahead when we haven’t even completed the BAFTAs yet (these can for sure have a major impact on the Oscars depending on the year, especially with a heavy-hitter like Belfast this year). I will place my four current possibilities in order of likeliness (in my opinion):
1. The Power of the Dog (if it wins for Best Director and at least one other major/minor win); the only reason why I am feeling less confident in this number one pick is because of Troy Kotsur’s current odds to win Best Supporting Actor over Kodi Smit-McPhee. I have faith in Jane Campion winning, so now the big question is: what else will it win? Typically, most Best Picture winners have had at least two significant wins elsewhere (outside of Spotlight that only won one other award), so I feel like The Power of the Dog has to win where it has a chance: maybe screenplay or score? I think it can pull it off, though.
2. Befast (if it wins more than one major award, especially if one of them is for its screenplay). Considering that Kenneth Branagh has been nominated for Best Director as well, even if he doesn’t win here (which currently seems likely that he won’t), the Academy loves Belfast enough to consider it worthy of the top honour. I’d also pay attention to the BAFTAs in case: this could determine how much love it gets at the Oscars (this has happened enough times for this tactic to be trustworthy).
3. West Side Story. Now the odds begin to drop dramatically, but there is an easy chance that The Power of the Dog and Belfast can split votes and allow something as beloved as West Side Story to shine through, especially since it will win Best Supporting Actress (most likely) and can pick up a win elsewhere.
4. Drive My Car. Low odds, but I think it’s possible. Considering how the film beat the odds and picked up a staggering four major nominations, I would not count this film out. If it wins Best International Feature Film (which it will) and wins for its screenplay, it’s going the distance past the split votes between The Power of the Dog and Drive My Car.
5. CODA. The lowest odds and I highly doubt this will happen, but you never know. CODA could win all of its few nominations, especially because they are enough to count towards the Best Picture quota. Enough people think this is possible, so I felt like it was worth bringing up, but I don’t think this will happen.
Any other nominee doesn’t stand a chance, in my opinion. They won’t win enough other awards, nor will they win against the other powerhouses.
My final verdict — for now — is The Power of the Dog.
We have ranked every Academy Award category. Now, Monday is the final piece of the puzzle: every single film that has been nominated will be ranked in one super list. Join us then and see the chaos for yourself!
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.
academy awards project, academy award predictions, academy awards, academy awards 2022, 94th academy awards, oscars 2022, oscars, oscar predictions, C'mon C'mon, The Green Knight, Passing, Titane, Parallel Mothers, The Worst Person in the World, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Lost Daughter, Flee, Don't Look Up, CODA, Nightmare Alley, Belfast, West Side Story, Dune, Licorice Pizza, The Power of the Dog