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Scott Woods: The Oscar Pool Doctor is In

Hot tips to wow your cinephile friends, from the power of name recognition to the skinniness handicap

Scott Woods
Columbus Monthly
Angela Bassett is nominated for Best Supporting Actress in this year's Academy Awards for her performance in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

I need to establish at the outset that I don’t care about the Oscars, or most award shows. I was part of a team that won an Emmy, and that’s cool, but mostly because my mother knows what an Emmy is. Back when I used to watch movies religiously and two at a time, I invested a lot in the Oscar pool at work. I always knew it was mostly a political game, replete with backroom deals and swag bribes, and that’s certainly truer now than it’s ever been, but I was good at the game. 

I still like to occasionally sharpen my chops on this particular grindstone. So here are some observations from the bleacher seats in a year that is perhaps perfectly indicative of everything right and wrong with Hollywood. I won’t even ask for a cut if you win the office pool. Let’s start with the easy ones:

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, “TÁR”

Ana de Armas, “Blonde”

Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”

Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”

Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Scott’s Pick: Michelle Yeoh

“Everything Everywhere” was my favorite movie of the year (until “The Menu” came out, maybe, depending on which day you ask me), but I don’t pick based on what I like. I pick what I think will win. Yeoh’s competition is strong, but she’s basically had a yearlong campaign of genuine love for her personal story running nonstop (deservedly). If she doesn’t win, never watch this show again.

Best Supporting Actress

Angela Bassett, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

Hong Chau, “The Whale”

Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Scott’s Pick: Angela BassettBassett’s competition couldn’t be fiercer. Curtis and Hsu turned in amazing, multifaceted performances in the same film. Condon was magnetic in “Banshees.” But Bassett is on a critical roll, having Golden Globe and SAG wins already in hand (though largely for the same reason: buoyed by the gravity of Black Panther’s success and tragedy). And look: She hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar in 30 years, and she should have won it the first time around. This may be her version of Whoopi Goldberg’s “Ghost” win, but it’s so overdue it’s criminal. 

Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Brian Tyree Henry, “Causeway”

Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans”

Barry Keoghan, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Scott’s Pick: Ke Huy QuanQuan will likely win, but his competition is outstanding. Hollywood will likely give it to him because his professional redemption arc is practically a movie waiting to be made.

Best Actor

Austin Butler, “Elvis”

Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”

Paul Mescal, “Aftersun”

Bill Nighy, “Living”

Scott’s Pick: Colin Farrell

This is a coin flip between Farrell and Fraser. Hollywood loves it when you play fat, so that's a point for Fraser. Hollywood thinks being fat on camera is an act of bravery. But Farrell was great in Banshees, and it might be the only thing it wins. If they give it to the Elvis kid, I'd be very surprised. He's being weird right now, with the whole not-turning-off-the-impression-in-public thing, so that may hurt his chances on top of being a relative unknown. And him being skinny.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

“All Quiet on the Western Front”

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”

“Living”

“Top Gun: Maverick”

“Women Talking”

Scott’s Pick: Don’t care, but I’m going to say “All Quiet on the Western Front”

I mostly find this category frustrating because of the academy’s rule about sequels automatically being counted as adapted screenplays. “Glass Onion” is getting “slighted” here (in so much as being nominated for an Oscar at all can be a slight), when it’s something that technically stands on its own. Now, “Top Gun: Maverick” firmly belongs in this category (though it shouldn’t be nominated for anything) because it’s basically a regurgitation of the first movie.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, “The Fabelmans”

Todd Field, “TÁR”

Ruben Östlund, “Triangle of Sadness”

Scott’s Pick: “The Banshees of Inisherin”

It’s easy to look at a film like “Everything Everywhere” and think, wow, they crammed a lot of things into that movie. But those things are mostly a function of style, not story. “Banshees,” on the other hand, is a tightly wrought tale with loads of subtext and treats its audience with respect and intelligence.

Best Director

Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans”

Todd Field, “TÁR”

Ruben Östlund, “Triangle of Sadness”

Scott’s Pick: Steven Spielberg

Unless there’s a clear winner, this category is always a bit of a crapshoot. Spielberg has been nominated for 22 Oscars, nine of them nods for Best Director, He’s only won three, despite being the most financially successful director in modern cinema. While “The Fabelmans” may not be the most dynamic film compared to some of the competition, he hasn’t won Best Director since 1999. He’s due, especially with such a personal project.

Best Picture Nominees

“All Quiet on the Western Front”

“Avatar: The Way of Water”

“The Banshees of Inisherin”

“Elvis”

“Everything Everywhere All at Once”

“The Fabelmans”

“TÁR”

“Top Gun: Maverick”

“Triangle of Sadness”

“Women Talking”

Scott’s Pick: “The Fablemans”

The other films that are equally worthy of this win will have won in other categories (“Banshees,” “EEAAO,” “TÁR”), so this will go to the one that everyone in Hollywood feels they have to vote for if they ever want to work in this town again. 

Some other quickies:

Best Animated Feature Film: “Pinocchio”

Guillermo del Toro is a genius, and he dropped it at the perfect point on the calendar.

Best International Feature Film: “All Quiet on the Western Front”I didn’t see any of these, but neither did you, so take my word for it. Hollywood works just like local politics: Name recognition is 90 percent of the game.

Best Costume Design: Ruth Carter, “Wakanda Forever”She’s been nominated three times and won once. My money is on her to win for the sequel to the movie she won it for the first time. Unlike most of her competition, she had to create the wardrobe from imagination, not recreation, so it’s not like she doesn’t deserve it.

Scott Woods

Best Music (Original Score): John Williams, “The Fabelmans”

Williams is the most nominated living person in the history of the Academy Awards (Walt Disney holds the record over him by six nods). Betting against him is a recipe for disaster.

Scott Woods is a poet, cultural critic, essayist and founder of the arts nonprofit Streetlight Guild.