Oscars 2019 stage 1 c Matt Petit AMPAS

Source: Matt Petit/AMPAS

Oscars 2019 stage

Heading into Sunday’s (March 27) 94th Academy Awards, Netflix’s psychological western The Power Of The Dog leads the nominations on 12, followed by Legendary/Warner Bros’ sci-fi Dune on 10.

The Power Of The Dog directed by Jane Campion and Apple TV+’s Coda directed by Sian Heder have been the joint favourites for the best picture prize with Coda possibly edging ahead after recent wins at the PGA and WGA awards. Focus Features’ Belfast from Kenneth Branagh is just behind the two frontrunners and it remains to be seen if the preferential voting system used for the best picture category will upset the form guide.

Should Coda or The Power Of The Dog win it will mark the first time a streamer has claimed the most prestigious Academy Award. It will not have gone unnoticed that Apple is a relative newcomer to the awards business.

How it all plays out will emerge on Sunday, as will the impact of two measures designed to boost ratings following last year’s all-time low of 10.4m average viewership throughout the ceremony.

The winning film in an inaugural fan favourite Twitter poll will get a shout-out and, in a controversial move to restrict the telecast to three hours that may elicit protest, eight crafts categories including editing and cinematography will be presented in the hour prior preceding the telecast. (Winners’ speeches will be edited into the telecast.)

Campion is the frontrunner for the directing award and is the first woman to have secured two nominations in the category after first doing so for The Piano in 1994, the year she walked off with the original screenplay award.

She is also nominated this year for adapted screenplay based on Thomas Savage’s novel of the same name and faces stiff competition from Coda’s Heder, Netflix’s The Lost Daughter from writer-director Maggie Gyllenhaal, Warner Bros’ Dune co-written by director Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth, and Japanese drama Drive My Car co-written by director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe. Drive My Car is in contention for four awards including best picture, director and international feature film.

Lead actor nominee Benedict Cumberbatch from The Power Of The Dog – one of four actors from the film vying for honours – goes up against favourite Will Smith from Warner Bros’ King Richard, Javier Bardem from Amazon Studios’ Being The Ricardos, Denzel Washington from Apple TV+/A24’s The Tragedy Of Macbeth, and Andrew Garfield from Netflix’s Tick, Tick… Boom!.

Jessica Chastain has moved into pole position in the lead actress category for The Eyes Of Tammy Faye and goes against Olivia Colman from The Lost Daughter, Kristen Stewart from Neon’s Spencer, Nicole Kidman from Being The Ricardos, and Penelope Cruz from Sony Classics’ Parallel Mothers. In the supporting acting contests, Ariana DeBose from 20th Century Studios’ West Side Story and Coda’s Troy Kotsur are considered the clear favourites. Smith, Chastain, DeBose and Kotsur all won at the Screen Actors Guild’s SAG Awards, when Coda took the ensemble award.

Villeneuve’s Dune is a strong contender in the crafts categories including editing, cinematography, production design, sound and visual effects.

Drive My Car, which Janus Films has for the US, is one of the heavyweight international feature film contenders in another very competitive category. It goes up against Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World (Neon) from Norway, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee (Neon) representing Denmark, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand Of God (Netflix) from Italy and Pawo Choyning Dorji’s Bhutanese drama Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom (Samuel Goldwyn).

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza at MGM and Branagh’s Belfast will vie for the original screenplay prize with Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up from Netflix in the original screenplay category alongside Zach Baylin for King Richard and Eskil Vogt and Trier and for The Worst Person In The World.

Questlove’s Summer Of Soul (Hulu) is the documentary feature frontrunner but watch out for Flee and Stanley Nelson’s Attica at Showtime. Disney’s Encanto is the one to beat in the animated feature category, where Flee is again nominated (three in total) alongside Netflix’s The Mitchells vs. The Machines, among others.