Can you ‘Beat the Critic’? Roeper shares early Oscar picks

A sneak peek at our critic’s picks before the annual Academy Awards prediction contest that puts Sun-Times cinephiles to the test.

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Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper in the Sun-Times studio Thursday, February 14, 2019. File photo | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper weighed in Friday on one of the biggest changes coming to the 94th Academy Awards this year: the move to pre-record eight of the Oscar categories and air edited versions of those presentations to tighten the show’s notoriously long running time.

Cinephiles and fans of our annual “Beat the Critic” contest may have noticed some early predictions peppered into Roeper’s analysis of the Academy’s news.

Best Actor: Will Smith

In his November review of “King Richard,” Roeper said this of his Best Actor pick’s performance:

We know Will Smith as well as we know any major movie star/celebrity of the last 30+ years, and yet Smith does a remarkable job of disappearing into the look, the mannerisms, the speech patterns and the persona of Richard, who always looks a little haggard and hunched over, as if he’s still recovering from the latest beatdown (physical or otherwise) life has laid on him.

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain

Roeper included Chastain’s Best Actress nomination for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” as one of many examples where this year’s Academy voters made well-reasoned picks for Oscar contenders. He argued that “there weren’t any truly shocking surprises, from the rock-solid list of the 10 best picture nominees through the acting categories” in his February rebuttal to the “snubbery” discourse that followed this year’s nomination announcements, and on Friday he placed his bet on Chastain to win.

Best Supporting Actor: Kodi Smit-McPhee

Roeper raved about “The Power of the Dog” in his 3.5-star review last year, calling the film “beautiful, brooding, dark and unforgiving” with memorable and layered performances and “exquisite production design [that] perfectly captures Montana at a crossroads in 1925.” He closed that review with a shout-out to Smit-McPhee.

Best Supporting Actress: Dame Judi Dench

Roeper left no ambiguity in the explanation of his Best Supporting Actress pick, from the “Belfast” cast, on Friday:

[W]hile Ariana DeBose is the favorite for best supporting actress and would be a most deserving recipient, I’m going with Dame Judi Dench, because you can never count out Dame Judi Dench.

Best Picture: The Power of the Dog

Roeper’s in good company with his pick for best picture, which he thinks is quickly gaining momentum alongside its director, Jane Campion, but he said this year’s race to the Dolby Theatre stage is tight — which makes the evening all the more exciting. “Usually by now, we have clear frontrunners in at least three of the acting divisions and the best picture race has been pretty much decided,” he wrote Friday. “But this time around, one could make the case for at least three of the 10 best picture contenders—and there’s a real chance for an upset in all of of the acting categories.”

The 94th Academy Awards ceremony may be trimmed for broadcast this year, but that doesn’t mean we’ll see fewer twists, upsets and surprises. Do you think you can predict the Academy’s picks with more accuracy than one of the most well-known movie critics in Chicago and around the country, the Sun-Times’ own Richard Roeper? Test your mettle in our 2022 Beat the Critic contest! Click here to submit your picks for each category for a chance to win a movie-themed swag basket filled with cinematic goodies. Entries are open now through noon on Sunday, March 27. Scroll down for all of Roeper’s predictions.

Roeper’s Oscar predictions


Best picture – “The Power of the Dog”

Actor – Will Smith, “King Richard”

Actress – Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

Supporting actor – Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”

Supporting actress – Judi Dench, “Belfast”

Animated feature –”Encanto”

Cinematography – “Dune”

Costume design – “Cruella”

Directing – Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”

Documentary feature – “Summer of Soul”

Documentary short subject – “The Queen of Basketball”

Film editing – “The Power of the Dog”

Hair/Makeup - “Cruella”

International feature film – “Drive My Car”

Original score – “Dune”

Original song – “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto”

Production design – “Dune”

Animated short film – “Robin Robin”

Live action short film – “The Long Goodbye”

Sound – “Dune”

Visual effects – “Dune”

Adapted screenplay – “The Power of the Dog”

Original screenplay – “Licorice Pizza”

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