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And the Oscar goes to? Predicting the 2022 Academy Awards

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The time has come once more for Hollywood to celebrate the best and brightest of the cinematic year.

The timeline is still a bit wonky, due to the ever-shifting circumstances of the ongoing pandemic. This year’s awards – set to take place on March 27 – are happening about a month later than they traditionally have (though they’re a month earlier than what we got in 2021).

And as always, I’m here to offer up my thoughts.

This is the 94th edition of Hollywood’s favorite awards show. It’s also the 15th time I’ve offered up my Oscars predictions, if you can believe that. You might think that after 15 years, I know what I’m doing. And maybe I do. Well, to an extent anyway. I’ve gotten pretty good at working out who is going to win. But the real joy of these awards is that there are always going to be some surprises. You just never know … and that’s a big part of the fun.

Here are my picks. I’ve gone in-depth on the big-ticket categories and included winners for all the others (including the categories that have been removed – shamefully so, I might add – from the live broadcast).

As always, here’s my disclaimer: these are my predictions as to who WILL win, as opposed to my feelings about who SHOULD win. There will always be a degree of disconnect, though that degree varies from year to year.

Let’s hit the red carpet.

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Actor in a Leading Role

Javier Bardem – Being the Ricardos

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog

Andrew Garfield – tick, tick...BOOM!

Will Smith – King Richard

Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth

There’s a throwback vibe to this category’s slate of nominees that I find rather appealing, right down to the seeming inevitability of the winner. Javier Bardem did some solid work in embodying Desi Arnaz, but he has the bad luck of not even being the best portrayer of a real-life figure among this year’s nominees. Good work, but not good enough. Ditto Andrew Garfield, who is almost certainly going to win one of these someday, but this isn’t his year – while his work as Jonathan Larson in this semi-autobiographical musical has been well-received, it doesn’t seem to have the necessary heft to pull votes. From there, we head to Scotland and my beloved Denzel Washington. He’s an all-timer – he’s got two of these already – and he gives one hell of a performance in Joel Coen’s exceptional adaptation. His Macbeth is a haunted man, worn down by age and the weight of the responsibilities foisted upon him. But while he’s really good – great, even – he’s not quite to the level of the two ahead of him. Benedict Cumberbatch is another actor whose coronation by the Academy feels inevitable; his conflicted and sinister performance is in many ways the corroded soul of the masterful film for which he is nominated. A masterclass in commitment and characterization. In many years, he’d likely have won going away. And he still may. However, I think the time has come for Will Smith to finally snag the Oscar for his work as Richard Williams. While it might not be Smith’s best performance, it is exceptional on the merits and an ideal opportunity for the Academy to reward one of the most beloved screen stars of his generation. Call it a lifetime achievement award if you want, but expect Smith to finally hoist Oscar aloft.

Winner: Will Smith

Actor in a Supporting Role

Ciaran Hinds – Belfast

Troy Kotsur – CODA

Jesse Plemons – The Power of the Dog

J.K. Simmons – Being the Ricardos

Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog

This is an interesting assemblage of talents, though there does seem to be a consensus favorite. I love J.K. Simmons and he is wonderful in “Being the Ricardos” – I’d argue his is the best of the three nominated performances for the film. He showcases his typical excellence here, but I don’t think he’s got the juice to win another trophy here. There was a fair amount of early love for “Belfast,” but the film seems to have fallen off a lot of people’s radars – Hinds won’t be the only one to miss out because the movie’s momentum peaked too early. Another wonderful performance that will ultimately fall by the wayside. I was a little surprised to see both Plemons and Smit-McPhee nominated for “The Power of the Dog.” Plemons gave the kind of low-key performance that isn’t often recognized in this category – he’s a great talent and will almost certainly win one of these eventually, but this isn’t the one. As for Smit-McPhee, well … six weeks ago, I’d probably have picked him as the winner here. He gives a tremendous performance, nuanced and odd – probably the most likely victor from a film featuring multiple acting nods. However, I think he and Plemons may split this vote. That said, I’m not sure it matters that much, because Troy Kotsur has proven to be a tough guy to beat in recent weeks. He keeps racking up the wins from other awards bodies, and while I don’t think the feel-good vibe surrounding “CODA” will be quite enough to win that film the big one, I’m betting that this is one of the categories in which it will be rewarded. At this point, it would have to be considered something of an upset if anyone else wins.

Winner: Troy Kotsur

Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter

Penelope Cruz – Parallel Mothers

Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos

Kristen Stewart – Spencer

It has been a while since we had a full-on “who the hell even knows?” situation in one of the acting categories, but I think we’re there with this one. I’m not sure a win for any of these five would surprise me. The closest would be Cruz, who is immensely talented – and always shines brightly when she works with Pedro Almodovar – but she seems firmly ensconced at the bottom of the list. People thought Stewart was a lock when “Spencer” hit, but the voters have notoriously short memories and this movie hit a long time ago. Besides, a performance as polarizing as this one might be a tough sell to the more conservative bloc. I’ve got Colman third here, even though I’d argue that her performance is the best of the bunch. However, she’s got a recent win and appears poised to enter into a Streepian every-performance-gets-a-nod run; she’ll be back, but I don’t think she wins here. If you told me that Kidman was going to win, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. It’s a perfectly good performance in a decent movie and she’s playing a member of entertainment royalty – all catnip to Academy voters. The acting arm seemed particularly taken with this one. However, I’m going to go with Jessica Chastain here, though I’ll concede that I don’t feel great about it. Basically, her turn is in the same camp as Kidman’s, only just a bit … more. Embracing the outsized appearance of a memorable real-life figure is almost never a bad move when it comes to the Oscars, and considering how much momentum Chastain’s got, I have to pick her. But as I said, it could be literally any one of the five and I wouldn’t be shocked.

Winner: Jessica Chastain

Actress in a Supporting Role

Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter

Ariana DeBose – West Side Story

Judi Dench – Belfast

Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog

Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard

While the race for Actress in a Leading Role seems wide open, this one seems fairly open-and-shut. Dench’s nomination seemed to have surprised some people; her performance was a good one, though she wasn’t quite the presence in her film as were some of her fellow nominees. Of course, she won an Oscar for like eight minutes of screen time once, so never say never. I was happy to see Dunst get a nod here for her work in “The Power of the Dog” – her talents have long been underrated and she goes for it in a big way with this role, conveying a broken vulnerability that served in many ways as the soul of the film. Still, it’s probably not enough. Same for Aunjanue Ellis, who absolutely deserves to be here for her work in “King Richard,” but Will Smith’s campaign likely sucked up all the available oxygen for any potential push. She’s very good, but firmly in the “it’s an honor just to be nominated” camp. I really liked Jessie Buckley in “The Lost Daughter.” It’s an intensely oddball performance anchored by Buckley’s considerable talent, one that worked beautifully in parallel with Olivia Colmanin the lead. It was one of the most intriguing supporting turns of the year, to my mind. None of that matters, though, because this award is Ariana DuBose’s to lose. She was a true standout in “West Side Story” and her performance is where the film is most likely to receive recognition at this year’s awards. She’s great in the film; add in the narrative benefits (Rita Moreno won for the same role in the original) and this seems like a real slam dunk. We’ll see some surprises this year, but not in this category.

Winner: Ariana DeBose

Directing

Belfast – Kenneth Branagh

Drive My Car – Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Licorice Pizza – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion

West Side Story – Steven Spielberg

This one seems like a pretty easy call as well, if the results of previous awards shows are any indication. Right off the bat, let’s make it clear – Ryusuke Hamaguchi is almost certainly not going to win. While it isn’t unprecedented for the director of an international film to take this trophy, there are just too many familiar names on the list. I’m always here for my man PTA – and I loved “Licorice Pizza” – but I don’t think the film has garnered the necessary support for him to have a shot at a trophy here. I believe Anderson has a real shot at his first Oscar this year – it just won’t be in this category. This is Spielberg’s eighth Best Director nod – he’s won twice – but his first since 2013. I found “West Side Story” to be a triumph, thanks largely to Spielberg’s work, but I’m not sure the Academy is interested in rewarding him for a remake of one of the most decorated movies in Oscars history. Branagh’s intensely personal reflection on his own childhood has its fans, for sure, and his work behind the camera has been rightly lauded. However, the smaller scale of the piece might undercut his chances at taking the win. Ultimately, I think the prize here is going to go to Jane Campion. “The Power of the Dog” is a triumphant return for the acclaimed filmmaker – it’s her first feature in over a decade, though she’s done some television work in the interim. To return with such a magnificent achievement, a film so rich and resonant and beautiful, well … the Academy does love a good narrative. And Campion’s got one, to go with a film that might well prove to be the winner of the evening’s top prize. All of these nominees would be worthy winners, but I have to go with Campion here.

Winner: Jane Campion

Best Picture

Belfast

CODA

Don’t Look Up

Drive My Car

Dune

King Richard

Licorice Pizza

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

West Side Story

This is a great list of movies, to be sure, but with 10 nominations, there are of course a few that have little to no chance of actually contending for the top prize.

I was genuinely surprised to see “Nightmare Alley” on this list. While I enjoyed the film myself, I can’t say that I thought it had enough to get it into the top tier. It’s easily last on this list, although I do hope that this nod gets some folks to check it out. I’m similarly inclined toward “Don’t Look Up,” a polarizing offering that I personally dug, but that fell flat for a lot of people. Again, glad it got the nomination, but a win simply doesn’t appear to be in the cards. And “Drive My Car” might be a masterful piece of filmmaking, but I have difficulty believing that a three-hour subtitled slow burn of a film whose plot revolves around the adaptation of a Chekhov play is going to generate much in the way of Best Picture support.

From there, we have some contenders that are likely to see their rewards come from other categories. As I said earlier, I loved the shaggy dog hangout vibe of “Licorice Pizza,” but I think that PTA’s long-awaited first Oscar is going to come for Original Screenplay if it happens this year. “King Richard” is here largely on the strength of the support for Will Smith’s performance – if this film wins any trophies here, it’s going to be the one that Smith holds aloft. As for “West Side Story,” it seems as though DuBose might be the sole winner from the film’s seven total nominations. I greatly enjoyed all three of these films as well, but none of them will win Best Picture.

“Dune” gets its own little section here, because I think that when all is said and done, it might well be the most-decorated film of the bunch for this year’s Oscars. It has a chance to win a mess of technical awards; don’t be shocked if the film winds up with four or five wins on the night (I’m actually picking it for six), though they’ll all be in down-ballot races.

Next is “Belfast,” a movie that many people considered to be the front-runner not so long ago. Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographically-inspired look at an Irish childhood during the time of the Troubles hits in all aspects – great writing, great performances and a great look. Unfortunately, its early peak meant that its momentum waned, opening the door for what I consider to ultimately be the top two contenders.

“CODA” has seen a massive surge in support in recent weeks, raking in wins from multiple prestigious (and often predictive) award bodies. There’s a feel-good vibe to it all that has proven to be quite enticing for awards voters; it remains to be seen how that translates to the Academy. It’s also a film that could well benefit from the preferential voting process used to determine Best Picture; it’s the kind of movie that, even if it isn’t a voter’s favorite, might well get placed second or third on the list. In a year with a handful of real contenders, that could be enough to make the difference.

But while “The Power of the Dog” hasn’t turned out to be quite the powerhouse it appeared to be earlier in the year, it still remains the favorite. It’s tough to pick against a film with so many nominations – 12 in all – but the truth is that plenty of films have had this many nods and not won the big one. And there’s an undeniable contingent against this movie. Just as “CODA” might benefit from preferential voting, this film could suffer. Still, this brooding and complicated deconstruction of the Western should have enough support to get it done.

Either way, it looks like Hollywood is going to be handing this trophy to a streaming service. I’m picking “The Power of the Dog,” but I won’t be the least bit surprised if there’s a Director/Picture split where Campion wins and “CODA” rises up and takes the big prize.

Winner: The Power of the Dog

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And here we have the full slate of my Oscar picks.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

CODA – Screenplay by Siân Heder

Drive My Car – Screenplay by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe

Dune – Screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth

The Lost Daughter – Written by Maggie Gyllenhaal

The Power of the Dog – Written by Jane Campion

Winner: Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Belfast – Written by Kenneth Branagh

Don’t Look Up – Screenplay by Adam McKay; Story by Adam McKay & David Sirota

King Richard – Written by Zach Baylin

Licorice Pizza – Written by Paul Thomas Anderson

The Worst Person in the World – Written by Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier

Winner: Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza

 

Animated Feature Film

Encanto – Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer

Flee – Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie

Luca – Enrico Casarosa and Andrea Warren

The Mitchells vs. the Machines – Mike Rianda, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Kurt Albrecht

Raya and the Last Dragon – Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho

Winner: Encanto

Cinematography

Dune – Greig Fraser

Nightmare Alley – Dan Laustsen

The Power of the Dog – Ari Wegner

The Tragedy of Macbeth – Bruno Delbonnel

West Side Story – Janusz Kaminski

Winner: Dune

Costume Design

Cruella – Jenny Beavan

Cyrano – Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran

Dune – Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan

Nightmare Alley – Luis Sequeira

West Side Story – Paul Tazewell

Winner: Cruella

Documentary (Feature)

Ascension – Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell

Attica – Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry

Flee – Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie

Summer of Soul (Or … When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) – Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein

Writing with Fire – Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh

Winner: Summer of Soul

Documentary (Short Subject)

Audible – Matt Ogens and Geoff McLean

Lead Me Home – Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk

The Queen of Basketball – Ben Proudfoot

Three Songs for Benazir – Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei

When We Were Bullies – Jay Rosenblatt

Winner: The Queen of Basketball

Film Editing

Don’t Look Up – Hank Corwin

Dune – Joe Walker

King Richard – Pamela Martin

The Power of the Dog – Peter Sciberras

tick, tick...BOOM! – Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum

Winner: Dune

International Feature Film

Drive My Car – Japan

Flee – Denmark

The Hand of God – Italy

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom– Bhutan

The Worst Person in the World – Norway

Winner: Drive My Car

Makeup and Hairstyling

Coming 2 America – Mike Marino, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer

Cruella – Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon

Dune – Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr

The Eyes of Tammy Faye – Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh

House of Gucci – Göran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock and Frederic Aspiras

Winner: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Music (Original Score)

Don’t Look Up – Nicholas Britell

Dune – Hans Zimmer

Encanto – Germaine Franco

Parallel Mothers – Alberto Iglesias

The Power of the Dog – Jonny Greenwood

Winner: Dune

 

Music (Original Song)

Be Alive – from King Richard; Music and Lyric by DIXSON and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Dos Oruguitas – from Encanto; Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Down to Joy – from Belfast; Music and Lyric by Van Morrison

No Time to Die – from No Time to Die; Music and Lyric by Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell

Somehow You Do – from Four Good Days; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

Winner: No Time to Die

Production Design

Dune – Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos

Nightmare Alley – Production Design: Tamara Deverell; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau

The Power of the Dog – Production Design: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Amber Richards

The Tragedy of Macbeth – Production Design: Stefan Dechant; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

West Side Story – Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo

Winner: Dune

Short Film (Animated)

Affairs of the Art – Joanna Quinn and Les Mills

Bestia – Hugo Covarrubias and Tevo Díaz

Boxballet – Anton Dyakov

Robin Robin – Dan Ojari and Mikey Please

The Windshield Wiper– Alberto Mielgo and Leo Sanchez

Winner: Robin Robin

Short Film (Live Action)

Ala Kachuu – Take and Run – Maria Brendle and Nadine Lüchinger

The Dress – Tadeusz Łysiak and Maciej Ślesicki

The Long Goodbye – Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed

On My Mind – Martin Strange-Hansen and Kim Magnusson

Please Hold – K.D. Dávila and Levin Menekse

Winner: The Long Goodbye

Sound

Belfast – Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather and Niv Adiri

Dune – Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett

No Time to Die – Simon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey and Mark Taylor

The Power of the Dog – Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie and Tara Webb

West Side Story – Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson and Shawn Murphy

Winner: Dune

Visual Effects

Dune – Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer

Free Guy – Swen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis and Dan Sudick

No Time to Die – Charlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner and Chris Corbould

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker and Dan Oliver

Spider-Man: No Way Home – Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein and Dan Sudick

Winner: Dune

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 March 2022 11:25

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