Oscar Predictions (and Assorted Grumblings) 2022 Edition

Is "The Power of the Dog" a sure thing for Best Picture? Don't bet on it.

Oscar Predictions (and Assorted Grumblings) 2022 Edition

Note: As is standard for my yearly Oscar run-up, this is a lengthy post. If your email truncates it, click on the headline above to read the full version online.

Could the Academy Awards get any worse than last year? You remember that in 2021 telecast producer Steven Soderbergh tackled the challenge of a pandemic-era Oscars, and with a sharp, smart opening bit featuring nominated director Regina King striding through L.A.’s Union Station, he seemed poised to pull it off. But the evening sloped off from there, to the point where Glenn Close was called upon to do “Da Butt” during a weary trivia game segment. And then came the slow-motion car crash: Putting the Best Picture award second to last (it went to “Nomadland”) so the show could end with Best Actor, which everyone knew would go to the late Chadwick Bozeman for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Except that it didn’t. Anthony Hopkins, who was at home in Wales, asleep in his bed, won for his (equally deserving) performance in “The Father.” And so what was meant to be the crowning touch on an Olympian evening became the final sigh of a collapsing building.

Hold my beer, replies Oscar 2022. First, the show’s producers announced that eight awards would be handed out before the show was aired, thus denying the winners their traditional moment of glory before an audience of millions. The excluded categories are Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Production Design, Sound, and the Documentary, Animated, and Live Action Shorts group. Predictably and correctly, editors, production designers, et al., raised noisy objections, and so did directors like Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, and many others. A petition gathered 14,000 signatures, but the producers, desperate for ratings and deaf to the artistry and craftsmanship the evening is meant to celebrate, refused to budge.

“The Power of the Dog,” nominated for 12 Academy Awards

Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall have signed on as co-hosts; the first two have not raised much hopes for elegant repartee, and Schumer quickly struck a discordant note by announcing she hoped to get Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to put in a Zoom appearance. (Word is he has his hands full elsewhere.) A list of presenters that circulated earlier this week included such notable contributors to the filmic arts as singer H.E.R., skateboard legend Tony Hawk, surfer Kelly Slater, Olympic snowboarder Shaun White, and DJ/producer DJ Khaled. It’s as if they wanted the Academy Awards to become a cross between the Grammys and the X-Games. Oh, and “West Side Story” star Rachel Zegler took to social media to complain she hadn’t even been invited, thus depriving the ceremonies of exactly the kind of appealing young face they should be celebrating. After a two-day kerfuffle, Zegler was asked to be a presenter; the villain in the affair may be the Walt Disney Co., which both owns the show’s broadcast home, ABC, and is producing a Snow White movie starring Zegler in London that it apparently didn’t want to jeopardize.

Rachel Zegler at the LA premiere of “West Side Story”

Ratings for awards shows have been plummeting in recent years, but the Oscars is still the king of the hill in terms of numbers, so why would they want to break it further? Especially when changes to nominating rules and a serious member diversity drive in recent years have resulted in – surprise – a pretty broad lineup of Best Picture nominees? (You could still ask for a broader spectrum of color and gender in most of the categories, of course. Exceptions aside, Oscar remains #SoVeryWhite.) You have a blockbuster sci-fi tentpole in “Dune” and a tiny regional crowd pleaser in “CODA.” There’s a lavish musical remake by the best commercial filmmaker in America in “West Side Story” and a quietly profound Japanese meditation on grief and guilt in “Drive My Car.” A sly skewering of macho Western clichés (“The Power of the Dog”) and an embrace of old-fashioned nostalgic family drama (“Belfast”). A comeback film for a much-loved star (“King Richard”) and a darkly ambitious tale of greed and comeuppance (“Nightmare Alley”). An eccentric indie love story (“Licorice Pizza”) and an all-star satire about human stupidity (“Don’t Look Up”). You couldn’t ask for a more reasonable representation of the state of cinema in the third decade of the 21st century.

Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper in “Nightmare Alley”

Well, maybe if you included the year’s biggest moneymaker, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” as a number of aggrieved commentators have suggested. And given that Disney owns both the telecast and Marvel, the superhero movie’s exclusion from everything except the race for Best Visual Effects might give rise to a conspiracy theory or two as to why the Mouse House is pressuring the show’s producers to make the telecast appeal to apparently everyone except movie lovers. Seriously, who are the Oscars for? Casual moviegoers who only see the big multiplex releases because that’s what lands on their radar? Or people who appreciate the medium in all its iterations and for all its behind-the-scenes artisans? Or, hey, why not both? (And throw in the viewers who come for the fashion show and the ones who settle in with popcorn for three hours of bad jokes and schadenfreude.) Film writer Daniel Joyaux spelled out a pretty good fantasy Oscars solution on Twitter this week: Two separate halves of the show – one for the cineastes, guild fans and film-history nerds (me, in other words) and one for the celebrity watchers, with a half-time show of performances in the middle. I’d watch that. And maybe you’d watch at least some of it.

As it stands, this year’s Academy Awards seems hell-bent on wooing people who don’t like movies — a perverse approach, to put it mildly. In the words of the L.A. Times’ Justin Chang, in an expert skewering of the whole boondoggle: “Any Academy worth its salt would own its film geekery as proudly as it owns its red-carpet plumage, its strained presenter banter and its tacky musical numbers … You could call that elitism; I prefer to think of it as the academy doing its damn job.” I’ll be watching, as I do every year – in fact, for the first time in two decades, I’ll be watching at home with my wife instead of pounding out copy for the late edition at the Globe newsroom – but I fear I’ll be watching much of it through my fingers.

The Oscars 2017

But, hey, predictions, what about predictions? For 19 years, my Oscar guesses ran in New England’s paper of record, and every year I’d get about 70 percent right. That’s not a bad average, but I expect it to take a hit this year because in 2022, to quote the screenwriter William Goldman on Hollywood, no one knows anything. The Best Picture race that everyone assumed would go to “The Power of the Dog” has been tossed up in the air by “CODA” winning top prizes from the Producers Guild, the Writer’s Guild, and the Screen Actors Guild. The Director’s Guild gave Jane Campion their award, and the Critics Choice Awards also went with “Dog,” but now many prognosticators are betting that a sweet, formulaic drama about a deaf fishing family in Gloucester might be The Little Movie That Could. Some of the categories are a lock – the acting ones especially – but in general I might as well be throwing darts at the wall this year. Here are my thoughts; proceed with caution.

NOTE: A printable ballot can be found at this ABC/Disney site.


Will Win: “CODA”

Should Win: “Drive My Car”

Shouldn’t Be Here: “Don’t Look Up”

Was Robbed: “The Lost Daughter”

“The Power of the Dog” has the most nominations (12), but to many it’s a cool affair that has drawn more admiration (or downright dislike) than love. “CODA” is its opposite: Endearing, familiar, fairly minor-league, but for burnt-out Academy voters looking for something soft to chew on, it’ll do the trick. I’d love the Hamaguchi to take the prize, but that won’t happen. What might happen is that “West Side Story” arriving on VOD in the past month will have made multiplex-averse Academy members aware of the depths and pleasures of Spielberg’s remake, which could mark a win for old-fashioned Hollywood brio and craft. “Don’t Look Up” may be the most watched of all ten nominees, but the importance of its message is offset by the clunkiness of its filmmaking. The better Netflix film, “The Lost Daughter,” belongs here instead.

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP


Will Win: Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”

Should Win: Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”

Shouldn’t Be Here: Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”

Was Robbed: Pedro Almodóvar, “Parallel Mothers”

The “Power of the Dog” director’s tone-deaf comments about Venus and Serena Williams at the recent Critics Choice Awards might have hurt her chances in this category, in which case it could go to Spielberg or Branagh. It’s a good lineup, though, and I’d boot Branagh only to make room for Almodóvar, who continues his amazing late-career run.

Actor in a Leading Role

Will Win: Will Smith, “King Richard”

Should Win: Will Smith, “King Richard”

Shouldn’t Be Here: Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

Was Robbed: Oscar Isaac, “The Card Counter”

Smith’s win is a foreordained coronation, and I don’t know anyone who’s upset about it. Washington is always worthy, but he has given more powerful and inventive performances elsewhere. Isaac’s lead in the Paul Schrader film is a masterpiece of control.

Actress in a Leading Role

Will Win: Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

Should Win: Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”

Shouldn’t Be Here: Nicole Kidman, “Being The Ricardos”

Was Robbed: Jasna Djuricic, “Quo Vadis, Aida?”

I honestly thought both Chastain’s and Kidman’s performances were triumphs of cosmetology over acting and in the case of Kidman actively grotesque. But Chastain won the SAG and Critics Choice awards and has been nominated thrice before without winning – it’s her year. Stewart’s Princess Diana in “Spencer” seems to be an acquired taste, but it’s a challenging stretch for an under-appreciated actor. If enough people had seen “Quo Vadis, Aida?” you bet Djuricic would be on this list.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Troy Kotsur, “CODA”

Should Win: Troy Kotsur, “CODA”

Shouldn’t Be Here: J.K. Simmons, “Being the Ricardos”

Was Robbed: Mike Faist, “West Side Story”

Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”) and Ciarán Hinds (“Belfast”) have a shot, but Kotsur has already won the SAG, the Critics Choice, and Britain’s BAFTA awards, so his odds are good (and his acceptance speech should be great). No knock against Simmons, a fine character actor, but in Faist we saw the arrival of a wildly charismatic new talent.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”

Should Win: Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”

Shouldn't Be Here: Judi Dench, “Belfast”

Was Robbed: Ruth Negga, “Passing”

DeBose has this category all but sewed up, and not undeservedly, so let me throw a little love to Buckley, who made an unsympathetic character – a mother who abandons her children – seem heartbreakingly comprehensible in all of her flaws. Both Negga and her co-star Tessa Thompson were richly deserving of end-of-year awards, but “Passing” was passed over by the Academy.

Original Screenplay

Will Win: “Don’t Look Up”

Should Win: “The Worst Person in the World”

A tough category to call. Will voters go for the nostalgia of “Belfast,” the quirk of “Licorice Pizza,” the feel-good pointedness of “King Richard,” or the messaging of “Don’t Look Up”? The last is the weakest of the bunch, but it won the Writer’s Guild award, and if the writers preferred it, the rest of the Academy will too. But “Worst Person” is the actual best of the bunch: Smart, heartsore, funny, and philosophical.

Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: “The Power of the Dog”

Should Win: “Drive My Car”

“CODA” won at the WGA awards, but I’m going to reverse what I said above (because I can do that) and hazard that “Dog” will take the Oscar. I just feel it in my bones and could very well be wrong. The interweaving of Murakami and Chekhov in “Drive My Car” is unsettlingly good. Why Tony Kushner’s ingenious deepening of the book for “West Side Story” went un-nominated is an enduring mystery.

Animated Feature

Will Win: “Flee”

Should Win: “The Mitchells Vs the Machines”

A strong set of films (caveat: I haven’t seen “Raya and the Last Dragon”), but I’m guessing the Academy will go for the humane refugee’s tale of “Flee” rather than the antic brilliance of “Mitchells.” Either win would be fine with me. Dark horse: “Encanto.”

International Feature Film

Will Win: “Drive My Car”

Should Win: “Drive My Car”

The critical acclaim for “Drive My Car” should find its focus here. If not, something’s screwy.

Documentary Feature

Will Win: “Summer of Soul”

Should Win: “Summer of Soul”

Questlove’s reclamation of the footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival became one of the emotional highlights of an awfully bleak year. It’ll win, and that’s great, but seek out Stanley Nelson’s “Attica,” also nominated, for a searing take on Black America 1971.

Visual Effects

Will Win: “Dune”

Should Win: “Dune”

Now we get to the technical awards, and welcome to the “Dune” Show (which will unfold largely off your TV sets, more’s the pity). It’s possible that “Spider-Man” backlash may force a win here, but don’t count on it.


Will Win: “Dune”

Should Win: “West Side Story”

There are really no losers in this category, and the American Society of Cinematographers gave their award to Grieg Fraser of “Dune.” But Janusz Kaminski’s work on “West Side Story” is a pinnacle of the craft: Check out the opening shot of the dance at the gym, or the entire rumble sequence.

Film Editing

Will Win: “Dune”

Should Win: “King Richard”

A tight race. “Dune” has a lot of fans for its technical achievements, but the American Cinema Editors gave “King Richard” its Eddie award for drama – all those expert, clear-as-a-bell tennis matches – and “tick, tick… BOOM!” the prize for comedy/musical.


Will Win: “Dune”

Should Win: “Dune”

“Dune” director Denis Villeneuve seems to delight in creating unearthly soundscapes for his films, and he’ll be rightly rewarded here.

Production design

Will Win: “Dune”

Should Win: “Nightmare Alley”

The most unsung category of them all? Production designers are responsible for everything you look at in a movie that isn’t an actor or a costume (and even there they have input). “Dune” created two startling alien worlds, but “Nightmare Alley” made our own world seem alien.

Costume Design

Will Win: “Cruella”

Should Win: “Nightmare Alley”

The outré-and-then-some outfits of the “101 Dalmatians” origin story will win out over more demure nominees like, uh, “Dune” and “Cyrano.” A shout-out to Luis Sequeira’s sleek deco designs for “Nightmare Alley.”

Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

Should Win: “House of Gucci”

Chastain’s transformation into Tammy Faye Baker seems headed for a win, even if her chipmunk-cheek prosthetics kept reminding me of the Lady in the Radiator in David Lynch’s “Eraserhead.” Whatever they did to turn Jared Leto into a sad Italian sack of potatoes in “House of Gucci” deserves some kind of award.

Original Score

Will Win: “Dune”

Should Win: “Power of the Dog”

The prolific Hans Zimmer will undoubtedly collect an Oscar – his second, after “The Lion King” (1994) – for the extraterrestrial rumblings of “Dune.” It’s his twelfth nomination, though, so how about throwing Jonny Greenwood, one of the most original soundtrack composers of his generation, a bone for his subversive “Power of the Dog” score?

Original Song

Will Win: “Dos Origuitas” (“Encanto”)

Should Win: “No Time to Die”

The Billie Eilish song from the Bond movie stands a good chance of winning, but I’m betting that Academy members will still be humming “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” (“no, no, no”) and want to give “Encanto” an award, even if it’s for the wrong song.

Documentary Short

Will Win: “The Queen of Basketball”

Confession: I haven’t seen the short film nominees, as I have in previous years when I’d review them during their standard pre-Oscar theatrical release. So I’m just listing what the various experts out there – and you’d better believe Oscar predictions are an entire cottage industry – are expecting to win. For what it’s worth, there does seem to be a broad consensus on all three categories, but remember – “consensus” means “upset” to the Academy.

Live Action Short

Will Win: “The Long Goodbye”

Animated Short

Will Win: “Robin Robin”

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