2022 Oscar Thoughts and Predictions

Rumor has it we’re “back to normal” this year with everyone gathered in an auditorium, and with three—count ‘em!—hosts. The film world is still recovering from both COVID and the rise of streaming services with good films. This will likely be the year that a streaming service film will win Best Picture.

In their infinite wisdom, the Academy has decided to award some EIGHT categories before the ceremony that we usually get to see as part of the show, featuring clips of acceptances sprinkled throughout the show. This of course will shorten the show, but will deny the craftspeople in these categories their full moment in the sun. (The categories are hair and make-up, editing, sound, production design, original score, and the three short-film categories.) Probable Best Actress winner Jessica Chastain has announced that the is ready to skip the red carpet to witness those awards. The Academy really knows how to step in it…and usually “it” is of its own making. At least they have backed off from instituting “The Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film”. Quel horreur! Listen, Academy, I have some great ideas of shortening the show if you’d ever ask, suggestions that don’t leave anyone out.

Not really caring as much this year to get predictions right, I’ll be throwing in the occasional thought about the following categories if I have one. Let’s start with some of the “bumped” categories, sans the names of all the nominees:

Best Hair and Make-up: The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Like previous winner La Vie en Rose, the make-up and the story are so intermingled as to be inseparable.

Editing: Not sure here, as for some crazy reason, West Side Story wasn’t even nominated in this category. The winner might be The Power of the Dog, the presumed Best Picture winner until recently, but that’s a slow film, and Best Editing is sometimes interpreted as Most Edited Film. But I hope Tick, Tick…Boom! wins. Its editing was beautifully integrated into the music and the rhythms of the lead character’s creativity, which is why I think it might be overlooked because it was so seamless. Dear Academy, please don’t give it to Don’t Look Up, for so many reasons. Yes, I know it’s furiously edited and snarky at times, but please don’t….

Sound: Dune is expected to win a haul of technical awards, and will likely win here. In another year, it would have been West Side Story.

Production Design: See previous winner. And in another year, it would also have been West Side Story.

Original score: I loved what Jonny Greenwood did in The Power of the Dog, but Dune’s Hans Zimmer will likely win because it’s Dune and it’s Hans Zimmer.

Best Costume Design: See Production Design and the “in another year” sentence above.

Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:

            CODA

            Drive My Car

            Dune

            The Lost Daughter

            The Power of the Dog

CODA has been getting a lot of love lately, but The Power of the Dog is my preference. Could be either one. Should be Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog—a great script.

Best Original Screenplay

            Belfast

            Don’t Look Up

            King Richard

            The Lost Daughter     

            The Worst Person in the World

Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up) has been a popular choice in the past, but see my thought on its editing above. Let’s give it to Belfast’s writer and director Kenneth Branagh, nominated eight times with no wins up to this point.

Best Animated Feature

This is a tough one to call. Encanto is quite popular, but Flee has the socio-political vote (though it will likely win in the Best Documentary category), and The Mitchells vs. the Machines has gotten the most critical praise. The lazy vote might give it to Encanto.

Best Documentary Feature

For sheer joy, it should be Summer of Soul, which includes politics with its never-before-seen footage of music (always an Academy favorite combination). But with no Holocaust films in the mix this year (a cynical observation but true), it will likely go to Flee.

Best Original Song

There is no “Let It Go” this year, though the folks behind Encanto’s “Dos Oruguitas” should have re-thought a bit and let “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” into the line-up. Who knew? But we have the beloved Beyoncé (“Be Alive”) up against 13-times-nominated-yet-hasn’t-won Diane Warren, who wrote “Somehow You Do,” a song few people know from Four Good Days, a film no one has seen. Should be interesting.

OK, let’s get into the top 7 awards.

Best International Feature (formerly Best Foreign Language Film)

Drive My Car

Flee

The Hand of God

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

The Worst Person in the World

I would be shocked if Drive My Car didn’t run away with this. It probably got the best reviews of any film this year, but it has the “let’s honor it but not give it the award” nominations in the Best Picture and Best Director Categories. The love for Flee will be covered (see above) in other categories, leaving Drive My Car the winner. The only spoiler could be The Worst Person in the World, which is peaking in its visibility, and is apparently loved by everyone who saw it.

Best Supporting Actor

Ciarán 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 was supposed to be wrapped up for Kodi Smit-McPhee for his stellar work in The Power of the Dog, but CODA’s Troy Kotsur has come on strong lately. That puts a newcomer with a brilliant future up against a respected veteran in his breakout role in a feel-good film. With the rising support for CODA and Kotsur’s recent wins and acceptance speeches, I’ll give it to the veteran.

Best Supporting Actress

            Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter

            Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

            Judi Dench, Belfast

            Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

            Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

The one lock of the night: Ariana DeBose for West Side Story. Film nerds will appreciate the symmetry, as DeBose’s co-star Rita Moreno won the same award for the same character 60 years ago (that’s not a typo). I have cynical thoughts about how this push for this award was handled in the media, but will get into trouble if I express them in writing.

Best Actor

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

This is the year that the Academy has decided to crown Will Smith for his work in King Richard. It’s a solid performance, and the always-likable Smith didn’t back away from the more negative aspects of the character—especially his occasional meanness, his crudeness, and his stubbornness. The Academy likes that as much as beautiful actresses going ugly. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in The Power of the Dog is actually richer and deeper, but it seems the Academy knows he’ll likely win this award in the future. Right now, it’s Will Smith coronation time.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Penélope Cruz, Parallel Mothers

Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

Kristen Stewart, Spencer

This one is supposed to be up in the air, and it’s true that there is no obvious winner like DeBose or Smith. My money is on Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Chastain has been nominated a couple of times before (The Help and Zero Dark Thirty) and is a well-respected actor among her peers. It feels like it’s her turn, especially with there being no clear consensus winner. Plus the nomination for Stewart is her reward, and the other three already have an Oscar.

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza

Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

Definitely Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. She was nominated way back in 1993 for her work on The Piano (she won that year’s Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for it), her breakout film. She’s done interesting work in the meantime, but many thought The Piano would be her last great film. Not so. The Power of the Dog will be a classic, and this gives the Academy extra self-congratulation points for giving this award to a woman two years in a row. But the good news is that she deserves it.

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

Up until last week, I would have thought The Power of the Dog was a lock. But CODA might be this year’s Green Book, a feel-good film that is just good enough to attract votes away from a dark but brilliant film. It’s won major awards recently, and has the self-congratulatory aspect voters love of featuring talented deaf actors in a story about deafness. It’s a well-done and enjoyable film. But it doesn’t compare to The Power of the Dog. We’ll see what mood the newly-enlarged and inclusive Academy is in this Sunday.

About Mark DuPré

Retired (associate) pastor at a Christian church. Retired film professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. Husband for 45+ years to the lovely and talented Diane. Father to three children and father-in-law to three more amazing people. I continue some ministry duties even though retired from the pastoral position. Right now I'm co-writing a book, working on a documentary (screenwriter and assistant director), and creating a serious musical drama (I am writing the book and lyrics).
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