The Oscars in the past couple of years have suddenly become quite unpredictable. Chalk it down to the Academy’s long-awaited efforts to diversify their awards body. Or, perhaps, even to the pandemic, and the sudden power it gave to any streaming service in the race.
But put it this way: as confident as any prognosticator might sound this week, no one really knows for sure what will happen at this Sunday’s ceremony.
There are concrete achievements to celebrate: The Power of the Dog’s Jane Campion is the first woman to be nominated more than once for Best Director, while CODA’s Troy Kotsur is the first deaf male actor to be nominated for an Oscar. This is also the first time two openly queer actors, Spencer’s Kristen Stewart and West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose, have been nominated in the same year.
Read more: 2022 Oscars nominations - the biggest snubs
Netflix’s The Power of the Dog — a magnificently directed western about suppressed, masculine desires — currently leads with 12 nominations, though sci-fi epic Dune lies close behind with 10 nods in total.
Who will ultimately walk away with the night’s top prize? Well, here are our predictions for the night.
What will Best Picture?
Will win: CODA
Should Win: The Power of the Dog
Nominees: Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, West Side Story
Never underestimate the eleventh-hour shift in narrative. For most of awards season, this category has been The Power of the Dog’s personal stalking ground. It’s triumphed with many a critics’s group, and picked up the Bafta for Best Film earlier this month. But then CODA, a sincere and honest drama about the hearing member of a deaf family, won Best Film at the Producers Guild Awards.
It may only be nominated for three categories in total, but winning over the PGA is a major, major step in awards season – only 10 times in the past 32 years have the PGAs and Oscars picked different winners. And, combined with a slew of other wins, including the Bafta for Best Supporting Actor and the ensemble prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Sîan Heder’s unassuming drama is rapidly picking up speed.
That said, Jane Campion’s precisely and magnificently directed piece of western revisionism is such a worthy winner that I can only hope we’re *not* in for a surprise on Sunday night. Sometimes the safest bet is also the best one.
Who will win Best Director?
Will win: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Should win: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Nominees: Kenneth Branagh, Belfast, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car, Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza, Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog, Steven Spielberg, West Side Story
One of the biggest hits to CODA’s Oscar chances is the lack of Sïan Heder’s name in the Best Director category. That’s understandable, to some extent – she’s not as established a director as Branagh, Spielberg, or Hamaguchi, and most of the emphasis has been on CODA’s performances, less its construction. That does lead the door wide open for Campion to walk away as the winner, having already triumphed at the Directors Guild Awards, Critics Choice Awards, and Baftas.
And who would I be to stand against it? Campion will (hopefully) become the first woman to win two Oscars for Best Director – a huge achievement.
Who will win Best Actress?
Will win: Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Should win: Tessa Thompson, Passing
Nominees: 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 year’s Best Actress race has been a tricky one. There was no overlap at the Baftas, and while Jessica Chastain picked up the SAG award, she wasn’t competing there against either Spencer’s Kristen Stewart or Parallel Mothers’ Penélope Cruz. All five of these actresses are well-known and well-loved, even if they’re not a particular feature at the Academy Awards (this is Stewart’s first nomination, would you believe it?). There are three biopics, and two films about the turbulent and impassioned state of motherhood. Anyone could feasibly win, but Chastain’s turn as televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker did involve a boatload of prosthetics. And the Academy loves nothing more than prosthetics.
Tessa Thompson did, at least, earn a nomination at this year’s Baftas, but she’s otherwise been frustratingly absent from a lot of the awards conversation. Her work in Passing, playing a mixed-race Black woman navigating a segregated New York in the Twenties, is, unfortunately, the kind of work that’s far too nuanced and subtle for the hype-driven Oscars. It’s a real shame.
Who will win Best Actor?
Will win: Will Smith, King Richard
Should win: Andrew Garfield, tick, tick… BOOM!
Nominees: 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
Read more: Full list of 2022 Oscar nominations
A month or so ago, I wouldn’t have proclaimed Will Smith a sure bet in this category. The critical response to King Richard – in which he plays Richard Williams, father and coach of Venus and Serena Williams – was a little muted. It hasn’t really picked up that much steam in the other categories. But Will Smith is as pure a movie star as they come, and his earnest, rousing speech at the Screen Actors Guild awards helped propel him ahead of the race. Add to that a Bafta win and a Critics Choice Award, and it seems like Smith is now comfortably ahead of his biggest contender, Benedict Cumberbatch.
That said, I was so sure that Andrew Garfield would be the one everyone was talking about here. As committed as Smith’s performance is, i’m a little disappointed to see Garfield largely drop out of the race. His take on Rent creator Jonathan Larson in tick, tick… BOOM! is so electric, and so heartfelt, that I’d immediately assumed he’d be leaping up to the stage on Oscar night.
Who will win Best Supporting Actress?
Nominees: Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter, Ariana DeBose, West Side Story, Judi Dench, Belfast, Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog, Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard
Will win: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Should win: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
The supporting actor categories are the star-makers. And there is no star more worthy of being made this year than West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose. She’s the breakout star of a new adaptation of one of the most famous musicals ever written, directed by the GOAT himself, Steven Spielberg. And she’s in the role played once before by Rita Moreno, who became the first Latina to win an acting Oscar. Her performance prickles with emotion, and every step and note is delivered with absolute precision. That said, she will face her biggest threat yet at the Oscars: Kirsten Dunst, an actor who’s been criminally overlooked by the Academy and has only now received her first nomination.
Read more: The movies that won the most Oscars
DeBose is one of the easiest wins of the season. This is her year, no doubt about it.
Who will win Best Supporting Actor?
Will win: Troy Kotsur, CODA
Should win: Mike Faist, West Side Story
Nominees: Ciarán Hinds, Belfast, Troy Kotsur, CODA, Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog, JK Simmons, Being the Ricardos, Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog
Read more: The actors with the most Oscars
The narrative of Best Supporting Actor has, in a strange way, mirrored that of Best Picture. For a while, The Power of the Dog’s Kodi Smit-McPhee was the frontrunner, with a performance of quiet and piercing intensity. Then, at the SAG awards, The Power of the Dog was defeated by the power of the underdog, and CODA picked up the award for best ensemble cast, with Troy Kotsur winning Best Supporting Actor. He did the same at the Baftas. He’s such an affable presence, on-screen and off, that it now seems very hard to imagine that he won’t repeat that win at the Oscars.
The slight downside of there being so much attention around DeBose (and she deserves it, don’t get me wrong) is that it’s created the idea that her performance is singular within West Side Story.
It’s a shame, only because Mike Faist, as Riff, is thrillingly combustive in the role. It would have been nice to have seen him nominated here.
Watch: West Side Story Ariana DeBose pays tribute to Stephen Sondheim