And the winner is…
The 2022 Academy Awards will honor the best films of the year this weekend, on Sunday, March 27. The Power of The Dog has already swept a number of awards ceremonies, earning prestigious gongs for Benedict Cumberbatch, Netflix and writer-director Jane Campion. Maybe Campion will follow Chloe Zhao’s success last year with Nomadland, but the Netflix film faces fierce competition from King Richard, West Side Story and Dune — not to mention Steven Spielberg, Kenneth Branagh, Paul Thomas Anderson and even a Marvel movie or two.
Some of this year’s Academy Awards categories are too close to call and pleasingly open to a shortlist of worthy potential winners. Looking at previous awards usually shows clear favorites to win, but there’s always room for surprises. Drive My Car, Nightmare Alley, Belfast and Licorice Pizza are also among the films gaining multiple nominations, while Ryûsuke Hamaguchi is also up for best director.
The 2022 Oscars ceremony will air live on ABC on March 27 at 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET). These are my predictions — ultimately they’re subjective, but I’ve tempered my personal favorites with the results of other awards, perceived preferences of Academy voters, and, of course, some good old-fashioned guesswork. See if you agree with these Oscars 2022 predictions…
I’d love to see inspiring stories King Richard or CODA win big, showing the life-affirming power of cinema. A win for Dune or West Side Story would be a reminder of the visual spectacle only available at movie theaters, which we’ve missed in recent years. But the front-runner has to be The Power of the Dog, the most nominated film of 2022 and a winner of the top gong at the Baftas, Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globes and many more. This slow-burning Netflix western deserves the praise. The Western is the quintessential American genre, and it’s fascinating to see this most venerable of big-screen genres refracted by a New Zealand director, British star and an online streaming service to create something so potent.
- Don’t Look Up
- Drive My Car
- King Richard
- Licorice Pizza
- Nightmare Alley
- The Power of the Dog
- West Side Story
Kenneth Branagh being recognized for a deeply personal retelling of his own life story would be an inspiring story. But the smart money is on Power of the Dog director Jane Campion, who already cleaned up at the Baftas, AACTAs, Golden Globes and more. She’s the first woman to be nominated twice for best director after The Piano in 1993 (which won her the best original screenplay gong).
- Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza)
- Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)
- Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
- Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)
- Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car)
Actor in a leading role
Is it just me or did you think Benedict Cumberbatch and Will Smith had already won Oscars? But a win this year would be their first, and either deserves it for their towering performances in Power of the Dog and King Richard, respectively. Andrew Garfield deserves kudos for his performances in both the heart-wrenching Tick, Tick… Boom! and multiplex-conquering Spider-Man: No Way Home, demonstrating the range of cinema. His Marvel castmate Cumberbatch will probably edge it, although it’d be great to see Smith take the award in the same year that Black Oscar pioneer Sidney Poitier died.
- 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)
Actress in a leading role
Kristen Stewart’s snub at the Screen Actors Guild makes her an outside bet, while the others have all won before — except Jessica Chastain, who scooped the SAG gong. This one is wide open, but Chastain could well scoop the award for her transformative turn as an outrageous televangelist.
- Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
- Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter)
- Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers)
- Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos)
- Kristen Stewart (Spencer)
Actor in a supporting role
Kodi Smit-McPhee has been tipped to continue the Power of the Dog sweep, but who can resist the story of Troy Kotsur, the first deaf male actor to win a Bafta, a SAG award and a Critics’ Choice award.
- 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)
Actress in a supporting role
Another quality category, with old favorites Judi Dench and Kirsten Dunst competing against excellent performances by Jessie Buckley and experienced actor Aunjanue Ellis. But anyone who’s seen the updated West Side Story will know why the all-singing, all-dancing Ariana DeBose is winning award after award for lighting up the screen as the emotional heart of the visually lavish musical.
- Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter)
- Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
- Judi Dench (Belfast)
- Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog)
- Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard)
Writing (adapted screenplay)
Dune writers Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve deserve recognition for their sparse and enthralling distillation of Frank Herbert’s dense source novel. Coda and The Lost Daughter pack an emotional punch, but Campion is again a strong contender for the pulsing Power of the Dog story.
- CODA (Sian Heder)
- Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe)
- Dune (Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve)
- The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal)
- The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)
Writing (original screenplay)
If Branagh is shut out for directing, the Academy may see the writing category as the place to honor his heartfelt personal story of growing up in troubled Northern Ireland. However, Paul Thomas Anderson could take it. Licorice Pizza isn’t the writer-director’s weightiest flick (and has drawn criticism for a racist character), but this could be one of those times the Academy bestows a sort of lifetime achievement gong for someone who’s been nominated a bunch of times and never won.
- Belfast (Kenneth Branagh)
- Don’t Look Up (Adam McKay and David Sirota)
- Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)
- King Richard (Zach Baylin)
- The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier)
Animated feature film
We don’t talk about Bruno, but there’s a lot of talk about the cultural juggernaut that is Encanto. Disney‘s heartwarming family saga is the likely winner, although Flee is a deeply affecting story while Pixar’s Luca, Netflix’s Mitchells vs. the Machines and Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon are all gorgeous family flicks.
- The Mitchells vs. the Machines
- Raya and the Last Dragon
West Side Story’s costumes provide a sumptuous splash of color and life, but come on: Cruella is set in the fashion industry and is a larger-than-life slice of fabulousness.
- Cruella (Jenny Beavan)
- Cyrano (Massimo Cantini Parrini)
- Dune (Jacqueline West)
- Nightmare Alley (Luis Sequeira)
- West Side Story (Paul Tazewell)
Music (original score)
Gotta be honest, I’m rooting for Hans Zimmer to win for Dune, just because it’d surely be the first Academy Award to combine bagpipes and throat singing.
- Don’t Look Up (Nicholas Britell)
- Dune (Hans Zimmer)
- Encanto (Germaine Franco)
- Parallel Mothers (Alberto Iglesias)
- The Power of the Dog (Jonny Greenwood)
Silence is a crucial component of The Power of the Dog, ironically. Honestly, I have no idea, but sound is also a huge part of Dune’s technical achievement in conjuring alien worlds and technology.
- No Time to Die
- The Power of the Dog
- West Side Story
As much as I loved Dune, it’s all a bit brown, isn’t it? West Side Story is a gloriously colorful re-creation of vintage New York where you feel like you can reach out and touch the bricks of the neighbourhood buildings. But The Tragedy of Macbeth is a real achievement, as designers Stefan Dechant and Nancy Haigh transport you to a dreamlike space somewhere between cinema, theater and deepest nightmare.
- Dune (Zsuzsanna Sipos and Patrice Vermette)
- Nightmare Alley (Tamara Deverell and Shane Vieau)
- The Power of the Dog (Grant Major and Amber Richards)
- The Tragedy of Macbeth (Stefan Dechant and Nancy Haigh)
- West Side Story (Rena DeAngelo and Adam Stockhausen)
This is where the visuals of Dune come into their own. There’s something mesmerizing about the way Greig Fraser’s camera buzzes across the desert with the squadrons of fluttering aircraft like a war movie or haunts the palace of intrigue.
- Dune (Greig Fraser)
- Nightmare Alley (Dan Lausten)
- The Power of the Dog (Ari Wegner)
- The Tragedy of Macbeth (Bruno Delbonnel)
- West Side Story (Janusz Kaminski)
Documentaries are often associated with harrowing true stories, and films like Flee and Writing With Fire are powerful and thought provoking. But Summer of Soul is a timely and revelatory blast of musical delight.
- Summer of Soul
- Writing With Fire
In Tick, Tick… Boom!, Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum deliver suitably show-stopping editing that cuts deftly between musical numbers and flashbacks to the real-life experiences that inspired each song. King Richard also boasts impressive editing from Pamela Martin, who breathes crackle and energy into sports movie tropes like training montages and high-stakes matches. By contrast, Dune and The Power of the Dog have relatively unobtrusive editing that build the rhythm of the movie and draw out the performances. Call me a nerd, but now I want to revisit each film just to study the editing. And my prediction? It’ll be Dune, let’s face it.
- 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)
International feature film
It’s unlikely to win Best Picture, but Drive My Car richly deserves to take home an award. Each of these excellent films is worth seeking out, obviously.
- 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)
Makeup and hairstyling
A fun one, this, as Tammy Faye, House of Gucci and Cruella all try to out do each other with their hairdos. Big hair and wild make-up is the order of the day, but if we had to pick one winner I’d go for The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
- The Eyes of Tammy Faye
- House of Gucci
- Coming 2 America
Music (original song)
Although Lin-Manuel Miranda is nominated, it’s not for the song you might expect — Disney submitted Encanto’s song Dos Oruguitas for consideration before We Don’t Talk About Bruno became a cultural sensation. It’ll probably be Billie Eilish for her languorous James Bond theme, but let’s hope it’s Down to Joy, just because it’d be great to see Van Morrison hit the stage.
- Be Alive — Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Darius Scott (King Richard)
- Dos Oruguitas — Lin-Manuel Miranda (Encanto)
- Down to Joy — Van Morrison (Belfast)
- No Time to Die — Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell (No Time to Die)
- Somehow You Do — Diane Warren (Four Good Days)
A fun thing about a lot of these categories is they show the range of possibility afforded by each discipline. So for example, James Bond adventure No Time to Die is designed to look like it’s entirely real and grounded. But action scenes, like the eye-popping Aston Martin car chase, involve a ton of visual effects that are all the more impressive for being invisible to the casual viewer. At the other end of the scale, movies like Free Guy and Spider-Man conjure reality-defying fantasy worlds thrillingly removed from our own. Dune has to be the front-runner — especially if Shang-Chi and Spider-Man split the Marvel vote — but my personal favorite is Shang-Chi for the way the visual effects entwine with real-world stunt work to conjure a succession of exhilarating fight scenes, each with their own character and story.
- Free Guy
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
- No Time to Die
- Spider-Man: No Way Home
Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More
Get the CNET Culture newsletter
Explore movies, games, superheroes and more with CNET Culture. Delivered Tuesdays and Fridays.